Heinrich Heine: The Romantic School

The Poets of Legend: Goethe. Schiller and … Heinrich Heine.A favorite among Lieder composers, Heine’s literary works comprise twenty volumes, Die Romantische Schule two of them. Published in French and German 1833-36; this translation by Charles Godfrey Leland. Below, the great Poet’s thoughts on Novalis and Hoffmann.
But what was the Romantic School in Germany? It was nothing else but the Reawakening of the Middle Ages … its songs, images and architecture, in art and in life.
I have little to say regarding Schelling’s relationship to the Romantic School. His influence was mostly personal, but since the Philosophy of Nature through him has sprung into life and into vogue, Nature has been much more intelligently grasped by poets. Some are absorbed with all their human feelings into Nature; others have noted certain magic forms by means of which something human can be made to look forth and speak from it. The former are the true mystics, and resemble in many respects the Indian devotees who sink into Nature, and at last begin to feel in common with it. The others are more like enchanters, who, by their own power of will, evoked even fiends; they are like the Arabian sorcerers, who could animate every stone, or petrify, as they pleased, every living being.
To the first of these belong Novalis; to the second, Hoffmann.
Novalis saw everywhere the marvelous,
And, in its loveliness and beauty,
He listened to the language of the plants;
He knew the secret
Of every young rose, he identified himself with all
Nature; and when the autumn came and
the leaves fell, he died.
Hoffmann, on the contrary, saw spectres everywhere; they nodded to him from every Chinese teapot and every Berlin wig; he was a magician who changed men into brutes, and these again into Royal Prussian court counselors. He could call the dead from their graves, but he repulsed life from himself like a dismal ghost. And thus he felt he himself had become a spectre; all Nature was to him like a badly-ground mirror, in which he, distorted in a thousand ways, saw only his own death mask, and his works are only one terrible cry of agony in twenty volumes.
Hoffmann did not belong to the Romantic School. He was in no way allied to the Schlegels, and still less to their tendencies. I only mention him here in opposition to Novalis, who was really a poet of that kind. Novalis is less well known in France than Hoffmann, whom Loeve-Veimars has placed before the public in such admirable form, and thereby attained such a reputation.
By us inGermany, Hoffmann is no longer in fashion, but once it was otherwise. Once he was very much read, but only by men whose nerves were too strong or too weak to be affected by soft accords. Men of true genius and poetic natures would hear nothing of him; they, by far, preferred Novalis.
But, honestly speaking, Hoffmann was, as a poet. far superior to Novalis, for the latter always sweeps in the air with his ideal forms, while Hoffmann, with all his odd imps, sticks to earthly reality. But as the giant Antaeus remained invincibly strong while his feet touched his mother earth, and lost his strength when Hercules raised him in the air, so is the poet strong and powerful so long as he does not leave the basis of reality, but becomes weak when whirling about in the blue air.
The great resemblance in these poets lies in this: That in both their poetry is really a malady, and in this relation it has been declared that judgment as to their works was the business of a physician rather than a critic. The rosy gleam in the glow of Novalis is not the glow of health; and the purple heat in Hoffmann’s Phantasiestücken is not the flame of genius but of fever.
But have we the right to make such remarks, we who are not blessed with excess of health, above all at present; when literature resembles a vast lazar-house? Or is it perhaps poetry is a disease of mankind, just as the pearl is only the material of a disease which the poor oyster suffers?
Novalis was born May 2, 1772. His real name was Hardenberg. He loved a young lady who suffered from and died of consumption. This sad story inspired all his writings; his life was a dreamy dying in consequence, and he himself died of consumption in 1801, before he had completed his twenty-ninth year, or his novel.
This work as it exists is only the fragment of a great allegorical poem, which, like “Divine Comedy” of Dante, was to treat earnestly all things of earth and heaven. Heinrich von Ofterdingen, the famous poet, is the hero.
We see him as a youth in Eisenach, the charming town which lies at the foot of old Wartburg, where the greatest and also the stupidest things have been done; that is, where Luther translated the Bible, and certain idiotic Teutomaniacs burned the Gendarme Code of Herr Kamptz. There too in that castle was held the greatest contest of minstrels where among other poets Heinrich von Ofterdingen sang in the dangerous contest with Klingsohr of Hungary, an account of which has been preserved in the Manesse collection. He who was vanquished was to lose his head, and the Landgrave ofThuringia was to be the judge. The Wartburg rises as with mysterious signification over the cradle of the hero, and the beginning of the novel shows him in the paternal home of Eisenach.
The parents are still sleeping, the hanging clock beats monotonously, the wind blows against the rattling windows; now and then the room is lighted by the rays of the moon. The youth lays restlessly on the couch, thinking of the stranger and of his tales.
“It was not the treasure,” he said to himself, “which awoke in me such unutterable desire; all covetousness is far from me; but I long to see the Blue Flower. It haunts me all the time, and I can think and fancy of nothing else.”
Heinrich von Ofterdingen begins with such words, and the Blue Flower sheds it light and breathes its perfume through the whole romance. It is marvelous and full of meaning that the most imaginary characters of this book seem to us as real as if we had known them long ago.
Old memories awaken. The Muse of Novalis was a slender snow-white maid with serious blue eyes, golden hyacinthine locks and smiling lips … and I imagine it was the same damsel – the Muse of Novalis – who made me aware of him.




