Poems of Friedrich Hölderlin


Bread and Wine


The kindness of exalted Night is wonderful, and no one
    Knows where she comes from, or what will emerge from her.
Thus she moves the world, and the hopeful minds of humans:
    Not even a sage knows what she’s up to.
The highest god, who loves you very much, wants it so;
    Therefore you prefer reasonable day to the night.
But occasionally a clear eye loves the shadows as well,
    And tries to sleep just for pleasure, before it’s necessary,
Or a brave person likes to gaze directly into the Night:
    Surely it’s right to dedicate wreaths and songs to her,
Since she is holy to those who are lost or dead, although
    She herself exists totally free in spirit, forever.
She must grant us oblivion and holy drunkenness,
    That in the hesitating interval, in the darkness,
There’ll be something for us all to hold onto.
    She must afford us flowing words, sleepless
As lovers are, and a fuller cup, and bolder life, and
    Holy remembrance as well, to stay wakeful at night.


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This is the poet's invocation of the Muse. Only the brave can look directly into the magical darkness of Night, which moves the world and minds of humans, excites poets to new speech, enlivens the past, and awakens us all to bolder life. As a meta-text: eighteenth-century rationalism yields to an exploration of the subconscious.




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