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LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN
THE GERMAN CLASSICS
Masterpieces of German Literature
TRANSLATED INTO ENGLISH
IN TWENTY VOLUMES
CONTRIBUTORS AND TRANSLATORS
CONTENTS OF VOLUME VI
The Life of Heinrich Heine. By William Guild Howard
Dedication. Translated by Sir Theodore Martin
Songs. Translators: Sir Theodore Martin, Charles Wharton Stork, T. Brooksbank
A Lyrical Intermezzo. Translators: T. Brooksbank, Sir Theodore Martin, J.E. Wallis, Richard Garnett, Alma Strettell, Franklin Johnson, Charles G. Leland, Charles Wharton Stork
Sonnets. Translators: T. Brooksbank, Edgar Alfred Bowring
Poor Peter. Translated by Alma Strettell
The Two Grenadiers. Translated by W.H. Furness
Belshazzar. Translated by John Todhunter
The Pilgrimage to Kevlaar. Translated by Sir Theodore Martin
The Return Home. Translators: Sir Theodore Martin. Kate Freiligrath-Kroeker, James Thomson, Elizabeth Barrett Browning
Twilight. Translated by Kate Freiligrath-Kroeker
Hail to the Sea. Translated by Kate Freiligrath-Kroeker
In the Harbor. Translated by Kate Freiligrath-Kroeker
A New Spring. Translators: Kate Freiligrath-Kroeker, Charles Wharton Stork
Abroad. Translated by Margaret Armour
The Sphinx. Translated by Sir Theodore Martin
Germany. Translated by Margaret Armour
Enfant Perdu. Translated by Lord Houghton
The Battlefield of Hastings. Translated by Margaret Armour
The Asra. Translated by Margaret Armour
The Passion Flower. Translated by Charles Wharton Stork
The Journey to the Harz. Translated by Charles Godfrey Leland
Boyhood Days. Translated by Charles Godfrey Leland
English Fragments–Dialogue on the Thames; London; Wellington. Translated by Charles Godfrey Leland
Lafayette. Translated by Charles Godfrey Leland
The Romantic School. Translated by Charles Godfrey Leland
The Rabbi of Bacharach. Translated by Charles Godfrey Leland
The Life of Franz Grillparzer. By William Guild Howard
Medea. Translated by Theodore A. Miller
The Jewess of Toledo. Translated by George Henry Danton and Annina Periam Danton
The Poor Musician. Translated by Alfred Remy
My Journey to Weimar. Translated by Alfred Remy
LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN
Beethoven as a Letter Writer. By Walter R. Spalding
Beethoven’s Letters. Translated by J.S. Shedlock
Emperor William I at a Court Reception-Frontispiece
Heinrich Heine. By W. Krauskopf
Heinrich Heine. By E. Hader
The Lorelei Fountain in New York. By Herter
Spring’s Awakening. By Ludwig von Hofmann
Flower Fantasy. By Ludwig von Hofmann
Poor Peter. By P. Grotjohann
The Two Grenadiers. By P. Grotjohann
Rocky Coast. By Ludwig von Hofmann
Play of the Waves. By Arnold Boecklin
Market Place, Goettingen
Old Imperial Palace, Goslar
The Witches’ Dancing Ground
The Brocken Inn About 1830
The Falls of the Ilse
View from St. Andreasberg
Johann Wilhelm Monument, Duesseldorf
The Duke of Wellington. By d’Orsay
Bacharach on the Rhine
House in Bacharach
Franz Grillparzer and Kaethi Froehlich in 1823
Grillparzer’s House in Spiegelgasse
Grillparzer’s Room in the House of the Sisters Froehlich
Franz Grillparzer in His Sixtieth Year
The Grillparzer Monument at Vienna
Medea. By Anselm Feuerbach
Medea. From the Grillparzer Monument at Vienna
Beethoven. By Max Klinger
THE LIFE OF HEINRICH HEINE
BY WILLIAM GUILD HOWARD, A.M.
Assistant Professor of German, Harvard University
The history of German literature makes mention of few men more self-centered and at the same time more unreserved than Heinrich Heine. It may be said that everything which Heine wrote gives us, and was intended to give us, first of all some new impression of the writer; so that after a perusal of his works we know him in all his strength and weakness, as we can know only an amiable and communicative egotist; moreover, besides losing no opportunity for self-expression, both in and out of season, Heine published a good deal of frankly autobiographical matter, and wrote memoirs, only fragments of which have come down to us, but of which more than has yet appeared will perhaps ultimately be made accessible. Heine’s life, then, is to us for the most part an open book. Nevertheless, there are many obscure passages in it, and there remain many questions not to be answered with certainty, the first of which is as to the date of his birth. His own statements on this subject are contradictory, and the original records are lost. But it seems probable that he was born on the thirteenth of December, 1797, the eldest child of Jewish parents recently domiciled at Duesseldorf on the Rhine.
The parentage, the place, and the time were almost equally significant aspects of the constellation under which young Harry Heine–for so he was first named–began his earthly career. He was born a Jew in a German city which, with a brief interruption, was for the first sixteen years of his life administered by the French. The citizens of Duesseldorf in general had little reason, except for high taxes and the hardships incident to conscription in the French armies, to complain of the foreign dominion. Their trade flourished, they were given better laws, and the machinery of justice was made much less cumbersome than it had been before. But especially the Jews hailed the French as deliverers; for now for the first time they were relieved of political disabilities and were placed upon a footing of equality with the gentile population. To Jew and gentile alike the military achievements of the French were a source of satisfaction and admiration; and when the Emperor of the French himself came to town, as Heine saw him do in 1810, we can easily understand how the enthusiasm of the boy surrounded the person of Napoleon, and the idea that he was supposed to represent, with a glamor that never lost its fascination for the man. To Heine, Napoleon was the incarnation of the French Revolution, the glorious new-comer who took by storm the intrenched strongholds of hereditary privilege, the dauntless leader in whose army every common soldier carried a field marshal’s baton in his knapsack. If later we find Heine mercilessly assailing the repressive and reactionary aristocracy of Germany, we shall not lightly accuse him of lack of patriotism. He could not be expected to hold dear institutions of which he felt only the burden, without a share in the sentiment which gives stability even to institutions that have outlived their usefulness. Nor shall we call him a traitor for loving the French, a people to whom his people owed so much, and to whom he was spiritually akin.
French influences, almost as early as Hebrew or German, were among the formative forces brought to bear upon the quick-witted but not precocious boy. Heine’s parents were orthodox, but by no means bigoted Jews. We read with amazement that one of the plans of the mother, ambitious for her firstborn, was to make of him a Roman Catholic priest. The boy’s father, Samson Heine, was a rather unsuccessful member of a family which in other representatives–particularly Samson’s brother Salomon in Hamburg–attained to wealth and prominence in the world of finance.
[Illustration: W. KRAUSKOPF HEINRICH HEINE After a Drawing in the Possession of Mr. Carl Meinert in Dessau]
Samson Heine seems to have been too easy-going, self-indulgent, and ostentatious, to have made the most of the talents that he unquestionably had. Among his foibles was a certain fondness for the pageantry of war, and he was in all his glory as an officer of the local militia. To his son Gustav he transmitted real military capacity, which led to a distinguished career and a patent of nobility in the Austrian service. Harry Heine inherited his father’s more amiable but less strenuous qualities. Inquisitive and alert, he was rather impulsive than determined, and his practical mother had her trials in directing him toward preparation for a life work, the particular field of which neither she nor he could readily choose. Peira, or Betty, Heine was a stronger character than her husband; and in her family, several members of which had taken high rank as physicians, there had prevailed a higher degree of intellectual culture than the Heines had attained to. She not only managed the household with prudence and energy, but also took the chief care of the education of the children. To both parents Harry Heine paid the homage of true filial affection; and of the happiness of the home life, _The Book Le Grand_ and a number of poems bear unmistakable witness. The poem “My child, we were two children” gives a true account of Harry and his sister Charlotte at play.
