Penniless, happy-go-lucky and young,
Rip had a wife with a very sharp tongue!
To escape from it, off to the mountains he ran,
And there Rip encountered an odd little man.
He carried a keg—which is probably why
Rip figured the chap was an affable guy.
Rip hoped for a sip—there was no doubt of that,
So keeping his eye on the elf's feathered hat,
He followed him clear to the mountain's tip-top
Where it seemed that his guide was contented to stop.
Looking around him, Rip gasped, and no wonder!
There, with a clatter that sounded like thunder,
A crowd of wee people were bowling a ball
Down the side of the cliff's perpendicular wall.
Rip's guide introduced him with chuckles and chortles.
"`Tis seldom," he cried, "mortals visit our portals!"
He beckoned to Rip. "Prithee sample, I beg,
The innocent wine in my little fat keg."
Rip, nothing loth, put the keg to his lip
And greedily took a most generous nip
Which startled his tonsils and reddened his nose—
And also, produced a remarkable doze!
Twenty years after that sip ill-advised,
Rip woke with a headache of Jovian size.
Thirsty, he went to a river to drink
And glimpsing his face as he knelt at the brink,
"My word!" muttered Rip as he stared at the sight,
"I've grown me a beard in the space of one night!"
Marveling much and no little perplexed,
Descending the mountain, he wondered, "What next?
Where once was a village, a city now sits!
Whew! Last evening's wine must have addled my wits!"
Standing there wondering what had gone wrong,
He gaped as a stranger came strolling along.
The man who approached him was nimble and lean—
And looked like himself when himself was nineteen!
"Who are you?" asked Rip, and his whisper was hoarse.
"Why sir," said the man. "Rip Van Winkle, of course!"
Said the stranger: "I'm named for my dad who, alack,
Went hunting one morning and never came back."
The story is ended. Its moral is plain:
Don't follow an elf should you meet on a lane;
For of all sad ill fortunes, the oddest mishap
Is to wake with a yawn from a twenty-year nap!