Friedrich Hölderlin

"Though he has to earn a living,
      Man dwells poetically on this earth."

"Yet it behoves us, under the storms of God,
 Ye poets! with uncovered head to stand,
 With our own hand to grasp the Father's lightening-flash
 And to pass on, wrapped in song,
 The divine gift to the people."

"But, friends, we have come too late! The gods are, indeed, alive,
 But above our heads, up there in another world.
 There they are endlessly active, and seen to heed little
 Whether we are alive: that's how much the heavenly ones care."

 "Perhaps some of the wisdom to sputter and of being
 dumbfounded may be the inheritance that our spiritual
 culture ought to transmit to the next generations."

About Hölderlin

Johann Christian Friedrich Hölderlin (1770-1843)--poet, novelist, and dramatist-- is one of the masters of German literature. Born March 20, 1770 in Lauffen, Germany, Hölderlin would find himself fatherless two years later. His stepfather, Johann Christoph Gok, upon moving the family to Nürtingen, held office as mayor, but then died shortly thereafter. At 14-years of age, Hölderlin entered primary convent school at Denkendorf, and, between 1786 and 1788, he attended secondary convent school at Maulbronn.  By 1788, Hölderlin began his studies in theology at the Stift seminary of Tübingen, where he developed relationships with Schelling and Hegel. Visiting Jena in 1793, he attended Fichte's lectures, had his first contact with Schiller, and met Goethe. From thereon, Hölderlin's personality, conversations, and letters with such figures in literature and philosophy--despite the fact that he never held an academic position or published philosophy--would have an enormous impact on philosophy into the current century and likely beyond.

In works such as his novel, Hyperion (1797/99), Hölderlin was critical of the subjective heroism of ethical idealism, venerated the sacred aspects of nature, and attempted to conflate religion and art as "overseers of reason." As the poet of poets, as Heidegger referred to him, Hölderlin's "Oldest System-Program of German Idealism" exalts poetry and calls for a new "mythology of reason." Hölderlin's perspective is close in sentiment to Schelling's Naturphilosophie, particularly in his veneration of nature and his criticisms of  Fichte's treatment of the "Not-I." Hölderlin also foreshadowed and influenced Hegel with his Hellenism and critique of the "philosophy of reflection." Schiller's influence is also found in Hölderlin's work, particularly in his view of art as possessing the sole capacity to reveal the nature of reality, which anticipated Romanticism. In contrast to Schiller and the Romantics, Hölderlin's view of the artist, however, has a tragic element, for the artist is alienated as the mediator between the gods and men--an aspect of Hölderlin's thought which particularly appealed to Heidegger.

Heidegger's interest in poetry in his later work can be understood as directly influenced by Hölderlin. In his poem, "As on a Holiday...," Hölderlin writes: "Yet, it behooves us, poets, to stand bare-headed beneath God's thundestorms." Of this line, Heidegger comments: "The poet captures God's lightening in his words and inserts these lightening-filled words into the language of a people. Rather than voicing his inner experiences he stands 'beneath God's thunderstorms.'" Heidegger's inspiration from Hölderlin derives from his desire to use the poet's German roots as a way to retrieve a destiny for German being in the face of the modern age in which the gods have taken flight. Hölderlin's stance of being exposed before the lightening-storm of the gods is an image that appeals to him, particularly towards a surrendering or listening to the Saying of Being for the opening of a destiny for a world which the gods have abandoned.

"Hölderlin is one of our greatest, that is, most impending thinkers," wrote Heidegger, "because he is our greatest poet. The poetic understanding of his poetry is possible only as a philosophical confrontatoion with the manifestation of being in his work."

In the latter years of his life, Hölderlin drifted increasingly toward madness. On September 11th, 1806, he was admitted to the clinic of Autenrieth in Tübingen against his will. He died in Tübingen on June 7th, 1843.

Hölderlin at Encarta
Hölderlin home page
A Short Biography of Hölderlin
Hölderlin bio
Hölderlin bio
Kepler, Hölderlin and Hesse studied in Maulbronn
Hölderlin's Work
"The Supreme" by Friedrich Hölderlin
"When I was a boy . . ." by Friedrich Hölderlin
"Hölderlin" by Michael Hamburger
"Hölderlin" by Gillian Clark
"Alfred Baeumler on Hölderlin and the Greeks (Part I of II)" by Frank H. W. Edler
"Tübingen" by Anne Beresford
"Hölderlin's Cabinet" by Jesse Garland Glass
"Heidegger's Hölderlin and John Cage" by Michael Eldred
"Heidegger and Environmental Ethics" by Tad Beckman
"Poetry and the Fundamentals of the Poetic Act" by  Luiz Jean Lauand
"Alleged Account of Madame de S...y" by Moritz Hartmann
"Mentalism and Vulcanism: Dickinson, Hölderlin, and Arnold" (abstract) by William Crisman
The Hölderlin Tower

Recommended books for purchase:

Hyperion (World Classic Literature Series) [UNABRIDGED]
by Friedrich Holderlin
Hymns and Fragments
by Friedrich Holderlin
Selected Poems and Fragments
by Friedrich Holderlin
Friedrich Holderlin : Essays and Letters on Theory
by Friedrich Holderlin
Poetry, Language, Thought
by Martin Heidegger
Elucidations of Holderin's Poetry
by Martin Heidegger, Keith Hoeller
Leaves of Mourning : Holderlin's Late Work, With an Essay on Keats and Melancholy
by Anselm Haverkamp
Studies in Poetic Discourse : Mallarme, Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Holderlin
by Hans-Jost Frey
Holderlin : The Poetics of Being
by Adrian Del Caro
The Solid Letter : Readings of Friendrich Holderlin
by Aris Fioretos (Editor)
Finding Time : Reading for Temporality in Holderlin and Heidegger
by Timothy Torno

Return to Existential-Phenomenology Page
Return to Mythos & Logos Home page

Click Here!