We Were Children

We Were Children
translation of an untitled poem by Heinrich Heine (1797-1856)

My darling, we were children,
two happy little kids.
We snuck into the henhouse
and crawled in the straw and hid.

We imitated roosters,
and if anyone came through—
“Cock-a-doodle-doo!” They thought that
they’d heard a rooster crow.

We took some farmyard boxes
and wallpapered them inside
and lived as a happy couple
in our elegant abode.

The old cat from the neighbors’
would often come for tea.
We gave her bows and curtseys
and a compliment or three.

We inquired how she was doing
with sympathy and tact,
and since then we’ve said the same
to many another old cat.

Often we sat and talked
as if we were wise with age
and complained that it all was better
back in the good old days,

That love and trust and faith
had vanished everywhere,
and coffee was so expensive,
and money oh so rare!

The children’s games are over,
and everything comes to dust,
money, the days, the planet,
and faith and love and trust.
25 July 2010
Heine satirically constrasts the perceptions of children and adults. I believe he was writing to his sister, but I prefer to think of the poem as depicting two childhood friends who later marry.