Hölderlin Ode An die Parzen (To the Fates)

Hölderlin’s Ode An die Parzen (To the Fates)

Translated by Steven J. Willett

One summer only grant me you mighty Fates,

 And just one autumn mellow for songs to me,

    So that my heart more willingly, sweet

       Music all satisfied, then for me die.


 The soul, that during life had a godly right

 Denied, it also rests down in Orcus not;

    Yet once is mine the Holy, lying

       Deep in my heart, and the poem perfected,


 It’s welcome then, o silence of shadow world!

 Contented I’ll be, even if lyre-strung play

    Accompanies me down below; Once

       Lived I, like gods, and no more is needed. 

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8 Responses to Hölderlin Ode An die Parzen (To the Fates)

  1. FWH says:

    He alloyed himself to the goodness of life, no matter its length. He might not have wished for a long life as it would have betrayed his oath. Still though, I hope he had many summers and autumns.

  2. Deap says:

    Sad and somber, touching a current mood. Addendum: Four Last Songs by Richard Strauss, sung by Elizabeth Schwartzkoff.

    Have you ever put your touch on the current translations of Hesse, et al in The Four Last Songs? The same resignation and embrace, as your poem.

    • Carey says:

      Also, Mahler’s Rückert-Lieder sung by Christa Ludwig.

      • Steven J. Willett says:

        Elisabeth Schwartzkopf’s performance of Vier letzte Lieder is my personal favorite, and I’ve listened to many other versions by several different singers. Every time I hear her tears come to my eyes. I met Schwartzkopf back in the 1960s at the Los Angeles Target store where she was autographing records. Wonderful, polite person given her fame. I could hardly say two words to her I was so entranced.

        It’s not possible to touch the four poems because they are permanently tied to the music. If any music does not belong in die Stille der Schattenwelt, that’s it.

        Carey, you might try Maxine Chernoff and Paul Hoover in their bilingual Selected Poems of Friedrich Hölderlin. Michael Hamburger’s complete bilingual translation has been criticized for not being verbally accurate, but that’s a false charge. He translated the accentual German Lesbian meters for each genre, but was willing to distort syntax and some words to achieve that end. My own approach is to strive for metrical and syntactical accuracy without distorting–mostly–verbal meaning.

        • English Outsider says:

          I can’t find the quote but he is supposed to have said “I am the last foothill of a mountain range. After me come the flatlands.”

          There’s been great stuff since but essentially he was right. The Four Last Songs were just that.

          Love those translations. Spend more time than I should reading around them. Hope you keep them coming.

          • Steven J. Willett says:

            I couldn’t find any reference to the comment, but here are two quotes from the German Wikipedia that have some bearing on it:

            Die Vier letzten Lieder, AV 150 – TrV 296 von Richard Strauss nach Gedichten von Hermann Hesse und Joseph von Eichendorff entstanden 1948 in der Schweiz, wohin Strauss mit seiner Frau nach Kriegsende gezogen war. Ihr Titel stammt nicht vom Komponisten, sie waren auch nicht als abgeschlossener Zyklus gedacht. Sie dokumentieren vielmehr eine kontinuierliche, dynamische Auseinandersetzung mit den Themen Tod und Abschied, auch vor dem Hintergrund des vergangenen Krieges und in Gewärtigung des eigenen, baldigen Todes. Im letzten der vier Lieder, Im Abendrot, zitiert Strauss nicht nur sein eigenes Orchesterstück Tod und Verklärung, sondern, rhythmisch leicht abgewandelt, auch den Beginn des Deutschen Requiemsvon Johannes Brahms.

            Zu den Vier letzten Liedern sagte Hesse später, sie erschienen ihm „wie alle Strauss-Musik: virtuos, raffiniert, voll handwerklicher Schönheit, aber ohne Zentrum, nur Selbstzweck.“

            I certainly don’t agree with solo nur Selbstzweck.

        • Carey says:

          Thanks for your reply and recommendations, Mr. Willett.
          I’m thinking of starting with the M. Hamburger translations, for now, but will have a look for the
          Chernoff/Hoover first.


  3. Carey says:

    Thanks for these translations of Hölderlin- I did not know of him until recently reading these here, and am taken..

    If anyone has a recommendation for a book with a small selection of Hölderlin’s poems in decent English translations, I’d love to know about it.


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