Droll, acute, devastatingly allusive--a battle seen through the eyes of Goethe's secretary, a Philosopher-Kid armed with educated innocence. Moses Koppman (!), a shepherd whose talents include simultaneous reading and knitting, attends Goethe at the 1792 ""battle"" of Valmy, a scrimmage with the French that defeated Prussian morale and about-faced its troops. Complaints about the traffic, observations on French emigres, remarks on wounded soldiers (suffering scorched mustaches)--all are part of his ""higgledy-piggledy"" experience. Snatches of the poet: amused when his bumpkin refers to the coming partition as the ""Polish artichoke""; scribbling Sybilline bits for Moses to decipher; studying china fragments on a brook bottom (which developed his anti-Newtonian theory about light); tickling his sleeping coachman with a straw. ""Would we not love God more heartily if we could catch him tickling the nose of a slumbering Saint Peter with a bit of grass?"" Written by Koppman the librarian thirty years later, it is an inspired put-on of picaresque lineaments.