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Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Hölderlin: Griechenland (Greece): Correspondences of Poetry and Madness


Gotthardpost at Wassen: aquatint by Weber after drawing by Straub, 1845; image by Adrian Michel, July 2007, from Artur Wyss-Niederer: Sankt Gotthard

Toward wooded Avignon over the Gotthard
Toils the steed. Laurels
Whisper above Vergil, so that
The sun does not
Unmanfully search out his grave.
Moss roses
Wax upon the Alps. Flowers start up
At the city gates, on the level untended paths
Like crystal growth in fallow wastes of the sea floor.
Gardens bloom round Windsor. On high
Arrives from London
The carriage of the King. Lovely gardens
Relieve the season.
By the canal. Deep below however lies
The even sea, glowing.

Schifflände Flüelen: colored aquatint by Hürlimann after a drawing by Gabriel Lory, 1820: image by Adrian Michel, June 2007, from Artur Wyss-Niederer: Sankt-Gotthard

The Hölderlinian correspondences, those sudden connections between ancient and modern scenes and figures, stand in the most profound relationship to the paratactic method. Beissner too noted Hölderlin's tendency to mix eras together, to connect things that are remote and unconnected; the principle of such associations, which is the opposite of the discursive principle, is reminiscent of the serial ordering of grammatical parts. Poetry wrested both from the zone of madness, where the flight of ideas thrives, as does the readiness of many schizophrenics to see anything real as a sign of something hidden, to encumber it with meaning.

-- Theodor Adorno: Parataxis: On Hölderlin's Late Poetry, a talk given at the annual conference of the Hölderlin-Gesellschaft, Berlin, 7 June 1963; revised version first published in Die Neue Rundschau, 1964; translated by Shierry Weber Nicholsen in Theodor Adorno: Notes to Literature, Volume Two, 1992

"Toward wooded Avignon": Friedrich Hölderlin (1770-1843): from Griechenland (Greece), Hymnal Draft, first version, 1803, trans. by TC


Ed Baker said...

that Adorno passage ... on the way towards a manifesto of sorts and a "poetry" of seriality?

something (via Adorno) something from which
to paraphrase in a continuation of
tendency [is] to
mix together
connect things


in a serial ordering

[that is] wrested [from its own
senses of] madness where

the flight of ideas thrives

NEAT post (as are the others) ... useable "stuff'



Another beautiful translation, another beautiful Holderlin poem --

"The sun does not/ Unmanfully search out . . . Deep below however lies/ The even sea, glowing."

plus the Adorno -- "

the serial ordering of grammatical parts . . . where the flight of ideas thrives. . . ."


light coming into fog against invisible
ridge, song sparrow calling sweet sweet
in foreground, wave sounding in channel

present body is involved in,
as far as what can be

that is, experiences, being
“ideas” which “appear”

blue of sky in cloud above top of ridge,
cormorants flapping across toward point

TC said...

Lovely poem, Steve. Sweet song --

present body is involved in,
as far as what can be

that is, experiences

(ah, that's the rub),

“ideas” which “appear”

as through a grainy medium


I think Adorno understood that Hölderlin was three hundred years ahead of his time in doing these things.

"We" haven't caught up with him yet.

There had been, also, some conversation between Walter Benjamin and Adorno on the subject of Hölderlin's paratax. Therein, suggested Benjamin, was located Hölderlin's metaphysics.

"...So that here, at the center of the poem, human beings, divinities, and princes are arranged serially, catapulted, as it were, out of their old orderings."

Upon which Adorno then comments:

"What Benjamin links with Hölderlin's metaphysics as a balancing of the spheres of the living and the divine also names Hölderlin's linguistic technique."

Eric Havelock's Preface to Plato is the first text in English to acknowledge the pertinence of pre-"classical" paratax. It made an impression on some in the Sixties as being pertinent to what might then be exercised as contemporary opportunities.

Yet all of course came to naught & c.

Seriality drives out argument, including (especially?) "submerged" political argument -- that persistent pseudo-Medusa of the culturally indulged.

There is the example of the last cantos of Pound, whose late and cloudy arrival in an empty paradise is strung together in bits, those resplendent little beads -- speaking of the correspondences of poetry and madness.

Ed Baker said...

yeah, I know just what you and Holderlin and Plato
mean! &I couldn't uve said it more better

am presently trying my damnedest to "get a handle" on
(my own) metaphysics & linguistic techniques ...

meanwhile, Seferis's SIX NIGHTS

(NIGHTS!? not DAYS!!!!) just in and so far ... neatly done

in, that among other "things" (shadowsmadereal) the in his 50's he is revisiting happen-stances of his 20's!

and as far as your door-opening reply

am a-washed in that "pertinence pf pre-'classical' paratax which, in The Sixties, never,ever did make an impression not nearly so wrought with "grist for the mill" as the raw sextax/sintax of poetry.

I mean wasn't their plinth/mantra "to write Poetry you gotta know God"?

next "trick" for me (in the new book that I am now ....writing... is to take "Her" from a certain reality BACK in to shadow
or, as Dante/Seferis call it "cloud"

now am off to google

"metaphysics", "pertinence", pre-"classical", "paratax"

(which I just might morph into "para-text"

et ceteras.


TC said...


Maybe it's because I can't ever resist the attractions of an odd bird (whatever the cost of such risky impulsive embraces!) that I don't mind paying the parrot tax.

At least you get something back for your money (which is more than can reasonably be expected from, the city, state & c.). And then something else. One thing... after another thing.

Also it's perhaps less steep than the wages of sin (anyway less chance of contracting something contagious or logical).

Anonymous said...

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