The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
VOLUME XVIII. Later National Literature, Part III.

XXXI. Non-English Writings I

§ 19. Henry Harbaugh

The most prominent name among the poets who wrote in the dialect is that of Henry Harbaugh, a collection of whose poems was published posthumously in 1870, under the title Harbaugh’s Harfe. Most of his poems appeared also in English translations by the poet, such as his much appreciated verses on The Old School-house on the Creek, beginning:

  • Today it is just twenty years
  • Since I began to roam:
  • Now, safely back, I stand once more,
  • Before the quaint old school-house door,
  • Close by my father’s home.
  • In Pennsylvania German:
  • Heit is’s ’xäctly zwanzig Johr,
  • Dasz ich bin owwe naus:
  • Nau bin ich widder lewig z’rick
  • Un schteh am Schulhaus an d’r Krick,
  • Juscht neekscht an’s Dady Haus.
  • The elegiac note also prevails in the poems Heemweh, Der alte Feierheerd, Die alt Miehl. We are reminded of the homely simplicity and tender pathos of the dialect poet of the Black Forest, J. P. Hebel (Alemannische Gedichte), as we listen to Harbaugh’s Das Krischkindel (Santa Claus), Busch und Schtedel (Town and Country), Der Kerchegang in alter Zeit (Going to church in the old time), Will widder Buwele sei (I want to be a boy again). Two collections of Pennsylvania German folk-songs were published by Henry L. Fisher, entitled: ’s alt Marik-Haus mittes in d’r Schtadt, and Kurzweil und Zeitfertreib odder Pennsylfanisch-deutsche Folkslieder. This anthology and the more recent collection of prose and verse in two volumes by Daniel Miller furnish pleasing pictures of country life, joyful frolics, huskings, apple-butter and quilting parties; they playfully ridicule ministerial plights and difficulties, and the follies of superstition. Some of the prose tales are traceable to sources many generations back in Swabia and the Rhineland, but in the new setting they receive a renewed charm. The Pennsylvania German dialect literature is undoubtedly the most quaint and original contribution of the older German immigrations, and it is unfortunate that no comprehensive anthology has as yet appeared. The stories in English by Elsie Singmaster Lewars are far more artistic and trustworthy depictions of the Pennsylvania Germans than the pseudo-realistic fictions of Helen Reimensnyder Martin.