Poems of Friedrich Hölderlin


When I Was a Boy

When I was a boy
   a god would often rescue me
     from the shouting and violence of humans.
       Then, safe and well, I would play
          with flowers on the meadows,
             and heaven’s breezes
                 would play with me.

And as you delight the heart
of plants, stretching their tender
arms toward you,
Father Helios,
so you delighted my heart,
and I was your beloved,
just like Endymion,
holy Luna!

All you faithful
friendly gods!
I wish you knew
how my soul loved you!

Naturally I couldn’t call you
by name then, nor did you use
mine, as humans do, as if
they really knew each other.

But I was better acquainted with you
than I ever was with humans.
I knew the stillness of the Aether:
I never understood the words of men.

The euphony of the rustling
meadow was my education;
among the flowers
I learned to love.

I grew up in the arms of the gods.


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Written 1797-1798 before the poet's final creative period, the poem suggests a childhood affinity with the Greek gods, if indeed it was intended autobiographically.


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