The question of influence: Holderlin's dealings with Schiller and Pindar.
Klopstock and Pindar were abiding preoccupations of Holderlin's, but when he makes them the object of his ambitions in 'Mein Vorsaz' he is essentially following the fashion of the time. Many other writers would have placed these two among their models and there is a sense in which they belong together: Klopstock's style, itself schooled on Greek, encouraged reading habits (openness to ambiguity, adeptness at negotiating complex syntax, familiarity with gnomic utterance) that were also required to appreciate Pindar. A characteristic of Holderlin's work generally is its ability to take up contemporary tendencies and fashions, and to develop them in such a way that while remaining identifiable they become something specifically Holderlin's own. This usually occurs through a process of intensification, taking a given tendency to its absolute extreme. The pairing of Pindar and Klopstock so early on (1787) is striking because it was indeed the fusion of these two influences that made possible Holderlin's most characteristic work, the hymns written after 1800. But the arc from the ambition to its fulfilment spans another influence not discernible in the hymns but of great importance to Holderlin's life and work, that of Schiller. My aim in this article is to examine Holderlin's dealings with Schiller and with Pindar, taking as my main material the texts in which the two relationships were chiefly worked out: Holderlin's surviving letters to Schiller (and the few he received in return) and the translation of Pindar's odes already referred to. Though the two encounters were of course quite different, I shall suggest several connections between them, largely concerning the mechanics of the encounters. It also seems to me that it is from the first negotiation (with Schiller) that the energy derives for the success of the second negotiation (with Pindar).
Eleven letters from Holderlin to Schiller survive, one of them in draft form. They are uniform in style and content, and it is a reflection on the relationship they articulate that there is very little development, on any level, between the earliest letter, which Adolf Beck dates at about 20 March 1794 (SamtlicheWerke, VI, 664), not long after Holderlin's first meeting with Schiller in Autumn 1793, and the last, dated 2 June 1801, which actually refers back in its closing words to this meeting, invoking it, as the letters often do, as one of the defining moments of Holderlin's life. Schiller's physical presence made a great impression on Holderlin, as it apparently did on everyone who came into contact with him. 'Schillers Anziehungskraft war sehr gross, er hielt alle fest, die sich ihm naherten', Goethe said of him, (2) and Wilhelm von Humboldt's account of Schiller gives an idea of his generosity and the fascination he exerted in conversation ('im Gesprach, fur das Schiller ganz eigentlich geboren schien'): 'Er behandelte den Gedanken immer als ein gemeinschaftlich zu gewinnendes Resultat, schien immer des Mitredenden zu bedurfen, wenn dieser sich auch bewusst blieb, die Idee allein von ihm zu empfangen, und liess ihn nie mussig werden.' (3) This seems to represent accurately Holderlin's experience of time spent with Schiller: restless intellectual activity and stimulation in which Holderlin felt potentially equal but in effect quite unequal, the recipient of far more than he deserved:
Ich glaube, dass diss das Eigentum der seltnen Menschen ist, dass sie geben konnen, ohne zu empfangen, dass sie sich auch 'am Eise warmen' konnen.
Ich fuhle nur zu oft, dass ich eben kein seltner Mensch bin. (To Schiller, 4 September 1795; VI, 181)
This sense of Schiller as a source of plenty recurs throughout the letters; the approach to him, the relationship, is necessary for the sustenance it gives, but the very wealth of what is received confirms Holderlin's own poverty and so does nothing to assuage it. These terms are introduced in Holderlin's first letter to Schiller: 'Warum muss ich so arm sein, und so viel Interesse haben um den Reichtum eines Geistes?' (VI, 113). They are returned to all through the correspondence. Though 'rich' and 'poor' are commonly used in a figurative sense, Holderlin uses them, very often, in contexts that keep their primary, pecuniary meanings in play: 'Nur alle Monathe mocht' ich zu Ihnen und mich bereichern auf Jahre. Ich suche ubrigens mit dem, was ich von Ihnen mitnahm, gut hauszuhalten und zu wuchern' (to Schiller, 23 July 1795; VI, 176). Even a word like 'Rechenschaft' (VI, 111, 181) seems not far from its literal sense. The effect is to make what Holderlin owes seem very material. He continually underlines his 'Bedurftigkeit' (VI, 215) and similarly overemphasizes the extent of Schiller's support and encouragement. (4) Though Schiller was certainly of great help to him, Holderlin makes much more of this than can be reconciled with the facts. The discrepancy between Schiller's sober professional letters and Holderlin's rapturous reaction to them, even with due allowance for eighteenth-century epistolary style, amounts to a serious misunderstanding. Holderlin appears to misread wilfully, sometimes desperately. The letter of August 1797 is almost certainly an example of such misreading (see Beck's comments, VI, 848-49), but as the letter Holderlin is responding to has been lost no proper judgement can be made. But what Schiller wrote to Holderlin on 24 August 1799 replying to his request for contributions to his projected journal Iduna has survived (VII/1, 137), and Holderlin's reply makes it hard to believe he has read the same letter. Schiller declines to contribute, protesting lack of time, and urges Holderlin to give up the idea of editing a journal altogether, effectively making the undertaking unviable. His letter is not unfriendly, and he offers vague help in finding Holderlin some form of occupation to replace the journal project (a remark that makes it plain he knew his non-participation spelt its death), but nothing he says warrants Holderlin's sense of having received the 'Seegen eines grossen Mannes' (VI, 363). The pecuniary language returns: 'Ich darf Sie versichern, dass die gutigen Worte, womit Sie mich erfreuten, so gut reeller Gewinn fur mich sind, als irgend eine andere Hulfe, die ich wunschen konnte' (September 1799; VI, 363). (5) This assurance is flatly contradicted by Holderlin's next surviving letter, to Susette Gontard, in which he makes no secret of his discontent over the neglect he has suffered at the hands of 'die Beruhmten' (VI, 366) and suspects them of protecting their own interests: 'Kurz, es scheint mir bei ihnen, die ich mir ungefahr als meines gleichen denken darf, ein wenig Handwerksneid mitunter zu walten' (VI, 367).
