Poems of Friedrich Hölderlin


As on a Holiday

   As on a holiday, when a farmer
Goes out to look at his fields, in the morning,
After cool lightning has fallen through the hot night,
And thunder still echoes in the distance,
And the stream returns to its banks,
And the earth becomes green and fresh,
And drops of joyful rain from heaven rest
Upon the vines, and the trees in the grove
Stand shining in the quiet sun—

   Thus poets stand in favorable weather:
Those whom no master, but rather Nature,
Mighty and beautiful in its divinity, wonderfully
And universally present, educates with gentle embrace.
And when Nature appears to sleep at some seasons,
Either in the sky or among plants or nations,
Thus the aspect of poets is also mournful.
They seem to be alone, but their foreknowledge continues.
For Nature itself is prescient, as it rests.

   Now it is day! I waited to see it come,
And what I saw—my words bespeak holiness!
For Nature, who is older than time,
Standing above the gods of the Occident and Orient,
Has awakened to the sounds of arms.
All-creating Nature feels the enthusiasm anew,
From Aether down to the abyss,
As when she was born of holy Chaos,
According to the established law.

    And as fire shines in a man’s eye
When he plans something great,
So a fire is kindled again in the minds
Of poets, by the signs and deeds of the world.
What happened before, scarcely sensed,
Becomes apparent now for the first time.
And those who plowed our fields, smiling,
In the person of laborers, are now recognized
As the all-living forces of the gods.

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The opening verses of an unfinished yet beautifully written poem shows the poet as a heroic, divinely-inspired seer, almost a shamanic intermediary, a kind of spiritual lightning rod placed between the worlds of higher beings and humans—an obviously dangerous, but exalted occupation.

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