The Unbearable Sweetness of Coffee

Strictly speaking, coffee is a bitter beverage. Hence the frequency with which sweetening agents are added to the popular drink.

As an object of intensive desire, however, it can rightly be said:

Ah! how sweet coffee tastes! Lovelier than a thousand kisses, smoother than muscatel wine.

As it is aptly put in J. S. Bach’s immortal Coffee Cantata (English captions provided):

The vast majority of Johann’s works are liturgical in nature, and he was in the habit of penning all his masterpieces Sola Deo Gloria.

Not everyone may realize, however, that Bach spent several years as the director of a coffeehouse collegium in Leipzig. In that capacity, he wrote a number of comic operas, applying serious dramatic techniques to topics of purportedly lesser import.

Though comic relief is a good in its own right, and one even saints have been known to indulge (though always in their saintly manner), the genre can also be made to serve more serious purposes.

A frequent focus of comic literature is the follies of mankind, which is a kind way of referring to our vices. By holding a mirror to our faults, comedians may hope to inspire us to amend our ways (and perhaps themselves to join us).

Where an open denunciation of sin may risk repelling the offended viewer, or tempting the self-disciplined spectator to swell with pride, a lighthearted portrayal of what ails humanity may coax both sinners and aspiring saints to admit their errors—a necessary step toward genuine reform.

None of this is to imply that Bach needed an excuse to poke fun at the addictive excesses of the young and passionate, or the impotent frustrations of inept disciplinarians. The object of art is to amuse as well as to instruct: and the reverse is also true.

Though it is unwise to clutch at the pleasures of life as does young Liesgen, and to counsel zealous youth with too heavy a hand, as does Herr Schlendrian, it remains the case that coffee serves a valuable function in human affairs.

I would like to say that this blog is powered by coffee, though that is not precisely the truth. These trifles are concocted in spare moments throughout the day, and generally programmed to appear at the crack of dawn, giving the impression of a dedication which is more intentional than empirical.

If Dear Reader is an early bird, he may be following my mental meanderings over a cup of Joe, while the author is yet peeling his face from the pillow, or perhaps beginning to boil the necessary fluids and grind the aromatic beans that, skillfully combined, will render subsequent achievements possible.

One thing is sure, however: obtaining one’s daily dose of coffee is preferable to becoming a “dried up piece of roast goat”!

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