Duncan Campbell Scott

Addresses‚ Essays‚ and Reviews




[The Character and Work of Heinrich Heine]

 

Mr. President, Ladies, and Gentlemen [:]
The kind indulgence with which this Society listened to what I had to say concerning two great representative German works, Lessing’s Nathan the Wise and Goethe’s Faust, encourages me to attempt a general sketch of the character and the work of a German poet, the greatest, since Goethe, that Germany has produced.  I find my present task much more embarrassing than my former ones.  On each of those occasions I had a single work to deal with.  This time I have to collect my mass of seven closely printed octavo volumes in which Matthew Arnold said, very truly, there is very little to skip; and when I took down these seven volumes to prepare this paper, I found that I had, years ago, scored nearly every paragraph down the margin.  There was an embarrassment [of] riches to confront a poor man having to lecture to ladies and gentlemen sitting in the hardest chairs in Ottawa.  To compress all this wealth into an intelligible synopsis was more than I could hope to do: so I determined to give you, not so much Thomas Cross on Heinrich Heine as Heine himself; to let him tell his own story [in his own words].  For not only does he do this far [and] away more delightfully than anybody else could do it, but he does it with utter candour.  He was a man who could never conceal anything.  He went about, morally and intellectually naked and not ashamed.  What Rousseau said he did and proclaimed with so much bumptiousness, Heine did without either thinking or caring about it or knowing it.  And so I shall collect him with what judgement I can, out of his seven octavo volumes of prose and verse, but chiefly of prose, for I am concerned with the man rather than with the poet.
     Heinrich or Harry Heine was born at Düsseldorf in the Rhine, in 1797, his biographer, Becker says, in 1799 he says himself.  The fact [page 1] that he was present on the occasion gives him little advantage over Becker in deciding the question, and he says, “the principle [sic] thing is that I was born, and on the banks of the Rhine.”  The time of his birth is significant.  A new star had arisen in the political firmament of Europe, which influenced his life far more than any of the stars of heaven.  Napoleon’s first victories in Italy had been won and the coming shame of Germany had been sealed by the Treaty of Campo Formio; and when the boy was still a child, the Rhineland was occupied by the French.  So, like Goethe, he passed his most impressionable years under French influence, an influence which neither of the two great poets ever could or would shake off, and which was of enormous value to the breadth and quality of their culture.  Heine’s early education was received at the Lycée, as it was called during the French occupation of this native town, his teachers being chiefly Roman Catholic clergymen of The Order of Jesus.  That formed the school part of his education.  Another part, perhaps far more powerful in its influence, he received from the seductive warriors and the gay civilians of the then conquering people.  Of both these branches of this early training he has left us screamingly funny accounts.  Hear what he says of his French lessons from the Abbé d’Aulnoi.  “French,” he says,

has its difficulties, and in my case was attended with such quartering of soldiers, such drumming, such apprendre par coeur, and, above all, one must not be a bête allemande.  And there was many a hard word, and I remember as well as if it were yesterday what disagreeable things happened me because of la réligion. At least sixtimes the question was asked me, “Henry, what is the French for der Glaube?” and six times, each time with more tears, I replied: “it is le crédit.”  The seventh time, purple in the face, the raging instructor cried—it is la réligion! and blows rained and all the boys laughed.  Madame, from that day I cannot bear the word ‘réligion’ without my back turning pale with terror and my cheeks red with shame; and to tell the truth, le crédit has been far more useful to me in life than ‘la réligion.’

But this may have been because he gave le crédit much fairer trial than la réligion; and the time came at last when he would have given a great deal of the former for never so little of the latter.
     His other French master was Monsieur Legrand, an old French drummer, who went about his business in a very different fashion.  “He was,” says Heine, [page 2]

a little active figure, with a terrible black moustache, under which the red lips showed themselves defiantly, while the fiery eyes shot this way and that. I, small boy, stuck to him like a burr and helped him to polish his buttons and to pipe-clay his vest—for M. Legrand loved to please—and I went with him to the guardroom and the appelle and the parade, where there was nothing but glitter of arms and delight.  Les jours de fête sont passées.  M. Legrand knew but little German, only such words as “bread,” “kiss,” “honour”; but he made himself well understood on the drum.  If I did not know what liberté meant, he beat the Marseillaise march—and I understood him.  If I did not know what égalité meant, he beat Ça ira, ça ira, ça irales aristocrats à la lanterne!—and I understood him.  If I did not know what bêtise meant, he beat the Dessauer March, which we Germans, so Goethe says, beat in Champagne—and I understood him.  He wanted to explain the word l’Allemagne to me, and he beat that all too simple primitive melody which we hear on market days, played to dancing dogs, namely, dum, dum, dum.  I was angry, but I understood him. “Dum” is German for “stupid.”

     Intercourse with this mobile, audacious people, grown self confident amid victories, could not be without influence on the boy’s development; and we may ascribe to it that great mobility and versatility, that audacious humour, and also that poetic libertinage and wantonness, which appeared so abundantly in this after life.
     Of his Jesuit instructors he always spoke with gratitude.  The year before his death, he wrote—

They gave themselves with devoted kindness to the cultivation of my mind, teaching was the specialty of the Jesuits, and although their desire was to exercise it in the interest of their order, the passion for it, the only human passion left them, often took the upper hand. They forgot their object—the oppression of reason in favour of faith, and instead of turning men again into children, as they intended, they did the contrary, against their will.  The greatest men of the Revolution came forth from the Jesuit schools, and without the discipline of these schools, the great movement of mind had probably been delayed for hundred years.
     Another paragraph from his schooldays I cannot pass over, and I think you will forgive me.  In 1810, when Heine was eleven years old, Napoleon visited Düsseldorf, and Heine saw him.  Hear what he says: [page 3]
But how did I feel when I saw himself, with my own blessed eyes.  Hosannah, the Emperor!      He was in the allée of the court garden, at Düsseldorf, so I forced my way through the gaping crowd.  I thought of the deeds and the battles that Monsieur Legrand had drummed to me, and my heart beat the general march—But I thought at the same time of the public regulation that no man should ride in the alley under pain of five thalers fine.  And the Emperor and his retinue rode midway down the alley.  The trembling trees bowed as he passed, the sunbeams peeped timidly through the green foliage, and, in the blue heaven above, swam visibly a golden star.  The Emperor wore his simple green uniform, and the little historic hat.  He rode a white horse, and it stepped so calmly proud, so sure, so distinguished—had I been crown prince of Prussia at that time, I should have envied that horse.  Negligently, almost hanging, sat the Emperor, one hand holding the bridle high, the other gently patting the horse’s neck.  It was a transparent marble hand, a mighty hand, one of the two hands which had bound the many-headed monster, anarchy, and ordered the duel of the nations; and it gently patted the horse’s neck.  And the face was of the colour we see in Greek and Roman marbles.  The features were nobly cut, like those of the antiques; and on that face was written—thou shalt have none other gods but me.  A smile that warmed and quieted every heart, played about the lips.  And yet all knew that those lips needed but whistle, et la Prusse n’existait plus—those lips needed but whistle, and the whole Holy Roman Empire would dance.  And these lips smiled, and the eye smiled.  It was an eye clear as heaven.  It could read the hearts of men.  It saw swiftly and at once all things of earth, while we others only see them one by one, and then only the coloured shadows of them.  The brow was not so clear.  The ghosts of coming battles abode there, and shadows passed at times over that brow, and these were the creative strengths, the great seven-league boot thoughts, wherewith the Emperor’s spirit strode invisibly over the world.  And I believe any one of those thoughts would have furnished a German author for the rest of his days.
     The Emperor rode quietly down the allée.  No police officer opposed him.  Behind him, proud on foaming steeds and laden with gold and jewels, rode his retinue.  The drums beat, the trumpets flourished.  Close beside me the crazy Alouisins gesticulated and the tipsy Gumpertz bellowed, and the people shouted, thousand-voiced, “Long live the Emperor.

