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James H. Donelan describes how two poets, a philosopher, and a
composer – H¨ olderlin, Wordsworth, Hegel, and Beethoven – devel-
oped an idea of self-consciousness based on music at the turn of the
nineteenth century. This idea became an enduring cultural belief: the
understanding of music as an ideal representation of the autonomous
creative mind. Against a backgroundof political andcultural upheaval,
these four major figures – all born in 1770 – developed this idea in
both metaphorical and actual musical structures, thereby establishing
both the theory and the practice of asserting self-identity in music.
Beethoven still carries the image of the heroic composer today; this
book describes howthis image originated in both his music and in how
others responded to him. Bringing together the fields of philosophy,
musicology, and literary criticism, Donelan shows how this develop-
ment emerged from the complex changes in European cultural life
taking place between 1795 and 1831.
james h. donelan teaches in the Writing Program and the Depart-
ments of Comparative Literature and English at the University of
California, Santa Barbara. His areas of interest are music, aesthetics,
poetry, and the teaching of humanities writing, and his articles have
appeared in Philosophy and Literature and Critical Texts. He is the lead
classical music critic for the Santa Barbara Independent. This is his
first book.
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For my wife and children
9780521887618pre CUUS116/Donelan 978 0 521 88761 8 March 11, 2008 18:49
University of California, Santa Barbara
Cambridge, New York, Melbourne, Madrid, Cape Town, Singapore, São Paulo
Cambridge University Press
The Edinburgh Building, Cambridge CB2 8RU, UK
First published in print format
ISBN-13 978-0-521-88761-8
ISBN-13 978-0-511-38849-1
© James H. Donelan 2008
Information on this title:
This publication is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception and to the provision of
relevant collective licensing agreements, no reproduction of any part may take place
without the written permission of Cambridge University Press.
Cambridge University Press has no responsibility for the persistence or accuracy of urls
for external or third-party internet websites referred to in this publication, and does not
guarantee that any content on such websites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate.
Published in the United States of America by Cambridge University Press, New York
eBook (NetLibrary)
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List of Musical Examples page vii
Acknowledgments ix
Preface: The Sound and the Spirit xi
1 Self-Consciousness and Music in the Late Enlightenment 1
Kant, Self-Consciousness, and Aesthetics 5
Fichte, Schiller, Schelling, and the Systemprogramm Fragment: The
Origins of Romantic Self-Consciousness 14
Mozart and the Transformation of Enlightenment Musical Aesthetics 24
The Beginning of Romantic Musical Self-Consciousness 30
2 H¨ olderlin’s Deutscher Gesang and the Music
of Poetic Self-Consciousness 33
“Urtheil und Seyn”: Existence in Poetry 35
“Wechsel der T¨ one”: The Music of Poetic Language 40
Divine Self-Positing: “Dichterberuf ” and the First Letter to B¨ ohlendorff 43
“Brod und Wein,” “Patmos,” and “Wie wenn am Feiertage”: The Divine
Origin of Deutscher Gesang 49
3 Hegel’s Aesthetic Theory: Self-Consciousness
and Musical Material 68
Hegel’s Aesthetic Lectures: Origin and Context 70
Hegelian Self-Consciousness and Art 71
Music and the Hegelian Forms of Art 76
Music and Subjectivity 84
The Problem of Absolute Music 87
Poetry and Music 90
4 Nature, Music, and the Imagination in Wordsworth’s Poetry 97
Song and Articulate Meaning: “The Solitary Reaper” 107
Natural Music in The Prelude 112
Text, Voice, and Imagination: “The Dream of the Arab” 115
Natural Sound and Childhood Death: “The Boy of Winander” 122
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vi Contents
Textual Silence: “The Blind Beggar” 126
Conclusion: “On the Power of Sound” and The Prelude 130
5 Beethoven and Musical Self-Consciousness 136
Beethoven’s Intellectual Life 140
The Heroic Style (1803–12) 143
The Late Style (1813–27) 148
Opus 130/133, String Quartet No. 13 in B: First Movement 154
String Quartet No. 13: Middle Movements 165
String Quartet No. 13: Große Fuge and Finale 169
Reception of the Late Quartets 172
Conclusion: The Meaning of a Quartet 174
6 The Persistence of Sound 176
Notes 179
Bibliography 205
Index 213
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List of Musical Examples
1. Beethoven, String Quartet No. 13 in B major, Opus 130, First
Movement, Measures 1–4
2. Beethoven, String Quartet No. 13 in B major, Opus 130, First
Movement, Measures 13–19
3. Beethoven, String Quartet No. 13 in B major, Opus 130, First
Movement, Measures 51–55
4. Beethoven, String Quartet No. 13 in B major, Opus 130, First
Movement, Measures 55–60
5. Beethoven, String Quartet No. 13 in B major, Opus 130, First
Movement, Measures 94–105
6. Beethoven, String Quartet No. 13 in B major, Opus 130, First
Movement, Measures 106–111
7. Beethoven, String Quartet No. 13 in B major, Opus 130, Second
Movement, Measures 49–65
8. Beethoven, String Quartet No. 13 in B major, Opus 130, Sixth
Movement, Measures 1–6
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This book is the result of the advice, assistance, and goodwill of many peo-
ple over the course of twenty-three years. It began as an independent study
project I undertook as an undergraduate at Yale University with Geoffrey
Hartman; it became my doctoral dissertation at the same institution, under
the wise and patient guidance of Cyrus Hamlin, the single person who has
had the longest and most important influence on the project. John Hol-
lander gave me a great deal of good advice, as did Leon Plantinga, Harold
Bloom, Andrzej Warminski, J. Hillis Miller, Heinrich von Staden and many
other members of the Departments of Comparative Literature, English,
German, and Music at Yale University, where I studied and worked for fif-
teen years. Manfred Frank at the University of T¨ ubingen was also extremely
helpful and patient while I was there on a fellowship from the Deutsche
Akademishe Austausch Dienst, an extraordinarily benevolent organization
to which I am extremely grateful. Haun Saussy has been a good friend and
patient listener since we began graduate school together.
During my brief stay at the University of California at Berkeley, Lydia
Goehr and Joseph Kerman gave me the crucial encouragement and advice
that helped me turn the dissertation into a book. Here at UCSanta Barbara,
I have had the assistance of many generous and kind colleagues, including
Lee Rothfarb (who taught me music theory when I was a freshman in
college), WilliamWarner, AlanLiu, BobErickson, SimonWilliams, andthe
members of the Center for the Interdisciplinary Study of Music. Luke Ma
provided essential technical assistance in the preparation of the manuscript.
Cody Franchetti’s efforts on behalf of this project rank as one of the
most extraordinary demonstrations of generosity, intelligence, and idealism
I have ever encountered, andI amgrateful for his helpandfriendshipinways
I cannot adequately express. He found a copy of my dissertation on a street
inNewYork City and spent weeks finding me, a total stranger, inCalifornia,
to tell me howimportant he thought it was and that it deserved publication.
Over the next fewyears, he workedonthe manuscript constantly, suggesting
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x Acknowledgments
sources, editing it for clarity and correctness, and lending his considerable
musical and linguistic expertise to the project. Many of its finest moments
are the direct result of his suggestions, and I cannot imagine how I would
have finished it without his help.
Linda Petersonat Yale andMuriel Zimmermanat UCSanta Barbara have
givenme advice and employment whenI needed both most. StevenScher of
Dartmouth College invited me to an National Endowment of Humanities
Summer Seminar on music and literature that enlightened and energized
me. My friends and colleagues in the UC Santa Barbara Writing Program,
especially Judy Kirscht, Patrick McHugh, Craig Cotich, John Ramsey, Nick
Tingle, Chris Dean, and Karen Lunsford, have all been supportive and
encouraging. Victoria Cooper, my editor at Cambridge University Press,
has been helpful and encouraging throughout the publication process.
My brother Charles and I have always considered our scholarly efforts a
kind of joint project, and I see no reasonstop believing that now. My parents
helped me with everything from the beginning. My wife, Martha, and my
children, Jed and Emily, are the source of my energy and inspiration, and
this book is dedicated to them.
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Preface: The Sound and the Spirit
I hear the motions of the spirit and the sound
Of what is secret becomes, for me, a voice
That is my own voice speaking in my ear.
– Wallace Stevens,
“Chocorua to its Neighbor”
These lines, although written by a twentieth-century American, neverthe-
less provide an eloquent summary of what I intend to examine in European
poetry, philosophy, and music between 1798 and 1830. Although many crit-
ics have studied vision and the visionary in Romantic poetry, relatively few
have confronted the related issues of sound, voice, and music, and even
fewer have looked into corresponding moments in musical aesthetics and
composition. I attempt to answer several questions about these concepts
and practices in all three fields and relate these answers to each other. How
does musical sound become the articulate voice of the self? How does nat-
ural sound become music? How can music represent self-consciousness? I
argue that H¨ olderlin and Wordsworth, despite their obvious differences,
follow a similar path of self-constitution through a musical conception of
poetic sound. Furthermore, I maintain that Hegel and Beethoven, although
working in radically different fields, nevertheless establish music and self-
consciousness as mutually positing, reciprocal dialectical structures. In
other words, at the core of early Romanticismlies a structure – the dialectic
of Idealist self-consciousness – and a metaphor – the self-sustaining aes-
thetic of absolute music – that mirror and support each other, often in ways
difficult to discover.
Proving this contention necessarily involves integrating arguments from
all three disciplines; I therefore engage the scholarship of the fields of liter-
ary criticism, philosophy, and musicology and, when necessary, create ways
to bridge their differences. In doing so, I hope not only to prove something
that could not be proved by any other means but to follow the example
of other researchers in all three fields who have recently created useful,
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xii Preface: The Sound and the Spirit
profound scholarship that is nevertheless available to a wide audience.
Among these authors, I include many whose works have been the basis
for my own methodology. Lawrence Kramer, for instance, has revealed
new possibilities for critical discourse in his recent work on the relation-
ship between music and poetry, as well as on the possibilities of meaning in
music. Inmusicology, Scott Burnham’s works onA. B. Marx andBeethoven,
as well as Charles Rosen’s landmark studies of musical style and form, have
provided a sound basis for a humanistic yet sophisticated understanding
of the Vienna School. In philosophy, Andrew Bowie’s examinations of aes-
thetics, subjectivity, and the problem of music in Idealist philosophy have
also enabled long-standing traditions in philosophical scholarship, literary
criticism, and musicology to speak to each other.
My purpose is to bring these strands of new interdisciplinary studies
together into a single work of philosophical criticism. In calling this work
“criticism,” I mean that my primary goal is to interpret individual works
through historical, social, or biographical materials rather than to under-
stand or create something outside them. However, that is not to say that this
work is not also intellectual history; the nature of these figures and their
works makes historical arguments inevitable. H¨ olderlin and Hegel, for
instance, knew each other well. They attended the T¨ ubinger Stift together,
sharing a roomwithSchelling; they readthe same books andevenworkedon
a strange manuscript together, which I examine in the introductory chapter.
Idealist philosophy, in various ways and forms, also came to Wordsworth’s
attention, mainly via Coleridge; Beethoven praised both Kant and Schiller,
the great predecessors of Hegel and H¨ olderlin. All four lived in Europe
during the French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars and could not help
but be affected by these events and the enormous social upheaval they
Nevertheless, another, less identifiable aspect of their lives and careers
demands that I take a somewhat less historical approach. All four achieved,
both within their lifetimes and in the two centuries afterward, a degree of
autonomy that precludes any interpretation dependent on simple ideas of
influence or causality. As precise contemporaries (all were born in 1770),
none was the mentor or patron of another, and contact between any of them
after Hegel’s mysterious break with H¨ olderlin was minimal to nonexistent.
Moreover, each embraced a principle of independent creativity and pro-
duced works of undeniable individuality. Whatever skepticism we may
show in the present toward the idea of the creative genius, as well as toward
the idea of subjectivity itself, the Romantic ideal of the autonomous self
has an undeniable durability within these modes of discourse and in our
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Preface: The Sound and the Spirit xiii
understanding of philosophy, poetry, and music. I examine how the con-
cept of self-consciousness became associated with music and musical cre-
ativity and describe the relationship between the highly abstract discourse
of philosophy and the concrete works of poetry and music of the early
Romantic period. My objective, therefore, is to understand their works
in their cultural context while acknowledging the continuous tradition of
interpretation each of these figures has generated in the intervening two
centuries. In doing so, I hope to reconcile the philological and philosophical
sides of current academic criticism, which have been engaged in a complex
set of ideological disputes.
The construction of the subjective self remains a live issue, despite many
efforts to declare it dead. In the last few decades, examining Romantic sub-
jectivity has not only involved acknowledging or denying that the idea still
has currency but also determining whether it constitutes part of a destruc-
tive ideology. I hope that the present study establishes (among other things)
that subjectivity, then and now, is more than a mere mask, and a great deal
more benign than its detractors suggest. I admit that I believe that Idealist
philosophy maintains an illuminating role in current intellectual life, but I
must also acknowledge the insights of deconstructionist interpretations of
Romantic era writings, especially those of Paul de Man, Jacques Derrida,
and Andrzej Warminski, whose conclusions of unreliability, unreadability,
and instability remain firmly within the rigorous tradition of Idealist phi-
losophy and philosophical criticism even as they call its assumptions into
question. Other critiques of the ideological basis for Romanticism – in
literature by Jerome McGann and Terry Eagleton; in musicology by Rose
Rosengard Subotnik and Lydia Goehr; and in philosophy by Judith Butler,
among others – have also established an understanding of these works and
ideas that represents, in my view, more a continuation of the history of
Idealism than a break from it.
Self-consciousness, as I demonstrate in the introductory chapter,
emerged as the central principle of Idealist epistemology in a demonstrable
progression from Kant’s distinction between a priori and empirical knowl-
edge, to Fichte’s assertion of the self-positing subject, and from there to
H¨ olderlin’s and Hegel’s (and possibly Schelling’s) reworking of the idea
in their early joint project in aesthetics, the Systemprogramm fragment.
This progression depends on history, as represented by the personal, polit-
ical, and chronological relationships among particular people at particu-
lar moments, yet it also depends on the internal history of philosophy
itself – the contention between competing ideas within philosophical dis-
course that continues in our era.
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xiv Preface: The Sound and the Spirit
At this moment in cultural history, as I also argue in the first chapter,
“Self-Consciousness andMusic inthe Late Enlightenment,” a newontology
of music began to emerge, partly because of Enlightenment developments
in musical aesthetics, but primarily due to the achievements of Mozart.
The autonomy of the artist, as a self-motivating creative force, is closely
allied to the autonomy of the self; little of this Romantic notion would
exist without Mozart’s struggle to overcome the noble patronage system
of his time. Moreover, Mozart’s music reflects not only his extraordinary
talent but also a new paradigm for music and its effects on listeners and
musicians alike. Before Mozart, Western art music had two fundamental
purposes: to proclaim the glory of God in His churches and to provide
musical decoration for the powerful in their courts and homes. As Mozart’s
influence grew, his compositions began to assume a larger role in intellectual
life. By the time of the French Revolution, music had increasingly become
a reflection of the composer’s self-conscious mind, rather than a celebration
of God or patron.
The confluence between musical aesthetics and the philosophical con-
cept of self-consciousness manifests itself as a distinctly Romantic phe-
nomenoninH¨ olderlin’s poetry and prose, the subject of the second chapter,
“H¨ olderlin’s Deutscher Gesang and the Music of Poetic Self-Consciousness.”
H¨ olderlin remains an enigmatic figure for both philosophy and poetry,
having published little during his lifetime, mainly because he spent his last
forty years almost completely incapacitated by madness. His contributions
to philosophy have only recently come to light in scholarship by Warmin-
ski and Henrich, and his fragmentary essays on poetry, especially “Wechsel
der T¨ one,” remain little understood. I will argue that this essay, the title
of which can be translated as “Changing of Tones,” or “Modulation,” pro-
poses a theory of poetry based on musical form, and that aspects of this
theory led to specific metrical and thematic decisions in the composition
of many of his poems, including “Dichterberuf,” “Patmos,” “Wie wenn
am Feiertage . . .” and “Brod und Wein.” For H¨ olderlin, music becomes a
crucial site for mediation between the theory and practice of poetry, as well
as between Greece and Hesperia, and between the divine and the human.
These binary oppositions consistently return to issues of temporality and
memory, revealing a close connection between H¨ olderlin’s theory of poetic
consciousness and musical form.
Similarly, the temporal and teleological aspects of music play a surpris-
ingly important role in Hegel’s philosophy. In the third chapter, “Hegel’s
Aesthetic Theory: Self-Consciousness and Musical Material,” I examine
how the relatively unexplored chapter on music in the Lectures on Aesthetics
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Preface: The Sound and the Spirit xv
contains a subtle yet crucial link between self-consciousness and sensory
apprehension through the material of sound. In addition, the cultural and
historical context of the music chapter indicates that Hegel was respond-
ing to contemporaneous statements on the importance of music by E. T. A.
Hoffmann, among others. Far frombeing the isolated comments of an ama-
teur (as Hegel uncharacteristically calls himself), the music chapter con-
tains the traces of a continuing and influential discussion of the relevance
of music to philosophy.
This discussion, in one formor another, even reached Wordsworth, who
far preferred the sounds of nature to those of concert hall. Nevertheless, his
views of music have suffered surprising neglect, despite their importance at
significant moments in both his prose and his poetry. In the fourth chapter,
“Nature, Music, and the Imagination in Wordsworth’s Poetry,” I investigate
his use of metaphors of music in The Prelude, “On the Power of Sound,” and
other poems, as a reflection of his attitude toward poetic form and metrical
structure and the relationship between natural and communicative sound.
Like Hegel, Wordsworth employed music as a structural metaphor for the
dialectical workings of the mind and the differentiation between poetic and
natural sound. Unlike Hegel, he continued to hear music in natural sound,
complementing the visionary with the musical in his construction of the
Finally, this account of the relationship between self-consciousness and
music requires an investigation of the extent of its manifestation in actual
musical composition. In the fifth chapter, “Beethoven and Musical Self-
Consciousness,” I examine the basis for the attitudes toward music demon-
strated in the previous chapters and determine the relationship between
actual musical practice and philosophers’ and poets’ ideas of it. Among the
most important issues is the question of meaning in absolute music. Does
a work of instrumental music, such as a symphony or a string quartet, have
a demonstrable, extra-musical meaning? I argue that it does and that the
late works of Beethoven, especially String Quartet No. 13 in B major, op.
130/133, contain clear, audible, and provable indications of self-conscious
reflection in musical form.
