Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, HERMAN; OR, THE BROKEN SPEAR, by RICHARD HARRIS BARHAM

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Classic and Contemporary Poetry

HERMAN; OR, THE BROKEN SPEAR, by                 Poet's Biography
First Line: An emperor, famous in council and camp
Last Line: If you wish to 'scape 'wigging,' a dumb wife's the dandy!
Alternate Author Name(s): Ingoldsby, Thomas
Subject(s): Debauchery

AN Emperor, famous in council and camp,
Has a son who turns out a remarkable scamp;
Takes to dicing and drinking,
And d -- mning and sinking,
And carries off maids, wives, and widows, like winking!
Since the days of Arminius, his namesake, than Hermann
There never was seen a more profligate German.
He escapes from the City; And joins some banditti
Insensible quite to remorse, fear, and pity;
Joins in all their carousals, and revels, and robberies,
And in kicking up all sorts of shindies and bobberies.
Well, hearing one day His associates say
That a bridal procession was coming their way,
Inflamed with desire, he Breaks into a priory,
And kicking out every man Jack of a friar, be
Upsets in a twinkling the mass-books and hassocks,
And dresses his rogues in the clergyman's cassocks.
The new-married folks Taken in by this hoax,
Mister Hermann grows frisky and full of his jokes:
To the serious chagrin of her late happy suitor,
Catching hold of the Bride, he attempts to salute her.
Now Heaven knows what Had become of the lot,
It's Turtle to Tripe they'd have all gone to pot --
If a Dumb Lady, one Of her friends, had not run
To her aid, and, quite scandalised, stopp'd all his fun!
Just conceive what a caper He cut, when her taper
Long fingers scrawl'd this upon whitey-brown paper
(At the instant he seiz'd and before he had kiss'd her) --
'Ha' done, Mister Hermann! for shame: it's your sister!'
His hair stands on end, -- he desists from his tricks
And remains in a 'pretty particular fix,'
As he knows Sir John Nicholl Still keeps rods in pickle,
Offences of this kind severely to tickle.
At so near an escape from his court and its sentence
His eyes fill with tears and his breast with repentance
So, picking and stealing, And unrighteous dealing
Of all sorts, he cuts, from this laudable feeling:
Of wickedness weary, With many a tear, he
Now takes a French leave of the vile Condottieri:
And the next thing we hear of this penitent villain,
He is begging in rags in the suburbs of Milan.

Half-starved, meagre, and pale, His energies fail,
When his sister comes in with a pot of mild ale:
But though tatter'd his jerkins,
His heart is whole, -- workings
Of conscience debar him from 'Barclay and Perkins.'
'I'll drink,' exclaims he, 'Nothing stronger than tea,
And that but the worst and the weakest Bohea,
Till I've done -- from my past scenes of folly a far actor --
Some feat shall redeem both my wardrobe and character.
At signs of remorse so decided and visible
Nought can equal the joy of his fair sister Isabel,
And the Dumb Lady too,
Who runs off to a Jew
And buys him a coat of mail spick and span new,
In the hope that his prowess and deeds as a Knight
Will keep his late larcenies quite out of sight.
By the greatest good luck, his old friends the banditti
Choose this moment to make an attack on the city!
Now you all know the way,
Heroes hack, hew, and slay,
When once they get fairly mixed up in a fray:
Hermann joins in the melee,
Pounds this to a jelly,
Runs that through the back, and a third through the belly,
Till many a broken bone, bruised rib, and flat head,
Made his ci-devant friends curse the hour that he ratted.
Amid so many blows, Of course you'll suppose
He must get a black eye, or, at least, bloody nose;
'Take that!' cried a bandit, and struck while he spoke it,
His spear in his breast, and, in pulling it out, broke it.
Hermann fainted away, When, as breathless he lay,
A rascal claim'd all the renown of the day;
A recreant, cowardly, white-liver'd knight,
Who had skulk'd in a furze-bush the whole of the fight.
But the Dumb Lady soon Put some gin in a spoon,
And half strangles poor Hermann, who wakes from his swoon,
And exhibits his wound, when the head of the spear
Fits its handle, and makes his identity clear.
The murder thus out, Hermann's feted and thanked,
While his rascally rival gets toss'd in a blanket;
And to finish the play -- As reform'd rakes they say,
Make the best of all husbands -- the very same day
Hermann sends for a priest, as he must wed with some -- lady,
Buys a ring and a licence, and marries the Dumb Lady.


Take warning, young people, of every degree,
From Hermann's example, and don't live too free!
If you get in bad company, fly from it soon!
If you chance to get thrash'd, take some gin in a spoon;
And remember, since wedlock's not all sugar-candy,
If you wish to 'scape 'wigging,' a dumb wife's the dandy!

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