You are here: Archive Home > Bab Ballads > The Baron Klopfzetterheim

The Baron Klopfzetterheim



Fun, V - 19th Mar. to 16 Apr. 1864



ear the town of St. Goar,
  On the bleak Rhenish shore,
Dwelt a terrible Baron — a certain KLOPFZETTERHEIM
  I've not got it pat,
But it sounded like that,
Though whether it's properly spelt to the letter, I'm
  Not at all sure; I
Confess for this story
To memory (second-rate) only a debtor I'm.
  Indulgence I claim,
It's a high sounding name,
And a name, too, to which one can easily set a rhyme.

  A growling an gruff 'un
A ruthless and rough 'um
A tyrant, a Tartar, a toothless and tough 'un;
His skull was as bald as the palm of my hand,
And surrounding its base was a silvery band
Of curly grey hair, and he brushed it well up
  From ear round to ear,
So it looked from the rear,
Like a very smooth egg in a very white cup.
  He'd bricks and he'd mortar,
He'd wood and he'd water;
Sheep, oxen, and poultry, calves, pigs and — a daughter
Whom, though generally such points rather lax on, he
Swore was the loveliest woman in Saxony

Illustration by Gilbert
The Baron was wealthy, but horribly stealthy;
He'd jewels from Ingy, but still he was stingy;
Though rich from a babby, unbearably shabby;
Though steeped to his eyes, sir, in wealth, yet a miser;
From boyhood a dunce, always trying to shirk "hic, hoc,
Haec," he was stupid and proud as a turkey-cock.
  Stealthy and stingy and shabby and miserly,
Every morning his wont was to rise early;
Search out each inch of his rocky dominions,
Count all the eggs and the apples and inions
Listen at keyholes for candid opinions
    In syllables bated
For so he was hated
By all his dependents, for reasons just stated.

Illustration by Gilbert
    Superior far
To her horrid papa,
  Was BERTHA. The daughters of barons oft are.
    Her hair was fair,
And flaxen rare;
In the fine land called Rhineland, the best I declare;
Its charms, in a single comparison summing,
It looked like a "nimbus," but far more becoming;
Besides, you could brush it, and alter the sit of it
Play with its folds (did decorum permit of it),
Tickle your cheek with a stray ray or so;
Now you can't do all that with a "nimbus" you know.
Flaxen, I said — I recant — not a bit of it;
    A glorified hue
(You find it on few)
Gold mingled with brown — now I'm sadly put to
    For an elegant noun
(It must be gold and brown)
  To which I can liken this natural crown;
But commonplace thoughts prove effectual stoppers,
And I can't think of any but sovereigns and coppers.
  In length it was ample as you may suppose
    For when BERTHA so fair
Let down her back hair,
  It rippled away till it reached to her toes.
She'd have made (had necessity ventured to drive her)
  A really respectable LADY GODIVA
It was long, it was silky, and wavy, and mellow,
And about as much "flaxen" as sunbeams are yellow.

    Then her eyes!
Their size!
Their glorious blue!
I'm sure it's a hue
That was solely invented our trials to leaven —
You'll find it alone in girls' eyes and in heaven!
    When nobody hailed them,
She quietly veiled them,
Humanely declining
To send you, by needlessly flashing their light at you,
    Hopelessly pining;
But when you addressed her she always looked right at you —
    Right in your face,
With a maidenly grace,
  That spoke to the truth an sincerity there,
And misconstrue that innocent gaze if you dare!

  Now the Baron's old seneschal
Finding the Rhenish all
Swallowed, he hied
For some more to the marchand de vin, who replied
"Friend, never of Rhenish the worth of a penny shall
E'er again aid in his lordship's digestion,
Unless he first pays down the penny in question.
The Baron must think me as green as an olive! At all events he
Ne'er will get more without cash down. At all events he
Couldn't suppose I would act with such folly, ven, see"
  (Opening his books
With disheartening looks),
"I am tottering just on the brink of insolvency."
  So the seneschal thought
It was time to report
To his master the crisis to which he was brought.


is time now, I grieve, to my story to
  weave two who love to deceive and to
plunder and thieve;
And this, by your leave, I'll attempt to
  achieve in a style, I believe, known as recitative.
A neighbouring Pfalzgraf had three sons, and he in armour glistened 'em;
RUPERT, CARL, and OTTO, as their noble father christened 'em.
In Christendom than OTTO you would hardly find a finer knight;
He set the women's hearts a-fire, which blazed away like pine a-light.
To gain him, all the German mothers tried the worst rascalities,
For he possessed the greatest of the German principalities;
  In fact it brought him clear
Enough, we know, to sanction matrimonial formalities.