     Heine remained at the Lyceé until the fateful year 1815.  The events he then witnessed confirmed his enthusiasm for the great [page 4] Emperor, whose misfortunes and downfall appealed to his youthful sympathies.  With the fall of Napoleon, the hopes of the continental peoples fell too.  The German princes, one and all, broke the constitutional promises they had made while they wanted their people’s arms to overthrow the “man of the people.”  “The fat Bourbons came waddling back,” Heine says, “with their little stale jokes and their delicate legitimate bon mots, and the old noblesse hopped daintily along with its hungry smile, and behind them came the pious Capuchins with tapers and crosses and church banners.”  Two beautiful poems, written in this and the following year, express his sense of his country’s condition.  They are called “Germany” and “A Dream,” and masterly work they are for a lad of seventeen.  Another poem, “The Grenadiers,” also belongs to this time.  It was set to admirably suitable music by Schumann, and I have heard it several times in concerts in Ottawa
     Years afterwards, Heine wrote very severely of Frederic William and of Prussia for not giving his country a constitution, while at the same time doing ample justice to the virtues of that truly great prince.  There was a certain windmill at Sans Souci, famous from the fact of the miller of the day having successfully gone to law with Frederic the Great about it.  So this windmill became a noted monument of Prussian justice.  “But now,” said Heine, “whenever I see the windmill of Sans Souci, I think not of Prussian justice, but only of Prussian wind.”  But Frederic William was busy, with his great ministers, Stein and Hardenberg, carrying out those reforms he had initiated in the very depths of his country’s abasement, and which, in our own day and under his mighty son, William the Victorious, have resulted in the German Empire of today; and this he could never have done, had his ministers been responsible to those troublesome gentlemen, Tom, Dick and Harry.  He confined their responsibility to himself, and so had them at liberty to serve their country with all their might, instead of wasting their time and strength in keeping those importunate persons in good humour, and resisting, not always successfully, their iniquitous demands.  I could say more about this, but I might soon find myself some 3,000 miles from Heine.
     After two vain attempts to make a banker of him, he was given up to perdition by his father as a good-for-nothing youth, but won over to his views his Uncle Solomon, a wealthy Jewish banker of Hamburg, and, abundantly furnished with means by that generous [page 5] relative, went to the University of Bonn, then newly established.  The tone of that university was high in every respect.  Among the professors were—August Wilhelm Schlegel, the famous critic, translator and leader of the Romantic School of poetry, who gave the Germans their best translation of Shakespeare and who also did so much to introduce the Sanscrit language and literature—Arndt, Ennemsir, Diensterweg.  Among the students were Liebig, Dieffenbach, Hengstenberg, Renter, Simrock, Menzel, and Hagenbach.  Heine was in every way a model student, and a great favorite with Schlegel for whom he has left his admiration on record in three noble sonnets.
     From Bonn he went to Göttingen, where he was speedily rusticated for a breach of the duelling rules.  He never took to Göttingen.  In telling the awful fate which overtook several of the enemies of his idol, Napoleon, he says—“Londonderry cut his throat, Louis 18 rotted on his throne and Professor Saalfeld is still a professor at Göttingen.”  From Göttingen, after a tour in the Hartz, afterwards told in some of the most captivating prose and verse in the world, he went to Berlin to continue his studies.
     Here he came under new influences.  The transition from August Wilhelm Schlegel and the Romantic School of which he was so distinguished an exponent, to the companionship and philosophy of Hegel, was sudden and sharp.  The change, too, from the limitations of student life to the great world of Berlin, was more important still to his development.
     His account of the impressions produced by Hegel’s lectures is quite in his own style.  “I saw,” he says,

how Hegel, with his almost comically earnest face, sat like a brooding hen on the fatal eggs of atheism, and I listened to his cackling—to tell the truth, I seldom understood him, and it was only through later cogitation that I arrived at the sense of his words.  I believe he did not want to be understood, and hence his style, full of clauses, and also his preference for persons who he knew would not understand him.  One fine starlight evening we stood together at the window, and, a 22 year old youth, having first had a good meal and drunk coffee, spoke questioningly of the stars, and called them the dwelling place of the blessed.  But the master growled to himself.  “The stars, hm! hm!  The stars are but a shining leprosy on the heavens.”  “For God’s sake,” cried I, “is there no happy place above, where virtue is rewarded after death?”  But he, looking hard at me with his pale eyes, said cuttingly— [page 6] “So you want to be treated, do you?  For taking care of your sick mother, and for not poisoning your worthy brother?”  I was never enthusiastic about the Hegel philosophy, and there could be no talk of conviction in connection with it.  I was never an abstract thinker, and I accepted its synthesis unproved, because its conclusions flattered my vanity.  I was young and proud, and I liked to hear Hegel say that God was not, as my grandmother said, the dear God residing in Heaven, but that I myself, here on earth was my own dear God.

     He came under other and more humanizing influences in Berlin.  Varnhagen von Ense, soldier, diplomatist, man of letters, the friend of Stein and Hardenberg, took him in hand with much kindness, as did also his clever Jewish wife Rachel.  Her beautiful sister became his muse for a while, though never to the exclusion of his first love, Evelina von Guildorn, whose memory pervades his early poems, an ever-living sweet and melancholy interest.  He was made free, too, of the salon of Elise von Hohenhausen, the noble poetess, then busy with her translations of Byron, who thought her young friend might prove a worthy successor of the English poet in Germany.
     To audiences like these, Heine would read his poems over a cup of tea.  He was at this time about twenty three, small and slight, fair and pale, without any very distinguishing feature of countenance, but of a peculiar stamp which attracted attention and was not easily forgotten.  His disposition was still very gentle; the stings of sarcasm yet undeveloped.  This period was one of the most productive of his life, and we owe to it most of those matchless songs known, alas, to English singers mainly by the cruel attempts at translation sold in the music shops.  The first volume of Poems by Heinrich Heine appeared in 1822.
     But he did not confine himself to the lofty society of the salons.  He became known in the winerooms where met the last remnant of the wild society of Ludwig Devrient, and debated with these hot-headed young malcontents, questions of reform, social, political, religious, the total reconstruction of existing relations, the ideas of a new religion which should at long last guide human life into the right track.  He remained in Berlin until 1825, busy with poetry, journalism and society, and then went to Heitigenstadt, where he was baptized in the evangelical church.  He has been ferociously attacked for this professional Christianity, for such it was.  Baptism was a ceremony a Jew had to undergo before being admitted to the bar, just as in England, in the days of the Test Act, dissenters had to [page 7] take the sacrament in the church of England before being admitted to public employment; and conscientious clergymen used to prepare two tables, one for real communicants and the other for people who made the symbols of attaining grace an office-key, a picklock to a place.  Speaking of this matter thirty years later, he says, “as Henri 4 once said ‘Paris vaut bien une messe.’  I could very well say ‘Berlin vaut bien un prîche.’”  And he describes the Christianity set before him as not very hard to take—“very enlightened, filtered from all superstition.”  Nor did his Judaism at that time trouble him very much.  “My forefathers,” he said,


