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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
The Supper on the Brocken
By Heinrich Heine (1797–1856)
 
From ‘The Hartz Journey’

THE COMPANY around the table gradually became better acquainted and much noisier. Wine banished beer, punchbowls steamed, and drinking, schmolliren, 1 and singing were the order of the night. The old ‘Landsfather’ and the beautiful songs of W. Müller, Rückert, Uhland, and others rang around, with the exquisite airs of Methfessel. Best of all sounded our own Arndt’s German words, “The Lord, who bade iron grow, wished for no slaves.” And out of doors it roared as if the old mountain sang with us, and a few reeling friends even asserted that he merrily shook his bald head, which caused the great unsteadiness of our floor. The bottles became emptier and the heads of the company fuller. One bellowed like an ox, a second piped, a third declaimed from ‘The Crime,’ a fourth spoke Latin, a fifth preached temperance, and a sixth, assuming the chair, learnedly lectured as follows:—“Gentlemen, the world is a round cylinder, upon which human beings as individual pins are scattered apparently at random. But the cylinder revolves, the pins knock together and give out tones, some very frequently and others but seldom; all of which causes a remarkably complicated sound, which is generally known as universal history. We will, in consequence, speak first of music, then of the world, and finally of history, which latter we divide into positive and Spanish flies—” And so sense and nonsense went rattling on.  1
  A jolly Mecklenburger, who held his nose to his punch-glass, and smiling with happiness snuffed up the perfume, remarked that it caused in him a sensation as if he were standing again before the refreshment table in the Schwerin Theatre! Another held his wine-glass like a lorgnette before his eye, and appeared to be carefully studying the company, while the red wine trickled down over his cheek into his projecting mouth. The Greifswalder, suddenly inspired, cast himself upon my breast, and shouted wildly, “Oh that thou couldst understand me, for I am a lover, a happy lover; for I am loved again, and G—d d—n me, she’s an educated girl, for she has a full bosom, wears a white gown, and plays the piano!” But the Swiss wept, and tenderly kissed my hand, and ever whimpered, “O Molly dear! O Molly dear!”  2
  During this crazy scene, in which plates learned to dance and glasses to fly, there sat opposite me two youths, beautiful and pale as statues, one resembling Adonis, the other Apollo. The faint rosy hue which the wine spread over their cheeks was scarcely visible. They gazed on each other with infinite affection, as if the one could read in the eyes of the other; and in those eyes there was a light as though drops of light had fallen therein from the cup of burning love which an angel on high bears from one star to the other. They conversed softly with earnest, trembling voices, and narrated sad stories, through all of which ran a tone of strange sorrow. “Lora is also dead!” said one, and sighing, proceeded to tell of a maiden of Halle who had loved a student, and who, when the latter left Halle, spoke no more to any one, ate but little, wept day and night, gazing ever on the canary-bird which her lover had given her. “The bird died, and Lora did not long survive it,” was the conclusion, and both the youths sighed as though their hearts would break. Finally the other said, “My soul is sorrowful; come forth with me into the dark night! Let me inhale the breath of the clouds and the moon-rays. Partake of my sorrows! I love thee: thy words are musical, like the rustling of reeds and the flow of rivulets; they re-echo in my breast, but my soul is sorrowful!”  3
  Both of the young men arose. One threw his arm around the neck of the other, and thus left the noisy room. I followed, and saw them enter a dark chamber, where the one, by mistake, instead of the window threw open the door of a large wardrobe; and both, standing before it with outstretched arms, expressing poetic rapture, spoke alternately. “Ye breezes of darkening night,” cried the first, “how ye cool and revive my cheeks! How sweetly ye play amid my fluttering locks! I stand on the cloudy peak of the mountain; far below me lie the sleeping cities of men, and blue waters gleam. List! far below in the valley rustle the fir-trees! Far above yonder hills sweep in misty forms the spirits of my fathers. Oh that I could hunt with ye on your cloud steeds through the stormy night, over the rolling sea, upwards to the stars! Alas! I am laden with grief, and my soul is sad!” Meanwhile, the other had also stretched out his arms towards the wardrobe, while tears fell from his eyes as he cried to a broad pair of yellow pantaloons which he mistook for the moon:—“Fair art thou, daughter of heaven! lovely and blessed is the calm of thy countenance. Thou walkest lonely in thy loveliness. The stars follow thy blue path in the east! At thy glance the clouds rejoice, and their dark brows gleam with light. Who is like unto thee in heaven, thou the night-born? The stars are ashamed before thee, and turn away their green sparkling eyes. Whither, ah whither, when morning pales thy face, dost thou flee from thy path? Hast thou, like me, thy hall? Dwellest thou amid shadows of sorrow? Have thy sisters fallen from heaven? Are they who joyfully rolled with thee through the night now no more? Yea, they fell adown, O lovely light! and thou hidest thyself to bewail them! Yet the night must at some time come when thou too must pass away, and leave thy blue path above in heaven. Then the stars, who were once ashamed in thy presence, will raise their green heads and rejoice. Now thou art clothed in thy starry splendor and gazest adown from the gate of heaven. Tear aside the clouds, O ye winds, that the night-born may shine forth and the bushy hills gleam, and that the foaming waves of the sea may roll in light!”  4