In Duesseldorf, Heine’s formal education culminated in attendance in the upper classes of a Lyceum, organized upon the model of a French Lycee and with a corps of teachers recruited chiefly from the ranks of the Roman Catholic clergy. The spirit of the institution was rationalistic and the discipline wholesome. Here Heine made solid acquisitions in history, literature, and the elements of philosophy. Outside of school, he was an eager spectator, not merely of stirring events in the world of politics, but also of many a picturesque manifestation of popular life–a spectator often rather than a participant; for as a Jew he stood beyond the pale of both the German and the Roman Catholic traditions that gave and give to the cities of the Rhineland their characteristic naive gaiety and harmless superstition. Such a poem as _The Pilgrimage to Kevlaar_ would be amazing as coming from an unbeliever, did we not see in it evidence of the poet’s capacity for perfect sympathetic adoption of the spirit of his early environment. The same is true of many another poetic expression of simple faith, whether in Christianity or in the mythology of German folk-lore.
Interest in medieval Catholicism and in folk-lore is one of the most prominent traits in the Romantic movement, which reached its culmination during the boyhood of Heine. The history of Heine’s connection with this movement is foreshadowed by the circumstances of his first contact with it. He tells us that the first book he ever read was _Don Quixote_ (in the translation by Tieck). At about the same time he read _Gulliver’s Travels_, the tales of noble robbers written by Goethe’s brother-in-law, Vulpius, the wildly fantastic stories of E.T.A. Hoffmann, Schiller’s _Robbers_; but also Uhland’s ballads, and the songs collected by Arnim and Brentano in _The Boy’s Magic Horn_. That is to say: At the time when in school a critical and skeptical mind was being developed in him by descendants of the age of enlightenment, his private reading led him for the most part into the region of romanticism in its most exaggerated form. At the time, furthermore, when he took healthy romantic interest in the picturesque Dusseldorf life, his imagination was morbidly stimulated by furtive visits to a woman reputed to be a witch, and to her niece, the daughter of a hangman. His earliest poems, the _Dream Pictures_, belong in an atmosphere charged with witchery, crime, and the irresponsibility of nightmare. This coincidence of incompatible tendencies will later be seen to account for much of the mystery in Heine’s problematic character.
It having been decided, perhaps because the downfall of Napoleon shut the door of all other opportunity, that Heine should embark upon a mercantile career, he was given a brief apprenticeship, in 1815 at Frankfurt, in the following years at Hamburg, under the immediate patronage of his uncle Salomon who, in 1818, even established the young poet in a dry goods business of his own. The only result of these experiments was the demonstration of Heine’s total inaptitude for commercial pursuits. But the uncle was magnanimous and offered his nephew the means necessary for a university course in law, with a view to subsequent practice in Hamburg. Accordingly, after some brushing up of Latin at home, Heine in the fall of 1819 was matriculated as a student at the University of Bonn.
In spite of failure to accomplish his immediate purpose, Heine had not sojourned in vain at Hamburg. He had gained the good will of an opulent uncle whose bounty he continued almost uninterruptedly to enjoy to the end of his days. But in a purpose that lay much nearer to his heart he had failed lamentably; for, always sensitive to the charms of the other sex, Heine had conceived an overpowering passion for his cousin Amalie, the daughter of Salomon, only to meet with scornful rebuffs at the hands of the coquettish and worldly-minded heiress. There is no reason to suppose that Amalie ever took her cousin’s advances seriously. Her father certainly did not so take them. On the other hand, there is equally little reason to doubt the sincerity and depth of Heine’s feelings, first of unfounded hope, then of persistent despair that pursued him in the midst of other occupations and even in the fleeting joys of other loves. The most touching poems included among the _Youthful Sorrows_ of his first volume were inspired by Amalie Heine.
At Bonn Heine was a diligent student. Though never a roysterer, he took part in various extra-academic enterprises, was a member of the _Burschenschaft_, that democratic-patriotic organization so gravely suspected by the reactionary governments, and made many friends. He duly studied history and law; he heard Ernst Moritz Arndt interpret the _Germania_ of Tacitus; but more especially did he profit by official and personal relations with A.W. Schlegel, who taught Heine what he himself knew best, namely, the secret of literary form and the art of metrical expression.
The fall of 1820 saw Heine at Goettingen, the Hanoverian university to which, shortly before, the Americans Ticknor and Everett had repaired and at which in that very year Bancroft had attained his degree of doctor of philosophy. Here, however, Heine was repelled by the aristocratic exclusiveness of the Hanoverian squires who gave the tone to student society, as well as by the mummified dryness of the professors. In marked contrast to the patriotic and romantic spirit of Bonn he noted here with amazement that the distinguished Germanist Benecke lectured on the _Nibelungenlied_ to an auditory of nine. His own residence was destined this time to be brief; for serious quarrels coming to the ear of the faculty, he was, on January 23, 1821, advised to withdraw; and in April he enrolled himself as a student at the University of Berlin.
The next three years were filled with manifold activities. As a student Heine was deeply impressed by the absolute philosophy expounded by Hegel; as a Jew he lent a willing hand to the endeavors of an association recently founded for the amelioration of the social and political condition of the Hebrews; in the drawing room of Rahel Levin, now the wife of Varnhagen von Ense, he came in touch with gifted men and women who were ardent admirers of Goethe, and some of whom, a quarter of a century before, had befriended Friedrich Schlegel; and in the subterranean restaurant of Lutter and Wegener he joined in the revels of Hoffmann, Grabbe, and other eccentric geniuses. Heine now began to be known as a man of letters. After having, from 1817 on, printed occasional poems in newspapers and magazines, he published in December, 1821 (with the date 1822), his first volume, entitled simply _Poems_; he wrote newspaper articles on Berlin and on Poland, which he visited in the summer of 1822; and in the spring of 1823 he published _Tragedies together with a Lyrical Intermezzo_–two very romantic and undramatic plays in verse, separated in the volume by a short series of lyrical poems.
Meanwhile Amalie Heine had been married and Harry’s parents had moved to Lueneburg. Regret for the loss of Amalie soon gave way to a new passion for a very young girl, whose identity remains uncertain, but who was probably Amalie’s little sister Therese. In any case, Heine met the new love on the occasion of a visit to Lueneburg and Hamburg in the spring of 1823, and was haunted by her image during the summer spent at Cuxhaven. Here Heine first saw the sea. In less exalted moods he dallied with fisher maidens; he did not forget Amalie; but the youthful grace and purity of Therese dominate most of the poems of this summer. The return from the watering place gave Heine the title _The Return Home_ for this collection of pieces which, when published in 1826, was dedicated to Frau Varnhagen von Ense.
Uncle Salomon, to whom the _Tragedies_ had been affectionately inscribed, was not displeased with the growing literary reputation of his nephew. But he saw no sense in the idea that Heine already entertained of settling in Paris. He insisted that the young man should complete his studies; and so, in January, 1824, Heine once more betook himself to Goettingen, where on the twenty-first of July, 1825, he was duly promoted _Doctor utriusque Juris_. In the summer of 1824 he made the trip through the Hartz mountains which served as the basis of _The Journey to the Hartz_; immediately before his promotion he submitted to baptism in the Lutheran church as Christian Johann Heinrich Heine.
Submission is the right word for this conversion. It was an act of expediency such as other ambitious men found unavoidable in those days; but Heine performed it in a spirit of bitterness caused not so much by a sense of apostasy as by contempt for the conventional Christianity that he now embraced. There can be no sharper contrast than that presented by such a poem as _The Pilgrimage to Kevlaar_ and sundry satirical pieces not included in this volume.
