Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Sea Has Its Pearls by Heinrich Heine

Yesterday's poem, "The Tide Rises, The Tide Falls" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, is a favorite of mine because of the first lines of the second stanza: "Darkness settles on roofs and walls,/But the sea, the sea in the darkness calls" as well as for the recurrence of the words in the title. It's the repetition of "But the sea, the sea . . . " that really works for me somehow. And it reminded me of a poem with a similar repetition, with the words being "But my heart, my heart, my heart has its love". And so it was that, through the magic of Google, I found the poem that was teasing the edges of my brain. And it was Heinrich Heine, a German Romantic poet. And its most famous translation turns out to be by (wait for it) Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. You can read more about that behind the cut.

Here's today's poem, for which I did my own translation from the German, just for you. Because I am a full-service blogger. Or something.

The Sea Has Its Pearls
Heinrich Heine, translated by Kelly Fineman

The sea has its pearls,
The sky has its stars;
But my heart, my heart,
My heart has its love.

The sea and sky are large,
Yet my heart is larger;
And more beautiful than pearls and stars
My love's light and radiance.

You small, young girl,
Come to my big heart;
My heart and the sea and the sky
Fade away before love.

Here's the painting, "The Sea Hath Its Pearls", by William Margetson:

Das Meer hat seine Perlen,
Der Himmel hat seine Sterne,
Aber mein Herz, mein Herz,
Mein Herz hat seine Liebe.

Groß ist das Meer und der Himmel,
Doch größer ist mein Herz,
Und schöner als Perlen und Sterne
Leuchtet und strahlt meine Liebe.

Du kleines, junges Mädchen,
Komm an mein großes Herz;
Mein Herz und das Meer und der Himmel
Vergehn vor lauter Liebe.

The original poem was untitled, and was published by Heine in Buche der Lieder (Book of Songs) published in 1827. The word "love" ends all three stanzas of this poem, and the word "heart" appears at the end of line 3 of the first stanza and line 2 of the second and third stanzas. In the German, each line has three accented syllables (and a varying number of actual syllables). The poems in Buche Der Lieder were based on his apparent infatuation with two of his female cousins (which was evidently a one-sided affair). It was translated into English by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in The Belfry of Bruges and Other Poems, published in 1845, using slightly more flowery language than my translation, but very true to the meaning of the text. Here's Longfellow's translation:

The Sea Hath Its Pearls
by Heinrich Heine, translated by Longfellow

The sea hath its pearls,
The heaven hath its stars;
But my heart, my heart,
My heart hath its love.

Great are the sea, and the heaven;
Yet greater is my heart,
And fairer than pearls or stars
Flashes and beams my love.

Thou little, youthful maiden,
Come unto my great heart;
My heart, and the sea and the heaven
Are melting away with love!

Biographical information for Heine: Heine was a Jew born in Germany in the late 18th century, and he died an expatriate in Paris in the middle of the 19th century. During his lifetime, he converted to Lutheranism for reasons of practicality (he referred to conversion as a "ticket of admission to European culture", because of the restrictions placed on Jews at that time). Throughout his life, he continued to struggle with his identity as a Jew and as a German. He died of lead poisoning in Paris in 1856. His last words were "God will forgive me. It's his job."

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1 comment:

guy said...

thank you, a nice and sobre translation!
I didn't know HH died of lead poisoning I thought it was A.L.S what killed him

Guy Sonnen Amsterdam