Sunday, March 18, 2012

Paying the Piper

Illustration of The Pied Piper of Hamelin 
by Kate Greenaway

—Stephanie Hoogstad, Cottonwood, CA

Adorned in Technicolor—
an emerald cloak, a ruby shirt,
and sapphire pants—
they all think he’s off,
a bum, a ne’er-do-well, a loon,
And the way he prances through the streets,
twiddling on his playful pipes,
does not improve their thoughts of him;
They try to keep their children
from his sight,
for surely he must be crazy
and dangerous to act this way.

The children see him playing
and dancing his way through their town,
and yet they see nothing wrong with him;
He is their hero,
their guiding light,
and they yearn to follow him,
to dance with him into the night,
to neglect their studies
for just one day;
All they want to do is play
with this strange man from a distant land,
who just wants to play as well.

He wants to be seen,
he wants to be heard,
he wants to be loved,
and for so long he’s yearned
to hear the applause
and to know his work is loved,
but try as he might,
he cannot be satisfied,
for he knows what they think,
the adults of these towns;
He knows they think he’s crazy
or lazy
or nothing more than a simple clown;
He knows they fear him
and don’t approve of his ways;
He knows he’s the grasshopper
and that those ants will never appreciate
his art,
which he only makes
to bring them joy
so that they will love him;
If only he had seen
how the children adore him!

Finally the day came
when he could no longer take it,
and he played his flute
right out of town;
The children, they loved him,
and couldn’t bear to see him go,
so after him they went,
except for the blind, the lame, and the deaf;
The way they followed him,
they seemed to be under a spell,
so their parents blamed him
and tried to find him, to hang him
for the theft of their children,
but they found no trace of him,
for this multicolored musician
had danced off into the sunset.

He leaves them one message,
these uptight adults:
give respect to those
who bring you art,
be they writers or painters or the simple flute player;
More simply said,
always pay the piper.



 Illustration by Kate Greenaway
(for more about The Pied Piper of Hamelin, go to
For more about Kate Greenaway, go to