In the letters to Schiller Holderlin thus puts himself quite deliberately into a position of unrepayable debt, even when there are grounds for construing the relationship the other way round, as in the Iduna affair. He does this with a high degree of consciousness: 'Ich wollte Ihnen einmal wieder in meiner ganzen Bedurftigkeit erscheinen [...]' (VI, 215). The underlying metaphor of the relationship seems to be that as the debt can never be repaid in full the creditor (Schiller) will have to see to it that the 'unverdiente Gaabe' (VI, 175) is not wasted but actually increases in value by being treated as an investment. The letters can be read as a rather insinuating act of persuasion through which Holderlin confers an obligation on Schiller not to withdraw his help, and to accept the poems he sends him for publication in his journals, 'die herben Fruchte, die ich bringe' (VI, 181), as interest payments. In a sense this reflects the actual situation: Schiller did sponsor Holderlin, first by procuring him his first post as house-tutor in Waltershausen with Charlotte von Kalb, and then above all by publishing the Fragment von Hyperion in his Neue Thalia for 1793. (6) Holderlin was often in Schiller's company while he was attending the university in Jena in 1795, and it was Schiller who asked the publisher Cotta to take on Hyperion. (7) He had thus shown a certain commitment to Holderlin's literary career, and for a while, and in some measure, he lived up to this, publishing several of his poems in the journals he edited, both the Musenalmanach and Die Horen as well as the Thalia earlier on. As a man of influence in the world of letters, Schiller saw it as his duty to lend support where he could, but of course he also had an interest in nurturing those among the younger writers who seemed to be going in his direction and might provide some form of continuity. His recommendation of Hyperion to Cotta encapsulates this ambivalent motivation: '[Hyperion] hat recht viel genialisches, und ich hoffe auch noch einigen Einfluss darauf zu haben' (VII/2, 31). In saying he hopes to affect the development of the novel Schiller is partly reassuring Cotta that Holderlin's work will be done under his auspices, to give him confidence to publish, but at the same time Schiller obviously does hope to influence the work towards his way of thinking, to make it recognizably Schillerian. His wording to Cotta suggests that the 'recht viel genialisches' the work already possesses has been derived from him ('noch einigen Einfluss'). Schiller's and Holderlin's interests, at this stage, therefore coincide: Holderlin can be seen, in his letters to Schiller and in many of his works of the early 1790s, to be deliberately constructing Schiller as an origin, as a literary forerunner, in order to acquire some of his authority; Schiller himself is anxious that the same connection should be made so that his authority can be confirmed in the form of influence and he can appear as the originator of a certain movement in literature. Not the least motive here is Schiller's desire to affirm himself against Goethe along the lines drawn in Uber naive und sentimentalische Dichtung (1795-96).
Seeking to situate himself in Schiller's tradition, Holderlin is also intent on outdoing him. This is most clear in the title of Holderlin's projected series of 'philosophical letters', Neue Briefe uber die asthetische Erziehung des Menschen (see VI, 203), which, if completed, would have been an open challenge to Schiller's own A sthetische Briefe (1795). As early as 1794, having read Uber Anmut und Wurde, Holderlin was expressing dissatisfaction with the way Schiller was allowing himself to be constrained even in the aesthetic sphere by the limits to knowledge set by Kant: 'Schiller [...] [hat] doch [...] einen Schritt weniger uber die Kantische Granzlinie gewagt [...], als er nach meiner Meinung hatte wagen sollen' (to Neuffer (VI, 137)). The poems known as the Tubingen hymns, though wholly under the influence of Schiller, also surpass their models, as has been often claimed. (8) That Holderlin in his letters to Schiller maintains a position of inferiority, in which Schiller is a 'Meister' (VI, 364) and Holderlin (in the worst case) a 'res nullius' (VI, 181), thus points towards a strategy on his part, conscious or not. That this is so is corroborated rather than undermined by the places in some letters where within a framework of dependence Holderlin nevertheless asserts himself, as in the letter of August 1797, where he justifies his interest in philosophical abstraction as a 'Lebensperiode' (VI, 249). One small recurring instance of this phenomenon, Holderlin holding his own in contradiction to the main gesture of every letter, is his use of the word 'erbeuten' (VI, 215, 224), a word that again belongs to the pecuniary sphere but implies a degree of conflict and rivalry not otherwise present. (9)
A bizarre episode in the relationship between Schiller and Holderlin is relevant here. In Jena Schiller asked Holderlin to translate the Phaethon story from Ovid's Metamorphoses into rhyming stanzas such as he had used for his own Virgil translations. This has long been seen as a cautionary task, since the story relates the desire of Phaethon to meet his father Apollo and then to drive the chariot of the sun across the sky, a wish Apollo reluctantly grants and which ends in disaster, only half-averted when Zeus transfixes Phaethon with a thunderbolt. There are all sorts of links that might be drawn between this myth and the fact that Schiller should set it for Holderlin to translate. How conscious was Schiller of the extent of the parallels? Holderlin, working with the concentration translating demands, cannot have failed to be struck by them, and the myth seems to have lodged in his psyche, recurring in various manifestations throughout his work. (10) If we do equate Apollo with Schiller, Phaethon with Holderlin, then that implies also the father-son relationship: Phaethon goes to Apollo because he wants a proof from him that what his mortal mother Clymene has said, that he is the son of Apollo, is true. He seeks recognition. It seems clear enough that Holderlin, who had lost both his father and his stepfather by the age of eight, looked on Schiller as something of a father-figure, and that Schiller readily accepted the paternal role. (11) Schiller's fame as compared with Holderlin's obscurity, and their common interest in creating a literary father-son relationship (mentioned above), made the roles more readily adoptable. In the myth there is the same contrast between Apollo the sun-god and the unknown Phaethon, who is laughed at for claiming descent from him and makes it his objective to prove this descent. The story then goes on to elaborate the paradox of kinship amid utter difference. Phaethon demands to do what his father does, to follow in his path, a course that is beyond his capabilities and can only end in catastrophe, something very like the way Schiller perceives Holderlin's poetic ambitions. In his letter to Holderlin of 24 November 1796, Schiller advises: 'Fliehen Sie wo moglich die philosophischen Stoffe, sie sind die undankbarsten, und in fruchtlosem Ringen mit denselben verzehrt sich oft die besste Kraft, bleiben Sie der Sinnenwelt naher, so werden Sie weniger in Gefahr seyn, die Nuchternheit in der Begeisterung zu verlieren' (VII/1, 46). And in a letter to Goethe (30 June 1797) Schiller admits that Holderlin reminds him of his 'eigenen sonstigen Gestalt' in that he has 'eine heftige Subjektivitat, und verbindet damit einen gewissen philosophischen Geist und Tiefsinn' (VII/2, 98).
