Sunday, 26 June 2011

heinrich heine

Looking Back

I have smelled all the perceptible smells
In this world’s kitchen.
All things enjoyable
I have enjoyed if ever man did. I have
Drunk coffee, eaten cake, had a variety
Of fair females, have worn silk waistcoats,
Worn the most elegant tails, and have jingled
A shilling or two in my pocket. I have
Ridden on a high horse like Jonathan Swift.
I owned a house; I also owned a castle.
I reclined on the green fields of good fortune,
And the sun’s gold glance wished me good morning.
A laurel wreath moreover I wore; it subtly
Suffused my brain with dreams. I dreamed,
Dreamed of roses, and of eternal spring –
It was all so delicious as long as it lasted:
Dozing in twilight, bone idle, the pigeons,
Yes roast pigeons literally flew into my mouth,
And angels visited me, producing bottles of
Champagne from their pockets – these were the visions,
Soap bubbles which burst. The grass I now lie on
Is wet, I am crippled with rheumatism,
And my soul, my very soul is ashamed.
Oh, every joy and every pleasure I paid for
With heartache, sour, I was soaked in bitterness,
Eaten by bugs, by black care oppressed,
Driven to deceit, borrowing cash from
Affluent chaps and doddering harridans –
I believe I was even obliged to go begging.
I’m weary now of all this hither-and-thithering.
I want to sleep it all off in a good deep grave.
So then good-bye! Oh yes, up there good Christian brothers,
Naturally we shall see each other up there again.

trans by christopher middleton

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