Heinrich Heine

Love Down the Millennia




Trundling across this withering landscape,
I see from my stagecoach a roadside cross
and, attached to it, a fading figure.
My saviour brother, they got your number.

Dismayed... deluded... desolate... dreamer!
You could not redeem a feeble plot.
Did you have to challenge the priesthood,
provoke the state and offend the council?

I am afraid your own time preceded
the miracle of the printing presses.
Otherwise, you might have composed
a treatise about the affairs of heaven.

The prudent censor would have deleted
the riskiest lines to let you off –
evading the pain, the trouble and even
the gossip of the crucifixion.

You might have waded more tactfully into
the rich in that Sermon of the Mount...
Lonely, misguided leader! How dared you
incite the bigotry of your neighbours?

And... you had the audacious chutzpah
to drive the bankers out of the temple!
They’ve displayed your form on the cross,
as a warning, to the likes of me. 



My beloved, my devoted
friend and woman brings my morning
treat to bed: strong brown and fragrant
coffee with white cream, for breakfast.

As she serves it flirting, joking,
with unending cooing, fooling,
you might think in all creation
there is not a sweeter laughter.

I imagine that the flutelike
intonation of her chatter
can be matched by angels only
and the songbirds’ lusty twitter.

Her white hand – a tender lily!
How her wafting, light, cascading
curls caress her rosy features!
Such a beauty – such great splendour!

Yet, this morning, it has struck me
(why? or why not?) that her waistline
might be just a shade more slender
...just a little, just a touch.

Translated from the German & Edited by Thomas Land

 If you have any comments on this poem,  Thomas Land  would be pleased to hear from you.