Monday, 2 March 2015

Germany, A Winter's Fairy Tale: Caput 1

With apologies to Heinrich Heine (Düsseldorf 1797 - Paris 1856)

A work in progress - a free-translation  using Heine's original German text. 

Chapter 1 

The sad month of November it was,
The days were then dying gloomy,
The wind ripped the leaves from the trees,
When I travelled over to Germany.

And when I came to the border,
I felt the proud beat of my pride
In my chest, I even believe
That tears dropped from my eyes.

And when I heard German being spoken
How suddenly changed was my mood;
I say nothing else, than my heart
Felt the loss of its blood.

A maiden played harp and she sang.
And she sang as she wished
With an unholy sound, and her song
Made me feel feverish.

She sang of love and betrayal,
Of separation and meeting again
Up above in the happier world,
With suffering gone and no pain.

She sang of the misery here upon Earth,
And of pleasures that soon must be missed,
And of  the hereafter, where our souls live
Transforming to eternal bliss.

She sang the old song of the snails
That fall from the heavens, the
Ones that fill up the complaining
Hunger, this is the greatest of wiles.

I know the tale, I know the text,
I also know its chief author,
I know he quaffs wine clandestinely
While publicly preaching for water.

 O friend, I  can write you
 A new song, a better song!
 How we here on Earth
 Shall have our own heavenly kingdom.

We need happiness here on our Earth,
And to be hungry and starving no more;
We should not give more to fat idle stomachs
Of the food that our hands have worked for.

This place shall grow enough bread
And roses for all of humanity,
And the sweetest of peas, not
Too small,  and also laughter and beauty.

Yes, the sweetest of peas for all,
Just as soon as the the pods fill and burst!
The heavens above we can leave
To the angels and birds.

When our wings grow after we die
Then we shall visit on wings
High above, and there we shall dine
On their blessed cakes and fine things.

 A new song, a better song!
 The tunes of the fiddle and flute!
 Our misery soon will be over, and the
 Bells that ring death will be mute.

Europa the maiden is betrothed
To lie together in fond embrace
With the handsome ideal of Freedom,
They now indulge in their first kiss.

And even without a blessing from Rome
The marriage stays valid, no reduction,
And so they shall live - the bridegroom and bride
And all their future children!

My song is an ode to their marriage
The new, the better!
How the stars will raise up my soul,
These highest of consecrators -

Rhapsodic stars, blazing wild and free,
In the flowing and flaming stream -
I feel full of wonder and strengthened,
I could really shatter an oak tree!

Since I stepped onto this German soil
There flows in my veins a magical brew -
The mother has now calmed the giant,
Strength is growing in him anew.

(the end of Caput 1)

. . .  these first drafts to be continued and revised as time permits. More pages will appear in sequence in the chapters  following.


  1. Nothing much has changed then has it?

    Although does anything ever change really. I am re-reading Paul Theroux's Dark Star Safari about his journey from Cairo to Capetown - it is really a very depressing book as you realise that millions of aid to the whole continent has actually made no difference at all.

    1. Pat, you are absolutely right as ever. I started writing this because I couldn't find a good translation to read for myself. It is a powerful work as you will come to see, it builds and builds.

  2. The translation sounds good, Gwilym. Keep going.

    1. George, my thanks for your encouragement! It's much appreciated.


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