The history of the actual translation can be aligned to the myth itself. Holderlin (though at Schiller's behest rather than through his own inclination) used the form of rhyming stanzas suggested by Schiller's own practice and was at first enthusiastic about the task (VI, 169). By the time he had finished he was less so and in the letter accompanying the translation he expresses his regret to Schiller 'dass das erste, was ich auf Ihren unmittelbaren Antrieb vornahm, nicht besser werden sollte' (VI, 176). His doubts about the quality of the work were then confirmed when Schiller turned it down for his Musenalmanach, and Holderlin subsequently wrote to Neuffer: 'Dass Schiller nicht den Phaeton aufnahm, daran hat er nicht Unrecht gethan, und er hatte noch besser gethan, wenn er mich gar nie mit dem albernen Probleme geplagt hatte' (VI, 205). The attempt to follow in Schiller's footsteps, or in Holderlin's version of Ovid, 'unwandelbar des Vaters Bahn zu gehn' (V, 315), ends in failure.
Traces of the Phaethon myth, the translation of which takes place during the crucial period of the Holderlin-Schiller relationship when Holderlin was in Jena, can be discerned in the letters to Schiller, sometimes in a form that virtually amounts to quotation, and it is not far-fetched to say that the myth and its translation define the relationship to a considerable extent, or at least confirm and articulate certain aspects of it. Laplanche notes that the letters show a tendency on Holderlin's part to 'diviniser' Schiller (Laplanche, pp. 58, 83). This obviously corresponds to the Phaethon-Apollo allegory. In the letters Holderlin speaks of 'appearing before' Schiller (for example, VI, 242) or even of making a pilgrimage to him ('wallfahrten' (VI, 214)); both these expressions elevate Schiller and associate him with the holy. 'Wallfahrten' represents a revealing variation on the motif of enrichment: one goes to a place of pilgrimage to receive something, a blessing, a proof to be carried away; one goes to supply a lack. The idea of Schiller as source is continued, but a religious aspect is mixed in. That this aspect derives from the Phaethon story, or is at least fed by it, is supported by other passages in the letters that can (and I think should) be read with Ovid in mind. Phaethon's approach to his father the sun is halted by the fierce light. Holderlin, explaining the dangerous effect of Schiller's presence on him at the end of one of his letters, finds this image: 'Ich bin vor Ihnen, wie eine Pflanze, die man erst in den Boden gesezt hat. Man muss sie zudeken um Mittag' (VI, 251). Schiller is thus compared to the sun. In the next letter (about a year later) Holderlin writes: 'Sie durchschauen den Menschen so ganz' (VI, 273), which again can be related to Ovid's characterization of the sun: 'sol oculis [...] quibus adspicit omnia' (12) translated by Holderlin as 'des Vaters Blik, der jede Fern' erzielt' (V, 313) though the Latin says more simply that the sun, with its eyes, sees everything. Ovid's portrayal of Apollo seems to have coloured Holderlin's view of Schiller. It might be more accurate to say that Holderlin's preoccupations reveal their pattern in the similarities that can be noticed between the two texts (letters and translation). His translation of 'oculis' by 'Blik' is not extraordinary in itself, but it forms a further link to the letters, which suggests that the Phaethon myth and the relationship with Schiller have common imaginative ground. Holderlin's first letter to Schiller has the sentence 'Wurdigen Sie mich zuweilen eines aufmerksamen Bliks!' (VI, 113), and in the second letter, which was probably sent with the Phaethon translation, Holderlin seeks 'einen freundlichen Blik' (VI, 175), echoing Apollo's 'freundlich Wort' (V, 313). What Phaethon longs for, the reason for his journey to the sun, is a sign of recognition and acceptance, and all Holderlin's letters to Schiller are essentially petitions for the same thing. 'Blik' belongs with the words 'Wort' and 'Zeichen' (three words common to letters and translation) as indications of the acknowledgement Phaethon/Holderlin desires. (13) Phaethon asks his mother Clymene for a sign ('notam' (Book 1, 761)), for proofs ('signa' (Book 1, 764)) of his birth; and of Apollo he requires incontrovertible proof ('pignora certa' (Book 2, 91)) that he is his son, which Holderlin translates as 'Ein Zeichen willst du ja, woran ich mich/Unzweifelhaft als Vater dir verkunde!' (V, 316) (Apollo is speaking). Holderlin, in a smaller but related way, asks Schiller for 'ein paar freundliche Worte' (VI, 215; compare VI, 224), remembers 'jedes kleinsten Zeichens Ihrer Theilnahme an mir' (VI, 223), knows that he will not rest until he has secured 'ein Zeichen Ihrer Zufriedenheit' (VI, 224), feels 'wie viel ein Wort von Ihnen uber mich entscheidet' (VI, 241), and hopes Schiller will not feel it beneath him 'diss Zeichen Ihrer Gunst und Gu te mir offentlich zu geben' (VI, 342). 'Sagen Sie mir ein freundlich Wort', Holderlin says, 'und Sie sollen sehen, wie ich verwandelt bin' (VI, 224). What he fears most is Schiller's 'Stillschweigen' (VI, 223; compare VI, 343).
