King Otto the First
Otto Witte died at the age of 85 in 1958, and his official documentation from the German Government show his occupation as "Circus acrobat and King Of Albania" having been crowned as such on August 13th 1913. For bare-faced cheek alone his memory should be preserved.
As this poem was emerging it fell naturally into the rhythms of the Cautionary Tales For Children by Hillaire Belloc, hence the acknowledgement in the title. This poem was broadcast on BBC Radio Wales, on Roy's Rarebits on August 13 2006.
King Otto The First.
How the people of Albania were too easily influenced by appearances, and lived to rue the consequences.
(After Hilaire Belloc)
Halim Eddine, I'd better explain here,
Was people's choice for King of Albania,
Who arrived in Durres, and was swiftly crowned
By the soldiers brave who'd gathered round.
He inspected the troops, in his gilt and braid,
And ordered them at once to "Take Belgrade!
Let the hosts of Montenegro do their worst!"
He declared himself King Otto the First.
I suppose in the next five days, it's true,
He behaved like monarchs ought to do:
He opened parliaments: he opened fetes;
He held garden parties on his estates.
He waved from balconies; he waved from planes;
He waved from liners, and the royal trains.
He waved from below, and he waved from above,
All the time waving in a nice white glove.
He cut a ribbon here, and he drew a curtain there,
And did his very best to get an heir and a spare!
(He consorted with his harem on a nightly basis),
And kept the civil list in a state of stasis.
But rumours started spreading that sadly he
Was not all a monarch ought to be:
One shouldn't have a fondness, it's more than clear,
For conducting state business with a foot behind each ear!
And the supplest of kings, even if they're able,
Should not perform contortions on the palace table!
Nor swing quite madly from the chandelier
To a half pike finish on the jardiniere!
Then a telegram arrived, and expressed the views
That Halime Eddine, when he'd heard the news
Of his coronation, was heard to declare
That it might have been better had he been there!
Imagine their horror when the news first hit!
They'd crowned a clown named Otto Witte,
Not Halim Eddine! The Devil strike him!
He wasn't the King, he just looked like him!
The people of Albania learned with a frown
That there's not a lot of difference 'twixt a crown and a clown!
And, assisted by his harem, Otto fled into night
With the bulk of the treasury boxed up tight!
I'll append a simple moral, if you don't mind them
(All poems have a moral if you can find them!):
If we took our chances like Otto Witte
We could all be kings, if our faces fit!