The consequences of these interpretations become the subject of the
afterword, “The Persistence of Sound.” The concept of self-consciousness,
the category of the aesthetic, and actual manifestations of aesthetically
ordered sound in Romantic poetry and music, I argue, are parts of a
continuous matrix of understanding that emerged at the turn of the
nineteenth century and persist at the turn of the twenty-first. Above all, self-
consciousness and music developed at this moment in the history of ideas
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xvi Preface: The Sound and the Spirit
and artistic practice as mirror images of the dialectical process of becom-
ing an autonomous being. Moreover, they depend on each other, and we,
even in this skeptical era, depend on them for a remarkable number of
fundamental principles. Although we may repeatedly call into question
the conditions and circumstances that brought these ideas into being, few
composers, poets, or artists of any kind create without an idea that they are
somehow, to some degree, constructing something of themselves into their
work. Similarly, even the most socially conscious participants in civic life
acknowledge that on some level, the “we” of any movement begins with the
recognition of an “I.” That self can only come to consciousness through
an articulate voice, and the “sound of what is secret,” as Wallace Stevens
says, is the sound of each individual voice, saying “I am I” to each of us. It
is a sound that keeps speaking, and when it speaks, we hear the music of
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chapter 1
Self-Consciousness and Music in the
Late Enlightenment
How can I say I! without self-consciousness?
– Friedrich H¨ olderlin, “Judgment and Being”
No other philosophical concept so clearly defines the end of the Enlighten-
ment and the beginning of Romanticism as self-consciousness, the process
by which the self becomes aware of its status as a thinking, knowing entity,
and the precondition, according to the Idealists and Romantics, for all
knowledge. In a limited sense, the concept goes much farther back into
the history of philosophy, to Plato or even Parmenides, and one could even
make a case for the presence of poetic or musical self-consciousness in the
Homeric epics. However, by the seventeenth century, Descartes appeared to
have made the definitive statement about self-consciousness with the cogito,
the well-known“I thinktherefore I am” argument of the Meditations onFirst
Philosophy. Enlightenment philosophical investigations after Descartes gen-
erally turned outward, toward the systematic acquisition and organization
of all possible knowledge about the world, following Newton’s and Leib-
niz’s mathematical models of understanding, the alphabetical tendencies of
Voltaire, Diderot, and the Philosophes, or the British empiricists’ distrust
of metaphysics. Immanuel Kant, at the time an obscure professor at the
University of K¨ onigsberg, returned to the problem with the Critique of Pure
Reason in 1781 by focusing his considerable analytic power on knowledge
itself and separating it into two central categories: a priori knowledge, that
which is known prior to experience, and a posteriori knowledge, that which
is known as a result of experience. From this extremely dense and arcane
examination of a priori knowledge, Kant deduced that consciousness, as a
necessary precondition for any cognition, began with the self-awareness of
the subject: the “I” that thinks.
In the same year – 1781 – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, no longer con-
tent with his position as the court composer to the prince-archbishop of
Salzburg, asked to be released fromthe archbishop’s service while in Vienna.
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2 Self-Consciousness and Music in the Late Enlightenment
Mozart, at twenty-five no longer a child prodigy, soon acquired students,
gave concerts, and wrote an opera and a symphony for both public perfor-
mance and publication. For the next five years, Mozart would continue to
write at an extraordinary rate, making a good living (contrary to legend) as
a public performer of instrumental music, with revenues from sheet music
publication as well as from commissions and performances.
Kant’s publication of the first critique and Mozart’s release from the
prince-archbishop’s service have no direct connection to each other, yet they
represent the beginning of a newera. Soon, philosophers would followKant
toward the creation of a renewed, more complex, and stronger version of
the individual consciousness as a motivating force, generating a belief in the
power of the self-conscious, independent mind that persists even in these
modern and postmodern times. Following Kant, the Idealist philosophers,
especially Fichte, Schiller, Schelling, and Hegel, claimed self-consciousness
as the center of their philosophical systems and the basis for all other
knowledge; in different ways and to varying degrees, they also claimed that
the self-conscious subject gives order to the world. Meanwhile, Beethoven,
acutely aware of Mozart’s accomplishments, created a powerful persona of
himself as composer-hero, leading to a form of self-consciousness in music.
H¨ olderlin and Wordsworth also turned inward to their poetry, describing
in deeply philosophical terms the poet’s vocation and position in history
and developing a new self-consciousness in poetry.
What connects these events, and can criticism articulate a meaningful
and useful description of this connection? Marshall Brown’s answer to this
question takes the same starting point, the role of consciousness in Kant
and Mozart. According to Brown,
at every period in history a subterranean network of constraints governs the orga-
nization of human thought. Different fields develop and change in parallel not
because they affect one another but because the infrastructures of mental activity
affect all of them. In this respect, the relationship of music and philosophy is no
different from the relationship of literature and philosophy. The infrastructure is
the precondition of thought and is by definition unconscious and unarticulated.
Because it lies outside the limits of the individual disciplines, it cannot really be
formulated within any of them. Hence arises the necessity of comparative study.
Brown’s recognition of the necessity of studies like this one is gratifying,
as is his desire to examine the “intellectual infrastructures” of the eigh-
teenth century without using political, economic, or social history as an
ultimate cause. However, the mutual illumination he seeks between music
and philosophy, and between music and literature, does not necessarily
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Self-Consciousness and Music in the Late Enlightenment 3
require a concept of infrastructure, conceptual or otherwise. Rather, the
relationships among music, philosophy, and literature, some direct, some
mediated, take place in historical time as part of an entire matrix of com-
municative structures that is far from subterranean. These structures do
not precondition the creation of philosophy, poetry, or music; they are
the result of reciprocating relationships among these individual modes of
I intend, therefore, to explore the relationshipbetweenself-consciousness
and music in poetry, music, and philosophy as a series of exchanges in form,
structure, material, and metaphor in the works of four central figures:
H¨ olderlin, Hegel, Wordsworth, and Beethoven. These exchanges all took
place in the early Romantic period, which I define (somewhat arbitrarily)
as the years immediately following the publication of Kant’s critiques to the
end of the first flourishing of Romanticism, that is, from about 1795, when
Schelling, H¨ olderlin, and Hegel worked together on philosophical projects,
to 1831, when Hegel died in Berlin. This time also spans virtually the
entire productive lives of H¨ olderlin, Wordsworth, and Beethoven, as well
as nearly all the major English Romantic poets, Schubert, Schopenhauer,
and a number of other luminaries. I choose these four as the subject of close
examination because they had a lasting and widespread effect on culture
and because their works so clearly demonstrate the various manifestations
of self-consciousness.
I use the word “manifestation” cautiously, because the concept of self-
consciousness already contains a complex relationship between abstract
idea and concrete actualization. Self-consciousness, as a philosophical con-
cept, begins with the recognition of the boundary between the self and
the nonself, and recognition of the subject as an active force in the world,
thereby already inscribing the issue of interiority and exteriority in its own
definition. During that progression, the self must confront the limits of its
domain, the point at which pure self-consciousness ends and consciousness
of an other – or an external world – begins. That external element must
have material substance, be real, not imagined, so that the self can recognize
it as something other than mere thought. This moment, in which the self
recognizes its own existence through juxtaposition with the material non-
self, constitutes an aesthetic moment, a crucial and highly debated concept
in Idealist epistemology. I argue that for the Romantics, the category of the
aesthetic emerges after pure sensation but before cognition and defines the
conceptual space necessary for Romantic theories of absolute music (music
without any descriptive program); consequently, absolute music became
the paradigmatic art of the aesthetic itself.
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4 Self-Consciousness and Music in the Late Enlightenment
Before I begin exploring the connections between self-consciousness,
aesthetics, and music, I must acknowledge some of the difficulties and
limitations of comparative study. Besides the obvious problem of the over-
lapping and often misleading terminology in different fields of humanistic
study (the word “absolute,” for instance, has distinct yet related meanings
in musicology and philosophy), the various methodologies for each field
depend on long-standing traditions of interpretation that do not transfer
easily, if at all, from one field to another. As Scott Burnham has amply
demonstrated in his work on Beethoven,
we do not hear a Beethoven
symphony without also hearing, directly or indirectly, a two-hundred-year
tradition of interpretation of that symphony. Likewise, the aggregate image
of what commentators from Marx to Koj` eve to Lukacs to Adorno have said
about Hegel inevitably looms over any encounter with his texts, as do the
corresponding images of H¨ olderlin and Wordsworth created by their inter-
preters. These traditions form an inevitable part of our understanding, yet
they have a tendency to limit our discourse to clearly defined areas. Any
comparative study, therefore, must demonstrate a heightened awareness of
both these disciplinary boundaries and interpretive traditions and develop,
to some extent, a common critical language.
Fortunately, this language already exists in the complex critical texts by
some important participants in Romantic intellectual life, including the
prose works of H¨ olderlin, the music criticism of E. T. A. Hoffmann and
A. B. Marx, and the aesthetic writings of Hegel. My objective is to add to
our understanding of these works the critical terms and ideas held by their
creators and their contemporaries and to describe how these ideas con-
tinue to affect our understanding of early Romanticism. Moreover, almost
everyone discussed these matters openly and frequently, rarely denying
themselves the pleasure of a debate on any of these matters on the grounds
of too little expertise. An accurate picture of the circumstances in which
a particular work of music, poetry, or philosophy originated must there-
fore take into account the prevalence of these interdisciplinary discussions
in late-eighteenth- and early-nineteenth-century life. Certainly, as Harold
Bloom, among many others, has said, poetry begets poetry, music begets
music, and philosophy begets philosophy; the fifth chapter of this study
in particular investigates how Beethoven’s awareness of his position within
Viennese classicism influenced the formal structure of his late works.
Artistic creations that philosophers read, see, and hear often contain the
conceptual structures that they make explicit in their essays and lectures.
Hegel’s philosophy, as I intend to show, depends in crucial moments on a
central metaphor of music, as does H¨ olderlin’s poetry. Understanding how
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Kant, Self-Consciousness, and Aesthetics 5
this metaphor works will involve finding out what music really was, and
what people thought it was, at the time this metaphor came into currency.
The relationship between Idealist philosophy and Romantic art therefore
does not devolve into a series of cause-and-effect sequences of influence;
rather, it forms a dialectical matrix of reciprocation between abstract ideas
and concrete works.
Although the relationship I describe between self-consciousness and
music appears most prominently during the early Romantic era, a brief
examination of the currents in philosophy and music of the late Enlight-
enment helps explain the sudden introspective turn evident in virtually
every field of cultural activity in the early Romantic period. In particular,
Kant’s development of a consistent philosophical system connecting self-
consciousness to aesthetics began the Idealist school at almost the same
moment that Mozart’s extraordinary genius and curiously ambivalent atti-
tude toward Enlightenment principles led to sweeping changes in musical
culture. These separate developments in philosophy and music converged
on a common set of problems concerning the relationship between the self
and music that would later become extraordinarily important in Romantic
aesthetics. I begin with Kant, whose epistemological developments con-
tinue to reverberate through both philosophy and criticism; I then describe
how his immediate followers, Fichte, Schiller, and Schelling, continued on
the path toward Idealism. Finally, I discuss, extremely briefly, the profound
changes Mozart brought to Enlightenment music aesthetics and their rela-
tion of Idealism.
kant, self-consciousness, and aesthetics
As Andrew Brook has astutely pointed out, Kant did not articulate a spe-
cific position with regard to the two concepts that later achieved central
importance in Idealist philosophy, Bewußtsein and Selbstbewußtsein, “con-
sciousness” and “self-consciousness” and may have even regarded them as
If he did, he was clearly mistaken – no other Kantian con-
cept, not even the categorical imperative, has created as much continuing
discussion, with many disputes and few resolutions. However, Kant more
probably considered the problem of self-consciousness secondary to his
greatest concern: the transcendental deduction, Kant’s proof of the means
by which the mind categorizes knowledge. Kant found this so difficult to
describe that he entirely rewrote his explanation of it for the second edi-
tion of the Critique of Pure Reason. Although Kant claims in the preface to
the second edition that the revised version merely clarifies the principles
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6 Self-Consciousness and Music in the Late Enlightenment
outlined in the first edition, both versions are routinely reprinted and
Briefly, Kant’s epistemological position is as follows. A priori knowledge
enables the subject to acquire the necessary conceptual structure to gain its
counterpart: a posteriori knowledge. No amount of internal thought can
determine the weather outside as much as a glance out the window can, nor
can even the deepest thought probe the activities and qualities of things the
mind itself did not invent without experience of them, yet understanding
what one sees requires a preexisting ability to categorize those perceptions.
A posteriori knowledge therefore results from the interaction of the mind
and sensory information, allowing the subject to understand, manipulate,
categorize, and describe the world. From this distinction between a priori
and a posteriori knowledge, one can deduce the existence of natural facul-
ties, a set of innate abilities to categorize perceptions into classes, such as
quantity, shape, and size. The proof of the existence of these a priori cate-
gories is a deduction, because it follows from a series of logical propositions,
as opposed to an induction, which would be inferred from a set of concrete
data. Likewise, this deduction is transcendental because of the common-
ality of human experience; the fact that all people make these categorical
distinctions the same way demonstrates that the categories are universal.
Kant’s version of the subject (the “I that thinks”), which possesses these
faculties and combines perceptions into cognitions, receives several over-
lapping names, including “the synthetic unity of apperception.” A concise
explanation of the term appears in the second edition of the first critique,
in §17 of the Transcendental Logic:
The supreme principle for the possibility of all intuition in reference to understand-
ing is that everything manifold in intuition is subject to conditions of the original
synthetic unity of apperception. . . . They are subject to [this] principle insofar as
they must be capable of being combined in one consciousness. For without that
combination, nothing can be thought or cognized through such presentations,
because the given presentations do then not have in common the act of appercep-
tion, I think, and thus would not be collated in one self-consciousness.
Kant makes several subtle distinctions in this paragraph, mainly in response
to Hume’s devastating claim that the subject is merely a convenient fiction:
the name given to a bundle of nerves. First, Kant distinguishes mere empir-
ical apperception, the singular experience of an individual on realizing
that he or she exists and is conscious of something, from transcendental
apperception, the knowledge that this apperception exists over time and
for everyone. Kant then determines the existence of the transcendental
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Kant, Self-Consciousness, and Aesthetics 7
aesthetic, the knowledge that perceptions occur and are organized accord-
ing to a priori categories. Both apperception (intuitive awareness of the
self ) and perception (what one receives as a result of the cognitive faculties)
combine in the intuition of a singular self-consciousness, which collates
(in German zusammenfassen, which also means “collect”) apperception and
perception into a full, conscious knowledge of the self and its relation to the
external world. This ability to combine makes self-consciousness a synthetic
unity, that is, an understanding made from the synthesis of perception and
As Brook explains, Kant’s transcendental deduction divides the pro-
cess of making the transcendental deduction into three distinct elements:
encountering the object of one’s perception, recognizing the experience
of perceiving, and becoming aware of the self as an entity independent
from the experience of a particular perception. Brook refers to the aware-
ness of the last element as “apperceptive self-awareness,” to distinguish it
from empirical self-awareness, the awareness of the self derived from the
mere consciousness of a singular experience. In other words, appercep-
tive self-awareness represents the continuous self-knowledge of the subject
over time, whereas empirical self-awareness merely allows the subject to
intuit its existence at a particular moment through a particular experience.
Kant’s description of the synthetic unity of apperception therefore does not
mean that self-consciousness merely arranges the presentations given to it
by several faculties (as Hume claims); it cognizes those presentations into
knowledge about them, and from this acquisition of knowledge over time,
it deduces a continuous self.
This description of self-consciousness has greater efficacy than Des-
cartes’s and Hume’s previous versions. It clarifies the relation between
objects of perception and the conscious subject by means of a mediat-
ing term, Vorstellungen, or “presentations,” thereby separating the physical
problems of sensation (how sensory information is acquired, the material
characteristics of objects, etc.) from the metaphysical problems of percep-
tion, cognition, and the self. Knowledge about an object in this system
therefore contains three elements: the sensory encounter with an object,
the formation of a presentation of that object by means of the faculties,
and the recognition of that presentation by the conscious self. The object,
or “thing-in-itself,” becomes, in a strict sense, unknowable; we can only
know about things through presentations, which are necessarily different
from the things themselves.
What are the consequences of this idea for the understanding of art? In
the first critique, Kant has relatively little to say about it, being primarily
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8 Self-Consciousness and Music in the Late Enlightenment
concerned with perceptions in general and the field of epistemology as
a whole. Nevertheless, a possible starting point for Kant’s third critique
emerges in a footnote to the second edition of the Critique of Pure Reason.
Here, Kant finds fault with the use of the word “aesthetics” to mean the
philosophical investigation of the principles of art:
The Germans are the only people who have come to use the word aesthetic[s] to
designate what others call the critique of taste. They are doing so on the basis of
a false hope conceived by that superb analyst, Baumgarten: he hoped to bring our
critical judging of the beautiful under rational principles, and to raise the rules for
such judging to the level of a science. Yet that endeavor is futile. For, as regards
their principle sources, those rules or criteria are merely empirical. Hence, they
can never serve as determinate a priori laws. . . . Because of this it is advisable to
follow either of two alternatives. One of these is to let this new name aesthetic[s]
become extinct again, and to reserve the name aesthetic for the doctrine that is
true science. . . . The other alternative would be for the new aesthetic[s] to share
the name with speculative philosophy; we would then take the name partly in its
transcendental sense, and partly in the psychological meaning.
Kant refers to Alexander Baumgarten’s Aesthetica, and objects to his empir-
ical approach for determining the principles of art because its method of
categorization is arbitrary. Kant claims that by proceeding from empirical,
rather than a priori, principles, Baumgarten has used a limited data set and
drawn conclusions inductively, resulting in an inherently weak system. He
also perceives a terminological problem in Baumgarten’s work. By using the
Asthetik to signify the principles governing art, Baumgarten narrows
the meaning of the word considerably; for Kant, it should mean some-
thing more like “sensibility.” Here, Kant wants to restore that meaning to
the extent that he can use the term to describe raw, precognitive sensory
However, these overlapping meanings of the word “aesthetic” reveal the
dilemma that Kant attempts to resolve in the third critique. Observations
of aesthetic objects, like observations of any other object, result in presen-
tations, making aesthetics (in the artistic rather than the general sense) into
the relation between the observing subject and the presentations of aesthetic
objects rather than the relation between the subject and the objects them-
selves. However, aesthetic objects defy, on certain levels, the processes of
identification and categorization Kant had assumed to be true of objects in
general in the first critique: aesthetic objects resist assimilation to a deter-
mined set of relations because the experience of the aesthetic, by definition,
begins and ends with the initial sensation caused by these objects. In other
words, as aesthetic objects rather than objects of use, the normal set of
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Kant, Self-Consciousness, and Aesthetics 9
relations is somehow suspended or diverted, remaining in the area of pure
sensibility, that is, the area of the aesthetic in Kant’s original sense.
