Friday, December 7, 2007

A poem from Hölderlin

I'm beginning to look at the work of the German Romantics. Here is a beautiful series of images from Hölderlin, deftly translated by Richard Sieburth--"hanging" in the lake is a wonderful spatial play of a type that that, later in time, Walter Benjamin will enjoy (cf. his early essay on two poems by Hölderlin):

Hälfte des Lebens

Mit gelben Birnen hänget
Und voll mit wilden Rosen
Das Land in den See,
Ihr holden Schwäne,
Und trunken von Küssen
Tunkt ihr das Haupt
Ins heilignüchterne Wasser.
Weh mir, wo nehm' ich, wenn
Es Winter ist, die Blumen, und wo
Sen Sonnenschein
Und Schatten der Erde?
Die Mauern stehn
Sprachlos und kalt, im Winde
Klirren die Fahnen.

Half of life

With its yellow pears
And wild roses everywhere
The shore hangs in the lake,
O gracious swans,
And drunk with kisses
You dip your heads
In the sobering holy water.
Ah, where will I find
Flowers, come winter,
And where the sunshine
And shade of the earth?
Walls stand cold
And speechless, in the wind
The weathervanes creak.

2 comments:

Vidya said...

I just started reading some works of Novalis and I seemed to find a lot of similarities (rather parallels) in his and Holderlin's approach and narrative.Have you read any of his works?

jb said...

The translation is bad in my opinion though why would they write "sobering holy water" where in the original holy is an aspect of the sobering...so you could read it in two ways, either the sobering is holy or they are sobering from the holy...that is how I read it anyway.