Littell's Living Age/Volume 154/Issue 1988/The Pilgrimage to Kevlaar

Littell's Living Age
by Heinrich Heine
translated by Emily Pfeiffer

Volume 154, Issue 1988 : The Pilgrimage to Kevlaar

Originally published in Contemporary Review.

[The earliest impression of "Die Wallfahrt nach Kevlaar" was accompanied by the following remarks on the part of Heine: "The matter of this Poem is wholly my own property. It originated in recollections of my Rhenish home. When a little boy, receiving in the Franciscan monastery at Düsseldorf my first training, learning to spell and to sit still, my place was frequently near another boy who was forever relating to me how his mother once took him to Kevlaar (the accent lies on the first syllable the place itself is in the neighborhood of Gelder), how she had there offered for him a waxen foot, and how his own lame foot had thereby got healed. Once again I met this boy in the first class of the Gymnasium; and later, when we sat together in the College of Philosophy of Rector Schallmeyer, he laughingly recalled to my memory his miracle tale; adding however, somewhat earnestly, that now he would offer to the mother of God a waxen heart. I heard later on that he had at this time been laboring under an unfortunate love affair, and finally he passed quite out of my sight and my memory. In the year 1819, when I was studying in Bonn, walking on one occasion in the neighborhood of Godesberg on the Rhine, I heard in the distance the well-known Kevlaar songs, of which the best had the recurring refrain "Gelobt seist du Maria!" On the procession drawing near, I recognized among the pilgrims my schoolfellow, in company of his aged mother. She led him by the hand, he looking very sick and pale."]

The mother stands at the window,
     The son lies sick in the bed:
"Wilt thou not rise up, Wilhelm,
     To see the procession?" she said.

"I am so sick, O mother,
     I cannot hear or see;
For thought of my own dead Gretchen
     The heart is dying in me."

"Rise up, we will to Kevlaar,
     Take book and bead, and go;
And the Mother of God will heal thee,
     Thy heart that is sick for woe."

On high the banners fluttered,
     The chanting voices rose,
And so from the town of Köln on Rhine
     The long procession goes.

The mother followed the crowd,
     And where she led went he;
And they both are swelling the chorus:
     "Praise, Mary, be to thee!"

The Mother of God at Kevlaar
     To-day wears her best silk gown;
To-day she has much to see to,
     For sick folk from the town.

The sick and maimed are bringing
     Her offerings where she stands,
Of members made in waxwork,
     And mostly feet and hands;

He who a wax hand offers
     Is cured if his hand is maim;
He who a wax foot offers
     Gets healed in the foot that's lame.

To Kevlaar went many on crutches,
     Who now on the tight-rope bound;
And many are playing the fiddle
     Who had not a finger sound.

The mother has taken a candle,
     And made of the wax a heart
"Give this to the Mother of God,
     That so she may heal thy smart"

Sighing he took the token,
     Sighing he knelt in his place;
The words streamed out of his lips,
     The tears streamed over his face.

"O thou who art high and blessed,
     God's Maid without a stain,
O thou who art Queen of Heaven,
     Have pity on my pain!

"I live with my mother together
     In the town of Köln on Rhine,
The town that has hundreds of churches,
     And many a chapel and shrine.

"And neighbor to us was Gretchen,
     But she is dead; and now
I bring thee, Mary, a waxen heart,
     My wounded heart heal thou!

"Heal thou my broken heart,
     And morning and night shall see
Me with my whole heart singing:
     'Praise, Mary, be to thee!'"

The heart-sick son and his mother
     In an upper chamber slept,
When in there came the Mother of God,
     And silently she stept.

She bent to the sleeping son,
     And touched him as she bent;
She laid her hand on his stricken heart,
     Then smiled on him, and went.

The mother beheld in her dream
     All this, and more, I trow,
Then started from her slumb'rous rest —
     The dogs were howling so.

And there she saw her son, at length
     Laid out, for he was dead;
And over his pallid cheeks there played
     The morning, rosy red.

The mother folded her hands,
     And all unwittingly
Devoutly knelt, and softly sang:
     "Praise, Mary, be to thee!"