07 January 2012

Haydn, and the Zeal of the Poodle

Our man in Texas relays an anecdote about “Papa.” He tells that he found it at a poodle lover’s website.

“The Clever and Zealous Poodle”

“The great Austrian composer, Franz Joseph Haydn, composed a piece of music about a poodle. In 1780, a military officer’s daughter from the German town of Coburg wrote a letter to Papa Haydn, as the beloved composer was popularly known. (Coburg is now part of Bavaria, but then, it was the capital of the small duchy of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. One later member of the ruling family was Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s consort. His descendants changed the family name to Windsor, in reaction to anti-German feeling among the British people fostered by World War I.)

“In the young woman’s letter, she told Papa Haydn how she and her lover, a young Captain, together with his Pudel and another friend, had taken a walk. The Captain had praised his dog’s talents and offered a bet that the dog would be able to find a Thaler (a silver coin of some value, from which the English word dollar is derived) that he would hide under a bush. The friend accepted the wager. When the dog was not looking, the Captain hid the Thaler. Everybody then returned home. The captain then said to his poodle, ‘Search, lost.’ The dog took off immediately along the path where the party had taken their walk.

“In the meantime, by happenstance, a tailor, who was on a journey, had sat down in the shadow of the bush under which the Captain had hidden the Thaler. When the tailor saw the Thaler, he picked it up, and put it in his pocket. Soon thereafter, the Pudel arrived at the scene, smelled the Thaler in the man’s pocket, and flattered the tailor. The tailor, delighted at having found within an hour both a Thaler and a fine Pudel, took the dog with him to his lodging in town. The Pudel watched over the tailor the whole night. But early in the morning, when the door to the room was opened, he snuck out with the tailor’s trousers and brought them, with the Thaler still in the pocket, to his true master.

“This little adventure was set in verse with the title, ‘Der schlaue und dienstfertige Pudel’ (The Clever and Zealous Poodle). In her letter, the young woman asked Papa Haydn to set the verses to music. She described her limited financial means, and said that she had heard high praises of the composer’s good heart. So, she wrote, she hoped that he would accept the Ducat (another coin) that she had enclosed, as payment for the musical composition. Haydn immediately composed the music, and sent both the manuscript and the Ducat back to the young woman, along with a letter of explanation. Haydn wrote that he did not want the young woman to think that he would only use his talent for monetary compensation, especially for someone as charming as she. So, he asked for a pair of knit garters instead. The ribbons in red and white silk with a painted garland of forget-me-nots arrived a while later, and Papa Haydn preserved them carefully amongst his other treasured


Anonymous said...

What a strange carry on!

Karl Henning said...

Carry your poodle on, and you won't pay an extra baggage fee.