Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Dorin Popa writes

sometimes melancholy wins
and beyond all heavens
childhood stretches devastatingly

if Hölderlin should come
the sky will set forth sweet songs
of resurrection
and the eye of the needle will close
(the freight train will run
over my neck no more)

if Hölderlin should come
only the bells
will be heard in the distance
and voices of children in a fervent choir.
all that is elusive will have a shape
all that is unborn …
… will be born,
if Hölderlin should come

Hölderlin -- Louise Keller


  1. “In Lovely Blue”

    Image mine.

    Like the stamen inside a flower
    The steeple stands in lovely blue
    And the day unfolds around its needle;

    The flock of swallows that circles the steeple
    Flies there each day through the same blue air
    That carries their cries from me to you;

    We know how high the sun is now
    As long as the roof of the steeple glows,
    The roof that’s covered with sheets of tin;

    Up there in the wind, where the wind is not
    Turning the vane of the weathercock,
    The weathercock silently crows in the wind.

    --tr George Kalogeris

  2. Johann Christian Friedrich Hölderlin was a German Romantic lyric poet. In 1793-94 he met the great Romantic poets Friedrich Schiller and Johann Wolfgang Goethe and began writing an epistolary novel “Hyperion” (which was issued in two parts, in1797 and 1799), and in 1795 he met Novalis, another leading Romantic. The following year he became a tutor to the children of the banker Jakob Gontard, who fired him in 1798 after discovering his love affair with his wife Susette (the “Diotima” of his poems); Suzette continued to meet him in secret once a month until 1780, as Hölderlin struggled to establish himself as a poet and settled for awhile in Switzerland to accept another tutoring position. (She died from influenza in 1802). He published his translations of Sophocles in 1804, which were widely derided due to their artificiality and the difficulty of transposing Greek idioms into German. One of his revolutionary associates was tried for treason, but Hölderlin was declared mentally unfit to stand trial and in 1806 was committed to a clinic run by Ferdinand Autenrieth, the inventor of a mask to prevent the mentally ill from screaming; for awhile he was under the care of the poet, Justinus Kerner, a medical student at the time. After a year he was declared incurable, given three years to live, and released. A carpenter who had read “Hyperion” took him in, and Hölderlin spent the rest of his life in his care.

  3. In 1808, “Der Rhein” and “Patmos,” two of his longest and most densely charged hymns, appeared in a poetic calendar. Wilhelm Waiblinger visited repeatedly in 1822-23 and depicted him in the protagonist of his novel “Phaëthon,” At Waiblinger’s urgung, the first collections of his poetry was issued by Ludwig Uhland and C. T. Schwab in 1826, omitting anything “touched by insanity;” a second, enlarged, edition with a biographical essay appeared in 1842, the year before his death. His mother and sister never visited him, and his stepbrother only once. When his mother died in 1828, the siblings tried to get her will overturned in court on the grounds that his share was too large; his inheritance, including the patrimony left by his father when he was two, had been kept untouched by his mother and, due to accrued interest, he died rich without ever knowing it. Meanwhile, his verse became both more simple and formal than previously, and he continuously reworked his older work, sometimes in several layers on the same manuscript (which made their later editing problematic). Many of the later versions and poems were fragmentary, with gaps, unfinished lines, and incomplete sentences, but he regarded them as complete works. He also dated them in past or future centuries and signed them "Scardanelli" or other fictitious names. When he died in 1843, the carpenter’s family were his only mourners. Other than “Hyperion,” his work was little known or understood during his lifetime. However, Johannes Brahms began working on an orchestrally accompanied choral setting of “Schicksalslied” (Song of Destiny) in 1868, which he finally finished in 1871; one of his shortest choral works, biographer Josef Sittard claimed, "Had Brahms never written anything but this one work, it would alone have sufficed to rank him with the best masters." Many other composers, including Richard Strauss (“Drei Hymnen”) and Benjamin Britten (“Sechs Hölderlin-Fragment” ) followed suit. In 1912, Rainer Maria Rilke wrote his first two “Duino Elegies,” which borrowed strongly from the Hölderlin manuscripts he had seen while Norbert von Hellingrath, a member of the circle around poet Stefan George, was preparing a “definitive” edition of Hölderlin's poems, prose; and letters; the following year, the first two of six volumes appeared, including the drafts and fragments. A more rigorous edition (1943-1986), edited by Friedrich Beissner and Adolf Beck, solved some editorial issues; a third complete edition, by Dietrich Sattler, was begun in 1975 and is still in progress. None of these show all the major poems in congruent textual status, and strophes and readings are sometimes differently arranged. Despite all the difficulty and confusion, his work is now widely regarded as among the best German poetry, and it deeply influenced Georg Trakl, Hermann Hesse, and Paul Celan (whose poem about Hölderlin, "Tübingen, January," ended with the word “Pallaksch,” a Hölderlin neologism which sometimes meant Yes and sometimes No. His work also provoked profound philosophical speculation by philosophers such as Martin Heidegger, Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, and Theodor Adorno.


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