Heinrich Heine

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Where they have burned books, they will end in burning human beings.

Christian Johann Heinrich Heine (December 13, 1797February 17, 1856) was a journalist, an essayist, and one of the most significant German romantic poets. Jewish by birth, he converted to Christianity as an adult.

Quotes[edit]

Out of my own great woe
I make my little songs.
I cannot explain the sadness
That's fallen on my breast.
An old, old fable haunts me,
And will not let me rest.
  • Out of my own great woe
    I make my little songs.
    • Aus Meinen Grossen Schmerzen (Out of My Great Woe), st. 1
  • Ich weiss nicht, was soll es bedeuten,
    Dass ich so traurig bin;
    Ein Märchen aus alten Zeiten,
    Das kommt mir nicht aus dem Sinn.
    • I cannot explain the sadness
      That's fallen on my breast.
      An old, old fable haunts me,
      And will not let me rest.
      • Die Lorelei, st. 1
  • Du bist wie eine Blume,
    So hold und schön und rein;
    Ich schau dich an, und Wehmut
    Schleicht mir ins Herz hinein.
    • You're lovely as a flower,
      So pure and fair to see;
      I look at you, and sadness
      Comes stealing over me.
      • Du Bist Wie eine Blume, st. 1
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?
  • 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?
    • An Karl von U.
Mark this well, you proud men of action: You are nothing but the unwitting agents of the men of thought who often, in quiet self-effacement, mark out most exactly all your doings in advance.
  • Ich hatte einst ein schönes Vaterland.
    Der Eichenbaum
    Wuchs dort so hoch, die Veilchen nickten sanft.
    Es war ein Traum.

    Das küßte mich auf deutsch und sprach auf deutsch
    (Man glaubt es kaum
    Wie gut es klang) das Wort: "Ich liebe dich!"
    Es war ein Traum.

    • 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.

