Benjamin Franklin Papers

By Peter Hinrich Tesdorpf: Poem, [April? 1769]

By Peter Hinrich Tesdorpf:3 Poem in Eulogy of Franklin

MS translation from German: American Philosophical Society

Lubek A[pril?]4 1769

Upon the unvaluable Contrivance, of Mr. Francklin, k: to carry of the Lightening.

Hail! thou art blessed! said lately the Moon to the Earth, Thy Wish was for a Francklin, and Heaven granted him to be. He arose, that Godlike Man, and delivered thy Seat, like the Happiness of the Angels from the danger of Lightening. He surmounts the limits to make discoveries, and fetters Nature, when Lightening and Thunder are roaring in the Clouds. Mankind having been hitherto discouraged by doubts, had never reflected seriously enough upon the importance of the Matter, till at last thy FRANCKLIN chosen by God for that purpose, has executed the greatest action, that ever was done upon Earth! What dost thou wish more, to fulfill thy Wishes? What can be added to the removal of thy Trouble? Nothing, replied the Earth, but still one Francklin more, to secure us for the Power of Death.

by Peter Henry Tesdorpf

[In another hand:] Translation of German Verses

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

3This outpouring of the Germanic muse was undoubtedly the work of an odd businessman-turned-poetaster-and-naturalist. Tesdorpf (1712–78) was the scion of a prominent Lübeck family; he was trained in Hamburg, traveled widely in western Europe, and returned to banking in his native town in 1737. Thereafter he devoted himself more and more to indulging his scientific interests, developing a wide correspondence with European savants, amassing a collection of natural curiosities, and composing his magnum opus, a long didactic poem on hummingbirds. He also wrote numerous other verses, on a par with this, and as he grew older became more and more of an eccentric. For his career see Oscar L. Tesdorpf, Mittheilungen über das Tesdorpf’sche Geschlecht (Munich, 1887), pp. 54–75. The German original has apparently not survived, and it is charitable to suppose that it suffered in translation.

The author could conceivably have been Tesdorpf’s son of the same name (1751–1832). But the boy was scarcely old enough at the time, was more likely to have written in French than German, had no hobby of versifying, and did not share his father’s interest in natural science. See ibid., pp. 84–98.

4The single letter could of course stand for August, but according to our practice we choose the earlier of two equally possible dates.

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