Home  »  Poems of Places An Anthology in 31 Volumes  »  Pictures of Germany

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, ed. Poems of Places: An Anthology in 31 Volumes.
Germany: Vols. XVII–XVIII. 1876–79.


Pictures of Germany

By Heinrich Heine (1797–1856)

(From Germany. A Winter Tale)
Translated by E. A. Bowring

I LEFT Cologne on my onward road

At a quarter to eight precisely;

We got to Hagen at three o’clock,

And there had our dinners nicely.

The table was covered. Here found I all

The old-fashioned German dishes;

All hail, thou savory sour-krout, hail,

The reward of my utmost wishes!

Stuffed chestnuts all in green cabbages dressed!

My food when I was a baby!

All hail, ye native stockfish, ye swim

In the butter as nicely as may be!

One’s native country to each fond heart

Grows ever dearer and dearer,—

Its eggs and bloaters, when nicely browned,

Come home to one’s feelings still nearer.

How the sausages sang in the spluttering fat!

The fieldfares, those very delicious

And roasted angels with apple-sauce,

All warbled a welcome propitious.

“Thou ’rt welcome, countryman,” warbled they,

“Full long hast thou been delaying!

Full long hast thou with foreign birds

In foreign lands been straying!”

Upon the table stood also a goose,

A silent, kind-hearted being;

Perchance she loved me in younger days,

When our tastes were nearer agreeing.

Full of meaning she eyed me, cordial but sad,

And fond, like the rest of her gender;

She surely possessed an excellent soul,

But her flesh was by no means tender.

A boar’s head they also brought in the room,

On a pewter dish, for me to guzzle;

The bores with us are always decked out

With laurel leaves round their muzzle.

ON leaving Hagen the night came on,

And I felt a chilly sensation

Inside. At the inn at Unna I first

Recovered my animation.

A pretty maiden found I there,

Who poured out my punch discreetly;

Like yellow silk were her comely locks,

Her eyes like the moonlight gleamed sweetly.

Her lisping Westphalian accents I heard

With joy, as she uttered them clearly;

The punch with sweet recollections smoked,

I thought of my brethren loved dearly;

The dear Westphalians, with whom I oft drank

At Göttingen, while we were able,

Till we sank in emotion on each other’s necks,

And also sank under the table.

That lovable, worthy, Westphalian race!

I ever have loved it extremely;

A nation so firm, so faithful, so true,

Ne’er given to boasting unseemly.

How proudly they stand, with their lion-like hearts,

In the noble science of fencing!

Their quarts and their tierces, so honestly meant,

With vigorous arm dispensing.

Right well they fight, and right well they drink;

When they give thee their hand so gentle

To strike up a friendship, they needs must weep,

Like oaks turned sentimental.

May Heaven watch over thee, worthy race,

On thy seed shower down benefactions,

Preserve thee from war and empty renown,

From heroes and heroes’ actions!

May it evermore grant to thy excellent sons

An easy examination,

And give thy daughters marriages good,—

So Amen to my invocation!

BEHOLD the wood of Teutoburg,

Described in Tacitus’ pages;

Behold the classical marsh, wherein

Stuck Varus, in past ages.

Here vanquished him the Cheruscian prince,

The noble giant, named Hermann;

’T was in this mire that triumphed first

Our nationality German.

Had Hermann with his light-haired hordes

Not triumphed here over the foeman,

Then German freedom had come to an end,

We had each been turned to a Roman!

Naught but Roman language and manners had now

Our native country ruled over,

In Munich lived Vestals, the Swabians e’en

As Quirites have flourished in clover!


THE WIND was humid, and barren the land,

The chaise floundered on in the mire,

Yet a singing and ringing were filling my ears:

“O Sun, thou accusing fire!”

The burden is this of the olden song

That my nurse so often was singing,—

“O Sun, thou accusing fire!” was then

Like the note of the forest horn ringing.

This song of a murderer tells the tale,

Who lived a life joyous and splendid;

Hung up in the forest at last he was found,

From a gray old willow suspended.

The murderer’s sentence of death was nailed

On the willow’s stem, written entire;

The Vehm-gericht’s avengers’ work ’t was,—

“O Sun, thou accusing fire!”

The Sun was accuser,—’t was he who condemned

The murderer foul, in his ire.

Ottilia had cried, as she gave up the ghost:

“O Sun, thou accusing fire!”

When the song I recall, the remembrance too

Of my dear old nurse never ceases,

I see once more her swarthy face,

With all its wrinkles and creases.

In the district of Münster she was born,

And knew, in all their glory,

Many popular songs and wondrous tales,

And many a wild ghost-story.

