Germany. A Winter’s Tale

Text by Heinrich Heine (1797-1856)
translated into English by Joseph Massaad


français - deutsch

Departure | I | II | III | IV | V | VI | VII | VIII | IX | X | XI | XII | XIII | XIV | XV

The republic of Hamburg was never
As great as Venice or Florence,
Yet Hamburg has better oysters;
You’ll eat the best at Café Laurence.

It was a beautiful evening indeed,
When Campe and I went there to dine.
We were ready on wallowing once more
In oysters and Rhine-wine.

Besides, good company was there,
I was pleased to see, among others,
Many old comrades, like Chaufepié,
And also many new brothers.

Wille was there, whose face is like
An autograph book where his foes
From student days entered their names
Too legibly- with blows!

Fuchs was there, a thorough pagan,
A personal foe of Jehovah;
He only believes in Hegel, and perhaps,
In the Venus of Canova.

My Campe had become Amphitryon,
And was delightfully smiling;
Like a transfigured Madonna,
His eyes were blissfully shining.

I ate and drank most heartily,
And thought from the depth of my soul:
“This Campe is really an excellent man,
Among publishers, the best of all.

Another publisher, perhaps,
Might have let me starve to death.
This fellow even buys my drinks,
I’ll keep him till my last breath.

I thank the Creator on high,
Who made the grapes and the wine,
And allowed such a publisher
As Julius Campe to be mine!

I thank the Creator on high
Whose mighty word gave birth
To oyster in all the seas
And to Rhine-wine on earth,

Who also made the lemons grow,
The oyster’s taste to sweeten.
Father, may I, peacefully tonight,
Digest what I have eaten!”

The Rhine-wine always soothes me,
My strife-torn soul then mellows!
It kindles there a mighty urge,
The urge to love my fellows.

It sends me out to roam the streets,
Driven by a strong desire:
My soul seeks another soul, wrapped
In a white and sweet attire.

And when I came to the Drehbahn,
My eyes upon her rested:
A splendid woman in the moonshine,
Wonderfully high-breasted.

Her round face looked healthy and sound,
Her eyes were turquoise-blue,
Her cheeks were like roses, her lips like cherries,
And her nose was reddish too.

Her head was topped by a linen cap,
Starched white, with decorations;
It resembled a folded mural crown
With turrets and crenellations.

She wore a white tunic down to her calves,
And o, what calves they were!
Each of her solemn high legs,
To a Doric column could compare.

The naturalness of this world
Could be read in her every feature,
But her supernatural behind
Revealed a superior creature.

Stepping up to me, she said:
“Welcome to the Elbe once more,
After an absence of thirteen years,
I see you are the same as before!

Perhaps you’re looking for those beautiful souls,
You used to meet time and time again,
Those with whom you revelled all night long,
Down here, in this pleasant domain.

They’ve been swallowed by Life,
That hydra-monster so voracious!
You won’t get back those good old days,
Or those female-companions so precious!

You’ll find those pretty flowers no more,
That you adored in your young heart.
They blossomed here, they’re withered now,
The storm has ripped their leaves apart.

Withered, plucked, trampled down indeed
By Fate with its brutal feet.
My friends that is the earthly lot
Of all that is pretty and sweet.”

“Who are you?” I cried, “You look at me
Like a dream from an olden day;
Where do you live, great lady?
I’d like to take you home, if I may”

Then the woman smiled and said:
“You’re mistaken: I am refined;
I’m a respectable, moral person;
You’re mistaken, I’m not that kind!

I’m not such a small demoiselle,
A Lorette from a French Faubourg.
Know this: I am Hammonia,
The guardian Goddess of Hamburg!

I see you start; I see you’re shocked,
You, normally a bold singer.
Do you still wish to take me home?
Well then! Do not linger!”

But I laughed noisily and cried:
“I’ll follow you, I pray you tell
Which way to go. I’ll follow you,
Even though it could lead to Hell!”


Departure | I | II | III | IV | V | VI | VII | VIII | IX | X | XI | XII | XIII | XIV | XV