THE PHILOSOPHER OF NATURE
Variations on poems and fragments by Friedrich Hölderlin (1770–1843)
the flowing river, my poem the churning sky.
The words, you understand, were secondary.
Have you ever sung to an oak, an ash, the aspen's
shining leaves? Melodious trees, their shadows
carried me, bewildered, to the gate.
And then I heard the murmur –
the heartbeat of the gods.
My lament (for the dead) will never end: when our hill,
that dreaming green, is levelled, even... our final
The path parts, our way is lost, in loneliness, in grief.
This errant grief, a bitter stream, will lead me on
forever: it whispers
from beyond the brink.
Late as I am, oh grant me,
breath, a single summer, or the first
autumnal chill restored, the lost, unhurried interval
with her, above the river, a stillness deep and green...
enough to fill my heart.
Blue to grey, the falling heights of heaven –
I walked below them slowly, pondering the past.
Sometimes, a sleepless god will weep, a tide rise up
between my ribs.
Colossal trees, stomping light, their manes
tossed up to the sky – what joy!
The morning clear,
the air a vivid blue, once more
the dolphins fly, the island gannets dip,
the sun-quick waters raise, again,
an abundant harbour, tinkling:
the fishermen in motion,
the scintillating nets...
whether memory or vision,
the bright sails lift my life.
A mist of sun on the wooden sill.
Within: a flush of plums, the knife
laid out, an idle bowl of bread.
I wanted only
the dark light, caught, in a fractal glass,
the fragmentary shadows stilled –
and then to sleep, drifting easy
in the river of shades.
Bleak the mud, black the bark, the wind
a bitten rock! Oh where, in broken winter,
do the meadow-flowers rest, the lark
that lay between us (when we kissed)?
All that's left: relentless rain, spattering
the steeples, clattering the slates.
The weight in the gut. The storm. The sting.
The loneliness unceasing. The greyest rain.
The earth itself a-brim, with bitterness,
with pain. All these, too, are lovely. We flare,
a little wick, before the darkness drops.