chapter  Chapter Eight
23 Pages

Heine and Platen

WithS. S. Prawer

Heinrich Heine (1797-1856) in many ways carries on the tradition of German Romanticism. Seegespenst thus begins with the Romantic picture of the lonely poet, apart from his fellows. The word ‘aber’ in the first line suggests this: it implies a contrast between the poet at the edge of the ship and the other passengers, gregariously enjoying themselves. A dreamy-eyed poet, yearning away from life into the imagined Atlantidean city under the ocean. All the Romantic paraphernalia make their appearance: the evocation of a more stately past; otherworldly religious suggestions (in the irresistible call of church-bell and church-organ); lovers irrevocably parted; the bleeding heart; exile in strange lands, ‘fremd unter fremden Leuten’; loneliness, in a house ‘melancholisch menschenleer’—everything seen in a haze, the haze of water.