Now as RUPERT was eldest, and CARL was the second,
And OTTO the youngest, I swear you'll have reckoned
That RUPERT and CARL were, to say the least, quite on
    A par, as to evil,
With ROBERT the Devil
  And OTTO a second edition of CRICHTON.
    In legends we know
That it always is so:
The eldest sons, villains unheard of are thought to be;
The youngest, however, is just what he ought to be.
  OTTO was graceful and slender and tall,
While RUPERT and CARL were as round as a ball.
OTTO was handsome and neat as a pin,
While RUPERT and CARL were as ugly as sin.


Now RUPERT and OTTO and CARL one day,
As home from hunting they made their way,
The entered the wine merchant's cabaret;
Two brandies and water were brought on a tray

  (For excellent OTTO
Knew he ought not to
  Drink anything stronger than curds an whey);
They listened awhile to the gossiping host,
  Who merrily told
Of the miserly old
  Baron KLOPFZETTERHEIM, rolling in gold —
  Of his recent endeavour
To get wine, and never
  Pay nobody not even nothing whatever;
  Telling them further,
How nowhere on earth a
  More opposite creature existed than BERTHA
  (His amiable daughter),
How lovely all thought her,
And how he drove off all the nobles who sought her.

Illustration by Gilbert
Now RUPERT and CARL were cunning and bold,
  And resolved to get hold
Of the jewels and gold,
In which it was said that KLOPFZETTERHEIM rolled.
But OTTO was cast in a different mould,
And couldn't help thinking of what he was told
Of the beautiful BERTHA, shut up by her old
  Unpopular father
(Proprietor, rather);
So high-minded OTTO
Remarked (voce sotto),
"These matters a pretty condition have got to;
  Quite free from this fetter I'm
Resolved for to set her — I'm
Dashed if I'll suffer the Lord of KLOPFZETTERHEIM
  Thus to imprison
So lovely a miss, on
The highly illogical plea that she's his'n."

Illustration by Gilbert
Now the two elder brothers resolved to confide
In the landlord, and promised with him to divide
  The results, if he'd let them bide inside
Two barrels, and so to the castle to ride,
    To the Baron's old Rhenish hall
  As though 'twere the liquor so rudely denied
    To the Baron's old seneschal.
So each of these worthies was packed in a barrel,
But what with their size and their flowing apparel,
    'Twas such a tight fit,
That they couldn't e'en sit,
  Turn, stoop down, or change their position a bit;
    Only waiting to ask
For a lantern and mask,
They ordered the landlord to "head in the cask."



ood OTTO, not knowing
  What matters were doing,
 Or thinking in which way the wind it was blowing,
  Paid what was owing
For what they'd been stowing
 Away in their waistcoats — then thought about going,
  When he saw at the door
A wine cart with four
 Strong horses attached, and of Rhenish a store;
  And on asking the host
How now lay the coast,
Was astonished to find
That he'd quite changed his mind,
 And was going to send both the wine and the car on
 To his lordship and eminent highness the Baron.
Illustration by Gilbert
Now being a brave and intelligent unit, he
Thought he could see a first-rate opportunity
Of seeing MISS BERTHA with perfect impunity.
  It was not to be lost;
So he said to the host,
"If you'll dress me like one of your active young draymen
(I'm sure I shall look like a chick of the same hen),
I'' pay you right nobly, as I always pay men."
The host, though the most irreligious of laymen,
Responded to this with a clerical "Amen";
  And quickly equipped him,
Be-frocked and be-whipped him,
And OTTO, on his part, unsparingly tipped him,
  And started away,
With the wine in the dray,
Completely disguised in the drayman's array.
  But pondering arter,
The Baron's fair darter,

He failed to remember his rôle as a carter,
And nearly created the dickens's own "to do,"

  For he knocked with a bang,
And he noisily rang
As gentlemen visitors only are wont to do;
  Although I may tell
You, he knew very well
That a modest appeal at the area bell
Would, in his new line of life, better have fitted him,
As the flunkeys, with justice, remarked, who admitted him —
But OTTO, the mild, from these wicked men turned his eyes,
Contented with gently consigning to Bath them as
Hurled at his head those unholy anathemas.

