Words and Verse

The Silesian Weavers (Translation-German)

This poem was inspired by a protest against the working conditions of weavers in Silesia, a province of Prussia in Northeast Germany.  Riots occured in 1844, demanding better conditions.

As a result of this poem, and the riots resulting in revolution, the king of Prussia was forced to allow his people a constitution. This theme was also treated in a naturalistic play called Die Weber by Gerhart Hauptman inspired by the accounts of Wilhelm Wolff. When first preformed in 1983 in Berlin, the German authority banned it.

The Silesian Weavers by H. Heine
Translated by Sasha Foreman

Their gloom-enveloped eyes are tearless,
They sit at the spinning wheel, snarling cheerless:
"Germany, we weave your funeral shroud,
A threefold curse be within it endowed-
We're weaving, we're weaving!

A curse on God to whom we knelt
When hunger and winter's cold we felt,
To whom we flocked in vain and cried,
Who mocked us and poxed us and cast us aside,
We're weaving, we're weaving!

A curse on the king, the wealthy men's chief
Who was not moved even by our grief
Who wrenched the last coin from our hand of need,
And shot us, screaming like dogs in the street!
We're weaving, we're weaving!

A curse on this lying father-nation
Where thrive only shame and degradation,
Where every flower's plucked ere it's bloom
And worms thrive in the dank rot and gloom-
We're weaving, we're weaving!

O shuttle fly! Loom crank away!
We weave unfailing, night and day-
Old Germany, we weave your funeral shroud,
A threefold curse be within it endowed-
We're weaving, we're weaving!

Original:

Die Schlesischen Weber
Heinrich Heine

Im düstern Auge keine Träne,
Sie sitzen am Webstuhl und fletschen die Zähne:
»Deutschland, wir weben dein Leichentuch,
Wir weben hinein den dreifachen Fluch -
Wir weben, wir weben!

Ein Fluch dem Gotte, zu dem wir gebeten
In Winterskälte und Hungersnöten
Wir haben vergebens gehofft und geharrt,
Er hat uns geäfft und gefoppt und genarrt -
Wir weben, wir weben!

Ein Fluch dem König, dem König der Reichen,
Den unser Elend nicht konnte erweichen,
Der den letzten Groschen von uns erpreßt,
Und uns wie Hunde erschießen läßt!
Wir weben, wir weben!

Ein Fluch dem falschen Vaterlande,
Wo nur gedeihen Schmach und Schande,
Wo jede Blume früh geknickt,
Wo Fäulnis und Moder den Wurm erquickt -
Wir weben, wir weben!

Das Schiffchen fliegt, der Webstuhl kracht,
Wir weben emsig Tag und Nacht -
Altdeutschland, wir weben dein Leichentuch,
Wir weben hinein den dreifachen Fluch,
Wir weben, wir weben!«


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The Silesian Weavers (Translation-German)

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