Anatoly Lunacharsky On Literature and Art 1931

Heine the Thinker

I do not claim, comrades, that in this small paper I shall come to sum up Heine as a thinker – this would be both difficult and not very rewarding. Heine, in fact, never created any system: he presented the world instead with a vast quantity of separate thoughts and sets of ideas, which it would be hopeless to try to sum up systematically.

I should like, instead of this, to define the type of thinker to which Heine belonged. It seems to me that we shall find the key to all the various facets of his thinking only when we have understood him as a definite type of thinker, typical of a specific era.

Heine, above all, is an artist, and possesses the three basic features of every artist. The first of these is his unusual sensitivity to his environment, his unusually receptive nature. The second is the rich and complicated method by which he processes internally the material he has received from external sources. And finally, the third feature is his ability to reproduce in his works with the maximum effect, vividness and expressiveness, everything which has been taken from objective reality and then processed and coloured by an artist’s subjective temperament. It is the second feature – the internal processing of the material – which, more than anything, the artist and the thinker have in common; it can be observed in the emotional and ideological analysis and synthesis, in the transformation of objective material into images and into a new system of concepts.

The so-called “pure” artist, it appears, creates during an emotional outburst; this only means, in fact, that, for him, thinking in creative images is of decisive significance.

Plekhanov maintains correctly that artistic creation cannot eliminate conceptual thinking. It is, however, possible to imagine someone whose system of logical concepts prevails over his mode of thinking in emotional images.

In the first instance we have the artist-thinker, in the second, the thinker-artist.

If we find a man whose thoughts are completely devoid of imagery (which is as unlikely as the absence of conceptual thinking) then we would be near to the type of “pure thinker.”

Heine is an artist-thinker. The thinker and the artist in him are magnificently combined, so that if his works were divided into various categories, their inner integrity would not be weakened; the mind which shines in the artistic works, even the purely lyrical works, the unusual brilliance of the images, and the impassioned feeling in every page of his philosophical works make them clearly the brain children of one and the same personality.

The element which unites them is one of the basic features of Heine the thinker. It is wit.

Wit is Heine’s element.

There are a large number of wits, and it is open to doubt whether Heine ranks first among them, but no one would deny that he does occupy a prominent place in their midst.

Wit is the ability to bring together different things, and to distinguish between similar things. Heine expressed it more sharply and simply: “Contrast, the skilful linking of two contradictory elements.” In other words, wit is present where dissimilar subjects, ideas and emotions can be united.

If Heine’s formula is to be accepted then it will be necessary to separate wit as the dominant element from the wit which plays a subservient role. Thus, for instance, the basis of dialectics is such that it sees unity where superficially there are only contradictions, and sees the disparity in what seems to be elementally whole. But Marx, the great dialectician, concerned himself for the most part with trying to understand, with the help of dialectical analysis, objective reality; for him, wit, in the narrow sense of the word – that is, an effective form intended to incite laughter – was a subsidiary factor. Heine was far less interested in the objective results of an extremely witty approach to a problem; he was interested, above all, in the effect of laughter.

Laughter ensues when a person scores an easy victory over real or imaginary difficulties. So that, for Heine, it is extremely important to create a sudden difficulty which makes you stop for a minute and overcome this difficulty; the victory, even the difficulty itself may be illusionary, but the triumph of a radiant mind is manifested with such grace that you cannot but laugh.

Generally speaking, metaphysics is the antithesis of dialectics and wit. Metaphysics establishes eternal ideas. One can imagine – or rather note – a tendency in art which thinks in complete, indivisible images; but it would be difficult for art to express eternal ideas. Art, as Hegel brilliantly analysed it, gives us eternal ideas in their concrete expressions. A concrete expression – the reflection, for example, of the ideal of man in Phidias’s Zeus – is a self-sufficient object which alone and unaugmented aspires to express a certain idea in its entirety. In the great realistic art of antiquity, ideas are presented in their “concrete expression”; eternity does not destroy transitoriness; wholeness is not one-dimensional, nor does it have but one meaning.

The art of Ancient Greece and Rome tried to reflect reality objectively. Naturalist artists strove for the same effect in a different way. But if you examine their pictures you will see that the naturalist artists – unconscious mechanical materialists – look at things as if they are always equal to themselves. A naturalist portrays an object in all its static finiteness, thinking that in this way he attains a more objective and adequate expression. At the same time it is the idea of the object depicted, its real essence, that escapes him.

