Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Heinrich Heine

German Poet, Satirist, Journalist and Literary Critic

"At Dresden on the Elbe, that handsome city, where straw hats, verses, and cigars are made, they've built (it well may make us feel afraid,) a music club and music warehouse pretty."

"At first I was almost about to despair, I thought I never could bear it ? but I did I bear it. The question remains: how?"

"Atheism is the last word of theism."

"Be entirely tolerant or not at all; follow the good path or the evil one. To stand at the crossroads requires more strength than you possess."

"Burst out in wailing riot, thou darkling martyr-lay, that in my soul, flame-quiet, I've borne this many a day! It thrills through every hearing and so the heart doth gain. I've conjured up, unfearing, the thousand-year-old pain. Great, little, weep and even cold hearts do tearful grow: the small stars weep in heaven, the maids and flowers below. The tears, still southward fleeting, to the still conclave go and all, each other meeting, into the Jordan flow."

"But that age? exerts on us an almost terrible charm, like the memory of things seen and a life lived in dreams."

"Christ rode on an ass, but now asses ride on Christ."

"Christianity -- and that is its greatest merit -- has somewhat mitigated that brutal German love of war, but it could not destroy it. Should that subduing talisman, the cross, be shattered, the frenzied madness of the ancient warriors, that insane Berserk rage of which Nordic bards have spoken and sung so often, will once more burst into flame... The old stone gods will then rise from long ruins and rub the dust of a thousand years from their eyes, and Thor will leap to life with his giant hammer and smash the Gothic cathedrals? Do not smile at my advice -- the advice of a dreamer who warns you against Kantians, Fichteans, and philosophers of nature. Do not smile at the visionary who anticipates the same revolution in the realm of the visible as has taken place in the spiritual. Thought precedes action as lightning precedes thunder. German thunder... comes rolling somewhat slowly, but... its crash... will be unlike anything before in the history of the world... At that uproar the eagles of the air will drop dead, and lions in farthest Africa will draw in their tails and slink away... A play will be performed in Germany which will make the French Revolution look like an innocent idyll."

"Communism possesses a language which every people can understand - its elements are hunger, envy, and death."

"Do not smile at my advice -- the advice of a dreamer who warns you against Kantians, Fichteans, and philosophers of nature. Do not smile at the visionary who anticipates the same revolution in the realm of the visible as has taken place in the spiritual. Thought precedes action as lightning precedes thunder. German thunder is of true Germanic character; it is not very nimble, but rumbles along ponderously. Yet, it will come and when you hear a crashing such as never before has been heard in the world's history, then you know that the German thunderbolt has fallen at last. At that uproar the eagles of the air will drop dead, and lions in the remotest deserts of Africa will hide in their royal dens. A play will be performed in Germany which will make the French Revolution look like an innocent idyll."

"Each violet peeps from its dwelling to gaze at the bright stars above."

"E'en as a lovely flower, so fair, so pure thou art; I gaze on thee, and sadness comes stealing o'er my heart. My hands i fain had folded upon thy soft brown hair, praying that God may keep thee so lovely, pure and fair."

"Every day so lovely, shining, up and down, the sultan?s daughter walked at evening by the water, where the white fountain splashes. Every day the young slave stood by the water, in the evening, where the white fountain splashes, every day grew pale, and paler. Then the princess came one evening, quickly speaking to him, softly, ?your true name ? I wish to know it, your true homeland, and your nation.? And the slave said, ?I am called Mahomet, I am from Yemen, And my tribe, it is the Asra, who die, when they love.?"

"Every period of time is a sphinx that throws itself into the abyss as soon as its riddle has been solved."

"Every woman is the gift of a world to me."

"Everywhere that a great soul gives utterance to its thoughts, there also is a Golgotha."

"Excessive wealth is perhaps harder to endure than poverty."

"False revolutionaries who bawled much about love and faith but whose love was nothing but hate of everything foreign, whose faith consisted of nothing but unreason, and whose ignorance knew nothing better than to invent the burning of books. ... The words "Fatherland," "Germany," "Faith of ancestors," and so forth, will always electrify the vague masses of the people far more certainly than the words "Mankind," "World Citizenship," "Reason of the Sons," and "Truth!" ... I mean to say by this that the representatives of nationality are far more deeply rooted in the German soil that the representatives of cosmopolitanism, and that the latter will always be beaten by the former unless they swiftly forestall them."

"First, I thought, almost despairing, this must crush my spirit now; yet I bore it, and am bearing- only do not ask me how."

"For this was but a prelude; for when books are burnt, human beings will be burnt in the end."

"Freedom is a new religion, the religion of our time."

