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50th Birthday Poem of Johan Herman Mankel
September, 1813

One of the more interesting documents is a poem written for Johan Herman Mankel's 50th birthday in 1813. This poem is witness to his life in Niederasphe, his musical intersts, his travels, part of his life in Christiansfeld, his marriage to Johanna Keyser, and some of his children.

Over there in Niederasphe
All of fifty years ago
were the Mankels most enchanted
with their little Herman's show.
Sounds were floating down from heaven
from those invisible spheres,
rather strong and quite demanding
of their listener's willing ears.

“Hear, hear”, shouts the pious sexton
“Listen, Brute, what is this sound?
A musician has been created
a genius as was ever found.
Only angels make such music
so penetrating and so clear,
let's believe in this conclusion--
with no doubt in what we hear.”

Although the sexton lacked the talent
to prophesy or be exact,
then this, for once, was a prediction,
well based on overwhelming fact:
When violins would reach his ear.
and pleased him to his heart's contect
the child got restless by was happy
with just a whistle in his hand.

When trumpets bellowed like a storm,
or gentle flutes were singing,
his little heart began to dance
as if all bells were ringing.
And so he climbs up on the ladder
of sounds of beauty evermore
til organs let him into heaven
and opened happiness its door.

As a reward for fine results
and for his ever growing strife--
art improved the gift of nature
like an answer to his life.
The disciples' burning wish
was to reach his master's height
to succeed with all his power
in giving joy and pure delight.

No, you hadn't probed in vain.
You had found your aim in life
as you felt the charm and secret
of sweet harmony arrives;
And in loud songs as in soft ones
tender ones and strong ones too
did you feel deep appreciation
for what the melody can do.

The clarinet expresses sweetly
what your heart would want to say,
to silent listeners' mind and ear
you know to talk and to convey.
You also know, with rapid marches--
to dominate a timid soul;
the warrior's chorus you encouraged
and guided under strict control.

Yet chorus singers of a parish
would draw you to the curving Rhine,
where they are singing for their master
who hopes you can be won in time.
And what you started once in Zeist
(Zeist near Utrecht Holland)
you do continue on and on.
You love your art with satisfaction
preserving times which now are gone.

When you moved into the Cloister,
you lived like in a holy cell
yet Amsterdam (1790) was pretty crowded
which didn't suit you very well.
At last you made the plunge for freedom
and found the peaceful port of calm
Where the community embraced you
away from noisy Amsterdam.

Concerned and sorrowful while parting
with lovely times that Zeist supplied,
you undertook the Lausitz journey
by riding with an unknown tide.
In accord with Master von dem Nuhle
you blessed full heartedly his plan
as you yourself were taught while teaching
and led by the admired man.

You realized quite unexpectedly
a change of serious content
and you felt ready for accepting
the organ as your element.
Assurance came your way from the Belt;
(Christiansfeld Denmark)
you had found brothers there and friends.
What had seemed lost you could recapture
and dedicate your life with sense..
After you had found Johanna
tedious hours had grown wings,
twelve long years flew by like lightning--
your new life just blooms and sings.
Down upon you looks Louise
with her blessings from above;
Her brothers join her in rejoicing
with many cheerful songs full of love.

A revelry in friendly spirit!
They play a quadro just for you
embracing you with great affection
after ending right on cue.
George will press both of your hands
while Gustav smiles with all his charms,
Wilhelm and Bram (Carl Abraham) approach with gifts--
all greeting you with open arms.

In memory of the Kehren Union
of their mouths and of their hearts
everyone shall be rewarded
as is written in the cards.
At this happy celebration
let it be the wish for you
from a loyal proven friend
In whom the old flames glow like new.

(NOTE: This translation is by Professor Stephen Wailes, Department of Germanic Studies, Indiana University.)

Webmaster: Carolyn Mankell Sowinski
Last updated: February 20, 2008