Kant recognized the need to describe the consequences of his episte-
mological theories in more detail, first publishing the Critique of Practical
Reason in 1786 to establish an a priori system of ethics and completing the
series with the Critique of Judgment in 1790. In the Critique of Judgment,
also known as the third critique, Kant addresses the problemof aesthetics in
detail by dividing the overall faculty of judgment into two types: aesthetic
and teleological. Aesthetic judgment enables us to experience the beauti-
ful and the sublime in art; teleological judgment enables us to perceive
the purposeful design of nature. Aesthetic objects, in Kant’s well-known
words, are “purposeful without purpose,” revealing intention in design, yet
remaining without practical utility, whereas nature’s objects serve particular
functions within God’s plan for the universe. The point of this distinction
between artificial and natural objects is to distinguish the conceptual basis
for artistic beauty from the enjoyment of natural beauty, thereby placing
artistic beauty clearly within the human sphere and giving us hope of dis-
covering its principles. According to the preface of the Critique of Judgment,
the faculty of judgment, like reason and ethics, should be founded on a
priori principles and bridges the gap between understanding (pure reason)
and desire (practical reason), the areas of mental activity described the first
two critiques.
In other words, judgment must be founded on principles
that are neither learned by empirical means nor subjugated to some other
faculty. Ultimately, we do not create judgments according to custom, nor
do we create them because it is reasonable for us to do so in one way or
another. We create judgments independently of reason or desire or else we
create them falsely, that is, we substitute conclusions we have reached by
other methods for true judgments.
To describe these true judgments in the third critique, Kant uses the
adjective form of the word
Asthetik, ¨ asthetische, in Baumgarten’s sense, to
mean judgments pertaining to aesthetic objects, especially in the section
titled “Deduktion der reinen ¨ asthetischen Urteile,” “Deduction of Pure
Aesthetic Judgment.”
Although Kant’s reinstatement of the meaning of
Asthetik that he intended to dismiss, or at least qualify, in the Critique of
Pure Reason may seem like a reversal of his position on the term’s meaning,
this section of the third critique actually represents a new direction in
his thought. His use of the word combines both meanings and places
the category of aesthetic judgment in a privileged area before cognition to
reconcile the apparent contradiction between the universality of aesthetic
judgment, that is, the general agreement on what is beautiful, with the
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10 Self-Consciousness and Music in the Late Enlightenment
impossibility of proving aesthetic judgments by means of deduction from
the a priori principles in the first critique. This contradiction justifies the
deduction of a separate, a priori faculty of judgment:
But a feeling of pleasure (or displeasure) and of satisfaction can be combined with a
perception, which accompanies the representation of the object and serves in place
of its predicate; thus, an aesthetic judgment, which is not a cognitive judgment,
can originate. Such a judgment, if it is not a mere judgment of feeling but a formal
judgment of reflection, in which everyone senses this satisfaction to be necessary,
must have an a priori principle as its basis, which in any case may be a merely
subjective principle (if an objective principle is impossible for judgments of this
kind), but also as such requires a deduction, so that we may understand how an
aesthetic judgment could make a claim of necessity.
At the center of this difficult passage lies the heart of Kant’s argument for
a separate faculty of aesthetic judgment: judgments that are both objective
(in the sense of being universally accepted) and subjective (in the sense of
being empirically unprovable) must originate in some faculty between the
necessity of logic and the freedom of the individual. If aesthetic judgments
were entirely objective, their creation would be available to examination by
reason; if they were entirely a matter of individual freedom, they would be
idiosyncratic and completely dependent on individual preferences. Neither
is the case; thus, we possess a separate, a priori faculty of judgment.
Aesthetic judgment occupies a position somewhere between a priori and
a posteriori knowledge, as both the result of experience with the external
world and part of an innate faculty. An encounter with an aesthetic object
does not involve the sheer inventions of the perceiver’s mind but a presen-
tation of something external to it, the result of an actual experience. On
the other hand, the aesthetic object does not perform any function for the
perceiver other than merely to be perceived; the perceiver does not cate-
gorize it further in terms of function. Because works of fine art do not do
anything except exist as objects of perception, their presentations do not
progress further into analysis by the faculties for qualities unrelated to the
perception already experienced. When looking at a painting, for instance,
we do not think about how much it weighs, whether we can lift it by our-
selves, whether it will fit on the wall over the couch, and so on as part of
our aesthetic contemplation of the painting – examining it for practical
purposes, or even for physical characteristics, such as weight or dimension,
unrelated to its appearance as a painting remains superfluous to its role as
an aesthetic object. As art, we judge the painting in terms of its beauty, and
nothing else.
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Kant, Self-Consciousness, and Aesthetics 11
This conclusion, that aesthetic judgments are made a priori, seems almost
contradictory. A priori concepts are by definition theoretical, yet the idea
of an aesthetic object depends on an encounter with a real object. In this
area, according to Jacques Derrida, “we are plunging into a place that is
neither theoretical nor practical or else both theoretical and practical.”
place, the category of the aesthetic, rests on the crucial distinction between
the idea of beauty as something inherent in the object and the idea of
aesthetic judgment as a separate category of thought having to do with the
presentation (Vorstellung) of the object, rather than with the object itself.
Frances Ferguson summarizes the importance of this distinction succinctly:
Aesthetic objects are not in and of themselves different from objects of cognition;
the aesthetic domain contains no object that cannot be shared, as material, with the
understanding or the reason. Rather, aesthetic objects are constituted not merely
by a shift from seeing them in terms of properties to seeing them in terms of formal
functions. It is that this formality can appear as an imitation of empirical objects,
the empty or superfluous imitation of the look of function.
The element of the aesthetic inheres in the object itself only to the degree
that it contains the formal elements of an aesthetic object; whether it counts
as an aesthetic object depends entirely on what faculty the conscious sub-
ject brings to bear on the presentation, or image, it causes. In addition, by
describing imitation as a mere subclass of the overall formal structure of
beauty, Kant encompasses both mimesis (the deliberate imitation of nature
in art) and natural beauty (the unintentional imitation of art in nature)
without compromising his overall position. This formalist conception of
art thereby releases the aesthetic object from its mimetic function – the
object does not necessarily imitate anything but instead fulfills a set of
formal criteria for beauty. By moving away from mimesis and toward for-
malism, Kant can include both the beautiful, the property of objects that
provide satisfaction without fulfilling a specific purpose, and the sublime,
the property of objects that overwhelm the senses or the understanding in
his system, because the experience of the aesthetic has been relieved of the
burden of comprehending the object as well.
This broad, formalist conception of the aesthetic translates into the prac-
tice of individual art forms with some difficulty. For the visual arts, a
renewed focus on the experience of vision rather than the reality of appear-
ance becomes possible, as many critics have noted. However, what Kant
himself has to say about music reveals surprisingly little of importance and
is somewhat disappointing. Kant’s problem with music lies in the over-
whelmingly visual orientation of his idea of the aesthetic object. To cite
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12 Self-Consciousness and Music in the Late Enlightenment
one of many examples, the German word for “representation,” Vorstellung,
also means “image,” and it is often translated that way, even in its specialized
Kantian context. In addition, it comes fromthe reflexive verb sich vorstellen,
“to imagine,” or, more literally, “to place in front of oneself.” These visual
connotations create a number of problems for Kant when applied to music,
and the dominance of visual metaphors may be a central reason that music,
in Kant’s estimation, did not hold first rank among the arts. Like Hegel
more than thirty years later, Kant reserved that position for poetry because
it could express both abstract concepts and concrete images. Music, for
Kant, is merely a decorative art, a poor imitation of vague emotional con-
tent. In addition, music lacks specificity in its concepts and is therefore an
“art of the beautiful play of emotions”:
The arts of the beautiful play of the emotions (which are stimulated from without),
and must be likewise universally communicated, cannot be anything other than
the proportion of the different levels of mood (tension) of the sense to which the
emotion belongs, that is which concerns the tone itself; and in this far-reaching
sense of the word, they can be divided into the artistic play of the emotions of
hearing and of sight, that is, music and the art of color.
Edward Lippmann’s response to Kant on music balances his recognition
of its obvious problems with an acknowledgment of the impact of Kant’s
overall aesthetic theory on music as a whole:
Imitation [for Kant] plays a role that is more essential than expression, for music
imitates the tonal modulation of speech. On the other hand, Kant’s view of the
play of tonal sensations as a condition for musical beauty suggests a formalist
ingredient of aesthetics that belongs to the future. . . . Kant conceives music on its
own terms, as absolute rather than vocal. . . . Kant’s conception of music . . . was in
any event found to be inadequate to the nature of the art, for it became increasingly
obvious with every year that passed that instrumental music was a fine art in its own
right and that its beauty was not lessened by pleasure in tonal sonority but rather
that both its beauty and its significance were deepened by their sensuous element.
The gradual growth of this awareness is a fascinating chapter in the history of
aesthetic consciousness; there is no doubt that the low esteem in which Kant held
instrumental music had a positive value – because of its inadequacy – in bringing
musical aesthetics to fruition.
The central problem with Kant’s account lies in his failure to consider the
disparity between the technical study of musical form (the mathematical
ratios between intervals, harmony, counterpoint, and meter) and its emo-
tional effect. To explain this important dilemma in eighteenth-century
music aesthetics, Kant must resort to an analogy with color that Rousseau
had already superseded.
In addition, Kant fails to explain how music can
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Kant, Self-Consciousness, and Aesthetics 13
affect the emotions without representing an object of emotional value to
the listener; colors in themselves may vary from the drab to the bright, but
they do not carry the emotional power of a musical composition or, for
that matter, a finished painting. Finally, Kant admits that music cannot be
categorized and differentiated by human perception but must be perceived
as a single entity. As Kant himself points out, no one can count vibra-
tions per second, nor can many people identify keys and individual notes
as they listen, yet almost everyone who listens to music claims to under-
stand it.
Moreover, Carl Dahlhaus has observed that Kant’s understanding of
music contains two significant and glaring contradictions, even on Kantian
terms. Even as Kant creates a formalist aesthetics for art in general, he rel-
egates music to one of the formless “agreeable” arts, as opposed to the
superior, formal “beautiful” arts. Kant views music solely in its mathemati-
cal, or harmonic aspect, despite the obvious fact that music also has a rhyth-
mic and metrical dimension. Why not, Dahlhaus asks, create an aesthetics
of music in accordance with the transcendental aesthetic in the Critique
of Pure Reason, where Kant clearly explains that representations must be
continuous over time?
Peter Kivy asks similar questions in an essay aptly
titled “Kant and the Affektenlehre: What He Said, and What I Wish He
Said,” adding somewhat wistfully:
It would have been so much more elegant and plausible for Kant to have argued
that we recognize emotions as properties of musical form and structure, with the
aesthetic ideas following quite naturally and directly from that recognition.
Kant, for reasons that neither Kivy nor I can adequately explain, chose
instead to maintain a theory of music more consistent with past theories
than with his own innovations in aesthetics. Ignorance of the workings
of music may have played a role, but in my judgment, the limitations of
human understanding and experience, even for someone of Kant’s enor-
mous intellect, provide as plausible an explanation as we are likely to find.
Nevertheless, different versions of a better-informed and more consistent
aesthetics of music based on Kant’s overall aesthetic program and rooted
in formalism would emerge in the next few years, as Lippmann implies in
the earlier citation. Until the late Enlightenment, treatises on music theory
generally followed either extremely practical or nearly theological lines of
reasoning, consisting of either technical information about composition
for practicing composers or vague ideas of correspondence between music,
numerology, emotion, and the harmony of the spheres. With Kant, the
formalist conception of aesthetics in general provided both philosophers
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14 Self-Consciousness and Music in the Late Enlightenment
and composers with an idea of art that did not require specific content
but only beautiful form, thereby replacing mimesis with formalism as the
primary concept of beauty. The vagueness with which music allegedly
portrayed emotion could be forgotten and replaced by an appreciation
for the range and variety of formal beauty in music, especially when played
by instruments alone.
Thus, Kant had created the necessary conditions for three essential ele-
ments of early Romanticism: the turn toward self-consciousness, the eleva-
tion of the category of the aesthetic, and the formalist conception of artistic
beauty. All three elements are inextricably linked through Kant’s critiques;
the final element would contribute to new developments in music aesthet-
ics that Kant clearly had not anticipated. Likewise, new investigations of
self-consciousness would carry Kant’s ideas further than he is likely to have
considered possible.
fichte, schiller, schelling, and the systemprogramm
fragment: the origins of romantic self-consciousness
Kant’s critiques had an immediate and widespread effect on philosophical
projects throughout Europe, provoking a broad range of ethical, philosoph-
ical, and aesthetic programs. For the group of Kant’s followers gathered
in Jena during the late 1790s, which included Fichte, Schiller, Schelling,
H¨ olderlin, and Hegel, the first step in the creation of a Kantian system
was to remedy Kant’s failure to describe the precise nature of the subject
in the process of self-consciousness. Kant had declared the ultimate com-
prehension of self-consciousness, as the thing-in-itself, beyond the bounds
of human understanding; his only explanation of it, beyond deducing its
existence, was that it exists out of spontaneity. The subjective self cannot
be conscious of anything before it becomes conscious of itself, that is, self-
conscious, yet the act of becoming conscious of itself requires it to have
already constituted itself as the object of its consciousness, resulting in a
paradox. Likewise, its ontological status as the subject comes into question
the moment it becomes objectified by this consciousness – a subject is not
a subject when it has become an object. The subject must gain both knowl-
edge of itself and consciousness of its own being without changing its essen-
tial nature. In other words, there is no subject without self-consciousness,
yet the presupposition of self-consciousness compromises the ontological
status of the subject – if it is an object of knowledge, even for itself, then it
can no longer be a pure subject. On the other hand, if the subject exists only
as a pure “spontaneity,” then it cannot become an object of knowledge,
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Fichte, Schiller, Schelling, and the Systemprogramm Fragment 15
because it cannot be described according to a rational system of causes and
origins, but only by feeling.
Fichte, as Dieter Henrich
and Robert Pippin, among others, have
established, resolves this dilemma by altering the concept of subject from
that of an entity to that of an activity, or Tathandlung, a “deed-action.”
Pippin’s brief summary of this development correctly emphasizes Fichte’s
commitment to the concept of the Tathandlung and the Idealist enterprise:
“The intellect [according to Fichte], for idealism, is an act and absolutely
nothing more; we should not even call it an active something, for this
expression refers to something subsistent in which activity inheres.”
problem with Kant’s account of subjectivity and self-consciousness is not
that he describes the process incorrectly, but that by simply naming self-
consciousness as a particular element in the process of cognition, rather
than an action, he obscures its true nature by objectifying it. Separating
self-consciousness from consciousness is like separating a wave from the
water that constitutes it; it is mistaking an organized activity (an activ-
ity both complete and continuing, both Tat and Handlung) for a discrete
object in itself. Furthermore, Fichte claims that consciousness and self-
consciousness, as aspects of essentially the same ich, are simply self-positing
and should be defined as such.
However, if the self-conscious subject is an activity, rather than an object,
how does this activity manifest itself, and is the physical subject sepa-
rate from the metaphysical subject? According to G¨ unther Z¨ oller, Fichte’s
concept of the subject does not have a material existence, because “the
intellectual acts” of self-positing “are not to be thought of as empirical-
psychological events but as the structural conditions that govern all mental
The activity of self-positing that generates self-consciousness there-
fore has no empirical preconditions and creates itself absolutely as intellec-
tual intuition. To manifest itself, the metaphysical self therefore requires a
material object against which it can juxtapose its status as the subject. Fichte
describes the activity of self-consciousness as a thinking-in-opposition:
It [the “I”] would think of itself in opposition to an external object. It does not
notice as the thinker [das Denkende] of the object that it is the thinker of the object,
but disappears in the object. However, it easily and clearly finds that the thinker
and what is thought [das Gedachte] are different.
They are differentiated by means of the following: in the presentation [Vorstellung]
of my “I,” the thinker and what is thought are one and the same – in the concept
of the “I.” I am the thinker and what is thought. In the other case, the act goes
outside of me; in this case the act goes back onto myself.
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16 Self-Consciousness and Music in the Late Enlightenment
Two central insights in this passage provide the basis for the next step
toward the Idealist reconfiguration of self-consciousness. First, the self, for
Fichte, posits itself intuitively, yet to complete the process of self-creation, it
must differentiate itself inthe epistemological process; it perceives anobject,
realizes that in perceiving it is thinking, and notices that it does the thinking
and that the object does not, thus distinguishing the presentation of the
self from the presentation of the nonself, the object. Self-consciousness
has therefore been redefined as a continuous process of opposition and
sublation, rather than a state or an entity, an insight Hegel will later expand
into the long journey of the self in The Phenomenology of Spirit. Second, self-
consciousness arises through an observable characteristic of the thinking
self but only through negation – it is defined by what the presentation
of the external object does not do (that is, think) and by the observation
that the self is distinct from the external object, now called the “not-I.”
Fichte’s solution to the problem of self-consciousness therefore depends
on continuously renewing the moment of aesthetic judgment in Kant’s
Critique of Judgment through opposition, or entgegensetzen, positing by
The moment of encounter with a material object also took on extraordi-
nary importance for another member of the Jena group, Friedrich Schiller,
but in a different way. Immediately following Fichte’s Wissenschaftlehre
in 1795, Schiller published On Aesthetic Education (
Uber die aesthetische
Erziehung des Menschen), which outlines a radical concept of moral and
intellectual development through encounters with fine art. For Schiller, “art
is the daughter of freedom”
allowing the unification of desire and obliga-
tion. In contrast to Fichte, whose initial objective in the Wissenschaftlehre
was to extend Kant’s inquiry deeper into metaphysics and create what Z¨ oller
aptly calls a “metaphilosophy of philosophical knowledge,”
Schiller uses
the a priori principles outlined in Kant’s critiques, especially the second
and third, as the basis for a practical course in spiritual development. In
other words, rather than complete Kant’s critiques as a systematic philoso-
phy, Schiller enacts theminstead, overturning long-held principles of moral
development and aesthetics and inviting his readers to joinhiminthe search
for a better, truer understanding of morality and beauty, unencumbered by
the need for utility.
Utility, of course, is what distinguishes useful objects from aesthetic
objects in Kant’s third critique, a distinction that for Kant simply differen-
tiated one category of understanding from another. Schiller, on the other
hand, opposes the value placed on utility during the Enlightenment by
identifying it as a powerful and negative moral force:
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Fichte, Schiller, Schelling, and the Systemprogramm Fragment 17
But at the present time material needs reignsupreme andbenda degradedhumanity
beneath their tyrannical yoke. Utility is the great idol of our age, to which all powers
are in thrall and to which all talent must pay homage. . . . The spirit of philosophical
inquiry itself is wresting from the imagination one province after another, and the
frontiers of art contract the more the boundaries of science expand.
