Poems of Friedrich Hölderlin


About the Dolphin

The singing of flutes gently animates the dolphin
In the depths of the waveless sea.

     It is the song of nature, fair weather for the Muses, when clouds are suspended above the blossoms like snowflakes, melting the golden flowers. It’s the season when every being gives forth its own sound, its own faithfulness, the way a thing relates to its own self. Nature provides a variety of species so that altogether there may be more song and a clear voice expressing desire, or alternatively it is speech.
     It is the waveless sea, where fleet fish respond to the whistling of the Tritons, echoing growth among the soft plants in the waters.


House of the Dolphins, Akrotiri frescoes, Thera (Santorini), 1650-1550 BCE. Photographer not known.


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About 1804 Hölderlin translated nine Pindar fragments, sometimes adding brief postscripts in prose. None is more charming than this, which opens with a two-line quotation from Pindar dating from around 500 BCE. Spring's soundscape is audible even in the ocean, where Triton, a Greek god of the sea, lives in a golden palace. He plays a conch shell like a trumpet in the waveless deep, which sets the dolphins and the Nereids dancing and singing.


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