Sonnets of a German Spy (1917)

Translated From the German of Herr Tannenwald and Done Into English Verse--By Berton Braley

From The Saturday Evening Post

X V 238. FOLIO 84

I WENT to see Herr Puppschen yesterday
And told him how I'd always hoped and planned
To serve the Kaiser and the Fatherland,
And that I wished employment right away.
"These Yankee fools," I said, "are much too gay.
I want to be a spy and take a hand
In teaching them to know and understand
The Kultur that we Germans all display."

"Aha!" he cried, "you have a noble heart,
And you will work for nothing, is it not?"
"Yes, it is not," I said. "I will not start
Until I see the money, that is what!"
He glared at me, then answered with a sigh:
"Well, you are hired--and now, go out and spy!"

Y W 379. FOLIO 16


To-day Herr Puppschen handed me a bomb.
"And now," he said, "you sign this full receipt,
Which shows who made the weapon, where it's from
And what it's for--we want things quite complete.
We keep full records of the work we do
And everything must be accounted for.
Sign the receipt--and sign the copy, too;
It's German system that will win this war."

We Teutons are efficient. Each detail
Is figured out and kept in black and white;
With such a method, can the Kaiser fail
To teach the world to bow before his might?
When in a trolley car that bomb was lost
Herr Puppschen made me pay him what it cost.

B Z T 742. FOLIO 6

BOOK 18, PAGE 92


Herr Puppschen sent a letter, all in code,
And seven bombs, insured, by parcel post;
I puzzled for a half a day, almost,
But couldn't make it out. Then, neatly stowed
Among the bombs, so I could not go wrong,
I found a copy of the note, translated;
And with it was another one, which stated:
"To help you out we've sent the code along."

I put the correspondence in my file
Marked "Secret. It's forbidden to peruse!"
Then took the train and started off in style
To drop the bombs around at Newport News.
The porter didn't lift my bag with care;
I had to warn him: "There are bombs in there!"

P D Q, 6 M, 4-11-44


This Yankee humor--that is what they call it--
Is stupid stuff; in Newport News I tried
To enter, dressed as Senator La Follette.
They said, "You'll have to leave your bag outside."
I had to leave it, but I pumped the guide,
Who told me that the Yankee submarines
Were run by horses fed on pork and beans
And used, on land, for cavalry to ride.

I wrote this down and went away in haste,
But I was mad because I couldn't tarry
To place my bombs. So, lest they go to waste,
I threw them at a ladies' seminary.
And then I found those Yankees, if you please,
Had filled my precious bombs with Edam cheese!

@$%*=# 23456789 M

SHELF 60, VOL. 10




Herr Puppschen ordered me to hang around
And watch a certain officer with care.
"You shadow him," he said, "and everywhere
He travels, you be right upon the ground."
I did my best, but while I lurked without
My quarry's club, with quite a cordial air
He called to me: "Don't stick around out there.
Come in and have a drink. You're cold, no doubt!"

I did as he requested. He was right;
The club proved very comforting and warm.
He laughed and cried: "You spies are a delight,
But really, you should have a uniform!"
That would be excellent, without a question.
I'll tell Herr Puppschen it was my suggestion.


NO. 179426


To-day Herr Puppschen asked me for my bill,
All itemized, for services to date.
"I must," he told me, "keep my ledgers straight
To prove that I have spied with proper skill.
So in your vouchers you will kindly show
The cost of every pacifist parade;
What bombs you placed, what editors you paid--
For we must prove where all our moneys go."

I made the voucher out in triplicate
And signed each copy as he told me to.
He put them in a file marked "Confidential."
The method that he has is simply great;
Only a German mind could put it through.
We know that system is the true essential.

Z 2q 7 P J 54 X


The Swedish minister in Argentine
Who used to send out letters to Berlin
Is now in trouble, for a spy crept in
And found a note which said some submarine
Should sink a ship and never leave a trace.
The papers here are quite exited, crying
That it's a shame! And they're correct--such spying
On private letters is a foul disgrace.

It's only just the Fatherland should use
Whatever methods it may find at hand.
But that its enemies should dare peruse
Our secret notes I cannot understand.
What right have they to stop us when we plot
For unser Kaiser and for unser Gott?

FILE xxi23 SERIES 23


My letter file is missing from the flat;
I do not understand where it has gone.
My name was printed very neatly on
The front of it; and then, besides all that,
I'd written "Very Secret" clear and plain,
And on the back I'd stamped the German crest.
I'm sure I tried to do my very best
To warn whoever saw it to refrain

From reading it. I wonder where it went;
Perhaps the maid will know------She's brought it back:
The janitor had taken it, she said;
He had become a kleptomaniac,
But really had no criminal intent.
She thought him somewhat batty in the head.


Herr Puppschen is arrested! All his books
Are taken by the secret-service men.
It seems that all the time that he has been
Serving the Kaiser, they--the wicked crooks--
Have known about it. Many of his clerks
Were Yankee spies who watched him every day.
That's why I couldn't blow up powder works
And why my plots have always gone astray.

And now my landlord tells me that the maid
Who did my work was secret service, too,
And that she had a lot of copies made
Of all my letters. Such a thing to do!
It wasn't fair of her. How could I know
She was a spy? She never told me so!


I do not understand these Yankee ways;
I thought they'd stand me up against a wall.
But when the secret-service men did call
They looked at me with quite a smiling gaze
And simply said, "Herr Tannenwald, you gave
Our operatives quite a hearty laugh.
You are the prize peach on the Kaiser's staff.
So run along; but mind--you must behave!"

"What!" I exclaimed; "I shall not go to jail?
"No, not a bit of it," they said, "old sport!"
But keep piano makers off your trail.
The ivory crop is getting pretty short!"
They shook me by the hand and left my flat.
"The ivory crop"--what did they mean by that?