Freedom, for Schiller, begins with the freedom of the imagination (Einbil-
dung), the internal capacity of humans to represent things to themselves
without reference to the external world. As concrete representations of the
imagination, artworks set the mind free and as such are reflections of the
mind rather than imitations of anything external to it. By making aesthetics
prior to practical reason, Schiller essentially reverses the order of the sec-
ond and third critiques, creating a concept of moral choice dependent on
freedom (as Kant does in the second critique) but accessible only through
artistic beauty, stating explicitly that “it is only through Beauty that man
makes his way to Freedom.”
Schiller is careful to distinguish this broader
concept of the imagination, Einbildung, fromVorstellung, because of its ety-
mological relation to Bildung, the development of character made possible
by this program of aesthetic education.
Schiller’s declaration of beauty as the ultimate principle also strength-
ens the formalist claims of Kant’s third critique considerably and enables
Schiller to develop his own theories of beauty even further. Abandoning
mimetic theories altogether, Schiller develops the tripartite concept of the
Spieltrieb, or play drive, which is the combination of the Formtrieb, or form
drive, and the Stofftrieb, or material drive.
Beauty, therefore, embodies
the freedom of play in the formal configuration of actual material and pro-
vides aesthetic satisfaction through the resolution of two opposing forces:
material reality and formal necessity.
The balance between the material and the formal varies with the par-
ticular material of each individual art, thereby creating a hierarchy among
them; Schiller lists the arts according to the level on which each engages its
formal and material elements. In contrast to Kant’s view of the individual
arts, music holds an especially honored position here:
Music, at its most sublime, must become sheer form and affect us with the serene
power of antiquity. The plastic arts, at their most perfect, must become music and
move us by the immediacy of their sensuous presence. Poetry, when most fully
developed, must grip us powerfully as music does, but at the same time, like the
plastic arts, surround us with serene clarity. This, precisely, is the mark of perfect
style in each and every art: that it is able to remove the specific limitations of the art
in question without thereby destroying its specific qualities and through a wise use
of its individual peculiarities, is able to confer upon it a more general character.
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18 Self-Consciousness and Music in the Late Enlightenment
Schiller’s idea of “perfect style” does not mean that a particular work of art
must be absolutely perfect but that a fully realized work may transcend its
material nature. When fully realized, music becomes “sheer form,” rather
than an imitation of emotion or any other content. Other art forms, in turn,
must transcend the limitations of their specific material nature, approach-
ing the near perfect formality of music while maintaining a connection to
the sensuous material of each particular art form. In this respect, Schiller has
departed completely from Kant’s view of music as the play of the emotions,
claiming instead that emotional response to music is not due to deliber-
ate manipulation by the composer or performer but to the recognition of
formal beauty by the listener.
The music itself represents the composer’s
and performer’s na¨ıve understanding of formal beauty, whereas its effect
represents the listener’s sentimental response, just as Greek sculpture repre-
sents the na¨ıve understanding of its creators, whereas its effect on modern
viewers also represents a sentimental response.
To some degree, Fichte and Schiller have been working toward the same
synthesis of Kant’s three critiques from opposite directions. Fichte begins
with the first critique (the development of self-consciousness through pure
reason and a priori principles), combining it with elements of the second
(the development of morals through the concept of freedom), yet does not
fully address the issues of the third. Schiller begins with the third (aesthetics)
to develop a program for enacting the second (ethics), yet for the most
part sets aside the epistemological problems of the first. Nevertheless, the
elements missing from Fichte’s and Schiller’s systems are implicit in their
conclusions. Fichte’s version of self-consciousness depends on a moment
of opposition between the self and the nonself virtually identical to the
aesthetic moment in that it requires the presentation of a material object
andprecedes the formationof concepts about the object. Likewise, Schiller’s
concept of education is the development of an individual self from the
presentation of an aesthetic object and a similar juxtaposition of material
object and ideal thought. Essentially, Fichte’s system lacks an aesthetic
dimension; Schiller’s lacks an adequate theory of self-consciousness. Their
disciples would attempt to make up for these deficiencies.
For the younger followers of Fichte in Jena, philosophical and aesthetic
concerns came to an unprecedented juncture. Even before Hegel’s arrival
in Jena in 1801, Schelling, Hegel, and H¨ olderlin, the T¨ ubinger Freunde who
had studied together at the T¨ ubinger Stift, came under Fichte’s influence
and began an extraordinary collaboration. Dieter Henrich’s description of
these formative years in the history of Idealism is both illuminating and
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Fichte, Schiller, Schelling, and the Systemprogramm Fragment 19
Early in 1795, little more than a year after the theological exam, H¨ olderlin for-
mulated his own philosophical position at the University of Jena, under Fichte’s
influence and simultaneously in opposition to him. This position brought Hegel,
two years later and in a renewed conversation among friends in Frankfurt, to a
decisive turning point in his thought. Schelling, who had entered the theological
seminary at fifteen in 1790, had already begun his post-Kantian development with
two publications before his exams, as the absolutely the first author, as he himself
wrote to Hegel, to greet “Fichte, the new hero in the land of truth.”
The strength of this belief would lead Schelling to create a complete system
based on Kantian and Fichtean principles, with self-consciousness as its
first principle. Although Schelling’s decision to place self-consciousness at
the center of his system strongly resembles Fichte’s position, Schelling finds
a slightly different yet important solution to the problem of the objecti-
fication of the subject. Rather than use Fichte’s solution of introducing
a process of object-negation into the act of self-consciousness, Schelling
proposes a series of deductions leading to a concept of self-consciousness
based on intellectual intuition.
Schelling begins by observing that every consideration of the subject-
object relation necessarily involves a concept of this relation that itself
becomes an object, thus positing another subject removed from the first
subject-object relation. This subject, in turn, creates a subject-object rela-
tion that posits yet another subject, until an absolute, unconditioned con-
cept provides a standpoint for a subject that does not continue this process
ad infinitum. This concept, “the point . . . where subject and object are an
unmediated unity,”
is the subject-object, or self-consciousness. Through
this concept of the absolute subject, Schelling manages to resolve a number
of issues, including the relation between thought and identity:
Self-consciousness is an act, but through every act something takes place for us. –
Every thought is an act, and every particular thought is a particular act; but through
every thought a particular concept arises in us. The concept is nothing else but the
act of thinking itself, and abstracted from this act it is nothing. Through the act
of self-consciousness a concept must likewise arise for us, and that is nothing else
but the concept of the I. In that I become an object through self-consciousness,
the concept of the I arises for me, and conversely, the concept of the I is only the
concept of the self becoming an object.
Schelling has escaped the inherent reflexivity of Fichte’s self-positing sub-
ject by introducing the concept of the unconditioned, absolute act of
self-consciousness as the irreducible subject-object. In this formulation,
the circularity of self-objectification is resolved by describing the act of
self-consciousness not as a reflexive self-recognition but as the continuous
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20 Self-Consciousness and Music in the Late Enlightenment
process of becoming an object, the Selbstobjektwerden. Schelling’s version
of the subject avoids objectification by never arriving at the point of having
become an object; the act of self-consciousness is itself the continual but
never fully realized act of attempting to objectify the self, a Selbstobjektwer-
den, or “self-object-becoming” that never arrives at the point of being a
Selbstobjektgeworden, or “self-object-become.”
Because knowledge of the “I” is absolute, it must produce itself through
intuition, what Schelling terms intuition itself, or intellectual intuition
(intellektuelle Anschauung). Here, Schelling closely follows Kant and Fichte,
for whomthe concept representedthe spontaneous generative activity of the
self. For Kant, intellectual intuition represented the limits of determinate
knowledge; for Fichte, it required a positing of an opposite. For Schelling,
intellectual intuition has the same status in philosophy that the intuition
of space does in geometry; all other concepts are merely limited cases of
the absolute, intuitively postulated principle that makes a comprehensible
system possible.
As Werner Marx points out, for Hegel and Fichte as well
as for Schelling (at this point in his career), the dimension of intellectual
intuition and self-consciousness is free, in the sense that it depends solely
on the subject, and not on objects.
Despite the freedom of the subject, Schelling asserts an essential role
for aesthetic objects in determining whether intellectual intuition is tran-
scendental, that is, whether it is a necessary element of all cogntion that
cannot be proved empiricially. To do so, he addresses not only the objects
themselves but their origin – aesthetic objects, he observes, are not merely
objects of a particular kind of perception but also deliberately created by
artists for aesthetic apprehension. They therefore participate both in free-
dom, because they result from an artist’s imagination, and in necessity,
because they are physical objects. No material, no matter how skillfully
worked by an artist, can avoid possessing charateristics that are simply
inherent in the physical material itself – stone is always stone, and paint
is always paint. For Schelling, this aspect of aesthetic objects represented
an important connection between the metaphysical self and the physical
reality of nature, the unity of conscious and unconscious elements.
art can provide evidence that intellectual intuition, the concept on which
self-consciousness depends, is not mere self-deception:
How can it be posited without doubt, that it [intellectual intuition] is not founded
on a merely subjective deception, if there is no general and universally acknowl-
edged objectivity of that intuition? This generally acknowledged and undeniable
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Fichte, Schiller, Schelling, and the Systemprogramm Fragment 21
objectivity of intellectual intuition is art itself. Aesthetic intuition is thus precisely
intellectual intuition [having] become objective.
For this reason, art is the “organon” of Schelling’s system, its unifying
principle, as it is for Schiller, who claims that art heals the fracture between
the opposing impulses of human nature. Art unites the purely subjective
and metaphysical with the purely natural and physical and renders it in
concrete material. Intellectual intuitionandaesthetic intuitionbothdepend
on each other and mirror each other. We need aesthetic intuition to know
that intellectual intuition adheres to the description Schelling gives it, and
we need intellectual intuition to understand art as art.
The connection between aesthetics and self-consciousness becomes even
clearer in Schelling’s lectures on art, presented publicly in 1802 and 1803,
thenrepeatedin1804 and1805 at Jena, but only publishedintheir entirety in
1859, five years after Schelling’s death. The overall theory of art explicated
in the Philosophie der Kunst generally agrees with that of the System des
transzendentalenIdealismus but contains far more detail about the individual
arts. In particular, music plays an extraordinarily important role with regard
to his theory of self-consciousness:
The necessary form of music is succession, for time is regarded as the general form
of the imagination of the infinite in the finite, in so far as it is abstracted from the
real. The principle of time in the subject is self-consciousness, which is precisely
the imagination of the unity of consciousness into multiplicity in the ideal. From
this we can grasp the close relationship of the sense of hearing in general, and of
music and speech in particular, with self-consciousness. – We can also understand
provisionally, until we have indicated a still higher meaning, the arithmetic side of
Although Schelling’s normally clear prose style seems to have abandoned
himhere (as is the case with many posthumous works), Schelling has drawn
together the strands of many theories into a central point about music.
Because music is sound, which does not visibly inhere in a substance and
takes place over time (unlike painting, sculpture, and literature), it more
closely represents the activity of apprehending an art work. Just as in Kant’s
Critique of Pure Reason, the synthetic unity of apprehensionmust occur over
time, music must occur over time – no conventional work of music consists
of a single note, and many notes in succession, assembled under strict
formal rules, are needed to make the whole comprehensible as a complete
work of music. In addition, Renaissance and early modern accounts of the
effects of music, many of which continued to have influence in Schelling’s
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22 Self-Consciousness and Music in the Late Enlightenment
time, connect the infinitely large harmony of the spheres with musical
harmony through the mysterious relationship between mathematics and
music discovered by Pythagoras. Schelling extends this metaphor of macro-
and microcosm into metaphysics to create a series of parallel structures
among self-consciousness, music, mathematics, and cosmology.
Although Schelling’s lectures on art were later than the period under
consideration at the moment (the 1790s), he had an enormous influence
on his colleagues at Jena, and his later lectures represent a logical develop-
ment from his earlier writings in the System des transcendentalen Idealismus
connecting self-consciousness and the category of the aesthetic to actual
aesthetic encounters and music. Schelling’s overall position in the history
of philosophy remains under dispute, but a curious document known as
“Das ¨ alteste Systemprogramm des deutschen Idealismus” provides a possi-
ble common starting point for Hegel, H¨ olderlin, and Schelling, prefigur-
ing not only the direction that Schelling would take in lectures on art but
also the increasingly important role of the aesthetic in both H¨ olderin’s
and Hegel’s works. This document, found among Hegel’s papers, has
been attributed, variously to Hegel, Schelling, and H¨ olderlin, as well as
to all three in collaboration.
Although there is no consensus regarding its
it is certainly in Hegel’s handwriting, and its style and content
are sufficiently different from Hegel’s other writings of the period (between
the summer of 1796 and early 1797) to convince most scholars that it is at
least a collaboration between Hegel and one or both of his friends, if not
Hegel’s copy of Schelling’s or H¨ olderlin’s work.
The fragment attempts
to synthesize several elements of Idealist philosophy – epistemology, ethics,
and aesthetics – into a manifesto in which beauty and freedom resolve the
dilemma of spontaneous self-consciousness. It describes itself as an excep-
tionally all-encompassing ethics based on an idea of a free, self-postulating,
self-conscious being. The means of this self-postulation is the presentation
of an image of the self:
The first idea is naturally the presentation of myself, as an absolutely free being.
An entire world enters as well with the free, self-conscious being – out of nothing –
the only true and conceivable creation from nothing.
The subject inthis case is not analready existing consciousness that attempts
to observe or contemplate itself; it constitutes itself from the beginning as
an absolutely free, self-conscious being through an act of the imagination,
thereby solving Kant’s dilemma by reversing the order of conceptual events.
Self-consciousness does not come fromthe act of an already created subject;
it is inherent in the idea of the subject itself, which posits itself purely
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Fichte, Schiller, Schelling, and the Systemprogramm Fragment 23
through imagination. As a “first idea,” this act precedes all other deductions
of a priori knowledge, and as a self-generating presentation, it constitutes
a form of aesthetic intuition.
The desire for a unifying principle in the conclusion makes Schelling’s
role, either as precursor or contributor, abundantly clear, and prefigures the
direction that he will take in the Philosophie der Kunst, as well as some of
the more important ideas of Hegel and H¨ olderlin concerning aesthetics:
Finally, the idea that unites all, the idea of beauty, the word taken in its higher,
platonic sense. I am now convinced, that the highest act of reason, which encom-
passes all ideas, is an aesthetic act, and that truth and goodness are only related in
beauty. The philosopher must have as much power as the poet.
That the idea of beauty should be taken “in its higher, platonic sense”
makes the unambiguous point that the author (or authors) of the docu-
ment recognizes the extent to which it embraces pure Idealism, where the
understanding of the external world depends as much on the conceptual
structure with which the subject perceives it as on the actual world itself.
The valorization of the aesthetic judgment of beauty as the “highest act
of reason” does not merely mean that art is a superior mode of discourse
to philosophy, but that the intuition of self-consciousness is actually based
on the free choice of beauty (echoing, and in a sense, completing Schiller’s
project in the Aesthetic Education
). We organize our perceptions and our
conclusions about everything, from pure logic to practical ethics, because
we choose to create our idea of the world according to an ideal. Because this
ideal precedes all other aspects of judgment, it can only be chosen for aes-
thetic reasons. Consequently, the philosopher must possess as much ability
to judge the beautiful as the poet, because beauty, alone among all the rea-
sons a philosopher can choose to articulate one system over another (such
as truth and goodness, for example), can encompass these other qualities
as the results of an already postulated aesthetic choice.
The Systemprogramm fragment, more even than Schelling’s later Philoso-
phie der Kunst, breaks new ground in both the exploration of subjectivity
and aesthetics. By making the self-positing act of self-consciousness not
merely parallel to aesthetic intuition but identical to it, the document has
potentially moved the concept of self-consciousness from the discourse
of metaphysics and placed it entirely within aesthetics, leaving open the
possibility that art could better express, demonstrate, or manifest the con-
cept than philosophy. This fragment therefore represents the beginning
of philosophical investigations in self-consciousness as aesthetic investi-
gations. Andrew Bowie, whose contribution to the understanding of the
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24 Self-Consciousness and Music in the Late Enlightenment
relationship between the two areas is considerable, summarizes the impor-
tance placed on the aesthetic object by the Systemprogramm fragment well:
Because the aesthetic product still remains, qua created object, in the realm of
intuition, it is able to point to why the world of the senses is not radically separate
from the intelligible world. What makes the work a work of art which gives aes-
thetic pleasure depends upon our free judgment, which is independent of interest.
Without the object, though, we would have no real access to our freedom. In the
terms of the SP [“Systemprogramm”] we have this access via the work of art, which
gives us a sensuous image of freedom.
This idea of art is consistent with Kantian aesthetics in which the work of
art arouses pleasure without interest, yet goes far beyond it. The disinter-
ested apprehension of beauty is the only means of uniting our perceptions
with the conceptual framework required to make it intelligible. The System-
programm fragment solves the problem of Kantian synthesis by connecting
a priori and a posteriori knowledge through an intuitive aesthetic sense,
which provides the essential mental framework to make the external world
correspond to the internal workings of the mind, and vice versa. In a sense,
the Systemprogramm fragment constitutes both a philosophical and a liter-
ary document, as Lacoue-Labarthe and Nancy have observed, because it
claims the absolute to be literary, that is, Dichtkunst or the art of poetry,
yet is not itself a work of poetry.
By positing the aesthetic discourse of
poetry as the basis for philosophy, the author of the fragment has made the
discourse of philosophy itself part of poetry.
mozart and the transformation of enlightenment
musical aesthetics
Just as Kant, above all others, was the origin of the move of metaphysics
toward aesthetics, so Mozart was the origin of the movement of music
toward an elevated status as the highest of the arts. The Mozart legend
grew suddenly with his death in 1791 at the age of thirty-five, a year after
the publication of Kant’s Critique of Judgment and at the beginning of this
remarkably productive (and cooperative) period among the Idealists. At
this time, the public conception of Mozart acquired a strange dual nature
that mirrored the composer’s own ambivalence toward the prevailing atti-
tudes of his contemporaries. For some critics, Mozart was the quintessen-
tial Enlightenment composer, eminently reasonable, demonstrating a cool,
mathematical perfection in everything he wrote. For others, Mozart was the
proto-Romantic genius, erratic, uncontrollable, and destined to an early,
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Mozart and the Transformation of Enlightenment Musical Aesthetics 25
impoverished end. I argue that Mozart was both and neither – rather, he
embodies, in both his life and his compositions, the Enlightenment belief
in the power of the rational mind and the beginning of the Romantic desire
to overthrow traditional power relations in favor of the free, self-conscious
intellect. He belongs to a transitional period in the late Enlightenment,
when composers, who formerly tended to work for a single church or noble
patron, began to write and perform for a wider and more diverse audience
and became independent contributors to intellectual life. As a socially neu-
tral public sphere arose, artists experienced a new independence, which
by the early nineteenth century fomented the creation of the composer-
hero myth so strongly associated with Beethoven and the Romantic era.
