Love Down the Millennia: Three Poems by Heinrich Heine

Translated from the German and edited by Thomas Ország-Land (March 2015)

Heinrich Heine (1797-1856) on the cover of Die Jugend




Trundling across this withering landscape,

I see from my stagecoach a roadside cross

and, attached to it, a fading figure.

My saviour brother, they got your number.


Dismayed… deluded… desolate… dreamer!

You could not redeem a feeble plot.

Did you have to challenge the priesthood,

provoke the state and offend the council?


I am afraid your time preceded

the miracle of the printing presses.

Otherwise, you might have composed

a treatise about the affairs of heaven.


The prudent censor would have deleted

the riskiest lines to let you off –

evading the pain, the trouble and even

the gossip of the crucifixion.


You might have waded more tactfully into

the rich in that  Sermon of the Mount…

Lonely, misguided leader! How dared you

incite the bigotry of your neighbours?


And… you had the audacious chutzpah

to drive the bankers out of the temple!

They’ve displayed your form on the cross,

as a warning, to the likes of me.






My beloved, my devoted

friend and woman brings my morning

treat to bed: strong brown and fragrant

coffee with white cream, for breakfast.


As she serves it flirting, joking,

with unending cooing, fooling,

you might think in all creation

there is not a sweeter laughter.


I imagine that the flutelike

intonation of her chatter

can be matched by angels only

and the songbirds’ lusty twitter.


Her white hand – a tender lily!

How her wafting, light, cascading

curls caress her rosy features!

Such a beauty – such great splendour!


Yet, this morning, it has struck me

(why? or why not?) that her waistline

might be just a shade more slender

…just a little, just a touch.






When I cried out my pain and pride and joy

you yawned: Get lost you silly boy!

When I set out my soul in poetry

you raised your heart and sang with me.





Thomas Ország-Land (b. 1938) is a poet and award-winning foreign correspondent who writes from London and his native Budapest. His poetry appears in current, forthcoming or very recent issues of Acumen, Ambit, The Hungarian Quarterly, The Jewish Quarterly, The London Magazine and Stand.

(Author Photo by Hajnalka Friebert)



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