The impressionists are not like this. Impressionists understand the world not through the essence of an object; they do not try to introduce into their sphere of emotions something which they have discovered in its essence. Impressionists conceive the world by means of a refined subjectivity, by means of that which to them seems essential. Impressionists select the subjectively essential so that it does not coincide with the “vulgarly” essential and thus lose its refinement. In order to present some object or phenomenon, one should not repeat what everyone knows about it. One should not depict that which everyone can see, but only the subtlest phenomena, which only the artist perceives and which should serve as a key to the object itself. For this to be successful, the subject, i.e., the artist, must be comprehensible to a more or less wide audience – otherwise he will simply “select refined forms” which no one will understand and he will have no response: The wider the links between the artist-impressionist and his environment, the better it is for him. But at the same time, he should be superior to his audience in his sensitivity to detail, in his ability to work on material and grasp its characteristic features. Treplev, for example, in Chekhov’s Seagull says:

“Trigorin has already fully developed his literary methods – it is easy for him... All he needs is a bottleneck to glisten on a dam and the shadow of a water-mill wheel – and there you have a moonlit night.”

Impressionism is very close to Heine’s formula of wit – “to link contradictory elements”; the incompleteness of such a formula, stressing, as it does, artificially linked contrasts but yet ignoring the actual unity, is characteristic of him.

In this sense, Heine was very much an impressionist. In depicting objective reality, he seeks out, with his brilliant wit, the unusual, sometimes even the paradoxical, and with them characterises the given object. With a thinker’s wit, he does the same with thoughts: each time he tries to find the original and unexpected aspects of the object he is describing, thereby presenting this object in a completely new light.

In Heine’s works the world is depicted to a great extent subjectively. He gives what he is describing an emotional colouring, which arises from his mood and which constantly reveals his ego in his works – that is, he projects his own internal processes on to his artistic images. The subjective has the upper hand in all Heine’s creative activity. One cannot say, it is true, that he considered the world to be “I and my ideas,” but he sometimes came close to this position.

In Heine’s lifetime Moritz Veit wrote:

“Heine never had any aim other than himself: he was always so preoccupied with the depiction of his own personality that he could never, or only very rarely, rise above himself; he allowed himself every flight of fancy and became so fond of himself in this game that he was unable to subordinate his talent to some higher purpose.”

Heine was such a subjective writer that the play of his emotions prevented him from seriously turning to some higher aim.

“He is a long way,” his contemporary goes on to maintain, “from a self-sufficient purpose, from a precise awareness of objects and people, because it is only the things which bring him pleasure and which he sees through the tinted spectacles of his own personality, which are valuable to him.”

This extreme subjectivism which revealed itself in Heine’s impressionism and in his use of wit, which was so characteristic of impressionism, was not, of course, peculiar to him alone. He said that the world was split into two and the crack ran straight through his heart; but it was neither the universe nor humanity which was split – it was the German society of Heine’s time, and the crack ran through the petty-bourgeois intelligentsia. The whole of romanticism was subjective, and the class reasons for this are well known.

When is it possible for one or another class, for one or another representative of a class to sing to the world’s objectivity passionately and with brilliant results? Only when he is in agreement with it, when he can say his great “yes” to it. The gigantic representative of the bourgeoisie in poetry Goethe made a tremendous effort in order to say this “yes” to the world. To do this, he practically disavowed all social factors, transferring his attention to Nature, to the study of Nature and art; and it was on the foundations of Nature, art of Nature, art and, in part, science that he built the radiant temple of his Weltanschauung. Goethe’s view of the cosmos was closer to ours than the views of any of his contemporaries. But he kept his faith in reality only by reconciling himself with all its imperfections, with all its repugnant aspects even – something which did not come at all easily to him. So that he could say the world was beautiful, that it was necessary to understand it and bow before its laws, Goethe had to refrain from a large number of demands on the world.

Goethe was a bourgeois patrician, and his whole life was an unpleasant, often painful, process of strengthening the link between the German patrician bourgeoisie and the nobility. With such social aspirations, Goethe’s eagerness to exclaim: Order above all else; Personality, submit! is understandable.

“You have made a magnificent start, Titans; it is only given to the gods, however, to lead us to that which is eternally good and eternally beautiful; leave them to act... for no one should try to make themselves equal to the gods.” (Pandora.)

