Act I Scene 23


By a lake, Janower Teich[1]. The poet Ganghofer enters, yodelling[2]. He wears a loden jacket, a ‘smoking’ waistcoat, kneebreeches, with rucksack and alpenstock, an Iron Cross first-class; under a hat sporting a gamsbart – a decorative tuft of chamois – is a shock of blonde hair, visibly greying. On a somewhat crooked nose sit a pair of golden pince-nez.



I’m on the front line now, 


And right at home somehow.

A Mother Nature’s stripling,

The sort you seldom see,

But sadly knocking on

For our bold soldiery.

Good for my age though, quite

A man! I served my time –

Just look me up – filling

Vienna’s pulps with rhyme[4].

I’ve got a huntsman’s courage,

The true hollodrioh,

And what I write, come on,

It’s not that bad, you know.

A bit of a schmuck in Vienna?

Well, competition was rife;

There was no one I didn’t fall out with

In the springtime of my life.

Then I slipped on a loden jacket,

The huntsman’s rustic dress,

And straightways I immersed me 

In the wild, wild wilderness.                                                   

A schmuck mid leaves of paper,

A schmuck mid leaves of green,

I rake in more spondulicks

Than my rivals have ever seen.

Bavarian clods ne’er e’er

Will see how much I’ve schmucked ’em;

They gaze on my golden locks –

By then of course I’ve fucked ’em.

The Prussians are real suckers

For Alpino-phonic savour;

My earthy woodland odour

Is Berlin’s favourite flavour.

When he sees a loden jacket,

And chamois on a hat,

Your Berliner feels so cosy

He’ll purr like some fat cat.

It’s no longer Roda Roda,

Worming his way in,

The greatest interview

Is mine – to his chagrin.

Huntsman talks to hunstman

When the Kaiser and I meet;

Who wouldn’t be talked down to

By the elite of the elite?

As one schmuck to another

He reads me and delights;

Here in my huntsman’s hide,

Oh, what feelings he excites.


 (a car is heard in the distance)

A huntsman’s heart is beating;

The whole wide world awaits

Two great minds a-greeting.

AIDE-DE-CAMP (enters at the double):       Ah, there you are Ganghofer. His Majesty will be here any moment, there’s his horn already. Just take up that boyish pose of yours, you know His Majesty loves it, no silly nonsense though, be as natural as you can, as if you’re meeting up with an old hunting pal. You must know only three people personify Art for His Majesty: in painting Knackfuss[5], in music Nessler’s opera ‘The Bugler of Säckigen’[6], and that song ‘Baby, You’re the Apple of my Eye’[7], but in literature it’s you, my dear Ganghofer, and maybe Lauff [8]and Höcker[9] and Anny Wothe[10]. Otto Ernst’s[11] quite good too of course. Anyway – no first-night nerves Ganghofer, God knows you’ve no need – virile is the style, as befits a huntsman and a young buck of the forest, His Majesty will be smiling affably, just holding an outstretched hand. (The car horn sounds: tattu – tatta -) His Majesty’s coming now. He has the photographer from the Illustrated Week[12] with him. This is going to make the most gripping scene, the Kaiser and the poet together, two men who live on humanity’s highest peaks. And I’m not thinking of your beloved mountains Ganghofer, but rather of the spiritual heights. So have some spunk, my dear Ganghofer – (the horn sounds loudly: tattu – tatta -) stand firm!

(H.M. with his entourage. In the background the photographer from the Illustrated Week. H.M. walks up to the poet and, smiling affably, stretches out his hand.)

KAISER[13]:    Well Ganghofer, you really are everywhere! You know Ganghofer, you’re tremendous!

GANGHOFER (a stronger accent):    Your Majesty, my soul has striven to keep up with the victorious advance of the German armies. And praise God, that took some doing! (He jumps for joy.)

KAISER (laughing):    Very good, Ganghofer, very good. Now – have you had lunch yet?

GANGHOFER:    No, Your Majesty, who can think about lunch in such great times?

KAISER:    For God’s sake, you must eat something immediately! (The Kaiser beckons, a pot of tea is brought along with two large slices of cake. The Kaiser reaches his hand into a tin, stuffs Ganghofer’s pockets full of biscuits and says over and over again)  Tuck in, Ganghofer, do tuck in! (The photographer snaps.)

