Poems from "The Glass Bead Game"

Herman Hesse

by Hermann Hesse


As every flower fades and as all youth
Departs, so life at every stage,
So every virtue, so our grasp of truth,
Blooms in its day and may not last forever.
Since life may summon us at every age
Be ready, heart, for parting, new endeavor,
Be ready bravely and without remorse
To find new light that old ties cannot give.
In all beginnings dwells a magic force
For guarding us and helping us to live.
Serenely let us move to distant places
And let no sentiments of home detain us.
The Cosmic Spirit seeks not to restrain us
But lifts us stage by stage to wider spaces.
If we accept a home of our own making,
Familiar habit makes for indolence.
We must prepare for parting and leave-taking
Or else remain the slaves of permanence.

Even the hour of our death may send
Us speeding on to fresh and newer spaces,
And life may summon us to newer races.
So be it, heart: bid farewell without end.


In the beginning was the rule of sacred kings
Who hallowed field, grain, plow, who handed down
The law of sacrifices, set the bounds
To mortal men forever hungering
For the Invisible Ones' just ordinance
That holds the sun and moon in perfect balance
And whose forms in their eternal radiance
Feel no suffering, nor know death's ambience.

Long ago the sons of the gods, the sacred line,
Passed, and mankind remained alone,
Embroiled in pleasure and pain, cut off from being,
Condemned to change unhallowed, unconfined.

But intimations of the true life never died,
And it is for us, in this time of harm,
To keep, in metaphor and symbol and in psalm,
Reminders of that sacred reverence.

Perhaps some day the darkness will be banned,
Perhaps some day the times will turn about,
The sun will once more rule us as our god,
And take the sacrifices from our hand.

Soap Bubbles

From years of study and of contemplation
An old man brews a work of clarity,
A gay and convoluted dissertation
Discoursing on sweet wisdom playfully.

An eager student bent on storming heights
Has delved in archives and in libraries,
But adds the touch of genius when he writes
A first book full of deepest subtleties.

A boy, with bowl and straw, sits and blows,
Filling with breath the bubbles from the bowl.
Each praises like a hymn, and each one glows;
Into the filmy beads he blows his soul.

Old man, student, boy, all these three
Out of the Maya-foam of the universe
Create illusions. None is better or worse.
But in each of them the Light of Eternity
Sees its reflection, and burns more joyfully.

Translated by Richard and Clara Winston