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THE COMPAKATIST THE MYTH OF POETRY: ON HEIDEGGER'S "HÖLDERLIN" Andreas Grossmann Martin Heidegger closely associated his thought with poetry, especially Friedrich Hölderlin's. But where precisely can this connection be detected ? Why, as Hans-Georg Gadamer claimed, is "Hölderlin always at the center" of Heidegger's thought? (76ff, 81). To put the question in other terms, why did Heidegger regard thought as being brought to a decision in Hölderlin's poetry—a decision against what in his view was representational thinking and for an "other beginning" of thought? In my view, the dialogue that Heidegger envisioned with Hölderlin involves at key points the problem of myth. The fact that myth, superbly expressed in Hölderlin's poetry, "remains the most thoughtworthy thing,"as Heidegger puts it in Was heißt Denken? [What Is Called Thinking ?] (Vorträge 131), compels Heidegger to "draw Hölderlin's poetic language into the realm ofthought" (132). Poetry and thinking thus gain an unanticipated proximity. Their dialogue can, however, only be expected to succeed, Heidegger insists, "if the gap between poetry and thought gapes purely and decisively" (132). Thus, aproximity between poetry and thinking can only properly be claimed on the basis oftheir irreducible remoteness . Poetry and thought are not the same, but are nonetheless able "to say the same in different ways" (132). Thus, for Heidegger the decisive myth contained in Hölderlin's poetry—the "holy"—finds an echo in the philosopher's thinking ofbeing: "The thinker evokes being. The poet names the holy" (Was ist Metaphysik? 51). The following discussion will bring the basic features of Heidegger's specific intellectual relationship to Hölderlin's poetry to mind. As a matter of course, only certain significant aspects can be examined more closely. My reflections shall focus not so much on philological details, but rather on the overall constellation ofthe "Heidegger-Hölderlin" relationship at issue here. Discussion will center on the motives guiding the thinker in his dialogue with the poet—in my opinion the only points that promise an appropriate determination ofhis relationship to the poet. Not the least among these motives are the political implications that, from the very beginning, were involved in this relationship. It will become clear that Heidegger's "Hölderlin" had problematic political overtones. I. With Heidegger's first Hölderlin lecture in 1934-35, poetry became the thinker's key partner in the search for an "other beginning" of thought. This approach, which thereafter characterized Heidegger's thought, originated with a certain kind ofphilosophy ofhistory. In searching for the Vol. 28 (200V: 29 THE MYTH Of POETKY other beginning of thought, Heidegger is at the same time seeking an other beginning of history. Thus, when Heidegger publicly focused his attention on Hölderlin in 1934-35, the context was ultimately a reflection on the essence of history and the problem of beginning. This reflection was, of course, also decisive for Heidegger's political commitment; and this commitment and its subsequent failure brought about a crisis that made it possible for Heidegger to regard poetry as the necessary pioneer of a new beginning. When Heidegger explicitly addresses Hölderlin's hymns "Germanien " and "Der Rhein" in 1934-35, it may be his first expression of a dissociation from his own political commitment as well as from official National Socialism.1 However, this dissociation does not mean that Heidegger had become an adherent of democratic values; on the contrary, it seems to have arisen from the conviction that the course of the "revolution " of 1933 had not been radical enough, not "primordial" enough (which meant, as is well known, that in 1935 in the Introduction to Metaphysics Heidegger was in a position to defend the "inner truth and greatness of National Socialism" against the official "philosophy of National Socialism").2 After this deception and disillusionment, Heidegger seeks an other beginning, one beyond the political but with a political intention , one with Hölderlin: As the "poet's poet" and the "Germans' poet," he is supposed to convey the true teaching of history and to point the way into the future, to establish historical truth as the truth of the German people...


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