Poems of Friedrich Hölderlin


As on a Holiday - 2

    Would you question them? Their spirit moves in song,
Grown from the sun of day and the warm earth,
And from storms, those of the air, and others
Originating farther within the depths of time,
More perceptible and meaningful to us,
Drifting between heaven and earth, and among nations.
They are thoughts of the common spirit,
Quietly ending in the mind of the poet,

    Which, long familiar with the infinite,
Is struck quickly, and shakes with the memory.
Set on fire by the holy radiance,
It creates a song—the fruit born of love,
The work of gods and man, bearing witness to both.
Thus lightning fell on Semele’s house
As poets relate, since she wanted to see
A god in person. Struck by the god, she gave
Birth to holy Bacchus, the fruit of the storm.

   Thus the sons of earth now drink in
The fire of heaven without danger.
And it is our duty, poets, to stand
Bare-headed under the storms of God,
Grasping with our own hand
The Father’s beam itself,
And to offer the gift of heaven,
Wrapped in song, to the people.
If our hearts are pure, like children,
And our hands are guiltless,

   The Father’s pure radiance won’t sear;
And the deeply shaken heart, sharing
The suffering of the stronger god,
Will endure the raging storms when he approaches.
But alas, if from


          And if I now say,
I had come to see the gods,
They themselves cast me down to the living,
Me, the false priest, down to darkness,
That I sing a song of warning to those able to learn.


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