Hans Breitmann's Party. With Other Ballads

Philadelphia: T. B. Peterson and Brothers.
THE reader laughs at the fantastic drollery of these ballads, and, acknowledging the genuineness of the humor, cannot help wishing that it had a wider range and a securer means of expression. Its instrument is not a dialect or patois characterizing a race or locality, but merely the broken English of the half-Americanized German fellow-citizen, which varies according to accident or individual clumsiness, and is not nearly so fixed in form, or so descriptive of generic facts and ideas, as the Irish brogue. We own it is funny; and for once it did very well. Indeed, few American poems have been held in better or more constant remembrance than the ballad of Hans Breitmann’s Party. It is one of those perennials, which, when not blossoming in the newspapers, are carefully preserved in many scrap-books, and, worn down to the quick with handling, and with only enough paper and print about them to protect the immortal germ, are carried round in infinite waistcoat-pockets. The other ballads here printed with it are a good deal like it, and betray not so much a several inspiration, as a growth from its success. They celebrate chiefly the warlike career of Hans Breitmann, who, many years after his famous “ Barty,” is
“ All goned afay mit de Lager Beer
Afay in de ewigkeit,”
appears in a personal combat with a reprobate son among the rebels, and as a raider in Maryland, and finally as a bummer in the train of Sherman’s army. While doing duty in the latter quality, he is “goppled oop ” by the rebels ; and
“ In de Bowery each bier-haus mit crape was oop
Ven dey read in de papers dat Breitmann vas
gone ;
And de Dutch all cot troonk oopon lager and wein
At the great Trauer-fest of de Tooner-Verein.
But the gobbled bummer suddenly reappears among his comrades.
“ Six bistols beschlagen mit silver he wore
Und a gold-mounted sword like an Kaisar he bore ;
Und ve dinks dat de ghosdt — or votever he be —
Moost hafe broken some panks on his vay to de
Und ve roosh to embrace him, und shtill more ve
Dat wherever he’d peen, he'd left noding pehind.
In bofe ofhispootsdere vas porte-moneys crammed,
Mit creen-packs stoof full all his haversack jammed;
In his bockets cold dollars vere shinglin’ deir doons,
Mit dwo doozen votches, und four doozen shpoons,
Und dwo silber tea-pods for makin’ his dea,
Der ghosdt haf bring mit him, en route to de sea.”
This is true history as well as good fun, we imagine ; and we suspect that the triumphal close of the ballad of “ Breitmann in Kansas,” whither he went, after peace came, on one of those Pacific Railroad pleasure-parties, which people somehow understand to be civilizing influences impelled by great moral engines, is more accurately suggestive of the immediate objects of such expeditions : —
“ Hans Breitmann vent to Kansas ;
He have a pully dime ;
Bu ’t vas in oldt Missouri
Dat dey rooshed him up sublime.
Dey took him to der Bilot Nob,
Und all der nobs around :
Dey spreed him und dey tea’d him
Dill dey roon him to de ground.
“ Hans Breitmann vent to Kansas
Troo all dis earthly land ;
A vorkin’ out life’s mission here
Soobyectifly und grand.
Some beoblesh runs de beautiful,
Some works philosophie,
Der Breitmann solfe de Infinide
Ash von eternal shpree ! ”
The ballad of Die Schöne Wittwe, and mock-romantic ballad at the end, are the poorest of all, yet they make you laugh ; and “Breitmann and the Turners” is as good as any of the war-ballads, with a peculiarly wild movement of spirit, and a jolly breadth of drollery : —
“Hans Breitmann choined de Toorners,
Dey all set oop some shouts,
Dey took’d him into deir Toorner Hall
Und poots him a course of sphrouts.
Dey poots him on de barrell-hell bars
Und shtands him oop on his head,
Und dey poomps de beer mit an engine-hose
In his mout’ dill he’s ’pout half tead !
“ Hans Breitmann choin de Toorners,
Mit a Limburg cheese he coom ;
Ven he open de box it smell so loudt
It knock de music doomb.
Ven de Deutschers kit de flavor
It coorl de haar on dere head ;
But dere vas dwo Amerigans dere,
Und by tam ! it kilt dem dead ! ”
Throughout all the ballads, it is the same figure presented, — an honest Deutscher drunk with the new world as with new wine, and rioting in the expression of purely Deutsch nature and half-Deutsch ideas through a strange speech. It is a true figure enough, and recognizable ; but it was fully developed in the original ballad, and sufficiently portrayed there.
Cannot Mr. Leland, who is in every way so well qualified to enjoy and reproduce the peculiarities of Pennsylvania Dutch, give us some ballads in that racy and characteristic idiom ?