I met a gent one day in Ghent
Within his chic café.
He brought a viennoiserie,
And croissants, and sorbet.
And as he served his fine hors d’oeuvres,
He wished “Bon appetit !”
Aha !, I thought, your phrase has taught
Your mother tongue to me.
My French is good, perhaps I should
Plutôt parler Français.
Of course ! Très bon ! “I say, garçon !
L’addition, s’il vous plaît.”
But Gallic chat was falling flat –
Had I just caused offence ?
But then he smiled and said, unriled,
“Ten euros, sixty cents.”
He’d rumbled me ! My tasse de thé
Had shown my rosbif-hood.
“Don’t worry, sir, for de rigueur –
My English speak is good.”
My grand faux pas was too bourgeois,
My cheeks were burning rouge.
“Your French is fine,” said he, “Not mine –
For I was born in Bruges.”
“I feared as much” I said. “This Dutch
To me is all but Greek.”
“Pardon, meneer, in Flanders here,
It’s Flemish that we speak.”
“Mais oui, monsieur, if you prefer;
A patriot and true !
But help me out and talk about
The change between the two.”
“Each verb and noun when written down”
He said, “is much the same.
But when they’re sung upon our tongue,
It’s quite a diff’rent game.”
“Well, très bien to that, my man,
Indeed, it’s worth a verse !
I’ll write it yet, our tête-à-tête,
With phrases interspersed.
But wait ! Alas, it cannot pass,
If they aren’t en Français.
I have no crutch of schoolboy Dutch
With which to sound au fait.
My masterplan will bring rien –
Veloren hoop, I say !
Oh fame, adieu ! Cruel déjà vu !
The Flems have told me nee !”