Into the street the Piper stept,
Smiling first a little smile,
As if he knew what magic slept
In his quiet pipe the while;
Then, like a musical adept,
To blow the pipe his lips he wrinkled,
And green and blue his sharp eyes twinkled
Like a candle flame where salt is sprinkled;
And ere three shrill notes the pipe uttered,
You heard as if an army muttered;
And the muttering grew to a grumbling;
And the grumbling grew to a mighty rumbling;
And out of the houses the rats came tumbling:
Great rats, small rats, lean rats, brawny rats,
Brown rats, black rats, grey rats, tawny rats,
Grave(meaning?) old plodders, gay young friskers, (meaning of gay here?)
Fathers, mothers, uncles, cousins,
Cocking tails and pricking whiskers, (pricking ?=)
Families by tens and dozens,
Brothers, sisters, husbands, wives --
Followed the Piper for their lives.
From street to street he piped, advancing,
And step for step, they followed, dancing, (Who followed here ? rats)
Until they came to the River Weser

1. I want to know the meaning of the word "stept".

2. I want to know the meaning of the sentence in bold letters.

3. Why does the poet use the word army in the line marked blue?
1 2
1. "Stept" = "stepped".

2. When you sprinkle salt on a candle flame, it is supposed to twinkle and sputter, sending out sparks as the salt burns. That is how Pieter's eyes are said to twinkle.

Grave = serious,

Gay = jolly(which, in fact, was the primary accepted meaning of "gay" until a few years ago).

"pricking"? No clue here, sorry.

"Followed the piper for their lives." = the rats followed the piper as if their lives depended on it.

"They followed, dancing". Yes, it is the rats who followed.

The phrase "an army muttered" is used to describe the low rumbling sound produced by the rats as they came tumbling out of the houses. It would, I imagine, sound like a lot of people muttering in unison.

I hope things are clearer now.


- Joy.

PS: Hanuman, nice nickname Emotion: stick out tongue. What made you choose it?
PS: Hanuman, nice nickname Emotion: stick out tongue. What made you choose it?

Spiritual interest or belief, I believe.

PS: Just in case if you don't know, Hanuman is one of a powerful god in India.
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Krish, I do happen to be Indian, though admittedly not a very devout Hindu.

I was asking because I wondered whether it was inspired by Lord Hanuman, or the monkeyish temperament of Mr Hanuman2000. I suppose the "tongueout" was out of place. I'm sorry.
"Pricking": it must mean that they are like needles, stiff and sharp enough to make little holes in things.
Maybe "pricking whiskers" means people who goad.

  • verb: prod or urge as if with a log stick
  • verb: urge with or as if with a goad
  • verb: goad or provoke,as by constant criticism
  • verb: give heart or courage to
  • Students: We have free audio pronunciation exercises.
    I could also see "pricking" with a meaning like "arrogant"... Maybe.

    Dear friends,

    I have heard «prick up his ears». It is «to make the ears erect». It is a sign of attention in an animal.

    It is my opinion that «pricking whiskers» are erect whiskers. It is a sign of attention perhaps in a rat. Emotion: smile

    Kindest regards, Emotion: smile

    Thank you, Goldmund. A bit like "perky", then?
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