Anna Glazova. The Greek and European halves in Holderlin’s “Half of life”. Vol. 1. No. 2. 2016

Publication Details

The Greek and European halves in Holderlin’s “Half of life”
Title in the language of publication: Греческая и европейская половины в «Половине жизни» Фридриха Гёльдерлина
Anna Glazova
Ph.D, Craig-Kade Scholar in Residence, The State University of New Jersey.
Address: 15 Seminary Pl., New Brunswick, NJ 08901, United States.
P. 18–32.
Language: Russian
Document type: Research Article


Much like numerous poets and theoreticians of his time, Friedrich Hölderlin builds on the experience of Greek Antiquity. However, his poetry occupies a special place among representatives of Classicism and Romanticism, since Hölderlin does not employ antique works as models to be imitated; instead, he suggests his own model of historical connection between classics the Antiquity and modernity. He distinguishes two origins: on the one hand, the ancient Greek one, on the other — the “Hesperian” one (which in his terminology means “Western European”). These origins coexist in reciprocal dependence while their interplay defines both the aesthetics of ancient Greeks and that of contemporary Germans. The present article explains Hölderlin’s thought based on the theoretical fragment “Becoming in Dissolution” and certain excerpts from his letters to Casimir Boehlendorff. Greece and Hesperia appear there as two interpenetrating manifestations of one and the same historical destiny. This idea helps to understand form and way of speaking in Hölderlin’s own poems. Drawing on the analysis of the poem “Half of life” the author detects the separateness of the ancient and contemporary European arts and points out the productivity of a confrontation between them, which confrontation still determines the fate of poetry up to date. The author puts forward a hypothesis saying that it is on the possibility of a non-chronological connection between European modernity and Greek Antiquity that the poetics of equilibrium between feeling and technique develops; the said equilibrium being expressed to its fullest by Hölderlin himself. The «Half of life» is formally divided into two strophes. The first one, as demonstrated in the article, recapitulates the Greek aesthetics of pathos (“fire of heaven”), while the second one reassumes the clarity of expression stemming from skillful mastery of technique, proper to Europeans. The article is concluded with analysis of a sudden shift in the mood of the poem between the first and second strophes.


Friedrich Hölderlin, Peter Szondi, Greek antiquity, contemporary poetry, becoming in dissolution, caesura, pathos and technique.


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© Anna Glazova, 2016