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The Prose Writings of Heinrich Heine   By: (1797-1856)

Book cover

First Page:

The Camelot Series.

EDITED BY ERNEST RHYS.

HEINE'S PROSE WRITINGS.

THE PROSE WRITINGS OF HEINRICH HEINE: EDITED, WITH AN INTRODUCTION, BY HAVELOCK ELLIS.

WALTER SCOTT LONDON: 24 WARWICK LANE PATERNOSTER ROW 1887

CONTENTS.

PAGE

REISEBILDER 1

LONDON 47

WELLINGTON 52

THE LIBERATION 57

JAN STEEN 65

THE ROMANTIC SCHOOL 68

RELIGION AND PHILOSOPHY 142

FLORENTINE NIGHTS 179

DON QUIXOTE 243

GODS IN EXILE 268

CONFESSIONS 290

HEINE.

I.

Heine gathers up and focuses for us in one vivid point all those influences of his own time which are the forces of to day. He appears before us, to put it in his own way, as a youthful and militant Knight of the Holy Ghost, tilting against the spectres of the past and liberating the imprisoned energies of the human spirit. His interest from this point of view lies, largely, apart from his interest as a supreme lyric poet, the brother of Catullus and Villon and Burns; we here approach him on his prosaic his relatively prosaic side.

One hemisphere of Heine's brain was Greek, the other Hebrew. He was born when the genius of Goethe was at its height; his mother had absorbed the frank earthliness, the sane and massive Paganism, of the Roman elegies, and Heine's ideals in all things, whether he would or not, were always Hellenic using that word in the large sense in which Heine himself used it even while he was the first in rank and the last in time of the Romantic poets of Germany. He sought, even consciously, to mould the modern emotional spirit into classic forms. He wrought his art simply and lucidly, the aspirations that pervade it are everywhere sensuous, and yet it recalls oftener the turbulent temper of Catullus than any serener ancient spirit.

For Heine arose early in active rebellion against a merely passive classicism; just as fiercer and more ardent cries, as from the Orient, pierce through the songs of Catullus. The mischievous Hermes was irritated by the calm and quiet activities of the aged Zeus of Weimar. And then the earnest Hebrew nature within him, liberated by Hegel's favourite thought of the divinity of man, came into play with its large revolutionary thirsts. Thus it was that he appeared before the world as the most brilliant leader of a movement of national or even world wide emancipation. The greater part of his prose works, from the youthful Reisebilder onwards, and a considerable portion of his poetic work, record the energy with which he played this part.

But whether the Greek or the Hebrew element happened to be most active in Heine, the ideal that he set up for life generally was the equal activity of both sides in other words, the harmony of flesh and spirit. It is this thought which dominates The History of Religion and Philosophy in Germany , his finest achievement in this kind. That book was written at the moment when Heine touched the highest point of his enthusiasm for freedom and his faith in the possibility of human progress. It is a sort of programme for the immediate future of the human spirit, in the form of a brief and bold outline of the spiritual history of Germany and Germany's great emancipators, Luther, Lessing, Kant, and the rest. It sets forth in a fresh and fascinating shape that Everlasting Gospel which, from the time of Joachim of Flora downwards, has always gleamed in dreams before the minds of men as the successor of Christianity. Heine's vision of a democracy of cakes and ale, founded on the heights of religious, philosophical, and political freedom, still spurs and thrills us even now a days, when we have wearied of stately bills of fare for a sulky humanity that will not feed at our bidding, no, not on cakes and ale... Continue reading book >>




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