Friedrich Hölderlin: “The Course of Life”

The Course of Life

You wanted more, but love forces us all
to the ground, and suffering bends us low.
But not in vain: our arc returns us
to the same source from which we came.

Above, below, is there not in the lofty night
where Nature plots the unborn days
and in the crooked hell beneath us,
one single measure, one law we share?

This I know:  Not once, as earthly teachers do,
have the gods who guide this world of ours
led me along a straight, flat path.
No path like that have I ever seen.

The gods say this: a man must test everything,
for it is by testing that he learns to give thanks.
It is by testing that he learns he is free,
to come and go as he is moved to do.

Friedrich Hölderlin

Translated from German by Paul Weinfield, © 2013
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