Celebrate The Memory Of Beloved Poet Heinrich Heine On December 13th

On December 13, 1797, one of Germany’s most important and beloved poets was born. Two-hundred-and-thirteen years later, we can still celebrate the life of this extraordinary artist.

Düsseldorf is the city that lays claim to Heinrich Heine. You can begin an exploration of the life of this German poet by visiting his house, the Heine-Haus on Bolker Straße. The former birthplace and home of Heine is now a bookstore set amongst a series of noisy nightclubs. The bricks of the original structure can be seen at the pedestal of Heine’s bust here. As you view his statue, you can contemplate what the poet would think about how much his former childhood home has changed in just over two centuries!

Heine is most famous for his lyrical poetry and captured the imagination of his own countrymen, as well as those abroad. The great German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche wrote in his book Ecce Homo that “The highest conception of the lyric poet was given to me by Heinrich Heine. I seek in vain in all the realms of millennia for an equally sweet and passionate music. He possessed that divine malice without which I cannot imagine perfection!”

Born into a secular Jewish family, Heine later converted to Christianity in order to obtain a civil service job, from which Jews were barred at the time. His life has stirred up much debate among Jewish scholars, particularly in Israel. Some consider him an important and great figure of Jewish descent, while others consider him a traitor to his faith.

Heine was among those whose books were burned during the Nazi regime. Rather prophetically, Heine once wrote in his play, Almansor, that “…where they burn books, they will ultimately burn people.” (“…dort wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man am Ende auch Menschen.“)

And Heine even has connections to that other hated “ism” of the 20th century, Communism. He was a friend of Karl Marx, the very man who penned “The Communist Manifesto.” They met in Paris where Heine had emigrated and lived as a foreign correspondent. Although the two were quite close friends at first, gradually, Heine’s growing distaste for his friend’s political philosophy — and Marx’s expulsion from Paris — led to their growing apart.

These days, it is still possible to appreciate the life and works of Heinrich Heine. Many of his poems have been put to music by some of the world’s greatest composers, including Brahms, Schubert, Mendelssohn, Strauss and Wagner. One of his most famous poems, Die Lorelai, was adapted to song by Friedrich Silcher in 1847.

“I do not know what haunts me,
What saddened my mind all day;
An age-old tale confounds me,
A spell I cannot allay.”

—Marcus

 

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