Thursday, August 11, 2011

'When I was a boy' by Friedrich Holderlin

[Image taken from here]

When I was a boy

When I was a boy
A god often rescued me
From the shouts and the rods of men
And I played among trees and flowers
Secure in their kindness
And the breezes of heaven
Were playing there too.

And as you delight
The hearts of plants
When they stretch towards you
With little strength

So you delighted the heart in me
Father Helios, and like Endymion
I was your favourite,
Moon. 0 all

You friendly
And faithful gods
I wish you could know
How my soul has loved you.

Even though when I called to you then
It was not yet with names, and you
Never named me as people do
As though they knew one another

I knew you better
Than I have ever known them.
I understood the stillness above the sky
But never the words of men.

Trees were my teachers
Melodious trees
And I learned to love
Among flowers.

I grew up in the arms of the gods.

translated from the German by David Constantine


  1. ahhh I saw you'd written your thesis on Heidegger and poetry, wondered which poet, Holderlin, george, Rilke..., guessing it was Holderlin now, nice area to write on.

  2. Actually, my senior thesis was this super-ambitious expository mish-mash, in which I tried to illuminate certain points in Heidegger's writings on poetry by looking at the poetry of Holderlin, Rilke and Rabindranath Tagore (the last one because my thesis supervisor, Saranindranath Tagore, was a great nephew of Rabindranath ;-)).

    But all this is in the past now. I've now gone over to the Dark Side, and work almost exclusively in Anglo-American/Analytic philosophy :-)