MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

Half Through the Year

half-veil

Today’s position in the annual calendar makes me think of Friedrich Hölderlin’s most-famous poem, Hälfte des Lebens. Here’s the original, followed by my inelegantly functional translation (in which I deliberately stick close to Hölderlin’s word order/syntax):

Hälfte des Lebens

Mit gelben Birnen hänget
Und voll mit wilden Rosen
Das Land in den See,
Ihr holden Schwäne,
Und trunken von Küssen
Tunkt ihr das Haupt
Ins heilignüchterne Wasser.

Weh mir, wo nehm’ ich, wenn
Es Winter ist, die Blumen, und wo
Den Sonnenschein,
Und Schatten der Erde?
Die Mauern stehn
Sprachlos und kalt, im Winde
Klirren die Fahnen.

Halfway Through Life

With its yellow pears
And laden with roses,
The shore hangs right into the lake,
O lovely swans,
And drunk with kisses
You dip your heads
Into the holy sobering water.

Alas, where shall I, come
Winter, [find] flowers, and where
The sunshine,
And shade of the earth?
The walls are standing
Speechless and cold, in the wind
The weathervanes rattle.

And Benjamin Britten’s setting:

Filed under: Hölderlin, poetry

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