Where’s a Pied Piper When You Need One?
(Headline in the Daily Telegraph, May 25, 2012)
In “The Pied Piper of Hamelin” by Robert Browning
Thousands of rats are led to the river and to death by drowning.
A good story but not a true one: no one sensible believes a word of it.
Nonetheless, tourists flock to Hamelin because they have heard of it.
Tourists spend money and make a place richer,
But, sad to recount, that is not the whole picher.
Visitors leave litter, some of it edible, and that’s
Why Hamelin has a problem, and the problem is RATS.
When they’ve finished their dinner they go back underground
And gnaw through any cables that are lying around.
The traffic lights stop working and so does the fountain.
Council workmen have repaired them so many times they have
Which brings me at last to the burden of my song:
Next time someone quotes Auden saying, “Poetry makes nothing
happen,” you can tell them he was wrong.
Wendy Cope, OBE, was born in Erith, Kent. After university she worked for 15 years as a primary-school teacher in London. Her first collection of poems, Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis, was published in 1986. In 1987 she received a Cholmondeley Award for poetry, and in 1995 the American Academy of Arts and Letters Michael Braude Award for light verse. Her other books include Serious Concerns, If I Don’t Know, Two Cures for Love: Selected Poems 1979-2006, and, most recently, Family Values.