Hölderlin Brod und Wein (Bread and Wine) Part 9.

Translated by Steven J. Willett

Relief of Helios from the northwest pediment of the Temple of Athena in Ilion (Troy), c. 390BC~325BC. The relief was found by Heinrich Schliemann in 1872 and is now in the Pergamon-Museum, Berlin.

Note: The evergreen pine and ivy represent the god Dionysus. Italy was entitled Hesperia by the ancient Greeks, but here it probably represents Western Europe. Cerberus is a three-headed dog who crouches violently growling as guard before the entrance to Hades. The son, a Syrian, is a clear reference to Christ, whom Hölderlin has apparently equaled with or related to the Greek gods. Finally, bread and wine in the title are symbols not just of Dionysus but of a traditional culture that Hölderlin hopes will return from the reality, Thebe welkt und Athen. 

And now I will say goodby for some time as I prepare to leave Japan for our home in Oregon. I have much to do, a book to finish, family to meet, friends to entertain along the Willamette River and dreams to pursue. I give my very best to all you good pilgrims, as Pat likes to call us, and hope that my various translations have brought you some pleasure and understanding.


 Yes! they say with Justice, he reconciles day with our night,
   Leads the stars of the sky endlessly downward, aloft,

 Always joyful, like boughs of a perennially-green pine tree,
   That he loves, and the wreath, taken from ivy he chose

 Since it endures and even a trace of the gods who departed 
   Down to the godless below shows in obscurity.

 What in the song of the ancients foretold the gods’ children,
   Look! for we are it, we; fruit of Hesperia it is!

 Wonderful and precise it’s just as humans accomplished,
   Give belief, who it tests! but so much happened by now,

 Nothing functions, for we are heartless, mere shadows until our
   Father Aether discerns each and belongs to us all.

 But in the meantime comes as a torch-bearer the Highest’s
   Son, the Syrian, down into shadows below.

 Blissful the wise men see it; a smile from all imprisoned
   Souls is gleaming, by light thaws to restore yet their eyes.

 Gently dreams and sleeps in the arms of the earth a Titan,
   Even the jealous, himself Cerberus drinks and retires.

This entry was posted in Poetry, Willett. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Hölderlin Brod und Wein (Bread and Wine) Part 9.

  1. akaPatience says:

    Brod und Wein has prompted me to read about the life of Holderlin, which was very interesting, and sad. Fortunately, and against the odds, he survived with help from friends.

    Safe travels Mr. Willett. You will be missed here until your return!

  2. Ishmael Zechariah says:

    Prof. Willet,
    Thanks for all the poems and commentary. I hope to see your work here again sometime. Akin to an oasis within an oasis. Best wishes for a great summer.
    Ishmael Zechariah

  3. J says:

    The very best to you in your travels, and joy getting together with family and friends. Thank you for sharing your translations.

  4. mcahon says:

    thanks for the intro to the different styles of poetry.never knew the stuff existed.

    here is one I wrote about a dog

    I had  a stray dog
    he came to me one night
    out of the cold and fog
    had lost his fight

    I took him in
    gave him a bone to chew
    he was pretty thin
    I named him blue

    he had a black coat
    white patch around his eye
    when i took him on the boat
    he would bark at the sky

    he was a man’s best friend
    when times were lonely
    on him i could depend
    for some company

    I woke up one morning
    blue was gone
    he had left with no warning
    at the crack of dawn

    I searchd for him all over
    called his name out loud
    but a free spirit will wander
    i went home with head bowed

    they say that some things
    just come your way
    and the joy that it brings
    never goes away

Comments are closed.