Heinrich Heine: the predicament of a cultural pluralist.Heinrich Heine provides an example JLof the multiculturalism of a prominent German Jew of the nineteenth century, who can serve as a prototype not only of his time and place but also of the social-cultural phenomenon at large. A reflective and creative master of prose and poetry, he encountered the European culture, on being emancipated, or believing to have been emancipated, and faced a civilization, or civilizations, competing with his own traditional culture. Such an encounter has never been free of problems--both political-external and [+ or -] j ological-internal. They may have differed in each case depending on time and place, and the reaction has been peculiar and distinctive in each case. Yet there remain some common features of these phenomena (as looked at by society) or such experiences (as encountered by the individuals concerned), and the presentation of a prominent case like Heine's offers guidance into the exploration of other--perhaps less colorful-examples. It should also stimulate reflection cons of multiculturalisni ralism--the summing up be left to the reader. on the pros and or cultural plu of the balance to be left to the reader.
The Wandering Jew
Ever since the Jews left their national abode and spread into other countries, they confronted the problem of how to maintain their identity while entering into social relations with the residents and authorities of their new domicile. They adjusted by acquiring proficiency in the language of the new country, adjusting to the external forms and manners, observing the laws and regulations, and engaging in economic activity in order to serve the host community and to survive as individuals.
Such a broad and varied adjustment may have occasionally impinged on the traditional ways of the Jews and may have even interfered with the essence of Judaism. Jews would often adjust their dress to the accepted vogue. Occasionally they would trim their beards, or even shave them off. In fairly recent times some Jews might have contravened religious practices, such as strict observance of the Sabbath laws, under economic pressure. Yet, by and large, jews would maintain their identity as a kinship, a religious community, a cultural entity, and a nation with historical memory. The acquisition of a new language, a novel dress, and foreign manners did not threaten Jewish identity. Even when proficiency in Hebrew diminished under the persistent intrusion of a regional tongue--indeed, Hebrew had been pressed hard by Aramaic even in Judea and Galilee at a time when Jews still inhabited their ancestral land--the original language remained alive at least as a sacred tongue of the Bible and the prayer. At the same time a foreign language could be used in the exploration and formulation of Judaism: Aramaic was the language of the Gemara, Philo expounded his Jewish philosophy in Greek, medieval philosophers wrote in Arabic, the revival of Jewish studies in the nineteenth century became manifest in German, and many a work on Judaism has been published in English in more recent times. Thus, despite the encounter with other civilizations and the assimilation of a variety of ways of the surrounding society, Jews could maintain their own ethnic-religious-cultural identity. There was no question in their mind, and in the opinion of their host societies, that they were and remained Jews despite their integration into an alien socio-ecological setting.
While this situation had been more or less characteristic of the Jews for centuries, it has undergone a significant transformation in the past two centuries or so. The wan-deringjew, who made his way from Judea to various parts of the Roman Empire, who was expelled from France and moved to Germany, forced out of Spain to several new abodes, escaped from Germany to welcoming Poland, turned refugee from eastern Europe and settled in England and America--changing languages and manners as he crossed borders--the wandering Jew retained his Jewish identity and kept his Jewish consciousness as the dominant element of his being. The Jewish awareness remained close to the Jew's heart, while the alien belonging was external--useful and even indispensable, but not relevant to his sense of identity. The wandering Jew acquired the equipment necessary for periodical migration from one land to another, yet such equipment did not make him any less a Jew.
This situation was compatible with--even encouraged by--the external conditions ofjewish minorities allowed to reside among alien nations. Except for sporadic outbursts of violent anti-Semitism that forced the Jews out of their domicile, the social setting ofjewish communities tolerated the Jews as aliens who performed some useful services and would be allowed to maintain their residence, while keeping their identity. If, being aliens, they were tolerated at best--usually with reservations, but occasionally with goodwill--this situation was acceptable to the Jews, who got used to the circumstances.
