Hermann Hesse – Steps (Stufen)

This is a poem from Hermann Hesse, a German poet and writer, entitled “Steps”. It is one of my favourite poems, and I do give a copy to most of the people I meet and consider my friends. Enjoy:

As every blossom fades
and all youth sinks into old age,
so every life’s design, each flower of wisdom,
attains its prime and cannot last forever.
The heart must submit itself courageously
to life’s call without a hint of grief,
A magic dwells in each beginning,
protecting us, telling us how to live.

High purposed we shall traverse realm on realm,
cleaving to none as to a home,
the world of spirit wishes not to fetter us
but raise us higher, step by step.
Scarce in some safe accustomed sphere of life
have we establish a house, then we grow lax;
only he who is ready to journey forth
can throw old habits off.

Maybe death’s hour too will send us out new-born
towards undreamed-lands,
maybe life’s call to us will never find an end
Courage my heart, take leave and fare thee well.

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31 thoughts on “Hermann Hesse – Steps (Stufen)

  1. manuel says:

    im sorry to say so but i think much of its beauty is lost in translation

  2. manuel says:

    like this one better:

    Hermann Hesse:
    Steps

    Like ev’ry flower wilts, like youth is fading
    and turns to age, so also one’s achieving:
    Each virtue and each wisdom needs parading
    in one’s own time, and must not last forever.
    The heart must be, at each new call for leaving,
    prepared to part and start without the tragic,
    without the grief – with courage to endeavor
    a novel bond, a disparate connection:
    for each beginning bears a special magic
    that nurtures living and bestows protection.

    We’ll walk from space to space in glad progression
    and should not cling to one as homestead for us.
    The cosmic spirit will not bind nor bore us;
    it lifts and widens us in ev’ry session:
    for hardly set in one of life’s expanses
    we make it home, and apathy commences.
    But only he, who travels and takes chances,
    can break the habits’ paralyzing stances.

    It even may be that the last of hours
    will make us once again a youthful lover:
    The call of life to us forever flowers…
    Anon, my heart! Do part and do recover!

  3. zimlop says:

    Where can y find this fine words in spanish?

    Otto Zimmernann

  4. b* says:

    ..well, i had a go myself:
    (let me know, what you think of it, if you like..)

    steps

    As every blossom is doomed to decay, and youth
    gives way to the old age, every stage of life,
    every wisdom, every virtue has its prime
    in due course and must not last forever.
    at each call of life the heart needs to be
    prepared to take farewell and to restart,
    with fortitude and without grief,
    daring new and different bonds.
    And magic dwells in each beginning
    to shelter us, to help us to live on.

    We shall move from room through room all cheerfully
    and cling to none as to a home.
    This world’s spirit has no wish to chain or to constrain –
    but to raise us higher, step by step, all widening.
    scarce are we endemic to a sphere of life,
    accustomed to convenience, we slacken.
    Only he who is ready and aiming for departure and travels
    will free himself, unravel habituation, laming.

    the hour of death might even
    sent us emergent to new spheres.
    life’s call on us will never cease…
    now then, oh heart, take leave and heal.

    • Magdalena says:

      Very well done. This is my alltime favorite poem in German.
      I have to agree that the translations are somewhat lacking.

      Yours and the one I read before are very very good.
      Thank you for the translation.

      Magdalena

      • Uda says:

        Hi Magdalena (o what a beautiful name …!)
        I have been trying to write a reply to you for a few months, hopefully this time it’ll work …!
        Thank you for your comment.
        Yes, it is such a wonderful poem, isn’t it … So much truth, and beauty.
        Uda

      • Alan Collins says:

        I hope you like my translation Magda!?

    • Eric says:

      That’s a pretty amazing translation….not sure the English syntax works all that well, but it truly reflects the meaning the poem!

      • Uda says:

        Hi Eric,

        thank you for your comment.
        It was a choice for me between syntax-and-rhythm, and getting the feeling across. I’ve found other translations on the Net that have one or the other … never both. You’re welcome to put your mind to it and make your own attempt, I’d be very interested to hear!

        Uda

  5. Robert says:

    many thanks to all of you from an Aussie traveller; always fascinating to see how translations differ. A moving poem in any language.

  6. Uda says:

    As every flower wilts, and all youth gives way to old age,
    Each step on the journey of life blooms.
    Each insight, too, and every truth believed in
    Flowers in its own time
    And may not last for ever.

    At every call of life, the heart must be ready to depart
    And to start anew.
    To be courageous, not full of sorrow,
    And then to make new bonds, and new connections.

    And in each new beginning dwells a magic, an enchantment,
    That protects us
    And helps us
    To live.

    It is essential that we walk and move from one stage of our lives to the next
    With joy!
    Not to try to grasp and keep hold of a particular one
    As we might onto a childhood toy or memory.

    The spirit of the world and that of life does not intend to strangle or subdue us.
    We are being willed to grow, to broaden, and to live,
    Step … by step.