Proletarian objectivism formulates the task as follows: Our vocation is to understand the world, not so that we can interpret it, but so that we can rebuild it. This is the greatest imaginable triumph of objectivism but a subjective element enters into it, too. This means that the world is as yet incomplete: we accept it, but only as a problem, as material to be moulded, and we consider that we have sufficient strength to rebuild it. Mighty creative processes are involved here: the rebuilding of the world is an architectonic task of huge dimensions; at the same time it is an objective task, for it demands exact knowledge of the nature of the world – your material, your own basis, the origin of you yourself.

But in order to approach the world in this way, it is necessary to belong to the creative class which is capable of rebuilding it. This was inaccessible to Heine. He could not follow Goethe’s path either, because he lived in another time and had different social destiny.

Let us take the generation of the German petty-bourgeois intelligentsia of that time; above all, let us take Heine himself – could he have come to the conclusion that the world was beautiful?

Capitalism, by destroying the foundations of the old economic set-up, had already given birth to its antagonist – the proletariat; but the struggle had only just begun, and both the disposition of the adversaries and the future were still unclear. The bourgeoisie of the period was still too weak to annihilate feudalism, and it compromised, in a really despicable fashion, with the junkers. To Heine, a petty-bourgeois member of the intelligentsia, a person above all of thought and emotion, the situation seemed especially depressing and hopeless.

For this reason, all he could say about the world was that it was evil. What can we do to it when there’s nobody with sufficient strength to rebuild it!

Subjectively, there can be three ways out of this position: one can believe that this is an unreal world, that another world exists somewhere which is the real one, and one can try and aspire to this mystic world; or one can maintain that the world generally is not a serious place, that it is best to treat it jokingly and laugh at it; or one can assume that the romantic is familiar with a higher world and can therefore look on reality with irony: I can laugh at the world

because I know God. And this “higher world” does not always mean some mystical, other-worldly existence. It can be an ideal or a utopia.

Mysticism was alien to Heine; what remained to him, therefore, was mainly irony. His smile was a wicked one, because he could never reconcile himself with reality – he passionately wanted to destroy it.

Heine was unable to accept objectivism, which gave a logical and, therefore, conciliatory picture of reality. In his review of Menzel’s book he makes a scathing attack on Goethe:

“The principle underlying Goethe’s epoch – the idea of art – is vanishing; in its place, a new epoch with a new principle is rising, and it is beginning with a reaction against: Goethe. Goethe himself feels, perhaps, that the glorious objective world which he has created with his own words and example, must inevitably collapse when the idea of art has lost its predominance, and that new energetic spirits, arising out of the new epoch – like Northern barbarians bursting into Southern lands – will raze Goethe’s civilised world to the ground, and form, in its place, a kingdom of the most primitive subjectivism.”

And Heine rejoices that new forces, like Northern barbarians, will burst into the world and on its ruins create: a “kingdom of the most primitive subjectivism.”

How does the proletariat react to this conception? The proletariat is the keenest, most determined and pitiless critic of capitalism, the force which destroys capitalism. It can never come to terms with capitalist reality. But its struggle is not an expression of despair: it does not seek a way out by unleashing anti-social, destructive forces. To capitalism, it opposes its own positive and creative world outlook. It does not bow down in submission before the world, but accepts it as a problem to be tackled, for the working class is a tremendous human force which is superior to anything that has preceded it.

Heine, together with the romanticists, fought against the objectivism of classicism. But romanticism, with its rejection of victory in the world of reality, turned more and more towards the other world until it embraced Catholicism. Heine, on the other hand, especially the young Heine, regarded his subjectivism as something which amounted to social activity. On February 28, 1830, he wrote to Varnhagen von Ense:

“I am however convinced that with the death of ‘the era of art’ comes the end of the Goethe epoch as well. Only this era of aesthetics and philosophising which has given pride of place to art, has been favourable for Goethe’s ascendency; the era of enthusiasm and action has no need of him.”

He considered that the “era of enthusiam and action” had descended upon the German-speaking countries. This was the purest of illusions. The “enthusiasm” of the German intellectuals bubbled for a while and began to cool down precisely because they were unable to give it practical application. The real revolutionary forces grew outside the German national liberation and liberal movement. Was Heine aware of this? Later, in 1842, in a letter to Laube, he repeated the demand for action and emphasised its social significance:

“We must never hide our political sympathies and our social antipathies: we must call evil by its true name, and must unconditionally defend what is good.”

