Week 457: Mich locken nicht die Himmelsauen, by Heinrich Heine

In response to correspondent Chris’s request last week, here is the Heine poem mentioned, with my own attempt at a translation. It’s an untitled section of a sequence in ‘Gedichte 1853-1854’, written when Heine was in failing health, a few years before his death in 1856.

Heine is a very accessible poet, but also quite tricky. He has a technique of laying on the sentiment rather too thickly, then scraping off some but not all of it with an ironic flick of his verbal trowel, and it can be hard for a non-native speaker to gauge his exact tone. In this poem, for example, in which he is constantly undercutting his own real pathos, I suspect that the verb ‘schwätzen’, with its suggestion of artless prattle, would not now be complimentary if used of a woman, and probably wasn’t then. Which need not make it less fond, of course. Though it’s fairly typical of Heine that at the same time as making these uxorious declarations he was managing in his closing years to have a love affair with a young woman. His wife Mathilde survived him, dying in 1883. 

Mich locken nicht die Himmelsauen

Mich locken nicht die Himmelsauen
Im Paradies, im sel’gen Land;
Dort find ich keine schönre Frauen,
Als ich bereits auf Erden fand.

Kein Engel mit den feinsten Schwingen
Könnt mir ersetzen dort mein Weib;
Auf Wolken sitzend Psalmen singen,
Wär auch nicht just mein Zeitvertreib.

O Herr! ich glaub, es wär das beste,
Du ließest mich in dieser Welt;
Heil nur zuvor mein Leibgebreste,
Und sorge auch für etwas Geld.

Ich weiß, es ist voll Sünd’ und Laster
Die Welt; jedoch ich bin einmal
Gewöhnt, auf diesem Erdpechpflaster
Zu schlendern durch das Jammertal.

Genieren wird das Weltgetreibe
Mich nie, denn selten geh ich aus;
In Schlafrock und Pantoffeln bleibe
Ich gern bei meiner Frau zu Haus.

Laß mich bei ihr! Hör ich sie schwätzen,
Trinkt meine Seele die Musik
Der holden Stimme mit Ergötzen.
So treu und ehrlich ist ihr Blick!

Gesundheit nur und Geldzulage
Verlang ich, Herr! O laß mich froh
Hinleben noch viel schöne Tage
Bei meiner Frau im statu quo!

Heinrich Heine

They’re not for me, the fields divine
Of Paradise, that holy ground.
I’ll find no women there more fine
Than those on earth already found.

No angel there with splendid wing
Could take the place of my own wife;
And sitting on a cloud to sing
Is not quite my idea of life.

O Lord! I think it best for me
To let this world below suffice,
Just heal first my infirmity.
Also, some money would be nice.

It’s full of vice and sin, I know,
This world of ours, and yet the years
Have long accustomed me to go
Down mean streets through this vale of tears.

The bustle of the world around
Won’t bother one who does not roam,
Content in slippers, dressing-gowned,
To be beside his wife at home.

O let me stay to hear again
Her prattle that delights my days,
My soul drink up her sweet refrain.
So true and honest is her gaze.

Just health and money then, o Lord,
I ask, that I may live to know
The fair days time may yet afford
With my wife and the status quo!

2 thoughts on “Week 457: Mich locken nicht die Himmelsauen, by Heinrich Heine

  1. Hi David, thanks for doing another post on Heine (and it’s the poem I mentioned last week!). The paradise he’s rejecting seems to be a comic-book paradise where he sits on a cloud singing psalms, while a line of beautiful women pass by?

    I like the idea of one Heine poem leading on to another in an almost never ending line. So I’m going to mention another poem. (This is not a request for you to translate it.) I like the poem about the unknown woman from New Poems 1844. It begins as follows (in a translation by Louis Untermeyer).

    My adored and golden-haired one,
    Every day I’m sure to meet her,
    When beneath the chestnut branches
    In the Tuileries she wanders.

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