Friday, October 31, 2014

Happy Halloween: "Sagt der Fogel, 'Nimmermehr!'"

H. A. Kimball (Concord, NH), c.1865-1875, via NYPL
No time, alas, for a proper Countdown to Halloween this year - but this deserved to be shared.

In 1888, poet and publisher H. L. Fisher released Olden Times: or, Pennsylvania Rural Life, Some Fifty Years Ago (New York: Fisher Bros), a collection of poems explicitly inspired by the kind of work that Whittier was doing in (American Scrapbook favouriteSnow-Bound. An attempt to record and preserve the Pennsylvania-German folkways of his youth, Fisher set out, as he put it, "to enter the nursery, the play-ground, the school-house, the church, the harvest-field [...] in a word, into the social and domestic life of [...] a half Century past [...] to describe its manners, customs, superstitions, folk-lore, etc."

His account of "Halloween" is available here. A fascinating contrast to some of the other renderings of Halloween that we've seen in other years, Fisher drew an explicit line between the kinds of celebrations detailed by Robert Burns (see this post) and the hijinx of his own contemporaries:

The misadventures conclude with the local children somehow managing to hoist "Smith's wagon on his barn":

But this charming account of Halloween customs isn't Fisher's only connection to the holiday. As well as being a publisher and poet, Fisher was also a translator. And one of the most famous works that he rendered into Pennsylvania-German was none other than (*lightning, thunder*) Poe's "The Raven." Fisher's "Der Krabb" is available here. Enjoy, you Pennsylvania-German speakers... Happy Halloween!

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