In memory of Hans Liepmann
(The following is dear family friend Arnold Simmel's eulogy for my grandfather, delivered at Hans's funeral in 1959.)
Hans Liepmann was a religious man who did not belong to any of the ordinary religious organizations. When I heard that he had been a mason, I looked up some books about the masons, and I found the following as part of a service for the dead:
The Great Creator has been pleased, out of his mercy, to remove our Brother from the cares and troubles of this existence. Thereby has been weakened the chain by which we are united, man to man. Therefore may we, who survive him, anticipate our approaching fate, and be more strongly cemented in the ties of union and friendship; that, during the short space allotted to our present existence, we may wisely and usefully employ our time, and in the interchange of kind and friendly acts, promote the welfare and happiness of each other.
To make such a resolve, and to say to each other that we mean to live by this resolve--surely, this is the purpose of any memorial service of this kind.
There is no filling the void left by Hans's death. To be deprived of him, leaves us more alone. But let our love for him cement our ties to each other more firmly, to help us in our aloneness, to assure, especially those who were closest to him, that besides a legacy of good memories, he has left a legacy of love and friendship. Of that this gathering is some evidence.
Hans was an intense man, there was nothing wishy-washy about him. He was an individual, an aristocrat in the sense that he knew right from wrong, beautiful from ugly, and the opinion of others was not important. Not that Hans did not care about others, or was not concerned with others. On the contrary, few people are as conscientious in their dealings with others, so truly concerned with others as was Hans.
Yet I always had the feeling that Hans was a man apart. He was not really close to many people. Though he did not shut himself up against the world, I always felt that Hans put great stock in his individuality, in what he was, irrespective of the world around him. The importance of this sense of self, of individuality, is perhaps emphasized among those who, as Jews surrounded by hostility, were forced to leave the land of their birth, were forced to recognize that there is little security in the world, except within one's self. I think this was an element in Hans's character, an element in his moods. I should like to read you a poem in which is expressed this mood, which on occasion I sensed in Hans.
Travelogue for ExilesLook and remember. Look upon this sky; Look deep and deep into the sea-clean air, The unconfined, the terminus of prayer. Speak now and speak into the hallowed dome. What do you hear? What does the sky reply? The heavens are taken: this is not your home. Look and remember. Look upon this sea; Look down and down into the tireless tide. What of a life below, a life inside, A tomb, a cradle in the curly foam? The waves arise; sea-wind and sea agree: The waters are taken: this is not your home. Look and remember. Look upon this land, Far, far across the factories and the grass. Surely, there, surely, they will let you pass. Speak then and ask the forest and the loam. What do you hear? What does the land command? The earth is taken: this is not your home.
But that is only the mood of separateness. Especially in the last ten years of his life Hans did find a home on the earth. The mood of contact and of intimacy came to Hans in a delight with the most varied things, a delight which is the greater part of love.
Hans's tastes in living were simple. He had the simplicity of the wise man. His garden was his pride--not merely what grew there by design, but whatever grew. His flowers and vegetables, his trees, his berries, the hummingbirds which fed on his vine--these were the things that gave Hans great satisfaction.
I want to repeat to you how Hans Liepmann expressed himself in regard to his youngest son, Peter. Early in his illness, Hans had expressed a sense of unfulfilled responsibility. It appears that the growing acceptance of his approaching death brought with it a greater acceptance of what he had indeed accomplished. "I feel at peace with the world," he told his older son Hugo. "Peter knows that you have to plant trees, you have to sow seeds to get flowers, you have to cut wood for fire. You have to take walks in the woods; you have to work hard; you have to study hard to learn things; and you have to listen to good music. All these things Peter knows already."
This is the spirit of a man who has achieved greater happiness than most men do. At the end of his life, Hans is well represented in this poem:
The Character of a Happy Life. How happy is he born and taught That serveth not another's will; Whose armour is his honest thought, And simple truth his utmost skill; Whose passions not his masters are; Whose soul is still prepared for death, Untied unto the world by care Of public fame or private breath; Who envies none that chance doth raise, Nor vice; who never understood How deepest wounds are given by praise; Nor rules of state, but rules of good; Who has his life from rumors freed; Whose conscience is his strong retreat; Whose state can neither flatterers feed, Nor ruin make oppressors great; Who God doth late and early pray More of His grace than gifts to lend; And entertains the harmless day With a religious book or friend; --This man is freed from servile bands Of hope to rise or fear to fall: Lord of himself, though not of lands, And having nothing, yet hath all.
In silence resounds the echo of the voice of God. Let us listen, or think, or pray, in a few moments of silence.
May the memory of Hans Liepmann remain with us throughout our lives: the memory of a good life, of both suffering and joy, the memory of a good man.
Masonic eulogy excerpt from Moore, Charles W.: The New Masonic Trestle Board (1850), p.86
"Travelogue for Exiles" is by Karl Shapiro.
"The Character of a Happy Life" is by Sir Henry Wotton (1568-1639).