Poems of Friedrich Hölderlin


Celebration of Peace

Please read these pages only if you're feeling kind. Then they won't seem unintelligible, and will certainly prove less offensive. But to those who find my language too unconventional, I confess I can't help it. On a beautiful day almost any kind of song can be listened to, and Nature, where it comes from, will receive it back. The author intends to lay before the public a whole collection of similar pieces, and this is just a sample.

The holy, familiar hall, built long ago,
Is aired, and filled with heavenly,
Softly echoing, quietly modulating music.
A cloud of joy sends fragrance
Over the green carpets. Shining in the
Distance, a splendid row of gold-wreathed
Cups stands, well-ordered, full of ripe fruits.
Tables stand at the sides, rising above
The leveled ground. For now in the evening
Loving guests have gathered,
Coming from far.

And with half-shut eye I think I can see
The Prince of the Festival himself,
Smiling from the day's earnest work.
Though you like to deny your foreign origin,
And even when you lower your eye, tired
From the long crusade—forgotten, softly shadowed—
And you assume the appearance of an acquaintance,
Still you’re recognized by everyone; your superiority
Alone almost forces one to his knees.

Being nothing in your presence, I know
You are not mortal. A wise person can
Explain a lot, but where a god appears,
There is different clarity.


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The poem imagines a festival celebration attended at the end times by gods and humans. As earlier, the poet is called upon to report the event and interpret the actions of the gods.

The first strophe describes the topography of Greece as an architecture built especially for the worship of the gods. The Prince of the Festival in the second strophe is presumably Christ, who later on is mentioned more directly. The epigraph to the poem indicates Hölderlin's excitement at finding a way to unwrap and transform the stylistic formalities of Pindaric odes into German, which then characterizes his Late Hymns.

The poem may have been inspired by the Peace of Lunéville in 1801, a short-lived treaty between Austria and France during the Napoleonic wars.


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