Heine was a restless and homeless poet, a Jew among Germans, a German in Paris, a rebel among the bourgeoisie and always, as his famous doppelganger poems show, a man divided against himself. This selection, with the German originals accompanied by English prose translations, provides an introduction to Heine.
'One of the first men of this century' is how Heine described himself when he claimed to have been born in the early hours of 1800.It was typical of Heine to create this humorous doubt - he was in fact born in 1797. He was a restless and homeless poet, a Jew among Germans, a German in Paris, a rebel among the bourgeoisie and always, as his famous doppelganger poems show, a man divided against himself. This selection, with the German originals accompanied by English prose translations, provides the perfect introduction to Heine. He can be magnificent as an acute, irreverent commentator on politics and current events, though his genius most often strikes home in the poems filled with despair, or sensuality, or sweetness, or self-mockery, in which he draws out the whole gamut of emotions provoked by love and immanent death.
Born in 1797 in French occupied Dusseldorf to middle class Jewish parents, Heinrich Heine after a Jesuit and Hebrew education was sent to both Frankfurt and Hamburg to learn business. It became evident that he had little aptitude for, or interest in the world of commerce and he left to study at the University of Bonn. Originally intending to study law Heine met A. W. von Schlegel, professor of literature and a cofounder of German romanticism, who encouraged his literary bent. Stifled by the conservatism and anti-Semitism at Bonn Heine left for the University of Goettingen, which was in fact less suited to him than Bonn. He was suspended and then left for the University of Berlin, where he famously attended lectures by Hegel. Literary sponsors helped him to publish Gedichte (Poems) in 1822. These poems followed romantic conventions but were also marked by a novel use of language and imagery. Lyrisches Intermezzo (1823) and the lyric cycle Heimkehr (1826; Homecoming) show improved command of lyric form and frequently project the simplicity and directness of the folk song and the folk ballad. In 1825 his uncle, who had funded his education insisted he return to Goettingen and complete his degree in law. He was christened so that he could handle Christian clients, and took the name 'Heinrich', replacing his birth name 'Harry'. After leaving university Heine travelled extensively, inspiring much of his work. He wrote Buch der Lieder (Book of Songs) in 1827, which attracted a great deal of attention, both from the public and from a number of composers including Johannes Brahms, Franz Schubert, and Robert Schumann, who would set his work to music. He searched for a secure professional position, but was unable to maintain one, and so, in the wake of the French Revolution Heine moved to Paris. The move to Paris effectively heralded the end of Heine's romantic period, and he became more interested in German Philosophy, and sharing this with the French amongst other things. His later poetry became more cynical and disillusioned, and cared for by his French wife, who he wed in 1841he died in 1956, and is buried in the cemetery of Montmartre in Paris.
Heine: Selected Verse by Heinrich Heine
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