Poet: Christian Johann Heinrich Heine
Dates: 13 December 1797 – 17 February 1856
Title of Poem: Night on the Shore
Starless and cold is the night:
The sea is foaming,
And over the sea, flat on his belly,
Lies the formless wind from the north,
In secret, grumbling furtively,
Like a grumpy misery back in good humour,
Chattering gaily to the waters,
Telling many mad stories,
Stories of giants, miraculous slayings,
The ancient sagas of Norway.
In between, he smiles and howls till the echoes are heard
Of the old magic spells of the Edda,
And runic rhymes,
So mystical, so magically powerful,
That the white children of the waves
Spring up and dance for joy,
Meanwhile, along the sea-shore,
Over the wave-washed sand,
A stranger walks, with a step
Wilder still than the wind and waves.
Where he treads
Fire flashes, mussels crack;
He wraps himself in his grey cloak
And swiftly goes through the hurrying night –
Surely lit by the little light
That shimmers and glimmers so gloriously
From the fisherman’s lonely hut.
Father and brother are on the sea
And quiet alone in the hut remains
The fisherman’s daughter,
The fisherman’s beautiful daughter.
She sits by the hearth,
And listen to the kettle,
With its sweet whistle,
And throws the crackling brushwood upon the fire,
And blows upon it,
So that red flickering lights
Magically shine upon
The angelic face,
And on the delicate white shoulders,
That lurk and peep out
Of the grey coarse chemise,
And on her anxious little hands
That cling so close
About her skirt.
Suddenly open the door springs,
And enters in the stranger out of the night.
Lovesure his eye rests
Upon the pale and trembling girl.
He throws his coat upon the floor,
And, smiling, says:
‘You see, my child, I keep my word;
I come, and with me comes
The old times when the gods of the sky
Came down to the daughters of men,
And embraced the daughters of men,
And from them begot
A race of sceptred kings
And heroes, wonders of the world.
But be amazed no more, my child,
Because of my divinity,
And please, make me some tea with rum.
We also freeze, the immortal gods,
Easily catching a godly cold,
And an immortal cough.’
Brief Biography: Heine was a poet, journalist, essayist and litrary critic. He is best known for his lyric poetry.