December 13 – Heinrich Heine

December 13

Happy Birthday Heinrich Heine!

Heinrich Heine (b. 1797) – German romantic poet – “Ein Fichtenbaum steht einsam”

A lonely pine is standing
In the North where high winds blow.
He sleeps; and the whitest blanket
wraps him in ice and snow.
He dreams—
dreams of a palm-tree
that far in an Orient land
Languishes, lonely and drooping,
Upon the burning sand.

Read the Wikipedia article about Heinrich Heine here

Read the interesting biography of Heine in the Jewish Encyclopedia:

…from 1822 to 1827 he produced a series of poems and sketches of travel which practically placed him at the head of German literature, culminating as they did in the “Buch der Lieder,” one of the most exquisite volumes of lyric verse produced by a German poet. Much, however, that he wrote was offensive to the bourgeois and the bureaucracy of Prussia, but the coarseness of the suggestions was often redeemed by the piquant style in which they were put forth, and his light shafts of satire managed to pierce the most pachydermatous of mortals. His wit was essentially Jewish, and was clearly derived from the Berlin circles in which he had recently moved. It was while under their influence that he attempted his sole effort at a romance in his “Rabbi von Bacharach,” a historical romance of the Middle Ages dealing with the persecution of the Jews by the Crusaders; it was unfortunately left unfinished.

Heine writes a short autobiography here

Heine’s biting satire on politics and society in a letter to Alexandre Dumas:

…I hasten to reply to this appeal by sending you a fifty franc bank note… I would like to rid myself of this bill as quickly as possible, and here’s why: it smells bad. It gives off an odor of donkey that makes me nauseous. The donkey is the animal which is the most antipathetic to me, an idiosyncrasy that dates to my childhood. I was frightened whenever I heard a donkey bray and fled as fast as I could.

I was never able to vanquish this aversion that I share with so many others: the roar of a lion or tiger doesn’t make me tremble; the hungry wolves that sometimes pursued me at night in the forest didn’t frighten me with their howling. The mewing of cats is even more painful to me, but doesn’t inspire terror in me like that felt by my illustrious compatriot Meyerbeer, who blanches at the mere sight of a cat… The grunts of a pig don’t amuse me either, and when someone kills a pig I prefer the music of that same great maestro Meyerbeer to the melodies it makes.

It was only after long practice that I was able to get used to the barking of dogs of all kinds, from the bulldog to the lapdog, and I am now able to ignore the combined efforts of an entire pack of dogs that wants to trouble my sleep. But as I said, the animal I fear is the donkey, and what I find unbearable is the braying of a donkey angered by scoundrels who have put a handful of pepper in its behind. The cries of the irritated animal, which would like to bite but can only bray, grip with me fear, and unlike my friends I am unable to laugh at the terrible and tireless hee-haw, hee-haw, at this hiccough that is as horrible as it is baroque and scurrilous, at all these unspeakable and almost sublime accents of stupidity emitted by an enraged donkey in his impotent rage…

Read more of Heine’s correspondence in the Marxist archive


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