Poems of Friedrich Hölderlin




It is still bright night in the Alps, and a cloud,
Authoring joyfulness, covers the yawning valley.
Playful mountain breezes rush and toss about, and a ray
Of light shines abruptly through the firs and disappears.
Chaos, quivering with joy, hurries slowly to do battle.
Young in form, yet strong, it revels in loving contest
Among the cliffs. It ferments and shakes within its eternal
Bounds, for the morning accelerates in bacchantic dance.
The year expands more infinitely out there, and the holy
Hours and days are more boldly ordered and mixed.
A storm bird marks the time and circles high in the air
Between the mountains, announcing the day.
And now the tiny village awakens down below. Fearless,
Accustomed to the heights, it peers up over the treetops.
It senses the growth, for ancient waterfalls
Fall like lightning, and the ground yields fine mists
Under the crashing waters. Echos resound,
And the vast workplace lifts its arm, sending forth
Its gifts, by day and by night.


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Written after Hölderlin’s departure from a home-tutoring job in Hauptwil, Switzerland in the spring of 1801, the poem describes his return to family and friends in Swabia after descending from the mountains and crossing Lake Constance by boat to Lindau. The Alpine mountain landscapes are poetically transformed into stunning venues of mythmaking, comparable perhaps in their cosmic dimensionality and turbulence to Van Gogh's Starry Night over the Rhone.

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