This anxious sensitivity again draws Schiller into the realm occupied in Holderlin's writing by the sacral. For him, Schiller manifests himself in signs: the gratitude Holderlin feels towards him has become deeper 'durch jedes Zeichen ihrer Gegenwart in derWelt' (VI, 343). These signs are not obvious, they need to be perceived, divined ('erkennen oder ahnden' (VI, 363)). 'Winke sind | Von Alters her die Sprache der Gotter' the poem 'Rousseau' says, and Rousseau in that poem 'kennt [...] im ersten Zeichen Vollendetes schon' (II, 13). There are similar passages in other poems, but they do not need listing here. If poems and letters inform each other only inconclusively, the first letter to Bohlendorff has Holderlin writing, of lightning: 'Unter allem, was ich schauen kann von Gott, ist dieses Zeichen mir das auserkorene geworden' (VI, 427). Anything pertaining to Schiller was read as scrupulously as the natural manifestations of God. As Holderlin would have it, thanks must be brought to Schiller (VI, 343) and the poems he sends with almost every letter are like offerings ('die herben Fruchte, die ich bringe'(VI, 181)). The letter to Bohlendorff continues by invoking the dangers of reading God's signs too perfectly, another theme fundamental to the poetry and not absent from the letters to Schiller either. Holderlin adverts again and again to his 'Unbescheidenheit' (for example VI, 273) in addressing Schiller, and even calls his behaviour 'unschiklich' (VI, 363; compare VI, 365, 423), a word whose meanings encompass the sense of religious impropriety, the meddling with affairs forbidden to the uninitiated, as emerges in a letter of Holderlin's to the editor of the Allgemeine Literatur-Zeitung, Christian Gottfried Schutz, that speaks of the 'heilige Schiklichkeit, womit sie [the Greeks] in gottlichen Dingen verfahren mussten' (VI, 381). And Holderlin's reference to 'mein Geschwaz' (VI, 181; compare VI, 112), already self-deprecating enough, takes on similar connotations to 'unschiklich' if compared with Hermokrates's accusation in Holderlin's play Der Tod des Empedokles that Empedokles has 'den Gott [...] aus sich/Hinweggeschwazt' (IV, 98). On one occasion Holderlin makes explicit the danger he perceives in approaching Schiller: he calls his request for contributions to Iduna a 'gefahrliche Bitte' (VI, 343). There may be a small element of self-mockery here, of humour looking for Schiller's acknowledgement, but I think it is small. Although Holderlin's letters may certainly be seen to negotiate, probably unconsciously, a position of dependence through their rhetoric, I take their earnestness to be genuine, their frequent tentativeness and awkwardness to be an accurate expression of the psychological predicament contact with Schiller, even epistolary, throws Holderlin into. The letters define themselves early on as a particular genre: that is, the tone set by the first few letters then becomes the one Holderlin reverts to whenever he writes to Schiller, even when in other ways his writing (including his letter writing) is developing rapidly. Even the last letter, of 2 June 1801, right in the middle of Holderlin's most productive and confident period, bears all the hallmarks established by the others, despite moments of great assuredness and individuality that connect it with other letters written at this time. The characteristic of the Holderlin-Schiller relationship is that it hardly develops until it ends (in so far as it does). (14) What development there is takes place outside the letters, not within them. Holderlin actually writes infrequently, and almost always from the same position of need and doubt.
The most important of the motifs that structure the letters and bind them together has not yet been mentioned. It is the dialectic of proximity and distance, of the 'Nahe' (VI, 111) Holderlin once experienced with Schiller in Jena (and which the letters seek to revive) and the distance the letters are a result and expression of. Again we are at the heart of Holderlin's preoccupations. His time in Jena was dominated by his association with Schiller, as he states very clearly:
Aber glauben Sie, dass ich [...] mir sagen muss, dass Ihre Nahe mir nicht erlaubt ist? Wirklich, Sie beleben mich zu sehr, wenn ich um Sie bin. Ich weiss es noch ganz gut, wie Ihre Gegenwart mich immer entzundete, dass ich den ganzen andern Tag zu keinem Gedanken kommen konnte. So lang ich vor Ihnen war, war mir das Herz fast zu klein, and wenn ich weg war, konnt' ich es gar nicht mehr zusammenhalten. (VI, 250-51)
His abrupt departure from Jena expanded this situation into one of the personal myths of his life, the fundamental tension of the relationship with Schiller, defined on the one hand by the experience of intense presence in Jena and on the other by the feelings of debilitating isolation he was left with once he had fled. (15) Either of these two extremes was intolerable, but the one demanded the other, and negotiation between them became the necessary course of the letters. Schiller's presence seemed vital, but also destructive in direct form. The letter is the means of contact ideally suited to this relationship, since a correspondence represents a connection over distance, a link that preserves and actually arises from the fact of separation. In the space of a letter the dangers of proximity and distance can be overcome or rendered bearable because the proximity a letter conjures is tempered by distance, a distance the letter also mitigates as it tries to bridge it. The dynamics of the form are supported by the letters' content, 'Nahe' and its compounds, which appear in virtually every letter, being the key word of the correspondence. (16) Schiller apparently took up the motif himself in a lost letter, if Holderlin is not overlaying Schiller with his own idiom when he says: 'Sie sagen, ich sollte Ihnen naher seyn' (VI, 250). The word recurs obsessively, rapidly acquiring a resonance beyond its lexical meaning. The following passage, though the most concentrated in this respect, gives a good impression of the effect of this repetition in the letters as a whole. It is the opening of the first letter Holderlin sent to Schiller after leaving Jena:
Ich wusste wohl, dass ich mich nicht, ohne meinem Innern merklichen Abbruch zu thun, aus Ihrer Nahe wurde entfernen konnen. Ich erfahr' es izt mit jedem Tage lebendiger.