Mozart’s music, in both the process of its composition and in its reception,
reveals that late Enlightenment and early Idealist ideas of freedom and
self-consciousness through artistic creation were not mere abstractions, but
manifested themselves in actual practice, eventually leading to what Jim
Samson calls “the project of autonomy” in nineteenth-century music.
This self-conscious musical style did not arise, however, purely from
philosophical convictions (few things do) but from a series of composi-
tional decisions made in response to changing conditions in the social and
intellectual context of music. As I mentioned earlier, Mozart finally received
his release from the service of the prince-archbishop of Salzburg in 1781,
although his father’s secure position as Kapellmeister had enabled him to
earn a steady income from both secular and religious assignments. Mozart’s
family, although far from poor, was concerned about money, and Mozart
had no assurance of similarly reliable assignments in Vienna. In a letter to
Abb´ e Bullinger of 1778, three years before he finally left, Mozart explains
his reasons for wanting to leave Salzburg despite the uncertainty of making
a living elsewhere:
In the first place, professional musicians there are not held in much consideration;
and, secondly, one hears nothing, there is no theatre, no opera; and even if they
really wanted one, who is there to sing? For the last five or six years the Salzburg
orchestra has always been rich in what is useless and superfluous, but very poor in
what is necessary, and absolutely destitute of what is indispensable.
Having been one of the foremost prodigies in the history of music, Mozart
knew what it was like to be adored by kings and queens and that he was
a better musician and composer than anyone in the world. Salzburg was
a dull outpost; Vienna was the center of the musical world, a cosmopoli-
tan city with a steady flow of composers, musicians, and patrons from all
parts of Europe, and a wealthy, enlightened, music-loving emperor, Josef II.
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26 Self-Consciousness and Music in the Late Enlightenment
This city would give him the resources and audience he craved, and many
opportunities to demonstrate the full range of his abilities. In addition,
Mozart indicates the extent to which his subservient role bothered him –
Mozart clearly believes that in Vienna, more consideration and indepen-
dence would come his way.
Although Mozart did have many opportunities in Vienna, he neverthe-
less did not find steady patronage; Salieri and Haydn already occupied the
most desirable positions. Instead, Mozart forged an independent career as
a public composer. Between his arrival in 1781 and his decision in 1786 to
devote himself to opera composition, Mozart produced a remarkable num-
ber of works, either for his own performance or for small commissions and
publication. In particular, Mozart focused on developing his public persona
through the piano concerto and succeeding thus to become a fashionable
composer, creating a number of works that remain unchallenged models
for the genre.
Instrumental musical forms, almost by definition, resist extramusical
interpretation; the concerto nevertheless unavoidably represents the rela-
tionship between the individual talent and society at large – in a concerto, a
soloist must bothcooperate withanorchestra and differentiate himself from
it. As both the composer of these concertos and their soloist, Mozart – and
Beethoven after him – represented the apotheosis of a particular musical
style. According to John Rink,
A distinct compositional style evolved at this time in the music of the composer-
pianists; known as the stile brillante, it thrived on an opposition between bravura
display and lyrical thematicism(oftenoperatic ininspiration), normally manifested
in a highly sectional construction leading to the peak of virtuosity at the end.
This style clearly contained parallel dialectical structures through which
the identity of the individual composer-soloist asserted himself, balancing
not only the opposition between soloist and orchestra but also between
the virtuosity of the performer for its own sake (“bravura display”) and the
composer and conductor’s ability to control the work as a whole. Similarly,
Lydia Goehr has argued for consideration of the social relationship of the
composer and performer as part of its interpretive framework:
If . . . we were to take seriously the idea that music is composed by composers in
order to be performed by performers and heard by audiences, we would soon move
our interest away from a narrowly formalist concern with works and the question
of their formed content and fix it more on the matter of people engaging with
music as either an individual or societal assertion of their freedom– their subjective
freedom, as I shall often put it, to be musical.
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Mozart and the Transformation of Enlightenment Musical Aesthetics 27
The social situation of these concertos, therefore, should provide a suitable
framework for their interpretation according to the terms already being
developed by the Idealists to describe the metaphysical situation of artistic
endeavors overall. Here, Mozart’s progress in the direction of autonomy
is abundantly clear. Mozart was both soloist and conductor, using hand
signals rather than the continuo part to keep time.
Under these circum-
stances, his control over the performance is nearly absolute – he writes
the work, arranges the performance time, place, and audience, conducts
the orchestra and plays the solo part. He has emerged from the shadow of
service to the prince-archbishop to assert his freedom as a composer and
performer, presenting musical material almost totally under his control.
For Mozart’s audience, the concerto performance allows them to encounter
what theorists of their time woulddescribe as anabsolute, unmediatedexpe-
rience of the aesthetic. For Mozart himself, the performance allows him to
demonstrate the relationship between the consciousness of the world’s most
talented composer and the musical material itself.
The stark difference between the social conditions of a hired artisan and
a free artist results in a perceivable difference not merely in the attitude of
audience and composer but in compositional style. For instance, his Piano
Concerto No. 23 in A Major, K.488, one of fifteen written between 1782
and 1786, represents a final stage in his transformation of the genre. Charles
Rosen has written a detailed analysis of this concerto’s striking innovations,
revealing a number of occasions where Mozart substitutes simplicity for
mere virtuosity. As Rosen observes, in the second movement,
The structure of the melody may be two regular parallels, but its beauty and its
passionate melancholy lie in the irregularity of rhythm and variety of phrasing
which reveal every possible expressive facet of the two simple descending lines.
Significantly, Mozart has chosen in this piano concerto, as well as in others
he wrote after moving to Vienna, to develop simple melodic material in
complex and innovative ways, rather than give in to the temptation to per-
form technically difficult (yet harmonically simple) material for the sake of
his own reputation as a performer. According to Maynard Solomon, Mozart
“resented being regarded as a performer, a Musikus as opposed to a Kompon-
ist or Kapellmeister . . . and he wanted to free himself from the imperative
to ‘perform’ that had been impressed on him so long ago.”
To put the
beauty and complexity of the composition ahead of the demonstration of
the performer’s skill is to assert this freedom. Here, Mozart has made a
deliberate decision to represent himself in this form not as an extraordinar-
ily gifted performer within existing social structures but instead to present a
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28 Self-Consciousness and Music in the Late Enlightenment
musical art work in which his mastery as a composer takes precedence. He
had already experienced admiration for his performing ability as a child,
resulting in widespread acclaim, yet without changing his social status. By
completely controlling the conditions of performance, he has redefined his
relation to society as a whole.
Mozart provides further evidence of his emerging intellectual indepen-
dence in his later operas. Unlike, for instance, the early La finta giardiniera
(first performed early in 1775, when Mozart was eighteen), where the plot
and music achieve a perfect, symmetrical resolution at the end, Le nozze di
Figaro contains many subtle changes in the classic Enlightenment-era opera
buffa pattern, subverting social conventions even at the apparent resolu-
tion of the conflict. Even choosing Beaumarchais’s second play in the Figaro
trilogy as the basis for the libretto was risky, as both he and da Ponte knew,
and represented a number of technical challenges. Da Ponte’s words on the
subject are surprisingly (considering his scandalous reputation) frank:
the opera will not be one of the shortest to have been exhibited in our theatre for
which we hope sufficient of excuses the variety of threads from which is woven the
action of this drama, the vastness and size of the same, the multiplicity of musical
pieces which had to be made in order not to keep the actors excessively idle, in order
to reduce the boredom and monotony of the long recitatives, in order to express
on occasion with diverse colour the diverse passions which there stand forth, and
our desire particularly to offer a virtually new kind of spectacle to a public of such
refined taste, and such informed judgment.
Here, da Ponte reveals that his and Mozart’s intention is not merely to create
a better opera than anyone had created before but an entirely different kind
of opera, in which greater dramatic and musical complexity would expand
public taste. He nevertheless also acknowledges the difficulties involved in
managing such a production: singers may not be “excessively idle,” and
the long recitatives necessary to connect the plot must be tempered with a
variety of more interesting musical forms.
The subversive nature of the opera, as well as the role that the music
itself would play in dramatizing the subversion, reveals itself in the open-
ing scene. As the curtain rises, Figaro counts off the measurements necessary
for fitting a bed in his new room, while Susanna admires how she looks in
the new hat she has made. Mozart shows Figaro and Susanna to be more
than obedient servants; they are hardworking, independent members of
the new bourgeois class of traders, bankers, craftsmen, and merchants who
were gaining power and significance in European society. For Mozart the
Freemason, Figaro and Susanna are precisely the kind of people who should
acquire power and self-confidence. In addition, Figaro is counting, using
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Mozart and the Transformation of Enlightenment Musical Aesthetics 29
mathematical measurements for practical use. The Enlightenment had wit-
nessed an explosion of mathematical knowledge unparalleled since Ancient
Greece; Mozart’s lodge, Zur Wohlt¨ atigkeit, like other Masonic lodges of the
time, ascribed mystical power to numbers and considered thememblematic
of the power of the rational mind. Meanwhile, the orchestral accompani-
ment to Figaro’s counting both anticipates and echoes the numbers as he
says them, the music acting not merely as support for his vocal line but as
an equal partner in his enterprise.
As the scene continues, Figaro learns of the count’s plan to seduce
Susanna and invokes the first of many musical metaphors in the famous
cavatina, “Se vuol ballare, Signor Contino,” “If you want to dance, count,
I’ll play for you.”
Directing the action of the opera means taking charge
of the music, and making the servant the master of the situation. Figaro has
suddenly become self-aware, paralleling Mozart’s attitude toward his rela-
tionship with noble patronage. Through Figaro, Mozart reveals an increas-
ing sense among the intellectuals of Enlightenment Europe that they, and
not those appointed by feudal tradition, are the rightful guardians of civil
society and the leaders in the improvement of humanity through increased
secular knowledge. Music has given Mozart control of his art, allowing him
to overcome censorship and the need to obey a particular noble; the opera
would soon make him the toast of both Vienna and Prague.
Similar instances of music enabling someone to assert control over a com-
plex social situation abound not only in Figaro but also in Don Giovanni,
with a significant innovation in musical style accompanying each musical
metaphor in the libretto. For example, in the dance scene of the finale of Act
I in Don Giovanni, as the other party guests dance a minuet in three-quarter
time to one onstage orchestra, Don Giovanni begins to dance a contredance
in two-quarter time with Zerlina to another. The pit orchestra also plays,
the characters sing dialogue in several conversations, yet every element fits
together perfectly. The two onstage orchestras run off when Zerlina cries
for help – once the sound of her cry overwhelms the dance tunes, Don
Giovanni’s control over them ends, as does this strange moment where
Don Giovanni dances to one beat and everyone else dances to another. In
this case, the abusive nobleman uses music for his own ends, then loses
control when Zerlina’s cries break through his carefully orchestrated and
choreographed plan. Similarly, when the statue arrives at the door at the
end of the opera, the sound of his knock and Leporello’s inarticulate cries
of “ta-ta-ta” end Don Giovanni’s control over the situation.
Moreover, the particular sounds that take control from Don Giovanni
are nonverbal – screams, knocks, and “ta-ta-ta” – and his fatal mistake
is to discount the possibility that a work of art, the statue, could possess
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30 Self-Consciousness and Music in the Late Enlightenment
consciousness, volition, and the capacity for retribution. Just as the com-
mendatore’s statue is not an empty stone image, the pure sound of instru-
mental music is not an empty representation of emotion, as Kant and earlier
philosophers had described it. At crucial moments in Don Giovanni, the
material of music itself, pure sound, takes control and punishes his abuses.
In other words, Mozart has given a form of class consciousness, then self-
consciousness, to the musical material, connecting the moment in which
a viewer confronts a statue – the paradigmatic moment of the aesthetic –
with self-conscious reflection and musical material.
the beginning of romantic musical self-consciousness
After Mozart andKant, theoretical, metaphorical andactual music converge
to create the complex, reciprocating matrix of ideas known as Romantic
self-consciousness. For FriedrichH¨ olderlin, whose importance as a poet was
severely underestimated until the turn of the twentieth century and whose
importance as a philosopher is only now being realized,
poetry becomes
Deutscher Gesang: the reflection of the melopoesis of the Greeks and the
representation of his autonomy as a self-conscious being. Hegel, some-
what later, incorporates his idea of self-consciousness into a philosophical
system encompassing everything from nature to aesthetics to philosophy
and religion. I argue in the chapter on Hegel (as does Andrew Bowie,
in a different way
) that an intuitive aesthetic element based on music
remains an inescapable element in Hegel’s idea of self-consciousness, one
that Hegel unsuccessfully attempts to repress. Furthermore, music becomes
the epitome of this element because of its inherently nonrepresentational
character. The union of words and music in song, although a central trope
for H¨ olderlin, represents an insoluble dilemma for Hegel, who nevertheless
resorts to the metaphor of music at crucial moments in his discussions of
The development of this relationship between self-consciousness and
music spans about thirty years, from the writing of the Systemprogramm
fragment in 1796 or 1797 to the late 1820s. In 1797, neither Hegel nor
H¨ olderlin had made their mark; Beethoven was still a relatively unknown
composer; another year would pass before Wordsworth and Coleridge pub-
lished the Lyrical Ballads. By 1827, the year of Beethoven’s death, Hegel had
become a prominent professor at the University of Berlin and had given his
lectures on aesthetics several times; Wordsworth had become well known
but was far past his prime as a poet; H¨ olderlin was confined to a tower over-
looking the Neckar as a madman. Although Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony
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The Beginning of Romantic Musical Self-Consciousness 31
had been widely performed, the late string quartets would remain rela-
tively obscure for another seventy-five years. Meanwhile, Kant’s influence
had extended throughout Europe, including Vienna, where he came to
Beethoven’s attention.
The early Romantic era is well known for its turn
toward the aesthetic and the valorization of absolute instrumental music
as a paradigmatic art; what is less clearly established is that these two phe-
nomena are actually facets of a larger conceptual structure.
During this time, music underwent a radical transformation unmatched
by any other in the history of the arts since the Renaissance. Although the
emergence of a more varied public certainly created the conditions in which
composers could assert their artistic identities more freely thanbefore, social
and political forces alone do not explain this musical revolution adequately.
Three composers of unprecedentedtalent succeededeachother ina city that
could give them patronage (with few restrictions on their creations), well-
trained musicians, and a large, sophisticated audience. Before Viennese
classicism, even the best of musical art played a role in intellectual and
social life not much more significant than decoration in architecture –
musical works served God, nobility, and royalty by glorifying them, not
the composers themselves. By the 1820s, composers had come to represent
autonomous genius.
Many arguments about the idea of the genius and the social construct
of the artist as hero have illuminated this moment in cultural history, but
nothing would have been constructed – socially or otherwise – without
some basis in real musical ability. Viennese classicism has had as profound
and enduring effect on western culture as Italian Renaissance painting.
The link between Renaissance humanism and the art of Leonardo and
Michelangelo is not explicit, but it is certainly undeniable; so, too, is that
between Idealist philosophy and Romantic music and poetry. Just as the
main achievement of Viennese classicism, sonata form, shares many charac-
teristics of the philosophical structures of Hegelian dialectic – the primacy
of teleology, contrasting binary terms leading to a transcendent synthesis,
andgreater organizedlength–sodoMichelangelo’s paintings andsculpture,
with their attention to human scale and proportion and idealized classical
form, mirror the focus on humanity and neoclassical models of Renaissance
philosophy. I have already described, however briefly, the continuing influ-
ence of Kant’s metaphysics; that the opening notes of Beethoven’s Fifth
Symphony remain the most recognizable motif in music history hardly
needs mentioning. I explore how and why the idea of self-consciousness
came to such prominence simultaneously in both philosophy and music
and how poetic discourse mediated between the two.
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32 Self-Consciousness and Music in the Late Enlightenment
This exploration begins with Friedrich H¨ olderlin, almost unknown dur-
ing the relatively short life he led before going insane, yet now considered
an important poet and philosopher. Chapter Two, “H¨ olderlin’s Deutscher
Gesang and the Music of Poetic Self-consciousness” traces several connec-
tions between philosophy and artistic creation through the essays, letters,
and poems of Friedrich H¨ olderlin, a friend and classmate of Hegel and
Schelling at the T¨ ubingen Theological Seminary. The philosophical frag-
ments, written at or about the time of the Systemprogramm fragment but
undoubtedly by H¨ olderlin, show his gradual movement away from prose
and towards poetry as his main form of expression. Poetry, for H¨ olderlin,
provides the means of connecting the human and the divine, as well as
the Hesperian (that is, Western or Germanic) present with the Greek past.
For all these mediations, H¨ olderlin requires a series of complex musical
metaphors based on an idealized view of the Pindaric tradition reflecting a
longing for transcendence inherent in Romantic aesthetics.
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chapter 2
H¨ olderlin’s Deutscher Gesang and the
Music of Poetic Self-Consciousness
I should forget only her song, only these notes of the soul should never
return in my unending dreams.
The proudly sailing swan remains unknown, when it sits on the bank
Only when she sang could you recognize the loving, silent one, who
so reluctantly made herself understood in words.
