This poet, who was born in DÃ»sseldof, Dec. 12, 1799, and who died in Paris, Feb. 17, 1856, has excited almost as much interest in the literary, circles of France as Madame Dudevant herself. This may be partly accounted for by his marvellous facility in handling the French. His De PAllemagne, LulÃ¨te, and PoÃ¨mes et LÃ©gendes, were all written in that language, having been published fn Paris in 1856, and his La Frame, a year after his death, in 1857. An excellent translation of his Reisebilder (Travelling Sketches), by Gautier, was given to the Parisian vfrorld of letters in the preceding year.Order now
In Germany bis death opened an out- let for a perfect tornado of comments. A life of him by Meissner, was no sooner published in Leipsic, in 1856, when another life by Schmidt-Weissenfels, makes its appearance in Berlin, in 1857; while a Satire, entitled Heinds HoHenfahrt (Heineâs Journey to Hell), was published in Hanover, in 1856, passing through several editions, a counter-satire, entitled Heinds Himmelfakrt (Heineâs Journey to Heaven), making its appearance at Treves, in 1857. In England, too, his writings and life have been frequently dis- cussed in the leading periodicals and reviews; in this country several of his poems have been translated, and are favorites with a considerable class of readers; his most enthusiastic admirers are to be sought among the popular contemporary writers of Russia. The nniversality of fame and the sesthetical tendency of Heineâs genius entitle him to our attention.
The interest excited by bis writings, especially by bis poems of nature, arises in a great measure from their intense reflection of the authorâs idiosyncrasies. His writings reveal most exquisite touches of pathos, tenderness, and humor, and are no less remarkable for the keenest wit, its only qualification being its sensual spirit. Jerusalem, which has given so many lofty men to tho modern world, delights occasionally in presenting it with some specimens of most eccentric genius. As a foil to Spinoza, we see Paris endowed with the witty Heine; and as a relief to Neander, London is honored with a visitation in the shape of Disraeli.
Honor to old Jerusalem I There is a charm in variety. After the substantial bulwarks of sublime philosophy, we enjoy the delicato phantoms of fancy and sentiment which will grow upon the soil of philosophy, like moss upon a rock. After tho heavy potations of stern theology, we welcome the brilliant buoyancy of natural feeling. Heiue was a strange contradiction. There was a mixture of the sweet and the acid about him which fascinated while it puzzled. He was emphatically an overpowering Mepblstopheles, with sufficient ideality to take our thoughts captivo, and yet demoniacal enough to plungo us into the flames of Tartarus in order to enjoy the shock to our sensibility. We would not point out Heine as a guide or companion to minds of any class; be is simply an intellectual phenomenon, scattering pearls of thought that turn to ashes at the touch; he is sparkling and brilliant, and his genius gives light as long ns wo gaze upon its corusca tions, bat tbe source of its brilliancy is much like that of the blackened stick that holds up fireworks until the explosion t(akes place, after we hare heard the report there is nothing left but darkness.
Heine was, on the whole, one of the few men whose inner life was in complete harmony with his outward life; how- ever corrupt Heine might be, he was honest; his whole indivi- duality was so transparent that tbe cynicism of tbe man was as palpable as the interesting source from which it originated. This source is to be sought for in the tendencies of his race. Full of imperfections himself, he yet strove to find ideals of perfection in men and things, and was fretted when he coaid not succeed. A bundle of contradictions and inconsistencies, he yet delighted in persons, associations, and things replete with the finest harmonies, and was, of coarse, disgas’ted at every new disappointment; he loved every one for what he might be, and hated every one for what he was. Thus every day brought its fresh sting, every thought its arriÃ¨re- pensÃ©e; with one hand he would caress a friend for his pleasant features, and with the other would choke him for his weaknesses.