Two vacations at Norderney, where Heine renewed and deepened acquaintance with his beloved North Sea, not very resolute attempts to take up the practice of law in Hamburg, a trip to London, vain hopes of a professorship in Munich, a sojourn in Italy, vacillations between Hamburg, Berlin, and the North Sea, complete the narrative of Heine’s movements to the end of the first period of his life. He was now Heine the writer: poet, journalist, and novelist. _The Journey to the Hartz_, first published in a magazine, _Der Gesellschafter_, in January and February, 1826, was issued in May of that year by Campe in Hamburg, as the first volume of _Pictures of Travel_, beginning with the poems of _The Return Home_ and concluding with the first group of hymns to the North Sea, written at Norderney in the previous year. _Pictures of Travel II_, issued in 1827, consisted of the second cycle of poems on the _North Sea_, an account in prose of life on the island, entitled _Norderney, The Book Le Grand_, to which epigrams by Immermann were appended, and extracts from _Letters from Berlin_ published in 1822. _Pictures of Travel III_ (1830) began with experiences in Italy, but degenerated into a provoked but ruthless attack upon Platen. _Pictures of Travel IV_ (1831) included _English Fragments_, the record of Heine’s observations in London, and _The City of Lucca_, a supplementary chapter on Italy. In October, 1827, Heine collected under the title _Book of Songs_ nearly all of his poems written up to that time.
The first period in Heine’s life closes with the year 1831. The Parisian revolution of July, 1830, had turned the eyes of all Europe toward the land in which political experiments are made for the benefit of mankind. Many a German was attracted thither, and not without reason Heine hoped to find there a more promising field for the employment of his talents than with all his wanderings he had discovered in Germany. Toward the end of May, 1831, he arrived in Paris, and Paris was thenceforth his home until his death on the seventeenth of February, 1856.
In the preface to the second edition of the _Book of Songs_, written at Paris in 1837, Heine confessed that for some time past he had felt a certain repugnance to versification; that the poems therewith offered for the second time to the public were the product of a time when, in contrast to the present, the flame of truth had rather heated than clarified his mind; and expressed the hope that his recent political, theological, and philosophical writings–all springing from the same idea and intention as the poems–might atone for any weakness in the poems. Heine wrote poetry after 1831, and he wrote prose before 1831; but in a general way what he says of his two periods is correct: before his emigration he was primarily a poet, and afterwards primarily a critic, journalist, and popular historian. In his first period he wrote chiefly about his own experiences; in his second, chiefly about affairs past and present in which he was interested.
As to the works of the first period, we might hesitate to say whether the _Pictures of Travel_ or the _Book of Songs_ were the more characteristic product. In whichever way our judgment finally inclined, we should declare that the _Pictures of Travel_ were essentially prosified poems and that the poems were, in their collected form, versified _Pictures of Travel_; and that both, moreover, were dominated, as the writings after 1831 were dominated, by a romantically tinged longing for individual liberty.
The title _Pictures of Travel_, to which Heine gave so definite a connotation, is not in itself a true index to the multifarious contents of the series of traveler’s notes, any more than the volumes taken each by itself were units. Pages of verse followed pages of prose; and in the _Journey to the Hartz_, verse interspersed in prose emphasizes the lyrical character of the composition. Heine does indeed give pictures of some of the scenes that he visits; but he also narrates his passage from point to point; and at every point he sets forth his recollections, his thoughts, his dreams, his personal reaction upon any idea that comes into his head; so that the substance, especially of the _Journey to the Hartz_, is less what was to be seen in the Hartz than what was suggested to a very lively imagination; and we admire the agility with which the writer jumps from place to place quite as much as the suppleness with which he can at will unconditionally subject himself to the genius of a single locality. For Heine is capable of writing straightforward descriptive prose, as well-ordered and as matter-of-fact as a narrative of Kleist’s. But the world of reality, where everything has an assignable reason for its being and doing, is not the world into which he most delights to conduct us. This world, on the contrary, is that in which the water “murmurs and rustles so wonderfully, the birds pour forth broken love-sick strains, the trees whisper as if with a thousand maidens’ tongues, the odd mountain flowers peep up at us as if with a thousand maidens’ eyes, stretching out to us their curious, broad, drolly scalloped leaves; the sunrays flash here and there in sport, the herbs, as though endowed with reason, are telling one another their green legends, all seems enchanted”–in other words, a wonderland disturbed by no doubts on the part of a rationalistic Alice. And a further secret of this fascinating, though in the long run exasperating style, is the sublime audacity with which Heine dances now on one foot and now on the other, leaving you at every moment in amused perplexity, whether you shall next find him standing firmly on mother earth or bounding upward to recline on the clouds.
“A mixture of description of nature, wit, poetry, and observation a la Washington Irving” Heine himself called the _Journey to the Hartz_. The novelty lay in the mixture, and in the fact that though the ingredients are, so to speak, potentized in the highest degree, they are brought to nearly perfect congruence and fusion by the irresistible solvent of the second named. The _Journey to the Hartz_ is a work of wit, in the present sense, and in the older sense of that word. It is a product of superior intelligence–not a _Sketch Book_, but a single canvas with an infinitude of details; not a _Sentimental Journey_–although Heine can outdo Sterne in sentimentality, he too persistently outdoes him also in satire–the work, fragmentary and outwardly formless, is in essence thoroughly informed by a two-fold purpose: to ridicule pedantry and philistinism, and to extol nature and the life of those uncorrupted by the world.
A similar unity is unmistakable in the _Book of Songs_. It would be difficult to find another volume of poems so cunningly composed. If we examine the book in its most obvious aspect, we find it beginning with _Youthful Sorrows_ and ending with hymns to the North Sea; passing, that is to say, from the most subjective to the most objective of Heine’s poetic expressions. The first of the _Youthful Sorrows_ are _Dream Pictures_, crude and grotesque imitations of an inferior romantic _genre_; the _North Sea Pictures_ are magnificent attempts in highly original form to catch the elusive moods of a great natural element which before Heine had played but little part in German poetry. From the _Dream Pictures_ we proceed to _Songs_ (a very simple love story told in forms as nearly conventional as Heine ever used), to _Romances_ which, with the notable exception of _The Two Grenadiers_ and _Belshazzar_, are relatively feeble attempts at the objectivation of personal suffering; and thence to _Sonnets_, direct communications to particular persons. Thereupon follow the _Lyrical Intermezzo_ and the _Return Home_, each with a prologue and an epilogue, and with several series of pieces which, like the _Songs_ above mentioned, are printed without titles and are successive sentences or paragraphs in the poet’s own love story. This he tells over and over again, without monotony, because the story gains in significance as the lover gains in experience, because each time he finds for it a new set of symbols, and because the symbols become more and more objective as the poet’s horizon broadens. Then come a few pieces of religious content (culminating in _The Pilgrimage to Kevlaar_), the poems in the _Journey to the Hartz_ (the most striking of which are animated by the poetry of folk-lore)–these poems clearly transitional to the poetry of the ocean which Heine wrote with such vigor in the two cycles on the North Sea. The movement is a steady climax.
The truth of the foregoing observations can be tested only by an examination of the entire _Book of Songs_. The total effect is one of arrangement. The order of the sections is chronological; the order of the poems within the sections is logical; and some poems were altered to make them fit into the scheme. Each was originally the expression of a moment; and the peculiarity of Heine as a lyric poet is his disposition to fix a moment, however fleeting, and to utter a feeling, of however slight consequence to humanity it might at first blush seem to be. In the _Journey to the Hartz_ he never lost an opportunity to make a point; in his lyrical confessions he suppressed no impulse to self-revelation; and seldom did his mastery of form fail to ennoble even the meanest substance.
Some of Heine’s most perfect products are his smallest. Whether, however, a slight substance can be fittingly presented only in the briefest forms, or a larger matter calls for extended treatment, the method is the same, and the merit lies in the justness and suggestiveness of details. Single points, or points in juxtaposition or in succession, not the developed continuity of a line, are the means to the effect which Heine seeks. Connecting links are left to be supplied by the imagination of the reader. Even in such a narrative poem as _Belshazzar_ the movement is _staccato_; we are invited to contemplate a series of moments; and if the subject is impiety and swift retribution, we are left to infer the fact from the evidence presented; there is neither editorial introduction nor moralizing conclusion. Similarly with _The Two Grenadiers_, a presentation of character in circumstance, a translation of pictorial details into terms of action and prophecy; and most strikingly in _The Pilgrimage to Kevlaar_, a poem of such fundamentally pictorial quality that it has been called a triptych, three depicted scenes in a little religious drama.
