There’s no reality except the one contained within us. That’s why so many people live an unreal life. They take images outside them for reality and never allow the world within them to assert itself.
A Swarm Of Gnats
by Hermann Hesse
Translated by James Wright
Many thousand glittering motes
Crowd forward greedily together
In trembling circles.
Extravagantly carousing away
For a whole hour rapidly vanishing,
They rave, delirious, a shrill whir,
Shivering with joy against death.
While kingdoms, sunk into ruin,
Whose thrones, heavy with gold, instantly scattered
Into night and legend, without leaving a trace,
Have never known so fierce a dancing.
Having recently been set upon by hungry gnats, I jokingly did a google search to see if any poetry existed on the subject and found this wonderful gem written by Hermann Hesse, translated by a proud Minnesotan who understands biting insects – James Wright. I remember reading a bit of Hesse back in college. I think I would appreciate his writing more today then I did then. His most popular books are focused on spirituality and an individuals search of self knowledge. Hesse espoused the idea that authenticity of our true selves in how we think and act is what leads to a fully realized life. Hesse felt anxiety arouse by not being in harmony with ourselves, fear comes out of not owning up to our true identity. Hesse believed our true selves was derived from the quality of our thinking.
Words do not express thoughts very well. They always become a little different immediately after they are expressed, a little distorted, a little foolish.
Although Hesse has fallen out of favor, I am inspired to find a used copy of Glass Bead Game and dig a little deeper. Hesse won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1946 for Glass Bead Game. Hesse was a talented painter as well as writer, favoring water colors as his preferred media. Hesse was influential in his day and inspired other writers and artists. Richard Strauss set three of Hesse’s poems to music in his song cycle Four Last Songs; “Frühling” (“Spring”), “September”, and “Beim Schlafengehen” (“On Going to Sleep”). This music was not performed until after Strauss’ death. Here’s a link if you want to check it out.
In Secret We Thirst
by Hermann Hesse
with the gentleness of arabesques
our life is similar
to the existence of fairies
that spin in soft cadence
to which we sacrifice
the here and nowDreams of beauty, youthful joy
like a breath in pure harmony
with the depth of your young surface
where sparkles the longing for the night
for blood and barbarityIn the emptiness, spinning, without aims or needs
dance free our lives
always ready for the game
yet, secretly, we thirst for reality
for the conceiving, for the birth
we are thirst for sorrows and death