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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906.

Wilhelm Busch (1832–1908)

Gunpowder as Tobacco

From “Max and Maurice”

AN OLD saw runs somewhat so:

“Man must learn while here below.”

Not alone the A, B, C,

Raises man in dignity;

Not alone in reading, writing,

Reason finds a work inviting;

Not alone to solve the double

Rule of Three shall man take trouble,

But must hear, with pleasure, sages

Teach the wisdom of the ages.

Of this wisdom an example

To the world was Master Lämpel.

For this cause, to Max and Maurice

Lampel was the chief of horrors;

Since a boy who loves bad tricks

Wisdom’s friendship never seeks.

With the clerical profession

Smoking always was a passion;

And this habit without question,

While it helps promote digestion,

Is a comfort no one can

Well begrudge a good old man,

When the day’s vexations close,

And he sits to seek repose.

Max and Maurice, flinty-hearted,

On another trick have started:

Thinking how they may attack a

Poor old man through his tobacco.

Once, when Sunday morning breaking,

Pious hearts to gladness waking,

Poured its light where, in the temple,

At his organ sat Herr Lämpel,

These bad boys, for mischief ready,

Stole into the good man’s study,

Where his darling meerschaum stands.

This, Max holds in both his hands,

While young Maurice (scapegrace born!)

Climbs, and gets the powder-horn;

And with speed the wicked soul

Pours the powder in the bowl.

Hush, and quick! Now, right about!

For already church is out.

Lämpel closes the church-door,

Glad to seek his home once more;

All his service well got through,

Takes his keys, and music too,

And his way, delighted, wends

Homeward to his silent friends.

Full of gratitude he there

Lights his pipe and takes his chair.

“Ah!” he says, “no joy is found

Like contentment on earth’s round!”

Fizz! Whizz! Bang! The pipe is burst,

Almost shattered into dust.

Coffee-box and water-jug,

Snuff-box, inkstand, tumbler, mug,

Table, stove, and easy chair,

All are flying through the air

In a lightning powder-flash,

With a most tremendous crash.

When the smoke-cloud lifts and clears,

Lämpel on his back appears,

God be praised! still breathing there,

Only somewhat worse for wear.

Nose, hands, eyebrows (once like yours),

Now are black as any moor’s;

Burned the last thin spear of hair,

And his pate is wholly bare.

Who shall now the children guide,

Lead their steps to wisdom’s side?

Who shall now for Master Lämpel

Lead the service in the temple,

Now that his old pipe is out,

Shattered, smashed, gone up the spout?

Time will heal the rest once more,

But the pipe’s best days are o’er.