Heine Heine: The Journey to the Harz

 Excerpt, “The Journey to the Harz,” 1824, by Heinrich Heine. Translator: Charles Godfrey Leland.


 “Nothing is permanent but change, nothing constant but death. Every

pulsation of the heart inflicts a wound, and life would be an endless
bleeding were it not for Poetry. She secures to us what Nature would
deny--a golden age without rust, a spring which never fades, cloudless
prosperity and eternal youth."--BÖRNE.


Black dress coats and silken stockings,
Snowy ruffles frilled with art,
Gentle speeches and embraces--
Oh, if they but held a heart!
Held a heart within their bosom,
Warmed by love which truly glows;
Ah! I'm wearied with their chanting
Of imagined lovers' woes!
I will climb upon the mountains,
Where the quiet cabin stands,
Where the wind blows freely o'er us,
Where the heart at ease expands.
I will climb upon the mountains,
Where the sombre fir-trees grow;
Brooks are rustling, birds are singing,
And the wild clouds headlong go.
Then farewell, ye polished ladies,
Polished men and polished hall!
I will climb upon the mountains,

Smiling down upon you all.

The sun rose. The mists flitted away like phantoms at the third crow of
the cock. Again I wandered up hill and down dale, while above me soared
the fair sun, ever lighting up new scenes of beauty. The Spirit of the
Mountain evidently favored me, well knowing that a "poetical character"
has it in his power to say many a fine thing of him, and on this morning he
let me see his Harz as it is not, most assuredly, seen by every one.

But the Harz also saw me as I am seen by few, and there were as costly
pearls on my eyelashes as on the grass of the valley. The morning dew of love
wet my cheeks; the rustling pines understood me; their twigs parted and waved
up and down, as if, like mute mortals, they would express their joy with gestures
 of their hands, and from afar I heard beautiful and mysterious chimes, like the
sound of bells belonging to some hidden forest church. People say that these
sounds are caused by the cattle-bells, which, in the Harz ring with remarkable
clearness and purity.


It was noon, according to the position of the sun, as I chanced upon
such a flock, and its shepherd, a friendly, light-haired young fellow,
told me that the great hill at whose base I stood was the old,
world-renowned Brocken. For many leagues around there is no house, and I
was glad enough when the young man invited me to share his meal. We sat
down to a déjeûner dînatoire consisting of bread and cheese. The
sheep snatched up our crumbs, while pretty glossy heifers jumped around, 
ringing their bells roguishly, and laughing at us with great merry eyes.
We made a royal meal, my host appearing to me every inch a king; and as
he is the only monarch who has ever given me bread, I will sing his
praises right royally:

Kingly is the herd-boy's calling,
On the knoll his throne is set,
O'er his hair the sunlight falling
Gilds a living coronet.
Red-marked sheep that bleat so loudly
Are his courtiers cross-bedight,
Calves that strut before him proudly
Seem each one a stalwart knight.
Goats are actors nimbly springing,
And the cows and warblers gay
With their bell and flute-notes ringing
Form the royal orchestra.
And whene'er the music hushes,
Soft the pine-tree murmurs creep;
Far away a cataract rushes--
Look, our noble king's asleep!
Meanwhile through the kingdom bounding
Rules the dog as minister,
Till his bark from cliffs rebounding
Echoes to the sleeper's ear.
Yawning syllables he utters--
"Ruling is too hard a task.
Were I but at home," he mutters,
"With my queen 'tis all I'd ask.
"On her arm my head reposes
Free from care, how happily!
And her loving glance discloses
Kingdom wide enough for me."