Print this page

Observations placeholder

Holderlin, Johann - For Zimmer

Identifier

015367

Type of spiritual experience

Background

On 11 September Hölderlin was delivered into the clinic at Tübingen run by Dr Ferdinand Autenrieth, inventor of a mask for the prevention of screaming in the mentally ill.

The clinic was attached to the University and the poet Kerner, then studying medicine, was assigned to look after Hölderlin for a while. The following year he was discharged as incurable and given three years to live, but was taken in by the carpenter Ernst Zimmer (a cultured man, who had read Hyperion) and given a room in his house in Tübingen, which had been a tower in the old city wall, with a view across the Neckar river and meadows.

The tower would later be named the Hölderlinturm, after the poet's 36-year-long stay in the modestly furnished room. His residence in the building made up the second half of his life and is also referred to as the Turmzeit (or "Tower period").

Zimmer and his family cared for Hölderlin until his death in 1843, 36 years later. Wilhelm Waiblinger, a young poet and admirer, left a poignant account of Hölderlin's day-to-day life during these long, empty years. Hölderlin continued to write poetry of a simplicity and formality quite unlike that he had been writing up to 1805.

As time went on he became a kind of minor tourist attraction and was visited by curious travelers and autograph-hunters. Often he would play the piano or spontaneously write short verses for such visitors, confining himself to conventional subjects such as Greece, the Seasons, or The Spirit of the Times, pure in versification but almost empty of affect, although a few of these (such as the famous 'The Lines of Life', Die Linien des Lebens, which he wrote out for his carer Zimmer on a piece of wood have a piercing beauty and have been set to music by many composers.

A description of the experience

The lines of life are various,
Like roads, and the borders of mountains.
What we are here, a god can complete there,
With harmonies, undying reward, and peace.

The source of the experience

Holderlin, Johann

Concepts and Symbols used in the text or image

god
 

Activities

Observation contributed by: John Bryant