Illustration by Gilbert
Deeply in debt, or I'm
Greatly deceived (how these German names fetter rhyme!) —
  Opened his eyes
With excessive surprise,
As he saw the two casks of respectable size
With Rhenish replete; and he opened them wider
When OTTO suggested, by way of a rider,
His master's (the wine merchant's) deepest regret
(Expressed in a note for his lordship's perusal)
  That his foreman had let
A ridiculous debt
Occasion the Baron so coarse a refusal;
But as it was done without even his knowledge, he
Trusted the Baron would take his apology
  In the way it was meant,
For the wine he'd have sent
In a second (the shortest space known in horology).

Illustration by Gilbert
  The Baron, delighted, was easily pacified,
    For when Rhenish fails
He fall back upon ales,
And gets — p'raps not tipsy, but just rather BASS-fied
The stages of drinking are not easily classified —
I'm speaking or writing about it, just as if I'd
Studied a failing, which horrid and fell I call);
In short, he was just in a humour angelical.
So he ordered SIR OTTO to take down each cask
To the cellar, and told off MISS B. to the task
    Of watching its storing
In wine cellar, roaring
And shaking his stick at poor OTTO (a penny thing);
He told her to watch lest he pocketed anything.
    OTTO goes to the cellar
With BERTHA la bella
(Who, like a good girl, always does what you tell her),
Assisted by many a half-starved retainer;
    But lost to his duty
In BERTHA's great beauty
(Many me4n have been dazzled by many a plainer),
He made a mistake that he didn't observe — he
Placed each of the casks on the ground topsy-turvey,
And the horrible consequence was, that instead
Of his feet, his two brothers stood each on his head!


ow figurez vous
    The terrible stew
  Of two young noblemen (stout ones, too)
Each in a cask, which a clumsy crew
Had topsy-turvey placed, in lieu
Of setting it down as they ought to do!
Pf course the people none of them knew
Of the couple of nice young gentlemen, who
Were turning a most unusual hue,

From scarlet to purple to indigo blue,
As the blood to their head in a cataract flew;
Who'd have raised a roaring hullaballoo,
But that they feared to furnish a clue
To their hiding-place, for they thought on a few
Of the terrible things that would then fall due.
So they cursed away at each clumsy boor,
And as their chances of life grew fewer,
They swore that gold should never allure
Their innocent minds to thoughts impure;
But in spite of these good resolves, these poor
Young men grew bluer, and bluer, and bluer.


