226 § Poetry, Language, Thought

That we dwell unpoetically, and in what way, we can in any case learn only if we know the poetic. Whether, and when, we may come to a turning point in our unpoetic dwelling is something we may expect to happen only if we remain heedful of the poetic. How and to what extent our doings can share in this turn we alone can prove, if we take the poetic seriously.

The poetic is the basic capacity for human dwelling. But man is capable of poetry at any time only to the degree to which his being is appropriate to that which itself has a liking for man and therefore needs his presence. Poetry is authentic or inauthentic according to the degree of this appropriation.

That is why authentic poetry does not come to light appropriately in every period. When and for how long does authentic poetry exist? Hölderlin gives the answer in verses 26-69, already cited. Their explication has been purposely deferred until now. The verses run:

... As long as Kindness,
The Pure, still stays with his heart, man
Not unhappily measures himself
Against the Godhead....

"Kindness"—what is it? A harmless word, but described by Hölderlin with the capitalized epithet "the Pure." "Kindness"— this word, if we take it literally, is Hölderlin's magnificent translation for the Greek word χάρις. In his Ajax, Sophocles says of χάρις (verse 522):

χάρις χάριν γάρ ἔστιν ή τίκτουσ ' ἀεί

For kindness it is, that ever calls forth kindness.

"As long as Kindness, the Pure, still stays with his heart . . . ." Hölderlin says in an idiom he liked to use: "with his heart," not "in his heart."