It is in pieces like these that we find Heine most successfully making of himself the interpreter of objects in the outside world. The number of such objects is greater than is everywhere believed–though naturally his success is surest in the case of objects congenial to him, and the variety of these is not great. Indeed, the outside world, even when he appears to treat it most objectively, proves upon closer examination to be in the vast majority of cases only a treasure-trove of symbols for the expression of his inner self. Thus, _Poor Peter_ is the narrative of a humble youth unfortunate in love, but poor Peter’s story is Heine’s; otherwise, we may be sure, Heine would not have thought it worth the telling. Nothing could seem to be less the property of Heine than _The Lorelei_; nevertheless, he has given to this borrowed subject so personal a turn that instead of the siren we see a human maiden, serenely indifferent to the effect of her charms, which so take the luckless lover that, like the boatman, he, Heine, is probably doomed ere long to death in the waves.
Toward the outside world, then, Heine’s habitual attitude is not that of an interpreter; it is that of an artist who seeks the means of expression where they may be found. He does not, like Goethe and Moerike, read out of the phenomena of nature and of life what these phenomena in themselves contain; he reads into them what he wishes them to say. _The Book of Songs_ is a human document, but it is no document of the life of humanity; it is a collection of kaleidoscopic views of one life, a life not fortified by wholesome cooeperation with men nor nourished with the strength of nature, but vivifying nature with its own emotions. Heine has treated many a situation with overwhelming pathos, but none from which he was himself so completely absent as Moerike from the kitchen of The _Forsaken Maiden_. Goethe’s “Hush’d on the hill” is an apostrophe to himself; but peace which the world cannot give and cannot take away is the atmosphere of that poem; whereas Heine’s “The shades of the summer evening lie” gets its principal effectiveness from fantastic contributions of the poet’s own imagination.
The length to which Heine goes in attributing human emotions to nature is hardly to be paralleled before or since. His aim not being the reproduction of reality, nor yet the objectivation of ideas, his poetry is essentially a poetry of tropes-that is, the conception and presentation of things not as they are but as they may be conceived to be. A simple illustration of this method may be seen in _The Herd-Boy_. Uhland wrote a poem on a very similar subject, _The Boy’s Mountain Song_. But the contrast between Uhland’s hardy, active, public-spirited youth and Heine’s sleepy, amorous individualist is no more striking than the difference between Uhland’s rhetorical and Heine’s tropical method. Heine’s poem is an elaboration of the single metaphor with which it begins: “Kingly is the herd-boy’s calling.” The poem _Pine and Palm_, in which Heine expresses his hopeless separation from the maiden of whom he dreams–incidentally attributing to Amalie a feeling of sadness and solitude to which she was a stranger–is a bolder example of romantic self-projection into nature. But not the boldest that Heine offers us. He transports us to India, and there–
The violets titter, caressing,
Peeping up as the planets appear, And the roses, their warm love confessing, Whisper words, soft perfumed, to each ear.
Nor does he allow us to question the occurrence of these marvels; how do we know what takes place on the banks of the Ganges, whither we are borne on the wings of song? This, indeed, would be Heine’s answer to any criticism based upon Ruskin’s notion as to the “pathetic fallacy.” If the setting is such as to induce in us the proper mood, we readily enter the non-rational realm, and with credulous delight contemplate wonders such as we too have seen in our dreams; just as we find the romantic syntheses of sound and odor, or of sound and color, legitimate attempts to express the inexpressible. The atmosphere of prose, to be sure, is less favorable to Heine’s habitual indulgence in romantic tropes.
Somewhat blunted by over-employment is another romantic instrument, eminently characteristic of Heine, namely, irony. Nothing could be more trenchant than his bland assumption of the point of view of the Jew-baiter, the hypocrite, or the slave-trader. It is as perfect as his adoption of childlike faith in _The Pilgrimage to Kevlaar_. Many a time he attains an effect of ironical contrast by the juxtaposition of incongruous poems, as when a deification of his beloved is followed by a cynical utterance of a different kind of love. But often the incongruity is within the poem itself, and the poet, destroying the illusion of his created image, gets a melancholy satisfaction from derision of his own grief. This procedure perfectly symbolizes a distracted mind; it undoubtedly suggests a superior point of view, from which the tribulations of an insignificant individual are seen to be insignificant; but in a larger sense it symbolizes the very instability and waywardness of Heine himself. His emotions were unquestionably deep and recurrent, but they were not constant. His devotion to ideals did not preclude indulgence in very unideal pleasures; and his love of Amalie and Therese, hopeless from the beginning, could not, except in especially fortunate moments, avoid erring in the direction either of sentimentality or of bitterness. But Heine was too keenly intellectual to be indulgent of sentimentality, and too caustic to restrain bitterness. Hence the bitter-sweet of many of his pieces, so agreeably stimulating and so suggestive of an elastic temperament.
There is, however, a still more pervasive incongruity between this temperament and the forms in which it expressed itself. Heine’s love poems–two-thirds of the _Book of Songs_–are written in the very simplest of verses, mostly quatrains of easy and seemingly inevitable structure. Heine learned the art of making them from the _Magic Horn_, from Uhland, and from Eichendorff, and he carried the art to the highest pitch of virtuosity. They are the forms of the German Folk-song, a fit vehicle for homely sentiments and those elemental passions which come and go like the tide in a humble heart, because the humble heart is single and yields unresistingly to their flow. But Heine’s heart was not single, his passion was complex, and the greatest of his ironies was his use of the most unsophisticated of forms for his most sophisticated substances. This, indeed, was what made his love poetry so novel and so piquant to his contemporaries; this is one of the qualities that keep it alive today; but it is a highly individual device which succeeded only with this individual; and that it was a device adopted from no lack of capacity in other measures appears from the perfection of Heine’s sonnets and the incomparable free rhythmic verses of the _North Sea_ cycles.
Taken all in all, _The Book of Songs_ was a unique collection, making much of little, and making it with an amazing economy of means.
Heine’s first period, to 1831, when he was primarily a literary artist, nearly coincides with the epoch of the Restoration (1815-1830). Politically, this time was unproductive in Germany, and the very considerable activity in science, philosophy, poetry, painting, and other fine arts stood in no immediate relation to national exigencies. There was indeed plenty of agitation in the circles of the _Burschenschaft_, and there were sporadic efforts to obtain from reluctant princes the constitutions promised as a reward for the rising against Napoleon; but as a whole the people of the various states seemed passive, and whatever was accomplished was the work of individuals, with or without royal patronage, and, in the main, in continuation of romantic tendencies. But with the Revolution of July, 1830, the political situation in Germany became somewhat more acute, demands for emancipation took more tangible form, and the so-called “Young Germans “–Wienbarg, Gutzkow, Laube, Mundt, Boerne, and others-endeavored in essays, novels, plays, and pamphlets to stir up public interest in questions of political, social, and religious reform.
Many passages in Heine’s _Pictures of Travel_ breathe the spirit of the Young German propaganda–the celebrated confession of faith, for example, in the _Journey to the Hartz_, in which he declares himself a knight of the holy spirit of iconoclastic democracy. In Paris he actively enlisted in the cause, and for about fifteen years continued, as a journalist, the kind of expository and polemic writing that he had developed in the later volumes of the _Pictures of Travel_. Regarding himself, like many an expatriate, as a mediator between the country of his birth and the country of his adoption, he wrote for German papers accounts of events in the political and artistic world of France, and for French periodicals more ambitious essays on the history of religion, philosophy, and recent literature in Germany. Most of the works of this time were published in both French and German, and Heine arranged also for the appearance of the _Pictures of Travel_ and the _Book of Songs_ in French translations. To all intents and purposes he became a Frenchman; from 1836 or 1837 until 1848 he was the recipient of an annual pension of 4,800 francs from the French government; he has even been suspected of having become a French citizen. But he in no sense curbed his tongue when speaking of French affairs, nor was he free from longing to be once more in his native land.