belonged to the Jewish race.  I was never proud of this origin.  This people, pernicious from the beginning, came from Egypt, the fatherland of crocodiles and priesthoods and besides the skin diseases and the stolen gold and silver vessels, they brought with them a so-called positive religion, a church, a scaffold-work of dogmas which must be believed, and sacred ceremonies which must be performed; a type of all subsequent state religions.  There arose the everlasting abuse of human nature, the proselytizing, the coercion of belief, all the sacred horrors which have cost the children of man so much blood and tears.  Oh, this Egypt!  Its works bid defiance to time, its pyramids stand immovable, its memories are indestructible as ever.  And even so indestructible is that mummied race which wanders over the earth, wound in its old bandages of the letter, a petrified piece of world history.
     During the three years or so of his residence in Berlin, he had published his tragedies of “Almansor” and “Ratcliff,” the Book of Songs, the “Lyrical Intermezzo,” the “Return Home,” the “Twilight of The Gods,” and that simple and touching piece of consummate art, the “Pilgrimage to Kevlaar.”  His fame was now such that, had he died at this period of his career, his memory would have been one of unalloyed sweetness.  “In most of Heine’s productions,” said his friend and brother poet Immermann, “there throbs a rich vein of life, he has that which, to a poet, is first and last, heart and soul and an inner history.  He had felt and lived his poems.  He is a real youth, and that is much, now that men come in the world gray-beard.”  And yet it was at this time that old Goethe said to Eckermann—

It is not to be denied that he has many brilliant qualities, but he has not love.  He loves  his readers just as little as his fellow poets and himself, and so we must apply to him the words of the apostle: “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not love, I am [page 8] become as sounding brass and as a clanging cymbal.”  I have just been reading poems of his, and his rich talent is not to be mistaken.  But, as I have said, he has not love, and he will never produce the results he otherwise must have done.  He will be feared, and will be the idol of those who would like to be negative as he is, but who have not the talent.

     Heine’s songs and sonnets at this time gave evidence of plenty of love; of love for his mother, for nature, for his country, for the girl who never returned his love, and who long remained such a shadow over his life.  But Goethe had detected the germs of that fatal irony and satire which, as years went on, rapidly possessed his whole being, and made an absolute slave of him, and impelled him to so much that was cruel, contemptible and ungrateful, as we shall see.  How fatal the tyranny of satire is, both to love and to all else that is good, Goethe well knew.  In all his own “forty volumes of musical wisdom,” there is little of it save in the mouth of Satan.  Poor Faust revolts from the infernal companion who turns the spirit’s gifts to nothing with a breath.  Heine, alas, was his own Mephisto.
     In his admirable essay on Heine, the late Dr. Matthew Arnold tells us that it was upon him that the largest portion of Goethe’s mantle fell.  And in the main their object was the same.  Both were soldiers in the war of the liberation of humanity.  Totally different as they were in character and in method, they were bent on the same great purpose.  But how differently they went to work.  An evolutionist before Darwin, Goethe worked as he saw Nature work.  He set in motion forces slow, ceaseless, unhasting, unresting, certain.  His work is like the leaven hid in the meal, like the grain of mustard seed growing to be the tree in which all the fowls of the air find shelter.  He never set himself in open opposition to the state of things about him.  He did his great work quietly, and remained throughout his life a man of the world, a courtier, a prime minister.  He knew as well as Molière knew, that

C’est une fòlie, à nulle autre seconde
Que vouloir se mêler de corriger le monde.
He knew better than to break his knuckles upon the brazen face of the great image.  He turned the stream of his powers on the feet of clay.  He hated alike the Reformation and the Revolution.  Both, he [page 9] said, “forced quiet culture backward.”  His was the grand patience of nature, the mighty meekness that shall inherit the earth.  His mantle fell not upon Heine nor upon any individual.  It is slowly descending upon all mankind.  Heine certainly never dreamed of inheriting it.  How thoroughly he knew the distance which lay between himself and Goethe appears in his account of their first interview.  “His appearance,” says Heine,
was significant of the living word of his writings.  Harmonious, clear, joyous, nobly formed, you might study Greek art upon him as upon an antique.  That grand body was never bent in Christian worm-humility, the features of that countenance were never marred by Christian contrition.  Those eyes had no sinner-timidity, no mock-devotional turning to heaven, no agitation.  No, those eyes were calm as the eyes of a God.  It is the distinguishing mark of the Gods that their eyes are unmoving.  So, when Agin, Varuna, Yama and Indra took the form of Nala at the wedding of Damayanti, she knew her beloved by the winking of his eyes, because the eyes of Gods are always unmoved.  Napoleon’s eyes had this peculiarity, so I am convinced he was a God.  Goethe’s eyes remained to the last as divine as in the his youth.  Time covered his head with snow, but never bent it.  He always bore it high and proud, and when he spoke, he grew greater and greater; and when he stretched his hand, it seemed as though he would show the stars in heaven the way they should go.  People think they saw a cold look of egoism about his mouth, but this also is a peculiarity of the Gods, and especially of the father of the Gods, the great Jupiter, to whom I have already compared him.  Truly, when I visited him at Weimar, I looked involuntarily for the eagle with the lightnings in his beak.  I was on the point of speaking Greek to him, but I saw that he understood German, so I told him, in German, that the plums along the road between Jena and Weimar were very good.  I had thought so many a long winter night what deep and sublime things I would say to Goethe if ever I saw him, and when at last I did see him, I told him that the Saxon plums were very good.  And Goethe smiled.  He smiled with the same lips that had kissed the fair Leda, Europa, Danaë, besides so many nymphs of lower degree.

     In presence of this mighty figure, what a contrast Heine presents.  Small, slender and fair, weakly in constitution and suffering much from neuralgia, constantly flushing red without apparent cause.  His mode of warfare too differed as much as did his person and constitution from that of the master of Germany.  He had no patience to await the slow results of Goethe’s tactics.  He went about [page 10] the liberation of humanity somewhat on the maxim of Donnybrook Fair—“wherever you see a head, hit it.”  He care not what antagonism he provoked, nor ever thought how far that antagonism might defeat or delay the objects he had at heart.
     In 1826 appeared the first volume of the Reisebilder or Pictures of Travel, a bewilderingly rich collection of gems in prose and verse, the great work of his fresh youth, before satire and irony had quite possessed him, while he still looked on the world from his unspoiled poet’s heart.  We read in the Koran of the angel Israfel, whose heartstrings are a lute; and in the Reisebilder we feel that we are in the company of some such tuneful being, in whose heart all things make music.  But there are other things than music in this book, or perhaps I should say, the music holds much in sweet solution.  The poison of free and sometimes revolutionary thought was in that sweet music, and even gray diplomacy, in the person of Prince Metternich, swallowed it rapturously, though not able to ignore it.  The volume broke upon the oppressive air of the Restoration period like a fresh mountain breeze, like a burst of defiant laughter.  Heine had dared to look upon the world as it was, to castigate the bare spots of society, to probe politics in its sore places.
     It is in this volume that we find that strange poem, long afterwards used by the late great dean of Westminster to illustrate his views on the doctrine of the Trinity.  The poet is sitting in the cottage of a poor miner in the Hartz Mountains.  The father and mother are asleep in the adjoining room, and their little daughter sits prattling to him about their humble affairs, and the little elves that steal their bread and balm, and the tales of those legendary hills.  At last, suspecting something unorthodox about him, she asks if he believes in God the Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

