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  • Baharak Beizaei

Hölderlin: Patmos (first draft of a translation attempt)

Updated: Jan 18


Near and

difficult to grasp is God.

But where there is danger, grows

too the saving power. 

In darkness live

the eagles, and fearlessly go

over the abyss, the sons of the Alps,

on lightly built bridges.

Therefore, since all around, 

the summits of time are coiled and

the most beloved lives near

the faint outline of the most separate of mountains, 

give us innocent water, 

Oh wings, give us, and emboldened sense, 

to cross over them and to return again.


Thus I spoke when faster than I

myself had guessed, 

and far, to where I never

thought I would arrive, a genius 

from my own house carried me. 

It glimmered in twilight,

when I went into the shadowy woods,

and the brooks yearning for home,

never did I know the lands thus.

But soon in the open radiance, 

full of mystery, 

there blossomed in golden smoke, 

pungent, swiftly growing

with the rising strides,

a thousand summits in the sun.


Asia rose up to me and dazzled, 

seekingly I groped in the unknown alleys,

broad, unaccustomed to where,

leading, Tmolous reaches 

the golden bedded Pactolous 

and Taurus stands, and Messogis, 

and full of the flowers of the garden, 

a quiet fire. But in the light

blossoms high the silver snow, 

and a testament to undying life,

clinging to impenetrable walls

as old as Ivy, quickening and carrying

pillars made of the living, Cedars and wreaths,

on the festive palace

the godly erected.


Asia’s gate invite murmurings that 

draw into the uncertain open sea 

the shadowless streets, here 

and there, they suffice

for one to recognize the Isle of the seaman.

And there I sensed 

in the nearby, at hand, what

should be Patmos,

desiring much, that I,

tossing and turning, take to 

where grottos lie in darkness, in wait.

For they are not like

Cyprus, rich in

wellsprings or 

the others, this one 

Patmos stays sovereign.


Guest-friendly nonetheless 

In her poorer houses,

she but 

draws near 

when from shipwreck or lamenting

for the homeland or the dearly departed friend 

one reaches it.

The stranger of whose tidings she was gladdened, and her children,

hearkened at the voices in the groves, in heat,

where the sand, falling, cracks

the surface of the fields open to sound -- 

they hear him, and lovingly intone 

the man's re-echoed lament, so that tendered 

once more the beloved of God,

the seer who in blessed youth 


had walked 

with the sons of the highest, inseparable, 

was loved by the bearer of Thunder. The

Ingenious youth, visible and seeing the vigilant man,

the countenance of God, where

the mystery of vine brought them together at the feast, 

was becalmed by the great soul’s foreknowledge, death,

And the Lord spoke, for he never had enough, of last love, 

saying much of what is good.

Words, when soothing, to one who

saw the wrath of the world,

bring goodness to all. He died thereupon. And

much is to be said of that. But he was spotted triumphant

by the most joyous of friends one last time. 


Indeed they grieved now that

it was the evening of time, astounded,

for the men had a great and decisive thing in mind.

Yet preferring life under the sun, they did not 

want to let go of the face of the Lord

and penetrate as fire into steely ice,

that, the homeland. But with them

the shadow of love went along to the side.

Therefore he sent them

the spirit and shook to the core 

their house, and from afar, thundering,

God raged over

them, their foreknowledge. Heavily, broodingly

gathered were death’s heroes. 


Now that departing, he

once more appeared to them,

now is the day of the sun extinguished

by the sovereign, dispersing

the shining light of

the scepter, the passion of God of itself

would return where

at the right time, for later would not be

good, and swiftly, it breaks the work of men

undignified, and joyously pours, 

from now on,

into the loving night, to live and behold

with eyes pure, affine,

not the abysses of wisdom, where growth quickens

too deep into the mountains, but a living likeness. 


Indeed terrifying it is how here and there

God disperses infinitely the living,

for already to abandon the face

of the righteous friend,

and to set to the mountains, away, alone

where known intimately

by the assent of the heavenly spirit

one is seized by the hair and not knowing with what

returns their gaze

from afar, when, suddenly

and vowing, God binds them,

holdingly enjoins them,

as on a golden string, to name 

evil from here on, to join hands.


But when he dies, as when

one to whom 

beauty most clings, delineates 

a wonder to behold in shape,

on him is then raised for the heavenly 

an enigma eternally to those who

cleave to one another 

but cannot grasp each other, live together

conjoined in memory, it razes, and not 

just the sand or the willows, it 

seizes, the temple, when the honour 

of the demigod, and those of his, fades away, and of itself 

his face turns to the highest, 

whereupon no immortal left in heaven 

is to be seen anymore on the green earth. What is this?


It is the throw of the sower

when he hurls with a shovel the crops,

threshing, makes a clearing of the sieved bounty.

To him is allotted the chafe at the feet but

the kernel is gotten to at the end.

And no evil is it when 

there disappears some from speech,

as the echo of living sound.

For god’s work too is like ours.

Needful is the highest of some.


But when wayward on a spur,

to one thus speaking sadly, as was 

my lot, on the way, astounded such that

wanting to imitate for God the picture of servitude,

in bewilderment, it became visible at once, to me:

That the lord of hosts – not – that I should

be something, but that

learning the good, and they, the most hated,

are but so long sovereign of the false , returns

with the human and no longer amongst men,

that they did not found but it founds:

immortal fate and the fruits of its work,

of itself, hurriedly going to the end,

when namely, higher than the heavenly

with triumphant gait, was named, the sun just as

the strong, of the loosely hanging sons of the highest one.


A signpost without fate, and here the staff

of song’s gleaming under

the surface of a commons not awakened

by death, nor still in captivity.

Of conduits that come to expect

much of the timid eye,

shrinking the light. Not wanting

to let the sharp ray let them blossom.

How much more the courage of the golden wonder,

when to behold it but

as undulating brows over the eyes

forgets the world’s

power of stilling the strokes of holy scripture, augmenting

the stillness of the strained gaze. 


And if the heavenly now, such

is what I believe, love me,

how much more you?

For I know of one,

the eternal namely,

of the father much

to you holds true, His sign is the quiet

of the dawn at heavens. And languor beneath it.

For his whole life. For Christ still lives.

There are but many heroes, his sons

gathering all and holy scripture

from him and lightening of clarification,

deeds that the earth until now,

irresistably course through the world. But he is around. For his works

are all known to him from before. 


The honor of the divinity is for

too long, too long already, invisible.

Since almost a demiurge has to

fashion us, and painfully

his power tears at the heart,

since the heavenly sacrifice all

when to one is allotted the missing of the mark.

Never has it brought anything good. 

Having sacrificed to mother Earth

and in the distant days, worshiped the sunlight,

unknowingly, but the father loves,

he reigns over each

at most so that the solid

letter becomes cultivated, and endures well

and holds. German song proffered thereto.



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