The situation of the Jews, the Jewish condition, started to undergo a profound change with the emancipation of the Jews in the past two centuries or so. Once the legal status of the Jews in one country or another was equalized with that of the other citizens, and once the Jews came to enjoy the same rights, the Jewish sense of being the object of discrimination, of being merely tolerated, of being dependent on the goodwill of the authority, changed. The proud, but hidden, Jewish consciousness was suddenly complemented by the general civic and human awareness. Even when the rights did not encompass all the Jews, but only the professional and the wealthy, even if the legal equality was not immediately followed by social acceptance, the new sense of emancipation could not be stifled. The beginning was made, and the Jews trusted that the development must move in the direction pointed at by the new liberalism. Even in countries where the Jews remained widely discriminated against, as in Czarist Russia, the hope of eventual emancipation was aroused.
This new feeling had a profound impact on the Jewish attitude toward the surrounding civilization and its cultural achievements and institutions. The alien culture, including the language, which had been absorbed merely as a means for material existence and achievement, became fascinating in itself, an end worth exploring and enjoying. The foreign language, from being a tool of the storekeeper in his intercourse with the Gentile customer, turned into a vehicle for reading poetry and prose, for immersion in the wide world of science and knowledge. Thus, the Jew, instead of wandering across geographical boundaries, embarked on a tour through new cultural domains.
The transition was made with increasing enthusiasm. What had started as an individual exploration spread out into an ever-expanding movement, as young people joined the trend, assisted by the opening of public schools to Jewish children and adolescents. Jews in Germany, which was among the early emancipating regions, embraced the works of Goethe and Schiller and many others among the profusion of literary works in the nineteenth century. Eventually, Jews in other countries followed: Mickiewicz and Sienkiewicz offered the lead in Poland, Pushkin and Tolstoy offered the Russian standard of literary excellence. Writers across political borders, whether read in the original or in translation, broadened the scope of European culture. The classics of ancient Greece and Rome were often included by those exposed to the rigors of secondary education in central and eastern Europe.
The crucial factor in this development was that the Jews embraced the new culture, or cultures, with all their heart and all their soul and all their might. It was not an external subject matter, but the alien literature--as well as art and especially music--was absorbed, assimilated, internalized. The Jew appeared to have the capacity to enter into the very soul of the newly discovered culture, to make it his own.
Before long--indeed, quite early--appeared Jewish individuals who contributed their own creativity to the letters of the hitherto alien civilization. They became involved in poetry, prose, music (both as performers and composers). Some of the early birds appeared in Germany, but they were followed by Russian and Polish Jews, as well as writers in English on both sides of the Atlantic. There is no need here to present a list of such individuals.
Ostensibly this revolution in the cultural identity of the Jews was a beneficial development and created an enviable situation. Instead of being monocultural--equipped with blinkers to protect him from other, foreign civilizations--the new Jew becomes multicultural, open to the riches of other cultures. He puts the diverse cultures into separate folders, and opens one or another at his discretion--as is nowadays done in computers. He may be all piety and awe on Jewish high holidays, but enjoy the Italian opera on another occasion. He may ponder the meaning of a biblical verse or the wisdom of a rabbinical saying one evening and reflect on the tragedy of Hamlet or the puzzle of Goethe's Faust on another. He may find solace in the community of fellow believers in a small synagogue or admire the art of the Gothic cathedral and sense the religious spirit it inspires. His mental and spiritual life is expanded into new domains.
Yet this idyllic picture does not always represent the reality. For two or more cultures may not always coexist in harmony. There may be preference for one over the other. There may be a conflict of principle, of disposition, of mood. Even between Verdi's La Traviata and Strausss Die Fleder-maus--perfect as each is in its own genre--there is no chemistry (as the saying goes). In some cases individuals may find their own formula for the coexistence of diverse cultures; in other instances one culture takes precedence over the other. There are cases when one eradicates the other: the old rejects the new, or the new supersedes the old. Perhaps more significantly, the collision of cultures may stir the affected person to make constant comparisons, and occasionally to reach the cynical conclusions that all human endeavors to find a worthwhile way ot life are futile. Rationalism may undermine religious belief, and religious quest may see the futility of reason in its attempts to solve existential puzzles.