KAISER:    Were you in Przemisel[14], Ganghofer? Eat up, for heaven’s sake, eat up!

(Ganghofer eats.)

GANGHOFER:    My most humble thanks, Your Majesty. Yesh, in Pshemishel.

KAISER:    So, are you satisfied? With the fort at Przemysl, stopping the Russians I mean? Eat up, have some more Ganghofer!

GANGHOFER (eating):    Yesh. It wash fine in Pshmishel.

KAISER:    Did you see Sven Hedin[15]?  Do have some more Ganghofer –

GANGHOFER:    Yesh, I did shee Shven Hedin.

KAISER (his eyes gleaming):    I’m delighted you got to know him. A fine specimen of a man that Swede. If you see him again – come on, eat up Ganghofer – give him my best regards.

(A Russian plane approaches from the east, lit by the gold of the evening sun like golden bird. Behind it puffs of smoke from shells. The Kaiser stands quietly, looking up, and says:) Too short!

(Further shots fall far short of the plane. The Kaiser nods, thoughtful.)

When you have wings the shots always fall short. Eat up Ganghofer!

(A pause as Ganghofer eats some more. Abruptly the Kaiser turns to the poet and says in a low voice, gravely and portentously, stressing every word:) Ganghofer – what – do you think – about – Italy?

(A moment before Ganghofer has finished eating and is able to reply.)

GANGHOFER:    Your Majesty, the way it’s turned out is better for Austria and for us. A clean table is the finest piece of furniture in a virtuous house.

(The Kaiser nods. He draws himself up with a deep sigh.)

AIDE-DE-CAMP (whispers to Ganghofer):    Dialect!

KAISER:    Well Ganghofer do you have another one of those lovely feuilletons of yours ready? Let’s hear it – hmm?

GANGHOFER:    Your servant, Your Majesty, some of it is High German –

AIDE-DE-CAMP (whispers):    He wants dialect!

KAISER:    It really doesn’t matter, just read it anyway.

GANGHOFER:    The beginning has a bit of Swabian[16], Your Majesty.

KAISER:    Well, all the better, brilliant, read it out.

GANGHOFER (takes an article from his pocket and reads):    Halfway there we hear the first enemy trench in Rozan’s[17] outer defences has already been taken. A Swabian score as in days of yore.[18] We meet a Stuttgarter along the road, with his arm in a white sling, he tells me with a laugh: ‘The forst trench is wors! Tough gannin mebbees. Them Rooskies shot a fierce amoont of shells at wor. But it dinna matter much. Wuh took the trench! Ivver a canny job! Howay the lads!’

KAISER:    Priceless, Ganghofer.

GANGHOFER (reads on):    I take advantage of the early morning to look up a well-developed cousin of our industrious Big Bertha. (The Kaiser laughs.) Still just a young lass! But surprisingly lusty already! Her little mouth sits about four meters higher than the top of my head. (The Kaiser laughs heartily.) And what a voice she’s got, you have to stuff cotton wool in your ears to keep your eardrums from splitting. When she starts singing her thunderous song – a song of German genius and German might – a jet of fire as long as a ship’s mast shoots from her throat, and anyone who’s standing behind our music-making little cousin (the Kaiser roars with laughter) sees a black disc flying straight up into the sky, getting smaller and smaller, till it’s so high that a hundred church steeples piled on top of one another wouldn’t reach it. Seconds later fuming, fiery hell is unleashed in the Russian fort at Rozan. She’s capable of great things, this German iron maiden! (The Kaiser slaps his thighs with his left hand as he laughs.)  I leave her with a feeling of greatly increased confidence and the deepest satisfaction, four hundred paces away I take the cotton wool out of my ears, and the voice of that exquisite young lady sounds exceedingly sweet. (The Kaiser laughs like a hyena.) I confess that my opinion is of an extremely subjective nature. One must assume that as commandant of the fort at Rozan I would have a very different attitude.