Heine met Lassalle in 1845 when he himself hardly felt “enthusiasm” any longer; and yet he was enchanted by this young man – this man of integrity who radiated active energy. But if this business-like energy had not infused itself into the proletarian movement, then Lassalle would simply have become a famous lawyer or professor, perhaps a millionaire. Heine, at the end of his life, saw very well the mood of capitalisation among certain “business-like people,” and yet he never realised the social significance behind Lassalle’s activity.

In 1843, in Paris, Heine became acquainted with Marx; Heine knew many Communists personally and spoke about them with profound respect:

“The leaders of the German Communist Party, who are all more or less underground, and the strongest of whom have emerged from the school of Hegel, are all great thinkers and without doubt possess the most capable minds and most energetic personalities in Germany. These doctors of revolution and the determined implacable young men who are their followers are the only people in Germany who are masters of their lives; the future belongs to them.”

Heine saw the development of revolutionary forces within capitalism. As early as 1833 he had understood the revolutionary significance of Hegel’s dialectics. But he was never able to grasp the historical and creative role of the proletariat. Heine had only a very general and vague idea – a premonition rather than knowledge – about something which, for Marx and Engels, was perfectly clear. He never succeeded in grasping the essence of Marxism and in feeling firm ground under his feet. Neither did he ever realise that, when it serves the interests not of a group of exploiters but of the working class, objectivism, which he was fighting against, acquires features linking it with subjectivism on a higher plane, which results in the highest form of freedom of the individual. It seemed to Heine that proletarian collectivism would threaten the freedom of the individuality. In the revolutionary proletariat he still saw the destroyers of machines, and feared the appearance of “sinister fellows who, like rats, will leap from the cellars of the existing regime”; he feared that refined culture would be destroyed, and art and talent everywhere would be dragged down to the same low level. This explains Heine’s uncertainty in his approach to revolutionary consciousness.

Again and again in Heine we come across this question: Is revolution the right path to take? He spoke about the great exploits of the French revolutionaries, but admitted that he would not have liked to have been alive at that time, or have been one of them. Whenever he recalled his meeting with Weitling – whom, for all his faults, Marx considered a precursor of proletarian thinking – he confessed that he found it difficult to face him and that he was pursued by the sound of chains which seemed to accompany this life-long gaol-bird.

This characteristic feature of Heine should be shown from yet another angle. In his pamphlet Lüdwig Börne, he wrote:

“When he discusses Goethe, just as when he discusses other writers, Börne reveals his Nazarene narrow-mindedness. I say ‘Nazarene’ in order to avoid using the expression ‘Judean’ or ‘Christian’, although both mean the same to me, and I use both in the sense not of religious belief but of nature. ‘Judean’ and ‘Christian’ are words which are related in meaning and are opposed to ‘Hellene’, which also signifies not a definite race of people but a specific spiritual way of thought and outlook, which is both instinctive and inculcated. By this I mean that people are divided into Judeans and Hellenes – into people with an ascetic, gloomy and anti-artistic outlook, and people who are essentially happy, flourishing, proud and realistic. Börne was a complete Nazarene; his dislike for Goethe stemmed straight from his Nazarene soul, a direct result, too, of his latest political exaltation based on the kind of rigid asceticism and thirst for martyrdom, which are so frequently observed among republicans and are known as republican virtues...”

The “Hellene” is master of the idea, but the idea is master of the “Nazarene.”

The “Nazarene” acquires a fanatical, sectarian character since he is limited by the idea which enslaves him. From the point of view of the followers of a definite idea such a person is completely congruous; but you will not find any aesthetic freedom of the individual in him.

With the “Hellene” it is quite different. To be master of an idea is for him the same as being master of a slave girl – he can dismiss it or summon it at will; he is the master and it is his plaything; and the more someone is master of ideas, the richer and fuller is his personality and the more varied is his outlook.

As you see, Heine recoils from the thought that it is possible for a person not to be enslaved by an idea and yet not treat it as his plaything, that a man can be imbued with an idea which makes him free and spiritually rich. This happens when the idea belongs to the progressive class, and the person who is a member of this class, finds, in the fruition of this idea, the fruition of his social being.

I fully understand that the problems which are linked with the abolition of the contradiction between man as a fully-fledged representative of his class and man as a separate individual, do not, even now, lend themselves easily to solution. But I maintain that the genuine proletarian society will embody to the full this trend of development, which has already established itself to a significant degree here. The petty bourgeois, especially the brilliant and gifted among them, find it difficult to come to terms with this; and if we are witnesses of the conflict between society and the petty bourgeois individualists even now, then you can imagine with what bitterness Heine – an extraordinarily original, precisely in the petty-bourgeois sense of the word, person – reacted to such a conflict in the ghastly conditions of the Germany of his time.