This situation and these problems, which have accompanied the new wandering Jew for the past two centuries, are spectacularly exhibited in the life and work of Heinrich Heine. Heine was a Jew who wandered through diverse cultures with a full commitment to each, who tried to be involved in all, and yet cast doubt not only on their peaceful coexistence but even on the intrinsic worth of some. He remains the enthusiastic collector of man's cultural achievements and at the same time the merciless critic of the flaws in human spirit and conduct. He praises the glory of human spirit, but also indicts and ridicules man's shortcomings and failures. He is both an enthusiastic believer and a ruthless iconoclast. Yet his sarcastic humor reflects a frustrated seeker and an unhappy inquirer. In a way, he remains a living paradox: a perpetual explorer and an inspired discoverer, yet a disappointed cynic. He embodies both the noble and the tragic figure of the Jew who wanders through cultures.
Thus Heinrich Heine stands as an example of the wandering Jew as well as a symbol of the problem. One may venture even a step further and discern in him all the fascination and some ot the perils associated with "cultural pluralism," which is becoming such a powerful trend in the contemporary world.
Heinrich Heine was born in 1797 in Diis-seldorf, in Germany (divided into many political entities at the time), to an affluent Jewish middle-class family. Having spent his early youth in the shadow, or in the light, of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic expansion (which encompassed the Rhineland), Heine, along with the Jewish communities of the region, benefited from the French political philosophy and practice, which brought equality to the Jews and thus established a solid foundation for Jewish emancipation. It is not surprising, therefore, if the apparent abolition of the marginal status of the Jews led to admiration for revolutionary ideas and for Napoleon. The political situation changed in 1813, with the decline of the Napoleonic era, and in 1815 Diis-seldorf came under the rule of Prussia in the still-fragmented Germany. Jews were again subject to the discriminatory laws and policies of the pre-French period, both in the newly acquired Prussian land in the Rhineland and in most of the rest of Germany (though excluding the older part of Prussia, which retained the legal equality ofthejews, established in 1812).
The change of regime was accompanied by the rise of German nationalism, which glorified the authentic German spirit, ancient and medieval, and thus excluded the Jews, but did not necessarily leave them unimpressed by the new trend. In 1825, after graduating from legal studies, Heine converted to Lutheranism. He did it, as he openly admitted, out of purely practical considerations: it was a means for advancement to high academic and government positions. Such conversions were not uncommon in the intellectual circles, but in the case of Heine failed to lead to the desired position. The formal conversion led not to the replacement of the old by a new religion but to a connection--be it reserved and critical--to both Judaism and Christianity.
Heine's contact with various writers, publishers, and newspapers contributed to the diversity of his writing, whether because of the demand of the readers or the influence of trends and prominent individuals. Noteworthy in this respect is his affiliation with the Vereinfur Kultur und Wissenschaft derjuden (Society for the Culture and Knowledge of the Jews), where some prominent Jewish scholars explored Jewish history and other branches of Judaism, applying the rigorous methods of German scholarly research to their study. This connection strengthened Heine's interest in his Jewish roots, and his sympathy for the lot of his people.
In 1831 Heine moved to Paris, after the 1830 revolution there, partly out of solidarity with the new political trends in France and partly because of political pressure at home, and lived there for the rest of his life. Having settled in the new milieu, he wrote reports about France to Germany, while explaining the spiritual life of the Germans to the French. This situation again expressed and enhanced the complexity and ambiguity of his position: two lands, two cultures; exiled from one, living in another; reporting to each about the other.
In 1848 he fell ill and lingered in great suffering till 1856, without losing his intellectual powers, his wit, and his creativity. He continued to write to the end.
One can only be impressed by Heine's overarching cosmopolitanism. The cosmopolite feels at home in any place in the world. He is at one with the entire humanity. In Letters from Berlin he writes: "I love Germany and the Germans; but I love no less the inhabitants of the remaining parts of the earth.... It is love that determines a man's worth.... I am therefore ... more valuable than those who cannot pull themselves up from the swamp of national egotism and who only love Germany and the Germans." (1) Many years later, in a letter from Paris to a friend in Hamburg, he reveals the same sentiment: "I am the cosmopolitan incarnate. I know that this will ultimately be the general sentiment (Gesin-nung) in Europe, and therefore I am convinced that I have more future than our German nationalists, these mortal men, who belong only to the past." (2)
It is noteworthy that Heine does not preclude attachment to one's national roots because of the cosmopolitan philosophy. He loves Germany, but he loves other peoples, too. The Jove of one's people need not and must not alienate a person from the rest of the world. It is this love of humanity that is the ultimate virtue. Cosmopolitanism also constitutes, as the second quotation declares, the future of Europe--the future claiming immortality, as distinct from the moribund past.