Unfortunately, Heine had a rich unde, Solomon Heine, of Hamburg, who, as usual, gave him money as he wanted it. If he had been compelled to work for his living, the excessive vitality of bis imagination might have been sobered down, chasteued, and disciplined by struggling for existence, and by regular, steady, application. But as it was, there was nothing to curb his unruly Asiatic nature, and against the conventionalities and accidents of life, it beat like Byronâs ” wild-born falcon against its cage.â We saw him in Paris about ten years ago. Although bowed down by constant and painful physical suffering, he was still the same interesting Heineâprobably one of tbe best conversationalists who ever lived; thinking, as it were, aloud, intuitively catching unspoken thoughts of other minds, and meeting them with marvellous spontaneity; always suiting his expressions to his mood, in turns wise, witty, pathetic, sarcastic, angry, and lovely, but always graceful and elegant, and with an aristocratic flavor about every movement and attitude, which made one think that he was a lineal descendant of King David or Solomon, and that none of the Chatham St. and Rialto Ghetto blood of later limes had been mixed up with his gentle lineage.
Perpetually haunted by a nightmare of perfection and unity in heaven, earth, man, woman, nature, society, politics, religion, science, literature, and art, he was at loggerheads with everybody and everything His conversation, as well as his writings, wore always supported by this semi-oesthe- tical, semi-skeptical background. Ashamed to parade his imagination at tho oxpense of his common sente, he turned harlequin, becauto he lacked the courage to be a hero, and amused himself in playlug the cynic and the misanthropist, lest others might derive amusement from bis assumption of the character of a true lover of the good and the holy.
With a keen senso of the ridiculous, be loved as much to detect as be feared to provoke it, and with an euthusiasttc perception of the sublime, he sedalonsljr repressed noble emotions, and eagerly derided them when expressed by others. Yet, as usual, the world discovered the very sins and virtaes which he jealously strove to conceal, and nothing was more amusing than to see Heine’s ladicrons air of consternation when spoken of as a philanthropist. This he looked npon as a libel, and to exonerate himself from the charge, he forthwith says or pens some overwhelming infidelity, and those who hear or read this, and this alone, execrate the man, and consign him to the depths of perdition. Had Heine been thrown into a new coantry, upon the virgin soil of some of oar Western territories, or In South America, his natnre would soon have been cared of the conceits and deceptions which held it captive in the Old World.
But, unable to rise above the accidents and prejudices of society, be was crushed by its wheels, and because silly men and women trifle with grave and noble aspirations, he warred against these aspirations, instead of warring against their defamers; he prostituted his intellect to win the regard of fools. Born among the Jews, he soon learned to detest them; but no sooner bad he become a convert to Christianity, when he found that Christians were only Jews in disguise, and not even Jews of tbe highest order. Hear bis reason for embracing Christianityâthat Rothschild might not address him respectfully.’
He now ceased to dabble in religion, and wrote successively on politics, literature, and on bis travels, all his productions showing great acuteness, but great narrowness of mind. Unable to see that the ideals which haunted him are only developed gradually, not soddenly, he frequently found fault because he lacked the grasp of thought to compre- hend. In transient effect was more to him than an abiding cause, and he became one of the parasites of literature on many occasions when he was more ambitious to write something smart than something true. Ð¢esti, of whatever kind, U only fact or reality. But in a multitude of Instances, mankind are mnoh fonder of fiotion than of reality; all false sentiments being so many fictions or fancies in pUoo of facts. One reason may be, that there la often considerable difficulty in arriving at facta, bnt little or none In taking up with some vague or apparent semblanoea.â Cluloi*.
With some persons, a sufficient inducement to eepouae a sentiment, is its almost unanimous rejection by others; and a satisfactory motive for oontinuance In error, Is it| thorough confutation. If suob worthies over listen to reason, It is after the model of Croaker in the â Gorftl-natnrod Man,” who declared his readiness to do so whenever bis mind was made up, as reasons, quoth he, oould thei^do no harm.âClubs*. A BKAtmrcL child, I have often thought, ia the only living thing that oould bear to bo transformed alive to heaven. If nature hed made me e peinter, I oertsinly think thet I should have devoted myaslf to tba portraiture of children.âCampbell. Tortca of conversetlon among the multitude are generally personaâeoiuctlmaa thingsâami scarcely evtr principles.â Clulo*.