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This article is taken from PN Review 112, Volume 23 Number 2, November - December 1996.

Friedrich Hölderlin - A Biographical Sketch Charlie Louth

For Theunis and Gill, who listened twice

In 1797 Hölderlin wrote: 'I believe in a future revolution of ways of thinking and feeling that will make everything we have had so far go red with shame'. This in response to a letter from a disillusioned friend who had, a few months before, gone to the focus of things in Europe: to Paris, the arena of the French Revolution, the heart of the new republic. As for almost everyone in his, the Romantic, generation, the French Revolution was the defining political event in Hölderlin's life. Even after it had become apparent that the original impulses behind it had gone off and general disappointment had set in, the first uplift of hope and expectation, the time, as Wordsworth saw it, 'when Europe was rejoiced,/France standing on the top of golden hours,/And human nature seeming born again', that resurgence was remembered and translated into Hölderlin's poetry as a new possibility, a glimpsed alternative1, an instance of promise.

But it was only a premonition, a first indication of what Hölderlin thought would come. In the teeth of historical events, he could still affirm his belief in a degree of change which would transform the world as it was commonly lived. Hölderlin, and others like him, believed that a time of fulfilment was about to begin. Through his poetry, he sought to bring this time on, to examine the present and imagine the future, with continual reference to the vouchsafing ...


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