Such a theoretical cosmopolitan stand is based on approval of and goodwill toward diverse national cultures, languages, manners, habits, and religious beliefs. In the idiom of our times, cosmopolitanism is inclusive and encourages pluralism. This is exemplified in Heine's literary work. He easily uses French words and phrases, as well as Hebrew and Yiddish, in his prose and poetry. Ancient Greek words are resorted to occasionally. All this comes naturally and fits into the composition, though the work remains fundamentally German. The content can take diverse national and cultural shapes. Heine can write a romantic German song, he can compose a wistful French patriotic poem, and he can put in verse the painful plight of the Jews--as the following fragments will illustrate.
Here are several verses from the famous Lorelei: (3)
Ich weiss nicht, was soil es bedeuten, dass ich so traurig bin; ein Marchen aus uralten Zeiten, das kommt mir nicht aus detn Sinn. Die Luft ist ktihl und es dunkelt, und ruhig fliesst der Rhein; der Gipfel des Berges funkelt im Abendsonnenschein. Die schonste Jungfrau sitzet dort oben wunderbar, ihr goldnes Geschmeide blitzet, sie kammt ihr goldenes Haar. Sie kammt es mil goldenem Kamme, und singt ein Lied dabei; das hat eine wundersame, gewaltige Melodei. I know not what it means that I'm with sadness overcome; a tale of olden days gets not out of my mind. The air is cool and it darkens, and quietly flows the Rhine; the mountain summit glistens in the evening's sunny shine. The most beautiful maiden is sitting up there wonderful, her golden adornment glitters, she combs her golden hair. She combs it with a golden comb, while singing a song, which has a truly wondrous, and mighty melody.
The old tale, the music, the beautiful maiden, the Rhine, the evening hour, and eventually the death of the boats-man, who, enchanted by Lorelei, collides with a rock and perishes, combine into a poetic expression characteristic of the German romantic poetry--which shows how Heine could identify with the German mood. Indeed, in a letter written in 1824, he declares: "I am one of the most German creatures.... At bottom I love what is German, more than anything in the world. " (4) Yet, despite this commitment to Germany, he could, with apparent ease, empathize with and convey the national sentiment of contemporary France, as the following example reveals.
"Die Grenadiere" describes two French soldiers returning from Russia, where they have been prisoners of war. As they reach Germany, they learn about the collapse of France, the defeat of the Great Army and the imprisonment of Napoleon, the Emperor (Kaiser). The pain of the two veterans is boundless. The following concluding verses bring the total commitment of the grenadier to its peak, as he asks his companion for a favor, in case he should die shortly. (5)
Gewahr mir, Bruder, eine Bitt; Wenn ich jetzt sterben werde, so nimm meine Leiche nach Frankreich mit, begrab mich in Frankreichs Erde. Das Ehrenkreutz am roten Band sollst du aufs Herz mir legen; die Flinte gib mir in die Hand, und giirt mir um den Degen. So will ich liegeri und horchen still, wie eine Schildwach, im Grabe, bis einst ich hore Kanonengebriill und wiehender Rosse Getrabe. Dann reitet der Kaiser wohl fiber mein Grab, viel Schwerter klirren und blitzen; dann steig ich gewaffnet hervor aus dem Grab,-- den Kaiser, den Kaiser zu schiitzen! Grant me, brother, one request: Should I die now, take my body with you to France, bury me in France's soil. The cross of honor on red ribbon you should put on my heart; give me the flint in my hand, and gird on me the sword. Thus I shall lie and silent listen, Like a sentry, in the grave, till one day I hear the roar of cannons and the trotting of neighing horses. Then the Emperor rides well over my grave, many swords cling and glisten; then all armed I get out of the grave-- to protect the Emperor, the Emperor!
