other kind of hero

Hölderlin’s heroism is splendid because it is free from pride and devoid of confidence in victory. All he is aware of is his mission, the summons from the invisible world; he believes in his calling, but has no assurance of success. He is forever vulnerable…It is the feeling that he is foredoomed to destruction, that a menacing shadow dogs his footsteps, which makes his persistence in his chosen course so courageous. The reader must not think that Hölderlin’s faith in poesy as the profoundest meaning of life implies a like belief in his own poetic gifts. As regards these latter he remained humble-minded…Yet for all this personal modesty, for all this sensitiveness, he had a will of steel to animate his devotion to poesy, to fortify him for self-immolation. “My dear friend,” he writes to one of his intimates, “when will people come to see that in our case the greatest force is the most modest in its manifestations, and that the divine message (when it issues from us) is always uttered with humility and sadness?” His heroism was not that of the warrior, not the heroism of triumphant force; it was the heroism of the martyr who is ready, nay, glad, to suffer for the unseen, to perish on behalf of an ideal.

—Stefan Zweig, “Hölderlin,” The Struggle with the Daemon: Hölderlin, Kleist, Nietzsche (Pushkin Press, 2012) translated by Eden and Cedar Paul.


Sandra said...

beautiful and true !

vazambam (Vassilis Zambaras) said...

He who also said:

"Meanwhile it sometimes seems better to me
to sleep than to be so completely without companions
as we are,
to be always waiting like this; and what's to be done or said
in the meanwhile
I don't know, and what is the use of poets
in a mean-spirited time?"

--"Bread and Wine"

JforJames said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JforJames said...

Zweig, whose prose I love, has made me hate Holderlin, the man-child who won't grow up.