Robert Huddleston


translates Friedrich Hölderlin & Charles Baudelaire


Friedrich Hölderlin



To Hope


O hope! Dear one, busy with kindness!

    You who will not scorn the mourner’s house,

        Gladly you serve us, noble one,

            Working between mortals and high gods.


Where are you? I’ve hardly lived, but even now

    I feel evening’s chill breath steal over me.

        And still, silent as shades, I wait here; and now

            In my breast a tuneless, trembling heart


Sleeps. In the green valley, where the fresh spring

    Plunges daily from mountain heights,

        And the lovely autumn crocus blooms

            There, in the stillness, dearest, will I


Look for you, or when deep in the night

    Invisible life stirs in the wood,

        And over me the ever-blooming stars

            Like smiling, radiant flowers shine,


O daughter of the Air, come forth then

    From your father’s gardens, and if you may

        Not come a ghost of the earth, then

            Stir, O stir my heart with wilder fears. 




An die Hofnung



O Hofnung! holde! gütiggeschäfftige!

    Die du das Haus der Trauernden nicht verschmähst,

        Und gerne dienend, Edle! zwischen

             Sterblichen waltest und Himmelsmächten,


Wo bist du? wenig lebt’ ich; doch athmet kalt

    Mein Abend schon. Und stille, den Schatten gleich,

        Bin ich schon hier; und schon gesanglos

            Schlummert das schaudernde Herz im Busen.


Im grünen Thale, dort, wo der frische Quell

    Vom Berge täglich rauscht, und die liebliche

        Zeitlose mir am Herbsttag aufblüht,

            Dort, in der Stille, du Holde, will ich


Dich suchen, oder wenn in der Mitternacht

    Das unsichtbare Leben im Haine wallt,

        Und über mir die immerfrohen

            Blumen, wie blühenden Sterne glänzen,


O du des Aethers Tochter! erscheine dann

    Aus deines Vaters Gärten, und darfst du nicht,

        Ein Geist der Erde, kommen, schrök’, o

            Schröke mit anderem nur das Herz mir.



There is some disagreement over the final line in the fourth stanza. Some editors have printed it as Blümen, die blühenden Sterne, glänzen,(Flowers, the blooming stars, shine). I have followed the text of the poem as it appears in Friedrich Wilmans’ Taschenbuch für das Jahr 1805, where it is one of nine poems entitled Night Songs.



*            *            *



Charles Baudelaire





I am beautiful, O mortals, as a dream of stone,

And my heart, a rock where each of you in turn

Has split his ship, leaves the poet pondering

A love as unfathomable and deep as the sea.


Gliding in the air, mute as a sphinx,

My breast wrapped in the icy down of a swan,

I loathe whatever that ruffles my calm;

I am one who never feels or thinks.


And the poets in meditation

Weary themselves day and night

Under my forbidding gaze, like Caesar’s.


For my charms fascinate all obedient lovers:

Like pure mirrors gleaming over creation,

My eyes, deep pools, are eternally bright.



La beauté

Je suis belle, ô mortels ! comme un rêve de pierre,
Et mon sein, où chacun s'est meurtri tour à tour,
Est fait pour inspirer au poète un amour
Éternel et muet ainsi que la matière.

Je trône dans l'azur comme un sphinx incompris ;
J'unis un coeur de neige à la blancheur des cygnes ;
Je hais le mouvement qui déplace les lignes,
Et jamais je ne pleure et jamais je ne ris.

Les poètes, devant mes grandes attitudes,
Que j'ai l'air d'emprunter aux plus fiers monuments,
Consumeront leurs jours en d'austères études ;

Car j'ai, pour fasciner ces dociles amants,
De purs miroirs qui font toutes choses plus belles :
Mes yeux, mes larges yeux aux clartés éternelles !





Friedrich Hölderlin (1770–1843) was born in the Swabian town of Lauffen am Neckar. He was the author of the novel Hyperion as well as lyric odes, elegies, and hymns. Largely unknown during his lifetime, his work would have a profound impact on many poets and thinkers in the twentieth century, including Celan and Heidegger.


Charles Baudelaire was one of the greatest French poets of the 19th century. His subject was often the dark side of urban life and human emotion. His major work is considered to be Les Flers du Mal, The Flowers of Evil, published in 1857. His exploration and expression of human despair is dark, lyrical and has had a deep influence on modern poetics.


Robert Huddleston is a poet, translator, and critic. His work has appeared recently in Chicago Review and Mantis.