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The commentaries of Martin Heidegger on the lyric poems of German Romantic poet Friedrich Hölderlin are an extraordinary encounter between poetry and the penetrating thought of a powerful philosophical mind. The writings included here reveal much about Heidegger's innermost thoughts on poetry, language, and how we think.
This is the first English translation of this important work.
Posted September 23, 2001
The present volume is a translation of Erläuterungen zu Hölderlins Dichtung, Volume 4 (1981) of the German Collected Edition of Heidegger's works. It contains six essays written between 1936 and 1968, which are supplemented by two brief, related texts and an 'Afterword' by the editor of the German edition, Friedrich-Wilhelm von Herrmann. Only two of the essays have already appeared in translation: 'Hölderlin and the Essence of Poetry' (1936) and '`Homecoming / To Kindred Ones'' (1943) were among the first Heidegger translated into English. In 1949, they were published, along with 'What Is Metaphysics?' and 'On the Essence of Truth' (to which they are related) as Existence and Being. The remaining essays appear here for the first time in English: '`As When On a Holiday . . .'' (1939), '`Remembrance'' (1942), 'Hölderlin's Earth and Heaven' (1959), and 'The Poem' (1968). Of the two supplementary texts presented in Elucidations of Hölderlin's Poetry, Heidegger's 'Preface to the Repetition of the Address `Homecoming'' (1943) had already been translated (in Existence and Being). The other short text is Heidegger's 'Preface to a Reading of Hölderlin's Poems' (1963), which can be heard on the phonograph recording Heidegger liest Hölderlin (Pfullingen: Neske). There is also 'A Glimpse Into Heidegger's Study,' which consists of photographic reproductions of several pages from one of Heidegger's copies of Hölderlin's poems which show Heidegger's marginal notes to Hölderlin's poem 'Griechenland.' Perhaps the most accessible of the essays is 'Hölderlin's Earth and Heaven,' in which Heidegger meditates on this poem. Written by Heidegger when he was almost eighty years old, nearly all of the themes of the earlier essays are revisited in it: the forgotten question of the meaning of be[-ing] [Sein], our intimacy with nature and its mystery, the poet's calling, the provenance and essence of language, the sense of the holy on earth, the uniqueness of human presence among things, the spiritual core of experience, the omnipresence of the Greek philosophical tradition in Western sensibility, the primacy of thinking in existence, the meaning of belonging to a cultural heritage, and human historical destiny. These essays are not literary criticism in the ordinary sense, although they have by now inspired a generation or two of scholars (beginning most notably with Jacques Derrida) who undertake various forms of textual analysis of works of philosophy and literature. As Heidegger notes, the essays 'do not claim to be contributions to research in the history of literature or aesthetics. They spring from a necessity of thought' (p. 21). What, then, are these commentaries? They are not explanations of Hölderlin's poems, prose versions of his poetry; rather, they are Heidegger's efforts to get at Hölderlin's thought, which, like anyone's thought, he believes, remains and must remain a mystery. According to Heidegger, 'we never know a mystery by unveiling or analyzing it to death, but only in such a way that we preserve the mystery as mystery' (p. 43). We should also note that, for Heidegger, authentic poetry is not a literary genre alongside drama and the novel, but is rather 'the founding of be[-ing] in the word' (p. 59). The nature of poetry, Heidegger says, is ontological, not linguistic; its source is remembrance [Andenken] or 'reflecting on something, [which] is a making firm . . .. Remembrance attaches thinkers to their essential ground (p. 165). In another place, Heidegger call this making firm or thickening of thought in recollection or reflection writing [Dichten] in the basic sense or 'poetizing thinking,' which Heidegger further characterizes as an activity of that special individual, the poet's poet (p. 52), who is situated 'between' (p. 64) human beings and the gods. The poets, whom he calls demigods (p. 126), are analogous to the chthonic gods Heidegger finds reference to in the fable ' Cura' (Hyginus), which he citeWas this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.