Nonfiction > Lionel Strachey, et al., eds. > The World’s Wit and Humor > German
The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes.  1906.
Vol. XII: German
The Song of Songs
By Heinrich Heine (1797–1856)
From “Latest Poems”

FAIR woman’s body is a song
  Inscribed by our great Maker
In Nature’s mighty album erst,
  When moved to life to wake her.
Ah, yes, propitious was the hour        5
  When thus He show’d compassion!
The coy, rebellious stuff he worked
  In true artistic fashion.
Yes, woman’s body is, ’mongst songs,
  The song most sweet and tender,        10
And wondrous strophès are her limbs,
  So snowy-white and slender.
And then her neck, her glistening neck—
  Oh, what a godlike notion!—
Where the main thought, her little head,        15
  Rocks with a graceful motion.
Like polished epigrams one loves
  Her bosom’s rosebuds dearly;
Enchanting the cæsura is
  That parts her breasts severely.        20
The song has flesh, ribs, hands, and feet—
  No abstract poem this is!
With lips that rime deliciously,
  It smiles and sweetly kisses.
True poetry is breathing here;        25
  Grace shines in each direction;
The song upon its forehead bears
  The stamp of all perfection.
I’ll praise thee, Lord, and in the dust
  Will humbly kneel to show it;        30
Bunglers are we compared with Thee,
  Thou glorious heavenly Poet.
Before the splendor of Thy song
  I’ll bow in adoration,
And to its study day and night        35
  Pay closest application.
Yes, day and night I’ll study it,
  No loss of time admitting;
So shall I soon with overwork
  Be thinner than befitting.        40

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