Who wrote it a hard life

Friedrich Holderlin
Friedrich Holderlin

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Hyperion to Bellarmine

That's how I came under the Germans. I didn't ask for much, and I was prepared to find even less. I came humbly, like the blind homeless Oedipus, to the gate of Athens, where the grove of the gods received him; and beautiful souls met him -

How different it was to me!

Barbarians of old, become more barbaric through industry and science and even through religion, profoundly incapable of any divine feeling, corrupted to the core of the happiness of the holy graces, insulting in every degree of exaggeration and poorness for every well-mannered soul, dull and lacking in harmony, like the shards of a discarded vessel - that, my Bellarmine! were my comforters.

It's a harsh word, and yet I say it because it's truth: I can't imagine a people that would be more torn than the Germans. You see craftsmen, but no people, thinkers, but no people, priests, but no people, masters and servants, boys and sedate people, but no people - it's not like a battlefield, where hands and arms and all limbs are dismembered among each other lie while the shed blood of life melts away in the sand?

Everyone does his own thing, you will say, and I say it too. He just has to do it with all his soul, doesn't have to stifle all strength in himself if it doesn't exactly fit his title, doesn't have to be what he is called literally hypocritical with this meager fear, with seriousness, with love if he has to be what he is, a spirit lives in what he does, and if he is pressed into a compartment where the spirit is not even allowed to live, he push away with contempt and learn to plow! Your Germans, however, like to stick to the bare essentials, and that is why there is so much bungling work with them and so little that is free and really pleasant. But that would be bearable if only such people did not have to be insensitive to all beautiful life, only if the curse of godforsaken unnaturalism did not rest on such people everywhere. -

The virtues of the ancients are only brilliant faults, say 'once, I don't know what angry tongue; and they are themselves their faults virtues, for there is still a childlike, beautiful spirit alive, and without a soul nothing was done of everything they did. The virtues of the Germans, however, are a brilliant evil and nothing more; for emergency work they are only forced out of cowardly fear, with slave labor, from the desolate heart, and leave desolate every pure soul who likes to nourish itself on beautiful things, oh! which is spoiled by the holy harmony in noble natures, which cannot stand discord, which is screaming in all the dead order of these people.

I tell you: there is nothing sacred that has not been profaned, has not been degraded to a poor makeshift with this people, and what is mostly kept divinely pure even among savages, that these all-calculating barbarians do, as one does such a craft, and cannot do it different, because where once a human being has been trained, there it serves its purpose, there it seeks its use, it no longer raves, God forbid! it remains set, and when it celebrates and when it loves and when it prays and itself, when the sweet feast of spring, when the time of reconciliation in the world solves all worries, and innocence conjures a guilty heart when intoxicated by the warm rays of the sun , the slave happily forgets his chains and soothed by the godly air, the misanthropists are peaceful, like the children, - even if the caterpillar is winging itself and the bee is swarming, the German remains in his field and does not care much about the weather !

But you will judge, sacred nature! Because, if only they were humble, these people, would not make themselves law for the better among them! if only they did not blaspheme what they are not and would like to blaspheme if only they did not mock the divine! -

Or is it not divine that what you scorn and call soulless? Isn't the air you drink better than your chatter? the sun's rays, aren’t they more noble than all you clever ones? the springs of the earth and the morning dew refresh your grove; can you do that too? Oh! You can kill, but you cannot bring it to life if love does not do so, which is not yours, which you did not invent. You worry and contemplate escaping fate and do not understand it when your child's art does not help; meanwhile the star walks harmlessly above. You degrade, you tear up, where it tolerates you, patient nature, but it lives on, in infinite youth, and you cannot drive away its autumn and spring, its ether, you do not spoil it.

O it must be divine, because you are allowed to destroy, and yet it does not age and the beautiful remains beautiful in spite of you! -

It is also heartbreaking to see your poets, your artists, and everyone who still respects genius, who love and cultivate the beautiful. The good ones! They live in the world like strangers in their own house, they are as right as the sufferer Ulyss, since he sat at his door in the form of a beggar, while the insolent suitors in the hall were noisy and asked, who brought us the country runner? His young muses grow up to the German people full of love and spirit and hope; you see them seven years later, and they walk like the shadows, still and cold, like a ground which the enemy has sown with salt, so that he never drives a blade of grass; and if they speak, woe to them! who understands them, who only sees in the storming Titan power, as in their Proteus arts, the desperate struggle that their disturbed beautiful spirit is fighting with the barbarians with whom it is dealing.

Everything on earth is imperfect, is the old song of the Germans. If only one day someone said to these God-forsaken that everything is so imperfect with them because they leave nothing pure unspoiled, nothing sacred untouched with their clumsy hands, that nothing thrives with them because they do not respect the root of prosperity, the divine nature that with them life is actually stale and worrisome and overflowing with cold, silent discord, because they disdain genius, which brings strength and nobility into human activity, and serenity into suffering and love and brotherhood to cities and houses.

And that is why they fear death so much and suffer, for the sake of the oyster life, all shame, because they do not know anything higher than what they have done. O Bellarmine! where a people loves the beautiful, where it honors the genius in its artists, there a general spirit blows like the air of life, there the shy mind opens, the self-conceit melts, and pious and great are all hearts and heroes give birth to enthusiasm. The home of all people is with such a people and the stranger likes to linger. But where divine nature and its artists are so offended, alas! life's best pleasure is gone, and every other star is better than the earth. Always desolate, the people who are all beautifully born become desolate; servitude grows, with it coarse courage, intoxication grows with worries, and with exuberance hunger and fear of food; the blessing of every year becomes a curse and all gods flee.

And woe to the stranger who wanders out of love and comes to such a people, and threefold woe to him who, like me, driven by great pain, a beggar of my kind, comes to such a people! -

Enough! you know me, you will take it well, Bellarmine! I also spoke in your name; I spoke for all who are in this country and suffer as I suffered there.

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