Johann Sebastian Bach composed his short, comic “Coffee Cantata” in 1735. Likely first premiered in a Leipzig coffee house, it depicts a scene in which a father berates his daughter for drinking the intoxicating beverage. Here is the text in English translation, with a video with English subtitles below:

Recitative Narrator
Be quiet, stop chattering, and pay attention to what’s taking place: here comes Herr Schlendrian with his daughter Lieschen; he’s growling like a honey bear. Hear for yourselves, what she has done to him!

Aria – Schlendrian
Don’t one’s children cause one endless trials & tribulations! What I say each day to my daughter Lieschen falls on stony ground.

Recitative – Schlendrian
You wicked child, you disobedient girl! When will I get my way; give up coffee!

Lieschen
Father, don’t be so severe! If I can’t drink my bowl of coffee three times daily, then in my torment I will shrivel up like a piece of roast goat.

Aria – Lieschen
Mmm! How sweet the coffee tastes, more delicious than a thousand kisses, mellower than muscatel wine. Coffee, coffee I must have, and if someone wishes to give me a treat, ah, then pour me out some coffee!

Recitative – Schlendrian
If you don’t give up drinking coffee then you shan’t go to any wedding feast, nor go out walking. Oh! When will I get my way; give up coffee!

Lieschen
Oh well! Just leave me my coffee!

Schlendrian
Now I’ve got the little minx! I won’t get you a whalebone skirt in the latest fashion.

Lieschen
I can easily live with that.

Schlendrian
You’re not to stand at the window and watch people pass by!

Lieschen
That as well, only I beg of you, leave me my coffee!

Schlendrian
Furthermore, you shan’t be getting any silver or gold ribbon for your bonnet from me!

Lieschen
Yes, yes! Only leave me to my pleasure!

Schlendrian
You disobedient Lieschen you, so you go along with it all!

Aria – Schlendrian
Hard-hearted girls are not so easily won over. Yet if one finds their weak spot, ah! Then one comes away successful.

Recitative – Schlendrian
Now take heed what your father says!

Lieschen
In everything but the coffee.

Schlendrian
Well then, you’ll have to resign yourself to never taking a husband.

Lieschen
Oh yes! Father, a husband!

Schlendrian
I swear it won’t happen.

Lieschen
Until I can forgo coffee? From now on, coffee, remain forever untouched! Father, listen, I won’t drink any.

Schlendrian
Then you shall have a husband at last!

Aria – Lieschen
Today even dear father, see to it! Oh, a husband! Really, that suits me splendidly! If it could only happen soon that at last, before I go to bed, instead of coffee I were to get a proper lover!

Recitative – Narrator
Old Schlendrian goes off to see if he can find a husband forthwith for his daughter Lieschen; but Leischen secretly lets it be known: no suitor is to come to my house unless he promises me, and it is also written into the marriage contract, that I will be permitted to make myself coffee whenever I want.

Trio
A cat won’t stop from catching mice, and maidens remain faithful to their coffee. The mother holds her coffee dear, the grandmother drank it also, who can thus rebuke the daughters!

The Imaginative Conservative applies the principle of appreciation to the discussion of culture and politics—we approach dialogue with magnanimity rather than with mere civility. Will you help us remain a refreshing oasis in the increasingly contentious arena of modern discourse? Please consider donating now

We hope you will join us in The Imaginative Conservative community. The Imaginative Conservative is an online journal for those who seek the True, the Good and the Beautiful. We address culture, liberal learning, politics, political economy, literature, the arts, and the American Republic in the tradition of Russell Kirk, T.S. Eliot, Edmund Burke, Irving Babbitt, Wilhelm Roepke, Robert Nisbet, Richard Weaver, M.E. Bradford, Eric Voegelin, Christopher Dawson, Paul Elmer More, and other leaders of Imaginative Conservatism. Some conservatives may look at the state of Western culture and the American Republic and see a huge dark cloud which seems ready to unleash a storm that may well wash away what we most treasure of our inherited ways. Others focus on the silver lining which may be found in the next generation of traditional conservatives who have been inspired by Dr. Kirk and his like. We hope that The Imaginative Conservative answers T.S. Eliot’s call to “redeem the time, redeem the dream.” The Imaginative Conservative offers to our families, our communities, and the Republic, a conservatism of hope, grace, charity, gratitude, and prayer.

The featured image “Woman Drinking Coffee,”by Nicolas Henri Joseph de Fassin (1728-1811), and is in the public domain, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

All comments are moderated and must be civil, concise, and constructive to the conversation. Comments that are critical of an essay may be approved, but comments containing ad hominem criticism of the author will not be published. Also, comments containing web links or block quotations are unlikely to be approved. Keep in mind that essays represent the opinions of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Imaginative Conservative or its editor or publisher.

Leave a Comment
Print Friendly, PDF & Email