Poems of Friedrich Hölderlin


Bread and Wine


And now they prepare in earnest to honor the holy gods.
    Everything must really and truly proclaim their praise.
Nothing that displeases the high ones may come to light.
    Idle endeavors aren’t proper for the Aether.
Therefore, to stand worthily in the presence of the gods,
    Nations rise in splendid order, and beautiful
Temples and cities are built, strong and noble, which rise
    Above the banks of the waters—but where are they?
Where are the famously flowering cities, crowning the festival?
    Thebes and Athens are languishing. Don’t weapons clash
At Olympus, or golden chariots at the games? Are there
    No longer wreaths to decorate the ships of Corinth?
Why are the ancient holy theaters silent?
    What happened to the joyful ceremonial dancing?
Why doesn’t a god put his sign on a human forehead,
    Leaving his mark on the person he has struck?
Or, as the gods used to, come comfortingly, assume human
    Shape, then complete and close the festival of the gods.


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