Es ist sonderbar, dass man sich sehr gluklich finden kann unter dem Einfluss eines Geistes, auch wenn er nicht durch mundliche Mittheilung auf einen wirkt, blos durch seine Nahe, und dass man ihn mit jeder Meile, die von ihm entfernt, mehr entbehren muss. Ich hatt' es auch schwerlich mit all meinen Motiven uber mich gewonnen, zu gehen, wenn nicht eben diese Nahe mich von der andern Seite so oft beunruhiget hatte. (VI, 175)
With each mention of the word 'Nahe' the concept becomes more complex and contradictory. Potentially beneficial, it becomes inhibiting, but escape from it is no solution. As I said, the letters then become the means of maintaining a via media between presence and absence. Even here there is a correspondence with the Phaethon story in that Apollo warns Phaethon explicitly of the importance and difficulty of steering between the extremes of the sea and the stars, resisting the pull from either side. This dynamic, it scarcely needs to be pointed out, is also fundamental to translation, and in translating, in finding a form that would accommodate the Latin words and work in German verse, Holderlin confronted and dealt with the dynamic, as expressed by Ovid, very exactly and closely. Apollo says:
[...] weh' dem Arme, der nicht sicher lenkt!
Mit Angst erwartet Thetis oft den Gast,
Fur seinen Sturz besorgt, in ihren Hallen,
Und wo mich reissend stets des Himmels Wirbel fasst,
Wo ruhelos gewalzt die hohen Sterne wallen;
Da kampf' ich [...]
The struggle of holding to the middle path is too much for Phaethon, but in the medium of his letters to Schiller Holderlin does navigate a course along the tensions, a course on which he keeps the link with Schiller open by avoiding the extremes of actual 'Nahe' and final estrangement:
Ich [darf] Ihnen wohl gestehen, dass ich zuweilen in geheimem Kampfe mit Ihrem Genius bin, um meine Freiheit gegen ihn zu retten, und dass die Furcht, von Ihnen durch und durch beherrscht zu werden, mich schon oft verhindert hat, mit Heiterkeit mich Ihnen zu nahern. Aber nie kann ich mich ganz aus ihrer Sphare entfernen; ich wurde mir solch einen Abfall schwerlich vergeben. Und das ist auch gut; so lang ich noch in einiger Beziehung bin mit Ihnen, ist es mir nicht moglich, ein gemeiner Mensch zu werden. (VI, 273)
The peculiar tautness and uneasiness of the letters derive from that effort. Their style, which is often convoluted, indirect, favouring the subjunctive and the subordinate clause, seems to perform a precarious balancing-act along a rope of its own creation forming the tenuous connection to Schiller: 'Eben darum, weil diese Anhanglichkeit in der That mir heilig ist, such' ich sie in meinem Bewusstseyn von allem, was durch eine scheinbare Verwandtschaft sie entwurdigen konnte, zu sondern, und warum sollt' ich mich uber sie nicht vor Ihnen aussern, wie sie vor mir erscheint, da sie doch Ihnen angehort?' (VI, 176.) Each letter performs the balancing-act again, going through the same motions, soliciting a response 'durch allerhand Umwege' (VI, 215), but the repetition makes us read each consecutive letter differently, as more and more questionable. The letters to Schiller are not just documents of the relationship between the two of them but the sphere in which it is called into question and sustained.
Each letter, then, using the same means, reactivates the relationship, or falls back into it. The apparent lack of development on both stylistic and psychological levels is the most striking thing about these letters. Holderlin was painfully aware of this and comes to speak of it (in a letter that begins by admitting that his sole reason for writing is Schiller's own silence: 'Ihr ganzlich Verstummen gegen mich macht mich wirklich blode' (VI, 223)): 'Ich bin verlegen, scrupulos uber jedes Wort, das ich Ihnen sage, und doch bin ich sonst so ziemlich, wenn ich andern Menschen gegenuber mich finde, uber jugendliche A ngstlichkeit weg' (VI, 224). The awkward self-consciousness of the style, each word part of a 'Rechenschaft' (VI, 181), is particular to the letters to Schiller, but among Holderlin's other letters it is closest to that of those to his mother, which have a similar ground of self-justification and also a similar transactional function; Holderlin is often asking or thanking his mother for money, as in the letters to Schiller he sends him poems and enquires after the fate of poems he has sent earlier. In both cases he seeks approval. Writing to his mother though, he is much more self-possessed and sure of himself; some of his most positive and unabashed pronouncements about his writing are to be found among his letters home (it is, he says, 'mein eigenstes Geschafft' (VI, 297), 'meiner reinsten Thatigkeit' (VI, 332)), whereas to Schiller, when the subject of his writing is always in the foreground, he cannot even bring himself to name it directly, resorting to circumlocutions: 'meiner A usserungsart', 'alle Mittheilungsgaabe' (VI, 422), and this in the last letter to Schiller Holderlin wrote, by which stage his achievements could have underwritten the greatest certainty. (17)
Curiously, some of the particularities of Holderlin's style in these letters seem to derive from Schiller's own. Holderlin uses several words he never does elsewhere, usually of French origin and of the sort that Schiller favoured in his own prose. 'Scrupulos' is one such, as are 'Protection' (VI, 342), 'kapricios' (VI, 364), 'eklatant' (VI, 343), 'Rasonnement' (VI, 250), 'exequiren' (VI, 364). (18) The use of words outside his normal vocabulary seems to be part of his attempt to connect with Schiller, to move across to him within the space of a letter. It is this, I think, rather than direct influence in the normal sense, which means using another's words or style in a given context because they seem to fit it best and thus exclude other possibilities. Raabe also relates the structure of several of the letters, their manner of proceeding and of presenting their arguments, to Schiller's 'dialektische Redekunst', but this is less convincing. The fluctuation between poles referred to has more to do with the dynamics of the Holderlin-Schiller relationship, with Holderlin's need to create and dissolve a link to Schiller as he writes, and with his unwillingness to affirm himself except in the most qualified way in order to arrive at precisely the degree of (in)dependence at which the relationship can operate safely:
Ware ich Ihrer Protection so werth, dass ich ihrer nicht bedurfte, so wurde ich Sie nicht darum bitten, oder bedurfte ich ihrer so sehr, dass ich ihrer gar nicht werth ware, so wurde ich Sie auch nicht darum bitten. Aber ich glaube derselben gerade so weit bedurftig und werth zu seyn, dass die Bitte um dieselbe zu entschuldigen ist. (VI, 342)
This may read like a sort of parody of Schiller's binary reasoning in his aesthetic essays, but in fact it is a compact, unified form of the assertion and retraction Holderlin practises again and again in these letters, as, for example, in one where he provides a paragraph of clear and serious justification of his 'Scheue vor dem Stoffe' (VI, 249) that is then dismissed in the next paragraph: 'Ich habe so eine Art von Eingang notig, um mich eigentlicher an Sie zu adressiren' (VI, 250).
