Translated by Steven J. Willett
The Gravestone of Friedrich Hölderlin
Note: This ode is in the asclepiad strophe, an extremely difficult metrical form to translate, particularly due to the highly complex syntax Hölderlin deploys. It has long been one of his most popular poems in Germany.
Personal Remark: Lebenslauf is the last ode I will offer you poetry-loving readers for quite some time, but I do (hopefully) plan to post a complete translation of all nine parts to the elegiac masterpiece Brod und Wein before I leave Japan for the next six months at our home in the Willamette Valley of Oregon.
More you also desired, but it is love constrains Every one of us down, grief is yet mightier; Yet never turns without a purpose Our own arc, back from where it comes. Whether upwards or down! rules in the holy night, Where mute Nature on days that are coming thinks, rules in Orcus most twisted Not a stage, or a law still there? This I learned. For not once, masters as mortals do, Have you heavenly ones, you who preserve all best, That I knew, with my foresight Guide me over a level path. All a man must enquire, thus say the heavenly, That he, strongly sustained, learn to give thanks for all, And well understand freedom Burst ahead, where he wants to go.
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