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  • Baharak Beizaei

"Der Rhein" by Friedrich Hölderlin

Updated: Jan 19

translation excerpts

To Isaac Sinclair


Endarkened in the ivy I sat, before the gates

Of Silva - this side - of the golden midday,

Seeking the source, hereunder

The steps of the mountainous Alps,

Known to me by the old name,

Heavenly Fortress, abode of the godly

Where intimating fortune, some reach

the decisive secret of the human in dwelling. 

From there scarcely had I sensed,

Without courage, a fate re-calling

In me the warmth of the shadows

of I T A L Y, soulful, verbose,

And the distant shores of Morea,


When inside the cavernous

Depths, under summits silver,

And into the cheery green

Where the forests engulf him,

I heard, overlooking the stone-heads

Shuddering, daylong,

In the coldest abyss, them:

Bewailing, loudly, the diremption

Of youth, dumbfounded, accusing

Mother Earth and the Thunderer,

Who had conceived him,

In the crevices of fear in darkness,

Rocking himself still, barely a shade, it

The rage of the Demigod.


Once the noblest of the currents, the voice

Was of the free-born Rhein,

And it leapt, jutting over hanging above

The brotherly raging forge,

Propelling the regal soul’s departure, and driving

It away to Asia, so that

Un-astounded by the

Wishes of fate,

It knows that

The sons of the gods

Are the blindest before it.

Not recognizing, perdured souls,

Themselves in his house, and taming

Where they should build, to each is

Given a share in Error.


A riddle is purely a leap

Into song, this it hardly conceals. For

How you commence, thus you remain,

Such is the necessity that works,

And the desire, namely, that most

Wants to be born beams, greets

the newborn.

But where is such a one

To whom a peaceful sojourn

His whole life grants, and whose heart’s wish

Would only be fulfilled, from

The opportune heights, like the Rhein

And to be reborn from those holy mounds

Happily, as this?


So that his word exclaims!

He’d rather not whine

Like other children in rags.

And when the riverbanks encroach upon him

as the nooks of a cat’s cradle,

Thirst encircles him.

To want to nourish the unthinking fro,

Laughing to the teeth,

Gnashing at the serpentine beast, in a rush

Another bigger one does not tames him, plunging

The prey, he would, like lightning,

Strike the earth, and when bewitched, the beasts

Chase after him out of the woods,

Collision is mountain-and-him —


A God would spare the sons the

hurried life, and laughingly,

And unrestrained, but hemmed in

From the holy Alps, the currents

Rage at him, into the deep forge, as this.

In such a feast

All turns to noise, well-adorned

And pretty is the debris, as it portends,

He leaves the mountains content,

To acquiesce the furrows of the German lands.

Satiating himself, the vision dries

In good works, and when the land built

By the father Rhein and beloved children nourishes 

The cities, those he has grounded.


Indeed never, ever does he forget it.

For sooner would the dwelling perish

And the ordinance turn to ruin

Than that day be when man should forget

His origin in such a way,

And the pure voice of youth.

Who was it who corrupted,

For the first time, the bonds of love,

Making chains out of them?

For the defiant have their own right

And the certainty of heavenly fire.

And mocked, for

Disdaining mortal paths,

They recklessly likened themselves

To the gods to become their like.


But the gods are

Not wanting of true immortality, yet the heavenly

Are needful of one thing.

Thus are heroes and humans

Even the mortals. For since

The blessed feel nothing of their own,

Partaking, if one could say so,

Of the names of the gods

In the other, they are needful

For their justice that his

Own house destroy him, and the most beloved

Be as foe chastised, and the father himself and child

Be entombed under the rubble,

When one, as they, endures his will

And not something else, like the dreamer.


All-engrossed, where around

Him a befitting fate

Wanders to where the

Sweet pain of remembrance 

Washes him ashore

Thereto, and likely

Seeing to it that even the thresholds

Of the birth of God bring him

To the assigned place.

For calming the modest soul,

Bearing all, what he wanted,

The umbrage of the dying,

Wrestling, laughingly,

Now soothing to the bold ones.


Half-human demigods now

I think, known to me

As those whose lives

Move the seer in my heart.

But those, like Rousseau, who

Imperceptibly move the soul,

Coagulating to ever stronger

And more certain sense,

Listen to the sweet gifts,

Speak through them, as of the holy

Abundance of the wine god, knavishly, godly

And unbounded, offer them

Language of the purest knowledge of the gods but with

Might, heedless of the blindest strike, they

Sunder the servants from, how to call him, the stranger?


The sons of the earth, like the mother, are

All-loving, for they too are so

Effortlessly, the happy ones.

Astounded too

And frightening the dying man,

When he embraced them

With open arms, the heavenly

Carried in love on the shoulder

Of hindered joy, bemused.

For the best seemed to them

But forgotten when,

Wholly, in the woods,

Rays ablaze the shadows

In the open fields of the hills turning to sea

And free of fate’s worry,

They begot notes that are those of the Nightingale’s.


And it is — sovereignly, awakened by the holy slumber

Surrounding the cool of the forest’s 

Evenings, arisen to

The pale light of an opposing 

Horizon, overlooking the mountain,

De-lineating the path of currents,

That — which occupies man’s life.

Delirious with laughter,

The breathless ones, like swallows

Caught in the wind,

Make serene, even the student who

Now making more of

Good than evil,

Finds the day satiated.


Celebrating the bridal feast of man and the gods

The living dance around,

Well-balanced and

Equal becomes the sojourn of fate’s

Refuge in search of shelter.

But sweet and shimmering, and

Loving the chivalrous

Are, they are, what had

Been, at home, in bloom, overjoyed

By the ardour of trees, eclipsed

By rustling spirit, in the rustling of unredeemed

But consecrated and outstretched

Hands, rushing now, reaching for

The friendly light, until

Dusk brings with it night.


So at one, hurrying,

Harried past over, quickening,

Then withholding longer

Like gods, eternal are

The living for all time until in death

Mankind might hold too

The best in memory, 

And thereby experience the highest.

Each having only his own weight to carry,

Bearing the heavy

Ordain, and with difficulty the happiness. 

But a wise one likened it

To being, so from midday

Until midnight, the splendour of morning

Must burn bright until the mealtime.


To you, dear Sinclair, in the heat of paths that carve the pine

Forest, endarkened by Oakes, enshrouded

By a hidden ray! God appears

Or in clouds, where a s a young man, you knew

Him, the goodly, never-to-you hidden 

Force, the laughter of the lord

At daytime when

Feverishly and unburdened 

The living shines or 

At night it all blends

Without rhyme or reason returns

in primeval confusion.


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