– H¨ olderlin, Hyperion
In the early Idealist accounts of self-consciousness explored in the pre-
vious chapter, the subject generally recognizes its existence by defining
itself against various kinds of object. However, theoretical explanations of
subjectivity do not themselves generate self-conscious entities; the actual,
practical experience of the self remains elusive. In Kant’s version of subjec-
tivity, self-consciousness emerges from intellectual intuition, a prereflective
sense of the self’s existence as the subject of different experiences over
time; the construction of the subject is therefore a synthetic act, realized
through transcendental deduction. However, this formulation contains a
surprisingly unmotivated version of the self, with no clear account of its
In Fichte’s answer to this dilemma, the self posits itself through its oppo-
sition to a material object, a nonself he calls the Nicht-ich, and becomes
self-conscious by differentiating the Ich from the Nicht-ich and declaring “I
am I.” Still, Fichte’s explanation of self-consciousness relies on a potentially
solipsistic moment and does not sufficiently address the ultimate cause of
the process. In response, the Systemprogramm fragment provides the moti-
vation for this critical moment by describing the process as a free, aesthetic
choice to become self-conscious, the result of a desire for beauty – a long-
ing for order in the material that also seems to lack sufficient grounds for
its existence. Similarly, Schelling describes the act of self-positing through
an aesthetic encounter with the self, the unification of subject and object
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34 H¨ olderlin’s Deutscher Gesang
through a continuous process of the self becoming its own object, combin-
ing the self-positing aspects of Fichte’s version with the desire for order in
the Systemprogramm fragment, yet not entirely resolving the difficulties of
In different ways and to varying degrees, these accounts rely on the
category of the aesthetic to mediate the encounter between subject and
object, either as the experience of precognitive sensation in general or as
an encounter with beauty in particular. However, the relationship between
these two versions of the aesthetic remains unclear, as does the overall
relationship between theoretical descriptions of self-consciousness and the
actual experience of the thinking self. Theoretical descriptions of the self
that rely on a purely abstract idea of the aesthetic leave the practical experi-
ence of selfhood relatively unexamined. Likewise, purely Kantian, formalist
views of art do not provide a sufficient, or useful, account of the relation-
ship between the self and the creative process. In other words, at this point
in intellectual history, the aesthetic has become the focal point for both
philosophical and artistic development. The next chapter in the history
of Idealist philosophy is therefore also the next chapter in the history of
Romantic art and would be written by a figure long underestimated in both
philosophy and poetry: Friedrich H¨ olderlin.
H¨ olderlin published few of his literary works and none of his philo-
sophical texts during his lifetime; he nevertheless provided one of the most
interesting and influential accounts of the connection between aesthetics
and metaphysics. Afragmentary essay known as “Urtheil und Seyn,” set the
stage for a complex set of transitions – first from metaphysics to aesthetics,
then from poetics to poetry – in which musical form plays a critical role in
reconciling philosophy with poetry, and the theoretical with the practical.
The essay was probably written as an immediate response to Fichte’s Jena
lectures in 1794 or 1795 and represents the beginning of H¨ olderlin’s turn
toward poetry.
In making the difficult transformation from philosopher to poet,
H¨ olderlin establishes the vital connection between self-consciousness and
the material worldof art andlife; he constitutes himself as a poet throughthe
act of creation, and constitutes a musical-poetic voice, or Gesang, within
the text of the poem. Close readings of the essays “Urtheil und Seyn,”
(“Judgment and Being”) and “Wechsel der T¨ one,” (“Change of Tone”)
and several of H¨ olderlin’s later poems reveals that H¨ olderlin’s ideal of
a unified poetry and music reflects a synthesis of subject and object in
poetry that resolves the questions brought up in what we may call his
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“Urtheil und Seyn”: Existence in Poetry 35
“poetological” writings, following the practice of the Schlegel brothers,
although H¨ olderlin probably did not use this term himself.
In a series
of metaphors positing and resolving the dialectical oppositions between
musical sound and poetic text, human existence and divine transcendence,
and ancient Greece and modern Hesperia (H¨ olderlin’s term for the Euro-
pean West), H¨ olderlin addresses the central problemof Idealist philosophy:
the fission between the abstractions of philosophy and the materiality of
existence. H¨ olderlin’s resolution of this division consists in the concrete
realization of the self in the music of poetry, seen as a material manifesta-
tion of the existence of the divine in the human, and of being in aesthetic
“urtheil und seyn”: existence in poetry
Between 1794 and 1800, H¨ olderlin wrote a series of short, unpublished
essays on philosophy and poetry – many of which exist only as fragments –
as well as many letters addressing those topics. Several excellent studies (in
particular those by Kurz,
and Frank
) examine the concept of
self-consciousness in H¨ olderlin’s early philosophical writings, establishing
his importance as a contributor to the circle of philosophers gathered inJena
during the late 1790s, which included his comrades at the T¨ ubinger Stift,
Hegel and Schelling. During this time, H¨ olderlin wrote his most famous,
and probably earliest, attempt to confront the problem of subjectivity: the
fragmentary essay known as “Urtheil und Seyn.” This fragment, written
on the flyleaf of a book between May 1794 and April 1795, represents a
remarkably early critique of Fichte, and, as Dieter Henrich has observed, a
new direction in the history of Idealist thought.
In particular, the essay confronts two major issues: the subject-object
division of being and the difference between the theoretical, philosophical
“I” and the practical, individual “I.” To address the first issue, H¨ olderlin
creates a spurious etymology of the word “Urtheil,” “judgment”:
Judgment. in the highest and strictest sense is the original separation of object
and subject which are most deeply united in intellectual intuition, that separation
through which alone object and subject become possible, the arche-separation.
In the concept of separation, there lies already the concept of the oppositional
relationship of object and subject to each other, and the necessary presupposition
of a whole, of which object and subject form the parts. “I am I” is the most suitable
example for this concept of judgment as theoretical separation, for in practical
judgment it opposes the not-I, not itself.
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36 H¨ olderlin’s Deutscher Gesang
The etymology of “Urtheil” (“Urteil” in modern spelling) H¨ olderlin creates
for this occasion immediately sets two major, recognizable concepts in
Idealist thought in conflict with each other. The first, Kant’s concept of
judgment as the pre-cognitive moment of sensory awareness, presupposes
the presence of a subject, yet the second, Fichte’s self-positing and self-
conscious subject, presupposes an act of judgment that separates the “I”
from the “not-I,” thereby bringing the subject into existence. Fichte’s “I
am I” can therefore only posit itself theoretically, because the faculty of
judgment required for its existence requires a pre-existing practical self.
H¨ olderlin’s division of “Urtheil” into “Ur-theil,” that is, his analysis of
judgment as the original or archeseparation of subject and object, therefore
makes Fichte’s version of self-consciousness paradoxical. The declaration of
“I am I” requires judgment to give it an “I” and a “not-I,” yet the faculty of
judgment requires an “I” to possess it. The theoretical subject cannot posit
both the existence of the practical subject and the subject-object relation,
because the ability to posit anything requires a practical subject with the
faculty of judgment to do any positing at all. Neither judgment nor self-
consciousness can take place without an existing framework consisting of
a practical subject, a material object, and a process of self-reflection, all of
which presuppose being, which H¨ olderlin discusses on the other side of the
The side entitled “Seyn,” “Being,” which Beißner assumes to be its sec-
ond part (a highly contested issue
), attempts to explain the relationship
between Fichte’s absolute “I” and the practical “I” through the concept of
intellectual intuition, the concept Kant used as the basis for his version of
self-consciousness. In H¨ olderlin’s view, being in itself, a unified being, exists
only prior to the subject-object division, as in the case of Kant’s intellectual
intuition but not in Fichte’s absolute “I.” Because the absolute, self-positing
“I” must reflect both on the “not-I” and the “I,” it is merely an “I,” able to
posit itself as a subject but unable to posit the totality of existence preceding
the separation of subject and object. The theoretical “I” that posits its own
existence by saying “I am I” cannot therefore posit the already presupposed
practical self as a means of achieving self-consciousness. Consequently,
H¨ olderlin asks how self-consciousness is possible at all:
HowcanI say: I! without self-consciousness? But howis self-consciousness possible?
By this means, in opposing myself with myself, I separate myself from myself, but
regardless of this separation of myself in opposition, I recognize myself as the same.
But to what extent the same? I can, I must ask this way; for in another respect it
opposes itself. Therefore, identity is not a unity of object and subject that would
merely take place, therefore identity is not equivalent to absolute being.
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“Urtheil und Seyn”: Existence in Poetry 37
“Opposing myself with myself” in this context means creating not only the
fact of self-reflection through opposition but also positing the elements of
the opposition itself. In H¨ olderlin’s view, the self posits an objectified ver-
sion of itself in opposition to the subjective self, creating self-consciousness
through the difference between the subjective self and the self-as-object,
that is, between the practical “I” that performs the actions of the subject and
the theoretical “I” that is the object of this philosophical inquiry. Fichtean
self-consciousness would therefore require the “I” to posit both the subject
and the unity of subject and object simultaneously, unifying subject and
object through the act of self-positing, yet separating them through judg-
ment, the Urteil of the other side of the flyleaf. As Dieter Henrich observes,
H¨ olderlin has concluded that neither the practical nor the theoretical “I”
can simply create being:
For H¨ olderlin, whose theme, along with Plato and Schiller, was the possibility
of unification, the reason he gives in “Judgment and Being” could easily become
compelling: one must conceive, prior to the distinction between subject and object
that constitutes all consciousness, a whole that always remains unknowable.
Despite its remarkable insights, “Urtheil und Seyn” remains a fragmentary,
unfinished project, and H¨ olderlin’s subsequent career in philosophy does
not reveal anything that supersedes it, even if he is the actual author of the
Systemprogramm fragment written two years later.
Although H¨ olderlin enjoyed moderate success in both publication and
social life, he left Jena shortly after composing this fragment, in May or
June of 1795, for reasons that remain unclear. He moved to Frankfurt, a city
he hated, and expressed considerable regret for having left Jena.
visiting his mother in N¨ urtingen in September of 1795, he wrote to Schiller
about working on the problem further:
I intend to develop the idea of an unending progress of philosophy, I intend to
show that the undiminished demand that must be made on every system, the
unification of subject and object in an absolute – I or whatever one wants to call
it – is indeed aesthetically, in intellectual intuition, or at least theoretically possible,
but only through an infinite approximation, like the approximation of a square in
a circle, and that in order to realize such a system of thought, immortality is just
as necessary as it is for a system of behavior. I believe I am able to prove by this
means the extent to which the skeptics are correct, and the extent to which they
are incorrect.
Although H¨ olderlin had mentioned a philosophical project in several other
letters, including one to his friend Niethammer where he mentions an
idea for “Neue Briefe ¨ uber ¨ asthetische Erziehung,”
no trace of a formal
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38 H¨ olderlin’s Deutscher Gesang
version of this system remains, unless, of course, he is referring to “Urtheil
und Seyn” itself or the Systemprogramm fragment; no definitive evidence
for either conclusion has emerged. The description of this project in this
letter nevertheless makes an interesting comparison between any possi-
ble account of subjectivity and the well-known mathematical problem of
squaring the circle, that is, finding a method for precisely replicating the
area of a given circle in the form of square, using only a straightedge and
compass. Although conclusive proof that this task is impossible would not
arrive until 1882,
Leibniz’s and Newton’s calculus had already established
that only an increasingly accurate approximation could be achieved by
the methods available to mathematicians in 1795; the problem is therefore
emblematic of both an infinitely receding goal (using current methods) and
a problem that might be solved through an innovative approach. In addi-
tion, H¨ olderlin states somewhat cryptically that “immortality” would be
as necessary for solving the problem as it would for a “system of behavior.”
Does H¨ olderlin mean that the task would require immortality to complete,
or does he mean that a concept of immortality would be necessary for such
a system? The letter supports either reading, but I find it more likely that
H¨ olderlin has returned to Descartes’ proof of the immortality of the soul
by dividing consciousness or the mind from the body in the Meditations
on First Philosophy.
In that case, H¨ olderlin’s solution to the unification of
subject and object, as he admits in the letter, is only theoretically possible
unless it occurs “aesthetically, in intellectual intuition,” as he had described
it in “Urtheil und Seyn.”
Moreover, the possibility that his friends would help him realize – and
publish – this system diminished rapidly. Other letters from the period
indicate that H¨ olderlin had broken with the entire Jena group for either
personal or philosophical reasons; he wouldnot attempt to renewhis friend-
ship with Schelling until years later.
Schelling’s solution to the problem of
self-consciousness, as I indicated in the first chapter, was indeed an approx-
imation based on an infinite regression; if H¨ olderlin was aware of this
solution, the letter seems to indicate that he found it inadequate. Whether
H¨ olderlin abandoned his philosophical project due to his own circum-
stances, the general dissolution of the Jena circle, or a discouragement with
the possibilities of philosophy, he did not continue working directly on
philosophical prose. Continuing this approach would correspond roughly
to an attempt to square the circle using calculus – an infinite task, already
tried many times. Another discourse entirely would be the only hope of
solving the problem; for this reason, he began his famous turn toward
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“Urtheil und Seyn”: Existence in Poetry 39
Turning to poetry, therefore, did not mean abandoning the problem
of being; on the contrary, poetry, particularly for H¨ olderlin, provides an
entirely different and more congruous approach to the problem. The dif-
ference between philosophy and poetry is their mode of being in itself,
and the history of modern H¨ olderlin criticism provides ample demonstra-
tions of this fact. In “H¨ olderlin und das Wesen der Dichtung” (“H¨ olderlin
and the Essence of Poetry”), Martin Heidegger declares H¨ olderlin to be
the “Dichter des Dichters,” the “poet of the poet” who defines and cre-
ates poetic existence.
Although Heidegger uses his readings of H¨ olderlin’s
poetry to support his own philosophical system (Adorno
and de Man,
among others, have made this abundantly clear), he nevertheless provides
valuable insight into the status of the poet in H¨ olderlin’s poetry:
The poet himself stands between the former – the Gods, and the latter – the people.
But alone and first in this Between it is decided, who the human being should be,
and where he should settle his being. “Humanity lives poetically on this earth.”
Without interruption and with increasing certainty, fromthe fullness of the surging
images andmore andmore simply, H¨ olderlinhas consecratedthis in-betweenrealm
with his poetic word.
Despite the dubious textual evidence Heidegger himself cites in his essays
on H¨ olderlin,
H¨ olderlin’s more certain texts support Heidegger’s overall
claims. Here, Heidegger poses the question of the ontology of the poet in
terms of the poet’s metaphysical location, “where he settles his being,” a
place between a series of related oppositional terms and outside of human
society. H¨ olderlin’s poetry abounds with references to figures who are also
outsiders and mediators, including Christ, Bacchus, and Rousseau. Hei-
degger correctly describes themas “Hinausgeworfener,” “thrown-out ones,”
exiles who create their own context and identity in a Zwischenbereich, an
area of between-ness.
As a poet, H¨ olderlinstands between many worlds, but his poetry creates a
particular ontological space. The poem itself is the Zwischenbereich, as Paul
de Man’s commentary on Heidegger’s interpretation of H¨ olderlin makes
Each poem, or every work seen as a whole, is a particular version of the under-
standing that a poetic consciousness possesses of its own specific and autonomous
intent – or, to put it differently, each work asks the question of its own mode of
being, and it is the task of the interpreter not to answer this question but to make
explicit in what manner and with what degree of awareness the question is asked.
The intent of poetic language is certainly not directed toward empirical insight,
nor is it transcendental in the sense that it leads to a closer contact with being in
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40 H¨ olderlin’s Deutscher Gesang
general; its intent is ontological, that is, directed toward an awareness of its own
particular being.
The vital distinction between poetry and other modes of discourse – espe-
cially philosophy – is in the self-awareness of poetic language as poetic
language, “its awareness of its own particular being.” This statement does
not reflect a mythologized valorization of poetry in general, nor does it
intend to indicate that H¨ olderlin’s poetry contains some mystical quality;
rather, it simply means that in H¨ olderlin’s poetry, the poem’s formal ele-
ments – rhythm, meter, trope, modality, diction and so forth – and the
indications of its status as poetry in the poem’s content create a form of
poetic self-consciousness by reflecting on the conditions of the poem’s exis-
tence. In other words, the philosophical act of saying “I amI” becomes both
a theoretical and a practical statement when performed in poetic discourse
because the material of poetry is, in fact, language, and a declaration of
a poem’s existence as poetry has both theoretical and practical results: the
poem gains its own existence as poetic language through poetic language.
“wechsel der t ¨ one”: the music of poetic language
Despite its brief and cryptic nature, “Wechsel der T¨ one” [“Exchange
of Tones”] (StA IV, 1, pp. 238–40), illuminates the connection between
H¨ olderlin’s theoretical writings and his poetic practice more, perhaps, than
any other of the poetological essays. According to Lawrence Ryan, the essay
represents the cornerstone of a full-fledged poetic doctrine when considered
in the context of the poetological essays, although even this distinguished
scholar admits that “Wechsel der T¨ one” is still not completely understood.
More recently, Cyrus Hamlin’s assessment of the text has revealed its clear
affinity with both poems and essays by Schiller published in Die Horen.
my view, another text published in Die Horen in 1795, Christian Gottfried
K¨ orner’s
Uber Charakterdarstellung in der Musik (On the Representation of
Character in Music), also influenced H¨ olderlin’s creation of “Wechsel der
T¨ one” to an equal or even greater degree. H¨ olderlin undoubtedly read
K¨ orner’s essay when it appeared in the same issue as Schiller’s Aesthetic
Education; K¨ orner, as both a serious intellectual and Schiller’s patron, would
certainly have merited H¨ olderlin’s attention. K¨ orner’s essay provides an
essential link between the formal and the affective elements of musical com-
position, using both general principles and terminology that closely parallel
those in “Wechsel der T¨ one.” In addition, K¨ orner’s essay gives H¨ olderlin
a paradigmatic solution to the problem of connecting the theoretical with
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“Wechsel der T¨ one”: The Music of Poetic Language 41
the practical, in both philosophical and poetic terms. Music, for K¨ orner,
can provide a direct connection between the purely material and the purely
formal, potentially bypassing any specifically symbolic stage.
K¨ orner, an accomplished composer and musician as well as a wealthy
lawyer, wrote his essay on music aesthetics in response to what he thought
were mistaken Enlightenment ideas about the subject, particularly, Kant’s
assertion that music is merely an agreeable succession of vaguely portrayed
emotions. He argues that, on the contrary, an excellent musical work
requires unity, as does any other great work of art, and that the unity
of a musical work should be considered the representation of character,
or ethos.
H¨ olderlin’s “Wechsel der T¨ one” likewise identifies T¨ one, that
is, “tones” or “keys” as the overall unifying elements of poetic composi-
tion and categorizes them as naiv, heroisch, or idealisch, terms that describe
overall character rather than specific emotional states. The rhetorical ques-
tions at the beginning of “Wechsel der T¨ one,” seen in light of K¨ orner’s
essay, contain an unmistakable analogy between musical composition and
poetic composition, borrowing several important musicological concepts
and terms:
Does the ideal catastrophe not resolve itself into the heroic in that the
natural tonic key becomes an opposite?
Does the natural catastrophe not resolve itself into the ideal in that the
heroic tonic key becomes an opposite?
Does the heroic catastrophe not resolve itself into the natural in that the
ideal tonic key becomes an opposite?
The terms of the T¨ one – naive, heroic, and ideal – also represent the relation
between aesthetic material and abstract thought that H¨ olderlin could not
resolve in “Urtheil und Seyn.” The series of catastrophes in the opening
rhetorical questions represent the collapse of each dialectical opposition
into a third term, in each case demonstrating that the resolution of any
opposition is not a perfect synthesis, but a catastrophic collapse of the
dialectical structure. In other words, an epic poem follows the course of a
ideal hero realizing his heroism in action, thereby ending the occasion for
heroism; a tragic poemfollows the course of a na¨ıve herointothe catastrophe
of death through anincreased consciousness of his ownna¨ıvet´ e; a lyric poem
reflects on itself, resolving into a na¨ıve and idealized moment but isolating
itself from the world of action.
