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Friedrich Holderlin

(20 March 1770 – 6 June 1843 / Germany)

Mnemosyne


The fruits are ripe, dipped in fire,
Cooked and sampled on earth. And there's a law,
That things crawl off in the manner of snakes,
Prophetically, dreaming on the hills of heaven.
And there is much that needs to be retained,
Like a load of wood on the shoulders.
But the pathways are dangerous.
The captured elements and ancient laws of earth
Run astray like horses. There is a constant yearning
For all that is unconfined. But much needs
To be retained. And loyalty is required.
Yet we mustn't look forwards or backwards.
We should let ourselves be cradled
As if on a boat rocking on a lake.

But what about things that we love?
We see sun shining on the ground, and the dry dust,
And at home the forests deep with shadows,
And smoke flowering from the rooftops,
Peacefully, near the ancient crowning towers.
These signs of daily life are good,
Even when by contrast something divine
Has injured the soul.
For snow sparkles on an alpine meadow,
Half-covered with green, signifying generosity
Of spirit in all situations, like flowers in May —
A wanderer walks up above on a high trail
And speaks irritably to a friend about a cross
He sees in the distance, set for someone
Who died on the path... what does it mean?

My Achilles
Died near a fig tree,
And Ajax lies in the caves of the sea
Near the streams of Skamandros —
Great Ajax died abroad
Following Salamis' inflexible customs,
A rushing sound at his temples —
But Patroclus died in the King's armor.
Many others died as well.
But Eleutherai, the city
Of Mnemosyne, once stood upon
Mount Kithaeron. Evening
Loosened her hair, after the god
Had removed his coat.
For the gods are displeased
If a person doesn't compose
And spare himself.
But one has to do it,
And grief is soon gone.

Submitted: Monday, September 13, 2010

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