Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Hölderlin: as when on a holiday


As when on a holiday, to see the field
A countryman goes out, at morning, when
Out of the hot night the cooling lightning flashes had fallen
The whole time and the thunder still sounds in the distance,
The river enters its banks once more,
And the fresh ground becomes green
And with the gladdening rain from heaven
The grapevine drips, and gleaming
In quiet sunlight stands the trees of the grove:

So in favorable weather they stand
Whom no master alone, whome she, wonderfully
All-present, educates in a light embrace,
The powerful, divinely beautiful nature.
So when she seems to be sleeping at times of the year
Up in the heavens or among plants or the peoples,
The poets' faces also are mourning,
They seem to be alone, yet are always divining.
For divining too she herself is resting.

But now day breaks! I awaited and saw it come,
And what I saw, may the holy be my word,
For she, she herself, who is older than the ages
And above the gods of Occident and Orient,
Nature is now awakening with the clang of arms,
And from high Aether down to the abyss,
According to firm law, as once, begotten out of holy Chos,
Inspiration, the all-creative,
Agains feels herself anew.

And as a fire gleams in the eye of the man
Who has concieved a lofty design, so
Once more by the signs, the deeds of the world now
A fire has been kindled in the souls of the poets.
And what came to pass before, though scarcely felt,
Only now is manifest,
And they who smiling tended our feilds for us,
In the form of servants, they are known,
The all-living, the powers of the gods.

Do you ask about them? In the song their spirit blows,
When from the sun of day and warm earth
It awakens, and storms that are in the air, and others
That more prepared in the depths of time
And more full of meaning, and more perceptible to us,
Drift on between heaven and earth and among the peoples.
The thoughts of the communal spirit they are,
Quietly ending in the soul of the poet.

So that quickly struct, for a long time
Known to the infinite, it quakes
With recollection, and kindled by the holy ray,
Its fruit concieved in love, the work of gods and men,
The song, so that it may bear witness to both, succeeds.
So, as poets say, when she desired to see
The god, visible, his lightning flash fell on Semele's house
And ashes mortally struck gave birth to
The fruit of the thunderstorm, to holy Bacchus.

And hence the sons of the earth now drink
Heavenly fire without danger.
Yet us it behooves, you poets, to stand
Bare-headed beneath God's thunderstorms,
To grasp the father's ray, itself, with our own hands,
And to offer to the people
The heavenly gift wrapt in song,
For only if we are pure in heart,
Like children, are our hands innocent.

The father's ray, the pure, does not sear it
And deeply shaken, sharing a god's suffering,
The eternal heart yet remains firm.

Translation by Keith Hoeller
In Martin Heidegger, Elucidations of Hölderlin's Poetry
(New York: Humanity Books, 2000)