     My child, while yet a little boy sitting in my mother’s knee, I believed in God the Father, who rules up yonder in Heaven, good and great;
     Who created the beautiful earth, and the beautiful men and women thereon, who ordained for sun, moon and stars their courses.
     When I grew bigger, my child, I comprehended yet a great deal more; and I grew intelligent and believed on the Son also;
     On the beloved Son, who loved us, and revealed love to us; and for his reward, as always happens, was crucified by the people. [page 11]
     Now, when I am grown up, have read much, have travelled much, my heart swells within me, and with my whole heart I believe in the Holy Ghost.
     The greatest miracles were of his working, and still greater miracles doth he even now work.  He bursts in sunder the oppressor’s stronghold, he bursts in sunder the bondman’s yoke.
     He heals old death-wounds, and renews the old right; before him all mankind are one race of noble equals.
     He chases away the evil clouds and the dark cobwebs of the brain, which have spoiled love and joy for us, which day and night have loured upon us.
     A thousand knights, well harnessed, has the Holy Ghost chosen to fulfill his will, and has put courage into their souls.
     Their good swords flash, their bright banners wave.  What!  Thou wouldst give much, my child, to look upon such gallant knights!
     Well, on me, my child, look!  Kiss me and look boldly on me! Such a knight of the Holy Ghost am I.

     As scenes change quickly before the eye of the traveler, so do the pictures of the Reisebilder.  A few pages after the poem I have just read, we come upon the Hartz legend of the Ilse.  The Ilse is a lovely little stream tumbling and sporting down the mountain, Ilsenstein.  The story goes that once upon a time an enchanted castle stood upon the mountain, where dwelt the lovely Princess Ilse, who still bathes in the stream every morning, and whoever is so fortunate as to be there at the right time, is taken to her castle, which is now under the mountains instead of upon it, and royally entertained.  Such good luck once befell the old Saxon Emperor Henry, as the following little poem tells:

I am the Princess Ilse,
     And dwell in Ilsenstein;
Come with me to my castle,
     Thou shalt be blest—and mine!

With ever-flowing fountains
     I’ll cool thy weary brow,
Thou’lt lose amid their rippling
     The cares which grieve thee now. [page 12]

In my white arms reposing,
     And on my snow-white breast,
Thou’lt dream of old, old legends,
     And sink in joy to rest.

I’ll kiss thee and caress thee,
     As in the ancient day
I kissed the Emperor Henry,
     Who long has passed away.

The dead are dead and silent,
     Only the living love;
And I am fair and blooming,
     —Dost feel my wild heart move?

And as my heart is beating,
     My crystal castle rings,
Where many a knight and lady
     In merry measure springs.

Silk trains are softly rustling,
     Spurs ring from night to morn,
And dwarfs are gaily drumming,
     And blow the golden horn.

As round the Emperor Henry,
     My arms round thee shall fall;
I held his ears—he heard not
     The trumpet’s warning call.

     And here is a paragraph concerning great men—


Many great men have trod this earth; here and there we see the shining tracks of their footsteps, and in holy hours they step, like forms of mist, before our souls.  But a great man sees his predecessors much more clearly.  From single sparks of their earthly track of light, he knows their inmost working; from a single word he sees the recesses of their hearts.  And thus, in a mythic company, live the great ones of all times.  Across the ages they nod to each other with looks full of meaning, and their glances meet over the graves of vanished generations between them, and they know each other and love each other.  But for us little ones, who cannot cultivate such intimacy with the great ones of the past, it is of the highest value to know just so much [page 13] about one great man as to enable us to receive him in lifelike clearness into our souls, and so to widen our souls.

     And concerning Goethe.  Two youths were disputing in his presence as to the relative greatness of Schiller and Goethe, and a lady who was present said to Heine—“Herr Doctor, what do you think of Goethe?”  “But I,” says Heine,


Crossed my arms on my breast, bowed my head like a true believer and said—“La illah il allah, wamohammed rasul allah!”
     The lady had, without knowing it, asked the most cunning of all possible questions.  Once cannot ask a man straight out—“What do you think of heaven and earth?  Are you a rational creature or not?”  But these delicate questions are included in the unobjectionable words—“What do you think of Goethe?”

     And hear how he describes a picture he saw at Lucca.  The subject is the alabaster box of ointment:


Christ sits there, in the midst of His disciples, a beauteous, intellectual God.  With human sadness, He feels a shuddering piety towards His own body, soon to suffer so much, and which the ointment of love, the due of the dead, already becomes.  He smiles, deeply touched, upon the kneeling woman who impelled by prophetic tenderness, performed that act of love which will never be forgotten so long as there are suffering men and women.  Except the disciple who lay on Jesus’ bosom, and who chronicled the deed, none of the apostles seems to feel its significance and he of the red beard appears to be in the act of asking why the ointment was not sold for 300 pence and given to the poor.  This economic apostle is the same who carried the bag, and the habit of handling money has blunted him to all the unselfish nard-perfumes of love.  He wanted to get pence for it for a utilitarian purpose—and he it was—he the penny-grubber, who betrayed the saviour for thirty pieces of silver.  So the Gospel has, symbolically, in the story of this banker among the apostles, revealed the dismal temptation lurking in the money bag, and warned us against the faithlessness of money-broking people.  Every rich man is a Judas Iscariot.
Towards the close of the Reisebilder is a passage in which Heine indicates what he conceived to be his mission: “A new race,” he says,
will blossom forth, born of unfettered unions, and with free birth, free thoughts and feelings will come into the world whereof we, slaves by [page 14] birth, have no conception. Oh, and they will have just as little conception how fearful was the night in whose darkness we had to live, and how cruel our fight with hideous spectres, musty owls and sanctimonious sinners.  Oh, we poor fighters, wearing away our lives in fights like these, and growing weary and pale before the day of victory dawns.  The glow of the sunrise will not redden our cheeks nor warm our hearts.  We shall fade away first, like the vanishing moon.
     I really know not whether I deserve that my coffin be adorned with a laurel wreath. Poesy, however I have loved her, was to me only a holy plaything or a consecrated means to heavenly ends.  I never set great store upon the poet’s fame, and whether they praise or blame my songs troubles me little.  But a sword shall ye lay in my coffin, for I was a brave soldier in the war of the liberation of humanity.
     Although he uses the past tense here, like one speaking at the close of life, his career as a soldier in the war of the liberation of humanity was still mostly before him.  He was not yet thirty years old, and most of his battles in that good war were yet to be fought.  And what was his special enemy in the warfare before him?  Goethe had said to the Germans long before—“It is Blücher’s business to deliver you from the French, I deliver you from—the Philistines.”  Heine continued the fight with the same stubborn foe, the dogged, persistent, dull, respectable haters of free and original thought in every form; the people who looked upon an idea with suspicion with terror, with fury; the excellent folk known then in Germany, now over all the earth, as “Philistines.”
     
