Poems of Friedrich Hölderlin


Bread and Wine


Yes, they say rightly that he reconciles day with night,
    And leads the stars of heaven up and down forever—
Joyful always, like the boughs of evergreen pines
    That he loves, and the wreath he chose of ivy
Since it endures, and brings a trace of the fugitive gods
    Down to the darkness of those who must live in their absence.
What the sons of the ancients foretold of God’s children:
    Look, it’s us, the fruit of Hesperia!
Through humans it is wonderfully and exactly fulfilled;
    Let those believe who’ve examined the matter. But so much
Goes on, yet nothing succeeds: we are like heartless shadows
    Until our Father Aether recognizes us and belongs to us all.
Meanwhile the Son, the Syrian, comes down among
    The shadows, as torchbearer of the Highest.
Holy sages observe it; a smile shines out from
    The imprisoned soul; their eyes thaw in the light.
Titans dream more softly, asleep in the arms of the earth—
    Even jealous Cerberus drinks and falls asleep.


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Evergreen pine and ivy are symbols of Dionysos. Italy was called Hesperia by the ancient Greeks, but probably signifies Western Europe here. The three-headed dog Cerberus guards the entrance to Hades. The Son, the Syrian, refers to Christ, whom Hölderlin seems to reckon equal to the Greek gods. The title "Bread and Wine" given to these poems adds to the syncretic effect.




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