The New Student's Reference Work/Heine, Heinrich

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Heine (hī′ne), Heinrich, was born of Jewish parents, at Düsseldorf, Germany, Dec. 13, 1799. At 16 he was sent to Frankfort to learn banking, but soon gave it up to commence trading on his own account, but failed. He studied law at the universities of Bonn, Berlin and Göttingen. In 1821 he brought out his first volume of Sayings. But the world only became aware that a poet of the first rank had risen, when in 1826 there appeared the first volume of Travel-Pictures. The Book of Songs was published next year, and caused the greatest excitement. These two works are Heine's masterpieces. His songs have the freshness and melody of a skylark's note. His being baptized a Christian in 1825 cost him the friendship of the stricter Jews, and his outspokenness in regard to the governments of the day kept him from obtaining a government office. His relatives were shrewd business men, who could see no virtue in being a poet, and the public censor condemned Heine's poems. So, dissatisfied with Germany, the poet went to Paris, where Thiers became his patron and the chief men then living at the capital his comrades. He at once turned from poetry to politics, playing the role of leader of the people. Heine was always an Ishmael, both in poetry and in politics — he would fight under nobody's flag but his own. In his writings he said many bitter things, and was always in hot water, but his love for men was warm and deep. He died at Paris, Feb. 17, 1856. See his Life by W. Sharp.