Poems > Germany > Hesse / von Eichendorff
Four Last Songs: the poems that comprise the final song cycle by Richard Strauss
by Hermann Hesse and Joseph Freiherr von Eichendorff
Translated from the German by James McColley Eilers

by Hermann Hesse

Wandering in darkness under your high
vaulting branches, I have dreamed so long
of your green leaves and breezy blue sky,
the vibrant fragrances–and the bird song!

Now, as you open your robe of winter night,
your brilliance staggers every sense.
The world sparkles in the light
of a Miracle, your recurring presence.

I feel the healing touch
of softer days, warm and tender.
My limbs tremble–happily, too much–
as I stand inside your splendor.
by Hermann Hesse

The garden mourns.
The flowers fill with cold rain.
Summer shivers
in the chill of its dying domain.

Yet summer smiles, enraptured
by the garden’s dreamy aphasia
as gold, drop by drop, falls
from the tall acacia.

With a final glance at the roses–
too weak to care, it longs for peace–
then, with darkness wherever it gazes,
summer slips into sleep.
When I Go to Sleep
by Hermann Hesse

Now that day has exhausted me
I give myself over, a tired child,
to the night and to my old friends, the stars–
my watchful guardians, quiet and mild.

Hands–let everything go.
Head–stop thinking.
I am content to follow
where my senses are sinking.

Into the darkness, I swim out free:
Soul, released from all your defenses,
enter the magic, sidereal circle
where the gathering of souls commences.
At Sunset
by Joseph Karl Benedikt Freiherr von Eichendorff

We have passed through sorrow and joy,
walking hand in hand.
Now we need not seek the way:
we have settled in a peaceful land.

The dark comes early to our valley,
and the night mist rises.
Two dreamy larks sally
forth–our souls’ disguises.
We let their soaring flight delight
us, then, overcome by sleep
at close of day, we must alight
before we fly too far, or dive too deep.

The great peace here is wide and still
and rich with glowing sunsets:
If this is death, having had our fill
of getting lost, we find beauty, –No regrets.
   Hermann Hesse
"From the age of twelve I wanted to be a poet, and since there was no normal or official road, I had a hard time deciding what to do after leaving school. I left the seminary and grammar school, became an apprentice to a mechanic, and at the age of nineteen I worked in book and antique shops in Tübingen and Basle. Late in 1899 a tiny volume of my poems appeared in print, followed by other small publications that remained equally unnoticed, until in 1904 the novel Peter Camenzind, written in Basle and set in Switzerland, had a quick success. I gave up selling books, married a woman from Basle, the mother of my sons, and moved to the country. At that time a rural life, far from the cities and civilization, was my aim. Since then I have always lived in the country, first, until 1912, in Gaienhofen on Lake Constance, later near Bern, and finally in Montagnola near Lugano, where I am still living."
- Hermann Hesse

   Joseph Karl Benedikt Freiherr von Eichendorff
    Joseph von Eichendorff was born into an old catholic noble family on the 10th of March 1788. After schooling he went to the university Halle for studying law, he completed his basic studies in Heidelberg 1808. After a journey to Paris and Berlin, he met Brentano, Kleist and Arnim, he ended his studies finally at the university of Vienna in 1812. He succeeded in getting a job in some departments of the Prussian state and served until he retired in 1844. Eichendorff died on the 26th of November 1857. Eichendorff is a famous writer of the late "Romantik" in Germany. Famous both for his poems and short novels, he is widely known for his "Aus dem Leben eines Taugenichts", in which he combined prose and lyrics.
Hermann Hesse (1877-1962) received the Goethe Prize of Frankfurt in 1946 and the Peace Prize of the German Booksellers in 1955.
A complete edition of his works in six volumes appeared in 1952; a seventh volume (1957) contains essays and miscellaneous writings.    
   Beschwörungen (1955) [Evocations], a volume of late prose, and his correspondence with Romain Rolland (1954) were published separately.
Photo: Richard Stauss - around 1948
Article to read:
The Story Behind Strauss' Four Last Songs
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