Germany. A Winter’s Tale

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

Caput XXIV

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

How I got up the narrow stairs,
Is difficult for me to say.
Perhaps some invisible spirit
Carried me up all the way.

Here, in Hammonia’s little room
The time went swiftly by.
The Goddess confessed: her liking for me
Has always been quite high.

“You see”, she said, “in earlier days,
The one I mostly used to admire
Was the bard who sang the Messiah
Upon his pious lyre.

You see my Klopstock’s bust on the chest,
That’s where, for a long time, it sat.
But for years now, it only serves
As a perch to hang my hat.

You’re my favourite now, you can see
That your picture hangs above my bed,
And that a wreath of fresh laurel-leaves
Crowns your handsome head.

And yet, you’ve often nagged my sons;
I must admit, it caused some pain,
And I was sometimes deeply wounded-
This must not happen again.

I trust that time has cured you now
Of such an unholy behaviour,
And taught you to be more tolerant
With fools and those you deem inferior.

But tell me, what prompted your travel?
There must be a very special reason!
Why travel North with such weather,
As we approach the winter season?”

“O, my Goddess!” I replied,
“There are some thoughts that slumber deep
At the bottom of the human heart,
And suddenly awake from their sleep.

Outwardly, everything seemed fair;
Yet, an internal uneasiness
Oppressed me, and was daily growing.
I was plagued by homesickness.

The stimulating air of France,
Now oppressed me by its weight.
I had to breathe German air again,
Or else, I would suffocate.

I yearned for the German tobacco-smoke,
And for the fragrance of peat;
I trembled eagerly to have
German soil under my feet.

I yearned to see my old lady once more,
And, through the nights, I’d sigh.
She lives beside the Dam Gate,
And Lottchen lives nearby.

And also that old noble gentleman,
Who scolded me regularly,
Some sighs were meant for him too,
For he protected me generously.

I wish I could hear from his mouth
The words ‘young fool!’ repeated,
Which my heart, in younger days,
Always, like music, greeted.

I yearned to see the chimney-smoke,
Rising up from German stoves,
For the nightingales of lower Saxony,
And for the quite beech-tree groves.

I even yearned for all those places,
The passion stations of this town,
Where once I traded the cross of youth,
And wore a thorny crown.

I wanted to weep, where I once wept,
Those tears so bitter and burning;
It’s love of country, I believe,
They call this foolish yearning!

I do not like to mention it,
It’s only a disease, deep down,
A shameful wound, not to reveal
To every soul in town.

O, how I hate that pack of villain,
You try to stir up your hearts,
By putting their patriotism on show,
With all its ulcerous warts!

They’re shameless shabby beggars,
All they seek is charity.
All that Menzel and his Swabians want
Is a penny of popularity!

O, my Goddess, you find me today
Rather soft-hearted and sickly.
I’m a bit sick, but I’ll take care,
And hope to recover quickly.

Yes, I am sick, but you can
Easily refresh my spirit.
Offer me a good cup of tea,
With some rum mixed to it.”


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