Heinrich Heine: “Preface – The Citizen Kingdom of 1832” Pt 3
Now Napoleon is dead and lies well closed in his leaden coffin under the sands of Longwood on the island of Saint Helena. All round him spreads the sea. Therefore, you have nothing to fear. Nor need you fear the last three gods who yet remain in heaven, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost; for you are on good terms with their holy following.
Nothing have you to fear, for you are powerful and wise. You have gold and muskets, and all that is for sale you can buy, and what is mortal you can kill. Your wisdom is equally irresistible.
Every one of you is a Solomon, and it is a pity that the Queen of Sheba, the beautiful woman, no longer lives, for you would have unriddled her to her very chemise. And ye have iron pots in which you can enclose those who give you to guess anything of which you would remain ignorant, and you can seal them up and cast them into the sea of oblivion — all like King Solomon.
Like him, too, you understand the language of the birds; you know all that is chirped and piped in the land; and if the song of any bird displeases you, you have a great pair of shears wherewith to clip his bill, and, as I hear, you intend to provide a larger pair for those who sing more than twenty sheets. And you have also all the cleverest birds in your service, all the noble falcons, all the ravens — that is, the black-coats — all the peacocks, all the owls. And the old Simurgh still lives, and he is your grand vizier, and is the wisest, shrewdest bird in the world.
He will renovate the world as it was in the days of the pre-Adamite sultans, and to this end he unweariedly lays eggs by night and day, and they are hatched out in Frankfort. Hut-hut, the accredited hoopoo, runs meanwhile, through the sand of the Prussian marshes, carrying the most significant dispatches in his bill. Ye have naught to fear!
But I bid you beware of one thing — the Moniteur of 1793. That is a Hollenswang — a book of invocation of evil spirits, and there are words of magic therein which you cannot bind — words which are mightier than muskets or gold — words with which the dead can be called from their graves, and the living sent to join the dead — words with which dwarfs may be raised to giants and giants overwhelmed — words which can fell all your power as the guillotine decapitates a king.
I will tell you the truth. There are people who are brave enough to utter those words, and who have never been appalled by the most terrible apparitions; but they know not where to find the right spell in the book of gramarye, nor could they pronounce it for they are no conjurers. And there are others who are indeed familiar with the mysterious divining-rod, who know where to find the magic word, and even to utter it with tongues skilled in sorcery.
These are timid and fear the spectres whom they would evoke; for alas! we do not know the ghostly scene becomes too terrible; we know not how to ban the inspired broomstick back into its wooden repose when the house has once been inundated with blood; we know not how to conjure down the fire when its raging tongues are licking everywhere. We are afraid!
But do not rely on our weakness and fear. The disguised man of the time, who was bold of heart as ready with his tongue, and who knows the great word and has to utter it, is perhaps even now near you. It may be that he is masked in servile livery, or even in a harlequin’s dress, and ye do not forbode that he is who, perhaps, servilely draws off your boots, or who by his jokes tickles your diaphragm, is to be your destroyer.
Do you not often feel a strange shudder when these servile forms fawn round you with an almost ironic humility, and it suddenly occurs to you, “This is perhaps a snare, and this wretch, who behaves so absolutely, so idiotically slavish, is perhaps a secret Brutus?” Have you not sometimes by night dreams which warn you against the smallest winding worms whom you have perchance seen crawling in the daytime?
Be not afraid, I am only jesting, and you are quite safe. Our stupid devils of serviles do not disguise themselves. Even Jarke is not dangerous. And have no fear of the little fools who juggle round you ever and anon with jokes of dubious import. The great fool is a very great fool, giant-great, and his name is — the German people.
Yes, a very great fool, in faith! His motley jacket is made of six-and-thirty patches. Instead of hawks’-bells, mighty church-bells weighing tons hang upon his cap, and he bears in his hand a colossal harlequin’s sword of iron. And his heart is full of pain, but he will not think upon his griefs, for which reason he plays all the more merry pranks, and laughs to keep from weeping. When his sufferings come too bitterly to mind, then he shakes his head as if mad, and deafens himself with the pious Christian chiming of his cap.
But if a good friend comes to him who would speak sympathetically of his pains, or even give him some domestic remedy against them, he becomes a raging lunatic and strikes at the adviser with his iron weapon. He is particularly enraged at any one who means him well. He is the bitterest foe unto his friends and the best of friends to his enemies.
Oh, the great fool will always remain faithful and submissive; he will always amuse your knightlings (Junkerlein) with his giant jests and tricks; he will every day repeat this old feats of dexterity, and balance countless burdens on his nose, and let many hundreds of thousands of soldiers trample over his belly. But have no fear less the load become all at once too heavy, and that he will shake away your shoulders, and, in jest by the way, squeeze your head so with his little finger that your brains will spirt out up to the stars.
Have not the least fear lest he in his merry gossiping, out of mere folly, should utter the terrible all-powerful word of incantation, when the great change will unexpectedly begin, and he himself the fool, all at once disenchanted, will stand before you in his original beautiful blond heroic form with his great blue eyes, the purple mantle instead of the harlequin jacket, and the sword of empire in his hand instead of the dagger of lath.
But ye need not fear; the great fool will never speak the word. The great fool remains most submissively obedient to you, and if the little fools would injure you, the great one at a wink would strike them dead. (1)
(Written in Paris, Oct. 18, 1832.)
(1) The preceding two sentences form the conclusion in the original MS., and do not occur in later editions.