top of page
  • Baharak Beizaei

Zu den Gedichten der Letzten Lebenszeit: On the Poetry of the Final Stage of Hölderlin's Life

Updated: Jan 7

We can almost see Hölderlin before us like the visitor to the tower on the shores of Neckar. He was described in terms of: How he walks to his writing desk, how his almost always hunched mien stiffens as he prepares a large sheet of clean paper, a goose quill in all its old fashioned feathery appearance in hand, how he readies himself, positions himself to write down in verse and in keeping with the wishes of young students; his face, how it then visibly shines, eyes and forehead in joyous inspiration appear to beam, as he caringly scands, with his left hand, each line upon writing, and accompanies each with a satisfied “Hm!”. **Accompanied**: such is the character trait of the genesis of the poetry of illness. These presents to guests are from a spirit that has been long dead, which he himself signs: “with allegiance/subservience Scardanelli.” Wants to hide himself under other names and behind a wall of submissive ceremoniousness, his anguished inner life strives to persevere: “nothing happens to me [es geshieht mir nichts].” We don’t want to fall into the mistake of those who perceive hidden in the murmuring of the oracular voice that brings forth the sickened spirit [erkrankten Geistes] final and deep revelations; but we also don’t want to discount these true poems simply as the convulsed evidence of a disturbance of the soul; **things that didn’t speak and were to be said over nothing**. Since that is what is particular to them, that they disclosed a style whose defining feature stayed fully the same for almost a decade and a half, so much so that to distinguish individual poems from one another is hardly possible, as is tempting with each newly emerging one that is recognizably beautiful. Their monotony becomes reduced, which agrees exactly with the otherwise observed being of the diminished illness.

The art in this manner of deciphering the later handwriting consists in a paradox which can be expressed this way: philology sees everything and nothing, that it steadily holds before the eyes what the marks of writing encompass in a riddle, for whose solution philology vies to contemplate the plane, this means that philology’s soft tabulation of the lines of writing assign a priority to the variants amongst each other as cognized by the coherent picture that distinguishes them, what the stubborn quill of the outmoded has no use for, and what in other times must have been written by another, more passionately tinted feather; and so the philologist sees nothing.

The poems from the time of mental derangement are, in their andante sostenuto, correspondent in their celebratory stride and restrained iambus with assonance and alliteration, veiled in a sonorous aura.

(translated by me)


Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page