In Germany, however, he was commonly regarded as a traitor; and at the same time the Young Germans, with the more influential of whom he soon quarreled, looked upon him as a renegade; so that there was a peculiar inappropriateness in the notorious decree of the Bundesrat at Frankfurt, voted December 10, 1835, and impotently forbidding the circulation in Germany of the writings of the Young Germans: Heine, Gutzkow, Laube, Wienbarg, and Mundt–in that order. But the occupants of insecure thrones have a fine scent for the odor of sedition, and Heine was an untiring sapper and miner in the modern army moving against the strongholds of aristocrats and priests. A keen observer in Hamburg who was resolved, though not in the manner of the Young Germans, to do his part in furthering social reform, Friedrich Hebbel, wrote to a friend in March, 1836: “Our time is one in which action destined to be decisive for a thousand years is being prepared. What artillery did not accomplish at Leipzig must now be done by pens in Paris.”
During the first years of his sojourn in Paris Heine entered gleefully into all the enjoyment and stimulation that the gay capital had to offer. “I feel like a fish in water” is a common expression of contentment with one’s surroundings; but when one fish inquires after the health of another, he now says, Heine told a friend, “I feel like Heine in Paris.” The well-accredited German poet quickly secured admission to the circle of artists, journalists, politicians, and reformers, and became a familiar figure on the boulevards. In October, 1834, be made the acquaintance of a young Frenchwoman, Crescence Eugenie Mirat, or Mathilde, as he called her, and fell violently in love with her. She was a woman of great personal attractiveness, but entirely without education, frivolous, and passionate. They were soon united; not for long, Heine thought, and he made efforts to escape from her seductive charms, but ineffectually; and like Tannhaeuser, he was drawn back to his Frau Venus with an attachment passing all understanding. From December, 1835, Heine regarded her as his wife, and in 1841 they were married. But Mathilde was no good housekeeper; Heine was frequently in financial straits; he quarreled with his relatives, as well as with literary adversaries in Germany and France; and only after considerable negotiation was peace declared, and the continuation of a regular allowance arranged with Uncle Salomon.
[Illustration: HEINRICH HEINE E. HADER]
Moreover, Heine’s health was undermined. In the latter thirties he suffered often from headaches and afflictions of the eyes; in the middle of the forties paralysis of the spinal cord began to manifest itself; and for the last ten years of his life he was a hopelessly stricken invalid, finally doomed for five years to that “mattress grave” which his fortitude no less than his woeful humor has pathetically glorified. His wife cared for him dutifully, he was visited by many distinguished men of letters, and in 1855 a ministering angel came to him in the person of Elise von Krinitz (“Camille Selden”) whom he called “_Die Mouche_” and for whom he wrote his last poem, _The Passion Flower_, a kind of apology for his life.
Meantime contentions, tribulations, and a wasting frame seemed only to sharpen the wits of the indomitable warrior. _New Songs_ (1844) contains, along with negligible cynical pieces, a number of love songs no whit inferior to those of the _Book of Songs_, romances, and scorching political satires. The _Romanzero_ (1851) is not unfairly represented by such a masterpiece as _The Battlefield of Hastings_. And from this last period we have two quasi-epic poems: _Atta Troll_ (1847; written in 1842) and _Germany_ (1844), the fruit of the first of Heine’s two trips across the Rhine.
Historically and poetically, _Atta Troll_ is one of the most remarkable of Heine’s works. He calls it _Das letzte freie Waldlied der Romantik_ (“The last free forest-song of romanticism.”) Having for its principal scene the most romantic spot in Europe, the valley of Roncesvaux, and for its principal character a dancing bear, the impersonation of those good characters and talentless men who, in the early forties, endeavored to translate the prose of Young Germany into poetry, the poem flies to the merriest, maddest height of romanticism in order by the aid of magic to kill the bear and therewith the vogue of poetry degraded to practical purposes. Heine knew whereof he spoke; for he had himself been a mad romanticist, a Young German, and a political poet; and he was a true prophet; for, though he did not himself enter the promised land, he lived to see, in the more refined romanticism of the Munich School and the poetic realism of Hebbel and Ludwig, the dawn of a new day in the history of German literature.
Heine did not enter the promised land. Neither can we truthfully say that he saw it as it was destined to be. His eye was on the present, and in the present he more clearly discerned what ought not to be than what gave promise of a better future. In the war for the liberation of humanity he professed to be, and he was, a brave soldier; but he lacked the soldier’s prime requisite, discipline. He never took a city, because he could not rule his spirit. Democracy was inscribed upon his banner, sympathy for the disenfranchised bound him to it, but not that charity which seeketh not her own, nor the loyalty that abides the day when imperfection shall become perfection. Sarcasm was his weapon, ridicule his plan of campaign, and destruction his only accomplishment.
We shall not say that the things destroyed by Heine deserved a better fate. We shall not think of him either as a leader or as a follower in a great national movement. He was not the one man of his generation through whom the national consciousness, even national discontent, found expression; he was the man whose self-expressions aroused the widest interest and touched the tenderest chords. To be called perhaps an alien, and certainly no monumental German character, Heine nevertheless made use, with consummate artistry, of the fulness of German culture at a time when many of the after-born staggered under the weight of a heritage greater than they could bear.
[Illustration: THE LORELEI FOUNTAIN In NEW YORK BY HERTER]
* * * * *
I have had dreams of wild love wildly nursed, Of myrtles, mignonette, and silken tresses, Of lips, whose blames belie the kiss that blesses, Of dirge-like songs to dirge-like airs rehearsed.
My dreams have paled and faded long ago, Faded the very form they most adored,
Nothing is left me but what once I poured Into pathetic verse with feverish glow.
Thou, orphaned song, art left. Do thou, too, fade! Go, seek that visioned form long lost in night, And say from me–if you upon it light– With airy breath I greet that airy shade!
* * * * *
Oh, fair cradle of my sorrow,
Oh, fair tomb of peace for me,
Oh, fair town, my last good-morrow, Last farewell I say to thee!
Fare thee well, thou threshold holy, Where my lady’s footsteps stir,
And that spot, still worshipped lowly, Where mine eyes first looked on her!
Had I but beheld thee never,
Thee, my bosom’s beauteous queen, Wretched now, and wretched ever,
Oh, I should not thus have been!
Touch thy heart?–I would not dare that: Ne’er did I thy love implore;
Might I only breathe the air that
Thou didst breathe, I asked no more.
Yet I could not brook thy spurning,
Nor thy cruel words of scorn;
Madness in my brain is burning,
And my heart is sick and torn.
So I go, downcast and dreary,
With my pilgrim staff to stray,
Till I lay my head aweary
In some cool grave far away.
Cliff and castle quiver grayly
From the mirror of the Rhine
Where my little boat swims gaily;
Round her prow the ripples shine.
Heart at ease I watch them thronging– Waves of gold with crisping crest,
Till awakes a half-lulled longing
Cherished deep within my breast.
Temptingly the ripples greet me
Luring toward the gulf beneath,
Yet I know that should they meet me They would drag me to my death.
Lovely visage, treacherous bosom,
Guile beneath and smile above,
Stream, thy dimpling wavelet’s blossom Laughs as falsely as my love.
I despaired at first–believing
I should never bear it. Now
I have borne it–I have borne it.
Only never ask me How.
* * * * *
A LYRICAL INTERMEZZO (1822-23)
‘Twas in the glorious month of May,
When all the buds were blowing,
I felt–ah me, how sweet it was!– Love in my heart a-growing.
‘Twas in the glorious month of May,
When all the birds were quiring,
In burning words I told her all
My yearning, my aspiring.
Where’er my bitter tear-drops fall,
The fairest flowers arise;
And into choirs of nightingales
Are turned my bosom’s sighs.
And wilt thou love me, thine shall be The fairest flowers that spring,
And at thy window evermore
The nightingales shall sing.
The rose and the lily, the moon and the dove, Once loved I them all with a perfect love. I love them no longer, I love alone
The Lovely, the Graceful, the Pure, the One Who twines in one wreath all their beauty and love, And rose is, and lily, and moon and dove.
