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Subject Friedrich Holderlin and the influence of Greek Ideas

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Publication 506 By orwell on Saturday, August 16, 2003 at 21:53   
Location: Ireland   Registered: Thursday, August 14, 2003  Posts: 18    Search for other posts by orwell Search   Quote
Recently I have begun re-reading many of the poems written by the great 18th century German poet Friedich Holderin. Like his fellow compatriots, Beethoven and Hegel who were also born in 1770, German Ideas during the late 18th century seemed to have developed an obession with the Greek culture and thoughts of the past. Unlike England, France and even America the interest wasn't predominalty confined to studying the politic model(s) of Democracy which existed then, with the hope of emulating them successfully in 18th century Europe and North America. The German radical yearning for what is boundless,sublime and strangly wonderous; made the revisting of Greek Ideas in their Poets, Philosophizers and Writers, something uniquely charged. The need to dwell, create, think and then perhaps build something great informs the vast, even wildly ambitious dreams one finds in the classically informed contours of a Beethoven Concerto, and also in the lines written upon the great inner domed ceilings in Hegels Philosphical system.The references abound either directly or otherwise in the texts and compostions of a Goethe, a Schiller,a Kant; the underpinings and substratum in a Mozart Opera, a Schubert Quintet(the echo chamber reverting back to Greece is expansive) However it is the Greek Idea of the polis, the city, Politics and the whole public order which I think many later German Writers/Philosphizers had an ambilvalent attitude towards (the exception being Hegel)in their readings about the society and culture of Greece. One such man was Friedrich Holderlin whose Poetry is infused with beauiful reverbrations gathered into the deceptively simple words that form the central motiffs in much of his work.The evoking of the Muses, the Gods, and the Heros of old finds a totally natural if lonely calling in his Poems. His great Mentor in many ways must be Sophocles who he revists and transmitts via his translations of Ajax, Antigone, Oedipus Rex, and Oedipus at Colonus. However it is in such Poems as The Ister, Bread and Wine,and The Archipelago, that the golden thread from Greece weaves its splendous light most deeply ; even in Poems such as The Rhine, Homecoming, and that great seminal poem on absence and the scattering of our human fates, Patmos. During his life-time he had often hoped to see the establishment of a civilisation which would model the Athens of Pericles, to him such a civilisation was the best the human race ever achieved. Of course Germany remained a loose rag-bag confederation of Principalities,Bishopricies, and independent city states, and the failure of this immensely disappointed this greatly sensitive man. Despite his avowed admiration for Periclian Athens, I think there is something ambilvalent even sligthly alien that he finds in himself towards the Greek notion of the Polis.The reconcilation of his living world(Lebenswelt) in which he composed his reflections seems to me to be one incomptable with a the cosmospolitian existence of the Greek Polis. Holderlins existence was largly that of the ever-wandering nomad, searching eternally for his Homeland, and finding it intermittly yet substantially in the great natural features of his land, particularly the pulsating motions of his Rhine, the clear air of the Alps with its attendant Woods. Yet Greece is here too, be in the lyrestrings, the springs of Parnassus, or the snowy summit, She is here, and She is a felt presence. Holderins poems represent, at least to me perhaps the last great calling of a poet who experienced the true yearning towards the Gods and the Muses in a spirt akin, but cruically not in the same context as the Greeks. Holderin was still their willing, even loving Student, and in many ways this is not disimliar to Platos Ideas about the Gods. Holderins clearing between the polarity of the mottifs in his Poetry, Alpinine and Grecian produced a tension in him which may have in some lead to his permature insanity. After Holderin poetry becomes Romantic in conception as the tension between so-called nature vs culture becomes more pertinent, this is particularly in the case in countries which had undergone vast industrialation, in particular England. William Wordsworth who was born in the same year as Holderin became one of its principle architects. I find in many such poets the Gods nor the Muses are rarely invoked if ever, and nature itself becomes something pleasant but lacking any name or spirt unlike Holderlins Rhine. Holderins Land was still mostly a rural place which hadn't undergone the excesses of modern industrialation, the romantic idealization of nature is absent from his poems. The divide between the great stories and myths of Greece (Culture) and the local customs of framers and craftspeople working on the land and rivers (Nature) is still a felt presence in his work. For that reason his poetry deserves to be read. I would love to here from other people who our readers of Holderin.                     

Publication 507 By absent-minded on Sunday, August 17, 2003 at 09:24   
Location: Greece   Registered: Friday, June 29, 2001  Posts: -166    Search for other posts by absent-minded Search   Quote
Could perhaps Hoelderlin's work as a whole be Odysseus' journey back to his homeland? If yes, and if insanity is not just a biological accidence, can we say that he never returned? If indeed he never returned, is it possible that he never left it, that he never had a homeland? It is a feeling that I have, that modern Europe used Greece as a source of inspiration, but used it in a context of creativity, more than in a will for understanding. Is this the reason why modern Europe jumped to ancient Greece, trying to avoid the fact that Greece herself had already transformed her ancient self? Then, maybe poems such as Patmos can be read as an attempt of Hoelderlin's to compensate for this jump. Something is missing anyway - even in this amending step. I think the loss of a real Church drops its shadow all over Europe.

Publication 508 By orwell on Monday, August 18, 2003 at 17:22   
Location: Ireland   Registered: Thursday, August 14, 2003  Posts: 18    Search for other posts by orwell Search   Quote
I think you are right in stating the connection between Holderins journey and that of Odysseus Voyage. Odysseus knew the absence of his Homeland, and his story is one of craftiness, wile, and great endurance (and even wisdom) that he had to use in order to reach home. Unlike Holderlin he knew home, I think his remembrance of his homeland and of his family, and again his idea of his place in that land enabled him to overcome the many trials. Holderlin who is the real voyager becomes the wanderer stranded in the centre of a windless sea. He can see the shorelines of many diffrent countries from his vantage point, yet the winds never blow either strongly enough to carry him forth; or else they blow in contradictory directions leaving him were he began. So you may well be correct in noting that Holderin may of never actually left his Homeland? However this Homeland is a peculiar place, it seems like a place were one feels unhoused/homeless?. I think it was this feeling of being unhoused which may of produced his insanity(in this way does he not perfigure much of the anxities of Modern Man/Women). However unlike much of us today he knew that there was a homeland that he and his Gods, Heros ,and friends would return too. Unlike Odysseus he forgot the way, but like Odysseus not entirely the place. Is it not just the lack of a suitable map that is our modern dilemma, but also the right wind to move us to the horizons upon which we have set our minds. The centre of a windless sea could never be home to Odysseus, nor did it prove to be with Holderlin.      

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