Johann Sebastian Bach is usually thought of as a classical composer, but he also dabbled in poetry. I wanted to share one of his poems alongside some Masonic concepts. J.S. Bach himself was not a freemason, but his youngest son did become both a composer and a Mason.
The poem is about the simple pleasures of life, and how they can draw our thoughts to spirituality and impermanence.
The Pipe Poem
Whene’re I take my pipe and stuff it
And smoke to pass the time away,
My thoughts as I sit there and puff it,
Dwell on a picture sad and grey:
It teaches me that very like
Am I myself unto my pipe.
Like me, this pipe so fragrant burning
Is made of naught but earth and clay;
To earth I too shall be returning.
It falls and, ere I’d think to say,
It breaks in two before my eyes;
In store for me a like fate lies.
No stain the pipe’s hue yet doth darken;
It remains white. Thus do I know
That when to death’s call I must harken
My body too, all pale will grow
To black beneath the sod ’twill turn.
Or when the pipe is fairly glowing,
Behold then, instantaneously,
The smoke off into thin air going,
Till naught but ash is left to see.
Man’s frame likewise away will burn
And unto dust his body turn.
How oft it happens when one’s smoking:
The stopper’s missing from the shelf,
And one goes with one’s finger poking
Into the bowl and burns oneself.
If in the pipe such pain doth dwell,
How hot must be the pains of Hell.
Thus o’er my pipe, in contemplation
Of such things, I can constantly
Indulge in fruitful meditation
And so, puffing contentedly,
On land, on sea, at home, abroad,
I smoke my pipe and worship God.
- Greer, Mary, Masonic Allusions in the Dedications of Two Canons by J.S. Bach: BWV 1078 and 1075.
- Bach’s Pipe
- Johann Christian Bach, Masonic Biographies.