Had Heine lived in another era, he could have become an aesthete and a gourmand, and could have established for himself the real ideal of his existence: being “master of the idea,” to enjoy life and live it out “under a lucky star.” But the times in which he lived were terrible, and Heine the “Hellene” was forced to take up arms against his environment – he was so possessed by the idea! Although he was lightly armed, he went out again and again to battle – like David going out against Goliath with a sling.

His basic weapons were his wit and his consummate laughter. His laughter won him a moral victory; with it he showed that the vanguard of the new, rising class was already superior, intellectually and socially, to the old society, although it had as yet few forces for a material victory. Such laughter easily becomes laughter through tears, the laughter of bitter irony. It is nonetheless a form of self-defence against an enemy who is superior in physical strength.

In Heine’s time the forces of reaction were sufficiently strong to inflict heavy blows; this is why his laughter often becomes “gallows humour”: the world is a thoroughly disgusting place, particularly in its social aspects; it is impossible to conquer it; stupidity triumphs, and although we cannot reconcile ourselves to it, we have not the strength to vanquish it. So let us then laugh at this repulsive world.

When, in the old days in England, criminals used to be led to the gallows, they considered it especially chic to make salty jokes and mock at the judges and executioners, just to show they were not afraid. This helped to make their final journey more bearable but it still did not prevent them from being hanged by the executioners, rather than hanging the executioners. In social satire such “gallows humour,” as I have already said, has greater significance; here it not only shows the moral superiority of the person who is laughing, it not only upholds his courage in a hopeless situation, but it also has the effect of calling on other people to continue the fight. All the same, it leads, not to victory, but only to a substitute for victory; this is why there is always the danger that this laughter will turn into mere guffawing and harm the person who uses it; if one is able to rid oneself of the tragic situation through mockery and carry on living by somehow managing to alleviate life’s conflicts, then one will be deprived of the last incentive for a real struggle.

It is possible, from all this, to get some idea of the unusual fluidity of Heine’s Weltanschauung – a fluidity which is emphasised in the recently published work Heinrich Heine by the French critic Hennequin. I should like to quote the following sentences where the extraordinary way in which Heine is able to pass from one mood to another is defined elegantly and precisely:

“The characteristic feature of his personality is revealed in the peculiar variability of his nature which forces him to take all the consecutive steps in passing from one mood to another-from joy to irony, from irony to despair, from melancholy to humour, from gaiety to gravity, from admiration to scorn. Characteristic of Heine were the swift changes, the sudden movements of his soul which contraposed and intermingled both gaiety and gloom...

“It appears that Heine could experience only one feeling which became the prevailing one and which constantly tried to atrophy the rest: every excitement evoked by memory and taken up by feeling can be traced back along a mysterious path to the same spiritual source which leads, in the final analysis, to an unbroken sad thoughtfulness.”

Verdruss [1] came more and more to the fore. And it finally reached the point where, whatever chord of Heine’s nature was struck, the note of pensive sadness would ring out above all else.

And so by way of a sparkling humour, by way of easy triumphs in the sphere of wit, by way of playing with images, Heine arrived at pessimism – at a pessimistic world feeling if not at a pessimistic world outlook.

The brilliant composer Scriabin was, like many artists of this difficult period, also easily carried away by the extraordinary happiness to be found in playing freely with musical images; this romantic playing with images, he would set against depressing reality. At one time Scriabin even wondered whether it was not possible to interpret the world as being created by a god who is an artist.

Heine also wondered about this. In The Book Le Grand he wrote:

“...the world is so nicely confused; it is the dream of a wine-drunken god who has taken French leave of the carousing divine assembly and laid himself down to sleep on a lonely star and does not know that he also creates everything he dreams – and the dream images often take madly checkered forms, and often harmoniously reasonable ones – the Iliad, Plato, the battle of Marathon, Moses, the Medicean Venus, the Cathedral of Strasbourg, the French Revolution, Hegel, the steamboat, etc., are a few good ideas in this creative divine dream...”

Such are the extraordinary contortions this tremendous brain went through – all because he lacked a real social perspective and will. The social will of an individualist is equal to nothing. But in the realm of humour this superb mind was the victor. For him; wit acquired a unique significance, for it was the only oasis where he could still breathe freely. His laughter became unusually profound and socially significant precisely because it was not mere derisive guffawing, but was completely shrouded in black mourning. It was a humour which was fully aware that it stood opposed to the triumph of absurdity.