  A well-known and not remarkably thin friend, who had drunk more than he had eaten, though he had already at supper devoured a piece of beef which would have dined six lieutenants of the guard and one innocent child, here came rushing into the room in a very jovial manner,—that is to say, à la swine,—shoved the two elegiac friends one over the other into the wardrobe, stormed through the house-door, and began to roar around outside as if raising the devil in earnest. The noise in the hall grew more confused and duller; the two moaning and weeping friends lay, as they thought, crushed at the foot of the mountain; from their throats ran noble red wine, and the one said to the other:—“Farewell! I feel that I bleed. Why dost thou waken me, O breath of spring? Thou caressest me, and sayst, ‘I bedew thee with drops from heaven.’ But the time of my withering is at hand—at hand the storm which will break away my leaves. To-morrow the Wanderer will come—come—he who saw me in my beauty—his eyes will glance, as of yore, around the field—in vain—” But over all roared the well-known basso voice without, blasphemously complaining, amid oaths and whoops, that not a single lantern had been lighted along the entire Weender Street, and that one could not even see whose window-panes he had smashed.  5
  I can bear a tolerable quantity,—modesty forbids me to say how many bottles,—and I consequently retired to my chamber in tolerably good condition. The young merchant already lay in bed, enveloped in his chalk-white nightcap and yellow Welsh flannel. He was not asleep, and sought to enter into conversation with me. He was a Frankfort-on-Mainer, and consequently spoke at once of the Jews; declared that they had lost all feeling for the beautiful and noble, and that they sold English goods twenty-five per cent. under manufacturers’ prices. A fancy to humbug him came over me, and I told him that I was a somnambulist, and must beforehand beg his pardon should I unwittingly disturb his slumbers. This intelligence, as he confessed the following day, prevented him from sleeping a wink through the whole night, especially since the idea had entered his head that I, while in a somnambulistic crisis, might shoot him with the pistol which lay near my bed. But in truth I fared no better myself, for I slept very little. Dreary and terrifying fancies swept through my brain. A pianoforte extract from Dante’s Hell. Finally I dreamed that I saw a law opera, called the ‘Falcidia,’ with libretto on the right of inheritance by Gans, and music by Spontini. A crazy dream! I saw the Roman Forum splendidly illuminated. In it Servius Asinius Göschenus, sitting as prætor on his chair, and throwing wide his toga in stately folds, burst out into raging recitative; Marcus Tullius Elversus, manifesting as prima donna legataria all the exquisite feminineness of his nature, sang the love-melting bravura of “Quicunque civis Romanus”; referees, rouged red as sealing-wax, bellowed in chorus as minors; private tutors, dressed as genii, in flesh-colored stockinets, danced an anti-Justinian ballet, crowning with flowers the “Twelve Tables,” while amid thunder and lightning rose from the ground the abused ghost of Roman Legislation, accompanied by trumpets, gongs, fiery rain, cum omni causa.  6
  From this confusion I was rescued by the landlord of the Brocken, when he awoke me to see the sun rise. Above, on the tower, I found several already waiting, who rubbed their freezing hands; others, with sleep still in their eyes, stumbled up to us, until finally the whole silent congregation of the previous evening was reassembled, and we saw how above the horizon there rose a little carmine-red ball, spreading a dim wintry illumination. Far around, amid the mists, rose the mountains, as if swimming in a white rolling sea, only their summits being visible; so that we could imagine ourselves standing on a little hill in the midst of an inundated plain, in which here and there rose dry clods of earth. To retain that which I saw and felt, I sketched the following poem:—

  IN the east ’tis ever brighter,
  Though the sun gleams cloudily;
Far and wide the mountain summits
  Swim above the misty sea.
  
Had I seven-mile boots for travel,
  Like the fleeting winds I’d rove,
Over valley, rock, and river,
  To the home of her I love.
  
From the bed where now she’s sleeping,
  Soft the curtain I would slip;
Softly kiss her childlike forehead,
  Soft the ruby of her lip.
  
And yet softer would I whisper
  In the little lily ear,
“Think in dreams we still are loving,
  Think I never lost thee, dear.”
  7
 
Note 1. Hobnobbing. [back]
 
 
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