Illustration by Gilbert




Illustration by Gilbert






Illustration by Gilbert

It's always an awkward thing, popping the question —
Refusals agree with few people's digestion;
So nine out of ten men are dreadfully slow about it —
Their minds are unsettled and change to and fro about it,
Because they don't know how young people should go about it;
  They hesitate so about it,
So frightened, I trow, about it;
They deserve to get married, and that's all I know about it.
  OTTO well knew
That the right thing to do
Was to say what he meant, and in syllables few.
  So he ventured to say,
In his tenderest way,
"The man now before you
Lives but to adore you."
(With all that he said I'm not going to bore you;
Not that I'm anxious to make any myth of it,
But I think you'll be satisfied, quite, with the pith of it:
He talked as talk WILKINSON, JOHNSON, or SMITH of it.)
  Then his right hand he placed
Round her delicate waist,
As well as he was in the cellar pitch-dark able. He
Wound up by adding, "I love you re-mark-able-y";
And when BERTHA indignantly answered him, "What, man,
An offer — ha! ha! — from the family potman!
My father your hide with his cudgel shall flay, man,
And teach you respect, you impertinent drayman;
In a moment your insolent manners he'll cure!"
"I'm no more a drayman," says OTTO "than you're —
A proof I'll afford you of this satisfactory."
And though an extremely indifferent actor, he
Took from his waistcoat a big parchment roll, and
Proceeded to go through "The fair land of Poland,"
And handed the deed at the ballad's conclusion
To BERTHA, who stood overwhelmed with confusion.
  She read the recitals
Of honours and titles,
From the opening words of the deed —
To "In witness whereof," with the air of a bencher
(That she understood nothing, my fortune I'll stake on it).
Then remarking she'd no requisitions to make on it,
With appropriate action to OTTO returned it,
And let him shake hands; and I think he had earned it.
  Oh, careful papa!
Oh, prudent mamma!
Oh, uncle! oh, brother! which ever you are,
  Whose well-lighted halls
See parties and balls,
Whose daughters go out and pay stiff morning calls,
  And who think this proceeding,
Of which you've been reading,
Not quite in accordance with ladylike breeding, —
Remember her father, detestably mean,
Whose servant for fifteen long years she had been —
Cooking poor dinners and scrubbing floors clean,
And that OTTO was always considered, I ween,
The handsomest noble that ever was seen.




TTO told her the reason he wore a disguise
Was to bask unrestrained in the light of her eyes.
Then he made a neat speech about God of Love's dart,
And offered his house, and his hands, and his heart
(And whenever he mentioned that organ, he thumped at it);
She didn't reject it — I may say she jumped at it;
And OTTO had such a peculiar way with him,
She agreed to elope from the castle that day with him,
If he could but discover (she'd many a doubt of it)
Some way by which she might get unobserved out of it.
But OTTO's good luck set him in the right track again;
There were two empty casks, he remarked, to go back again,
And he thought that MISS BERTHA could nicely arrange
(With judicious curtailing of under apparel),
To cram herself comfortably in a barrel.
So she ran up-stairs once just to pack up a change;
This done to her own satisfaction, she bade an
Undoubtedly faithful (though saucy) handmaiden
  Instanter prepare,
By smoothing her hair
And "cleaning" herself (which a washing with soap meant —
It's not a nice phrase), for a sudden elopement.
Then BERTHA and GRETCHEN descended to OTTO
(Who was wondering where in the world they had got to);
And at first he demurred, when he heard she preferred
To take with her a third, and he thought it absurd
That she'd not go alone in her OTTO's society,
And all for the purpose of playing propriety.
  With squeezing and crushing,
And crowding and pushing,
And crying and flushing, and chuckling and blushing,
They entered the casks (each of which held a cushing).
  MISS B. began brushing
The tears that were gushing,
And OTTO, outside, enjoined silence by "hush"-ing,
Reproving her tears with "pooh-pooh"-ing and "tush"-ing.
  Then the serfs took away,
And placed safe on the dray,
The casks which had held the material for lushing.





Illustration by Gilbert

Illustration by Gilbert
    Little more to be told,
Of the miserly old
  Baron KLOPFZETTERHEIM, rolling in gold.
    Of his beautiful BERTHA
He heard nothing further,
The clumsy old Baron could never unearth her,
He ne'er could make out where his daughter had got to, For of course he knew nothing at all about OTTO,
From the date of the wedding he didn't live long; Everything, after she left him, went wrong.
He broke a blood vessel, endeavouring to bless (or
To curse — I don't know which) MISS BERTHA's successor
(Appointed a few hours after she quitted),
Because accidentally she had omitted
His slippers to warm — he was much to be pitied!
  He broke a big blood vessel up in his head,
And fell on the floor of his palace, as dead
As OTTO's big brothers deep down in the cellar,
And his fortune descended to BERTHA la bella.


Illustration by Gilbert
  Few hours they tarried
Before they got married
In private — no bridesmaids, or breakfasts, or fitnesses;
The clerk and the pew-opener were the witnesses;
The bride (though in stuff) looked a beauty bewilderin'; They lived many years and had hundreds of childerin.

Archive Home  |  W. S. Gilbert  |   Bab Ballads

Page Created 29 July, 2011