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Dialogue of Cultures

Poems and Writings of
Heinrich Heine

Heinrich Heine was known for his caustic and humorous observations on contemporary trends, in philosophy, politics, and the arts. He was a vehement opponent of the Romantic School, who stood up against the prevailing popular opinion and opinion makers of the day, with the power of metaphor and classical poetry. (Check back soon- more to come!)


Young Tom-Cat Club for Poetry-Music
Electoral Asses
The Angel

Other Works by Heine

Excerpt --"On the History of Religion and Philosophy in Germany"

Excerpts discussing Heine"

Helga LaRouche- Exceprt from Speech
to Schiller Institute Conference (2-01)

Complete text of Helga LaRouche Speech--
"Beauty as a Necessary Condition of Mankind"

Lyndon LaRouche exceprt from EIR article
"Will the US Keep Its Sovereignty?" (10-99)

Back to Main Translations of Poetry Page

Excerpt from Heine's Essay:

"On the History of Religion and Philosophy in Germany"
Understanding the nature of doing battle in the realm of ideas, Heine discusses
"Plato versus Aristotle" in this short excerpt from this
1834 essay :

"...Plato and Aristotle! These are not merely two systems, but rather two types of human nature, that stand, since time immemorial, in hostile opposition. Across the entire middle ages, to the greatest degree, and up to the present day, this battle was waged, and this battle is the essential content of Christian church history. Plato and Aristotle are always the issue, though other names may be used. Schwärmerisch, mystical, Platonic natures manifest, from the depths of their souls, the Christian ideas and corresponding symbols. Practical, systematizing, Aristotelean natures build from these ideas and symbols a fixed system, a dogma and a cult. The church ultimately encompasses both natures, which entrench themselves on the one hand in the clergy, and on the other, in the monasteries, and feud without respite."

(translated by Daniel Platt)

Young Tom-Cat Club for Poetry-Music

It is difficult to do justice to Heine's poems, in attempting to translate them into English. They are bristling with word-play; for example, in this poem, the German word "Kater", translated here as "Tom-Cat", can also mean "hangover". Heine creates comical compound words, like "Kuhschwanzhopsasaschleifer", which are impossible to render in English. However, we couldn't resist the subject matter. The reference to "Hungary's greatest pianist" is, of course, to Franz Liszt, and Charenton was a famous French mental institution See also Helga Zepp LaRouche's remarks.

Young Tom-Cat Club for Poetry-Music
translated by Daniel Platt

The Philharmonic Tom-Cat Club
Was on the roof congregating
Tonight -- yet not from sensual lust;
It wasn't for rutting and mating.

It suits no summer-night's wedding-dream,
No love-song with hearts all a-flutter,
This Winter season, this frost and snow,
And frozen was every gutter.

And a spirit altogether new
Had the cat-fraternity captured;
Especially the youth, the young Tom-Cat is
For serious things enraptured.

The old and frivolous folks have breathed
Their last; now a new kind of striving,
A cat-springtime of poetry
Bestirs in Art and Living.

The Philharmonic Tom-Cat Club
Is now, at last, returning
To primitive, artless artistry;
For the savage Naive they are yearning.

They want the music-poetry,
Roulades without a quaver,
Instrumental and vocal poetry,
That is no music, they favor.

They want the rule of Genius now
That oft, perhaps, may bungle,
But yet, in Art, unconsciously,
The superlative tone may jingle.

To Genius they pay homage, that
Never from Nature departed,
They put on no airs about Learning, for
With Learning they never got started.

This is the program of the Tom-Cat club
And full of aspiration
They gave their first Winter concert tonight
In roof-top presentation.

How frightfully did they execute
The mighty, the pompous idea there --
O hang thyself, dear Berlioz,
That thou couldst not manage to be there.

It was a dizzying shivaree,
Like a jig for some bovine sashayers,
Suddenly struck by a cognac-besot
Three dozen-odd bagpipe players.

