[In lovely blue . . .]


In lovely blue the steeple blossoms
With its metal roof. Around which
Drift swallow cries, around which
Lies most loving blue. The sun,
High overhead, tints the roof tin,
But up in the wind, silent,
The weathercock crows. When someone
Takes the stairs down from the belfry,
It is a still life, with the figure
Thus detached, the sculpted shape
Of man comes forth. The windows
The bells ring through
Are as gates to beauty. Because gates
Still take after nature,
They resemble the forest trees.
But purity is also beauty.
A grave spirit arises from within,
Out of divers things. Yet so simple
These images, so very holy,
One fears to describe them. But the gods,
Ever kind in all things,
Are rich in virtue and joy.
Which man may imitate.
May a man look up
From the utter hardship of his life
And say: Let me also be
Like these? Yes. As long as kindness lasts,
Pure, within his heart, he may gladly measure himself
Against the divine. Is God unknown?
Is he manifest as the sky? This I tend
To believe. Such is man’s measure.
Well deserving, yet poetically
Man dwells on this earth. But the shadow
Of the starry night is no more pure, if I may say so,
Than man, said to be the image of God.
Is there measure on earth? There is
None. No created world ever hindered
The course of thunder. A flower
Is likewise lovely, blooming as it does
Under the sun. The eye often discovers
Creatures in life it would be yet lovelier
To name than flowers. O, this I know!
For to bleed both in body and heart, and cease
To be whole, is this pleasing to God?
But the soul, I believe, must
Remain pure, lest the eagle wing
Its way up to the Almighty with songs
Of praise and the voice of so many birds.
It is substance, and is form.
Lovely little brook, how moving you seem
As you roll so clear, like the eye of God,
Through the Milky Way. I know you well,
But tears pour from the eye.
I see gaiety of life blossom
About me in all creation’s forms,
I do not compare it cheaply
To the graveyard’s solitary doves. People’s
Laughter seems to grieve me,
After all, I have a heart.
Would I like to be a comet? I think so.
They are swift as birds, they flower
With fire, childlike in purity. To desire
More than this is beyond human measure.
The gaiety of virtue also deserves praise
From the grave spirit adrift
Between the garden’s three columns.
A beautiful virgin should wreathe her hair
With myrtle, being simple by nature and heart.
But myrtles are found in Greece.
If a man look into a mirror
And see his image therein, as if painted,
It is his likeness. Man’s image has eyes,
But the moon has light.
King Oedipus may have an eye too many.
The sufferings of this man seem indescribable,
Inexpressible, unspeakable. Which comes
When drama represents such things.
But what do I feel, now thinking of your
Like brooks, I am carried away by the end of something
That expands like Asia. Of course,
Oedipus suffers the same? For a reason,
Of course. Did Hercules suffer as well?
Indeed. In their friendship
Did not the Dioscuri also suffer?
Yes, to battle God as Hercules did
Is to suffer. And to half share immortality
With the envy of this life,
This too is pain. But this also
Is suffering, when a man is covered with summer freckles,
All bespattered with spots. This is the work
Of the sun, it draws everything out.
It leads young men along their course,
Charmed by rays like roses.
The sufferings of Oedipus seem like a poor man
Lamenting what he lacks.
Son of Laios, poor stranger in Greece.
Life is death, and death a life.

Friedrich Hölderlin, Hymns and Fragments, trans. Richard Sieburth
Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984
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