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Friday, July 1, 2011

Heinrich Heine

Painting of Heine
by Moritz Daniel Oppenheim
Wherever they burn books they will also, in the end, burn human beings."

German Poet
1797 - 1856

When a nation or society has no respect for its artists, writers and musicians, it is a nation in danger of losing its humanity.  I find it very sad that in this country where liberty is held in high esteem that there are people who choose to burn books.  When my daughter was in high school, she knew teenagers who participated in the burning of books with members of their church.  How ignorant these people must be.  Books are our connection to the world beyond our immediate home.  But it is not just in this country and it is not just books.  In 2001 when the Taliban were in power in Afghanistan, they destroyed two 1700 year-old Buddha statues carved in a cliff in the Hindu Kush mountains.  Other cultures have destroyed paintings.  And governments and societies have tried to control the type of art works that are created.  Both Hitler and Stalin restricted the type of art that could be created.

Artists, writers and musicians are one of the greatest treasures that a society has and yet people continue to treat them with contempt — telling them to get a real job.  In fact, the way we know about the past is through the artists, writers and the musicians.  We would know very little about ancient Rome or Greece if it were not for books and paintings.  Future societies will know us primarily through the writers and painters of today.  Our legacy is past down through our art.  

Here is a poem by Heinrich Heine.

by: Heinrich Heine (1799-1856)
       DEAREST, canst thou tell me why
      The rose should be so pale?
      And why the azure violet
      Should wither in the vale?
      And why the lark should in the cloud
      So sorrowfully sing?
      And why from loveliest balsam-buds
      A scent of death should spring?
      And why the sun upon the mead
      So chillingly should frown?
      And why the earth should, like a grave,
      Be moldering and brown?
      And why it is that I myself
      So languishing should be?
      And why it is, my heart of hearts,
      That thou forsakest me?
This English translation of "Why the Roses are so Pale" was composed by Richard Garnett (1835-1906).