Here we have a romantic expression of recent French patriotism, woven round the adulated figure of Napoleon. The fact that the yearning is addressed to a contemporary national hero does not diminish its mythical character. The sense of attachment to the French soil is conveyed by the cosmopolitan Heine as if he had been a Frenchman through and through. Yet he is equally capable of commiserating with the lot of the Jews, with whom his natural ties were much closer.
Here is a short poem, without a title: (6)
Brich aus in lauten Klagen, du dustre Martyrerlied, das ich so lang getragen im flammenstillen Gemut! Es dringt in alle Ohren, und durch die Ohren ins Herz; ich habe gewaltig Beschworen den tausendjahrigen Schmerz. Es weinen die Grossen und Kleinen, sogar die kalten Herrn, die Frauen und Blunien weinen, es weinen am Hinimel die Stern. Und all die Tranen fliessen nach Siiden im stillen Verein, sie fliessen und ergissen sich all in den Jordan hinein. Break out in loud laments, you gloomy song of martyrs, that I have so long carried in the quiet flame of my heart! It penetrates in every ear, and through the ears to heart; I have forcefully conjured the thousand-year-old pain. The grown-up and the little ones weep, even the cold gentlemen weep, women and flowers weep, the stars in heaven do, too. And all the tears flow southward in silent unity, they flow and all run into the Jordan river.
While the Jews are not called by name and the poem refers to martyrs, a universal term, the identity of the suffering people is revealed in the last line, which makes the River Jordan the final receptacle of the tears of the martyrs. The reference to the pain of a thousand years--though two thousand and more would be more exact--conveys the sense of the long history of suffering.
Heine's evident pluralism, with his capacity for empathy with the different sensibilities of nations and civilizations, is not objectively as harmonious and placid as it might seem. The German national consciousness is essentially at odds with a French one, when the latter involves admiration for Napoleon, the emperor who fought against Prussia and Austria and for a period of time had great parts of Germany under his control. For that matter, the adulation of Napoleonic France by the two grenadiers is not compatible with the cosmopolitan philosophy professed by Heine. The poet could be criticized, not without some justification, because his pluralism and inclusiveness, when directed to various civilizations, casts a shadow on his commitment to Germany. The openness to all contains the seeds of distance from some. The all-embracing cosmopolitanism involves a degree of estrangement toward one's own nation, not to mention the rejection of the writer by ardent nationalists.
Clearly being cosmopolitan is not consistent with being a nationalist, just as emotional devotion to two warring nations is politically inconsistent. Indeed, this situation points to the centrifugal emotions that dominated Heine and whoever followed in his steps.
Indeed, Heine himself at times distances himself from the cosmopolitanism he has embraced, when he points to "the great pain over the loss of the national peculiarities, which get lost in the universality of the new culture.... For national memories lie deeper in man's heart than usually thought" He even speaks with regret about the "Catholic cathedrals, from which faith fled, and rabbinical synagogues, from which even the believers flee," further commiserating with the Brahman over his dying gods, due to the British conquest of India.7 Thus he seems to prefer the mul-tifaceted, nationally and culturally varied world to a world dominated by one truth, which eradicates the fascinating diversity.
"Nothing Said and Nothing Chanted"
Once the simplistic cosmopolitanism is abandoned and diversity accepted and extolled, man is faced with comparison, with choice, with analysis and preference, subject to and based on critical judgment. But then, as soon as Pandora's box of rational approach is opened, there is no national tradition, no cultural form, no religious belief and practice, which is immune to criticism and even ridicule. Hence a persistent ambivalent attitude develops.
Heine may sing the praises of Jesus and devastate the practices of the church. He may admire the Jewish tradition and yet ridicule some observances. In other words, he may deliberately distance himself from the established notions and practices of the religions of his social environment--one into which he was born, and another to which he was converted. Besides these, there is the ancient Greek religion, with which he is quite acquainted, rationally and emotionally, through his study of antiquity, and toward which he also displays an ambivalent attitude. Thus, he does not fully identify with any, though he feels empathy and even admiration for some or all--the degree of these sentiments varying through his lifetime. This ambivalence is occasionally expressed in a painful or sarcastic manner. A few examples will illustrate the point.
