Page 61 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 13

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HEINRICH HEINE’S HOMECOMING
By
S
ol
L
i p t z i n
H
EINRICH Heine was born of Jewish parents on December
13,
1797, at Diisseldorf on the Rhine and died an exile in
Paris on February 17, 1856.
Two years after his death, Matthew Arnold stood beside the
grave at Montmartre and many enigmatic thoughts coursed
through his mind as he pondered the melancholy fate of the gifted
German Jew. These thoughts the English critic recorded in a
poem, entitled
Heine's Grave
, of which the most memorable lines
were the following:
“The spirit of the world,
Beholding the absurdity of men —
Their vaunts, their feats — let a sardonic smile,
For one short moment, wander o’er his lips.
That smile was Heine!
— for its earthly hour
The strange guest sparkled: now ’tis passed away.”
Without being aware of the fact, Arnold had thus characterized
not only the individual, Heinrich Heine, but also the entire Jewish
generation of the Age of Emancipation, the generation of which
Heine can be regarded as the lyric spokesman and most sensitive
symbol.
The young men who swarmed out of the ghettos of Central
Europe after their liberation from age-old disabilities by Napoleon
and who sought to partake of the fruits of Western Enlightenment
were indeed strange guests at the banquet of Europe. The cham-
pagne of liberty, equality, and fraternity, of which they were in-
vited to sip — to sip but not to drink too heartily — they drained
quickly to the last drop and became far too intoxicated. They had
been invited as guests and they made themselves at home. They
soon discovered, however, that their hosts were not too happy at
the easy familiarity with which the Jews entered into the German
heritage. Tensions mounted from decade to decade. The greater
the urge of Jews to integrate themselves into German culture and
to act as its emissaries far and wide, the greater the resistance of
the original bearers of this culture and the more violent the
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