How my heart used to beat when the old nurse told how

The king’s daughter, in days now olden,

Sat all alone on the desert heath,

While glistened her tresses so golden.

Her business was to tend the geese

As a goosegirl, and when at nightfall

She drove the geese home again through the gate,

Her tears would in piteous plight fall.

For nailed up on high, above the gate,

She saw a horse’s head o’er her;

The head it was of the dear old horse

Who to foreign countries bore her.

The king’s poor daughter deeply sighed:

“O Falada! hangest thou yonder?”

The horse’s head from above replied:

“Alas, that from home thou didst wander!”

The king’s poor daughter deeply sighed:

“O, would that my mother knew it!”

The horse’s head from above replied:

“Full sorely she would rue it!”

With gasping breath I used to attend

When my nurse, with a voice soft and serious,

Of Barbarossa began to speak,

Our emperor so mysterious.

She assured me that he was not dead, as to think

By learned men we were bidden,

But with his comrades in arms still lived

In a mountain’s recesses safe hidden.

Kyffhäuser is the mountain’s name,

With a cave in its depths benighted;

By lamps its high and vaulted rooms

In ghostly fashion are lighted.

The first of the halls is a stable vast,

Where in glittering harness the stranger

Who enters may see many thousand steeds,

Each standing at his manger.

They all are saddled, and bridled all,

Yet amongst these thousands of creatures,

No single one neighs, no single one stamps,

Like statues of iron their features.

Upon the straw in the second hall

The soldiers are seen in their places;

Many thousand soldiers, a bearded race,

With warlike and insolent faces.

They all are full armed from top to toe,

Yet out of this countless number

Not one of them moves, not one of them stirs,

They all are wrapped in slumber.

In the third of the halls in lofty piles

Swords, spears, and axes are lying,

And armor and helmets of silver and steel,

With old-fashioned firearms vying.

The cannons are few, but yet are enough

To build up a trophy olden.

A standard projects from out of the heap,

Its color is black-red-golden.

In the fourth of the halls the Emperor lives,

For many a century dozing

On a seat made of stone near a table of stone,

His head on his arm reposing.

His beard, which has grown right down to the ground,

Is red as a fiery ocean;

At times his eye to blink may be seen,

And his eyebrows are ever in motion.

But whether he sleeps or whether he thinks,

For the present we cannot discover;

Yet when the proper hour has come,

He ’ll shake himself all over.

His trusty banner he then will seize,

And “To horse! Quick to horse!” shout proudly;

His cavalry straight will awake and spring

From the earth, all rattling loudly.

Each man will forthwith leap on his horse,

Each stamping his hoofs and neighing;

They ’ll ride abroad in the clattering world,

While their trumpets are merrily playing.

Right well they ride, and right well they fight,

No longer they slumber supinely;

In terrible judgment the emperor sits,

To punish the murderers condignly,—

The murderers foul, who murdered erst

Her whose beauty such awe did inspire,

The golden-haired maiden, Germania hight,—

“O Sun, thou accusing fire!”

Full many who deemed themselves safely hid,

And sat in their castles cheerful,

Shall then not escape Barbarossa’s fierce wrath,

And the cord of vengeance fearful.

My old nurse’s tales, how sweetly they ring,

How dear are the thoughts they inspire!

My heart superstitiously shouts with joy:

“O Sun, thou accusing fire!”

A FINE and prickly rain now descends,

Like needle-tops cold, and wetting;

The horses mournfully waggle their tails,

And wade through the mud with sweating.

Upon his horn the postilion blows

The old tune loved so dearly:

“Three horsemen are riding out at the gate,”—

Its memory crosses me clearly.

I sleepy grew, and at length went to sleep,

And as for my dream, this is it:

To the Emperor Barbarossa I

In the wondrous mount paid a visit.

On his stony seat by the table of stone

Like an image no longer I saw him,

Nor had he that very respectable look

With which for the most part they draw him.

He waddled about with me round the halls,

Discoursing with much affection,

Like an antiquarian pointing out

The gems of his precious collection.

In the hall of armor he showed with a club

How the strength of a blow to determine,

And rubbed off the dust from a few of the swords

With his own imperial ermine.

He took in his hand a peacock’s fan,

And cleaned full many a dusty

Old piece of armor, and many a helm,

And many a morion rusty.

The standard he carefully dusted too,

And said, “My greatest pride is,

That not e’en one moth hath eaten the silk,

And not e’en one insect inside is.”

And when we came to the second hall,

Where asleep on the ground were lying

Many thousand armed warriors, the old man said,

Their forms with contentment eying:

“We must take care, while here, not to waken the men,

And make no noise in the gallery;

A hundred years have again passed away,

And to-day I must pay them their salary.”

