Friday, December 9, 2016


Emperor Rudolf had a bell
To summon the dead
One night he rang it.
First came old Fritz
His former servant
Who died of typhus;
He asked if Rudolf wanted wine.
No, said Rudolf, nor beer
Nor kirsch nor even
A nice warm negus
With nutmeg sprinkled on.
"Tell me, good Fritz,
The secrets of the dead!"
"Sire, I know none. I could
Tell you how to make negus?
First, heat  but don't boil
A fair measure of port
(It needn't be very good port)
Stir in some lemon juice
And a lump of sugar. Cinnamon,
If you have it, and then nutmeg;
A bit of clover honey
(Clover, mind you, or the negus
Will be ordinary)
Half a measure of boiling water
And drink it right down.”

Next, the ghost of a sentry
Drowned three winters ago
From falling in the Vlatava.
The only secret he could impart
Concerned a grouchy barmaid
Who knew how to cure
Even the worst of hangovers.
The Emperor wrote down her name
In his Kunstcammer catalogue, beneath
A drawing of an ape holding a mirror
For a perplexed-looking mermaid.
That note has caused much confusion
To modern students of his reign.

Last came Rudolf’s own ghost
Looking very thin and parched.
He would not speak but was willing
To play chess. He won two games
And drew the third.

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