Goethe: “The Fisherman”

the fisherman

Fisherman and the Siren by Lord Frederic Leighton


The waters rush'd, the waters rose,
A fisherman sat by,
While on his line in calm repose
He cast his patient eye.
And as he sat, and hearken'd there,
The flood was cleft in twain,
And, lo! a dripping mermaid fair
Sprang from the troubled main.

She sang to him, and spake the while
"Why lurest thou my brood,
With human wit and human guile
From out their native flood?
Oh, couldst thou know how gladly dart
The fish across the sea,
Thou wouldst descend, e'en as thou art,
And truly happy be!

Do not the sun and moon with grace
Their forms in ocean lave?
Shines not with twofold charms their face,
When rising from the wave?
The deep, deep heavens, then lure thee not,--
The moist yet radiant blue,--
Not thine own form,--to tempt thy lot
'Midst this eternal dew?"

The waters rush'd, the waters rose,
Wetting his naked feet;
As if his true love's words were those,
His heart with longing beat.
She sang to him, to him spake she,
His doom was fix'd, I ween;
Half drew she him, and half sank he,
And ne'er again was seen.


Friedrich Halm: “My Heart…”

.Excerpt, “Translations From The German Poets.” Edward Stanhope Pearson. 1879.




My heart, I fain would ask thee,

What call’st thou love, expound?

“Two souls with one thought between them,

Two hearts with one pulse-bound!”


And say, from whence love cometh:

“She comes, and lo, she’s there!”

And say, how doth love vanish?

“If so, love never were.”


And when is love the purest?

“When she herself excludes!”

And when is love the deepest?

“When silentest she broods!”


And when is love the richest?

“Then when with gifts she’s fraught!”

And say, what is’t love speaketh?

“She loves, but speaketh nought!”




Friedrich Hölderlin: “The God of Youth”

“The Poetry of Germany, Consisting from Upwards of Seventy of the Most Celebrated Poets.”  Translated into English Verse by Alfred Baskerville.  1853.


The God of Youth


Should in the twilight’s shadows,

When on a summer’s night,

Thy loving eye is watching,

For visions fair and bright,

The manes of friends flit by me,

And, like the starry skies,

The spirits of the Titans

Of ancient days arise.


Should of love’s restless longing

Within thy breast subside,

Where, wrapt in beauty’s mantle,

The godlike loves to hide,

And should the heart’s endeavour

In peace reap its award,

And should with tuneful accents,

Resound the soul’s accord;


Seek in the stillest valley

The flowers’ richest shrine,

And pour from golden goblet

The glad libation wine!

Still smiles in verdant freshness

The heart’s sweet spring in thee,

The God of Youth still ruleth

O’er thee, as over me.


And when the bard sat musing

In Tibur’s shady grot,

And, wrapt in dreams of Heaven,

The flight of time forgot;

When waving elms refreshed him,

When proudly there below,

Played round the silver blossoms

The waves of Anio;


And as in Plato’s bowers,

When through the bosquet’s green,

By nightingale’s saluted,

The star of love was seen;

When all the zephyrs slumbered

And, rippled by the swan,

Cephisus through the olives

And myrtle-bushes ran;

’Tis still on earth as lovely!

Our bosom, too, o’er flows

With blessings of kind Nature,

Her life, peace, and repose;

Still bloometh Heaven’s beauty,

Still in our bosoms ring,

Commingled and fraternal,

The peaceful tones of Spring.


Hence in the stillest valley

Seek the most perfum’d shrine,

And pour from golden goblet

The glad libation wine.

Still smiles in verdant freshness

Earth’s image upon thee,

The God of Youth still ruleth,

O’er thee, as over me.


