In general, I would run a mile from anything bat-haunted – apparently random, erratic flight patterns bring out some primeval panic in me. But this isn’t any old cave. This is allegedly the cave I read about a thousand times in the beautifully illustrated Pied Piper of Hamlyn my mother gave me, which I still have. I knew every face on every page, and almost all the words by heart, in Robert Browning’s definitive translation. It is an adult wish commit it to memory in its entirety. The cave Leigh Fermor describes is said to be the very one from which the children, lured by the pied piper’s tune, emerge. Here is the wonderful end of the poem with that haunting final line:
In Transylvania there’s a tribe
Of alien people who ascribe
The outlandish ways and dress
On which their neighbours lay such stress,
To their fathers and mothers having risen
Out of some subterranean prison
Into which they were trepanned
Long time ago, in a mighty band,
Out of Hamelin town in Brunswick land,
But how or why they don’t understand.
‘The very cleft, the Almasch cave from which they emerged at the other end, is still pointed out. It is a bat-haunted cavern about forty leagues due east of Schässburg as the crow flies.’
See you there?
Source: Patrick Leigh Fermor, Between the Woods and the Water (London: Penguin Books, 1986), p. 153