When Alphons Diepenbrock, just 26 years old, left his parental home in Amsterdam, on the third of September 1888, to live independently in ’s-Hertogenbosch, where he was appointed to teach classical languages at the Stedelijk Gymnasium, he toke only a few of his music manuscripts with him. He assumed that his mother would have the remaining manuscripts sent by post. She, however, had the impression that the manuscripts left behind in Amsterdam were no longer needed and had them all torn up when his room was tidied. For someone like Diepenbrock, who throughout his life cherished the past as a precious possession, the loss of his youth works, where he had tried to suppress his detest of philology, which in his opinion frustrated the study of classical languages, was irreparable, even though he was quite aware that his early compositions were not yet exempt from amateurism.
It is possible to date a number of Diepenbrock’s ‘lost works’ fairly precisely on the basis of preserved correspondence. One work is documented: the music composed by Diepenbrock for his parents' Silver Wedding anniversary (27 April 1882) to a poem by J.A. Alberdingk Thijm, which was printed on the festive programme. The first line reads: “In het land waar het water in bouwgrond verkeert” (In the country where water is transformed to building land). At the end of this occasional poem is indicated: “Music by A.D.” Alberdingk Thijm, a cousin of Diepenbrock's mother Joanna Diepenbrock-Kuytenbrouwer, together with his brother-in-law P.J.H. Cuypers (the architect of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam) and their wives were members of the literary circle of friends “De Vioolstruik” (The Viola Posy). They supplied several occasional poems for festive meetings to which, from 1880 on, Alphons Diepenbrock set the music. In a letter from Joanna Diepenbrock-Kuytenbrouwer to her daughter Marie, dated 9 January 1881, we learn that her son composed music for the feast of Epiphany at the Cuypers’ house, comprising an Introduction, March, vocal solos and duets. The text would doubtlessly be by Alberdingk Thijm and the music, composed by the twenty year old classical languages student, would be accompanied by himself at the piano – a self-taught skill, for he had only had violin lessons for a while as a boy from Frans Coenen, the then director of the Toonkunst-Muziekschool in Amsterdam.
Diepenbrock had little sympathy for the sugary rhymes of the old Alberdingk Thijm. His literary interest in these years was mainly in the German Romanticists – apart from “a lovely song to words by Shakespeare”, which Diepenbrock must have written for his mother's 47th birthday on 18 April 1880. (BD I:49)
He was especially inspired by poems of Goethe. Only two Goethe songs from his student period are known by name because they are mentioned in a letter in 1908: Wandrers Nachtlied for unaccompanied male choir (1882) and Gleich zu Gleich for mixed choir a cappella, both distinct from the 1908 compositions of the same name, as Diepenbrock wrote in a letter of 20 September 1908 to his friend W.G. Hondius van den Broek. (BD VI:13)
Also lost is the presumably earliest song with German text: the ballad Der Schäfer by Ludwig Uhland, whose poems Diepenbrock had bought on 20 August 1883. The first song of the Drie Ballades op. 1, published in 1885 by Albert Roothaan in Amsterdam, is a setting of a text by Uhland: Entsagung, composed in September 1883 (RC 3). It is not improbable that Der Schäfer preceded Entsagung, because Diepenbrock gave preference to the last mentioned song for the printed edition. Nevertheless it remains puzzling that the first stanza of Der Schäfer was notated on the back of the first version of the ballad Blauw, blauw bloemelijn (RC 1) from 1880.
It is moreover remarkable (and psychologically meaningful) that Diepenbrock Uhland’s beginning:
Der schöne Schäfer zog so nah
vorüber an dem Königsschloss;
Die Jungfrau von der Zinne sah,
Da war ihr Sehnen gross.
changed to the following:
Der junge Schäfer zog zunah
vorüber an dem Königsschloss
[............] aus dem Fenster sah
Da ward sein Sehnen gross.
Presumably he was quoting by heart. After these lines there is a note from Diepenbrock’s father Ferdinand: In den Werken von H. Heine Die romantische [Schule] befindet sich ebenfalls "Der Schäfer".
Der Schäfer as a composition must have been completed. This we can conclude from the following passage, written in a letter from Ferdinand Diepenbrock in Münster to his son in 's-Hertogenbosch, dated 16 October 1893:
The other day in ’t Courantje here I read about song compositions which can bring in 60 to 100 Marks. Can you redeem the “Schäfer” for cash or write something new to earn some money? (BD II:38)
 See Gedichte von Ludwig Uhland (Stuttgart-Tübingen: Cotta 1833), 216-217.
 See Heinrich Heine, Sämmtliche Werke (Hamburg: Hoffmann und Lampe 1887), Vol. VII, 3. Buch No. 5, pp. 220-221, where the complete poem is published with sneering commentary.