Poems of Friedrich Hölderlin


The Cheerful Life

When I come to the meadow,
When I’m out in the field,
I’m gentle and sincere,
Unharmed by thorns.
My clothes blow in the breeze,
As my spirit gaily asks
What’s going on inside,
Until dispersed in twilight.

As before a tavern sign
I can hardly pass by
This gentle picture
Where the green trees stand,
For the stillness of quiet days
Seems to me altogether splendid,
You mustn’t ask about this,
If you'd wish me to answer.

But I look for a pleasant path
To the beautiful brook,
Which, as if in a chamber,
Creeps over the wild sunken bank,
Where the bridge crosses over
Leading up to the beautiful forest,
Where the wind blows over the bridge
And the eye looks cheerfully up.

I sit many an afternoon
Up there on the peak of the hill,
Where the winds blows the tree-tops
To the beating from the bell-tower,
And watching it gives peace
To the heart, just like a picture,
And pacifies pains that come
From joining reason with cunning.

Lovely landscape! Where the road runs
Straight through the middle,
Where the pale moon rises,
When evening winds appear,
Where Nature becomes twilight,
Where the mountains stand in majesty,
Then I'll head home to domesticity,
To look upon the golden wine.


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Another late poem in which each of Nature's moments is apprehended like a picture (second and fourth verses). The original parodies the rhyme scheme and some of the imagery in Schiller's Ode to Joy (1785), which remains embalmed forever in Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. Perhaps Hölderlin, always experimenting, had heard Beethoven's famous melody and wrote his own words to go with it. In the second stanza the original German meter sounds something like this:

    O before this gentle picture
    Where green trees are standing high:
    As before a tavern sign,
    I can hardly pass it by.

These four lines are perhaps also notable because an attempt at humor is rarely found in Hölderlin's poems.


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