Es Pennsilfaanisch Deitsch Eck

Es Pennsilfaanisch Deitsch Eck

(Originally published in the April 21, 1982 issue of
The Shopping News)

Es Haslibacher Lied
(Conclusion)

Ins Wirtshaus fuehrt man ihn fuerwahr

Man stellt ihm Essen und Trinken dar,

Den Henker neben ihm,

Dass er soll in ein Grausen kommen,

Und noch vom Glauben gar abstohn.

 

Der Teufer sprach zum Henker gut,

Nun esst und trinkt, seyd wohl zu Muth,

Ihr werdet heutigs Tags

Hinrichten mein unschuldig Blut,

Ist aber meiner Seelen gut.

 

Un da das Mahl nun hat ein End,

Man wolt ihm binden seine Haend,

Der Haslibacher sprach:

Ich bitt euch Meister Lorenz schon,

Ihr wollt mich ungebunden lohn.

 

Da er nun auf die Richtstatt kam,

Sein Hut von seinem Haupt abnahm,

Und legt ihn fuer die Leut,

Euch bitt ich Meister Lorenz gut,

Lasst mir hie liegen meinen Hut.

 

Hiemit fiel er auf seine Kney,

Ein Vater Unser oder zwey

Er da gebetet hat,

Mein Sach ist jetzt gesetzt zu Gott,

Thut jetzt nur eurem Urtheil statt.

 

Darnach man ihm sein Haupt abschlug,

Da sprang es wieder in sein Hut,

Die Zeichen hat man g’seh’n,

Die Sonne ward wie rothes Blut,

Der Stadel-Brunn thaet schwitzen Blut.

 

Da sprach ein alter Herre gut,

Des Taeufers Mund lacht in dem Hut,

Da sagt ein grauer Herr,

Haett ihr den Taeufer leben lahn,

Es wuerd euch ewig wohl ergahn.

 

Die Herren sprachen insgemein,

Kein Taeufer wir mehr richten wend,

Da sprach ein alter Herr:

Waer es nach meinem Willen gahn,

Den Taeufer haett man leben lahn.

 

Der uns diss Liedlein hat gemacht,

Der war ums Leben in G’fangenschaft,

Den Suendern thaet ers z’Lieb,

Ein Herr ihm Federn und Tinten bracht,

Er schenkt uns das zu guter Nacht.

***

Into an inn he was taken,

Eats and drink were presented,

The hangman next to him,

To frighten him all the more,

And finally renounce his faith.

 

The baptist said to the hangman:

Eat and drink, be of good cheer,

Today you will

Execute my innocent blood,

Nonetheless my soul is well.

 

And when the meal was at an end,

They wanted to bind his hands,

Haslibacher said:

I beg of you, Master Lorenz,

Let me unbound be.

 

When he came to the place of execution,

He took the hat from his head,

And placed it before the people.

I beg of you, good Master Lorenz,

Let my hat remain here.

 

Herewith he fell on his knees,

An Our Father or two

He uttered there.

My case is now with God;

Carry out your orders.

 

After one had beheaded him,

His head jumped again into his hat,

The signs were to be seen,

The sun became as red as blood,

The city fountain sweated blood.

 

Then spoke a good old man,

The baptist’s mouth laughs in the hat,

Then said a gentleman with gray hair,

Had you let the baptist live,

It would have been eternally to your credit.

 

All the men spoke together:

We will execute no more Anabaptists.

Then spoke an old gentleman:

If it went according to my will,

One would have let the baptist live.

 

He who wrote this little song,

Was in captivity for his life.

He did it for the sake of the sinners;

A man brought him pen and ink.

He gave it to us as his final gift.

***

On the last Saturday afternoon in February, the Annual Hymn Sing took place for the third year in the West Stevens Old Order Parochial School. Accomplished Vorsinger from the Wenger and the Horning branches of the Old Order Mennonite Church were present. At least one van load of Old Order Amish couples were present, so the schoolhouse was almost filled to capacity. One of the hymns sung (after it had been read aloud by a visiting German student from near Marburg in West Germany) was Es Haslibacher Lied, from which we printed extracts last week and this week. The full 32 verses to this hymn are to be found on pages 479-481 of the Unpartheyisches Gesang-Buch, a Lancaster County Mennonite hymnal from the first decade of the 19th century. It appeared as Hymn No. 140 in the first (1742) American edition (and in all subsequent editions) of the Ausbund, the standard hymnal of the Lancaster County Old Order Amish.

We find it quite significant that a hymn which was written over 400 years ago in Switzerland should still be sung here in Lancaster County. Permit us to give you a bit more background on this ballad-hymn. (If you have access to a Mennonite Encyclopedia, see pages 675 and 676.)

Hans Haslibacher, an Anabaptist preacher of Sumiswald in the Emmental, Canton Bern, Switzerland, was a participant in the great Bern disputation in 1538. Later he was exiled and his property of 500 gulden was confiscated and upon his return to his home was executed by beheading on October 20, 1751, in Bern as the last Anabaptist martyr in that canton. His son, of the Reformed faith, was heavily fined on September 2, 1571, for receiving him.

The 32 stanzas of the hymn give a vivid description of Haslibacher’s imprisonment and death. The poem reports that after torture and strong attempts by the Reformed preachers to cause him to apostatize, which were steadfastly resisted, Haslibacher dreamed that he would be beheaded, and that three divine signs would accompany his execution: His severed head would jump into his hat and laugh; the sun would turn crimson like blood; and the town well would give forth blood.

It is interesting to note that the text of this hymn was published in the Mennonite Yearbook And Almanac For 1911 in English translation by Governor Samuel W. Pennypacker (done March 8, 1904) from the Ausbund. We did not have access to this translation, so we provided a very rough translation into English.

Of interest too is the fact that as late as 1899 “eine alte interessant Bibel,” Haslibacher’s Bible, was still in the possession of his descendants bearing the family name and living on the original homestead, though they were not Mennonites.

Those among our readers who know Standard German well will note that several of the forms used in this 1571 hymn-text are archaic and no longer used in the standard language. We refer to forms like lan (lassen), verstahn (verstehen), gahn (gehen), abschlan (abschlagen), etc.

Our hat is off to all the excellent Vorsinger (song leaders) in the various Old Order groups in Lancaster County. They are preserved a heritage in the German language which we have seen is well over 400 years old and reaches back to the earliest days of the Protestant Reformation.

April 21, 1982

Es Bischli-Gnippli