Poems of Friedrich Hölderlin


Half of Life

The earth hangs down
to the lake, full of yellow
pears and wild roses.
Lovely swans, drunk with
kisses you dip your heads
into the holy, sobering waters.

But when winter comes,
the flowers, the sunshine,
the shadows of the earth?
The walls stand
speechless and cold.
The weathervanes
rattle in the wind.

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This moving and most famous of Hölderlin's poems was published in 1805, shortly before the onset of his own mental destruction. In the first strophe a painterly vision of summer is interrupted by a blank line half-way through the poem. From the severing space emerges the lamenting subject, while the voiceless imagery in the first strophe turns acoustic in the second. As it turned out, the poem was written nearly halfway through his life.


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