Poems of Friedrich Hölderlin



The northeast blows,
My favorite among winds,
Since it promises fiery spirit
And a good voyage to mariners.
But go now, and greet
The lovely Garonne,
And the gardens of Bordeaux,
Where the path runs
Beside the steep bank,
And the brook falls deep into the stream,
And a noble pair of oak and silver
Poplars look down from above.

I remember it well,
How the crowns of the elm trees
Lean over the mill,
And a fig tree grows in the courtyard.
On holidays
Dark-skinned women
Walk upon the soft earth,
And in March,
When night and day are equal:
Cradling breezes waft
Across the gentle pathways,
Heavy with golden dreams.

But someone hand me
The fragrant cup,
Full of dark light,
That I may rest.
It would be sweet
To sleep among the shadows.
It isn’t good
To stay mindless
With transient thoughts.
A conversation is also good:
To speak the thoughts of the heart,
And to hear much of days of love,
And of deeds that occur.

But where are our friends—
Bellarmin and his companion?
Many are afraid to go to the source,
Since treasure is first found in the sea.
Like painters, they gather up earth’s beauty,
And they don’t scorn winged war,
Or to live alone for years
Beneath the bare mast—
Where the city’s festivities
Don’t brighten the night, nor
The sound of strings and native dancing.

But now the men
Have gone off to the Indies...
From the windy peaks
And vine-covered hills
Where the Dardogne
Comes down with the great
Garonne; wide as an ocean
The river flows outward.
But the sea takes and gives memory,
And love fixes the eye diligently,
And poets establish that which endures.


Next poem     German text     Home      All poems 



Probably written in 1803 after Hölderlin’s return from Bordeaux, the scene of this poem. He chooses the name Bellarmin for any close friend, as in his novel Hyperion. Sailors set forth upon the ocean like the heroes of Greece, leaving poets behind to select and recount their adventures, granting them a kind of permanence. The relationship of poets to the creation of memory (remembrance) is the theme of the next poem, Mnemosyne.


Website and Translations Copyright © 2022 by James Mitchell