The Reisebilder closed the youthful period of Heine’s poetic activity, the period to which we owe that multitude of sweet songs now sung over the whole civilized world.  These had soon fairly overrun the Fatherland, and nearly every composer in Germany was ambitious to appropriate them and fit them with worthy music and what should we do now without gems of song like Mendelssohn’s duet, “I would that my love,” that dreamy melody by the same wonderful tone-poet, by which we are carried away to the land of the lotus “on wings of song,” and all those moving, irresistibly captivating strains of Schubert and Schumann?  But Heine’s songs needed not this matchless setting.  Recite them to yourself, and you will find music in them that will go with you to your dying day, that will never fail you in the sweet and comforting duty of poesy, which, says Goethe, is known in that it is a secular Gospel, able to free us from the earthly burdens that weigh upon us. [page 15]
     Heine remained in Hamburg and Berlin until 1831, engaged very much in journalism.  The sallies of the Reisebilder had not escaped the lynx-eyed authorities, and the keen and skillful thrusts of the “Political annals” under his editorship rendered his residence in Germany uncomfortably dangerous.  He had heard very disagreeable things about the inside of the famous fortress-prison of Spandau and he knew that, even should he never inhabit that grim abode, his further literary usefulness, under the Prussian censor, was out of the question.  So he looked about, mentally, for the best place of exile.  He had been in England already, and he abhorred it as the chosen land of the latter day Philistines.  He had not been in America, but he loathed the very thought of it.  And he was not far wrong in his estimate of England at that time, sixty years ago.  “The born lover of ideas,” said Matthew Arnold,
The born hater of commonplaces, must feel in this country that the sky over his head is of brass and iron.  How true this used to be, I remember well.  Before I was sixteen years old I knew all about that social tyranny, that bondage of thought, denounced by Mill in his noble little book on liberty.  Long afterwards, when I read that book, it seemed to have nothing new to tell me.  Mephistopheles said of law that it is in no age suited to the wants of that age, but comes down, like an inherited disease, from some age to which it may have been suited.  But in England this used to apply not only to law, but to pretty well everything else, including people’s thoughts.  You must not be caught thinking for yourself, you must think like other people, or, if you don’t, say nothing about it.  Nobody must move until everybody else is ready.  I remember the time when Englishmen began to think it would be nice to have beards and moustaches.  It might have been thought that all they needed to do was stop shaving.  Not at all. Brown would rather have cut his throat than not cut his beard, until he felt quite assured that Jones and Robinson thought it right to have beards too.  So they wrote about the “beard movement” in the newspapers for a couple of years, and finally, when the time was ripe, the stubble appeared on every chin at the same time, and all the beards arrived at maturity in or about the same day.  I remember how very odd the English language sounded coming out from under a moustache.

     This principle of moving all together has, however, done excellent service in English politics.  It has ensured a kind of unscientific carrying out of the doctrine of the survival of the fittest.  Heine himself said that if you talk to the stupidest Englishman about politics [page 16] you are sure to hear something sensible; and the Englishman being nothing if not political, and having got on so well in politics without anything like a free play of the mind, so much better than other people who have it, is naturally disposed to hate and fear our free play of the mind, as a dangerous thing all round.  Hence Matthew Arnold called the British constitution a “grand machine for the manufacture of Philistines.”  But hence, too, he said—“There is balm in Philistia as well as in Gilead.”
     The question of his place of exile, if indeed there had ever been any doubt about it, was settled by the outbreak of the French Revolution of 1830.  He was in the Island of Heligoland when the news reached him.  By the way, I hope the English governor of that bit of rock read what Heine said about him.  If we may believe Heine’s account of his own behaviour in hearing the news, he must have behaved like a lunatic.  “I ran about the house like a madman,” he says,

and kissed first the fat landlady and then her good natured Seewolf, and then I embraced the Prussian Justiz-Commissorius.  I even pressed my friend the Hollander to my heart, but his indifferent fat face remained cool and placid, and I believe that if the July sun in person had fallen upon his neck, he would, at most, have broken out into a mild perspiration.  The tidings were sunbeams wrapped in printer’s paper, and they inflamed my soul to the wildest confla-gration.  I could have set the sea on fire to the north pole with the enthusiasm and mad joy that blazed within me.

     I have already contrasted Goethe with Heine.  Hear how Goethe received the news of this same July revolution:
     
“The news of the revolution first began in Paris,” says Eckermann,


arrived at Weimar today, and put everybody into excitement.  In the course of the afternoon I went to see Goethe.  “Well,” he cried in seeing me, “what do you think of this great event?  The volcano has broken out at last, everything is in flames, and the affair can no longer be treated with closed doors.”
     “Terrible affair,” I replied; “but what could be expected but to see the royal branch expelled?”
     “My dear friend,” said Goethe, “it seems we don’t understand each other.  I’m not speaking of those people.  I’m concerned with quite other things.  I mean the public manifestation in the Academy, that [page 17] discussion, so important to science, between Cuvier and Geoffry St. Hiliare.”

     And which was right?  Nine years later, Heine wrote—


Not for itself, from time immemorial, not for itself has the people bled and suffered, but for others.  In July, 1830, it won the victory for that bourgeoisie that was worth just as little as the noblesse it replaced, just as selfish.  The people gained nothing by its victory but repentance and harder times.

     On receiving the news, Heine left the island in an open boat, in the teeth of wind and weather, so seasick that he imagined himself the whale that swallowed Jonah.  He had to remain in Hamburg until the end of May in the following year, when he left Germany for good and settled in Paris.  He describes his arrival:


The sky was so blue and the very air so amiable, so generous, and the beams of the July sun still glimmered here and there, the cheeks of the fair Lutetia were still red from the flame-kisses of that sun, and the bridal wreath upon her breast not quite faded at the street corners, liberté, égalité, fraternité had indeed been partly rubbed out…My soul, poor sensitive thing, which had shriveled up before the rudeness of the Fatherland, opened again to the flattering tones of French urbanity.  God gave us tongues that we might say something pleasant to our fellow men.
     My French was halted a little at first, but after half an hour’s conversation with a little flower girl in the Passage de l’opéra, that language which had been rusting since the battle of Waterloo, grew quite fluent.  I stumbled into it again through the gallantest conjugations, and explained to the little girl the Linnean system in which flowers are classified by their stamena.  She followed another method, and divided them into those that smelt nicely and those that smelt nastily.  I believed she observed the same classification as to mankind.

     For the next seventeen years his life was one of ceaseless activity.  In the salons of the Rothschilds, of the venerable “Lafayette aux cheveux blancs,” of George Sand, he met the most distinguished men of France, in politics, literature and art; Thiers, Guizot, Casimir Perier, Lamartine, Chateaubriand, Balzac, Dumas, Scribe, Hugo, Ary Scheffer, Chopin, George Sand, Louis Blanc.  From this brilliant assemblage, one figure is strangely absent; a sweet singer like [page 18] himself, all aglow for liberty, living in Paris at the same time as Heine, staying in Paris almost at the same time, forever occupying the attention of the authorities and the people, I cannot discover that Béranger and Heine ever met.  Alike in genius, and with kindred aims, what kept two such poets apart?  I cannot imagine.
     He was at once quite in his element in this bright and stirring environment, and also in the ways of the Quartier Latin.  He had not been long in Paris when he married Mlle Crescence Mathilde Mirat, “a pretty brunette with brilliant eyes sparkling with intelligence,” as his friend Lesrald describes her.  His lifelong friend Meissner says of her—


Mathilde’s disposition was the most naïve that could be imagined.  To prattle to her parrot or with Pauline, her campanion, to drive in the Champs Elysées and then tell what she had seen, that is her life.  She fetters him with her innocent chatter, her always cheerful temper, and her excellent heart.  “She is a child, a perfect child,” he used to say, and he was right.  I believe the poet loved his Mathilde better than anything on earth.  He liked to deck her with the prettiest things to be had in Paris.  He sent her out to drive, and to theatres and concerts, smiled whenever she came into his presence, and never had any but caressing words for her.  She never took any interest in his work.  He would laugh and say she never read a line he wrote.  To her he was not the great poet the world acknowledged him to be, he was just what the world said he was not—the best and most upright of men.  The lively Frenchwoman often told me, with tears in her eyes, little traits of her Heine, touching proofs of the rare goodness of his heart.

