Germany. A Winter’s Tale

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

Caput XXV

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

The Goddess made me tea,
To which she added rum.
She drunk rum herself,
As for tea, she had none.

She leaned her head against my shoulder,
(And by doing so, she crushed
Her cap, her mural tower)
And then, she softly hushed:

“I’ve often anxiously thought of you,
Living in Paris, that sinful place,
Without a friend to watch over you,
Among that frivolous French race.

You stroll along the streets there,
And do not have at your side
A loyal German publisher,
To be your mentor and your guide.

And temptation there is far too great,
And there are plenty of sylphs to find,
Sickly at that, and all too soon,
A man can loose his peace of mind.

Do not go back but stay with us!
Here still reign morals and breeding,
And in our midst also bloom
Things that are quiet and pleasing.

Stay here with us in Germany,
You’ll find it not as distressing
As before. No doubt, you’ve noticed
How fast we are progressing.

The censorship is no longer strict,
Hoffmann has mellowed with age;
Your Travel Sketches, he will no longer
Slash with youthful rage.

You too are older and mellower now,
You’re less inclined to fight;
You’ll even see past events
In a somewhat rosier light.

That German life was so terrible,
Is simply an overstatement;
Like in Rome, you could choose suicide,
In order to avoid enslavement.

The people enjoyed freedom of thoughts,
The masses beliefs were respected;
The very few who printed things
Were the only ones affected.

Lawless tyranny never ruled here,
Demagogues, even the worst sort,
Never lost their citizenship
Without a sentencing court.

Things never went so bad in Germany,
Whatever hardships may have risen.
Believe me, no one ever starved to death
Inside a German prison.

In long gone days, there bloomed
Many a fair apparition
Of simple faith and harmony.
Now, all is doubt and sedition.

The practical, outward freedom
Will one day demolish
This ideal, a lily-like dream,
That we so fervently cherish.

Our beautiful poetry is fading fast,
It’s already a flickering fire;
The Moorish king of Freiligrath,
With other kings, will expire

Our grandchildren will eat and drink their fill,
But no longer in our leisurely way.
A spectacle-drama is coming near,
The idyll of old will fade away.

If you could keep a secret, I will
Unseal the Destiny book .
My magic mirrors reveal the future,
And I’ll let you take a look.

I’ve never shown it to a mortal being,
But to you, I’d like to show it:
The future of our Fatherland.
But alas! You cannot keep a secret!”

“My God, o Goddess!” I cried enrapt,
“That’d be a supreme delight!
Let me see the future of Germany,
I’m a man and can keep quiet.

I pledge my silence by an oath,
Any oath you wish to hear,
To guarantee full secrecy.
Tell me, how shall I swear?”

But then she answered: “Swear to me,
In father Abraham’s fashion,
The way he let Eliezer swear,
When he was sent on his mission.

Lift up my gown and lay your hand
Here, on my thigh, beneath it,
And swear that, in writing and in speech,
What you’ll see will remain a secret.”

A solemn moment! I felt as though
The breath of a long gone day
Blew around me as I swore the oath
In the ancient patriarchal way.

I lifted the Goddess gown and laid
My hand on her thigh beneath it,
And swore that, in writing and in speech,
What I’ll see will remain a secret.


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