If the similarities that exist between Schiller's and Holderlin's prose styles are not to be considered simply as influence, that is still, obviously, the explicit or implicit centre and concern of the letters. When Holderlin leaves Jena in 1795 it is at least partly because he fears that his self, particularly the part of it that seeks expression in writing, is being lost, becoming overawed, under the influence of Schiller. And when he nevertheless keeps the line of contact with Schiller tight, it is because he does not want to forgo 'den wohlthatigen Einfluss' (VI, 364) of 'der Seegen eines grossen Mannes' (VI, 363), 'dessen einzigen Geist ich so tief fuhle' (VI, 273). Although in a discarded preface to Hyperion he declared he had no desire to be original (III, 235), the question of influence preoccupied Holderlin, and nowhere more openly than in the letters to Schiller, something that should already be clear from what has been quoted above. He longed to make the effect Schiller had on him into a 'wohlthatigen Einfluss' (VI, 364) but invariably found that he could not, that all he could do was lessen its harm by distancing himself. Since Schiller was unforgettable (Don Karlos was the 'Zauberwolke' (VI, 365) that had enclosed Holderlin in his youth), there could be no absolute cutting off, even if that were something that Holderlin might ever have contemplated. When the fading out of active communication did come about, it was due to Schiller much more than to Holderlin.
The question of influence is confronted by Holderlin in an essay fragment probably intended for Iduna, the journal Schiller chose not to support. 'Der Gesichtspunct aus dem wir das Altertum anzusehen haben' (IV, 221-22) is closely parallelled by Holderlin's letter to Schiller of 20 June 1797 (VI, 241-42), which seems to contain the germ of the essay and indicates the personal dilemma behind the essay's anxieties, which are to do with the problems and possibilities of living and working in the modern age, particularly as an artist, while maintaining a relationship with the achievements of the classical world. In the letter Holderlin discloses to Schiller that he sometimes tries to put him out of his mind 'um wahrend einer Arbeit nicht angstig zu werden' (VI, 241) and from this moves on to a very thinly veiled discussion of the difficulties of finding a voice ('die Natur zur rechten Ausserung zu bringen') independent from Schiller, neither in thrall to him nor in revolt against him. The veil is a distinction Holderlin draws between the situation of the artist in the ancient world, 'wo der Kunstler fast allein ist mit der lebendigen Welt', and the situation in the modern world, 'wo schon Meisterwerke nah um einen liegen'. 'Hier', Holderlin says, 'ist nicht das alte Gleichgewicht, worinn der erste Kunstler sich mit seiner Welt befand, der Knabe hat es mit Mannern zu thun.' For this reason, the artist is faced with a 'schlimme Alternative' between becoming 'eigensinnig' or 'unterwurfig' (VI, 242), which by implication is how Holderlin sees his relationship with Schiller, as crystallized in the Jena episode when, feeling stifled, he was forced to act drastically and left. The letter touches on this, obliquely but exactly, because enclosed with it was the first volume of Hyperion, which Holderlin says he has 'mit freierer Uberlegung und glu klicherem Gemuthe von neuem angefangen' (compare 'freier und unbefangener' (VI, 343)). Before, when Schiller had been involved and published an early fragment in his Thalia, Holderlin describes it as having been 'ganzlich entstellt', 'so durr und armlich [...], dass ich nicht daran denken mag' (VI, 242). It is difficult not to read this as a subtle reproach of Schiller and at the same time as an affirmation of the new freedom and confidence he has found since leaving Jena, but it does not prevent Holderlin from slipping back into the dependent mode in later letters.
In the essay, where the difficulty has become one of coping with the burden of classical example (so again the question of influence, and the dynamics are the same), the choice between two extremes stated in the letter returns: 'Es scheint wirklich fast keine andere Wahl offen zu seyn, erdrukt zu werden von Angenommenem, und Positivem, oder, mit gewaltsamer Anmassung, sich gegen alles erlernte, gegebene, positive, als lebendige Kraft entgegenzusezen' (IV, 221). This is a dilemma, because neither course seems advisable, neither seems a secure way of proceeding. The essay arrives at but does not elaborate on a way out, a third possibility contained in the words 'reelle Wechselvereinigung' (IV, 222), denoting interaction between the two worlds (ancient and modern), and so escapes the apparent impasse of the dual choice. The essay thus proceeds beyond the letter, which wonders whether an avoidance of the two options is possible but rejects the only kind it envisages, one that takes 'den Weg der Mathematiker' (VI, 242) and makes the differences seem negligible.
The interconnections between essay and letter point to a more general correspondence between the way Holderlin thinks about himself and his relationship with Schiller and the way he understands his and the modern age's rapport with antiquity. As forms of influence they inform each other and collapse into one another, and Holderlin seems to treat them as different aspects of the same thing. Since the founding experience of coming under literary influence was bound up with Schiller, that experience necessarily coloured all Holderlin's further experiencings of influence. But it also seems that from the encounter with antiquity, mainly in the form of Greek literature, he derived a certain freedom not just with respect to antiquity itself but vis-a-vis Schiller too. He finally defined himself against Schiller by drawing his main influences from Greece, but the agonizing and the constriction of the Schiller relationship, the memory of it, also affected his technique, his manner of proceeding, in his dealings with classical writers. This is complicated by the fact that the understanding of the Greeks that Holderlin arrived at differed radically from Schiller's and was in some respects frankly anti-Schillerian. The letter Holderlin wrote to Schutz, probably in Winter 1799/1800, gives a view of the Greeks that in its emphasis on 'die Strenge und Scharfe der Form in ihren Dichtungen' (VI, 381) implies criticism of Schiller's classification of them as 'naive'.
