No. 6


Friedrich Hölderlin  

Translated from the German by Steven J. Willett  




And no one knows

But meanwhile let me wander
And pick the wild berries
To quench my love of you
Along your paths, O earth
Here where — — —

                                                         and roses’ thorns
And sweet lime-trees shed scent beside
The beeches, at noon, when in yellow wheatfields
Growth rustles, on the upright stalk,
And the ear bends its drooping neck aside
Like autumn, but now beneath the high
Vault of oaks, as I ponder
And question upward, the clock bell
I know so well
Rings distantly, goldenchiming, at the hour, when
The bird awakes again.  So all goes well.


Like slowly flying birds,
He looks ahead
The Prince and coolly all
Occasions blow against his breast when
The silence rings him, high
In the air, but richly gleaming below
Lies his dominions’ wealth, and with him are
His young in their first conquest-seeking flight.
But he restrains them with
The wingbeat’s blow.


Like seacoasts, when celestials
Begin to build and into them
Sails ceaselessly, a splendor, the work
Of waves, one after another, and the earth
Apparels herself, one of the Happiest Ones then
Setting aright all things in highest spirits, thus breaks 
Amid song—with the winegod, auspicious to the interpreter,
And with the darling
Of Greece’s lands
The foamborn, glancing decorously—
The magnificent gift on shore. 


When namely the juice of the vine,
The gentle vintage
                                               searches for shade
And clustered grapes are swelling in the cool
Vault of leaves,
For men a strength,
But breathing perfume for girls,
And bees, 
Drowsed drunk with all the fragrance
Of spring, when the spirit, like a nursling
Of the sun, touches them, wander after it
Possessed, but when
A sunbeam burns, swerve round
With humming, divining much
                                                    on that account
                                 the oak rustles, 


The last line of the fourth Hölderlin poem does in fact end with a comma because he never completed it. These four strange and beautiful fragments were written just before his mental collapse and are virtually the last poetry of any quality that he wrote.



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