I just came back from my first conference, and really enjoyed presenting and meeting a ton of people there! On the flights over and back, I had a fair amount of time, and decided to translate Heinrich Heine’s “Jetzt Wohin.” Heine wrote this poem after the Prussian state censored his work and he chose to exile himself to be able to publish and think. This is one of two of his poems that I have found so far that mentions America, and in here he offers a scathing rebuke of the country and its alleged liberty and progress. I hope to make this part of a larger project translating Heine’s either untranslated or just not recently translated poems.
Where to, Now?
By: Heinrich Heine,
Translated: Daniel Joslyn
Where to, now? My foolish feet
Want to take me to Germany
But my mind it shakes my head
And wisely seems to say to me
Though the war is over now,
The military courts remain
They’ve decreed that I once wrote
Many a shoot-worthy refrain
And it’s true that getting shot
Would quite uncomfortable feel.
I’m no hero, don’t perform
Pathetic and dramatic zeal.
I’d gladly go to England
But there is too much smog and coal
And the English – ev’n their smell
Is nauseating to my soul
Sometimes my mind considers
To America to set sail,
To that great Freedom’s stable,
Wherein conformity-flails flail –
But that land, it worries me,
Where the people tobacco chew,
Where without kingpins they bowl,
Where without spittoons they spew.
Russia that beautiful land
I could see liking it there
But in winter I would hate
Being whipped by the frozen air.
Mournfully I gaze on high
Thous’nds of blinking stars abound
But my own personal star
On high, it nowhere can be found
In the gilded labyrinths,
Of heav’n has he lost his way?
Just as I am lost myself
In earthly tumult, midst the fray