Monday, March 09, 2009

My Favorite Fragment (Hölderlin)

In the readings that Maxine and I have been giving of our Hölderlin translations, most recently at Boise State University, we always like to present "Tinian," from the Fragments of Hymns section. It displays the intensity of his phrasing and imagery ("And drink at the wolf teats / Of the waters. . ." and "for the gods / Hazard us a falcon's glance"), his sweetness of character, and his intellectual and mythic scope (". . .the gods / Decree these outward signs to be birthmarks / Of whose child / The West must be"). The falcon figure reminds me of an image from our Boise trip, glimpsed as we were driving through the mountains on our way to a natural hot spring: a bald eagle feeding in the ribcage of a deer, its head feathers blood-spotted. At the spring with Martin Corless-Smith and his graduate student Stephen, snow fell onto our shoulders and into the pool as we soaked. I've added spacing indicators because the blog's format collapses all type to the left margin without them.


It’s sweet to get lost
In the holy wilderness,

-- -- -- --

And drink at the wolf teats
Of the waters that wander
Through my native land
To me,

>>>>>>>>>>>>>,wilder once,
But now, like orphans, accustomed to the taste;
In spring, when unfamiliar wings
Return to the warmth of the woods

>>>>>>>>>>>>>resting in solitude,
Among the willow trees
Full of fragrance
Where butterflies
Mingle with bees
And your Alps

Divided from God

The divided world,

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>indeed they stand


And wander as they wish, timelessly

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>for the gods
Hazard us a falcon’s glance, or
Like gladiators, the gods decree
These outward signs to be birthmarks
Of whose child
The West must be;

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>Some flowers
Don’t grow from the earth, but sprout
In loose soil of their own will,
Counter-light of our days, nor should
One pick them.
For they stand golden,
Prepared only for what they are,
Leafless even
As thoughts,

Translated by Maxine Chernoff and Paul Hoover

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At 7:40 AM, Blogger Bruno Jankowisk said...


At 11:29 AM, Blogger Dean Faulwell said...

Beautiful translations. Congrats to you and Max. Hoelderlin is said to have been emotionally destroyed by Goethe's rejection of him. Not one of Goethe's better moves.

At 11:48 AM, Blogger Dean Faulwell said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 12:17 PM, Blogger Paul Hoover said...

Dean: Thanks very much. We created 46 different PDFs of the manuscript AFTER turning in the final manuscript. Holderlin unintentionally snubbed Goethe on their first meeting in Jena (set up by Schiller), and Goethe turned on him. Goethe had been holding a sheaf of Holderlin's poems at the time of the snub. Unfortunate.

At 9:14 PM, Blogger Tien Tran said...

Nice blog. Thoughtful and interesting, though a tad too modern for my taste! On another note, I think you might this Wikipedia article most helpful (it explains hows to force blank space when formatting e-text):


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