      • In Der Fremde (In a Foreign Land)
  • Dort wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man auch am Ende Menschen.
    • Where they have burned books, they will end in burning human beings.
      • Almansor: A Tragedy (1823), as translated in True Religion (2003) by Graham Ward, p. 142
    • Variant translations:
    • Where they burn books, at the end they also burn people.
    • Where they burn books, they will also burn people.
    • It is there, where they burn books, that eventually they burn people.
    • Where they burn books, so too will they in the end burn human beings.
    • Where they burn books, they also burn people.
    • Them that begin by burning books, end by burning men.
  • Every woman is the gift of a world to me.
    • Ideas: The Book Le Grand (1826)
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.
  • Don't send a poet to London.
    • English Fragments (1828), Ch. 2 : London
People in those old times had convictions; we moderns only have opinions. And it needs more than a mere opinion to erect a Gothic cathedral.
  • 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.
    • English Fragments (1828), Ch. 11 : The Emancipation
    • Variant: The weather-cock on the church spire, though made of iron, would soon be broken by the storm-wind if it did not understand the noble art of turning to every wind.
Wild, dark times are rumbling toward us, and the prophet who wishes to write a new apocalypse will have to invent entirely new beasts, and beasts so terrible that the ancient animal symbols of St. John will seem like cooing doves and cupids in comparison.
  • Christianity is an idea, and as such is indestructible and immortal, like every idea.
    • History of Religion and Philosophy in Germany, Vol. I (1834)
  • Mark this well, you proud men of action: You are nothing but the unwitting agents of the men of thought who often, in quiet self-effacement, mark out most exactly all your doings in advance.
    • History of Religion and Philosophy in Germany, Vol. III (1834)
Great genius takes shape by contact with another great genius, but less by assimilation than by friction.
  • People in those old times had convictions; we moderns only have opinions. And it needs more than a mere opinion to erect a Gothic cathedral.
    • Französische Bühne (The French Stage), ch. 9 (1837)
  • If one has no heart, one cannot write for the masses.
    • Letter to Julius Campe (March 18, 1840)
What! Think you that my flashes show me
Only in lightnings to excel?
Believe me, friends, you do not know me,
For I can thunder quite as well.
  • Wild, dark times are rumbling toward us, and the prophet who wishes to write a new apocalypse will have to invent entirely new beasts, and beasts so terrible that the ancient animal symbols of St. John will seem like cooing doves and cupids in comparison.
    • Lutetia; or, Paris. From the Augsberg Gazette, 12, VII (1842)
  • The future smells of Russian leather, of blood, of godlessness and of much whipping. I advise our grandchildren to come into the world with very thick skin on their backs.
    • Lutetia; or, Paris. From the Augsberg Gazette, 12, VII (1842)
  • No talent, but a character.
    • Atta Troll, ch. 24 (1843)
  • Ordinarily he is insane, but he has lucid moments when he is only stupid.
    • Of Savoye, appointed ambassador to Frankfurt by Lamartine (1848); as quoted in Insults : A Practical Anthology of Scathing Remarks and Acid Portraits (1941) by Max John Herzberg, p. 74
  • One should forgive one's enemies, but not before they are hanged.
    • Statement of 1848, as quoted in The Cynic's Lexicon : A Dictionary of Amoral Advice (1984) by Jonathon Green, p. 91
    • One must forgive one's enemies, but not before they are hanged.
      • As quoted in A Mania for Sentences (1985) by Dennis Joseph Enright, p. 10
  • So we keep asking, over and over,
    Until a handful of earth
    Stops our mouths —
    But is that an answer?
    • Lazarus, I (1854)
  • Rossini! divino Maestro!
    • Rossini, divine master.
      • Heinrich Heine's Pictures of Travel (1855) as translated by Charles Godfrey Leland, p. 270
  • Bien sûr, il me pardonnera; c'est son métier. [Of course he [God] will forgive me; that’s his job.]
    • Death-bed joke (1856), attributed as last words; quoted in French in The Joke and Its Relation to the Unconscious (1905) by Sigmund Freud, as translated by Joyce Crick (2003).
    • Quoted as “Gott wird mir verzeihen, das ist sein Beruf.” in Letzte Worte auf dem Totenbett. Quelle: Alfred Meißner: "Heinrich Heine. Erinnerungen" (1856), Kapitel 5
    • Variant translation: Why, of course, he will forgive me; that's his business.
  • If the Romans had been obliged to learn Latin, they would never have found time to conquer the world.
    • As quoted in The Medical Record No. 674 (6 October 1883); also in And I Quote : The Definitive Collection of Quotes, Sayings, and Jokes for the Contemporary Speechmaker (1992) by Ashton Applewhite, Tripp Evans and Andrew Frothingham, p. 447
  • Great genius takes shape by contact with another great genius, but less by assimilation than by friction.
    • As quoted in Dictionary of Quotations from Ancient and Modern English and Foreign Sources (1899) by James Wood, p. 6
  • My songs, they say, are poisoned.
    How else, love, could it be?
    Thou hast, with deadly magic,
    Poured poison into me.
    • Lyrical Intermezzo, 57; in Poems of Heinrich Heine: Three Hundred and Twenty-five Poems (1917) Selected and translated by Louis Untermeyer, p. 73
Experience is a good school. But the fees are high.
  • Oh what lies there are in kisses!
    And their guile so well prepared!
    Sweet the snaring is; but this is
    Sweeter still, to be ensnared.
    • The Home-coming, Poem 74; also in Poems of Heinrich Heine: Three Hundred and Twenty-five Poems (1917) Selected and translated by Louis Untermeyer, p. 134
  • What! Think you that my flashes show me
    Only in lightnings to excel?
    Believe me, friends, you do not know me,
    For I can thunder quite as well.
    • Wartet nur! [Only Wait!] in Poems for the Times ; also in Poems of Heinrich Heine: Three Hundred and Twenty-five Poems (1917) Selected and translated by Louis Untermeyer, p. 262
When words leave off, music begins.
  • Oaks shall be rent; the Word shall shatter —
    Yea, on that fiery day, the Crown,
    Even the palace walls shall totter,
    And domes and spires come crashing down.
    • Wartet nur! [Only Wait!] in Poems for the Times ; also in Poems of Heinrich Heine: Three Hundred and Twenty-five Poems (1917) Selected and translated by Louis Untermeyer, p. 263
  • Experience is a good school. But the fees are high.
    • As quoted in The Modern Handbook of Humor (1967) by Ralph Louis Woods, p. 493
  • When words leave off, music begins.
    • As quoted in Peter's Quotations : Ideas for Our Time (1977) by Laurence J. Peter, p. 343
  • The music at a wedding procession always reminds me of the music of soldiers going into battle.
    • As quoted in The Cynic's Lexicon : A Dictionary of Amoral Advice (1984) by Jonathon Green
    • Variant translation: The Wedding March always reminds me of the music played when soldiers go into battle.
      • As quoted in The Routledge Dictionary of Quotations (1987) by Robert Andrews, p. 281
  • Whatever tears one may shed, in the end one always blows one's nose.
    • As quoted in The Routledge Dictionary of Quotations (1987) by Robert Andrews, p. 60
  • The fundamental evil of the world arose from the fact that the good Lord has not created money enough.
    • As quoted in The Pillars of Economic Understanding : Factors and Markets (2000) by Mark Perlman and Charles Robert McCann
  • There are more fools in the world than there are people.
    • As quoted in One Big Fib : The Incredible Story of the Fraudulent First International Bank of Grenada (2003) by Owen Platt, p. 37
  • Music is a strange thing. I would almost say it is a miracle.
    • Letters on the French Stage (1837)
  • Christianity - and that is its greatest merit - has somewhat mitigated that brutal Germanic 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. This talisman is fragile, and the day will come when it will collapse miserably. Then the ancient stony gods will rise from the forgotten debris and rub the dust of a thousand years from their eyes, and finally Thor with his giant hammer will jump up and smash the Gothic cathedrals.
    • "The History of Religion and Philosophy in Germany"
  • 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.
    • "The History of Religion and Philosophy in Germany"


Disputed[edit]

  • Money bequeathed to my wife "on the express condition that she remarry. I want at least one person to be truly bereaved by my death."
    • Testamentary Will of Heinrich Heine (1856); no published source for this has been located.


Misattributed[edit]

  • Talking and eloquence are not the same: to speak and to speak well are two things. A fool may talk, but a wise man speaks.

Quotes about Heine[edit]

  • Heine says that a true autobiography is almost an impossibility, and that man is bound to lie about himself.
    • Fyodor Dostoevsky in Notes from the Underground (1864); this has led to the statement "True autobiography is almost an impossibility" being quoted as a direct quote of Heine.

External links[edit]

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