KAISER (eyes bedazzled to the last as he has listened, he slaps his thigh with his left hand incessantly and shouts): Oh, what a scream! Bravo, Ganghofer, you’ve really hit the mark there. Lauff sang the praises of Big Bertha and you’re courting her little cousin, I’ll laugh myself to death, I really will! But you’ve still got to eat something, Ganghofer, you’re not eating –

(Ganghofer eats. Suddenly the Kaiser approaches him with purpose and whispers in his ear. Ganghofer quivers with excitement, a piece of biscuit falls from his mouth, his face gleams with joyful rapture and optimism. He puts a finger to his lips, as if to promise secrecy. The Kaiser does likewise.)

GANGHOFER:    A new bond of steel to bind all Germans together.

KAISER:    Only to be announced on the day of fruition!

GANGHOFER:    And that day is on its way!

KAISER:    Tuck in Ganghofer!

(Ganghofer eats. An orderly brings a message for him.)

GANGHOFER:    From Field Marshal Mackensen[19]! (He reads, enthusiastic and excited.)  ‘Set off as soon as possible. The Russian positions near Tarnoo[20] are about to fall –

AIDE-DE-CAMP (whispers):    Dialect!

GANGHOFER:    – tomorrow we retake Lemberg.’ Yahoo! (He begins a Bavarian yodelling dance. Then, pulling himself together, earnest, looks up at the sky.) Your Majesty!

KAISER:    What’s the matter Ganghofer, can’t you dance a bit more?

GANGHOFER:    How long must I keep the secret?

KAISER:    What secret?

GANGHOFER:    The one Your Majesty confided just now – my heart cannot hold back much longer – Your Majesty (blurting out) has decreed three wagonloads of Bavarian beer are to be sent to our brave Austrian brothers-in-arms.

KAISER:    All right, proclaim it to the world for all I care! They ought to know that something good to drink is now on its way from your beautiful Bavaria!  But what about you – eat up Ganghofer, go on eat!

GANGHOFER (eats and does his Bavarian dance at the same time, the Kaiser slaps the aide-de-camp on the backside, the photographer snaps away. The entourage gets ready for departure. Meanwhile the Kaiser gets into the car and waves one more time to Ganghofer, the horn sounds: tattu-tatta – -. While this can still be heard in the distance, Ganghofer keeps dancing his Bavarian dance. Then he stops, stands still and says, in a very altered tone:)  That’s a front page for me, guaranteed!


[1] Janower Teich, a lake in the German state of Mecklenberg Vorpommern. Interestingly it is also a small

lake near Gródek in Galicia, now Horodokin, Ukraine, close to the fighting around Lemberg; Ganghofer wrote about the campaign here in the ‘Hamburger Fremdenblatt’. A different voice was Austrian poet Georg Trakl’s (1887-1914), an army medical officer, who wrote his last poem at Gródek; in the aftermath of tending the wounded and dying in these woods he committed suicide:

                Evening, the autumnal woods echo

                With deadly weaponry…

                … the night embraces

                Dying warriors, the wild lamentations

                Of their fractured mouths.

[2] Ganghofer, poet and writer. (I n.153) German maintains much stronger dialectal differences than English; not only accents but elements of grammar and vocabulary differ in German-speaking Europe; people slip from Standard German into local dialect and back quite easily; and this is far less a class issue than in English. Ganghofer’s Alpine appearance and dialect reflect the exaggerated yokelism that was his trademark; his German is Bavarian and very close to Austrian German outside Vienna. An English equivalent is impossible; a West Country accent may be the best we can do, especially as (pace William Barnes) it has no major literary tradition. Ireland and Wales are tempting but their autochthonous languages create a very different agenda; the Scottish Highlands are somehow too distinctive. Lowland Scots offers real dialect differences, yet again the history says the wrong things; but if we imagine Ganghofer on an axis between the equivalent of Robert Burns and a Scottish stage drunk, Kraus puts him closer to the drunk.

[3] A hunting cry, like the English ‘So-ho!’, and about as antiquated.

[4] Kraus refers to Moriz Szeps (1832-1910), editor of the ‘Wiener Tagblatt’ which employed Ganghofer.

[5] Hermann Wilhelm Joseph Knackfuss (18481915), German artist; he painted portraits and historical subjects, especially the military history of Prussia; he produced large-scale works in public buildings.

