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In praise of - Hans Breitmann.

I SUPPOSE they'd be deemed politically incorrect nowadays, but the Hans Breitmann poems of Charles Leland are harmless and a right good laugh.

Written in cod-German, they focus on three noble themes: drinking, eating and women.

Published in 1871, they also affect self-interested chivalry: "Der noble Ritter Hugo/Von Schwillensaufenstein/Rode out mid shper and helmet/Und he coom to de panks of de Rhine.

"Und oop dere rose a meermaid/Vot hadn't got nodings on/Und she say, 'Oh, Ritter Hugo/Vhere you goes mit yourself alone?'"

It transpires Hugo's out for a beer. She invites him into the water where there are "heaps of dings to see". These include fish and trunks of treasure, including spoons. He isn't impressed, until she mentions the gold-red wine, and down he goes, dragged by his troosers.

The relentless light rhythm of Leland's lines drags the reader in too but, somehow, the effect is uplifting. Leland was, in no particular order, an American humourist, folklorist and journalist. He took part (on the goodies' side) in the revolution of 1848 in France. He also fought against slavers in the American Civil War.

Though best known to me for Hans Breitmann's Ballads, he's better known to other for his Neo-Pagan perorations. He thought he'd discovered another Celtic language, but this turned out be cobblers. Hans Breitmann, too, is cobblers, but gloriously daft. Here's another sample: "Hans Breitmann gife a barty/Ve all cot troonk ash bigs/I poot mine mout' to a parrel of beer/Und empited it oop mit a schwigs."

The name Hans Breitmann would normally sound teutonic and curtly macho but, here, it's absurd. Let's not forget Matilda Yane, who valtzet round and round ("De pootiest Fraulein in de house/She Vayed 'pout dwo hoondred pound").

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Food and drink

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