Germany. A Winter’s Tale

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

Caput III

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

Carolus Magnus lies buried
Under Aachen’s old Dome.
(Don’t mix up with Karl Mayer,
Who has Swabia as his home)

I wouldn’t like to be a buried Kaiser,
Lying in Aachen’s cathedral forever;
I’d much rather live as the littlest poet
In Stuttgart, by the Neckar river.

The Aachen’s street-dogs are so bored,
That, with servility, they’re imploring:
Give us a kick, stranger and perhaps,
Life will not be so boring.

I strolled about in that boring hole,
For an hour, or so, altogether;
I saw the Prussian soldiers once more:
They’re still the same as ever:

Grey coats, with the high blood-red collars
Is still the dress of these henchmen.
( Könner sang in former days:
Red is for the blood of Frenchmen)

They are still that wooden pedantic lot:
With stiff right angles, they pace,
And the same old arrogance
Remains frozen on their face.

And still, they strut about as stiff
As a candle, straight upright,
As if they’d swallowed the stick,
Formerly used to put them right.

Yes, the sticks have never quite disappeared:
Deep inside, old habits still exist:
Inside the new glove of humane ways,
There is still an iron fist.

In truth, the long moustache is just
The pig-tail’s newer phase:
The pig-tail that used to hang behind
Hangs under their nose, nowadays.

I liked the cavalry’s new costume;
To praise it would only be right,
Especially the impressive spike-helmet,
With its point of steel upright.

This is chivalric, reminding
The past, noble and romantic,
The Lady Jane of Montfaucon,
The Barons Fouqué, Uhland and Tieck.

It reminds of pages and noblemen,
Of those fine middle-ages years,
Who carried loyalty in their hearts
And a coat of arms on their rears.

It reminds of crusades and tournaments,
When men were noble-hearted,
Of the age of faith with no print,
Before the first press was started.

Yes, yes, I like this helmet,
It springs from the highest wit!
A royal notion it was indeed:
It has even a point to spike it!

My only fear, in case of storm,
The sky will be drawn by your spike,
And, straight upon your romantic head,
The most modern lightning will strike!

Also, should war ever break out,
A lighter head cover you will need;
For, heavy middle-ages helmets,
Your running from battle may impede.

On Aachen’s post-office coat of arms,
I saw the bird, most detested.
With a most poisonous glare,
His eyes, upon me, rested.

You hateful bird, if it so happens
That you fall in my hands one day,
I will pluck each of your feathers,
And I will chop your claws away.

I’ll set you up, high in the air,
As a target, on a perch, then
I’ll invite for a jolly shooting match
All the Rhineland’s huntsmen.

With sceptre and crown I shall reward
He who the bird’s downfall will bring.
The worthy fellow! A fanfare will blow
And we shall cry: “Long live the King! “


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