Today, an orientalist poem by German romantic, Heinrich Heine (1797-1856), Auf Flügeln des Gesanges, famously set to music by Felix Mendelssohn (published as Opus 34, #3, in 1834-6).
Auf Flügeln des Gesanges
Upon wings of song,
my dearest one, I’ll transport you
to the Ganges plains,
Where I know the most lovely spot.
There is a garden of red blooms,
and in the solemn moonlight,
the lotus flowers await
Their devoted little sister.
The violets giggle and cuddle,
and stare up at the stars above,
Secretly the roses recite
Their fragant fairy tales.
The pious, smart gazelles,
Leap up and listen;
and in the distance whisper
The waves of a holy stream.
There we will lie down,
under the palm-tree,
and drink of love and peace
And dream our sacred dream.
Heinrich Heine : Buch der Lieder: Lyrisches Intermezzo (Translation by SH.)
Mendelssohn’s fascination with Oriental ideas was expressed in an 1840 letter to his brother Paul, urging him to read Friedrich Ruckert’s book of sufist and hindu translations, Erlaubiches and Beschauliches aus dem Morgenlaude (Establishments and Contemplations from the Orient, 1836-1838), which provided Mendelssohn with “delight beyond measure”. He was also a close friend of the first Professor of Oriental Literature at the University of London (the institution later called University College, London), Friedrich August Rosen (1805 – 1837). More on Mendelssohn’s orientalism here.
Previous poetry posts can be found here.
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