Home  »  Yale Book of American Verse  »  178 The Ballad of Lager Bier

Thomas R. Lounsbury, ed. (1838–1915). Yale Book of American Verse. 1912.

Edmund Clarence Stedman 1833–1908

Edmund Clarence Stedman

178 The Ballad of Lager Bier

IN fallow college days, Tom Harland,

We both have known the ways of Yale,

And talked of many a nigh and far land,

O’er many a famous tap of ale.

There still they sing their Gaudeamus,

And see the road to glory clear;

But taps, that in our day were famous,

Have given place to Lager Bier.

Now, settled in this island-city,

We let new fashions have their weight;

Though none too lucky—more ’s the pity!—

Can still beguile our humble state

By finding time to come together,

In every season of the year,

In sunny, wet, or windy weather,

And clink our mugs of Lager Bier.

On winter evenings, cold and blowing,

’T is good to order “’alf and ’alf”;

To watch the fire-lit pewter glowing,

And laugh a hearty English laugh;

Or even a sip of mountain whiskey

Can raise a hundred phantoms dear

Of days when boyish blood was frisky,

And no one heard of Lager Bier.

We ’ve smoked in summer with Oscanyan,

Cross-legged in that defunct bazaar,

Until above our heads the banyan

Or palm-tree seemed to spread afar;

And, then and there, have drunk his sherbet,

Tinct with the roses of Cashmere:

That Orient calm! who would disturb it

With Norseland calls for Lager Bier?

There ’s Paris chocolate,—nothing sweeter,

At midnight, when the dying strain,

Just warbled by La Favorita,

Still hugs the music-haunted brain;

Yet of all bibulous compoundings,

Extracts or brewings, mixed or clear,

The best, in substance and surroundings,

For frequent use, is Lager Bier.

Karl Schaeffer is a stalwart brewer,

Who has above his vaults a hall,

Where—fresh-tapped, foaming, cool, and pure—

He serves the nectar out to all.

Tom Harland, have you any money?

Why, then, we ’ll leave this hemisphere,

This western land of milk and honey,

For one that flows with Lager Bier.

Go, flaxen-haired and blue-eyed maiden,

My German Hebe! hasten through

You smoke-cloud, and return thou laden

With bread and cheese and bier for two.

Limburger suits this bearded fellow;

His brow is high, his taste severe:

But I ’m for Schweitzer, mild and yellow,

To eat with bread and Lager Bier.

Ah, yes! the Schweitzer hath a savor

Of marjoram and mountain thyme,

An odoriferous, Alpine flavor;

You almost hear the cow-bells chime

While eating it, or, dying faintly,

The Ranz-des-vaches entrance the ear,

Until you feel quite Swiss and saintly,

Above your glass of Lager Bier.

Here come our drink, froth-crowned and sunlit,

In goblets with high-curving arms,

Drawn from a newly opened runlet,

As bier must be, to have its charms,

This primal portion each shall swallow

At one draught, for a pioneer;

And thus a ritual usage follow

Of all who honor Lager Bier.

Glass after glass in due succession,

Till, borne through midriff, heart and brain,

He mounts his throne and take possession,—

The genial Spirit of the grain!

Then comes the old Berserker madness

To make each man a priest and seer,

And, with a Scandinavian gladness,

Drink deeper draughts of Lager Bier!

Go, maiden, fill again our glasses!

While, with anointed eyes, we scan

The blouse Teutonic lads and lasses,

The Saxon—Pruss—Bohemian,

The sanded floor, the cross-beamed gables,

The ancient Flemish paintings queer,

The rusty cup-stains on the tables,

The terraced kegs of Lager Bier.

And is it Göttingen or Gotha,

Or Munich’s ancient Wagner Brei,

Where each Bavarian drinks his quota,

And swings a silver tankard high?

Or some ancestral Gast-Haus lofty

In Nuremburg—of famous cheer

When Hans Sachs lived, and where, so oft, he

Sang loud the praise of Lager Bier?

For even now some curious glamour

Has brought about a misty change!

Things look, as in a moonlight dream, or

Magician’s mirror, quaint and strange.

Some weird, phantasmagoric notion

Impels us backward many a year,

And far across the northern ocean,

To Fatherlands of Lager Bier.

As odd a throng I see before us

As ever haunted Brocken’s height,

Carousing, with unearthly chorus,

On any wild Walpurgis-night;

I see the wondrous art-creations!

In proper guise they all appear,

And, in their due and several stations,

Unite in drinking Lager Bier.

I see in yonder nook a trio:

There ’s Doctor Faust, and, by his side,

Not half so love-distraught as Io,

Is gentle Margaret, heaven-eyed;

That man in black beyond the waiter—

I know him by his fiendish leer—

Is Mephistopheles, the traitor!

And how he swigs his Lager Bier!

Strange if great Goethe should have blundered,

Who says that Margaret slipt and fell

In Anno Domini Sixteen Hundred,

Or thereabout; and Faustus,—well,

We won’t deplore his resurrection,

Since Margaret is with him here,

But, under her serene protection,

May boldly drink our Lager Bier.

That bare-legged gypsy, small and lithy,

Tanned like an olive by the sun,

Is little Mignon; sing us, prithee,

Kennst du das Land, my pretty one!

Ah, no! she shakes her southern tresses,

As half in doubt and more in fear;

Perhaps the elvish creature guesses

We ’ve had too much of Lager Bier.

There moves, full-bodiced, ripe, and human,

With merry smiles to all who come,

Karl Schaeffer’s wife—the very woman

Whom Rubens drew his Venus from!

But what a host of tricksome graces

Play around our fairy Undine here,

Who pouts at all the bearded faces,

And, laughing, brings the Lager Bier.

“Sit down, nor chase the vision farther,

You ’re tied to Yankee cities still!”

I hear you, but so much the rather

Should Fancy travel where she will.

You let the dim ideals scatter;

One puff, and lo! they disappear;

The comet, next, or some such matter,

We ’ll talk above our Lager Bier.

Now, then, your eyes begin to brighten,

And marvellous theories to flow;

A philosophic theme you light on,

And, spurred and booted, off you go!

If e’er—to drive Apollo’s phaeton—

I need an earthly charioteer,

This tall-browed genius I will wait on,

And prime him first with Lager Bier.

But higher yet, in middle Heaven,

Your steed seems taking flight, my friend;

You read the secret of the Seven,

And on through trackless regions wend!

Don’t vanish in the Milky Way, for

This afternoon you ’re wanted here;

Come back! Come back! and help me pay for

The bread and cheese and Lager Bier.