No Comment — March 20, 2008, 8:59 pm

Droste-Hülshoff – On Maundy Thursday


O Wundernacht, ich grüße!
Herr Jesus wäscht die Füße.
Die Luft ganz stille stand;
Man hört den Atem hallen
Und wie die Tropfen fallen
Von seiner heil’gen Hand.

Da Jesus sich tut beugen,
Ins tiefe Meer sich neigen
Wohl Inseln diesem Gruß.
Ist er so tief gestiegen,
So muß ich ewig liegen
Vor meines Nächsten Fuß.

Herr, ob sich gleich betöret
Die Seele mein empöret
Vor aller Niedrigkeit,
Daß ich vielmehr mein Leben
In Qualen aufzugeben
Für deinen Ruhm bereit:

So gib, daß ich nicht klage,
Wenn du in meine Tage
Hast alle Schmach gebannt;
Laß brennen meine Wunden,
So du mich stark befunden
Zu solchem harten Stand!

O Gott, ich kann nicht bergen,
Wie angst mir von den Schergen,
Die du vielleicht gesandt
In Krankheit oder Grämen
Die Sinne mir zu nehmen,
Zu töten den Verstand!

Es ist mir oft zu Sinnen,
Als wolle schon beginnen
Dein schweres Strafgericht;
Als dämmre eine Wolke,
Doch unbewußt dem Volke,
Um meines Geistes Licht.

Doch wie die Schmerzen schwinden,
Die mein Gehirn entzünden,
So flieht der Nebelduft,
Und mit geheimem Glühen
Fühl’ ich mich neu umziehen
Die frische starke Luft.

Mein Jesu, darf ich wählen,
Ich will mich lieber quälen
In aller Schmach und Leid,
Als daß mir so benommen,
Ob auch zu meinem Frommen,
Die Menschenherrlichkeit.

Doch ist er so vergiftet,
Daß es Vernichtung stiftet,
Wenn er mein Herz umfleußt:
So laß mich ihn verlieren,
Die Seele heimzuführen,
Den reichbegabten Geist.

Hast du es denn beschlossen,
Daß ich soll ausgegossen
Ein tot Gewässer stehn
Für dieses ganze Leben:
So will ich denn mit Beben
An deine Prüfung gehn.

Night of wonders, I greet you.
Lord Jesus washes the feet.
The air stands still,
One hears the clanging of breath
And the drops which fall
From his holy hand.

Then Jesus takes a bow
Deep into the sea islands
Must slope to this greeting.
As deep as he has climbed
So must I lie eternally
Before the feet of my neighbor.

Lord, though it may be infatuation,
Still my soul rises
Before all pettiness,
I am indeed prepared to
Surrender my life in torment
To further your glory:

So that I not complain,
Provide in my own time
That all taint be dismissed;
Let my wounds burn,
That you find me strong and ready
For such difficult conditions.

God, I cannot conceal
The dread I have of the henchmen,
Who you perhaps have dispatched
In sickness or in grief
To rob me of my sense,
To kill my reason!

I sense often that the
Time has come for your
Strict day of judgment;
As if a cloud dimmed
The light of my spirit,
Yet unbeknownst to the people.

Yet as the pains that
Inflame my head disappear,
The scent of fog lifts,
And with secret radiance,
I feel myself surrounded
With the fresh, strong air.

My Jesus, may I choose,
I would rather torment myself,
With all stigma and pain,
Rather than be seized of
Human grandeur,
Be it yet pious.

Still, he is so poisoned,
That he spreads destruction,
When he embraces my heart;
So let me lose him,
To lead the soul home,
To the richly talented guest.

Have you then resolved
That I be poured out
Standing as a still water
For the entirety of this life:
Then shivering I will go
To this your test.

Annette von Droste-Hülshoff, Am Grünendonnerstag (1820) in Sämtliche Werke, pp. 517-18 (C. Heselhaus ed. 1966)(S.H. transl.)

Single Page

More from Scott Horton:

Context, No Comment August 28, 2015, 12:16 pm

Beltway Secrecy

In five easy lessons

From the April 2015 issue

Company Men

Torture, treachery, and the CIA

Six Questions October 18, 2014, 8:00 pm

The APA Grapples with Its Torture Demons: Six Questions for Nathaniel Raymond

Nathaniel Raymond on CIA interrogation techniques.

Get access to 165 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada



December 2015

Power in Paris

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Bed-Rest Hoax

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Blast from the Past

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Counterparty

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Free but not Redeemed

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content


Getting to the End·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“That casino resorts offer a kind of virtual travel is an obvious facet of this theory, but all the glitzy bullshit — the gross architectural citation of other, actual places — is really just a lure for the virtual narrative of the gambling experience.”
Photograph by Robert Gumpert
Slender Mercies·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“A weight-loss show about abuse and incest and a young football coach who once attempted to hang himself? If this combination strikes you as surprising, you haven’t been watching Extreme Weight Loss.”
Illustration by Barry Falls
The Counterparty·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“The Dayton Accords stopped the Bosnian War, but because the deal was hammered out before there was a clear military victor, it relied on a complicated patchwork of ethnically organized governments that satisfied everyone and no one.”
Photograph © Christopher Anderson/Magnum Photos
The Bed-Rest Hoax·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Within five days of immobilization, the arteries narrow and stiffen, and the interior lining of the blood vessels becomes less able to flex and tighten.”
Painting by Evan Wilson.
New Movies·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“It’s debatable, of course, whether the restless momentum of film demands the strict causative logic of A-leads-to-B, or whether this is merely an orthodoxy that has hardened into a rule, but in Beasts of No Nation the adherence to the creed of character motivation has damaging consequences for the film’s persuasive power.”
Photograph courtesy of Netflix

Estimated number of calories a person consumes during Thanksgiving dinner:


The earth had become twice as dusty during the past century.

A man sued Pennsylvania state police who detained him for 29 days when they mistook his homemade soap for cocaine.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!


Subways Are for Sleeping


“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”

Subscribe Today