    As soon as we become too familiar and comfortable with one particular stage or room,
    The energy from it begins to fail.
    Only those who are prepared to break camp
    And venture forth
    Can free themselves from that sapping of energy.

    Even when we are at death’s hour,
    We may be sent to yet another realm,
    New stage,
    New step on our way:
    Our hearts full of the spirit of adventure,
    Youthful again.

    Life’s calling to us will never end.

    Fare thee well, then, my heart,
    Bid your goodbyes;
    And life be with you.

  7. Ed Barbar says:

    I personally like fades, as opposed to wilts. I like the idea that there is something left in the original blossom, but wilt to me means lost forever. Fade gives the feeling there is a decision to be made. Not forced, but a decision to move forward again, instead of trying to forever live in the past.

    Of course, it cannot, and that is why, as we move through our lives, we need to have the courage to move forward.

    I think this is much tougher for women, at least here in the US, who constantly seek to rejuvenate their original beauty, through plastic surgery and such. I realize that Hermann Hesse probably doesn’t consider such things, but to me it is the same.

    Also, I do find cleaving to none as unto a home so terribly sad. That’s my life, for sure. Sometimes I feel I’m a traveler, and find people who have found a place, with a bright fire burning, and dancing, in the middle of a night, but it is simply not possible to stay long.

    It reminds me of the forward to “Magister Ludi, The Bead Game,” in which Mann states: “I too would like to play pool, and talk loosely to loos women.”

  8. Ed Barbar says:

    I too have given this poem to perhaps two or three people in my life. Though, I don’t speak German (or very little), and have no capabilities with poetry. Somehow, though, this one is different.

  9. Watson Bayerl says:

    Reblogged this on Watson's Blog.

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  18. Karla says:

    Steps

    Like ev’ry flower wilts, like youth is fading
    and turns to age, so also one’s achieving:
    Each virtue and each wisdom needs parading
    in one’s own time, and must not last forever.
    The heart must be, at each new call for leaving,
    prepared to part and start without the tragic,
    without the grief – with courage to endeavor
    a novel bond, a disparate connection:
    for each beginning bears a special magic
    that nurtures living and bestows protection.

    We’ll walk from space to space in glad progression
    and should not cling to one as homestead for us.
    The cosmic spirit will not bind nor bore us;
    it lifts and widens us in ev’ry session:
    for hardly set in one of life’s expanses
    we make it home, and apathy commences.
    But only he, who travels and takes chances,
    can break the habits’ paralyzing stances.

    It might be, even, that the last of hours
    will make us once again a youthful lover:
    The call of life to us forever flowers…
    Anon, my heart: Say farewell and recover!

  19. […] Hermann Hesse – Steps; Translation found here. […]

  20. An exquisite poem which talks about,and explains the secret to expansion and life success.
    Olga..many thanks for sharing !

  21. Micheline says:

    WOW just what I was searching for. Came here by searching for mind

  22. Alan Collins says:

    S T A G E S
    Alan Collins. 22 May 2015.

    As every flower wilts, and fading youth
    turns grey, so also one’s achievements,
    Each virtue and each wisdom must submit more proof
    
at every step, evolving with bereavements. 

    At each new call ahead, the heart must be
 prepared
    to part, at once, and start another drama,
    
without that hopeless grief, with courage to create

    a novel bond, a new kind of dilemma: 

    for each beginning bears a special magic 

    which nurtures all that breathes, by its aroma.

    We walk from place to place in glad progression, 

    and cannot cling to any space, as home.
    
The spirit of the world will never bind or bore us, 

    but lift us up and over every session.
    If set and fixed, in one of these expansions,
    
we stay at home, then apathy commences;
    And only one who travels, takes one’s chances,
    
can break the old hypnotic habit’s lances.

    It may perhaps be true, that in your dying hours 

    You will become, anew, a youthful lover: 

    The call of life, to us, forever flowers… 

    Then oh! my heart: Go forwards and recover!

  23. […] vocês encontram um link para ler o poema inteiro, traduzido para o […]

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  25. Alan Collins says:

    S T A G E S
    Alan Collins. Revised 8th March 2017.

    As every flower fades, and every youth
    Turns grey, so also one’s achievements,
    Each virtue and wisdom must submit more proof
    
At every step, passing through bereavements. 

    At each new call the heart must be
 prepared
    To part, at once, and start another kind of living
    With courage to create, from grief and panic, 

    Another novel bond, not sad but stronger: 

    For each beginning bears a special magic 

    Which nurtures all that breathes, by its aroma.

    We walk from place to place in glad progression, 

    And cannot cling to any place as home.
    
The spirit of the world will not bind or bore us, 

    But wants to lift us up and over every session.
    If set and fixed, in one of these expansions,
    
We stay at home, then apathy commences;
    For only he who travels, takes one’s chances,
    
Can break the old hypnotic habit’s lances.

    Perhaps it may be true that our dying hours 

    Will send, anew, another youthful lover: 

    The call of life, to us, forever flowers… 

    And so, my heart: Go onward and recover!

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