We know that Marx reacted to Heine very positively; he understood the conditions in which Heine found himself; he understood Heine’s weaknesses, which he attributed to his loneliness. I shall remind you only of one episode. When Wilhelm Liebknecht told Marx that he had refused to see Heine in Paris after he had heard that Heine was receiving a pension from Louis Philippe and Guizot, Marx became very angry with him, gave him a good dressing-down, and said that only a petty-bourgeois philistine could reason in such a way, and that Liebknecht was only punishing himself with such moralising by depriving himself of a conversation with one of his wisest contemporaries. Marx was no pedant – he never attacked this poet and individualist with petty reproaches, never denied him completely on the grounds that many of Heine’s features contradicted his basic principles. And Marx, of course, was right. With all his deviations and aberrations, Heine, as a satirist, as a thinker, as a journalist and as a prolific letter-writer, was Marx’s brilliant ally – like the cavalry which the Roman legions transferred from the enemy into their own ranks although they did not fully rely on it: it was not very reliable, but very dashing and effective.

This behest of Marx’s which he left behind in his talk with Liebknecht helps us to realise the contribution which a genius like Heine could make to the cause of revolution.

Heine gave us a huge arsenal of separate arguments and scattered victorious characteristics; he showed us in virtuoso-like fashion the development of German social thought. He assimiliated the element of revolution with great perception, and became, at times, its brilliant representative, despite the fact that sometimes he tottered on the brink of an abyss of pessimism and empty laughter. And although he often talked about himself as though he were a clown, he was nonetheless an outstanding fighter who, from time to time, rendered inestimable service not only to the 1848 revolution but also to our revolution.

Pushkin wrote the following lines about himself:

My name will long be honoured by my people
Whose noble thoughts my lyrics have inflamed;
In this cruel age, to freedom have I sung
And mercy for the fallen have proclaimed.

God’s will, O Muse, ordains that you obey –
Offence you must not fear, nor seek reward,
May praise and insult always leave you cold,
And stupid fools should ever be ignored.

M. Gerschenzon has tried to show that this poem has an ironic meaning and that Pushkin was laughing at the people who imagined that the poet was fighting for them. But Pushkin was laughing only at such people as Gerschenzon, whom he called “fools.” As a parallel to Pushkin’s Memorial, I shall read you Heine’s Enfant Perdu; these lines show the tremendous significance he attributed to the social aspect of his poetic activity:

Verlorner Posten in dem Freiheitskriege,
Hielt ich seit dreißig Jahren treulich aus.
Ich kämpfte ohne Hoffnung, daß ich siege,
Ich wußte, nie komm’ ich gesund nach Haus.
Ich wachte Tag and Nacht – Ich konnt’ nicht

Wie in dem Lagerzelt der Freunde Schar –
(Auch hielt das laute Schnarchen dieser Braven
Mich wach, wenn ich ein bißchen schlummrig war.)
In jenen Nächten hat Langweil’ ergriffen
Mich oft, auch Furcht (nur Narren fürchten
nichts) –

Sie zu verscheuchen, hab’ ich dann gepfiffen
Die frechen Reime eines Spottgedichts.
Ja, wachsam stand ich, das Gewehr im Arme,

Und nahte irgendein verdächt’ger Gauch,
So schoß ich gut and jagt’ihm eine warme,
Brühwarme Kugel in den schnöden Bauch.

Mitunter freilich mocht’es sich ereignen,
Daß solch ein schlechter Gauch gleichfalls sehr gut
Zu schiessen wußte – ach, ich kann’s nicht leugnen –
Die Wunden klaffen – es verströmt mein Blut.

Ein Posten ist vakant! – Die Wunden klaffen –
Der eine fällt, die andern rücken nach –
Doch fall’ ich unbesiegt, and meine Waffen
Sind niche gebrochen – nur mein Herze brach.

This glorious poem shows how Heine – for all the variety of his lyrics and the tremendous place which a free attitude to his surroundings and his inner world occupied in his work – evaluated his social role; it shows the significance which he attached to himself as a political poet. And we have the right to say that, in praising Heine as one of the most outstanding poets of inner freedom, we are introducing him into the pantheon of the great precursors of the genuine revolution – the proletarian revolution which we have the great honour and fortune to be accomplishing.

1. Depression (German). – Tr.