     The objects of his journalistic activity in Paris he tells us in the preface to his Französische.  “When we can make the people understand the present,” he says,


the natives will no longer suffer themselves to be hunted into hatreds and wars by the hired scribes of aristocracy.  The great union of the peoples, the holy alliance of the nations, will be accomplished.  We shall not need, from mutual distrust, to fit standing armies of many hundred thousand murderers, we shall use their swords and horses to plough with, we shall attain peace and well-being and freedom.  To this activity my life is devoted.  This is my work.

Here is the real beginning of his war for the liberation of humanity. [page 19]
     He now appears as a politician, though by no means in any common sense of the word, and assumed at once the peculiar attitude which he preserved through life.  He abhorred alike both republicanism and aristocracy, as those words are commonly understood, but longed eagerly for them both in the true etymological sense, the res publica and the rule or government of the best.  As a poet especially, constitutional monarchy was his ideal, but not monarchy without the real monarch.  He thought Shakespeare happy in having lived in the “sounding times of Great Elizabeth,” while the throne was still bright with the last rags of departing chivalry, while Protestantism had not yet possessed the people’s thoughts and feelings, while the puritans had not yet uprooted the old religion, flower after flower, and cast their empty gloom over all the land, which like a gray mist, dissolved at last into a chilling, dismal pietism.  “The kings are going,” he says, “and with them the poets” …. And elsewhere, “with the blood of Charles the First, the great, true, last king, flowed likewise all poetry out of the veins of England.”
     Government by the people he regarded with all the dismay of a sensible man, and with the additional dismay of a sensitive poet.  Government for the people by all means; but government by the people?  You might as well talk about astronomy by the people, or law, physic and divinity by the people.  “We will gladly sacrifice ourselves for the people,” he says,


the emancipation of the people was the great problem of our life, and we have wrestled for it and borne nameless misery for it.  But the poet especially feels an uncomfortable shudder at the accession of this clumsy sovereign.  Oh, the people! This poor king in rags has found flatterers more shameless than the courtiers of Byzantium or Versailles.  These court lackeys of the people are forever praising his excellencies and crying “How beautiful is the people!  How good is the people!  How intelligent is the people!”  No, ye lie!  The poor people is not beautiful, but very ugly. The people is not good at all, but often as bad as other potentates.  Nor is His Majesty the people very intelligent.  He is nearly as beastly stupid as his favourites.  He bestows love and confidence in him who speaks or howls the jargon of his passion, and hates the true man who speaks the language of reason to him, to enlighten and to ennoble him.  So it is in Paris, so it was in Jerusalem.  Give the people the choice between the justest of the just and the most horrible criminal, and be sure it will cry—“We will have Barabbas.” [page 20]

     “We must educate our masters,” said Lord Sherbrooke.  Heine thought it desirable that the education should precede the mastership.  How right he was I am willing to leave to the judgement of any one who has had the opportunity of observing the unholy companionship between votes and villainy which appears at every turn in countries cursed with a low and ignorant electorate.
     Holding views like these, thoroughly liberal in his desire for the good of the people, and at the same time demanding the presence and the personal supervision of the monarch to preserve reverence for government and to check political corruption, he could of course find no party at all to his mind; so he set to work to belabour them all round with perfect impartiality and of course made enemies everywhere.  A man of his insight must find it hard to take a side, and if a man cannot do that in this world, he is likely to have a hard time.  Heine was charged with halting between the ancient misère and the progressive views of the day.  The truth was that he recognized two facts: first, that it is far easier to do away with a good thing than to restore it; second, that it is easier to introduce a bad thing than to get rid of it.  It is usually said that his political writings are of no practical value.  They seem to me to be full of valuable suggestion, and whoever would study the history of France under Louis Phillippe will find rich material in Heine’s captivating and brilliant portrayal of persons and events.
     In 1835 he published his Contributions to the history of religion and philosophy in Germany.  Those German critics who complain of the inadequacy of this admirable treatise, cannot surely have read its opening pages, in which its scope and its objects are indicated.  Frenchmen in that time knew little or nothing of the transcendent lords of thought of Germany and Heine’s object was merely introductory.  He never called himself a philosopher.  It would be impossible to conceive anything better adapted to his purpose than these delightful hundred pages.  His artistic sense, his clear poet’s eye, are everywhere to be traced, seizing the most interesting figures and bringing them clearly and in most attractive guise into the presence of his public.  He made little attempt to follow the processes of thought, or to measure the breadth or sound the depth of German philosophy, but he told Frenchmen much, very much, concerning individual teachers and their results; and well had it been for them, 35 years later, had they laid to heart his concluding words.  After setting before them the wealth of German thought, he says: [page 21]

The thought precedes the deed, as the lightning the thunder….As upon the steps of an amphitheatre will the nations stand around Germany to behold the great tourney.  I counsel you, ye Frenchmen, keep very quiet then.  We might mistake you, and order you to rest rather roughly, in our own rude way; and if we sometimes got the better of you in our former slavish state, what shall we do in the intoxication of free life?  Ye know yourselves what man can do then, and ye are no longer in that state.  Beware, ye have more to fear from liberated Germany than from the whole holy alliance with all its Croats and Cossacks, for they do not love you in Germany, which is almost incomprehensible seeing you are so amiable, and that, during your presence there, you took such pains to please the better and fairer half of the people.  And if this half did love you, it is the half that does not bear arms, and whose friendship would not help you much.  What they have against you I could never comprehend.  Once, in a beer cellar at Göttingen, a young old-school German insisted that we must take vengeance on the French for Conradin Von Stauffen whom they beheaded at Naples.  You forgot that long ago.  But we forget nothing.  You see, if we once take a fancy to come to close quarters with you, we shall not want for suitable grounds.  At any rate I counsel you to be on your guard.  No matter what may happen in Germany, whether the Crown Prince of Prussia or Dr. Wirth may rule, keep yourselves always armed, remain quietly at your post, your musket ever in you arms.  I mean well by you, and I was downright terrified when I heard lately that your ministry intended to disarm France.
     As ye are born classics, with all your present romanticism, ye know Olympus. Among the naked Gods and Goddesses making merry over their nectar and ambrosia, ye behold a goddess who, amid all that merriment, always wears armor and keeps helm on head and spear in hand.  She is the goddess of wisdom.

