by Friedrich Holderlin
The holy, familiar hall, built long ago,
Is aired, and filled with heavenly,
Softly echoing, quietly modulating music.
A cloud of joy sends fragrance
Over the green carpets. Shining in the
Distance, a splendid row of gold-wreathed
Cups stands, well-ordered, full of ripe fruits.
Tables stand at the sides, rising above
The leveled ground. For now in the evening
Loving guests have gathered, coming from far.
And with half-shut eye I think I can see
The prince of the festival himself,
Smiling from the day's earnest work.
Though you like to deny your foreign origin,
And even when you lower your eye, tired
From the long crusade - forgotten, lightly shadowed -
And you assume the appearance of an acquaintance,
Still you're recognized by everyone; your superiority
Alone almost forces one to his knees.
Being nothing in your presence, I know
You are not mortal. A wise person can
Explain a lot, but where a god appears,
There is different clarity.
He isn't of the present, yet doesn't come unannounced;
And one who feared neither flood nor flame
Doesn't surprise us without a reason, now that all is quiet,
And dominion is invisible among spirits and humans.
That is, just now the work become audible,
Long in preparation, from morning to evening.
For the thunderer's echo, the thousand-year storm,
Roars immeasurably down towards rest, resounding
In the depths, while peaceful sounds rise above it.
But you, days of innocence, become dear to us:
Today you bring the festival, beloved ones!
And the spirit flourishes in the evening stillness,
And I must counsel you, friends, to prepare the wreaths
And the food, since now we're like eternal youths,
Even if our hair were silver grey.
There are many I should like to invite, but you,
Who were devoted to mankind in a friendly, yet
Earnest way, and who liked to stay at the well
Under Syrian palms, near the city... the fields
Of grain rustled in the wind, the coolness drifted
Down from the shaded holy mountain,
And the loyal clouds, your friends,
Cast their shadows around you,
So that your holy, daring radiance shone gently
Through the wilderness upon men, o Youth!
But then a deadly fate enshadowed you
More darkly, terribly and definitively
In the middle of your words. Thus everything
From heaven passes quickly, but not in vain.
For a god, knowing always the proper measure,
Touches sparingly and just for a moment the homes
Of men - unexpectedly, and no one knows when.
But then something boisterous may appear,
And wildness may come to the holy place from afar.
Grasping about roughly, it touches upon madness,
And fills some intention thereby.
Gratitude doesn't follow the gift
From the gods immediately:
It has to be deeply studied first.
For if the giver hadn't been cautious,
From the blessing of the hearth both
Floor and ceiling would have gone up in flames.
We've received much from the gods.
Fire was handed to us, and the ocean's
Flood and shore. Much more,
For alien powers have become familiar
To us in a human way. The stars
Over your head can teach you things,
Although you can't equal them.
Yet of the all-living ones - from whom
Issue much pleasure and song -
One is a calmly powerful son.
Knowing his father, we recognize him,
Now that the high Spirit of the World
Has descended to mankind
To keep the holidays.
He had long become too great to be
The Lord of Time, and his territory
Extended far... when would it
Have exhausted him? But a god
May once choose mundane life also,
Like mortals, and share their fate.
One law of fate requires that people
Should know each other, so that when
Silence returns, there will also be a language.
Where the spirit is at work, we are present too,
And talk about what is best. To me, the best
Is when the picture is done, and the artist
Finishes and steps transfigured from his workplace,
The quiet God of Time, and only the reconciling
Law of love extends from here to heaven.
Man has learned much since morning,
For we are a conversation, and we can listen
To one another. Soon we'll be song.
And the picture of time, which the great spirit unfolds,
Lies as a sign before us, indicating that a covenant
Between himself and others, himself and other powers exists.
Not he alone, but also the unconceived and eternal ones
Are recognizable in the picture,
Just as our mother, the earth, recognizes herself,
And light and air, through the plant kingdom.
But the all-gathering day of the festival
Is the ultimate sign of love, the witness
Of your existence, o holy powers.
The gods aren't revealed in miracles now,
Nor do they remain unseen as during a storm;
Now they are met together as guests,
A holy number, holy in every way,
And present in choruses of song.
And the person they love most,
Their favorite, is here.
Thus I've summoned you to the banquet
Now prepared, you, the unforgettable one,
To the evening of time, o Youth,
To be the Prince of the Festival.
And our race will not sleep
Until all the promised, immortal gods
Are here in our halls
To speak of their heaven.
Lightly breathing winds
Proclaim your arrival;
Valley mists announce you all,
And the earth, still sounding from the storm.
Hope colors the cheeks;
Mother and child
Sit before the house door,
Looking upon the peace.
Few seem to die:
A premonition, sent from the golden light,
Holds the soul back;
A promise retains the eldest.
Now all labors,
The seasoning of life,
Are prepared and completed above.
Simple things the most.
Has fallen from the ancient tree
After terrible storms,
But then is guarded, like a treasured possession,
By holy Fate with gentle weapons:
This has the shape of the gods.
Like a lioness, Mother,
Nature, you lament,
Since you lost your children.
Your enemy, all-loving one,
Has stolen them from you,
Since you adopted him almost
To be your own son, placing
Gods in the company of satyrs.
Thus you've created much
And buried much,
Because that which you brought
To light too soon, all-powerful one,
Now hates you.
But this too you recognize and accept,
For whatever arouses fear prefers
To rest insensate below
Until its time has come.
Last updated January 14, 2019