And see! the emperor softly approached,

While he held in his hand a ducat,

And quietly into the pocket of each

Of the sleeping soldiery stuck it.

And then he remarked with a simpering face,

When I observed him with wonder:

“I give them a ducat apiece as their pay,

At periods a century asunder.”

In the hall wherein the horses were ranged,

And drawn out in rows long and silent,

Together the emperor rubbed his hands,

While his pleasure seemed getting quite violent.

He counted the horses, one by one,

And poked their ribs approving;

He counted and counted, and all the while

His lips were eagerly moving.

“The proper number is not complete,”—

Thus angrily he discourses;

“Of soldiers and weapons I ’ve quite enough,

But still am deficient in horses.

“Horse-jockeys I ’ve sent to every place

In all the world, to supply me,

With the very best horses that they can find,

And now I ’ve a good number by me.

“I only wait till the number ’s complete,

Then, making a regular clearance,

I ’ll free my country, my German folk,

Who trustingly wait my appearance.”

Thus spake the emperor, while I cried:

“Old fellow! seize time as it passes;

Set to work, and hast thou not horses enough,

Then fill up their places with asses.”

Then Barbarossa smiling replied:

“For the battle there need be no hurry;

Rome certainly never was built in one day,

Nothing ’s gained by bustle and flurry.

“Who comes not to-day, to-morrow will come,

The oak’s slow growth might shame us;

Chi va piano va sano wisely says

The Roman proverb famous.”

I WRANGLED in dream with the emperor thus,—

In dream,—I say it advisedly;

In waking hours we never dare talk

To princes so undisguisedly.

The Germans only venture to speak

When asleep, in a dream ideal,

The thoughts that they bear in their faithful hearts,

So German and yet so real.

When I awoke, I was passing a wood,

And the sight of the trees in such numbers,

And their naked wooden reality,

Soon scared away my slumbers.

The oaks with solemnity shook their heads;

The twigs of the birch-trees, in token

Of warning, nodded, and I exclaimed:

“Dear monarch, forgive what I ’ve spoken!

“Forgive, Barbarossa, my headstrong speech,

I know that thou art far wiser

Than I, for impatient by nature I am,—

Yet hasten thy coming, my Kaiser!

“If guillotining contents thee not,

Retain the old plan for the present:

The sword for the nobleman, keeping the rope

For the townsman and vulgar peasant.

“But frequently change the order, and let

The nobles be hanged, beheading

The townsmen and peasants, for God cares alike

For all who life’s pathways are treading.

“Restore again the Criminal Court

That Charles the Fifth invented;

With orders, corporations, and guilds

Let the people again be contented.

“To the sacred old Roman Empire again

In all its integrity yoke us;

Its musty frippery give us once more,

And all its hocus-pocus.

“The Middle Ages, if you like,

The genuine Middle Ages

I ’ll gladly endure, but free us, I pray,

From the nonsense that now all the rage is,—

“From all that mongrel chivalry

That such a nauseous dish is

Of Gothic fancies and modern deceit,

And neither flesh nor fish is.

“The troops of comedians drive away,

And close the theatres sickly,

Wherein they parody former times,—

O emperor, come thou quickly!”

THE TOWN of Minden ’s a fortress strong,

With arms and stores well provided;

But Prussian fortresses, truth to say,

I never have abided.

We got there just as evening fell;

The planks of the drawbridge sadly

Beneath us groaned, as over we rolled,

And the dark moat gaped on us madly.

The lofty bastions on me gazed

With threatening and sulky wonder;

The heavy gate opened with rattling loud,

And closed with a noise like thunder.

Alas! my soul felt as sad as the soul

Of Odysseus, the world-renowned warrior,

When he heard Polyphemus rolling a rock

In front of the cave as a barrier.

A corporal came to the door of the coach

For our names; I replied to this latter act:

“I ’m Nobody called; I an oculist am,

Who couch the giants for cataract!”

At the inn I found my discomfort increase,

My victuals filled me with loathing;

I straight went to bed, but slept not a wink,

So heavy I found the bed-clothing.

The bed was a large, broad feather bed,

Red damask curtains around it,

The canopy wrought with faded gold,

While a dirty tassel crowned it.

Accurséd tassel! of all my repose

It robbed me all night through;

It hung overhead like Damocles’ sword,

And threatened to pierce me right through!

A serpent’s head it often appeared,

And I heard its hissing mysterious:

“In the fortress thou art, and canst not escape,”—

A position especially serious!

“O, would that I were”—I thought with a sigh—

“Of my peaceable home a sharer,

With my own dear wife in Paris once more,

In the Faubourg-Poissonière!”