Holderlin translated Pindar in 1800. I have written about this translation extensively elsewhere; (19) here I want to concentrate on it in relation to Holderlin's dealings with Schiller. The last of the letters to Schiller, of 2 June 1801, mentions Holderlin's study of Greek literature, and though he is not specific, the translations of Pindar's Olympian and Pythian odes are chief among the things he has in mind when he writes: 'Ich habe mich seit Jahren fast ununterbrochen mit der griechischen Literatur beschafftiget. Da ich einmal daran gekommen war, so war es mir nicht moglich, dieses Studium abzubrechen, bis es mir die Freiheit, die es zu Anfang so leicht nimmt, wieder gegeben hatte' (VI, 422). Some of the intensity and unremitting quality of the Pindar translation is conveyed in these sentences, the sense of it as something like a rite of passage, to be gone through rigorously, almost blindly, until a change occurs, a kind of reversal. The shift from bondage to freedom Holderlin describes, and which he says he can teach to others, liberating them 'vom Dienste des griechischen Buchstabens' (VI, 422), can be seen very clearly in the development of his work: the Pindar translation enables the writing of the hymns, which are at once Holderlin's most original work and that for which a model, Pindar, is most instrumental and obvious. The hymns are the final and incontrovertible release from influence as anxiety, from both Schiller's and antiquity's.
The Pindar translation can be seen as an example of the idea of 'reelle Wechselvereinigung' (IV, 222) Holderlin puts forward in 'Der Gesichtspunct aus dem wir das Altertum anzusehen haben'. The method of translation forces a kind of parity, an interaction between Greek and German, by running the two languages together, testing each to see what it can match of the other (see my Holderlin, pp. 128-30). The translation is like a graph plotting out the relationship between Greek and German, and though the language is of course German, it retains a Greek syntax, a Greek habitus, as word for word, with very little deviation, it transcribes, transliterates almost, the original. Pythian 4 begins:
Morgen gebuhrt es dir bei Mann dem Lieben
Zu stehen, des rossereichen Konige
Kyrenes, dass mit dem feiernden Arkesilas,
Muse! den Latoiden die schuldige
Und Python mehrest die Luf der Hymnen.
Apart from the word 'mit' in the third line, which is brought forward two words, and the addition of articles, the German here simply charts the Greek. One cannot say that either Greek or German dominates. Of course the result is strange, odd to a degree, disjointed and halting, but it is the beginning of a new language, a language that moments of the translation realize fully and from which Holderlin draws the language of his hymns.
The process of translation is violent. The languages are driven against each other and the translation itself bears the traces of the impact. This violence, as I suggested at the outset, may have part of its cause in the painful experience under the influence of Schiller. For too long Holderlin fell into the trap he himself recognized of either submitting to Schiller or reacting against him, the 'schlimme Alternative' (IV, 221). The Pindar translation avoids this, in a sense by doing both at once. With it Holderlin takes the classical precept of imitation to its extreme and in so doing undoes the very idea and shows the impossibility of absolute imitation. Harold Bloom's theory of 'misprision' is of interest here, since Bloom holds that a poet appropriates a precursor by warping him, by skewing him into something else that is both foreign and proper. This is the action of the anxiety of influence: 'To appropriate the precursor's landscape for himself, the ephebe must estrange it further from himself.' (20) The Pindar translation makes good sense seen like this, but it is important to remember that it is a translation and that translation offers a form of channelling influence not open to Holderlin for Schiller and not considered by Bloom in his account, which is concerned with the 'hidden roads' that 'go from poem to poem' (Anxiety, p. 96). Translation seems to hold out a way of dealing with influence without anxiety, of making influence beneficial. Of course it can occur only when the influence goes across languages, but then it opens a precise, very specific method of negotiating the problems of originality and influence, because in translation, particularly as Holderlin translates Pindar, what comes across is undeniably other but also undeniably one's own, written in one's own words. The transition from outside influence to own voice is already begun in the act of translation, which appropriates at the same time as it estranges. If it is true that translation provides a kind of mechanism for the overcoming of the problems of influence, it is interesting to note too that the scenario Bloom writes for the British Romantic poets' wrestling with the influence of, primarily, Milton, applies less well to the situation in Germany, where writers of the period largely appear to escape the anxiety of influence, though they were much influenced. This may be put down to the importance of translation at the time, the great period of translation into German, when Voss, Bode, Holderlin, Schleiermacher, and A. W. Schlegel were all at work and there was considerable interest in translation and understanding of the need for it (see my Holderlin, Chapter 1). A productive means of channelling influence was in place, and this was possible simply because the main influences were from abroad, in other languages. A similar importance laid on translation, and a similar lack of anxiety, can be found in English Renaissance literature.
In translating Pindar (reading him strongly, Bloom would say) Holderlin is devising for himself an origin, a source for his own poetry, something he was also doing, though differently, in his correspondence with Schiller by emphasizing the father-son relationship. This is one of the several ways in which the Pindar translation and the correspondence can be construed together, as documents that though obviously of quite different natures contain similar tensions and work out the dynamics of influence in comparable ways, though with unlike results. The dialectic that marks the correspondence, between proximity and distance, is the fundamental dialectic of influence and also underlies translation, where it finds a form of resolution. Any translation is always working between proximity and distance and cannot escape from their co-ordinates (we speak, for example, of a close translation) but Holderlin's Pindar, because of its peculiar literality, makes this particularly apparent: by cleaving very near it opens up the gap between the two languages, between the original and Holderlin's version of it. But paradoxically it is as the gap is revealed that Pindar is conveyed and is suddenly, in all his oddness and foreignness, very close. There are even moments when the gap disappears altogether, when Holderlin's German works independently from the Greek it perfectly embodies. At these (rare) moments he is expressing Pindar in words that could be his own, and it is these moments that betoken most obviously the poetry Holderlin then went on to write. Pindar's significance to Holderlin as the essence of ancient Greece (in one of his Magister dissertations he called his poetry 'das Summum der Dichtkunst', combining 'in dieser gedrangten Kurze die Darstellung des Epos und die Leidenschaft des Trauerspiels' (IV, 202-03)), a form in which the Greek achievement was preserved and symbolized) meant that to translate him was an operation of the utmost delicacy and importance, an act instinct, in fact, with religious value, and this must be understood as determining the technique. Holderlin's tendency to lend Schiller divine traits is exceeded by the practice of the Pindar translation, which proceeds exactly as if Pindar's poetry were scripture, of which not a shred must be lost. Its every contour and detail must be reflected and transmitted, the moments of perfect transfer must not be missed, in the same way as Holderlin's letters to Schiller are attent to the slightest sign of favour or approval from the master. Pindar, through the agency of translation, comes to displace Schiller as an origin. Whereas the influence of Schiller on Holderlin simply seems to peter out, Pindar's influence, channelled through translation, becomes productive and Holderlin really does achieve something very like 'Pindars Flug' (I, 28). Pindar remained vital as a source, which is to say Holderlin knew how to reanimate him, render him living in his own language and according to his own needs. Somewhere between 1802 and 1805 Holderlin wrote the Pindar-Fragmente, texts that return to Pindar and openly derive from him, and the last of them, 'Das Belebende', can be read as a meditation on the process of influence they embrace.
