Images of Woman in Heinrich Heine's Poetry and Their Reception in Romanian Translations

By Hristea, Mihaela | Journal of Research in Gender Studies, July 1, 2014 | Go to article overview

Images of Woman in Heinrich Heine's Poetry and Their Reception in Romanian Translations


Hristea, Mihaela, Journal of Research in Gender Studies


Poets have always sung the woman in their verses, in general or in particular, recreating her image that caught their eye for a while or forever, through their physical or moral beauty, inspiring them to write one of the most beautiful love poems.

As in the case of many great poets, in writing his poems, the Romantic writer Heinrich Heine drew his inspiration from his own life experience. Heine's poetry ranged from Romantic lyrics about frustrated or bittersweet love to sharp political satire, but hereunder I will try to present the way the Romanian readers perceived the image of woman in Heinrich Heine's poetry through the translations made across the years.

Buch der Lieder (Book of Songs) - the collection of verses published in 1827 that helped to establish his reputation - contains all Heine's youth poetry and features bittersweet and self-ironic verses about unrequited love. Skillfully employing Romantic sensibilities the poet manages to reproduce in his verses his view on love, sharing the Christian believe about the Eros based on the ascetic view of life.

In Heine's poems from this cycle, the woman is not very accurately portrayed; however, we can grasp her image from the verses of the wellknown ballade Lorelei: a gorgeous girl, with long, golden hair and blue eyes.1 In this poem, Lorelei has not only the typical facial and physical features of the Northern European woman, but also fantastic features being described as a witch, a mermaid that lures the boatman sailing down the Rhine with her magic powerful rhymes, making him forget about the rocky reef and finally causing his death.

In the lyrical poem Auf Flügeln des Gesanges (On Wings of Song), from the Lyrical Intermezzo cycle, we note some oriental influences in the invitation the poet addresses his lover: he invites her to go with him to an oasis of tranquility, peace and happiness - the fields of the Ganges, where red-flowering gardens, and lotus flowers, and violets and roses sparkle in the serene moon light, while the gentle bright gazelles pass by listening to the murmur of the only stream.

In most of his poems, Heine does not describe the woman's face or stature, but he never forgets her eyes2 or her marble white hands.3 Usually, the beloved one is compared to a flower.4

In the poem Sie haben mich gequäle (They Have Tormented Me)5 the German poet describes the behavior, the cold-shoulder and the indifference the woman opposes to the man's passionate feelings and touching love declarations.

The woman is better described in the ballade Don Ramiro - deeply affected after breaking-up with her ex-lover, who comes, uninvited, to her wedding with Don Femando. Don Ramiro dances with the bride until, feeling dizzy, she faints, and, when she wakes up, she finds out that former lover, unable to face this situation, put an end to his life. In this poem, the ex-lover's profound feelings for his lost love and the pain he feels when assisting at the wedding prevail over the feelings of his lovelorn. In fact, this poem depicts an autobiographical moment: Heine's relation with Amalie, who turned him down for a rich husband, placing the financial matters above love matters, and thus destroying Heine's life forever.6

From the Lyrisches Intermezzo (Lyrical Intermezzo) cycle the poem that caught the Romanian translators' attention was Sie saßen und tranken am Teetisch1 (Conversations Around the Tea-Table), where platonic and sensual love are presented together, as two sides of the same feeling, a situation that characterizes both Heine's love poems and personal life, if we take into consideration the fact that, in later years, not only did Heine preferred sensual love, but he also worshiped it, as reflected in the Verschiedene (Various) section.

The section Various reflects the conceptions of the mature man, to whom love, even though requited, causes only disappointment, because all the women, in whose arms Heine sought comfort and consolation, represent only bits and fragments of the ideal woman he loved in his youth. …

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