     A great man once said—“The empire of the land belongs to the French, the empire of the sea to the English, the empire of the air to the Germans.”  Heine was evidently one of the very few who saw betimes what the Germans were slowly conning from that, to most other men, void and formless infinite, their empire of the air.
     He did not at that time believe much in French republicanism.  “Poor Robespierre!  Thou wouldst introduce republican severity into Paris, into a town wherein 150,000 milliners and 150,000 perruginers and perfumers carry on their laughing, frizzing, sweet smelling trade.”
     There is a very funny little bit, too, about Louis Philippe.  “I remember well,” Heine says, [page 22]


that on my arrival I ran straight to the Palais Royal to see Louis Philippe.  The friend who went with me said the king now appeared on the terrace only at certain times, but that a few weeks before, he could be seen at any time for five francs.  “For five francs!” cried I.  “Does he show himself for money?”  No, but he is shown for money, and this is how they do it:  there is a society of claqueurs, theatre-clerk dealers and other scamps, who offer every stranger to show him the king for five francs.  If they get ten francs, he will lift his eyes to heaven, and lay his hand touchingly on his heart.  But if they get twenty francs, he will sing the Marseillaise into the bargain.  When they got a five franc piece, they hurried under the king’s windows, and that lofty personage appeared on the terrace, bowed and withdrew.  When they got ten francs they screamed yet louder, and, when the king appeared, behaved like lunatics.  So he, showed his silent emotion, raised his eyes to heaven and laid his hand on his heart. But Englishmen would sometimes go to the expense of twenty francs, and then the enthusiasm reached its highest pitch; and as soon as the king observed himself the Marseillaise was started, and so horribly howled the street, Louis Philippe, probably to put an end to it, bowed, lifted his eyes to Heaven, and sang the Marseillaise with them.

     About this time appeared the long poem, “Germany, a Winter’s Tale.”  Its satire is levelled at the political and social state of the Fatherland, where it raised just such a temper as its author meant it should.  “I already hear the very voices,” he said,


saying—“you insult our very colours, despiser of the fatherland, friend of the French, to whom you would surrender the free Rhine!”  Be calm, I will respect your colours when they deserve it.  Plant the black-red-golden banner in the heights of German thought, make it the standard of free humanity, and I will give my best blood for it…I cannot indeed unite Alsace and Lorraine with Germany so easily as ye do, for the people there hold fast to France for the sake of the rights they have gained in the transformation of the French state.  But they will return to Germany if we complete what the French have begun, if we surpass the French in deed as we have in thought; if we rise to the logical consequences of our thought; if we rescue the god dwelling in man from his abasement; if we restore to their rightful dignity the poor people disinherited of happiness, and despised genius and dishonoured beauty…Yes, not only Alsace and Lorraine, but all France will fall to us then, all Europe, all the world.  Of this mission, this universal rule of Germany, I often dream as I wander beneath the oaks. That is my patriotism. [page 23]

     About this time, too, appeared another volume under the name of New Poems of Heinrich Heine.  The first part of these may take their place beside the works of his best days, the young days of the Book of Songs and the last.  Once again his muse wanders beneath the German oaks and plucks violets and roses and listens to the nightingales.  Once again, for a brief space, all is music, and sweetness, and pure nature.  But in the following part the poor muse is again a seasoned boulevardière, breathing the air of the Paris trottoirs, a saucy sprightly, reckless grisette, like the “Diane”[,]“Seraphine” or “Hortense” of his verse at this time.  But there was a better and deeper reason now why the old poetic material, the violets and nightingales and oaks and moonlight, would do no longer.  The times following the July days demanded other things, and poetry must be of the time, historic or history-making.  So Heine turned to the individual, the concrete, the living.  But he obeyed his sceptical nature, and his work was purely destructive.  Satire now seemed to take complete possession of him.  The apt mobility of mind which flashes like lightning, in his case struck and kindled too, and his eye was only too quick to perceive the tender spots and weaknesses and peculiarities which serve as targets for such lightnings.  He spared neither his old master, the venerable Schlegel, nor his old friend Ludwig Börne.  It is hard to believe that the noble sonnets to Schlegel of twenty years before could be from the hand which now formed that base and cruel attack upon the most delicate relations of that distinguished man’s private life.  His equally disgraceful attack upon Börne, withheld until some years after its victim’s death, cost him a duel with the man who had married Börne’s widow, in which one is tempted to regret that he was only slightly wounded.  About this time he began to be called the “German Aristophanes,” and the Aristophanic spirit was certainly strong within him.  The great difference between them both probably is that the Greek poet was much the greater and better man of the two.
     He lived in Paris until 1848, spending his summers at Montmorenci or some other rural or bathing resort, and going twice only to Germany.  In May of that year he went out of doors for the last time.  For the next eight years, that is to his dying day, his fate was a terrible one.  All those weary years he lay on his “mattress-grave,” as he called it, the power of his lower limbs gone, one eye blind and the lid of the other paralysed.  Much of the time, too, he endured torture which only constant heavy doses of opium enabled him to [page 24] bear.  And yet it is to these sad years that we owe some of his best work.  His sufferings never enfeebled his mind, nor ever quelled the wit and satire which bubbled forth to the last.  Surely the heroism with which he bore a lot so dreadful, with which he carried on his work amid anguish of body and soul which could have doomed most men to utter helplessness, might disarm the severity with which he has been judged by all who have written about him.  To the last he maintained a correspondence with his aged and beloved mother in Hamburg, concealing his sufferings from her, and explaining the strange handwriting by the plea of weak eyes.
     The most interesting work of these years of suffering is the Confessions, so called.  These are not confessions in the sense of admission of wrongdoing, so much as a narrative of changes in his views upon various things, largely upon religious matters.  He tells of persecution on the part of some who had claimed him as one of themselves.  “Since I needed the mercy of God myself,” he says,


I have granted an amnesty to all my enemies.  Yes, and as with the creatures, I have also made peace with the Creator, to the great vexation of my enlightened friends. The collective high clergy of atheism has pronounced its anathema upon me, and there are fanatical priests of unbelief who would gladly torture me to make me confess my heresies.  Yes, I have returned to God, like the last son, after having long herded the swine among the Hegelians.  Was it Misère that drove me back?  Probably a less miserable reason.  A heavenly home-sickness came over me, and drove me through forests and abysses along the giddy mountain path of dialectic.  On my way I found the God of the pantheists, but I could make no use of him.  This poor dreamy being is wholly mixed up with the earth, quite imprisoned in it, and he yawns at you, willess and powerless.  Before you can have a will, you must be a person, and to manifest your will you must have your elbows free.  If a man wants a God who can help, and that is the great thing, he must accept his personality, his independence of the world and his sacred attributes.

     The writer of the article on Heine in the En[cyclopedia] Br[ittanica] dismisses him summarily as being entirely wanting in the religious sense.  For my part I cannot imagine a poet in that desolate condition.  Both as a poet and a man of wide culture, Heine had always loved the Bible.  Before he was thirty years old, he had written profoundly and beautifully upon it.  Now, in the year before his death and in the seventh of his mattress-grave, he writes— [page 25]


The re-awakening of my religious sentiment I owe to that holy book, to me equally a spring of healing and an object of devout surrender.  Strange!  After having danced all my life through on the various platforms of philosophy, given myself up to all the vogues of the intellect, flirted with all possible systems, without finding any content-ment, like Messalina after a wicked night, I now find myself in the same ground with Uncle Tom—on the Bible, and I kneel beside my black brother in prayer in like devotion.