That was a howling, yowling, as if
In Noah's ark they were raising
Their beastly voices in unison,
The sinners' flood all praising.

O, what a croaking and wailing and snarl,
What a miaowing and howling!
The agéd chimneys all joined in
With snorting church-choraling.

Especially audible was a voice
That sounded both screechy and tired,
Like once the singing of Sontag was,
When her voice had already expired.

A crazy concert! I believe that I heard
A mighty Tedeum sung there,
To hail the triumph, of Reason's demise,
That daring Madness had wrung there.

Perhaps the Tom-Cats assayed, as well,
The opera so stellar,
That Hungary's greatest pianist
Composed for Charenton's dwellers.

At daybreak did the Sabbath end,
It came in the morning quite early,
It caused a pregnant cooking-maid
To be giving birth prematurely.

Her senses were so overwhelmed, that now
Her memory's lost in a dither.
She can't recall, who the father is,
Of the baby, that she delivered.

Was it then Peter? Was it then Paul?
Lise, who made thee maternal?
Then Lise, radiant, smiles and speaks:
O Liszt! Thou Tom-Cat supernal!...

(translated by Daniel Platt)

The body lay upon the bier,
The soul, however, from the sphere
Of earthly turmoil had been snatched,
And off to Heaven was dispatched.
It knocked there at those gates on high,
And spoke these words with a heavy sigh:
“Saint Peter, come and open up!
Life's made me tired enough to drop,
I'd like to relax on a silken throne,
And then, in that celestial zone,
I'll play with cherubs, blind-man's-buff,
And I'll have peace and quiet enough.”

Now shuffling slippers one can hear,
A klinking key-ring drawing near,
And see through a slot in the gate so stout,
Saint Peter's visage peering out.

He says: “We get the vagabonds,
The gypsies, Poles and raggedy-Johns,
The idlers and the Hottentots,
They come alone, and they come in lots,
And want to enter paradise
And all be angels, blest and nice.
Begone! Begone! For gallows-faces
Of your ilk, there are no places
Here, not in these heavenly halls,
For those whose lot to Satan falls.
Away from here! And scoot pell-mell
To the blackest seat of eternal Hell - ”

So growls the greybeard, yet he can't
Continue with his rumbling rant,
He takes a more consoling theme:
“O you poor soul, you do not seem
To be a scoundrel of that kind,
And just today I'm of a mind
To mercifully your wish allow,
Because it is my birthday now -
So name for me the city and state
You come from, and then please relate
If you were married? - Conjugal toil
May oft atone for sins most vile;
To stew in Hell is no married man's fate,
We don't keep him waiting at Heaven's gate.”

The soul responds: “I'm from Berlin,
And Prussia is the land it's in.
There trickles the Spree, and in her beds
They love to soak, the young cadets;
In rain, it floods so pleasantly -
Berlin's a lovely place to be!
I was a private tutor there,
Philosophy was my main fare -
I was married to a canoness,
Yet she could make an awful fuss,
Especially when we had no bread,
That's why I perished and now I'm dead.”

Saint Peter cried: “Oy vey, oy vey!
Philosophy is a bad metier.
And truly, I could never see
Why people learn philosophy.
It's a boring, profitless pursuit,
And it's a godless one to boot;
One lives in hunger and in doubt
'Til finally the devil calls you out.

Your wailing Xanthippe oft would droop
Above the meager water-soup,
And never had a drop of fat
That she could smile in solace at -
But now, poor soul, just be at ease!
Although I'm under strict decrees,
That if a man should ever be
Caught dabbling in philosophy,
Those godless Germans, above all,
I'll curse and scourge them from this hall -
But it's my birthday, like I said,
I won't drive you away. Instead,
Today, I'll open up the gate
Of Heaven, so don't hesitate,
Come quick, inside -
You're safe and sound!
From dawn to dusk, the day around,
You can go strolling anywhere
In Heaven, rambling here and there
In gemstone-studded alleyways.
But know, that here nobody strays
Into philosophy; you see,
You'd compromise me terribly -
If you hear angels sing, employ
A cock-eyed face of transfigured joy,
And should but one archangel sing,
Be rapturously quivering,
And tell him, that great Malibran
Could never sing the way he can -
Applaud whenever you hear the hymn
Of the cherubim and seraphim,
Compare them all with Signor Rubini,
With Mario and Tamburini -
Give them titles, befitting their station,
And don't be stingy with adoration.

