Poems of Friedrich Hölderlin


Hyperion's Song of Destiny

Holy spirits, you walk up there
   in the light, on soft earth.
      Shining god-like breezes
         touch upon you gently,
            as a woman’s fingers
               play music on holy strings.

Like sleeping infants the gods
   breathe without plan or purpose;
      the spirit flowers
         continually within them,
            chastely cherished,
               as in a small bud,
                  and their holy eyes
                     look out in still
                        eternal clearness.

But to us no resting
   place is given. As
      suffering humans we
         decline and blindly fall
            from one hour to the next,
               like water thrown
                  from cliff to cliff,
                     year after year, down
                        into the Unknown.


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This poem appeared in the second volume of Hölderlin’s novel Hyperion in 1799. The third strophe is a good example of the visual shape of a poem matching its content, a stair-case effect indicating man’s descent to the Unknown.


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