My introduction to Hermann Hess

Reading has been one of my life long passions. I read almost everyday. Somewhere along the way I heard of a book called Steppenwolf by Hermann Hess. I got the book but my eye also caught on a book of Hess’ Poems. I don’t think I have read any poetry since high school but this collection piqued my interest.

Hermann Hess Museum

This book is an anthology of poems that Hess wrote from 1899 to 1921. The poetry is beautiful, touching and sadly not very well known among the non-Germans. Thanks to James Wright who translated this select set of poems in 1970.

In this evil year, autumn comes early…
I walk by night in the field, alone, the rain clatters,
The wind on my hat…And you? And you, my friend?

You are standing- maybe- and seeing the sickle moon
Move in a small arc over the forests
And bivouac fire, red in the black valley.
You are lying- maybe- in a straw field and sleeping
And dew falls cold on your forehead and battle jacket.

It’s possible tonight you’re on horseback,
The farthest outpost, peering along, with a gun in your fist,
Smiling, whispering, to your exhausted horse.
Maybe- I keep imagining- you are spending the night
As a guest in a strange castle with a park
And writing a letter by candlelight, and tapping
On the piano keys by the window,
Groping for a sound…

Thinking of a Friend at Night (Denken an den Freund bei Nacht) by Hermann Hess (1915)

What masterful work!