Holderlin And Keeping Faith With The Fatherland


As I have said, Holderlin seemed to see his people as a part of the Nature around him that he so revered.  He speaks adoringly of his fellow Germans– not in terms of Race or Politics, but as if his folk were an extension of his beloved family or a part of the landscape of his beloved home-land.

In the latter of two poems called To The Germans, Holderlin comments on the fact that the individual life-span is short, but the life of the people, like the mountains and valleys, continue on indefinitely…

“True, the span of our lives briefly extends.  We can/  see and count the few years granted to us on Earth,/ but the years of the people, / these what mortal man’s eye has seen?”

In Return To The Homeland, Holderlin hits several of his major themes at once:  adoration of nature, love of homeland, dream of home-coming, and a melancholy acknowledgment of the fleeting joys and faiths of youth…

“How long ago, how long!  Now the child’s calm trust/ is gone, and gone are youth and delight and love; / but you, the suffering, the holy, / look, you alone have remained, my homeland.//

And it’s for that, to suffer with you, with you/ to share their joys that , dear one, you raise your sons, / and when, unfaithful, far from you they / wander astray, in their dreams remind them.//

And when at last the youth in his fervid heart / feels autocratic wishes abate, grow still / in face of destiny, to you more / readily too will the mellowed yield then. //

Good-bye, then, days of youth, and you rose-lined path / of love, and all you paths of the roaming man, / good-bye! and you, my homeland’s heaven, / take back this life that was yours, and bless it.”

In another poem Holderlin has called himself a returning “fugitive,” and above he he calls the journier “unfaithful” to his homeland, and seems to presuppose that to wander is to “wander astray.”  It seems the Poet may have felt two simultaneous impulses in his life… to live his own, individual, adventuring life– and to remain at home, a faithful member of the community, and that he feels guilty for experiencing the call of the wild that would lead him off, lead him astray.  He paints the will to individualism in the least positive light, calling individualistic thoughts “autocratic wishes” that are a passing phase of selfish youth.  When the young man grows more “mellowed,” says Holderlin, he will see the wisdom in yielding and returning to his “destiny” at home.

In Chiron, Holderlin conveys the impression that to follow the heart is selfish, actually “heartless,” and will lead one into darkness…

“The heart’s awake once more, but heartless, /

always most powerful Night allures me.”


As this is my last post on Holderlin, I want to end by quoting out of context a few of my favorite Holderlin lines that I didn’t find a way to fit into my collection of posts highlighting Holderlin’s main themes.  Before doing so, here’s a quick recapitulation of the most common concepts I found contained within the work of Holderlin…

A love of Greek mythology and Greek-style democratic values, a unique mixture of pagan and Christian worldviews, an idiosyncratic form of ancestor-worship, a deep compassion for the Fatherland– its natural beauty and its people, a cherished dream of home-coming, a intense awareness of the fleeting nature of youth, a tragic feeling for romantic love found and lost (his “Diotima”), an appreciation of the responsibility and high-calling of the poet-prophet-seer, and a cognizance of the effervescence of life.

 Last Holderlin quotations…

 “Too long now things divine have been cheaply used”  — from The Poet’s Vocation

“It is not wise to fight against heroes.” — from Voice Of The People

 “I will give to your flame the dead cinders and revive as a different man.” — from Her Recovery

Other posts from HAMMERING SHIELD on Holderlin…

On Nature, Homeland, and Forebears in the poetry of Holderlin…

Respect For Forebears

Home-Coming And Nature’s Welcoming Opens


Holderlin on The Poet…

The Poet As Hero

The Sad Plight Of The Poet


Holderlin on the Human Condition…

Life’s Swift Passage

The Downside Of Love

The Noble And The Good


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