[6] Viktor Ernst Nessler (1841-90), German (Alsatian) composer, musically conservative; ‘Der Trompeter von Säkkingen (1884) was his most successful work; a 17th century tale of love and martial ardour; the operetta was based on a poem of the same name by Victor von Scheffel (1826-1886) of Säckingen

[7] Puppchen Du (bist) mein Augenstern’, song from a German operetta ‘Puppchen’ by Jean Gilbert, real name Max Winterfeld (1879-1942), lyrics by Alfred Schönfeld; its premier was in Berlin in 1912.

[8] Josef Lauff (1855-1933), German poet, playwright. In 1898 the Kaiser had asked him to write for the royal theatre; he produced four plays about the Hohenzollern dynasty, the last about Frederick the Great.

[9] There are three Höckers who may have appealed to the Kaiser. This is probably Paul Oskar Höcker (1865-1944); before the war he had written historical novels and ‘westerns’ for young people; in 1914, while serving in France, he wrote a war narrative ‘At the Head of My Company’. His father, Oskar Höcker (1840-1894) was a court actor and writer; he wrote popular history particularly aimed at children. Gustav Höcker (1832-1911), Oskar’s brother; biographies of German composers, historical novels, crime fiction.

[10] Anny Mahn-Wothe (1858-1917), writer of short stories, novels; she edited several women’s magazines and published guides to rearing children and good housekeeping; ‘Drei Graue Reiter, ein Roman in Feldpostbriefen’, ‘Three Grey Riders, a Novel in Postcards from the Front’, would be published in 1918.

[11] Otto Ernst Schmidt (1862-1926), German novelist, playwright, poet (including ballads); he is perhaps best known now for a volume of stories, ‘Appelschnut’,written for his daughter, Senta-Regina; he also translated the first part of Jonathan Swifts’s Gulliver’s Travels, ‘A Voyage to Lilliput’, into German.

[12] ‘Die Woche’, one of Germany’s first illustrated magazines, published from the 1890’s until 1944.

[13] Kaiser Wilhelm II (1859-1941), last German Emperor and King of Prussia; he was actually far less enthusiastic about war than many of his advisors; he was Queen Victoria’s grandson and felt that Europeans monarchs should not have let themselves be manipulated into war by politicians (including his own); ‘To think that George and Nicky played me false! My grandmother would never have allowed it’.

[14] Przemyśl, now in Poland (German, Premissel, though Kraus has the Kaiser use something like the Polish pronunciation). In August 1914 Russian forces defeated the Austro-Hungarians and advanced into Galicia. The Przemyśl fortress, the third largest in Europe at the time, stopped the advance; the Russians besieged the fortress; the siege was lifted in October 1914; a second siege resulted in Przemyśl’s surrender in March 1915; it was recaptured in June 1915. Fighting at Przemyśl cost 115,000 killed, wounded, and missing.

[15] Sven Anders von Hedin (1865-1952), Swedish geographer and explorer; he travelled widely in Persia, Tibet and Central Asia; politically he was involved in the conflict between Russia and Britain to dominate Central Asia and was much decorated for his ability to fill in the ‘white spaces’ on maps; he was conservative, anti-democratic and a militarist; when war began he aligned himself firmly with the Kaiser.

[16] Swabia, one of the four original German provinces; its territory included what is now French Alsace, German Baden and Württemberg and part of northern Switzerland; Swäbisch, Swabian is the dialect of Baden-Würtemberg; but it doesn’t much matter what the dialect is, the Kaiser finds it all quaint and side-slappingly funny. An English equivalent is impossible; the use of Geordie here is just illustrative.

[17] Różan, town and Russian fortress north of Warsaw; a strategic fortification since the 11th century.

[18] Schwabenstreich describes an 11th century battle in which a lone Swabian and his exhausted horse are surrounded by Turks; supporting his horse with one hand he strikes a sword blow with the other that cuts a Turk in two; at which point the Turks let him go. Ludwig Uhland’s poem about this was a school text.

[19] August von Mackensen (1849-1945), German field marshal, commander of the army in Poland in 1914.

[20] Tarnów, Poland; near Kraków.