Moreover, Aufl¨ osen, the main verb in all these questions, has a specific
musicological meaning when it takes the preposition in – it describes the
resolution of a dissonance into a consonance characteristic of a cadence, the
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42 H¨ olderlin’s Deutscher Gesang
dominant-tonic chord progression that defines a key. The word Anfangston
refers to the overall key of a musical work, the tonal area in which a tradi-
tional, sonata formcompositionbegins andends. Sonata formalsogenerally
requires a modulation (in German, Tonartwechsel) to a contrasting key, usu-
ally based on the dominant chord (the key of G major, for instance, for a
work beginning in Cmajor), creating a large-scale key structure that mirrors
the small-scale cadence that defines the key, the structure also known as the
tonic-dominant axis. H¨ olderlin’s “Wechsel der T¨ one” therefore attempts to
emulate in poetry the structural characteristics of musical Tonartwechsel,
that is, how tonal music defines its key center through the assertion of an
opposing key.
H¨ olderlin’s purpose in adopting this musical terminology is twofold.
First, its use enables him to create a formalized poetics resembling that
of musical composition, thereby following Schiller’s admonition in the
Asthetische Erziehung that all great art should try to approach the condi-
tion of music through sheer form. Second, it provides him with a way to
approach the problem of being according to K¨ orner’s musicological prin-
ciples. In one passage, K¨ orner claims that the cadence does not necessarily
indicate a specific object or emotion but contains a formal direction that
can actually represent existence as a whole:
Music, too, has a specific aim – that of regaining the home tonic. The ear’s satisfac-
tion increases or diminishes to the extent that the musical progression approaches
or moves away from it. This objective towards which music moves does not, how-
ever, symbolise anything inthe visible world. It symbolises the unknownsomething
which can be imagined as an individual object, as the sum of many objects, or as
the external world in its entirety.
The word K¨ orner uses for the tonic key, Hauptton, is nearly identical in
meaning to H¨ olderlin’s Anfangston; the sensation of reaching this goal,
that is, resolving the cadence, both gives the listener pleasure, and provides
music with its formal beauty. In addition, music indicates or symbolizes
(andeuten) an “unknown something” that can be imagined as an individual
object, a group of objects, or the entire external world. A poetics based
on K¨ orner’s concept of musical form could therefore resolve the problem
of abstraction by replacing a linguistically based hermeneutic of symbolic
representation with a musically based hermeneutic of formal beauty.
H¨ olderlin therefore changes musical modulation, Tonartwechsel, into
poetic modulation, Wechsel der T¨ one, a calculated succession of character-
istic poetic modes. The rest of the essay confirms his intention to create
a formal dialectical structure similar to that of music in poetry, in which
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Divine Self-Positing 43
traditional genres – epic, tragic, and lyric – serve as the counterparts to the
T¨ one:
Indeed for the epic poem. The tragic poem goes about a key further, the lyric uses
this key as an opposite and returns in this way, in every style, back to its beginning
key or: The epic poem ends with its original opposite, the tragic with the key of
its catastrophe, the lyric with itself, so that the lyric end is a na¨ıve-ideal [end], the
tragic is a na¨ıve-heroic [end], the epic is an ideal-heroic [end].
Like classical harmony, the modalities of poetry in this scheme have con-
trasting opposites against which they define themselves and find resolution.
In both musical composition and H¨ olderlin’s poetic scheme, a work begins
by stating a theme in a certain key, modulates to another key for a contrast-
ing theme, then modulates back to the first key. An intermediate tonal-
ity common to both mediates between contrasting keys, allowing polar
opposites to find resolution. By associating the purely formal structure of
instrumental music with these modalities, H¨ olderlin replaces the triadic
structure of Pindaric ode – strophe, antistrophe, epode – with a mod-
ern version that can assimilate and synthesize his own style and provide a
connection between formal structure and thematic content.
The poetic modulations H¨ olderlin describes, however briefly, in “Wech-
sel der T¨ one” outline precisely the same kind of abstract rules of composi-
tion for poetry that the rules of harmony would for musical composition –
the abstract principles which govern particular aesthetic choices and allow
a conceptual scheme to be realized in the work. A concept of musical form
therefore links the abstract principles of poetry to their concrete realization
in poetry. The question remains, however, of the extent to which H¨ olderlin
put this theory into practice.
I believe that the third element of H¨ olderlin’s project, the body of poetic
works, reveals how poetic theory and practical poetics become the aesthetic
material of poetry. In addition, a letter to a friend describing the mod-
ern poet’s relation to the tradition of Greek poetry confirms H¨ olderlin’s
commitment to continuing his project. In a certain sense, the result of
H¨ olderlin’s efforts brought him far closer than his contemporaries to solv-
ing the problem of self-consciousness that had vexed them for so long.
divine self-positing: “dichterberuf” and
the first letter to b ¨ ohlendorff
Although H¨ olderlin actually annotated one poem, “Diotima,” with ab-
breviations for “na¨ıve,” “heroic,” and “ideal,” he does not seem to have
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44 H¨ olderlin’s Deutscher Gesang
employed the “Wechsel der T¨ one” as an overt template for his poetic
They nevertheless correspond to the “keys” of the poem, identi-
fying specific sections as such and following a compositional theory. These
terms are almost certainly analogous to key succession, thus showing an
active interest in this correspondence, almost as if a poemhad a key. Clearly,
H¨ olderlin did followthe general outlines of the theory when writing poetry,
that is, he established a series of modulations and oppositions in his poems
according to a musical model. Two texts, the poem “Dichterberuf,” “The
Poet’s Vocation,” composed in the summer of 1800, and a letter he wrote
to a fellow poet, Casimir Ulrich B¨ ohlendorff in December of 1801, relate
directly to question of becoming a poet. They reveal how H¨ olderlin bal-
anced the dialectical opposition between the idealized, holy vocation of
poetry inherited from the Greeks and the base influence of modern life and
how the poet aspired to a new kind of German song, the voice of Hesperia.
The earlier text, “Dichterberuf,” begins by invoking Bacchus, asking him
to “give us laws, and give us life.” “Laws and life” are a curious combina-
tion of requests, especially when asked of Bacchus, the demigod of wine,
whose invocation normally releases one from restrictions and inhibitions.
The apparent contradiction continues when H¨ olderlin makes an important
distinction between poetry and other occupations:
Nicht, was wohl sonst des Menschen Geschik und Sorg’
Im Haus und unter offenem Himmel ist,
Wenn edler, denn das Wild, der Mann sich
Wehret und n¨ ahrt! denn es gilt ein anders,
Zu Sorg’ und Dienst den Dichtenden anvertraut!
Der H¨ ochste, der ists, dem wir geeignet sind,
Daß n¨ aher, immerneu besungen
Ihn die befreundete Brust vernehme.
(StA II, 1, p. 46)
Not that which else is human kind’s care and skill
Both in the house and under the open sky
When, nobler than wild beasts, men work to
Fend, to provide for themselves – to poets
A different task and calling has been assigned.
The Highest, he it is whom alone we serve,
So that more closely, ever newly
Sung, he will meet with a friendly echo.
Here, poets rise above basic material needs, fulfilling a fundamentally dif-
ferent role in the world fromthat of animals, who knowno lawbut survival,
and from that of human beings, who work on a more civilized level. Poets,
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Divine Self-Positing 45
like priests, have a fundamentally different task: they serve “the Highest”
and have been entrusted with a sacred mission to sing the praises of the
divine “ever newly,” yet as part of a tradition.
Curiously, H¨ olderlin chooses to categorize poets as a group and to call
himself one of themimplicitly through the pronoun wir (“we”), rather than
name himself a poet directly; John Jay Baker has correctly observed that
“Dichterberuf” uses every pronoun except Ich (“I”), indicating a powerful
urge toward self-negation.
However, as Guido Schmidlin observes, the
question of creating oneself as a poet cannot be dismissed so easily: “Who
calls the poet? Does he call himself or does he have a ‘higher’ call to do
his work? H¨ olderlin poses this question, in that he writes poetry.”
“Dichterberuf,” the divinely inspired call to write poetry cannot come from
the poet alone, yet the poet himself must respond appropriately not by mere
self-praise but by writing actual poetry, rather than merely posturing.
The poem goes even further, warning against the degeneration of poetry
into a mere craft by distinguishing divinely inspired poets and those whose
skill lies in mere imitation. The difference lies in their relationship with
their Greek predecessors:
Und darum hast du, Dichter! des Orients
Propheten und den Griechensang und
Neulich die Donner geh¨ ort, damit du
Den Geist zu Diensten brauchst und die Gegenwart
Des Guten ¨ ubereilst, in Spott . . .
(StA II, 1, p. 47)
And for that only, poet, you heard the East’s
Great prophets, heard Greek song, and lately
Heard divine thunder ring out – to make a
Vile trade of it, exploiting the Spirit, presume
On his kind presence, mocking him. . .
Writing poetry well means creating not for material gain but in remem-
brance of Greek song and Eastern prophecy; it requires the poet to receive
inspiration in his own time, even as he remembers the past. The absence
of the gods in these times makes the obligation to remember all the more
acute, as the paradoxical final lines indicate: “Und keiner Waffen Brauchts
und keiner / Listen, so lange, bis Gottes Fehl hilft,” “And needs no weapon
and no wile till / God’s being missed in the end will help him.”
absence helps him by allowing him to realize his purpose as the represen-
tative of the divine principle – the poet’s vocation would not be nearly so
essential if the divine being were actually present.
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46 H¨ olderlin’s Deutscher Gesang
In practical terms, how does a poet mediate between the absence of
the divine and its presence in poetry? How, precisely, can a German poet
of the nineteenth century simultaneously invoke the Greek tradition and
lament the absence of the immanent encounters with the divine that the
Greeks enjoyed? The Romantic lament that the Greeks were closer to divine
inspiration is familiar to us from any number of poets; for H¨ olderlin, the
difference between the poets of the present in Western Europe (“Hesperia”)
and the Greeks was not merely a thematic occasion for a particular kind
of sentimental poetry – it was the essence of his self-identity as a poet.
In the first of two letters to his friend and fellow poet Casimir Ulrich
B¨ ohlendorff, he explained these principles as both spiritual and practical
matters. The crucial passage discusses exactly what we, the Hesperians,
need to learn of the poet’s craft and how that can be learned from ancient
We learn nothing with more difficulty than to use freely that which is national.
And I believe that clarity of representation was originally as natural to us as the
fire from heaven was to the Greeks. They therefore are easily surpassed in beautiful
passion, which you have also taken on yourself, than in Homeric presence of spirit
and the gift of representation.
It sounds paradoxical. But I assert once again, and I submit freely for your
examination and use, that what is actually of one’s own nationality will always be
less advantageous in spiritual development. Therefore, the Greeks are less masters
of holy pathos because it was inborn for them, while on the other hand, they have
a greater advantage in the gift of representation from Homer onward, because this
extraordinary person was soulful enough to capture Western Junonian sobriety for
his realm of Apollo and to learn so truly that which was foreign to him.
For us it’s reversed. For this reason, it’s also so dangerous to abstract the rules of
art solely and only from Greek splendor.
This letter has been examined many times and in great detail because it con-
tains two extraordinarily important elements for understanding H¨ olderlin:
a clear, practical poetics and a dialectical examination of the relationship
the poet bears to his Greek predecessors. At first glance, it appears to
be a remarkably straightforward statement of H¨ olderlin’s compositional
principles; a closer examination reveals a far more ambiguous document.
Fortunately, three of H¨ olderlin’s greatest critics have given us a series
of insightful readings: Peter Szondi,
Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe,
Andrzej Warminski.
All these readings reveal an inherent problem in the
Greece-Hesperia opposition described in the first letter to B¨ ohlendorff that
closely resembles a difficulty with reflective models of self-consciousness:
the dialectical relation between the self and the other does not yield a
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Divine Self-Positing 47
symmetrical set of binary oppositions, and therefore does not necessarily
reveal the grounds on which it has been posited.
More specifically, das Eigene, that which is one’s own, and das Fremde,
that which is foreign, the primary categorical oppositions in this letter,
create what appears at first to be a kind of mirror image, but on closer
examination reveals a difficult instability. Die Klarheit der Darstellung, clar-
ity of representation, is natural to Hesperians; das Feuer von Himmel, the
fire from heaven, is natural to Greeks. These characteristics, “our own,” are
held inwardly, with little outward demonstration. That which is foreign,
on the other hand, becomes the most visible aspect of each group’s art:
the Greeks demonstrate “Junonian sobriety,” whereas Hesperians demon-
strate “holy pathos.” These characteristics manifest themselves outwardly
precisely because they do not come easily or naturally to each group – what
requires the most effort to master becomes most prominent. In H¨ olderlin’s
view, Homer, the greatest poet among the Greeks and fiery by nature, pro-
duced great poetry by expressing the cool sobriety foreign to him, whereas
we – the Hesperians – produce great works by expressing the passion that
Greeks possessed naturally. According to Peter Szondi, H¨ olderlin uses this
scheme to overcome the obligation to imitate Greek models perceived by
Neoclassicists while still learning from them.
As both Lacoue-Labarthe
and Warminski
point out, Szondi’s reading of the text reflects a funda-
mentally Hegelian bias: the Hesperian poetic self struggles for recognition
fromits Greek other inmuchthe same way that the master andslave struggle
in Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit. Warminski, however, sees ways in which
H¨ olderlin’s dialectical scheme does not correspond precisely to Hegel’s:
it is clear that a dialectical mediation of that which is our own and that which
is foreign, das Eigene and das Fremde – in short, a representation of das Eigene as
das Fremde (“our own origin as a foreign one”) – is possible only as long as we
do not read these words in H¨ olderlin’s sense but transform them, translate them,
as it were, into a Hegelian sense: that is, in order for us to recognize our origin,
das Eigene, we must translate H¨ olderlin’s das Fremde into Hegelian das Fremde, a
foreignness that is not our own (but is natural, their own, for the Greeks), into a
foreignness that belongs to us, in short, we must translate that which is radically
foreign into that which is foreign for us (i.e., not really foreign but our own – das
Fremde into das Eigene).
In other words, what can be known of the Greeks can only be understood
by making the das Eigene and das Fremde dialectic serve as a determinate
negation, an opposition with a specific understanding already inherent
in the terms of the opposition, when the opposition itself – from our
position relative to the Greeks – tells us very little, if anything at all. The
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48 H¨ olderlin’s Deutscher Gesang
effort to reverse this opposition to understand ourselves by seeing our own
nature in what was foreign to the Greeks depends on knowing precisely
what is our own and what is foreign to us in advance. As in the case of the
self-positing “I,” the term necessary for reading the dialectic only emerges
after the reading has already taken place and somehow grounded itself
in the particular. The terms cannot be resolved in theory; only poetic,
rather than philosophical, discourse provides the necessary grounds for
knowledge either of ourselves or of our Greek predecessors.
One cannot, as H¨ olderlin himself recognized, “abstract the rules of art
solely and only from Greek splendor”; the rules remain too abstract, too
alienated from the material nature of poetic language and from the par-
ticular circumstances of history, audience, and place. Poetry, like music,
requires the concrete dimensions of time and sound, as well as a literal
connection to reality. As Paul de Man mentions in the otherwise extremely
theoretical essay, “The Rhetoric of Temporality”:
Thus it would be difficult to assert that in the poems of H¨ olderlin, the island
Patmos, the river Rhine, or, more generally, the landscapes and places that are
described in the beginnings of the poems would be symbolic landscapes or entities
that represent, as by analogy, the spiritual truths that appear in the more abstract
parts of the text. To state this would be to misjudge the literality of these passages,
to ignore that they derive their considerable poetic authority from the fact that
they are not synechdoches designating a totality of which they are a part, but are
themselves already this totality.
Poetry distinguishes itself from philosophy not merely through its use of
metaphorical language but also through its presentation of various kinds of
objects merely as themselves – poems contain literal landscapes, encompass
actual totalities, and constitute themselves as real poems in metrical and
temporal dimensions. The resolution of the Greece-Hesperia dialectic is
not further abstraction but the poetry itself: actual poetry, written in a
particular time and place, modern Hesperia or Germany.
H¨ olderlin’s Greece-Hesperia dialectic therefore does not necessarily lose
its meaning in an endless series of unstable binary terms if read against
the background of the unavoidable constraints of historical and material
circumstance. A poet does not become a poet only in theory but when his
or her poetry is realized as the concrete manifestation of words and sounds.
The poet’s vocation, therefore, is to followthe triadic na¨ıve-heroic-idealistic
scheme outlined in “Wechsel der T¨ one” in the process of composition and
in the construction of his or her own identity. The Hesperian poet begins
by recognizing that the naivet´ e of Greek poetry reveals their fiery nature, yet
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“Brod und Wein,” “Patmos,” and “Wie wenn am Feiertage” 49
cannot be shared at this historical and cultural distance. He or she therefore
must undergo a heroic act of self-positing with respect to that difference and
create an idealistic vision of this transformation in poetry. For the historical
H¨ olderlin, the move fromphilosophy to poetry also seems to have followed
this triadic pattern as he moved from philosophical to poetological prose
and then began writing larger and more complex poems about this act of
self-creation in sound. The nature of this vision becomes even clearer in
three of H¨ olderlin’s greatest compositions, where his creates his deutscher
“brod und wein, ” “patmos, ” and “wie wenn am
feiertage”: the divine origin of deutscher gesang
H¨ olderlin has already confirmed that the self cannot merely posit itself
through theory and that mere imitation cannot make anyone a poet.
Instead, poets must create themselves through a combination of self-
determination and divine blessing. Where, then, does the self find its
origin? If the self of a poet must come from poetry, how does the poetry
come into being? “Dichterberuf ” provides us with a mythology of divine
inspiration, but leaves the issue of poetic creation relatively untouched. For-
tunately, three major poems, “Brod und Wein,” “Patmos,” and “Wie wenn
am Feiertage” explore the origins of poetry and the creation of H¨ olderlin’s
idealized Hesperian music, deutscher Gesang, on both metaphorical and sur-
prisingly literal levels. All three reveal a specific model of poetry as a song
for a particular place and time – nineteenth-century Germany – created
both in imitation of Greek forms and in contrast to the immanence of the
divine in Greek religious experience. H¨ olderlin’s deutscher Gesang, there-
fore, embodies the tension between Greek ideals and Hesperian longing by
enacting the process of historical self-awareness.
H¨ olderlin’s imitation of Greek models occurs on the most concrete level,
in form; his adaptation of Greek meter in “Brod und Wein” remains one of
the most remarkable achievements in the history of the German language.