Joseph Christian Freiherr von Zedlitz: “The Midnight Review”

Excerpt, “Specimens of the Choicest Lyrical Productions of the Most Celebrated German Poets, from Klopstock to the Present Time,” translated in English verse by Mary Anne Burt. London: 1855.
Joseph Christian, Baron von Zedlitz, was born the 28th of February, 1789 at the castle of Joahannisberg, near Jauernick, in the western part of Silesia. After having pursued his preliminary studies at the College of Breslaw, he entered a Hussar regiment. In 1809, he became lieutenant, and two months later he obtained the rank of first lieutenant, and as ordinance officer of Prince Hohenzollern, he took part in the battle of Ratisbone, Aspern, and Wagram, but shortly afterwards, for family reasons, he quitted the military service.
Since the year 1810 the Baron von Zedlitz has held the office of Chamberlain to H. M. the Emperor of Austria: he was, during a long time, private secretary to Prince Metternich. Since 1845, he has been Charge d’affaires to the Duke of Nassau, and, towards the end of the year 1851 he exercised, at the court of Austria, the same functions for the Duke of Brunswick.
Schiller has remarked: “Der Mensch waechst mit seiner Zwecken.” (“Man grows with his Designs.”) We may also with justice say: a man becomes great, or insignificant, according to the circle in which he lives. These words may be applied to the Poet Zedlitz. His poetry is as brilliant as that sphere in which he has moved; there is a measure, even in his sentiments, which are invariably expressed in a language, equally harmonious and pleasing…MAB, 1855.


 The Midnight Review

Lo! – by solemn midnight gloom,

The Drummer, from sleep, awakes,

And, arising from the tomb,

With his drum the rounds he makes.

On the drum, with his fleshless arm,

He announces the Review,

The Drummer sounds an alarm,

Rap! Rap! – he beats the tattoo.

What reverberating tone

From the drum, around is spread!

Battalions, from church-yards lone,

Are awakened from the dead!

From the northern church-yards drear,

Where, in snow and ice, they lie,

From tombs, in the sourthern sphere,

‘Neath a warm Italian sky.

Warriors that sleep by the Nile,

And those ‘neath Arabian sand,

Arising, stand rank and file,

And they grasp their sword in hand.

Ere twelve at night is past,

From his tomb the Trumpeter glides,

How piercing and shrill the blast,

As to and fro, he rides!

See! – on chargers, proud and gay,

The cavalry-troops appear;

The squadrons, in war’s array,

Bear ensanguined sword, and spear.

The ghastly skulls, bleached snow-white,

“Neath their brilliant helmets, glare,

‘Neath the pale and hazy moonlight,

They brandish their weapons there!

Twelve striketh:prophetic sound!

The Commander quits his grave;

He slowly rides o’er the ground,

With his Staff – sons of the brave.

What a small, strange hat he weareth!

His venture bespeaks not pride;

The august Commander beareth

A two-edg’d sword, by his side!

The moon’s pale, nebulous rays

Illume the extensive plain;

The Commander-in-chief surveys

The assembled, martial train.

The regiments march, rank and file,

Present arms, stand in review,

And, by the music’s sound, awhile,

He rides ‘mid his followers true.

Marshals and generals near

Their Commander flock around;

And he whispereth in the ear

Of one, a mysterious sound.

“France!” – the soul-thrilling Password,

From cohort to cohort flies,-

“Saint Helena!” – vibrating is heard,

“St. Helena!” – Echo replies.

When the hour of midnight tolls

On the wide Elysian plain,

That Review, mighty Caesar holds

With his valiant, martial train!


Joseph Christian Freiherr von Zedlitz

Joseph Christian Freiherr von Zedlitz

Anastasius Grün: “The Muse Called to Judgment”

Excerpt, “The Spirit of German Poetry:  A Series of translations from the German Poets, with Critical and Biographical Notices. ”   Translated by Joseph Gostick.  1845.

Josef Karl Benedikt von Eichendorff: “The Priest and the Jacobin”

Excerpt, “The Spirit of German Poetry:  A Series of translations from the German Poets, with Critical and Biographical Notices.”   Translated by Joseph Gostick.  1845.

Translator’s Note: There is one ballad by Eichendorff, which has pleased us well by its picturesque scenery. The Jacobin Captain rests in a little churchyard in Britanny. Raving in the fever of his wound, he confesses that he had burned his own father’s house. At night, he stands on the sea-shore and witnesses a strange spectacle. A priest comes over the quiet sea in a little shallop lit with tapers, and a congregation of worshippers come in their boats and perform their devotions on the waves, as they dare not worship in their church. The Jacobin Captain recognises his own father in the person of the priest, and, overcome with the amazement, falls and dies upon the shore.

The Priest and the Jacobin


The blooming hills of Britanny

Were laved by gentle seas;

A little church stood peacefully

Between two ancient trees.


The corn-fields, and the green woods wide,

Were bright in sabbath’s glow;

But not a bell dare o’er the tide

Its solemn music throw.


