"...Poetically Man Dwells..."


The phrase is taken from a late poem by Hölderlin, which comes to us by a curious route. It begins: "In lovely blueness blooms the steeple with metal roof" (Stuttgart edition 2, 1, pp. 372 ff.; Hellingrath VI, pp. 24 ff.). If we are to hear the phrase "poetically man dwells" rightly, we must restore it thoughtfully to the poem. For that reason let us give thought to the phrase. Let us clear up the doubts it immediately arouses. For otherwise we should lack the free readiness to respond to the phrase by following it.

"... poetically man dwells ..." If need be, we can imagine that poets do on occasion dwell poetically. But how is "man"—and this means every man and all the time—supposed to dwell poetically? Does not all dwelling remain incompatible with the poetic? Our dwelling is harassed by the housing shortage. Even if that were not so, our dwelling today is harassed by work, made insecure by the hunt for gain and success, bewitched by the entertainment and recreation industry. But when there is still room left in today's dwelling for the poetic, and time is still set aside, what comes to pass is at best a preoccupation with aestheticizing, whether in writing or on the air. Poetry is either rejected as a frivolous mooning and vaporizing into the unknown, and a flight into dreamland, or is counted as a part of literature. And the validity of literature is assessed by the latest prevailing standard. The prevailing standard, in turn, is made and controlled by the organs for making public civilized opinions.