Heine can write in a solemn and admiring way about the beauty and dignity of the Jews, once they turn from their abject daily existence, marked by persecution and suffering, to their religious worship, as these verses from Prinzessin Sabbat show: (8)
Einen Prinzen solchen Schicksals Singt mein Lied. Er ist geheissen Israel. Ihn hat verwandelt Hexenspruch in einen Hund. About a prince of such a fate Sings my song. His name was Israel. He was transformed By a witch's spell into a dog.
The pathos of Jewish history is transformed into a tale of witchcraft--which not only puts the long story in a nutshell but also points to the innocence of the victim and the viciousness of the persecutors. If the Jew leads an abject life, on the eve of the Sabbath day he is miraculously transformed from a dog into a full-fledged human being.
Aber jeden Freitag abend In der Dammrungstunde, plotzlich Weicht der Zauber, und der Hund Wird aufs neue ein menschlich Wesen. Mensch mit nienschlichen Gefuhlen Mit erhobnem Haupt und Herzen, Festlich, reinlich schier gekleidet, Tritt er in des Vaters Halle. Yet on every Friday eve, At twilight, suddenly The spell gives way, and the dog Becomes once more a human being. A man with human feelings With uplifted head and heart, In a festive and clean dress, He enters into his Father's hall
Here, in the synagogue, which is described with respect and awe, the welcoming of the Sabbath takes place. Heine chooses the anthropomorphic description of the Sabbath day in the Jewish liturgy, as a bride welcomed into the abode of the Jewish home, and adds to the glorification by calling her die stille Furstin, "the quiet princess," and depicting her as a beautiful, chaste, and modest maiden.
This lofty and admiring presentation of old Jewish religious traditions contrasts sharply with the presentation of Judaism on another occasion. In a well-known poem, Disputation, (9) we face a debate between a Christian monk and a Jewish rabbi, set in Spain during the Middle Ages--when such events were occasionally imposed on Jews. Yet, rather than presenting it as another manifestation of the persecution of the Jews, Heine chooses to describe it as a debate between equal parties, each trying to vituperate the other in a way that exposes both as narrow-minded zealots, even if the monk excels in vituperation while the rabbi tends to stress the theological doctrine and biblical sources. Overall the poem ridicules both Christianity and Judaism. The conclusion of the debate, expressed by the arbitrator, a beautiful princess--who clearly speaks for Heine--reads as follows:
'Welcher recht hat, weiss ich nicht-- Doch es will mich schier bediinken, Dass der Rabbi und der Monch, Dass alle beide stinken.' Who is right I do not know-- Yet I well nigh think, That the rabbi and the monk, That both of them stink.
Gone is the pathos of Judaism, ignored is the persecution, no trace of the Sabbath, the dignity and the awe. Instead we face a sarcastic presentation of the spokesmen of Judaism and of Christianity--both fanatical beliefs, full of hatred to one another. Heine distances himself from both faiths, or cultures, in a haughty, supercilious manner.
If this presents a cosmopolite who feels a master of the world--at least the world of ideas--a man of intellect who speaks down to barbarous bigots, Heine can also express the anguish of a marginalized human being who is rejected by the world and becomes a miserable outcast. This feeling, this mood, is powerfully reflected in the opening lines of a short poem, Gedachtnisfeier. Heine's sincerity shines through in the simple manner in which his verses are uttered. The theme, as indicated in the poem's title, is the prospective death anniversaries of the poet, which are usually associated with a religious observance. (10)
Kerne Messe wird man singen, keinen Kadosch wird man sagen, nichts gesagt und nichts gesungen wird an meinen Sterbetagen. No mass will be chanted, no Kaddish will be recited, nothing said and nothing chanced on my death anniversaries.
Thus, at home in Christianity and Judaism, Heine realized his distance from, or rejection by, both."Nothing said and nothing chanted" conveys the ultimate loneliness of a man who contemplates his solitude.There is no community to which he belongs, or which will commemorate him. Where there are no roots, there is no memory.
The wages ot selt-estrangement, at one time freely chosen in cosmopolitan self-confidence, is solitude.The attempt to overcome the marginal status and precarious existence ot a Jew by conversion and empathy with all trends and cultures leads to an even greater marginality, the marginality of an outcast. Both the monk and the rabbi reject the man who despised them.
