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Mozart Minute: Mozart Writes a Poem for His Sister's Wedding

Mozart in a red coat
Wikimedia Commons
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What does every betrothed woman want from her little brother on the eve of her wedding? A naughty poem, of course.

During the summer of 1784, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's sister, Nannerl, was over 30 and still unmarried. But that situation would soon change.

In late July Mozart's wife, Constanze, then about seven months pregnant with their second child, was finding it difficult to remain seated for long. "Our future son and heir," Mozart wrote Nannerl, "gives her no peace." (The Letters of Mozart and His Family, trans. Emily Anderson. London: Macmillan, 1985).

Constanze's discomfort could at least in part explain why she and Mozart did not make the hours-long drive to attend Nannerl's Aug. 23 wedding to Johann Baptist von BerchtoldzuSonnenburg. Instead, on Aug. 18, Mozart sent nuptial greetings by mail.

"It is high time I wrote you if I want my letter to find you still a vestal virgin! A few days more and - it is gone!" Mozart wrote. "My wife and I wish you all the joy and happiness in your change of state and are only heartily sorry that we cannot have the pleasure of being present at your wedding."

And in lieu of sending a toaster or a set of knives, Mozart included in the same letter some marital advice in the form of a poem that only the fun-loving, bawdy, raucous, boy-genius-sort-of-grown-up could have written:

Wedlock will show you many things
Which still a mystery remain;
Experience soon will teach to you
What Eve herself once had to do
Before she could give birth to Cain.
...
So when your husband shows reserve
Or wrath which you do not deserve
And perhaps a nasty temper too,
Think, sister, 'tis a man's queer way.
Say: 'Lord, thy will be done by day,
But mine at night you'll do.'

Jennifer Hambrick unites her extensive backgrounds in the arts and media and her deep roots in Columbus to bring inspiring music to central Ohio as Classical 101’s midday host. Jennifer performed with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Civic Orchestra of Chicago before earning a Ph.D. in musicology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.