Volume 42, Issue 2/3, Summer/Fall 2012
"May the Holy Be My Word"
Embodiment and the Remembrance of the Divine Word in Hölderlin's Later Poetry
This paper shows how the authority of the poet in certain of Hölderlin’s later hymns depends on the remembrance of the sacred word. In the last three strophes of his “As on a Holiday,” the holy appears as the Kantian sublime: the divine intellectually elevates the poets while its overwhelming power makes them aware of human limitations. The poets’ physical act of accepting the word enables them to come to speech and signifies acknowledgement of limitation. But the speaker’s illicit effort to enter the realm of the deities results in speechlessness. In poems “The Only One” and “Patmos” Jesus emerges as the mediator between the timeless realm of the gods and temporal world of humans. God’s word—articulated by the God incarnate—gives meaning to finite human existence. Through the commemorative inscription of the divine word, poets gain their voice and speak of human existence as being unto the departed gods.