Germany. A Winterís Tale

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

Caput XXVII

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And on that wondrous night,
Whatever also took place.
Iíll let you know, some other time,
In warmer summer days.

The old generation of hypocrites,
Thank God! Today is dying;
It slowly sinks into the grave,
Killed by its own disease of lying.

A new generation is growing up,
With no make-up, with no sinning.
Itís free in thoughts and in joy. To it
Iíll proclaim a new beginning.

A youth is budding which understands
The goodness and pride of the poet,
And warms itself upon his heart,
And the heat radiating from it.

My heart is loving as the light,
And as pure and chaste as fire.
The noblest Graces have tuned
The strings of my lyre.

It is the same lyre that once
My father happened to use,
The late Sir Aristophanes,
The favourite of every Muse.

It is the lyre on which he sang
The tale of Pisthetairos who courted
The fair Basileia, and, with her,
Up towards the skies, departed.

In the previous chapter I attempted
Quite a modest imitation
Of the end scene of the Birds,
Fatherís best drama creation.

The Frogs is excellent as well.
Theyíre playing a German translation,
Right now, on the Berlinís stage,
For royal gratification.

The king likes the play; that shows
A taste for old classics, so to speak.
The old king was much more amused
By modern frogs who croak and creak.

The king likes the play. However,
If the author were still around,
Iíll personally advise him
Not to step on Prussian ground.

For the real Aristophanes,
It would have been a disaster;
Poor chap, weíd soon see him going,
With a chorus of gendarmes after!

The mob would soon insult him,
Instead of wagging its tail.
The police would soon be ordered
To get on his noble trail.

O king! I have your wellbeing at heart,
And there is the advice I give:
Honour the poets, who are dead,
But watch your step with those who live.

Do not offend the living poets,
For the weapons and flames in their possession,
Are deadlier than Joveís lightening,
Which was a poetís invention.

Offend the Gods, both old and new,
Offend the whole Olympian lot,
Plus mighty Jehovah, on top of them,
But the poet, offend him not!

The Gods, it is true, are very hard
On all wrongs that humans do:
The fires of hell are rather hot,
One sits there to braise and stew.

Yet, there are saints whose prayers free
Some sinners from the fires of hell.
And church donations and requiems will
Secure a high intercession as well.

And Christ will descend on the last day
To break open hellís gloomy portal,
And though his judgment may be stern,
He will spare many a mortal.

Yet, there are hells from whose confines
It is not possible to be freed.
No prayers can help, the Redeemerís pardon,
Even that! Will not succeed.

Have you ever heard of Danteís hell,
With its frightful verses and rhyme?
Whoever the poet imprisons there,
No God can ever free on time.

No God, no Saviour can deliver him
From those flames that burn.
Beware! O king and better behave,
For soon may well be your turn!

 

Departure | I | II | III | IV | V | VI | VII | VIII | IX | X | XI | XII | XIII | XIV | XV
XVI | XVII | XVIII | XIX | XX | XXI | XXII | XXIII | XXIV | XXV | XXVI | XXVII