THE TOWER Friedrich Hölderlin

Friedrich Hölderlin

The Tower

An Essay

Poets do not live on the sunny side. They rewrite their lives, ingratiatingly, page by page, nervously biting the lips of the experiences which broke into nocturnal reality, by partial allusion, by gesture, by celestial truth, by its opposite, where the dream cavalry flies through the earth and finds a cohort of fates scattered across a world whose life is only an echo of lines, migrating birds living under the wing of a silent phrase written by the Creator.


The creative embodiment of your ideas was so grandiose that they did not have enough space on earth and went away to the sky before their allotted time; they forgot you in this sinful world, and the people of moments – Goethe was also among them – could not see or appreciate the peaks which you surmounted in the word, where the clothing of your immortal notes did not disintegrate and people, as people, could only see the bottom of unreal, illusory victories.


You were not alone in your innocent madness; the poorest of clouds struck up a friendship with you; like pigeons they flew to your doorstep and you fed them from your hand with dreams, and they believed and knew that Man does not live by bread alone.


Do not ask what the length of life on earth is; no one will give you an answer when we are not there, when you are absent from your own life, when there is only Greece and Diotima.

Solitude has the privilege of crowned pain, of power over the silence, deserted and majestic; here you can be yourself and know that in your heart lives an archipelago of love, like islands of memories, where there is so much space for your soul.


And finally, about monuments, pedestals, and never about the Tower. Yet the Tower of imprisonment was like vertical happiness, like exile to the unconscious, where you lived your last decades, serving captive angels, and summoned imagination as your assistant, and you could not breathe enough of the air of freedom, while your indomitable spirit hovered over eternal Hellas.