-“September,” from Four Last Songs, Richard Strauss (lyrics by Hermann Hesse), performed by Renee Fleming
“Among [Strauss’s] last compositions are the settings for three poems by Hesse (in Four Last Songs).” –Hermann Hesse: A Biography, Volker Michels
For a collection of recordings of “Frühling” (Spring), “September,” and “Beim Schlafengehen” (along with the fourth, “Im Abendrot,” by Joseph von Eichendorff), visit www.vierletztelieder.com.
-“Masked Ball,” Hermann Hesse, 1926
While I lived like a young man of the world, danced a lot, took part everywhere in the superficial pleasures of the modern world which I had previously not known at all and often found charming in their naive boisterousness – at the very same time I was constantly concerned with the most serious problems that life had given me.
-Hesse in a letter dated 1926, Hermann Hesse: A Pictorial Biography,
From my thirteenth year on, it was clear to me that I wanted to be either a poet or nothing at all…. It was permissible and even considered an honor to be a poet; that is, to be successful and famous as a poet – unfortunately by that time one was usually dead. But to become a poet was impossible, and to want to become one was ridiculous and shameful, as I very soon found out.
–Hermann Hesse: A Pictorial Biography, Volker Michels
[Image: Hesse (far left) and family, 1889 (age 12); source: www.hermann-hesse.de]
This journey through the realms of life
Was not meant to end in one home only.
World spirit does not want to tie us down,
Wants us to soar into the open.
When we stay too long in one place,
Get stuck in norm and habit, we wear out.
–The Seasons of the Soul, Hermann Hesse (trans. Ludwig Max Fischer)
Visit www.hermannhesseseasonsofthesoul.com for readings of the poems and discussions between Fischer and Andrew Harvey, who wrote the foreword.
What do I care about bearing fruit, about achieving goals?
I blossomed and flowers were my purpose.
Now I am wilting and nothing but wilting is my aim.
Hearts don’t beat for distant goals.
-“Autumn Takes Hold of My Life,” The Seasons of the Soul, Hermann Hesse (trans. Ludwig Max Fischer)
My pillow gazes upon me at night
Empty as a gravestone;
I never thought it would be so bitter
To be alone,
Not to lie down asleep in your hair.
–“Without You,” Poems, Hermann Hesse (trans. James Wright)
Seeing me so very ill,
Hard-faced nurses will advise
Resignation to God’s will,
And their pious, bony fingers
With unloving care
Will arrange my lifeless hands
In an attitude of prayer.
God of everlasting mercy,
Save me from their clutches. I
Don’t want pious scarecrows near me
When it’s time for me to die.
-“Still Sick,” from Crisis: Pages from a Diary, Hermann Hesse (trans. R. Manheim)