Poems of Friedrich Hölderlin


Bread and Wine


But friend, we come too late. It’s true that the gods live,
   But up over our heads, up in a different world.
They function endlessly up there, and seem to care little
   If we live or die, so much do they avoid us.
A weak vessel cannot hold them forever; humans can
   Endure the fullness of the gods only at times. Therefore
Life itself becomes a dream about them. But perplexity
   And sleep assist us: distress and night-time strengthen,
Until enough heroes have grown in the bronze cradle,
   With hearts as strong as the gods’, as it used to be.
Thundering they arise. Meanwhile I often think it is
   Better to stay asleep, than to exist without companions,
Just waiting it out, not knowing what to do or say
   In the meantime. What use are poets in times of need?
But you’ll say they’re like holy priests of the wine god,
   Moving from land to land in the holy night.


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The seventh strophe is addressed to Hölderlin's friend Wilhem Heinze, to whom all nine poems are dedicated. Because modern poets can as formerly no longer intercede between gods and humans in a well-ordered, tradition-enlivened society, they have devolved into social fugitives, like the renegade worshippers of Dionysos.




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