The Book, Cat, & Cat Book Lovers Almanac

of historical trivia regarding books, cats, and other animals. Actually this blog has evolved so that it is described better as a blog about cats in history and culture. And we take as a theme the advice of Aldous Huxley: If you want to be a writer, get some cats. Don't forget to see the archived articles linked at the bottom of the page.

July 29, 2013

July 29, 1605

Simon Dach (July 29, 1605 to April 15, 1659) was a German poet. A biography published in 1845 describes him as teaching poetry at the University of Konigsberg. This sounds like an anachronism since I would have assumed such art was then still supported by aristocratic favor. Still this area of Prussia on the Baltic sea in the 17th century may have been different. He is remembered for the hymns and other verse he wrote. We have samples. Excerpts:

Blessed  Are The Dead

O, How blest are ye whose toils are ended!
Who, through death, have unto God ascended!
Ye have arisen
From the cares which keep us still in prison.

We are still as in a dungeon living,
Still oppressed with sorrow and misgiving;
Our undertakings
Are but toils, and troubles, and heart-breakings.

Ye, meanwhile, are in your chambers sleeping,
Quiet, and set free from all our weeping;
No cross nor trial
Hinders your enjoyments with denial.

Christ has wiped away your tears for ever;
Ye have that for which we still endeavour.
To you are chanted
Songs which yet no mortal ear have haunted.

Come, O Christ, and loose the chains that bind us

This fascinating example of religious thought, so plausible if you adopt a few assumptions, and still, so foreign sounding today, even to those of that same faith, was selected for inclusion in a book on European poetry by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The book, first published in 1845 was The poets and poetry of Europe.

Here is what Longfellow said about Simon Dach: "
He was Professor of Poetry at Konigsberg. His poems are lyrical, consisting of popular and sacred songs; and breathing the simple, devout spirit of a quiet scholar." 

This next poem, also excerpted, is titled "Annie Of Tharaw."

Annie of Tharaw, my true love of old,
She is my life, and my goods, and my gold.

Annie of Tharaw, her heart once again
To me has surrendered in joy and in pain.

Then come the wild weather, come sleet or come snow, 
We will stand by each other, however it blow.

Oppression, and sickness, and sorrow, and pain, 
Shall be to our true love as links to the chain.

Should thou he torn from me to wander alone 
In a desolate land where the sun is scarce known,

Through forests I 'll follow, and where the sea flows, 
Through ice, and through iron, through armies of foes.

Annie of Tharaw, my light and my sun,
The threads of our two lives are woven in one.

Whate'er I have bidden thee thou hast obeyed, 
Whatever forbidden thou hast not gainsaid.

How in the turmoil of life can love stand, 
Where there is not one heart, and one mouth, and one hand?

Some seek for dissension, and trouble, and strife; 
Like a dog and a cat live such man and wife.

Annie of Tharaw, such is not our love,
Thou art my lambkin, my chick, and my dove.

It is this, O my Annie, my heart's sweetest rest, 
That makes of us twain but one soul in one breast.

This turns to a heaven the hut where we dwell; 
While wrangling soon changes a home to a hell.

This poem is sarcastic, according to Longfellow, who, actually translated this poem himself, though he did not the first of our samples. Longfellow does not make clear that the subject of this poem was never married to Dach. So the poet's sarcasm may be gratuitous.  Longfellow:

The ...[poem], though apparently written in a tone of great tenderness, is, in fact, a satire upon the lady of his love, who proved untrue to him. ...[At some time later]  he could not forgive himself for having taken this poetical revenge. The song seemed to haunt him even on his death-bed, and, after a violent spasm of pain, he exclaimed, "Ah! that was for the song of' Anne von Tharaw.'"

Now I wonder if I missed some sarcasm in the first poem also. But, the kind of sarcasm I did not detect at first, in the first poem, actually would not have been possible for the 17th century imagination. Even for a professor of poetry.  Simon Dach also wrote the texts for some of Bach's cantatas. 

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