Friday, August 9, 2013

I Wish I'd Written This

Lying in Grass
By Herman Hesse (1877 - 1962)

Is this everything now, the quick delusions of flowers,
And the dawn colors of the bright summer meadow,
The soft blue spread of heaven, the bees' song,
Is this everything only a god's
Groaning dream,
The cry of unconscious powers for deliverance?
The distant line of the mountain,
That beautifully and courageously rests in the blue,
Is this too only a convulsion,
Only the wild strain of fermenting nature,
Only grief, only agony, only meaningless fumbling,
Never resting, never a blessed movement?
No! Leave me alone, you impure dream
Of the world in suffering!
The dance of tiny insects cradles you in an evening radiance,
The bird's cry cradles you,
A breath of wind cools my forehead
With consolation.
Leave me alone, you unendurably old human grief!
Let it all be pain,
Let it all be suffering, let it be wretched—
But not this one sweet hour in the summer,
And not the fragrance of the red clover,
And not the deep tender pleasure
In my soul.

Translated by James Wright



Wikipedia tells us (as part of a long article on his life and writing) that Hesse was 'a German-born, Swiss poet, novelist, and painter. His best-known works include SteppenwolfSiddhartha, and The Glass Bead Game, each of which explores an individual's search for authenticity, self-knowledge and spirituality. In 1946, he received the Nobel Prize in Literature.' 

He died in 1962, on August 9, so this is the 51st anniversary of his death. 

Here are biographical details in his own words, and here is his Nobel acceptance speech.


To tell the truth, for the most part I like Hesse's novels much better than his poetry — though I must add that I read both only in translation. Much of his poetry seems to me to have a gloomy vision. This one has too, but is redeemed by his insistence that the very real suffering of the world not outweigh the beauty of this present moment (or hour).


He wrote a lot of books, and his Amazon page is in fact a number of pages.


You can find more of his poems online at Poemhunter.


A lovely prose piece on trees is featured at Maria Popova's 'Brain Pickings' blog.



Poems and photos used in ‘I Wish I’d Written This’ remain the property of the copyright holders (usually their authors).

11 comments:

  1. I too prefer his novels, but love the passion here to preserve present pleasure.

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  2. I love Herman Hesse I am familiar with his novels but not his poetry what a wonderful surprise =)

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  3. Hesse is magnificent. So nice to find him featured here. I adore this poem! Thanks, Rosemary!!!!!!!!

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  4. Thank you. I have read The Glass Bead Game and Siddhartha, but not recently. Hesse is an essential writer, I think. I have not read his poetry before, so thanks again.

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  5. Bravo ( as I stand from my desk).
    A wonderful surprise, a beautiful piece.
    ZQ

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  6. Oh, this was wonderful, Rosemary. I really have read a lot of Hesse's novels, but none of his poetry. Thank you for this share.

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  7. Very inspirational; the acceptance of pain and the recognition of beauty, and the ultimate ability we have to rest within ourselves, beyond it all. Beautiful.

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  8. Rosemary, thank you for turning me on to a 'new' poet, in that I was unaware that Hesse wrote anything other than prose. A copy of "Siddhartha" was one of the few paperbacks I saved when I was clearing out for the book sale to support the library. This is really wonderful work, although I think I prefer his prose.

    A fresh look at an old friend. Thanks, Rosemary! Amy

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  9. It so enriches me too, to find someone new for our delight every week!

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  10. Siddhartha is one of my all-time favorite novels. I was unaware that Hesse was a poet also. Thank you for this fantastic find:)

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