With singers, in Heaven as on earth,
Just flatter them for all you're worth -
The Great Conductor here above,
Yes, even he does dearly love
To hear some singer Praise the Lord,
He's glad when, with a mighty chord,
A psalm of praise and glory booms
Through smothering clouds of incense-fumes.

Now, don't forget. When all this adoring
And splendor of Heaven starts to get boring,
Just come to me. We'll play some cards,
I know the games, the whole nine yards,
From Lancer, up to King Pharaoh.
We'll drink, as well — how apropos!
And if the Lord should somehow come
Along, and ask you: Where're you from?
Don't tell Him that you're from Berlin,
Say Munich, or Vienna, then.”


(translated by Daniel Platt)

The midnight hour drew closer on;
In mute repose lay Babylon.

But up in the castle of the king
There's noise, and torches flickering.

Up there in the kingly hall so vast
Belshazzar held his king's repast.

The lackeys sat in a shimmering line,
And emptied their beakers of sparkling wine.

The beakers were klinking, the lackeys were loud,
It did the stiff-necked monarch proud.

The king's cheeks glowed with a fervent shine;
And boldness quickened with the wine,

And by this boldness blindly spurred,
He blasphemed God with a sinful word.

And he boasted and mocked the holy name;
The lackey troop roared its acclaim.

The king called out with a haughty face;
The servant flew and returned apace.

He bore on his head much golden ware;
From Jehovah's temple, plundered there.

And the monarch seized, with outrageous whim,
A holy beaker, filled to the brim.

And he drained it rashly to the drips
And cried aloud with foaming lips:

Jehovah! I scorn Thee from now on -
I am the king of Babylon!

Yet scarcely were the words expressed,
But a secret trembling began in his breast.

No laughter rang out loud and shrill;
The hall became cadaver-still.

Behold! Behold! upon the wall
A thing — a hand — came in the hall;

And wrote in fire upon the wall,
And wrote, and vanished in the pall.

The king just sat there, goggle-eyed,
With knocking knees, pale, terrified.

The lackey troop, by horror bound,
Sat cold and still, without a sound.

Magicians came, yet none at all
Could decipher the flame-script on the wall.

But Belshazzar, that very night
By his own men was killed outright.

The Electoral Asses

Some Scholarly observations by Heine on Politics

translated by Daniel Platt

They'd had enough of freedom now,
The republic of animals clamored
For one single regent with absolute rule,
Of this they were enamored.

Every species assembled itself,
Proceeded with fevered devotion,
Parties were organized, ballots drawn up,
Intrigues were set into motion.

The steering committee for asses was
By the Old-Long-Ears directed,
They had upon each of their heads a cockade,
The Schwarz-Rot-Gold, affected.

A little horse's-party there was,
Yet they did not dare be voting,
They feared the cry of the Old-Long-Ears,
The thought filled them all with foreboding.

As one, however, the candidacy
Of the horses put forth, a bit later,
An Old-Long-Ears in a fury broke in
And cried: Sir, you are a traitor!

You are a traitor! There's not one drop
Of donkey-blood in you, really,
You are no donkey, I almost believe
You were foaled by a Latin filly.

You come from a strain of zebra, perhaps,
Your skin is striped zebräic,
And also the nasal tone of your voice
Sounds somewhat Egyptic-Hebräic.

And were you no foreigner, you would be just
A secular donkey, a cold one,
You don't know the depths of the donkey mystique,
How the tones of its psalter enfold one.

