The Great Composer Quiz – January 13, 2021

Time’s up, pencils down, the Great Composer who considered himself very like his pipe, or in any event he liked his pipe very much. The answer is Johann Sebastian Bach. Here is Bach’s entire pipe poem, which he gave to his second wife Anna Magdalena in the famous notebook he assembled for her.

Each time I take my pipe’n tobacco
With goodly wad filled to the brim
For fun and passing time with pleasure,
It brings to me a thought so grim —
And adds as well this doctrine fair:
That I’m to it quite similar.
The pipe is born of clay terrestrial,
Of this I am as well conceived.
Ah, one day I’ll become earth also —
It falls and breaks, before ye know’t,
And often cracks within my hand:
My destiny is much the same.
The pipe our wont is not to color,
It’s always white. And thus I think
That I as well one day while dying
In flesh at least shall grow as pale.
But in the tomb my body will
Be black like it when used at length.
When now the pipe is lit and burning,
We witness how within a trice
The smoke into thin air doth vanish,
Nought but the ashes then are left.
And thus is mankind’s fame consumed,
Its body, too, in dust assumed.
How oft it happens when we’re smoking
That, when the tamper’s not at hand,
We use our finger for this service.
Me thinks, then, when I have been burned:
Oh, if these cinders cause such pain,
How hot indeed will hell yet be?
I can amidst such formulations
With my tobacco ev’rytime
Such practical ideas ponder.
I’ll smoke therefore contentedly
On land, at sea and in my house
My little pipe adoringly.

(Translation from Daily Reader)