For o’er the churchyard’s shady ground

The Frenchmen’s standard waves;

Their steeds are cropping, all around,

The daisies from the graves.


Upon the cross, in mockery,

Canteens and sabres hung;

Instead of solemn litany,

The “Marseillaise” was sung.


Sore wounded leaned the Captain there

Against an ancient tree,

And faintly look’d, with feverish stare,

On sultry land and sea;


And talk’d, as in a fever-dream

“Our castle by the lake—

I fired it!—what a fearful gleam!—

It burns for freedom’s sake!


“I see my father—through the rings

Of fire I see him there—

He stands upon the tower, and swings

His banner in the air!


“I see the standard catch the flame,

Again I see my sire,

As, holding still the shaft, he came

Down through the blazing fire!


“He looked at me, but nothing said—

I had no heart to slay—

The castle fell—my father fled—

He’s now a priest, they say!


“And since that night, in all my dreams

I hear the loud bells ring,

And see, amid the fiery streams,

The cross—that hated thing!


“But soon, no church-bell through the land

Shall break the still of night;

No cross upon the earth shall stand,

A sign of priestly might!


“And yonder lowly church-walls there

(We’ll tear them down to-night!)

Shall sound no more with psalms and prayer

—We come to let in light!”


At night, when woods and waves were still,

And only when he spoke,

The sentinel upon the hill

The dreamy silence broke.


The Captain stood beside the sea—

A soft gray cloud arose,

Upon the waves—what can it be?—

And now it spreads and grows!


And see, amid the misty air,

A tiny twinkling light—

Some little star has fallen there,

Or lost its way to-night.


But see, along the quiet shore,

Where sleep the silent waves,

Dark moving figures, more and more,

Creep from the rocky caves;


And boats are push’d into the sea,

Row’d softly through the night;

The mark they steer for seems to be

That little twinkling light!


The light comes nearer now, afloat,

The rowers all have found it—

It is a little fisher-boat,

With tapers burning round it.


And see, within the shallop stands

An old man tall and gray,

With flowing hair and folded hands,

—A Priest in full array.


And round the floating altar, see,

The boatmen bow their heads:

The old Priest o’er the company

A solemn blessing sheds.


The sea was still, and every breeze—

In marvellous array,

Within their boats, on bended knees,

The congregation lay.


And now, the cross within his hand,

Amid the taper’s glare,

The Captain sees the old Priest stand—

 “‘Tis my old father there!”


Said he, as, with a sudden prayer,

He reel’d and fell and swoon’d,

While life’s blood o’er the shingle there

Was streaming from his wound.


The Jacobin soldiers on the shore

Came, found their Captain dead—

Then—death behind and death before,

Through all the land they fled.


Like wither’d leaves in autumn’s breeze,

They fled and pass’d away—

That little church between the trees

Is standing at this day!

Gottfried Kinkel: “The Forboding of Winter”

Excerpt, “The Poetry of Germany, Consisting from Upwards of Seventy of the Most Celebrated Poets.”  Translated into English Verse by Alfred Baskerville.  1853.

Gottfried Kinkel: “Humanity”

Excerpt, “The Poetry of Germany, Consisting from Upwards of Seventy of the Most Celebrated Poets.”  Translated into English Verse by Alfred Baskerville.  1853.

Johann Gottfried Kinkel (1815-1882)  was born at Obercassel near Bonn. In 1846 he was appointed extraordinary professor of the history of art at the University of Bonn. In 1848, with his wife and Carl Schurz, he started a newspaper, the Bonner Zeitung, mostly devoted to following revolutionary activities, but also providing the traditional material like musical and theatrical reviews which people expected then from a full-service newspaper.

In 1849, Kinkel joined the armed rebellion in the Palatinate, believing himself to be acting legally in obedience to the directives of the Frankfurt rump parliament.  Wounded in battle, he was arrested and later sentenced to perpetual  imprisonment.  Yet in 1850, Kinkel achieved a daring and remarkable escape, descending by a rope from Spandau Prison’s wall.

Schiller: “Hope”

Excerpt, “A Book of Ballads from the German.”  Translated by Percy Boyd, Esq.  1848.



Louise Brachman: “Consolation For Absence”

Excerpt, “The Spirit of German Poetry:  A Series of translations from the German Poets, with Critical and Biographical Notices.”   Translated by Joseph Gostick.  1845.



August Graf von Platen: “In The Night”

Excerpt, “German Poetry with The English Versions of The Best Translations.” Edited by H.E. Goldschmidt.  1869. Translated by Richard Garnett.


Faust by Shelley: “May Day Night”

Excerpt, “German Poetry with The English Versions of The Best Translations.” Edited by H.E. Goldschmidt.  1869. 

Illustrations by Harry Clarke.