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I can clearly sense your utter despair of Der Matratzengruft*
As you valiantly carried on your poetic works to the very end.
This did not change your literary accomplishments well-known,
And your courage through the misery and morphine* is undeniable.
Your lyrical poetry speaks volumes among all of German literature,
And it was most marvelously set to music by the likes of Schumann,
Schubert, Silcher, Mendelssohn, Brahms, and Strauss—to name a few.
Their melodic tones as applied to your verses then, now live on forever!
Your role in and principal contributions to Romanticism fall in line
With the highest quality of your poetic language and its intention.
Your role in battling early nineteenth-century censorship in Prussia set
You out front of many of your contemporaries who resisted much less.
It’s so tragic Herr Heine that your literary resistance so prominent in
Challenging Prussian censorship would make you ever so more noted,
And besmirched as the Nazis in 1933 burned your books and those of
Other German scholars as a reflection of their insane and twisted beliefs!
It’s with great irony indeed that the banning and burning of your works by
The Nazis was parodied further by them as they ignobly quoted and used
Your famous line from “Almansor,”* when you likened that “where books
Are burned, in the end people will be burned too.” We know what they did!
And so, with both honor and sadness I do understand the very cry of lament
From the confines of your mattress-grave about your final exquisite poetry,
Written through writhing pain and tears as you faced the end of your life.
It took great courage to face your end like this while staying true to your Muse!
Gary Bateman, Copyright © All Rights Reserved (December 15, 2014)
(Narrative Quatrain poetic format)
*Der Matratzengruft from the German means “The Mattress-Grave.”
(Heinrich Heine was confined to his bed, his “mattress-grave,” in 1848
with various illnesses until his eventual death eight years later in 1856.)
*Heine poetically referred to his pain predicament in the poem “Morphine,”
written near the end of his life, when he noted in two famous verses:
“Gut is der Schlaf, der Tod ist besser—freilich / Das beste waere, nie
Geboren sein.” (In English: “Sleep is good, Death is better—of course, /
Best of all would be never to have been born.”)
*Almansor was a play written by Heine in 1821 that had a most famous
line in German: “Das war ein Vorspiel nur, dort wo man Buecher verbrennt,
verbrennt man auch am Ende Menschen.” (Rendered in English: “That was
but a prelude; where they burn books, they will ultimately burn people as
well.”) The significance here is that as the Nazis burned the books of Heine
and other German artists on the Opernplatz in Berlin in 1933, they actually
celebrated this event by “engraving” Heine’s famous words from “Almansor”
in the ground at the Opernplatz site. The obvious depravity of this terrible
event reflects the innate cruelty, stupidity and evil of the Nazis as they
burned the books and defiled the names and reputations of Heine and other
famous German writers. Their actions were monstrous and shameful, and
were indicative of mankind’s base instincts at their very worst. Moreover,
despite converting to Protestantism from Judaism in 1825, Heine’s Jewish
origins played a continuing presence in his life and were one of the major
factors for his being scapegoated by the Nazis later in 1933. And besides,
the Nazis were always more interested in burning books, rather than
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