You too wanted better things, but love
forces all of us down. Sorrow bends us more
forcefully, but the arc doesn’t return to its
point of origin without a reason.
Upwards or downwards! In holy Night,
Where mute Nature plans the coming days,
doesn’t there reign in the most twisted Orcus
something straight and direct?
This I have learned. Never to my knowledge
did you, all-preserving gods, like mortal
masters, lead me providentially
along a straight path.
The gods say that man should test
everything, and that strongly nourished
he be thankful for everything, and understand
the freedom to set forth wherever he will.
The fact that human progress is erratic is a natural consequence of human freedom. The poem’s imagery is taken from Heraclitus, and this is amongst the most popular of Hölderlin's poems. Orcus refers to Hades, the Underworld.