Heinrich Heine: The Pine and the Palm (From German)

The Pine and the Palm
By Heinrich Heine
Translated by A.Z. Foreman

There stands a pine tree- lonesome
In the north on a barren height
In slumber. Ice and snowstorm
Wrap it in sheets of white.

It dreams about a palmtree
Far in the east, alone,
Staring, in sorrow and silence,
At a blazing wall of stone.


The Original:

Der Fichtenbaum und die Palme
Heinrich Heine

Ein Fichtenbaum steht einsam
Im Norden auf kahler Höh';
Ihn schläfert; mit weißer Decke
Umhüllen ihn Eis und Schnee.

Er träumt von einer Palme,
Die, fern im Morgenland,
Einsam und schweigend trauert
Auf brennender Felsenwand.

4 comments:

  1. Hello. A good capture of the sense of the poem (I'm not German, or German-speaking, but Afrikaans is close enough to read the language).
    I'm just wondering about your choice to translate "Fichtenbaum" as "pine". I thought "pine" was "Tannenbaum" (denneboom in Afrikaans).
    Regards,
    David

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  2. One of my favorites. I've added this link to my collection of translations of this poem: http://autodidactproject.org/heine1.html

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  3. It is sad, though, that the English cannot capture the tension fully. The whole point of the poem in German is, that the pine tree is masculine ("Der Fichtenbaum") and the palm tree is feminine ("Die Palme"). This is a splendid example of how a language confines you in expression.

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  4. Well said Leonie. I didn't know this poem until today when I was trawling the internet for a few catchy lines about pine trees. I read four or five translations before I came to this site and saw the German for the first time. It is the start of the fifth line, "Er"/"he" that gives it away that it is a forlorn love poem. I'm sure Heine could have written "Es" instead.

    But I think most of the English translations make the mistake of trying to put in too much anthropomorphic tension. I read the palm tree as suffering from the heat, just as the Fichtenbaum has to endure intense cold, not that the palm is sorrowing.

    Finally, Fichtenbaum = spruce and Tannenbaum = fir, and neither is a pine tree!

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