I felt that a something oftentimes

Was over my forehead stealing,

Just like a censor’s chilly hand,

And all my thoughts congealing.

Gendarmes, in the dresses of corpses concealed,

In white and ghostly confusion

Surrounded my bed, while a rattling of chains

I heard, to swell the illusion.

Alas! the spectres carried me off,

And at length with amazement I found me

Beside a precipitous wall of rocks,

And there they firmly had bound me.

Detestable tassel, so dirty and foul!

Again it appeared before me,

But now in the shape of a vulture with claws

And black wings hovering o’er me.

And now like the well-known eagle it seemed,

And grasped me, and breathing prevented;

It ate the liver out of my breast,

While sadly I groaned and lamented.

Long time I lamented, when crowed the cock,

And the feverish vision faded;

Perspiring in bed at Minden I lay,

To a tassel the bird was degraded.

I travelled with post-horses on,

And free breath presently drew I

On the domain of Bückeburg,

As by my feelings knew I.

O DANTON, great was thy mistake,

And thy error was paid for dearly!

One can carry away one’s fatherland

On the soles of one’s feet pretty nearly.

Of the princely domain of Bückeburg

One half to my boots clung in patches;

In all my life I never have seen

A place that in filth its match is.

At the town of Bückeburg shortly I stopped,

To see the ancestral castle

Whence my grandfather came; my grandmother, though,

Of Hamburg was part and parcel.

I got to Hanover just at noon,

And there had my boots cleaned neatly,

And afterwards went to visit the town;

When I travel, I do it completely.

By Heavens, how spruce the place appeared!

No mud in its streets was lying;

Many handsome buildings there I saw,

In massive splendor vying.

I was mostly charmed by a very large square,

Surrounded by houses superior;

There lives the king, and his palace there stands,

Of a really handsome exterior,—

(The palace I mean.) On each side of the door

A sentry-box had its station;

Redcoats with muskets there kept guard,

Of threatening and wild reputation.

My cicerone said: “Here lives

King Ernest Augustus, a tory

Of the olden school, and a nobleman,

Very sharp, though his hairs are hoary.

“In safety idyllic here he dwells,

For he ’s far more securely protected

By the scanty courage of our dear friends

Than his satellites ever affected.

“I see him sometimes, and then he complains

How very tedious his post is,—

The regal post, of which he here

In Hanover now the boast is.

“Accustomed to a British life,

And plagued by spleen, to cure it

He finds it not easy, and greatly fears

That he cannot much longer endure it.

“’T other day I found him at early morn

By the fireside mournfully bending;

For his dog, who was sick, with his own royal hands

A comforting draught he was blending.”

THEY bit by bit are building again

The hapless half-burnt city;

Like a half-shorn poodle Hamburg now looks,

An object to waken one’s pity.

Full many a street has disappeared

That mournfully one misses,—

Where is the house wherein I kissed

Love’s first delicious kisses?

Where is the printing-house where I

My Reisebilder printed?

The oyster-shop where I oysters gulped down

With appetite unstinted?

The Dreckwall too,—where is it now?

I now should seek it vainly;

Where the Pavilion, where I ate

So many cakes profanely?

Where is the Town-Hall, wherein sat

The senate and burghers stately?

A prey to the flames! The flames spared not

Whatever was holiest lately.

The people still were sighing with grief,

And with most mournful faces

The history sad of the great fire told,

And pointed out all its traces:—

“It burnt in every corner at once,

All was smoke and flames fiercely flashing;

The churches’ towers all blazed on high,

And tumbled in with loud crashing.

“The old Exchange was also burnt,

Where our fathers in every weather

Were wont to assemble for centuries past,

And honestly traded together.

“The bank, the silvery soul of the town,

And the books which have always served us

To note the assets of every man,

Thank Heaven! have been preserved us.

“Thank Heaven! In every land they made

On our behalf large collections;

A capital job,—we got no less

Than eight millions in all directions.

“The money from every country flowed

In our hands, which were far from unwilling,

And plenty of food they also sent,

And we gladly accepted each shilling.

“They sent us clothes and bedding enough,

And bread and meat and soups too;

The King of Prussia, to show his regard,

Would fain have sent us troops too.

“Our losses in property thus were replaced,

A matter of mere valuation;

But then the fright,—our terrible fright

Admits of no compensation!”

I cheeringly said: “My worthy friends,

You should not lament and bawl so!

A far better city than yours was Troy,

And yet it was burnt down also.

“Rebuild your houses as fast as you can,

And dry up every puddle;

Get better engines and better laws,

That are not quite such a muddle.

“Don’t put in your nice mock-turtle soup

So very much Cayenne pepper;

Your carp are not wholesome with so much sauce,

Or when eaten with scales, like a leper.”