Prophet and Martyr
To be sure, this need not be the final statement, the true legacy, of Heine. Indeed, it is questionable whether one can speak of a final conclusion in the case of a writer ot such ebullient versatility as Heine.There may be more than one version of the poets images of truth. One conclusive philosophy that can be distilled from his writing remains deeply rooted in cosmopolitanism--only it is not an indiscriminate pluralistic acceptance of all things human, but rather a deliberate choice and synthesis of elements most worthy and significant. Heine views the combination of the Judeo-Christian with the Hellenic as the foundation of the European civilization, and their synthesis its desirable goal. The point is summarized by a recent student of Heine. He explains that Heine tried to construct a human typology in which the Jewish and the Christian elements would blend and represent "a spiritualistic, ascetic mentality," while the Greek type would stand for "a sensualistic, realistic one.""Judaic spiritualism would be opposed to Hellenic glorying in life ... and the task of European civilization might be seen as an ultimate synthesis and reconciliation of the two types;" (11)
Another version, increasingly pronounced by Heine himself in his final days, seems to indicate a return to his Jewish roots and identification with the Judaic religion and the biblical message. Here is the conclusion of a poem, significantly entitled Halleluja, which rejects Hellenic civilization, with its focus on beauty and art, in favor of a God who breathed into man His own spirit, which Heine proclaims to be the breath of love rather than life (alluding to Genesis 2:7): (12)
Er schuf so schon, er schuf so suss Das Menschenherze, und er blies Hinein des eignen Odems Geist, Des Odems, welcher Liebe heist. Fort mit der Lyra Griechenlands, Fort mit deni liederlichen Tanz Der Musen fort! In fronimern Weisen Will ich den Herrn der Schopfung preisen. Fort mit der Heiden Musika! Davids frommer Harfenklang Begleite meinen Lobgesang! Mein Psalm ertont Halleluja! He created so nicely, he created so sweetly The human heart, and he breathed Into it the spirit of his own breath, The breath whose name is love. Away with the lyre of Greece, Away with the dissolute dance Of the Muses, away! In more pious ways I shall praise the Master of creation. Away with the heathen music! Let David's pious sound of harp Accompany my song of praise! My Psalm resounds: Hallelujah!
Not only is the Hellenic world with its manifold expressions of beauty, which Heine so ardently admired for most of his life, rejected, but the repudiation is expressed with almost fanatical zeal. The Greeks are branded as heathen, and the piety of the Psalms, a holy book of traditional Jewry, attributed to David, replaces the lighthearted diversity of the Muses.
The identification with ancient Israel and the continued yearning of the Jews for their homeland--a Zionist element in traditional Judaism--is clearly expressed in a manuscript variant of some verses of Atta Troll. Significantly, Heine refers to Jerusalem by its Hebrew name, and reproduces the famous lines from Psalm 137: (13)
Heilige Stadt Jeruscholajim! Wenn ich deiner je vergesse, So verwelke meine Rechte, So vertrockne meine Zunge! Holy city Yerushalayim! If I ever forget thee, Let my right hand wither, Let my tongue dry up!
Despite the capacity to commiserate with the Jews and the occasional, yet sincere, identification with Judaism, it is difficult to see Heine as sticking to one philosophy, as having made a definitive and final choice, and abandoning the alternating fascination with one culture or another, approving and criticizing, admiring and debunking. The overall picture his writings present remains that of a man with a split and changing attitude, subject to a turmoil of ideas and concerns.Thus Heine's personality reflects what he himself calls Zemssenheit, the condition of being torn, which really conveys a tragic sense of alienation. Heine expressed it with characteristic eloquence:
Oh, my dear reader, if you wish to complain about that Zerrisscnheit, so better complain that the world itself is torn into two parts right through the middle. As the heart of the poet is the central point of the world, so it must well in the present time be wretchedly torn He who boasts that his heart has remained whole, only admits that his heart is prosaic, far secluded in some corner. Through my heart, however, passed the great world-rift, and this is why I know that the great gods highly graced me above many others and considered me worthy of the martyrdom of poets. (14)
Heine presents the poet as the soul of the world, and the Zerrissenheit and anguish of the world are reflected in the martyrdom of the poet. Heine, who sees himself as such a quintessential poet, becomes at the same time the prophet who proclaims the truth and the martyr who is chosen by the gods to suffer the world pain. The martyrdom by divine grace has clear Christian overtones, besides echoing the prophesies about the servant of God in Deutero-Isaiah. The reference to gods, rather than God, points to the Greek pantheon. Thus Heine's soliloquy reflects a kind of a symbiotic Judeo-Christian and Hellenic stance, which, however, in no way diminishes the sense of alienation of the poet from the world in which he lives. Nor is this estrangement compensated by a promise of salvation for the world through the martyrdom of the poet. The martyrdom reveals divine grace, but leaves the malaise and predicament of the surrounding humanity intact.
