Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Is it worship still meaningful?

Bread and Wine (Friedrich Hölderlin)


But my friend, we have come too late. True, the gods are still alive
But somewhere high above us
, in another world.
There they repeat themselves eternally, and don’t give a damn
If we live or die, so little do they care about us.

For a weak vessel cannot contain them. Only from time to time
Can humans bear the fullness of the gods. And therefore,
The life we know is a dream about them. But confusion
And sleep assist us, sorrow and night make us strong,
And soon heroes enough will emerge from the warlord’s cradle,
With hearts rivaling a god’s in courage.

In the meantime, I believe it is better to sleep than to live
Without friends, waiting without hope, not knowing the right
Thing to say or do -- and what, after all, is the use
And purpose of poets in an age of darkness?
Yet you say they are like the priests of the wine god,
Moving from place to place in the sacred night.

An important elegy, the most Dionysian of Hölderlin's work, with Michael Hamburger's translation:

Hölderlin's "Bread and Wine"


Bread and Wine [Holderlin]:


But friend, we come too late. It's true that the gods live,
But up over our heads, up in a different world.
They function endlessly up there, and seem to care little
If we live or die, so much do they avoid us.

A weak vessel cannot hold them forever; humans can
Endure the fullness of the gods only at times. Therefore
Life itself becomes a dream about them. But perplexity
And sleep assist us: distress and night-time strengthen,
Until enough heroes have grown in the bronze cradle,
With hearts as strong as the gods', as it used to be. 

Thundering they arise. Meanwhile I often think it is
Better to stay asleep, than to exist without companions,
Just waiting it out, not knowing what to do or say
In the meantime. What use are poets in times of need?
But you'll say they're like holy priests of the wine god,
Moving from land to land in the holy night.

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