Dear, when I look into thine eyes,
My deepest sorrow straightway flies; But when I kiss thy mouth, ah, then
No thought remains of bygone pain!
And when I lean upon thy breast,
No dream of heaven could be more blest; But, when thou say’st thou lovest me,
I fall to weeping bitterly.
Thy face, that fair, sweet face I know, I dreamed of it awhile ago;
It is an angel’s face, so mild–
And yet, so sadly pale, poor child!
Only the lips are rosy bright,
But soon cold Death will kiss them white, And quench the light of Paradise
That shines from out those earnest eyes.
Lean close thy cheek against my cheek, That our tears together may blend, love, And press thy heart upon my heart,
That from both one flame may ascend, love!
[Illustration: SPRING’S AWAKENING _From the Painting by Ludwig von Hofmann._]
And while in that flame so doubly bright Our tears are falling and burning,
And while in my arms I clasp thee tight I will die with love and yearning.
I’ll breathe my soul and its secret
In the lily’s chalice white;
The lily shall thrill and reecho
A song of my heart’s delight.
The song shall quiver and tremble,
Even as did the kiss
That her rosy lips once gave me
In a moment of wondrous bliss.
The stars have stood unmoving
Upon the heavenly plains
For ages, gazing each on each,
With all a lover’s pains.
They speak a noble language,
Copious and rich and strong;
Yet none of your greatest schoolmen Can understand that tongue.
But I have learnt it, and never
Can forget it for my part–
For I used as my only grammar
The face of the joy of my heart.
On the wings of song far sweeping,
Heart’s dearest, with me thou’lt go Away where the Ganges is creeping;
Its loveliest garden I know–
A garden where roses are burning
In the moonlight all silent there; Where the lotus-flowers are yearning
For their sister beloved and fair.
The violets titter, caressing,
Peeping up as the planets appear, And the roses, their warm love confessing, Whisper words, soft-perfumed, to each ear.
And, gracefully lurking or leaping,
The gentle gazelles come round:
While afar, deep rushing and sweeping, The waves of the Ganges sound.
We’ll lie there in slumber sinking
Neath the palm-trees by the stream, Rapture and rest deep drinking,
Dreaming the happiest dream.
The lotos flower is troubled
By the sun’s too garish gleam,
She droops, and with folded petals Awaiteth the night in a dream.
‘Tis the moon has won her favor,
His light her spirit doth wake,
Her virgin bloom she unveileth
All gladly for his dear sake.
Unfolding and glowing and shining
She yearns toward his cloudy height; She trembles to tears and to perfume
With pain of her love’s delight.
[Illustration: FLOWER FANTASY _Train the Painting by Ludwig von Hofmann._]
The Rhine’s bright wave serenely
Reflects as it passes by
Cologne that lifts her queenly
Cathedral towers on high.
A picture hangs in the dome there,
On leather with gold bedight,
Whose beauty oft when I roam there Sheds hope on my troubled night.
For cherubs and flowers are wreathing Our Lady with tender grace;
Her eyes, cheeks, and lips half-breathing Resemble my loved one’s face.
I am not wroth, my own lost love, although My heart is breaking–wroth I am not, no! For all thou dost in diamonds blaze, no ray Of light into thy heart’s night finds its way.
I saw thee in a dream. Oh, piteous sight! I saw thy heart all empty, all in night; I saw the serpent gnawing at thy heart; I saw how wretched, O my love, thou art!
When thou shalt lie, my darling, low In the dark grave, where they hide thee, Then down to thee I will surely go,
And nestle in beside thee.
Wildly I’ll kiss and clasp thee there, Pale, cold, and silent lying;
Shout, shudder, weep in dumb despair, Beside my dead love dying.
The midnight calls, up rise the dead, And dance in airy swarms there;
We twain quit not our earthly bed, I lie wrapt in your arms there.
Up rise the dead; the Judgment-day
To bliss or anguish calls them;
We twain lie on as before we lay,
And heed not what befalls them.
A young man loved a maiden,
But she for another has sigh’d;
That other, he loves another,
And makes her at length his bride.
The maiden marries, in anger,
The first adventurous wight
That chance may fling before her;
The youth is in piteous plight.
The story is old as ages,
Yet happens again and again;
The last to whom it happen’d,
His heart is rent in twain.
A lonely pine is standing
On the crest of a northern height; He sleeps, and a snow-wrought mantle
Enshrouds him through the night.
He’s dreaming of a palm-tree
Afar in a tropic land,
That grieves alone in silence
‘Mid quivering leagues of sand.
My love, we were sitting together
In a skiff, thou and I alone;
‘Twas night, very still was the weather, Still the great sea we floated on.
Fair isles in the moonlight were lying, Like spirits, asleep in a trance;
Their strains of sweet music were sighing, And the mists heaved in an eery dance.
And ever, more sweet, the strains rose there, The mists flitted lightly and free;
But we floated on with our woes there, Forlorn on that wide, wide sea.
I see thee nightly in dreams, my sweet, Thine eyes the old welcome making,
And I fling me down at thy dear feet With the cry of a heart that is breaking.
Thou lookest at me in woful wise
With a smile so sad and holy,
And pearly tear-drops from thine eyes Steal silently and slowly.
Whispering a word, thou lay’st on my hair A wreath with sad cypress shotten;
awake, the wreath is no longer there, And the word I have forgotten.
* * * * *
TO MY MOTHER
I have been wont to bear my head on high, Haughty and stern am I of mood and mien; Yea, though a king should gaze on me, I ween, I should not at his gaze cast down my eye. But I will speak, dear Mother, candidly: When most puffed up my haughty mood hath been, At thy sweet presence, blissful and serene, I feel the shudder of humility.
Does thy soul all unknown my soul subdue, Thy lofty soul that pierces all things through And speeds on lightning wings to heaven’s blue? Or am I racked by what my memories tell Of frequent deeds which caused thy heart to swell– That beauteous heart which loved me, ah! too well.
With foolish fancy I deserted thee;
I fain would search the whole world through to learn If in it I perchance could love discern, That I might love embrace right lovingly. I sought for love as far as eye could see, My hands extending at each door in turn, Begging them not my prayer for love to spurn– Cold hate alone they laughing gave to me. And ever search’d I after love; yes, ever Search’d after love, but love discover’d never, And so I homeward went with troubled thought; But thou wert there to welcome me again, And, ah, what in thy dear eye floated then That was the sweet love I so long had sought.
* * * * *
[Illustration: POOR PETER _From the Painting by P. Grotjohann_]
POOR PETER (1822)
Grete and Hans come dancing by,
They shout for very glee;
Poor Peter stands all silently,
And white as chalk is he.
Grete and Hans were wed this morn,
And shine in bright array;
But ah, poor Peter stands forlorn, Dressed for a working-day.
He mutters, as with wistful eyes
He gazes at them still:
“‘Twere easy–were I not too wise– To do myself some ill….”
“An aching sorrow fills my breast,
My heart is like to break;
It leaves me neither peace nor rest, And all for Grete’s sake.
“It drives me to her side, as though She still could comfort me;
But in her eyes there’s something now That makes me turn and flee.
“I climb the highest hilltop where
I am at least alone;
And standing in the stillness there I weep and make my moan.”
Poor Peter wanders slowly by;
So pale is he, so dull and shy,
The very neighbors in the street
Turn round to gaze, when him they meet.
The maids speak low: “He looks, I ween, As though the grave his bed had been.”
Ah no, good maids, ye should have said “The grave will soon become his bed.”
He lost his sweetheart–so, may be,
The grave is best for such as he;
There he may sleep the years away, And rest until the Judgment-day.
* * * * *
THE TWO GRENADIERS (1822)
To France were traveling two grenadiers, From prison in Russia returning,
And when they came to the German frontiers, They hung down their heads in mourning.
There came the heart-breaking news to their ears That France was by fortune forsaken;
Scattered and slain were her brave grenadiers, And Napoleon, Napoleon was taken.
Then wept together those two grenadiers O’er their country’s departed glory;
“Woe’s me,” cried one, in the midst of his tears, “My old wound–how it burns at the story!”
