Sunday, June 12, 2016

Hermann Hesse: Page from a Journal

Page from a Journal

On the slope behind the house today
I cut a hole through roots and rocks and
Dug a hole, deep and wide,
Carted away from it each stone
And all the friable, thin earth.
Then I knelt there a moment, walked
In the old woods, bent down again, using
A trowel and both my hands to scoop
Black, decaying woods-soil with the warm
Smell of fungi from the trunk of a rotting
Chestnut tree--two heavy buckets full I carried
Back to the hole and planted the tree inside;
Carefully I covered the roots with peaty soil,
Slowly poured sun-warmed water over them,
Mudding them gently until the soil settled.
It stands there, young and small,
Will go on standing when we are gone
And the huge uproar, endless urgency and
Fearful delirium of our days forgotten.

The fohn will bend it, rainstorms tear at it,
The sun will laugh, wet snow weigh it down,
The siskin and the nuthatch make it their home,
And the silent hedgehog burrow at its foot.
All it has ever experienced, tasted, suffered:
The course of years, generations of animals,
Oppression, recovery, friendship of sun and wind
Will pour forth each day in the song
Of its rustling foliage, in the friendly
Gesture of its gently swaying crown,
In the delicate sweet scent of resinous
Sap moistening the sleep-glued buds,
And in the eternal game of lights and
Shadows it plays with itself, content.

-- Hermann Hesse --
from Art and Nature:  An Illustrated Anthology of Nature Poetry

There are times when I read a poem and then move on.

Sometimes I will read a poem, move on, and then come back.  It was a delayed reaction, but it interested me for some reason. 

And, once in awhile, I will read a poem and not move on.  This happened with Hesse's poem. Why?  I have no idea.

Perhaps one of you might tell me why.


  1. work in the real world. a wonderful poem, concentrating time into a moment or two; describing all the joyful events that a tree entails... fohn: a hot wind from the alps that drives people crazy, if i remember right... with an umlaut... the sessile nature of the journey is through time instead of, as in mammals, through distance... a full life, that we only sense, not know...

  2. Mudpuddle,

    A beautiful comment--I think you have captured the essence of the poem.

    And yes, there is an umlaut with "fohn." I haven't figured out yet how to add those markings.

  3. Thanks for posting this. I haver read most of Hesse's major novels. Though he is one of my favorite writers I have never read this verse before.

    There are such profound ideas in this verse, and they are so well expressed.

    1. Brian Joseph,

      I've read a number of his novels, but really know nothing about his poetry. This is the first time I've looked closely at one of his poems.

  4. The poem overflows with action and images; perhaps that is the binding that ties. 'Tis much fohn to ponder. (Sorry.)

    1. R.T.,


      That could be it. It's a very physical poem.

    2. Mudpuddle,

      Perhaps it's best if we ignore it.

    3. absolutely; the other way leads to that "unknown bourne"...

    4. Mudpuddle,

      Right. Things better left unsaid are better left unsaid.