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Happy Birthday, Heinrich Heine!

Harry Heine (December 13, 1797 - February 17, 1856) was one of the most influential German poets and literary figures of the 19th century. In addition his lyric poetry, he was a prolific journalist, essayist, and literary critic. His poetry was set to music in the form of Lieder, or art songs, by composers like Robert Schumann and Franz Schubert, and became increasingly recognized for a distinct satirical wit and sense of irony. He was known as a political dissident in his native Germany and spent the last 25 years of his life as an expatriate in Paris.

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Heinrich Heine was born into a Jewish family in Düsseldorf, Rhineland to a textile merchant and his wife. Heinrich was the eldest of four children, and the family was raised in a French-occupied state, thus the young Heine spent his formative years under French influence. Throughout his life, the poet would remain a great admirer of Napoleon, whom he credited with n the ideals of liberty and equality to Germany.

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Feeling the pressure of an intensely anti-Semitic European culture at the time, Heine converted to Protestantism at the age of 28, in 1825. Heine regarded the reluctant conversion as "the ticket of admission into European culture". He then changed his name to Christian Johann Heinrich Heine.

Following a series of failed attempts to complete a law degree, Heine began writing out his controversial political views for the liberal publisher Julius Campe, who would remain Heine's chief publisher for the rest of his life. Heine's writing, especially his poetry, was full of satire, sarcasm, and irony, and made fun of the trend of Romanticism adopted by his peers and predecessors.

One of Heine's volumes of writing Reisebilder II, included the following satire on German censorship:

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Composers who have set music to Heinrich Heine's poetry have been many, including Robert Schumann, Friedrich Silcher, Franz Schubert, Felix Mendelssohn, Johannes Brahms, Hugo Wolf, Richard Strauss, Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Edward MacDowell, and Richard Wagner, among others

"The highest conception of the lyric poet was given to me by Heinrich Heine. I seek in vain in all the realms of millenia for an equally sweet and passionate music. He possessed that divine malice without which I cannot imagine perfection... And how he employs German! It will one day be said that Heine and I have been by far the first artists of the German language." - Friedrich Nietzsche, Ecce Homo

 

  

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Additional Info

  • Birthday Date: Saturday, 13 December 2014
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