The other said: “The end has come,
What avails any longer living
Yet have I a wife and child at home, For an absent father grieving.
“Who cares for wife? Who cares for child? Dearer thoughts in my bosom awaken;
Go beg, wife and child, when with hunger wild, For Napoleon, Napoleon is taken!
“Oh, grant me, brother, my only prayer, When death my eyes is closing:
Take me to France, and bury me there; In France be my ashes reposing.
“This cross of the Legion of Honor bright, Let it lie near my heart, upon me;
Give me my musket in my hand,
And gird my sabre on me.
“So will I lie, and arise no more,
My watch like a sentinel keeping, Till I hear the cannon’s thundering roar, And the squadrons above me sweeping.
“Then the Emperor comes! and his banners wave, With their eagles o’er him bending,
And I will come forth, all in arms, from my grave, Napoleon, Napoleon attending!”
[Illustration: THE TWO GRENADIERS _From the Painting by P. Grotjohann_]
* * * * *
To midnight now the night drew on;
In slumber deep lay Babylon.
The King’s house only was all aflare, For the King’s wild crew were at revel there.
Up there in the King’s own banquet hall, Belshazzar held royal festival.
The satraps were marshaled in glittering line And emptied their beakers of sparkling wine.
The beakers they clinked, and the satraps’ hurras in the ears of the stiff-necked King rang his praise.
The King’s hot cheeks were with revel dyed, The wine made swell his heart with pride.
Blind madness his haughty stomach spurred, And he slandered the Godhead with sinful word,
And strutting in pride he blasphemed, the crowd Of servile courtiers applauding loud.
The King commanded with haughty stare; The slave was gone, and again was there.
Much wealth of gold on his head bare he; ‘Twas reft from Jehovah’s sanctuary.
And the King took hold of a sacred cup With his impious hand, and they filled it up;
And he drank to the bottom in one deep draught, And loud, the foam on his lips, he laughed:
“Jehovah! Thy glories I spit upon;
I am the King of Babylon!”
But scarce had the awful words been said When the King’s heart withered with secret dread.
The boisterous laughter was stifled all, And corpselike still did wax the hall;
Lo! lo! on the whited wall there came The likeness of a man’s hand in flame,
And wrote, and wrote, in letters of flame, And wrote and vanished, and no more came.
The King stark-staring sat, a-quail, With knees a-knocking, and face death-pale,
The satraps’ blood ran cold–none stirred; They sat like statues, without a word.
The Magians came; but none of them all Could read those letters of flame on the wall.
But in that same night of his vaunting vain By his satraps’ hand was Belshazzar slain.
* * * * *
THE PILGRIMAGE TO KEVLAAR (1823)
The mother stood at the window;
Her son lay in bed, alas!
“Will you not get up, dear William, To see the procession pass?”
“O mother, I am so ailing,
I neither can hear nor see;
I think of my poor dead Gretchen,
And my heart grows faint in me.”
“Get up, we will go to Kevlaar;
Your book and your rosary take;
The Mother of God will heal you,
And cure your heart of its ache.”
The Church’s banners are waving,
They are chanting a hymn divine;
‘Tis at Koeln is that procession,
At Koeln upon the Rhine.
With the throng the mother follows;
Her son she leads with her; and now They both of them sing in the chorus,
“Ever honored, O Mary, be thou!”
The Mother of God at Kevlaar
Is drest in her richest array;
She has many a cure on hand there, Many sick folk come to her today.
And her, for their votive offerings, The suffering sick folk greet
With limbs that in wax are molded, Many waxen hands and feet.
And whoso a wax hand offers,
His hand is healed of its sore;
And whoso a wax foot offers,
His foot it will pain him no more.
To Kevlaar went many on crutches
Who now on the tight-rope bound,
And many play now on the fiddle
Had there not one finger sound.
The mother she took a wax taper,
And of it a heart she makes
“Give that to the Mother of Jesus, She will cure thee of all thy aches.”
With a sigh her son took the wax heart, He went to the shrine with a sigh;
His words from his heart trickle sadly, As trickle the tears from his eye.
“Thou blest above all that are blest, Thou virgin unspotted divine,
Thou Queen of the Heavens, before thee I lay all my anguish and pine.
“I lived with my mother at Koeln,
At Koeln in the town that is there, The town that has hundreds many
Of chapels and churches fair.
“And Gretchen she lived there near us, But now she is dead, well-a-day!
O Mary! a wax heart I bring thee,
Heal thou my heart’s wound, I pray!
“Heal thou my heart of its anguish,
And early and late, I vow,
With its whole strength to pray and to sing, too, ‘Ever honored, O Mary, be thou!'”
The suffering son and his mother
In their little bed-chamber slept; Then the Mother of God came softly,
And close to the sleepers crept.
She bent down over the sick one,
And softly her hand did lay
On his heart, with a smile so tender, And presently vanished away.
The mother sees all in her dreaming, And other things too she marked;
Then up from her slumber she wakened, So loudly the town dogs barked.
There lay her son, to his full length Stretched out, and he was dead;
And the light on his pale cheek flitted Of the morning’s dawning red.
She folded her hands together,
She felt as she knew not how,
And softly she sang and devoutly,
“Ever honored, O Mary, be thou!”
* * * * *
THE RETURN HOME (1823-24)
Once upon my life’s dark pathway
Gleamed a phantom of delight;
Now that phantom fair has vanished, I am wholly wrapt in night.
Children in the dark, they suffer
At their heart a spasm of fear;
And, their inward pain to deaden,
Sing aloud, that all may hear.
I, a madcap child, now childlike
In the dark to sing am fain;
If my song be not delightsome,
It at least has eased my pain.
We sat at the fisherman’s cottage,
And gazed upon the sea;
Then came the mists of evening,
And rose up silently.
The lights within the lighthouse
Were kindled one by one,
We saw still a ship in the distance On the dim horizon alone.
We spoke of tempest and shipwreck,
Of sailors and of their life,
And how ‘twixt clouds and billows
They’re tossed, ‘twixt joy and strife.
We spoke of distant countries
From North to South that range,
Of strange fantastic nations,
And their customs quaint and strange.
The Ganges is flooded with splendor, And perfumes waft through the air,
And gentle people are kneeling
To Lotos flowers fair.
In Lapland the people are dirty,
Flat-headed, large-mouthed, and small; They squat round the fire and, frying
Their fishes, they shout and they squall.
The girls all gravely listened,
Not a word was spoken at last;
The ship we could see no longer,
Darkness was settling so fast.
You lovely fisher-maiden,
Bring now the boat to land;
Come here and sit beside me,
We’ll prattle hand in hand.
Your head lay on my bosom,
Nor be afraid of me;
Do you not trust all fearless
Daily the great wild sea?
My heart is like the sea, dear,
Has storm, and ebb, and flow,
And many purest pearl-gems
Within its dim depth glow.
My child, we were two children,
Small, merry by childhood’s law;
We used to creep to the henhouse,
And hide ourselves in the straw.
We crowed like cocks, and whenever
The passers near us drew–
“Cock-a-doodle!” They thought
‘Twas a real cock that crew.
The boxes about our courtyard
We carpeted to our mind,
And lived there both together–
Kept house in a noble kind.
The neighbor’s old cat often
Came to pay us a visit;
We made her a bow and courtesy,
Each with a compliment in it.
After her health we asked,
Our care and regard to evince–
(We have made the very same speeches To many an old cat since).
We also sat and wisely
Discoursed, as old folks do,
Complaining how all went better
In those good old times we knew–
How love, and truth, and believing
Had left the world to itself,
And how so dear was the coffee,
And how so rare was the pelf.
The children’s games are over,
The rest is over with youth–
The world, the good games, the good times, The belief, and the love, and the truth.
E’en as a lovely flower,
So fair, so pure thou art;
I gaze on thee, and sadness
Comes stealing o’er my heart.
My hands I fain had folded
Upon thy soft brown hair,
Praying that God may keep thee
So lovely, pure, and fair.
