[Watercolor sketch by Hermann Hesse. © Heiner Hesse, Arcegno]


     Over this brave small road, the wind blows. Tree and bush are left behind, only stone and moss grow here. Nobody has anything to look for here, nobody here owns anything, up here the farmer has neither hay nor wood. But the distance beckons, longing awakens, and through rocks and swamp, snow, they have provided this good little road, which leads to other valleys, other houses, to other languages and other men.

     At the highest point in the pass, I stop. The road descends on both sides, down both sides the water flows, and everything that is side by side up here finds its way down into two different worlds. The small pool that touches my shoe runs down toward the north, its water comes at last into distant cold seas. But the small snowdrift close beside it trickles toward the south, its water falls toward the Ligurian or Adriatic coast down into the sea, whose limit is Africa. But all the waters of the world find one another again, and the Arctic seas and the Nile gather together in the moist flight of clouds. The old beautiful image makes my hour holy. Every road leads us wanderers too back home.

     Yet my gaze can still choose, the north and the south still belong to my eyes. Within fifty steps, only the south will belong to me. How secretly it breathes out of its blue valleys! How my heart beats with it! An intimation of lakes and gardens, the fragrance of wine and almonds, drifts up to me, ancient holy message of longing, of pilgrimages to Rome.

     Out of my youth my memory rings to me like bells calling from distant valleys: the ecstasy of my first journey to the south, the intoxicated breathing of lavish air, the gardens beside blue lakes, and listening at evening for my distant home, across the dwindling light of snow mountains. My first prayer before the holy places of the ancient world! And, as in a dream, my first glimpse of the sea foaming behind brown rocks!

     Now that delight is gone, and that longing is gone, the longing to show to everybody I love those beautiful distances, my happiness. There is no more spring in my heart. It is summer. The greeting of strange places sounds different to me. Its echo is quieter in my breast. I donít throw my hat into the air. I donít sing.

     But I smile, and not only with my mouth. I smile with my soul, with my eyes, with my whole skin, and I offer these countrysides, whose fragrances drift up to me, different senses than those I had before, more delicate, more silent, more finely honed, better practiced, and more grateful. Everything belongs to me more than ever before, it speaks to me more richly and with hundreds of nuances. My yearning no longer paints dreamy colors across the veiled distances, my eyes are satisfied with what exists, because they have learned to see. The world has become lovelier than before.

   The world has become lovelier. I am alone, and I donít suffer from my loneliness. I donít want life to be anything other than what it is. I am ready to let myself be baked in the sun till I am done. I am eager to ripen. I am ready to die, ready to be born again.

   The world has become lovelier.


 
 
 

From: "Mountain Pass" by Hermann Hesse: "Wandering", Translated by James Wright,
© New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1972
Noonday 420