"Genius: 1. To believe your own thought. To believe that what is true for you is ultimately true. 2. A sledgehammer. 3. The fruit of labor and thought. 4. Soul. 5. The ability to put into effect what is in your mind. 6. Something one can become."

"Glow-worms on the ground are moving, as if in the torch-dance circling."

"God has given us speech in order that we may say pleasant things to our friends, and tell bitter truths to our enemies."

"God will forgive me the foolish remarks I have made about Him just as I will forgive my opponents the foolish things they have written about me, even though they are spiritually as inferior to me as I to thee, O God!"

"God will forgive me. It's his job."

"Graves they say are warm'd by glory; foolish words and empty story."

"Great genius takes shape by contact with another great genius, but, less by assimilation than by fiction."

"He that marries is like the dogs who was married to the Adriatic. He knows not what there is in that which he marries; mayhap treasures and pearls, mayhap monsters and tempests, await him."

"He who will establish himself on a certain height must yield according to circumstances, like the weather-cock on a church-spire, which, though it be made of iron, would soon be broken by the storm-wind if it remained obstinately immovable, and did not understand the noble art of turning to every wind. But a great man will never so far contradict his own feelings as to see, or, it may be, increase, with cold-blooded indifference, the misfortunes of his fellow country-men."

"Here's to matrimony, the high sea for which no compass has yet been invented!"

"History shows that the majority of men who have done anything great have passed their youth in seclusion."

"How he floats 'twixt sky and water?"

"I am no longer a divine biped. I am no longer the freest German after Goethe, as Ruge named me in healthier days. I am no longer the great hero No. 2, who was compared with the grape-crowned Dionysius, whilst my colleague No. 1 enjoyed the title of a Grand Ducal Weimarian Jupiter. I am no longer a joyous, somewhat corpulent Hellenist, laughing cheerfully down upon the melancholy Nazarenes. I am now a poor fatally-ill Jew, an emaciated picture of woe, an unhappy man."

"I bequeath all my property to my wife on the express condition that she remarry immediately. Then there will be at least one man to regret my death."

"I call'd the devil, and he came, And with wonder his form did I closely scan; He is not ugly, and is not lame, But really a handsome and charming man. A man in the prime of life is the devil, Obliging, a man of the world, and civil; A diplomatist too, well skill'd in debate, He talks quite glibly of church and state."

"I cannot explain the sadness that's fallen on my breast. An old, old fable haunts me, and will not let me rest."

"I do not know if she was virtuous, but she was ugly, and with a woman that is half the battle."

"I do not know why it should be, but I am so sad; there is an old-time story which I cannot get out of my head."

"I do not murmur, even if my heart break."

"I everywhere am thinking of thy blue eyes' sweet smile; a sea of blue thoughts is spreading over my heart the while."

"I fell asleep reading a dull book and dreamed I kept on reading, so I awoke from sheer boredom."

"I had once a beautiful fatherland. The oak tree grew so high there, violets nodded softly. It was a dream. It kissed me in German and spoke in German (You would hardly believe How good it sounded) the words: "I love you!" It was a dream."

"I have a most peaceable disposition. My desires are for a modest hut, a thatched roof, but a good bed, good food, very fresh milk and butter, flowers in front of my window and a few pretty trees by my door. And should the good Lord wish to make me really happy, he will allow me the pleasure of seeing about six or seven of my enemies hanged upon those trees."

"I have never seen an ass who talked like a human being, but I have met many human beings who talked like asses."

"I have smelt all the aromas there are in the fragrant kitchen they call Earth; and what we can enjoy in this life, I surely have enjoyed just like a lord!"

"I have sown Dragon's teeth and reaped only fleas."

"I know not whence it rises, this thought so full of woe; but a tale of times departed haunts me, and will not go. The air is cool, and it darkens, and calmly flows the Rhine, the mountain-peaks are sparkling in the sunny evening-shine. And yonder sits a maiden, the fairest of the fair; with gold is her garment glittering, and she combs her golden hair: with a golden comb she combs it; and a wild song singeth she, that melts the heart with a wondrous and powerful melody. The boatman feels his bosom with a nameless longing move; he sees not the gulfs before him, his gaze is fixed above, till over boat and boatman the Rhine's deep waters run: and this, with her magic singing, the lore-lei has done!"

"I live, which is the main point."

"I once saw many flowers blooming upon my way, in indolence I scorned to pick them in my going and passed in proud indifference. Now, when my grave is dug, they taunt me; Now, when I'm sick to death in pain, In mocking torment still they haunt me, Those fragrant blooms of my disdain. ? Heinrich Heine"