Feels as if it was always intended to be written as a poem and does not feel like prose in drag

Posted: March 4, 2014 in Uncategorized

Heinrich Heine: The Lorelei (From German)


By Heinrich Heine

Translated by A.Z. Foreman


I know not if there is a reason

Why I am so sad at heart.

A legend of bygone ages

Haunts me and will not depart.


The air is cool under nightfall.

The calm Rhine courses its way.

The peak of the mountain is sparkling

With evening’s final ray.


The fairest of maidens is sitting

Unwittingly wondrous up there,

Her golden jewels are shining,

She’s combing her golden hair.


The comb she holds is golden,

She sings a song as well

Whose melody binds an enthralling

And overpowering spell.


In his little boat, the boatman

Is seized with a savage woe,

He’d rather look up at the mountain

Than down at the rocks below.


I think that the waves will devour

The boatman and boat as one;

And this by her song’s sheer power

Fair Lorelei has done.


The Original:


Ich weiß nicht, was soll es bedeuten,

Daß ich so traurig bin;

Ein Märchen aus alten Zeiten,

Das kommt mir nicht aus dem Sinn.


Die Luft ist kühl, und es dunkelt,

Und ruhig fließt der Rhein;

Der Gipfel des Berges funkelt

In Abendsonnenschein.


Die schönste Jungfrau sitzet

Dort oben wunderbar,

Ihr goldenes Geschmeide blitzet,

Sie kämmt ihr goldenes Haar.


Sie kämmt es mit goldenem Kamme

Und singt ein Lied dabei;

Das hat eine wundersame,

Gewaltige Melodei.


Den Schiffer im kleinen Schiffe

Ergreift es mit wildem Weh;

Er schaut nicht die Felsenriffe,

Er schaut nur hinauf in die Höh’.


Ich glaube, die Wellen verschlingen

Am Ende Schiffer und Kahn;

Und das hat mit ihrem Singen

Die Lorelei getan.


The Lorelei, although originally written in German, tells a story that does not feel like a prose at all. The poem is written and even translated with rhythm as clear as can be and although there is no definite rhyme scheme, it does not feel like a prose that is dragged for too long.

                Even without a definite rhyme scheme, when the poem is read, it seems to flow in a melodic way. Each word and stanza feels like it was truly intended to be written like a poem.



Foreman, A.Z. “Poems Found in Translation: Heinrich Heine: The Lorelei (From German).” Poems Found in Translation: Heinrich Heine: The Lorelei (From German). N.p., n.d. Web. 31 Jan. 2014.


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