I would that my love and its sadness Might a single word convey,
The joyous breezes should bear it, And merrily waft it away.
They should waft it to thee, beloved, This soft and wailful word,
At every hour thou shouldst hear it, Where’er thou art ‘twould be heard.
And when in the night’s first slumber Thine eyes scarce closing seem,
Still should my word pursue thee
Into thy deepest dream.
The shades of the summer evening lie On the forest and meadows green;
The golden moon shines in the azure sky Through balm-breathing air serene.
The cricket is chirping the brooklet near, In the water a something stirs,
And the wanderer can in the stillness hear A plash and a sigh through the furze.
There all by herself the fairy bright Is bathing down in the stream;
Her arms and throat, bewitching and white, In the moonshine glance and gleam.
I know not what evil is coming,
But my heart feels sad and cold;
A song in my head keeps humming,
A tale from the times of old.
The air is fresh and it darkles,
And smoothly flows the Rhine;
The peak of the mountain sparkles
In the fading sunset-shine.
The loveliest wonderful maiden
On high is sitting there,
With golden jewels braiden,
And she combs her golden hair.
With a golden comb sits combing,
And ever the while sings she
A marvelous song through the gloaming Of magical melody.
It hath caught the boatman, and bound him In the spell of a wild, sad love;
He sees not the rocks around him,
He sees only her above.
The waves through the pass keep swinging, But boatman or boat is none;
And this with her mighty singing
The Lorelei hath done.
[Illustration: ROCKY COAST _From the Painting by Ludwig von Hofmann._]
* * * * *
By the dim sea-shore
Lonely I sat, and thought-afflicted. The sun sank low, and sinking he shed
Rose and vermilion upon the waters, And the white foaming waves,
Urged on by the tide,
Foamed and murmured yet nearer and nearer– A curious jumble of whispering and wailing, A soft rippling laughter and sobbing and sighing, And in between all a low lullaby singing. Methought I heard ancient forgotten legends, The world-old sweet stories,
Which once, as a boy,
I heard from my playmates,
When, of a summer’s evening,
We crouched down to tell stories
On the stones of the doorstep,
With small listening hearts,
And bright curious eyes;
While the big grown-up girls
Were sitting opposite
At flowery and fragrant windows,
Their rosy faces
Smiling and moonshine-illumined.
* * * * *
HAIL TO THE SEA (1825-26)
Hail to thee, thou eternal sea!
Hail to thee, ten thousand times, hail! With rejoicing heart
I bid thee welcome,
As once, long ago, did welcome thee Ten thousand Greek hearts–
Hardship-battling, homesick-yearning, World-renowned Greek hearts.
The billows surged,
They foamed and murmured,
The sun poured down, as in haste,
Flickering ripples of rosy light;
Long strings of frightened sea-gulls Flutter away shrill screaming;
War-horses trample, and shields clash loudly, And far resounds the triumphant cry:
Hail to thee, thou eternal sea!
Like accents of home thy waters are whispering, And dreams of childhood lustrous I see
Through thy limpid and crystalline wave, Calling to mind the dear old memories
Of dear and delightful toys,
Of all the glittering Christmas presents, Of all the red-branched forests of coral, The pearls, the goldfish and bright-colored shells, Which thou dost hide mysteriously
Deep down in thy clear house of crystal.
Oh, how have I languished in dreary exile! Like unto a withered flower
In the botanist’s capsule of tin,
My heart lay dead in my breast.
Methought I was prisoned a long sad winter, A sick man kept in a darkened chamber;
And now I suddenly leave it,
And outside meets me the dazzling Spring, Tenderly verdant and sun-awakened;
And rustling trees shed snowy petals, And tender young flowers gaze on me
With their bright fragrant eyes,
And the air is full of laughter and gladness, And rich with the breath of blossoms,
And in the blue sky the birds are singing– Thalatta! Thalatta!
Oh, my brave Anabasis-heart!
How often, ah! how sadly often
Wast thou pressed hard by the North’s fair Barbarians! From large and conquering eyes
They shot forth burning arrows;
With crooked words as sharp as a rapier They threatened to pierce my bosom;
With cuneiform angular missives they battered My poor stunned brains;
In vain I held out my shield for protection, The arrows hissed and the blows rained down, And hard pressed I was pushed to the sea By the North’s fair Barbarians–
And, breathing freely, I greet the sea, The sea my deliverer, the sea my friend– Thalatta! Thalatta!
[Illustration: PLAY OF THE WAVES _From the Painting by Arnold Boecklin_]
* * * * *
IN THE HARBOR (1825-26)
Happy is he who hath reached the safe harbor, Leaving behind him the stormy wild ocean, And now sits cosy and warm
In the good old Town-Cellar of Bremen.
How sweet and homelike the world is reflected, In the chalice green of Rhinewine Rummer. And how the dancing microcosm
Sunnily glides down the thirsty throat! Everything I behold in the glass–
History, old and new, of the nations, Both Turks and Greeks, and Hegel and Gans, Forests of citron and big reviews,
Berlin and Shilda, and Tunis and Hamburg; But, above all, thy image, Beloved,
And thy dear little head on a gold-ground of Rhenish!
Oh, how fair, how fair art thou, Dearest! Thou art as fair as the rose!
Not like the Rose of Shiras,
That bride of the nightingale, sung by Hafis, Not like the Rose of Sharon,
That mystic red rose, exalted by prophets– Thou art like the “Rose, of the Bremen Town-Cellar,” Which is the Rose of Roses;
The older it grows the sweeter it blossoms, And its breath divine it hath all entranced me, It hath inspired and kindled my soul;
And had not the Town-Cellar Master gripped me With firm grip and steady,
I should have stumbled!
That excellent man! We sat together
And drank like brothers;
We spoke of wonderful mystic things, We sighed and sank in each other’s arms, And me to the faith of love he converted; I drank to the health of my bitterest foes, And I forgave all bad poets sincerely,
Even as I may one day be forgiven;
I wept with devotion, and at length
The doors of salvation were opened unto me, Where the sacred Vats, the twelve Apostles, Silently preach, yet oh, so plainly,
Unto all nations.
These be men forsooth!
Of humble exterior, in jackets of wood, Yet within they are fairer and more enlightened Than all the Temple’s proud Levites,
Or the courtiers and followers of Herod, Though decked out in gold and in purple; Have I not constantly said:
Not with the herd of common low people, But in the best and politest of circles The King of Heaven was sure to dwell!
Hallelujah! How lovely the whisper
Of Bethel’s palm-trees!
How fragrant the myrtle-trees of Hebron! How sings the Jordan and reels with joy! My immortal spirit likewise is reeling, And I reel in company, and, joyously reeling, Leads me upstairs and into the daylight That excellent Town-Cellar Master of Bremen.
Thou excellent Town-Cellar Master of Bremen! Dost see on the housetops the little angels Sitting aloft, all tipsy and singing?
The burning sun up yonder
Is but a fiery and drunken nose–
The Universe Spirit’s red nose;
And round the Universe Spirit’s red nose Reels the whole drunken world.
* * * * *
A NEW SPRING (1831)
Soft and gently through my soul
Sweetest bells are ringing,
Speed you forth, my little song,
Of springtime blithely singing!
Speed you onward to a house
Where sweet flowers are fleeting!
If, perchance, a rose you see,
Say, I send her greeting!
Thy deep blue eyes enchant me,
So lovingly they glow;
My gazing soul grows dreamy,
My words come strange and slow.
Thy deep blue eyes enchant me
Wherever I may go:
An ocean of azure fancies
O’erwhelms me with its flow.
Was once an ancient monarch,
Heavy his heart, his locks were gray, This poor and aged monarch
Took a wife so young and gay.
Was once a page-boy handsome,
With lightsome heart and curly hair, The silken train he carried
Of the queen so young and fair.
Dost know the old, old story?
It sounds so sweet, so sad to tell– Both were obliged to perish,
They loved each other too well.
* * * * *
Oh I had once a beauteous Fatherland! High used to seem
The oak–so high!–the violets nodded kind–