But I have immersed my soul in that
Sweet mystery that surpasses,
I am an ass, and upon my tail
Is every hair an ass's.

I 'm no little Roman, I am no Slav,
I'm a German ass forever,
Just like my fathers, they were so upright,
So unassuming, so clever.

They did not play with gallantry,
They sought no vice nor thriller,
They trotted each day, frisky, faithful and free,
Bearing their sacks to the miller.

The fathers are not dead! The grave
Can only hold the carcass.
They look down upon us from heaven above,
It gives them pleasure to mark us.

Transfigured asses in heaenly light!
We'll follow you forever.
And not a single finger-breadth
From duty's path shall we waver.

And oh, what rapture, to be an ass!
To be born to the Long-Ear classes!
From every rooftop I want to cry:
I come from a line of asses.

The mighty donkey that sired me
Was German, and no other,
And I was suckled on ass's milk
By my German ass of a mother.

I am an ass, and will faithfully
Adhere, like my fathers before me,
To the dear, old asininity,
To the fabled donkey glory.

And as I'm an ass, I advise you to choose
An ass as the king of the land here;
We're founding the mighty donkey-realm,
Where only the asses command here.

We all are asses! Hee-haw, hee-haw!
We'll never be horse's flunkies.
Down with the stallions! Long live, hurrah!
The king from the race of the donkeys!

So spake the patriot. In the hall
Applause rang to the ceiling.
The asses were all nationalists
And stamped their hooves with feeling.

They placed upon the speaker's head
A wreath of oak so timely.
He mutely beamed his gratitude
And wagged his tail sublimely.



The Angel

Translated by Daniel Platt

Maybe I'm a doubting Thomas,
For I don't expect to see
Heaven, which Jerusalem and
Romish teachings promise me.

Yet the presence here of angels
Is one thing I'll never doubt:
That these shining, faultless beings
Here on earth do move about.

Only one thing, gracious lady,
I deny, and that's the wings;
There are many wingless angels,
I myself have seen these things.

Lovely hands, so white and gentle,
Lovely gazes, turned to me,
They give unto Man protection,
Shield him from adversity.

Angel grace and angel favor
Comfort all, especially
Him, who lives with double anguish,
Him, who chose the poet's way.

EXCERPTS from articles referencing Heinrich Heine:

"Will the U.S.A. Keep Its Sovereignty?" ,
an article by Lyndon LaRouche and published in EIR magazine
October 30, 1999

"...Thus, the proof, that the illiterate's naive idea of a straight line as the quickest distance, is false, illustrates the way in which a metaphor (i.e., a contradictory array of evidence) leads to rejecting an old belief, and replacing it by a proven new principle. In art and science, the principle of metaphor always has that same general distinction from inferior, merely deductive methods.

"So, in the Classical poem's closing strophe, an additional, ironical fact is introduced, an ironical contradiction in meaning, which forces the mind of the hearer to rethink the entire area of knowledge and experience which had been recalled to the hearer by the opening strophes of that poem. The solution to such a poetical paradox--such a metaphor--is not finding some symbolic, or other sort of consistency between the conflicting meanings, but to recognize a new principle, higher than any among the mutually conflicting meanings. In Classical poetry, this higher principle, discovered through cognition, rather than through deductive argument, has the same quality of significance as the quality which the greatest modern mathematician, Gauss, and his follower Riemann, attribute to the validatable discovery of a new universal physical principle, a principle then to be included within a multiply-connected domain.

"The set of conflicting meanings posed in the case of the famous Third Act soliloquy from Shakespeare's Hamlet, is among the most celebrated and efficient examples of this same principle of metaphor met in the simpler, early strophic poetry of Goethe, or of Heinrich Heine, Keats, Shelley, and so on. The Robert Schumann setting of anti-Romantic Heine's Dichterliebe, is an illustration of the principle of metaphor as used by Heine, and as set in music by Schumann. The concluding two Heine poems of that series, as set by Schumann, the concluding poem most emphatically, resolve the paradoxes of the preceding series, exposing to the hearer, in a most impassioned way, the folly of all of the Romantic school of artistic composition and performance. In a prose writing to the same effect, Heine explicitly analyzed and denounced the cultivation of Kantian, Faustian Romanticism, then popularized in early Nineteenth-Century Germany.

