Homecoming Poem by Friedrich Holderlin


Rating: 4.8


It is still bright night in the Alps, and a cloud,
Authoring joyfulness, covers the yawning valley.
Playful mountain breezes rush and toss about, and a ray
Of light shines abruptly through the firs and disappears.
Chaos, quivering with joy, hurries slowly to do battle.
Young in form, yet strong, it celebrates a loving quarrel
Among the cliffs. It ferments and shakes within its eternal
Limits, for the morning accelerates in ecstatic dance.
The year advances more rapidly out there, and the holy hours,
The days, are more boldly ordered and mixed.
A storm bird marks the time, and stays high in the air
Between the mountains, announcing the day.
Now the little village awakens down below. Fearless,
Familiar with the heights, it peers up beyond the treetops.
It senses the growth, for the ancient streams fall like lightning,
And the ground yields fine mists under the crashing waters.
Echo resounds, and the vast workplace flexes its arm,
Sending forth its gifts, by day and by night.

Peaks of silver shine silently above,
And the sparkling snow is full of roses.
Still higher above the light lives the god, pure
And holy, pleased with the divine play of light beams.
He lives there quietly and alone: his face is bright.
At home in the ether he seems ready to grant life
And create joy for us. Gradually and sparingly,
Remembering the necessity for moderation and the needs
Of the living, he sends true happiness to the cities
And houses, and mild rains to open the countryside,
And soft breezes and gentle seasons of spring.
With a gentle hand he cheers the saddened,
Renews the seasons, the creative one, refreshes
And touches the quiet hearts of the elderly.
Down into the deep his influence extends: it
Reveals and illumines, just as he pleases.
And now life begins again. Gracefulness
Flourishes as it did before, and the Spirit
Is present and approaches, and a joyful
Disposition fills its wings.

I had much to say to him, for whatever poets think
Or sing about is addressed mainly to him and his angels.
I asked him for much, out of love to the Fatherland,
So the Spirit wouldn't suddenly fall upon us unbidden.
I prayed much for you too, my landspeople, who have cares
Inside the Fatherland: to whom holy gratitude, smiling, brings
Back the exiles. At the same time the lake rocked my boat,
And the steersman sat quietly and approved our journey.
Far on the lake's surface joyous waves surged under the sails,
And now the city rises brightly in the early morning,
And our boat came well guided from the shaded Alps
To rest in the harbor. Here the shore is warm
And the open valleys are friendly, brightened by
Beautiful pathways, flourishing and shining toward me.
Gardens lie round about, bright buds open, the song of birds
Welcomes the wanderer. Everything seems familiar;
Even people passing by greet each other as if they were
Friends, and every face appears like kin.

But of course, this is the land of your birth, the soil
Of your own country: what you seek is close by and
Rises to meet you. The traveller stands before you,
O happy Lindau, surrounded by waves, like a son
At your door affectionately singing your praises.
This is a welcoming gate to the nation, inviting you
To travel forth into the distance, a place of promises
And miracles, where the Rhine, like a mythological
Animal, breaks its way downwards into the plains,
And the jubilant valley leads through the bright
Mountains toward Como, or off toward the open sea
In the direction of the sun. But the sacred
Gateway prompts me to go on home instead,
Where the busy highways are familiar to me,
To visit the countryside and beautiful valleys
Of the Neckar, and the forests, where godlike green
Oak and beech trees and silent birches gather, and
A friendly spot in the mountains still holds me captive.


Dear friends are there to welcome me.
O voice of the city, voice of my mother!
You touch and awaken what I learned long ago.
But it's really them: sun and joy shine for you,
My dear ones, almost brighter than ever in your eyes.
Yes, it's still the same. It thrives and ripens,
For nothing that lives and loves relinquishes loyalty.
Best of all, this treasure, which rests under the arch
Of holy peace, is reserved for young and old alike.
I speak foolishly. It's pure joy. But tomorrow
And after, when we go out and view the living fields,
When the trees are blossoming on Spring holidays,
I'll speak and share my hopes with you, dear friends.
I've heard much about our great Father, but I've said
Nothing. He renews passing time above in the heights,
And he reigns over mountains. He'll soon bestow heavenly
Gifts and call for brighter song and send many good spirits.
Come, you preservers! Angels of the year! And you,

Angels of the house, come! May the power of Heaven spread
Through all the veins of life, ennobling and invigorating
And dispensing joy! So that joyful angels attend upon
Human goodness every hour of the day, and that
Such joy as I experience now, when loved ones
Are properly reunited, be suitably sanctified.
When we bless the meal, upon whom shall I call,
And when we rest after the day's activity, tell me,
How will I offer thanks? Should I call the Highest by name?
A god doesn't like what is inappropriate. Maybe our joy
Isn't big enough to grasp him. We must often remain silent,
A sacred language is missing — hearts are beating and yet
Speech can't emerge? But the sound of string music
Resonates hour by hour, and perhaps that pleases
The approaching gods. Begin the music, and the worries
Almost vanish which would have affected our joy.
Willingly or not, poets must often concern themselves
With such things, but not with others.

Ratnakar Mandlik 04 June 2019

A grand homecoming indeed narrated so beautifully.

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