(1.) Quoted from Hcinrich Heine. Briej'e axis Berlin (Berlin: Eulenspiegel Verlag, 1983), 84. Zweiter Brief, 16 Marz 1822. The German text: "Ich liebe Deutschland und die Deutschen: aber ich Hebe nicht minder die Bewohner des iibrigen Teils der Erde ... Die Liebe gibt dem Menschen seinen Wert ... ich bin also ... mehr wert als jene, die sich nicht aus dem Sumpfe der Nationalselbstsucht hervorwinden konnen und die nur Deutschland und Deutsche lieben."
(2.) "Ich bin daher der mkarnierte Kosmopolitismus, ich weiss, dass dies am Ende die allgemeine Gesinnung vvird in Europa, und ich bin daher uberzeugt, dass ich mehr Zukunft habe als unsere deutschen Volkstiimlcr, diese sterblichen Menschen, die nur der Vergangenheit angehoren." Heinrich Heine, Werke, ausgewahlt und eigeleitet von Walter Vontin (Hamburg: Hoffmann und Campe Verlag, 1956), 14.
(3.) The German text quoted from Heine, Werke, 81--82. Translation by present writer.
(4.) Quoted in translation from S. S. Prawer, Heine's Jewish Comedy: A Study of His Portraits of Jews and Judaism (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1983), 209.
(5.) Heine, Werke, 44. Translation by present writer.
(6.) Ibid., 154--55. Translation by present writer.
(7.) Reiselrilder, Die Nordsee, in Heine, Werke, 249, 250: 'der grosse Schmerz iiber den Verlust der National-Besonderheiten, die in der Allgemeinheit neuerer Kultur ver-lorengehen ... Denn Nationalerinnerungen lie gen tiefer in der Menschen Brust, als man gewohnlich glaubt" (249); "katholischen Domen, woraus der Glaube entflohen, und in rabbinischen Synagogen, woraus sogar die Glaubigen fliehen" (250).
(8.) The poem appears in Hebriiische Xlelodien. Quoted from Prawer, 554--61.
(9.) "Disputation," Rowan-zero. Quoted from Prawer, 591-99. On Heine's oscillation between Judaism and Christianity and the ambivalence and inconsistency of his attitude to both, see Kitchie Robertson, Heine (New York: Grove Press, I988),76-101.
(10.) "Gedachtnisfeier." in Heine. Werke, 628.
(11.) Prawer, 343.
(12.) "Halleluja." Quoted from Heine: Gedicht und Gedanke, selected by Werner Kraft (Berlin: Schocken Verlag, 1936), 71-72.
(13.) Prawer, 447-48.
(14.) Heine: Gedicht und Gedanke, 13. The original reads as follows: "Ach, teurer Leser, wenn du iiber jene Zerrissenhcit klagen willst, so beklage lieber. dass die Welt selbst mitten entzwei gerrisscn ist. Denn da das Herz des Dichters der Mittelpunkt der Welt ist, so musste es wohl in jetzigen Zeit jammerlich zerrissen wcrden. Wer von seinem Herzen ruhmt es sei ganz geblieben, der gesteht nur, dass er em prosaisches weitabgelegenes Winkelherz hat. I )urch das meinige ging aber der grosse Weltriss, und eben deswegen wreiss ich, dass die grossen Gotter mich vor vielen anderen hoch begnadigt und des Dichtermartyrtums wiirdig geachtet haben."
MORDECAI ROSHWALD is professor emeritus of social science and humanities at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. One of his recent books is Modern Technology: The Promise and the Menace (2009).