     The interest, the melancholy interest of the Confessions, centres in the fact that in his weakness and anguish he longed for the support of some positive religion, that he honestly strove after some such, and that he utterly failed.  The middle-aged man, born and bred a Jew, learned in all the wisdom of Germany, with a mind of singular analytic power, could not be expected to approach the question in a spirit of submission and omnivorous receptivity; and Heine, moreover, preserved to the very end the whole energy of his Aristophanic mind, the full power his inextinguishable humour, all the cutting sharpness of his annihilating wit.  As a soldier in the war of the liberation of humanity, his admiration for two of the greatest heroes of that war, Moses and Luther is worthy even of its great objects, and is expressed in some of the finest writing in the world.  “What a giant form,” he says,


How little Sinai looks when Moses stands upon it, but it is the pedestal for the feet of the man whose head reaches to Heaven, where he talks with God.  God forgive me the sin.  Many a time it has seemed to me that this Mosaic God was but the reflection of
Moses himself, whom he resembles so much, alike in anger and love.  It were a sin, it were anthropomorphism, to accept such an identity of God and his prophet, but the likeness is striking.

     He tells us further that formerly he had not thought as he should of Moses and Israel, because the Hellenic spirit was uppermost in him.  He now turns to the race of his fathers.  “I see now,” he says, “that the Greeks were but beauteous youths, but the Jews were always men, mighty, unbending men, not only of old, but to this day, after 18 centuries of persecution and misery.”  And he is proud that his fathers were of the noble house of Israel, which gave the world a God and a moral law.  He sees the early moral grandeur of his people, walking in holiness, and singing the praise of the invisible God, and practising virtue and righteousness, while in the temples [page 26] of Babel and Nineveh and Tyre and Sidon those bloody orgies were held whose description is a horror to this day.  He recognizes the liberating work of Moses especially in the jubilee year and other features of the land law of Israel.  “Moses,” he says,


would not do away with property, but rather provide for its general possession, so that no man, through poverty, should become a slave with a slavish mind.  And I may observe here that the broad distinction Moses drew between property in land and property in anything else is one to which our later political economists are even now turning their eyes.  The emphatic declaration of Moses is sounding in the ears of the thinkers of today—“The land shall not be sold for a possession forever, for the land is mine, saith the Lord.”

     Of Luther he wrote with almost equal admiration, and in the course of the year 1851, the third year of his illness, he became nominally a member of the Lutheran church.  But while he spoke of the beauties of the Bible and the work of great religious teachers with enlightened perception and true poetic insight, religious dogma repelled him.  He abandoned the effort to make any positive religion his own, and faced his sufferings as best he might, in the strength of his own indomitable Jewish spirit.
     
Although he had said long before, as we have seen, how little he cared for poetic fame, he now finds great comfort in the fact that he was always a poet.  “As people say,” he says,


I have done nothing in this beautiful world.  I am nothing but a poet.  But I will not undervalue this name with any hypocritical humility.  One is much when one is a poet, and especially when one is a great lyric poet in Germany, among the people which has surpassed all others in two things, in philosophy and song.

And he was proud to know from Dr. Bürger, who was then preparing a great work on Japan, that a young Japanese pupil of that learned man, who had learned German from him, had translated his poems into the Japanese language, and that this was the first book of European origin which had appeared in that, at that time, very inaccessible country.
     But how moving, how pitiful, is he when his weary agony at times gets the better of his courage.  It can never, never quite [page 27] conquer his irrepressible humour, and all the more heart-rending is the cry half-choked by the bitter laugh.  “Like Romeo,” he says,


I am the fool of fortune.  I stand before the great pot, but I have no spoon.  What does it profit me that my health is drunk at banquets, out of gold cups and in the most exquisite voices, if I myself, while these ovations are going on, lonely and cut off from all pleasures of earth, can only just wet my lips with barley-water!  What does it profit me that adoring youths and maidens crown my marble bust with laurels, while the withered hand of the old nurse is pressing a Spanish fly blister behind the ears of my real head!  What does it profit me that all the roses of Schiras so tenderly glow and shed their fragrance for me!  Alas, Schiras is 2000 miles from the Rue d’Amsterdam, where in the tiresome solitude of my sickroom, I have nothing to smell but the vapours of hot towels.  Man, the mockery of God is heavy upon me.  The great author of the universe, the Aristophanes of Heaven, would show the little earthly author, the so-called Aristophanes of Germany, what pitiful jests his cleverest sarcasms were in comparison with his own, and how miserably I must yield to him in humour, in jesting a colossal scale.

     But he worked on, productive to the last.  Toward the end of these 8 fearful years appeared that strange but clever collection of poems which he called Romanzero, because an after echo of that Romantic School which he so normally abused, but to the days of his abhorence to which his most enduring work belongs, is heard throughout them.  Among them are “Clara” and the “Moorish King,” sweet echoes of the sweet poetic life of his youth; and “The Valkyrie,” “The Golden Calf,” “King David,” “Pomare,” full of keen satire and of humour laughing through tears.  The screaming fun of some of these poems seems possible only to some strong, fat, lusty, rosy-cheeked poet, of redundant health and wild animal spirits.  And to think of their being the work of one so reduced that his nurse carried him about like a baby.  To the Romanzero belong also the “Hebrew Melodies” and the “Lamentations,” the former consisting of two long and noble poems called “Princess Sabbath” and “Yehudah ben Halevy,” followed by a ribald production called “Disputation,” which, however, contains that grand statement of fierce monotheism quoted in Matthew Arnold’s essay on Heine.  The “Lamentations” show him alone with his sufferings, but unconquerable.  Indeed it is hard to see how many of these clever [page 28] poems deserve the name at all.  One or two of them are of his wife, and full of infinite love they are, as they well might be.
     
And now the end drew near.  A few months before his death he began to be visited by a young girl whom he called “La Mouche,” who had been a devoted admirer of his writings all her days; a girl of rare mental gifts and amiable character.  “La Mouche” was constant in her attendance, helping his ever devoted wife in her sad duties.  His few brief letters to her, the last written four weeks before his death, show him grateful and affectionate through the most fearful suffering.  His last poem is called “For La Mouche.”  It is a long one, 36 verses, and glances swiftly over his poetic life, touching off his favourite themes with vivid strokes.
     The longed for end came at last.  On the night of the 16th February 1856, Dr. Gruby told him his hour was come.  He received the intelligence calmly.  Shortly before his death, a friend rushed in and asked him how he stood with God.  A last ray of his unconquerable humour flashed from the dying poet.  “Soyez tranquille,” he replied, “Dieu me pardonnera, c’est son métier.”
     All the writers upon Heine I have read are most unsparing with their blame.  Goethe, speaking when Heine was but 25 years old, said he would never produce the results he must otherwise have produced, for want of love.  Matthew Arnold says we have only a half result from him.  His German biographer, Gottfried Becker, talks about his miserable development of his glorious gifts.  Mr. Ferrier, writing in the Encyclopedia Brittanica, has little good to say of him.  But who does his absolute best in this world?  There have been men who have satisfied all reasonable requirements, and if Heine was not one of these, I believe it was all owing not to want of love, as Goethe thought, but rather to a want of resolution to curb his extraordinary powers of wit and satire.  For my own part I feel that all I have to do with Heine is, to gratefully gather up the jewels he scattered with a hand so free and careless, and to leave his sins to their only competent Judge. [page 29]

 

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