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All things Bright and Beautiul

Last night it happened. A song I used to sing at the daily morning gathering in Krugersdorp Town School, came to me, and together the rush of memories associated with the place.

Below the stage sat the pianist, a gentleman who wasn't a teacher but came in for music class and assembly. He had caused me painful disappointment when he rejected me for the choir, that I had my heart set on joining.

I did not allow this setback to dampen my enthusiasm for my institute. In fact I still don't permit setbacks to put me off doing things that I enjoy or consider important. I think I inherited this attitude of pushing on against all odds, from my maternal grandmother, a hard headed Russian peasant woman.

The teacher in charge nodded a signal to the individual waiting, with his hands poised, to start banging the keys. I took a deep breath expanding my lungs to their full extent and burst out in song together with my companions.

All things bright and beautiful, all things great and small,

the Lord God made them all.

The teachers, scrutinizing the orderly, student body, from the stage, pointed me out to each other and nodded their heads, satisfied with my efforts to join the group in collective activities, despite my gruff off key voice.

One day they called a staff meeting to discuss the choice of our institution's annual production. My name came up in the discussion. They racked their brains to find a performance in which a scholar, who's only talent was enthusiasm, could take part.

When put to the vote, The Pied Piper of Hamelin won the day. It's merit was, the central personality, the anti hero, is mostly silent, emitting a grunt now and then, for comic relief, going down on his knees and raising his chimney pipe hat. This individual is the mayor of the town, a huge bellied man, in a frock coat who keeps falling asleep in the middle of critical negotiations.

The script we used had a happy ending, he asked forgiveness and finally paid the Pied Piper's fee with interest and he brought the precious hostages back to the town. Young and old danced and sang as the piper piped them back into town and all lived happily ever after.

But the real story is tragic, the townsfolk never saw their offspring again. They had followed the melody of the magic pipe and disappeared as if the earth had swallowed them up.

The tragedy took place in the 14th century, at the time of the Black Plague and is commemorated each year in the town of Hamelin. 130 children were taken away never to return.

The mayor really got rid of the rodents, nobody knows exactly how, but everyone agrees that he was wise to figure out that the vermin were the cause of the disease. Other places didn't understand the connection between the creatures and the affliction that had befallen them.

The majority of hamlets were completely convinced that it was God's punishment for harboring witches who consorted with the devil. In those backward villages the townsfolk went on a rampage, to rid themselves of these evil doers destroying their homes, exiling them from the area and burning them at the stake.

Hamelin was progressive and with the removal of the rats the outbreak abated.

Unfortunately the catastrophe had exacted a heavy cost in lives and many youngsters were left without parents and without sustenance.

The town was in a poor economic condition, but somehow the orphans had to be clothed, fed, housed and educated. The burden of supporting 130 foundlings was too heavy for the municipality to bear.

Their solution was to sell the waifs to "locators". These were individuals, usually dressed in colorful costumes and well versed in tricks, like playing the pipes, who purchased human material. They in turn disposed of their "wares" at a good profit as serfs to various landowners especially in the newly established German colonies of Pomerania and Brandenburg.

The legend ends with one lame child who couldn't keep up with his friends, returning to give an account of the children being taken to a cavity in a high mountain in the area of Hamelin. They all danced singing into a grotto and disappeared.

The song they sang was All things bright and beautiful, all things great and small, the Lord God made them all.

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