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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Göttingen
By Heinrich Heine (1797–1856)
 
From ‘The Hartz Journey’ Translated by Charles Godfrey Leland

  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 dark-green 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 mountain,
  Smiling down upon you all.
  1
 
  THE TOWN of Göttingen, celebrated for its sausages and university, belongs to the King of Hanover, and contains nine hundred and ninety-nine dwellings, divers churches, a lying-in asylum, an observatory, a prison, a library, and a “council cellar” where the beer is excellent. The stream which flows by the town is termed the Leine, and is used in summer for bathing,—its waters being very cold, and in more than one place so broad that Luder was obliged to take quite a run before he could leap across. The town itself is beautiful, and pleases most when looked at—backwards. It must be very ancient; for I well remember that five years ago, when I matriculated there (and shortly after “summoned”), it had already the same gray, old-fashioned, wise look, and was fully furnished with beggars, beadles, dissartations, tea-parties with a little dancing, washer-women, compendiums, roasted pigeons, Guelphic orders, professors ordinary and extraordinary, pipe heads, court counselors, and law counselors. Many even assert that at the time of the great migration of races, every German tribe left a badly corrected proof of its existence in the town, in the person of one of its members; and that from these descended all the Vandals, Friesians, Suabians, Teutons, Saxons, Thuringians, and others who at the present day abound in Göttingen, where, separately distinguished by the color of their caps and pipe tassels, they may be seen straying singly or in hordes along the Weender Street. They still fight their battles on the bloody arena of the Rasenmill, Ritschenkrug, and Bovden, still preserve the mode of life peculiar to their savage ancestors, and are still governed partly by their Duces, whom they call “chief cocks,” and partly by their primevally ancient law-book, known as the ‘Comment,’ which fully deserves a place among the legibus barbarorum.  2
  The inhabitants of Göttingen are generally and socially divided into Students, Professors, Philistines, and Cattle; the points of difference between these castes being by no means strictly defined. The cattle class is the most important. I might be accused of prolixity should I here enumerate the names of all the students and of all the regular and irregular professors: besides, I do not just at present distinctly remember the appellations of all the former gentlemen; while among the professors are many who as yet have no name at all. The number of the Göttingen Philistines must be as numerous as the sands (or, more correctly speaking, as the mud) of the sea; indeed, when I beheld them of a morning, with their dirty faces and clean bills, planted before the gate of the collegiate court of justice, I wondered greatly that such an innumerable pack of rascals should ever have been created….  3
  It was as yet very early in the morning when I left Göttingen, and the learned  *  *  *  beyond doubt still lay in bed, dreaming that he wandered in a fair garden, amid the beds of which grew innumerable white papers written over with citations. On these the sun shone cheerily, and he plucked them and planted them in new beds, while the sweetest songs of the nightingales rejoiced his old heart.  4
  Before the Weender Gate I met two native and diminutive schoolboys, one of whom was saying to the other, “I don’t intend to keep company any more with Theodore: he is a low little blackguard, for yesterday he didn’t even know the genitive of mensa.” Insignificant as these words may appear, I still regard them as entitled to record—nay, I would even write them as town-motto on the gate of Göttingen; for the young birds pipe as the old ones sing, and the expression accurately indicates the narrow-minded academic pride so characteristic of the “highly learned” Georgia Augusta….  5
  Finding the next morning that I must lighten my knapsack, I threw overboard the pair of boots, and arose and went forth unto Goslar. There I arrived without knowing how. This much alone do I remember, that I sauntered up and down hill, gazing upon many a lovely meadow vale. Silver waters rippled and rustled, sweet wood-birds sang, the bells of the flocks tinkled, the many-shaded green trees were gilded by the sun; and over all, the blue-silk canopy of heaven was so transparent that I could look through the depths even to the Holy of Holies, where angels sat at the feet of God, studying sublime thorough-bass in the features of the Eternal countenance. But I was all the time lost in a dream of the previous night, which I could not banish. It was an echo of the old legend, how a knight descended into a deep fountain, beneath which the fairest princess of the world lay buried in a death-like magic slumber. I myself was the knight, and the dark mine of Clausthal was the fountain. Suddenly innumerable lights gleamed around me, wakeful dwarfs leapt from every cranny in the rocks, grimacing angrily, cutting at me with their short swords, blowing terribly on horns which ever summoned more and more of their comrades, and frantically nodding their great heads. But as I hewed them down with my sword, and the blood flowed, I for the first time remarked that they were not really dwarfs, but the red-blooming long-bearded thistle-tops, which I had the day before hewed down on the highway with my stick. At last they all vanished, and I came to a splendid lighted hall, in the midst of which stood my heart’s loved one, veiled in white, and immovable as a statue. I kissed her mouth, and then—O Heavens!—I felt the blessed breath of her soul and the sweet tremor of her lovely lips. It seemed that I heard the divine command, “Let there be light!” and a dazzling flash of eternal light shot down, but at the same instant it was again night, and all ran chaotically together into a wild desolate sea! A wild desolate sea, over whose foaming waves the ghosts of the departed madly chased each other, the white shrouds floating on the wind, while behind all, goading them on with cracking whip, ran a many-colored harlequin—and I was the harlequin. Suddenly from the black waves the sea monsters raised their misshapen heads, and yawned towards me with extended jaws, and I awoke in terror.  6
  Alas! how the finest dreams may be spoiled! The knight in fact, when he has found the lady, ought to cut a piece from her priceless veil, and after she has recovered from her magic sleep and sits again in glory in her hall, he should approach her and say, “My fairest princess, dost thou not know me?” Then she will answer, “My bravest knight, I know thee not!” And then he shows her the piece cut from her veil, exactly fitting the deficiency, and she knows that he is her deliverer, and both tenderly embrace, and the trumpets sound, and the marriage is celebrated!  7
  It is really a very peculiar misfortune that my love dreams so seldom have so fine a conclusion.  8
 
 
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