Hölderlin and the Essence of Poetry ❦ 63

Thus the essence of poetry seems to vacillate within the semblance of its own exterior aspect, and yet stands firm after all. In fact, it is itself, in its essence, a founding—that is: firm grounding.

To be sure, every founding remains a free gift, and Hölderlin hears it said: "Poets be free, like swallows" (I, 168). This freedom, however, is not unrestrained arbitrariness and headstrong desire, but supreme necessity.

As the founding of being, poetry is bound in a twofold sense. In viewing this most intimate law, we first grasp its essence in its entirety.

. . . and hints are, From time immemorial, the language of the gods. (IV, 135)

The poet's saying is the intercepting of these hints, in order to pass them on to his people. The intercepting of hints is a receiving, and yet at the same time, a new giving; for in the "first signs" the poet catches sight of what has been completed, and boldly puts what he has seen into his word in order to foretell what is not yet fulfilled. Thus

. . . the bold spirit flies, like the eagle Ahead of the thunderstorm, prophesying The coming of his gods. (IV, 135)

The founding of being is bound to the god's hints. And at the same time the poetic word is only the interpretation of the "voice of the people." That is what Hölderlin calls the saying in which a people remembers its belonging to beings as a whole. But often his voice falls silent and exhausts itself. It is not at all capable of saying by itself what is authentic—it has need of those who interpret it. The poem which bears the title "Voice of the People" has been preserved for us in two versions. It is primarily the concluding stanzas which are different, but in such a way that they complement each other. In the first version, the conclusion reads:

Because it is pious, for love of the heavenly I honor the voice of the people, the calm, But for the sake of gods and men, May it not always rest too willingly. (IV, 141)