A Book of Answers XVI: Heine And Blossom


There is a streak of rather fatuous sentiment in Heine of which Du bist wie eine Blume is a prize example. The first stanza is exquisite, and had he left it at that, all would have been well. As L.P. Betz remarked: Heine est poète comme on respire.

There has been some attempt to identify Heine’s Blümlein. Professor Elster was sure she was the younger sister of his cousin Amalie Heine with whom he was hopelessly in love. His niece, the Principessa Della Rocca, said that the verses were addressed to a poor Jewish girl from Poland whom Heine befriended and then fell in love with. There is practically no evidence for either view, and it does not matter in any case. Poets are not on their autobiographical oaths when they set pen to paper.

Heine had a fine, self-lacerating irony. The answer might have appealed to that sardonic sense of humour which sometimes goes with a tendency to the sentimental.

Heinrich Heine To His Blümlein

Du bist wie eine Blume,
So hold und schön und rein;
Ich schau dich an, und Wehmut
Schleicht mir ins Herz hinein.

Mir ist, als ob ich die Hände
Aufs Haupt dir legen sollt,
Betend, das Gott dich erhalte
So rein und schön und hold.

You are like a blossom, so charming and fair and pure; I gaze on you and sadness creeps into my heart. I feel as though I should lay my hands on your head, praying that God may keep you so pure and fair and charming.

Miss Blümlein To Heinrich Heine

O thank you, Mr Heine;
I know just how you feel,
For at my glass each morning
I wonder: am I real?

But flowers, I would remind you,
Bloom only for the bee
To ravish and deflower them.
The same, sir, holds for me.

So please forbear your blessing;
Hands off my golden hair!
And, lest I die an old maid,
Take back, take back that prayer!

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