Poems of Friedrich Hölderlin


 

Bread and Wine

3.

We, masters and apprentices both, hide our hearts    
    In vain, and repress our enthusiasm for no reason.
For who could stop it, or forbid us our pleasure?
    The fire of the gods drives us to set forth by day
And by night. So come, let us look at what is apparent,
    And seek what is ours, as distant as it may be!
One thing is certain: a standard always exists, at noon
    Or at midnight, common to all of us. But also
To each of us something personal is granted;
    Everyone goes and comes where he can.
Thus playful madness may mock mockery itself,
    Seizing singers suddenly in the holy night.
Then let’s be off to the Isthmus! There, where
    The open sea roars at Parnassus, and the snow
Shines around the Delphian cliffs, there in the land
    Of Olympus, on Cithaeron’s peak, under the pines,
Amid vineyards, from which Thebes and Ismenos roar
    In the land of Cadmus. The approaching god
Comes from there, and points back to it.

 

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Notes

 

The gnomic proclamation that "the fire of the gods drives us to set forth by day and by night" is important and occurs as a metaphor elsewhere in Holderlin's writings. "Enthusiasm" in the original sense of the word is an essential role played by the gods in human affairs, because they initiate inspiration, motivating us with positive energies that lead to adventures and accomplishments of all kinds. Thus the gods are bound to humans as we are to them, since they serve as the guarantors of human freedom  "...that man may be strongly nourished and thankful for everything, and understand the freedom to set forth wherever he will," as expressed in the poem The Course of Life.

          

 

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