"So, in physical science, the discovery of a fact which contradicts previously existing scientific belief, leads to the discovery of a validatable new universal physical principle. It is the relived experience of that process, beginning with that contradiction, leading through the validation of the discovered principle, which is the meaning of every later use of the term which refers to that principle. In other words, the unfolding process of discovery of any idea, such as a validated universal physical principle, is the meaning of the name given to that principle...".

Click to read the complete article in EIR Magazine

See Lyndon LaRouche "Metaphor Series" in Fidelio Magazine, beginning Volume I, No.3

EXCERPTS from articles referencing Heinrich Heine:

Schiller Institute- ICLC Conference, February 18, 2001
Keynote Speech by Helga Zepp LaRouche on

The Cult of Ugliness,
or Beauty as A Necessry Condition for Mankind

"...While the Classics, and above all, Schiller, demand that man be greater than his destiny, for the Romantics, destiny is nothing but their unfolding character. Schiller demands that man educate his imperfect emotions, until he can rely on them, that they are in cohesion with Reason. Man, naturally, can have problems, but he is called upon not to indulge in them.

"Heinrich Heine concluded that the similarity between Novalis and Hoffmann consisted in the fact that their poetry was diseases, and that the judgment of their writings was "not so much the business of the critic, but that of a doctor." Goethe wrote in 1827 about Hoffman, that the writings revealed a "sick confusion of a talented person," which revealed the "craziness of a lunatic."

"On the 2nd of April, 1829, Goethe said to Eckermann, that the Classical was the healthy and the Romantic was the sick. Indeed, if one looks at all the novels and ghost stories of the Romantics, one deals more with medical histories than poetry. Heinrich Heine, in The Romantic School, the three books he wrote, dealt the final literary blow to this, coming exactly to the same conclusion. In Book I, he wrote, "If one wants to make a notion about the large pile of poets, who at that time recreated all kinds of poetic styles from the Middle Ages, one had to go to the insane asylum at Clarenton...." (Clarenton was a very famous insane asylum in France.) "I just compared the German Parnasse (the Olympus of the poets), with Claranton."

"Specifically about Novalis and Hoffmann, he wrote in Book II, "The rosy shine in the poetry of Novalis is not the color of health, but that of consumption. And the purple fire in Hoffmann's fantasy pieces, is not the flame of genius, but of fever."

"Goethe also recognized the danger coming from these fantasy products, and he recommended to his readers in the English magazine, "The Foreign Quarterly Review," which characterized especially the works of Hoffmann, as those of an insane man. "We cannot emphasize enough the real content of this article, because which loyal person, concerned for the education of the nation, has not seen with sadness how the pathological works of this suffering man for years affected Germany, and how his strange views have been injected into healthy minds."

"What Goethe and Heine describe here is the catastrophic effect that the Romantics had on the development of the conscience of the population and its mental health. That this fell exactly into the reactionary tendencies of the Holy Alliance, was clearest to Heine, who had a much stronger anti-oligarchical point of view than Goethe. In The Romantic School, he writes: "It is funny enough that exactly this Romantic School produced the best translation of the book Don Quixote, where all its idiocies are mocked in the most delightful way, because this school is caught in the same insanity which also excited the noble man from La Mancha into all his follies, because they wanted also to restore medieval knighthood. They wanted to revive a dead past.... The Romantic School, at that time, went hand in hand with the efforts of the governments and the secret societies. The school swam with the stream of the time, and that stream was flowing back to its own souce..."

FULL TEXT OF Helga Zepp LaRouche Speech to the Schiller Institute Conference

FIDELIO Magazine Articles

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