Where to, Now? / Jetzt Wohin?

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

Here’s a link to the orig­i­nal.

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