(1) References are to Friedrich Holderlin, Samtliche Werke, ed. by Friedrich Beissner and Adolf Beck, 8 vols (Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 1943-85), the so-called 'Grosse Stuttgarter Ausgabe'.
(2) Johann Wolfgang Goethe, 'Gluckliches Ereignis', in Goethes Werke, ed. by Erich Trunz, 14 vols (Munich: Beck, 1988), X, 538-42 (p. 541).
(3) 'Uber Schiller und den Gang seiner Geistesentwicklung', in Werke, ed. by Andreas Flitner and Klaus Giel, 5 vols (Stuttgart: Cotta, 1961-81), II, 357-94 (pp. 361-62). Compare Paul Raabe, Die Briefe Holderlins: Studien zur Entwicklung und Personlichkeit des Dichters (Stuttgart: Metzler, 1963), p. 110.
(4) See the opening of Holderlin's letter to Schiller of August 1797 (VI, 249) and the stress on Schiller's 'Grosmuth' at the beginnings of the last three letters (VI, 342, 363, 421).
(5) The letter has survived only in draft form, but a similar one was sent. See Beck's notes (VI, 976-77), which also include more on Holderlin's misreading of Schiller here.
(6) This did not appear until Autumn 1794.
(7) See Holderlin to his mother, 12 March 1795 (VI, 160), and Schiller to Cotta, 9 March 1795 (VII/2, 31).
(8) See, for example, Ulrich Gaier, Holderlin: Eine Einfuhrung (Tubingen: Francke, 1993), p. 30. Still, Holderlin himself was not happy with these poems, considering them too abstract: see Holderlin to Neuffer, 12 November 1798 (VI, 288-91).
(9) Compare these lines from Holderlin's poem 'An Herkules': 'Der Olymp ist deine Beute; | Komm und theile sie mit mir!' (I, 200). This poem is often seen as referring to Schiller (Momme Mommsen, 'Holderlins Losung von Schiller: Zu Holderlins Gedichten "An Herkules" und "Die Eichbaume" und den Ubertragungen aus Ovid, Vergil und Euripides', Jahrbuch der Deutschen Schillergesellschaft, 9 (1965), 203-44 (pp. 213-16).
(10) Fragment 15 (II, 317) mentions Phaethon; Holderlin's concept of the 'exzentrische Bahn' (III, 236), the sense that he has been struck by Apollo (VI, 432), and the emphasis on 'Maas' in his later work (for example, II, 155) all derive from the myth.
(11) On this, see Jean Laplanche, Holderlin et la question du pere (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1961), esp. Chapter I. Laplanche mentions Phaethon on pages 45-46.
(12) Metamorphoses, ed. by W. S. Anderson (Leipzig: Teubner, 1977), p. 27 (Book 2, l. 32). Further references to Ovid are to this edition.
(13) All three words are also important in the poems: see, for example, II, 76, l. 34 ('Blik'); II, 68, l. 7 ('Wort'); II, 191, l. 50 ('Zeichen').
(14) In the early 1840s (probably Autumn 1841) Holderlin is reported to have cried 'Ach mein Schiller, mein herrlicher Schiller!' when asked about him by Johann Georg Fischer: see VII,/3, 300.
(15) 'Fled' is Holderlin's own word and not too strong: variants to the poem 'Heidelberg' appear to cast him as 'Ein vertriebener Wanderer | Der vor Menschen und Buchern floh' (II, 410), lines probably rejected as too personal.
(16) See Beck's note, VI, 749, though he does not give all examples. 'Nahe' is also represented inversely by 'entfernen' (VI, 175, 273), or in the near-synonym 'Umgang' (VI, 343, 364).
(17) In one letter Holderlin is slightly more self-assured, as he explains why he has chosen to write a tragedy, and the inner form of Schiller's own plays. But it may be significant that it survives only as an incomplete draft (September 1799; VI, 363-65).
(18) See Raabe, p. 114. For examples of vocabulary of this type in Schiller, see Friedrich Schiller, Samtliche Werke, ed. by Gerhard Fricke and Herbert G. Gopfert, 5th edn, 5 vols (Munich: Hanser, 1975), V, 578 ('kontradiktorisch'), 648 ('Imagination').
(19) Holderlin and the Dynamics of Translation (Oxford: Legenda, 1998), esp. Chapter 4. This contains a comprehensive bibliography of criticism on Holderlin's translation of Pindar. The most important book on the whole subject of Holderlin and Pindar is Albrecht Seifert, Untersuchungen zu Holderlins Pindar-Rezeption (Munich: Fink, 1982).
(20) The Anxiety of Influence, 2nd edn (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997), p. 105.
<ADD> CHARLIE LOUTH QUEEN'S COLLEGE, OXFORD </ADD>
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|Publication:||The Modern Language Review|
|Date:||Oct 1, 2000|
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