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A few weeks ago, Driek van Wissen, a light versifier from the fine old town I live in, caused a bit of a scandal in Dutch literary circles by bagging the title of Poet Laureate through extensive lobbying and public campaigning. Good for him, I suppose: I'm no fan of his work, but I don't automatically scoff at what he does just because it isn't serious literary poetry.
But if any one writer of light verse deserved to represent Dutch poetry internationally, it was John O'Mill.

O'Mill was a teacher from Brabant who tried to keep his students interested in learning English by writing nonsensical rhymes in what he called Double Dutch: a form of English strewn with Dutch words, completely incomprehensible to native English speakers, but very funny indeed to ESL speakers whose native language was Dutch. The poems were reprinted, rather shabbily, in gift books, of which my parents have one. They deserve better: as the writer of this article says, it would be nice to have a nicely printed collection of all his work.
From that same web page, here's O'Mill's retelling of The Pied Piper of Hamelin. See if you can make sense of it:

The ratmepper of Hamelin

Perhaps, my dear children,
perhaps you don't know,
what happened in Hamelin
a long time ago,

when people in houses
and people in flats
were troubled by mouses
and bitten by rats

The mouses they laughed at,
the rats they all feared
from the day that the crangs
in their bed-stays appeared.

Rats in their bed-stays,
rats in their socks,
in grandfather's broocksack
and baby's own box.

Rats bit their babies
and what's even worse
laddered their nylons
and licked their liqueurs,

ate up the curtains,
the capstock, the mats,
slaughtered the watchdogs
and killed off the cats.

Rats on the dremples,
rats in the hall,
building a nest
in their best parasol.

When Freiherr von Starker
found one in his vest
he drew out his parker
and wrote a protest,

which he read to the burghers,
the farmers and all,
who marched in procession
to Hamelin's Town Hall.

The city's wetholders,
the Council and Mayor
got quite in the war
by the shouts in the square.

"Make haste, you slampampers,
and rid us of rats,
before they build nests
in your gold-galloned hats".

"Oh dear" crooned the mayor,
"What are we to do?"
when a voice broke the silence
and said: "Keek a Boo!"

And in stepped a queebus
in the queerest of dress,
half yellow, half orange
in an old Turkish fez.

"You're worried, your worship"
the stoothasple spoke
and pulled forth a trombone
from under his cloak.

"Now what do I get
from the city's goldcoffer?
When I rid you of rats, chaps,
what do you offer?"

They stared at the snewsharn's
fantastic disguise,
the smiling red lips
and the laughing green eyes.

They stared at his hair
and they stared at his feet,
when a yule reached their ears
from the folk in the street.

"We offer" they stottered,
their thumbs in their collars,
"what's inside the coffer:
ten thousand dollars!"

"D'Accord!" said the stranger
and made them a bow,
"Open the door, chaps,
I'm starting right now!"

He walked through the streets,
while he blew his trombone
and out came the rats
at the very first tone.

He played them a rat's song,
full of good news
and they dartled behind him,
kissing his shoes.

Out of the houses
and out of the flats
came couples, came dozens,
came hundreds of rats.

Black rats and grey rats,
mixed coloured and brown
and followed the tooter
all over the town.

He walked to the river,
walked in - to his knees
and blew them the sweetest
of all ratsodies.

And down came the looders,
down the stile bank,
into the river,
blew bubbles and sank.

"You've seen, burgomaster"
the wonderman said,
"You've seen a ratmepper
earning his bread".

"I've done my duty,
I'm sure, you're content,
Now hand me the dollars,
please, my tractement!"

"You're not good snick"
said the mayor with a laugh,
"You shan't have a dollar,
not even a half!"

We'll give you a drink
and a ten cents cigar,
more then enough for
a bink like you are."

"I see", sissed the stranger,
green flames in his eyes,
"We'll see, burgomaster,
who's not good wise!"

""Goodbye, pockerliar,
no more shall we meet"
and he smacked back the door
and stepped out in the street.

Once more trailing music,
he slentered through town,
but this time - oh horror! -
the children came down.

In parties of three
and in pluckies and dozens,
alone or with sisters
and comrades and cousins.

And he with the trombone,
he blew them Good News,
Sweet Rhythm, Saint Louis
and Deep River Blues.

He told them to beebop,
to follow the band
and promised the napkids
a new Dixieland.

The mothers cried loudkails,
the fathers they swore
but their beebopping boofies
heard them nomore.

Betovered they followed
him and his blues,
followed in quick step
close on his shoes.

He led his jam-session,
this unholy clown,
forever more after
away from the town.

This was the last,
that was seen or was heard,
but the mayor was beheaded,
for HE broke his word.

Go, visit this Hamelin
with your school or alone,
but don't be a fool
and bring a trombone.

Surely that one was a mackie?


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