GA 39

Hölderlins Hymnen »Germanien« und »Der Rhein« (WS 1934/35)

Hölderlin's Hymns "Germania" and "The Rhine"

In the first part of these lectures, the first on Hölderlin’s poetry, Heidegger attempts to grasp the poem “Germanien” thoughtfully (denkerisch), not by assuming some philosophical criterion but by entering into the poetry’s “power.” That power derives from a basic mood, the holy mourning at the flight of the old gods. Hölderlin founds this mood “in the historical existence of our people,” an existence yet to come. Far from hardening into despair, the mood allows the German people to endure “the dire straits of its godlessness,” to find itself belonging in a renewed way to the “homeland waters” (“the power of the earth”), and to prepare itself for the possible arrival of new gods (80, 88, 93, 223).

The second part focuses on the Rhine as a demigod and the poet’s need to think-and-project the demi-gods’ essence. Thinking what is more-than-human and less-than-divine opens up the realm of historical being in which gods and humans reveal themselves for what they are, relative to one another (167, 173f, 185, 237). The basic mood that overcomes the poet here is the creative, passionate capacity to suffer the demi-god’s fate with it (mit-leiden) and, in the process, to found and reveal historical being’s wholehearted conflicted-ness as that fate. The Rhine as demigod is the enigma that exemplifies this wholehearted conflict—drawing constantly upon an origin from which it springs away. Springing away, it is divinely constrained by a need (Not) to change its course from south to north but also learns the creative discipline (Zucht) of coming into its own and forming the land for human dwelling—hence, its fate is anything but “fatalistic” (265). All these oppositions constitute a primordial unity, the “wholeheartedness that is the mystery of historical being” (249f). “The truest wholeheartedness” in this sense is—shades of Heraclitus—the mysterious strife between gods and demigods where the former’s blessedness is a surfeit that needs another to feel and thus establishes a difference in an other, the demigod who, finding its inequality unbearable, is inimical to the gods (271ff).

Given Heidegger’s later claims that anyone hearing these lectures would recognize them as a confrontation with National Socialism, it deserves noting that he identifies the “fatherland” as the historical being of a people, and the poet, thinkers, and founders of the state as the “creative powers of historical Dasein.” After castigating as blasphemy current identifications of Christ as the Führer, Heidegger observes: “In his being, the true and, in each case, only leader [Führer] points, to be sure, to the realm of the demigods [i.e. the poets].” Note, too, the disparaging remark about appeals to the “dominion of the people and blood and soil” (120ff, 144ff, 210, 254).