James and Mary Ford, eds. Every Day in the Year. 1902.

February 17

Heine’s Grave

By Matthew Arnold (1822–1888)

  • (A Selection)
  • A celebrated German poet and critic of Hebrew descent. For the last twenty-four years of his life he lived in Paris, where he became the victim of an incurable and painful malady. Some of the best-known lyrics of Germany are among his songs. He died on Feb. 17, 1856.

  • BUT was it thou—I think

    Surely it was—that bard

    Unnamed, who, Goethe said,

    Had every other gift, but wanted love;

    Love, without which the tongue

    Even of angels sounds amiss?

    Charm is the glory which makes

    Song of the poet divine;

    Love is the fountain of charm.

    How without charm wilt thou draw,

    Poet! the world to thy way?

    Not by the lightenings of wit!

    Not by the thunder of scorn!

    These to the world, too, are given;

    Wit it possesses, and scorn,—

    Charm is the poet’s alone.

    Hollow and dull are the great,

    And artists envious, and the mob profane.

    We know all this, we know!

    Cam’st thou from heaven, O child

    Of light! but this to declare?

    Alas! to help us forget

    Such barren knowledge awhile,

    God gave the poet his song.

    Therefore a secret unrest

    Tortured thee, brilliant and bold.

    Therefore triumph itself

    Tasted amiss to thy soul.

    Therefore, with blood of thy foes,

    Trickled in silence thine own.

    Therefore the victor’s heart

    Broke on the field of his fame.