Heinrich Heine

Deutschland – A Winter’s Tale


Caput I


In the dismal month of November it was,

The gloomy days grew shorter,

The wind was tugging the last leaves down

As I left for the German border.


And as I came nearer German soil,

I left my heart beat quicker

Within my breast, and I even think

A tear began to trickle.


It did strange things to me when I heard

the German language spoken –

like nothing so much as if my heart

was pleasantly being broken


A little girl was playing the harp

and singing with genuine feeling

and out of tune, but still the song

she sang was most appealing.


She sang of love and sacrifice,

of pain and a tomorrow

when alt shall meet in a better world

beyond this vale of sorrow;


of how all sufferings will be past,

each soul will bask transfigured

in joys eternal, not like here

where pleasures are brief and niggard.


She sang the ancient lullaby

of doing without, of pie-in-

the-sky, that they soothe the people with,

great oaf, when they hear it crying.


I know the tune, I know the words,

I know every single author;

I know they tippled wine on the quiet

while publicly preaching water.


A different song, a better song,

will get the subject straighter:

let's make a heaven on earth, my friends,

instead of waiting till later.


Why shouldn't we be happy on earth,

why should we still go short?

Why should the idle belly consume

what working hands have wrought?


There's bread enough grows here on earth

to feed mankind with ease, and roses

and myrtles, beauty and joy,

and (in the season) peas.


Yes, fresh green peas for everyone

as soon as the pods have burst.

Heaven we’ll leave to the angels, and

the sparrows, who had it first.


And should we find that after death

we've grown some wings, we'll make

a point of calling on you up there

for some blessed tea-and-cake.


A better song, with fiddles and flutes,

to set the people singing!

The miserere is out of date,

the death-knell’s no longer ringing


The maiden Europa is betrothed

to that handsome Genius, Freedom.

They lie in each other's arms embraced,

it warms my heart to see them.


No priest will bless their vows, but the pair

have taken and will fulfil them.

Here's to the bride and here's to the groom,

and to all their future children.


That's wedding enough, and I'll sing my song

to help the solemnising.

Deep in my heart I feel the stars

of consecration rising.


They are stars inspired, they wildly glow,

Dissolving in streams of fire –

I feet I could break an oak, my strength

miraculously grows higher.


Since I set foot on German soil

the magic juices are flowing –

the giant has touched his mother again,

and he feels his powers growing.


London : Translated by T.J. Reed; Angel Books