By Heinrich Heine

"I'm no proper bourgeois-kitten,
Cozy rooms I won't be needing,
On the roof, in open air,
It's a free cat's life I'm leading.

Summer nights, I'm rhapsodizing,
Up upon the rooftops stealing,
Music purrs and grrrs within me,
And I sing just what I'm feeling."

So she speaks. And from her bosom
Bridal songs are wildly surging,
Charming melodies that bring
Tomcat bachelors converging.

Tomcat bachelors converging,
Purring, grrring, snarling, mewing,
Here with Mimi to make music,
Love and drooling, ardent wooing.

These are not your virtuosos,
Who for fame do vainly jostle,
How profane! But these remain
Holy music's true apostles.

Instruments they don't require,
They themselves are flutes, violas,
Bellies are their kettledrums,
And for trumpets they have noses.

Voices now they raise in concert,
Mighty chorus, or duets; O
Those are fugues, like those of Bach
Or of Guido of Arezzo.

These are symphonies, audacious
Like caprices of Beethoven,
Even those of Berlioz,
Now surpassed in cat-commotion.

Magic tones of mystic power!
Rare, unequalled serenading!
They give Heaven shocks, convulsions,
And the stars themselves are fading.

When she hears the magic timbres,
The majestic cantilena,
So she veils her face with clouds,
Goddess of the moon, Selene.

Just that scandal-monger, aging
Primadonna Philomela,
Turns her nose up, sniffs, abuses
Mimi's singing - cold unfeeler!

All the same! They're making music,
Despite the envious Signora,
'Til appears on the horizon
Rosy smiling sprite, Aurora.

 Posted by permission of the translator ~ © 2005


1. Gui·do of Arezzo
Pronunciation: 'gwE-(")dO
Function: biographical name
circa 991-1050 Benedictine monk & music reformer; devised four-line staff that made possible precise notation of pitch

2. can·ti·le·na
Pronunciation: "kan-t&-'lA-n&, -'lE-
Function: noun
Etymology: Italian, from Latin
:song, from cantus : a vocal or instrumental passage of sustained lyricism

3. Se·le·ne
Pronunciation: s&-'lE-nE
Function: noun
: the Greek goddess of the moon

4. Phil·o·me·la
Pronunciation: "fi-l&-'mE-l&
Function: noun
Etymology: Latin, from Greek PhilomElE
: an Athenian princess in Greek mythology raped and deprived of her tongue by her brother-in-law Tereus, avenged by the killing of his son, and changed into a nightingale while fleeing from him

5. Au·ro·ra
Pronunciation: &-'rOr-&, o-, -'ror-
Function: noun
Etymology: Latin
capitalized : the Roman goddess of dawn

Homepage Send us Mail