J.S. Bach & The Lesson of Pipes

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.

– Johann Sebastian Bach

"Fruitful meditation."


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