Are Hölderlin’s late poems a worn-out grade of hymns and tragedies from his younger years? Anyway, the poem Autumn surprises with poetic writing and wise optimism.
Remembrance is a noble possession, and autumn is the time of the year. Thirty years on, after leaving the General School hospital with a medical record of “irrecurable”, Hölderlin was living under the care of the carpenter Zimmer’s family in the Tübingen region, when the poem was published in AD. 1837.
In syntax, style, rhythm, and theme, with motifs and images like them, most later poems can hardly match the artificial quality of the hymns and poems. aspirational tragedies were written many years ago, but they are by no means monotonous, as is sometimes said, and are not at all a poetic gradation, many of the latter coming from a vivid poetic pen at the highest level.
With its four-line stanzas, in the five- and six-beat iambé, in the interchange of double and diagonal rhymes, in poetic form Autumn stands close to the seasonal poems of this period, and almost in word for word it points to central motifs not found only in later work. But unlike Eichendorff (1), Lenau (2) or Keller (3), autumn’s code is used not only to pessimistically invoke the past and of death, but to open up the magical direction of human history and survival. In another poem written at a later stage with the same title, the author speaks of Autumn day“ in a tender way“ and likewise firmly believes in the meaning of a bright picture“, „ brightly surrounded by golden light”. In his work „Hyperion“ (4), Hölderlin once called Autumn the ‘brother of spring’.
The poem consists of four stanzas, the first stanza tracing the interest in myths that haunt the poet throughout his life, to myths about the creation of the world and people. Human memory is preserved in ‘legends’, as in the poem written in 1880 ‘Yes it is / Good legends, memories are them, at the highest level’. Even when they pass away, forgotten, then like a spiritual story, they return. And if even when the Spirit itself disappears – which can be read in the author’s biography – there is still a stronger desire to recall. It is from „time, which is hurrying away.”
The historical past, resounding as in the second stanza, is life’s teacher „ What it creates by virtue, and what it accomplishes on a high / Will stand beaming with the past “, as Hölderlin says in the poem ‘Summer’ written in the same year as the poem ‘Autumn’. But the images of the past do not stand there by themselves, and they are not mere tools for the present, more than that, they are part of nature that does not depart from them. Other than that, the day dimmed in the mundane routine. Even though the seasons of the year pass, and at the end of summer and autumn, the earth returns to earth, the “god of rain and thunderstorms”, the rumbling rainstorm or the “divine rainstorm” “appears in the sky”.
The time of the individual man, mentioned in the third stanza, passes quickly, because the poet knows his own demise. But he accepted this fate, because it is not until he gazes at the past that the new year leads to a “joyful” ending. In these images – the linked field of words often used in the later work is mobilized twice – completion manifests, all moving towards one goal, one ultimate goal.
The cliffs in the final stanza – Hölderlin called them ‘arrogant’ and ‘tough’ cliffs in the past – are a symbol of stability, and unlike the porous cloud shapes, they do not disappear. The eternal planet, lit by the sun, and in the sphere of the open earth exposed „ with a golden day“, perfection gradually manifests. Then there is no reason to lament our own destiny and the fate of the world.