This poem, one of H¨ olderlin’s finest andmost famous, follows a strict triadic
metrical pattern in close imitation of Pindar: eighteen lines of hexameter
in nine strophes in clear groups of three; the strophes themselves contain
three groups of three distichs. The first stanza opens with an image of a
town at night, as its citizens return from their labors to rest:
Rings um ruhet die Stadt; still wird die erleuchtete Gasse,
Und, mit Fakeln geschm¨ uckt, rauschen die Wagen hinweg.
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50 H¨ olderlin’s Deutscher Gesang
Satt gehn heim von Freuden des Tags zu ruhen die Menchen,
Und Gewinn und Verlust w¨ aget ein sinniges Haupt
Wohlzufrieden zu Haus; leer steht von Trauben und Blumen,
Und von Werken der Hand ruht der gesch¨ aftige Markt.
Aber das Saitenspiel t¨ ont fern aus G¨ arten; vieleicht, daß
Dort ein Liebendes spielt oder ein einsamer Mann
Ferner Freunde gedenkt und der Jugendzeit . . .
(StA II, p. 90)
Round us the town is at rest; the street, in pale lamplight, grows quiet
And, their torches ablaze, coaches rush through and away.
People go home to rest, replete with the day and its pleasures,
There to weigh up in their heads, pensive, the gain and the loss,
Finding the balance good; stripped bare now of grapes and of flowers,
As of their hand-made goods, quiet the market stalls lie.
But faint music of strings comes drifting from gardens; it could be
Someone in love who plays there, could be a man all alone
Thinking of distant friends, the days of his youth . . .
Here, as in “Dichterberuf,” poetry can only enter when commerce has
ceased; the strings of the lyre sound only when the citizens have an oppor-
tunity for reflection. They may be in love or thinking about the past, but
these thoughts only come when they have resolved their business matters.
H¨ olderlin consistently uses the bard-figure as an emblem of the poet (link-
ing the two most notably in “An die Parzen”) and places him at a distance
from ordinary life. In addition, the movement from daily activities to night
thoughts begins a series of movements throughout the poem – continuing
modulations of tone and theme described in “Wechsel der T¨ one,” in both
small-scale and large-scale patterns.
The second strophe begins with a personification of night, moving from
the mundane cares of the city to the mysterious workings of divine blessing.
H¨ olderlin does not name the personified “Night” specifically until just
after these lines, but Michael Hamburger is justified in including the name
earlier in the translation, for the identity of the entity being praised is
Wunderbar is die Gunst der Hocherhabnen und niemand
Weiß von wannen und was einem geschiehet von ihr.
So bewegt sie die Welt und die hoffende Seele der Menschen,
Selbst kein Weiser versteht, was sie bereitet, denn so
Will es der oberste Gott, der sehr dich liebet, und darum
Ist noch lieber, wie sie, dir der besonnene Tag.
(StA II, 1, p. 90)
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“Brod und Wein,” “Patmos,” and “Wie wenn am Feiertage” 51
Marvellous is her favour, Night’s, the exalted, and no one
Knows what it is or whence comes all she does and bestows.
So she works on the world and works on our souls ever hoping,
Not even wise men can tell what is her purpose, for so
God, the Highest, has willed, who very much loves you, and therefore
Dearer even than Night reasoning Day is to you.
Night moves the worldandour souls, despite humanity’s preference for “rea-
soning day.” The gifts Night bestows on humanity are difficult to identify –
inspiration cannot be quantified or assigned a specific purpose. Moreover,
Night gives us creativity, “the on-rushing word” (“das st¨ omende Wort” StA,
II, 91), that the day’s cares cannot. The poem has moved from rest to cel-
ebration, from reflection to action, through various kinds of speech act –
dedicating, granting, and blessing – to which the poet responds with songs
of both the celebration of “a more daring life” and “holy remembrance”
(StA, II, p. 91).
The distinction between the present and the past reveals a clear con-
sciousness of the difference – H¨ olderlin is by no means pretending to be
a Greek poet when he imitates Greek meter and invokes the names of
Greek places. Instead, he is defining his relationship with the Greek past
in hopes of regaining what he can of their spirit. The third stanza of the
poem contains nearly all the terms used in the first letter to B¨ ohlendorff
to explain this relationship. A “divine fire” drives us onward to celebrate
day and night; we “seek what is ours” no matter how far it may be. Despite
our distance from Greece in both time and space, a “measure” remains for
us always (StA, II, p. 91). After urging modern poets to make the spiritual
journey to Greece, the stanza ends with a telling line: “Thence has come
and back there points the god who’s to come,” “Dorther kommt und zur¨ uk
deutet der kommende Gott.”
The absent god is coming from Greece to
Hesperia, yet pointing back toward the magnificence of the past. As in the
B¨ ohlendorff letter, the poet here defines himself through both a connection
to Greece and in opposition to it, recognizing the familiar and the foreign
at once.
The fourth strophe begins with an insistent question and a description
of ancient Greece as a series of metaphors that turn its geographical features
into a house for the gods:
Seeliges Griechenland! du Haus der Himmlischen alle,
Also ist wahr, was einst wir in der Jugendgeh¨ ort?
Festlicher Saal! der Boden ist Meer! und Tische die Berge,
Wahrlich zu einzigem Brauche vor Alters gebaut!
(StA, II, pp. 91–2)
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52 H¨ olderlin’s Deutscher Gesang
Happy land of the Greeks, you house of them all, of the Heavenly,
So it is true what we heard then, in the days of your youth?
Festive hall, whose floor is ocean, whose tables are mountains,
Truly, in time out of mind built for a purpose unique!
The Greek past looms large in the poet’s imagination, becoming a place
of titanic proportions, but the question, “So is it true . . . ?” seems almost
juvenile – a longing for reassurance that the stories we were told as children
are indeed true, because we wish to recapture not only the magnificence of
a lost past, but the idealism and happiness of youth. Indeed, the tables and
chairs did seem larger when we were children, and H¨ olderlin has projected
this childlike sense of wonder onto ancient times, conflating the youth of
Western civilization with his childhood.
The strophe nevertheless continues with a series of questions that intro-
duce doubt and hint at disappointment, asking where the thrones, the nec-
tar, and the temples have gone. The answer is clear: the land has endured,
but the human institutions that celebrated the gods’ natural wonders lie in
ruins. The poetry of the past is over, despite its glories, and the ceremonies
and traditions that keep a culture alive have long since ceased. The present
requires new inspiration, which the rest of the stanza provides in a startling
echo of the Pentecost:
Vater Aether! so riefs und flog von Zunge zu Zunge
Tausendfach, es ertrug keiner das leben allein;
Ausgetheilet erfreut solch Gut und getauschet, mit Fremden,
Wirds ein Jubel, es w¨ achst schlafend des Wortes Gewalt
Vater! heiter! und hallt, so weit es gehet, das uralt
Zeichen, von Eltern geerbt, treffend und schaffendhinab.
Denn so kehren die Himmlischen ein, tiefsch¨ utternd gelangt so
Aus den Schatten herab unter die Menschen ihr Tag.
(StA II, 1, p. 92)
Father Aether! One cried, and tongue after tongue took it up then,
Thousands, no man could bear life so intense on his own;
Shared, such wealth gives delight and later, when bartered with strangers,
Turns to rapture; the word gather new strength when asleep:
Father! Clear light! and long resounding it travels, the ancient
Sign handed down, and far, striking, creating, rings out.
So do the Heavenly enter, shaking the deepest foundations
Only so from the gloom down to mankind comes their Day.
The triadic structure of the strophe as a whole reveals a curious transforma-
tion, with each part superimposing corresponding sets of images. In the first
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“Brod und Wein,” “Patmos,” and “Wie wenn am Feiertage” 53
part, a childlike perception of divinity perceives the sublime elements of
nature as mere furnishings for the gods. As the poet’s perspective matures, he
asks where all the wonders of that time, real and mythological, have gone,
repeating “where?” with an increasing sense of loss and anxiety. Finally,
“the ancient sign,” “das uralt Zeichen,”receives a renewed strength as a
cry of “Father Aether!” passes from celebrant to celebrant. When the word
becomes fully voiced sound, the sign becomes a reality, and the divine spirit
The curious phrase “Father Aether!” contains a number of meanings
and resists easy interpretation, but the poem’s emphasis on a return to a
prescientific era while “reasoning day” sleeps gives us an important clue.
The scientific age in which we and H¨ olderlin live (but the ancient Greeks
did not) arose from the work of a number of pioneering scientists and
philosophers, including Bacon, Descartes, and Newton, but Robert Boyle’s
experiments with a vacuum pump late in the seventeenth century had the
distinction of both establishing the experimental method and declaring
that aether, or ether, the substance purported to be above the atmosphere,
did not exist.
The cry therefore represents a desire to create a necessary
connection between celestial bodies and people on earth, made in defiance
of the negative logic of empiricism, which would exclude the existence of
anything divine, or at the very least, any connection between day-to-day
human existence and divine principles.
Nothing can be created, and no
communion with the divine can be established, without a positive assertion
of faith in the connection between the human and the divine, a connection
that can only be made in the language of song and poetry. This creative
language is precisely the “ancient sign” that has gained power through its
absence and goes out “striking and creating” (treffend und schaffend). The
Heavenly ones can only return when “reasoning day” has ended and other
modes of thought and language allow them.
The fifth strophe follows with the narrative of this return, a scene of
surprising na¨ıvet´ e. The strophe, in present tense, at first speaks of only
one divine being, a Halbgott who resembles Christ as well as Bacchus; the
title, “Brod und Wein,” possesses the same double meaning, with Christ
as the bread of life and Bacchus the wine god combined in the bread and
wine of the sacrament of communion. The description of an encounter
between the Heavenly ones and humanity has its origins in Pindar but
demonstrates a clear consciousness of the difference between ancient and
modern times – it has been so long since their last encounter that the
demigod has trouble recognizing them. Likewise, the “children of God” do
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54 H¨ olderlin’s Deutscher Gesang
not immediately recognize his benevolence as they are allowed to approach
in a scene echoing Christ’s injunction to allow children to come to him in
Matthew 19:13:
Unempfunden kommen sie erst, es streben entgegen
Ihnen die Kinder, zu hell kommet, zu blendend das Gl ¨ uk,
Und es scheut sie der Mensch, kaum weiß zu sagen ein Halbgott,
Wer mit Nahmen sie sind, die mit den Gaaben ihm nahn.
Aber der Muth von ihnen ist groß, es f¨ ullen das Herz ihm
Ihre Freuden und kaum weiß er zu brauchen das Gut,
Schafft, verschwendet und fast ward ihm Unheiliges heilig,
Das er mit seegnender hand th¨ orig und g¨ utig ber¨ uhrt.
(StA II, p. 92)
Unperceived at first they come, and only the children
Surge towards them, too bright, dazzling, this joy enters in,
So that men are afraid, a demigod hardly can tell yet
Who they are, and name those who approach him with gifts.
Yet their courage is great, his heart soon is full of their gladness
And he hardly knows what’s to be done with such wealth,
Busily runs and wastes it, almost regarding as sacred
Trash which his blessing hand foolishly, kindly has touched.
The scene creates a deliberate contrast withestablishedreligious ceremonies,
showing a chaotic encounter in which the celebrants cannot yet tell the
sacred from the profane. This event does not commemorate; it is the event
to be commemorated in itself and therefore has an awkward newness about
it. Valuable gifts are wasted; the names of the celebrants remain a mystery
to the demigod. Even the fact that an important event is occurring remains
relatively unclear; no announcement or fanfare precedes it, and the partic-
ipants arrive almost without the knowledge of the divine being they have
come to celebrate.
Poetry, the medium of commemoration and remembrance, therefore
necessarily celebrates divine encounters belatedly and at a considerable
remove. It records names that were unknown at the time; it describes the
events and explains their meaning. Unfortunately, it cannot eliminate this
temporal displacement; we cannot enjoy the divine beings themselves and
the divine remembrance of poetry simultaneously:
M¨ oglichst dulden die Himmlischen diß; dann aber in Wahrheit
Kommen sie selbst und gewohnt werden die Menschen des Gl ¨ uks
Und des Tags und zu schaun die Offenbaren, das Antliz
Derer, welche, schon l¨ angst Eines und Alles genannt,
Tief die verschwiegene Brust mit freier Gen¨ uge gef¨ ullet,
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“Brod und Wein,” “Patmos,” and “Wie wenn am Feiertage” 55
Und zuerst und allein alls Verlangen begl ¨ ukt;
So ist der Mensch; wenn da ist das Gut, and es sorget mit Gaaben
Selber ein Gott f¨ ur ihn, kennet und sieht er es nicht.
Tragen muß er, zuvor; nun aber nennt er sein Liebstes,
Nun, nun m¨ ussen daf¨ ur Worte, wie Blumen, entstehn.
(StA II, 1, pp. 92–9)
This, while they can, the Heavenly bear with; but then they appear in
Truth, in person, and now men grow accustomed to joy,
And to Day, and the sight of godhead revealed, and their faces –
One and All long ago, once and for all, they were named –
Who with free self-content had deeply suffused silent bosoms,
From the first and alone satisfied every desire.
Such is man; when the wealth is there, and no less than a god in
Person tends him with gifts, blind he remains, unaware.
First he must suffer; but now he names his most treasured possession,
Now for it words like flowers leaping alive he must find.
H¨ olderlin deliberately delays identifying the heavenly ones himself until
the middle of the strophe as a way of recreating this belated realization
because the value of direct contact with these divine beings can only be
recognized in retrospect. What humanity thought to be of the most value
at the time, the gifts fromthe gods, leaves those present blind to the greatest
gift of all: the encounter itself. Even the act of naming, so important in
the previous strophe, has become secondary, a repetition of what previous
generations have done long ago. More important than the desire to name
is the impulse to create a language for the absolute and to strive toward
communion with it. This desire alone can almost make the unholy holy,
because the god admires the courage of the act more than its result. Only
later can words for these events emerge, emerging “like flowers,” long after
the seeds of this holy encounter have been sown.
This simile in the last line of the stanza, “Nun, nun m¨ ussen daf¨ ur
Worte, wie Blumen, entstehn,” deserves further examination not merely
because it contains one of the most famous images of the poem, but also
because it speaks most directly to the way that poetry emerges between
the na¨ıve and heroic phases the poem describes. As Paul de Man points
out, the simile, which can be more literally rendered as “Now, now must
words for it, like flowers, emerge,” conflates the human agency of the
poet with that of nature, almost as if poetry could originate itself naturally
and “become present as a natural emanation of a transcendental principle,
as an epiphany.”
Certainly, the poet, who has not forgotten his role in
this large-scale cycle of history, chooses this moment to project his own
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56 H¨ olderlin’s Deutscher Gesang
creative process onto nature, thereby establishing a place for himself in
the divinely created scheme of history. The imperative urgency of “now,
now” enables him to posit his own self-creating identity as a poet while
nevertheless explaining the origins of poetry as part of a genuinely natural
process. In doing so, he solves the problem of the distance between prac-
tical and theoretical self-consciousness, creating a biological explanation
(poetry emerging from nature) for his subjective self. In other words, he
maintains the Fichtean principle of self-origination by saying “I am I, the
poet,” while simultaneously acknowledging that his poetry does not emerge
from absolutely nothing but from a natural being whose role in history has
been determined for him by circumstance or divine providence.
Despite this confidence in the power of poetic self-origination, the sev-
enth strophe signals a strange crisis of confidence. So far, metaphors for
poetic creation and the power of song as deed have generally been put in
positive terms, but here the poet states that poetry may well be impossible
at this moment in history:
Aber Freund! wir kommen zu sp¨ at. Zwar leben die G¨ otter,
Aber ¨ uber dem Haupt droben in anderer Welt.
Endlos wirken sie da und scheinens wenig zu achten,
Ob wir leben, so sehr schonen die Himmlischen uns. . . .
Donnernd kommen sie drauf. Indessen d¨ unket mir ¨ ofters
Besser zu schlafen, wie so ohne Genossen zu seyn,
So zu harren und was zu thun indeß und zu sagen,
Weiß ich nicht und wozu Dichter in d¨ urftiger Zeit?
Aber sie sind, sagst du, wie des Weingotts heilige Priester,
Welche von Lande zu Land zogen in heiliger Nacht.
(StA II, 1, pp. 93–4)
But, my friend, we have come too late. Though the gods are living,
Over our heads they live, up in a different world.
Endlessly there they act and, such is their kind wish to spare us,
Little they seem to care whether we live or do not. . . .
Thundering then they come. But meanwhile too often I think it’s
Better to sleep than to be friendless as we are, alone,
Always waiting, and what to do or to say in the meantime
I don’t know, and who wants poets at all in lean years?
But they are, you say, like those holy ones, priests of the wine-god
Who in holy Night roamed from one place to the next.
H¨ olderlin’s friend (presumably Wilhelm Heinse, to whom the poem is
dedicated) is a fellow poet and sympathetic listener; Coleridge fulfills a
similar role in Wordsworth’s Prelude. The overt expression of belatedness,
“we come too late,” (“wir kommen zu sp¨ at”) introduces a complex series
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“Brod und Wein,” “Patmos,” and “Wie wenn am Feiertage” 57
of statements regarding the relation between his own time and ancient
Greece, or, on a more general level, the poet and tradition. The gods are
indeed alive in another world, that is, living through tradition (poetry),
yet the relationship between them and mortals may be one-sided; the poet
cares about them, but do they care about him? The phrase “so sehr schonen
die Himmlischen uns,” translated as “such is their kind wish to spare us,”
but more literally, “so much do the Heavenly Ones care for us” presents a
difficult ambiguity. Is it meant ironically, or do the gods provide their care
by means which mere mortals cannot discern? The next lines imply that
human inadequacy, not divine indifference, keeps themout of contact. The
effect of these lean times is to make men stronger, enabling new heroes to
arise and intitiate a new era of contact between the divine and the human.
While the age of heroes has passed, it will return, yet H¨ olderlin feels that
we have arrived too late rather than too early. This poetry, therefore, is
the dream of those times, past or present, and the task of the poet is to
overcome historical time, to bring the gods to these needy times through
their representationinpoetry. Inthis way, poetry almost becomes more than
representation, and the poet’s dream a kind of reality; the poetry mediates
between the gods and mortals in these times, becoming a heroic act in itself
and preparing for the transition to the ideal. The poet attempts to become
both priest and hero, and the poemboth deed and representation of a deed,
but for now, that union may be unattainable.
Yet, as H¨ olderlin says, “wozu Dichter in d¨ urftiger Zeit?” What, indeed,
are poets for in these needful times? This famous line asks us to consider
what has changed to make this idealized form of poetry so impossible to
realize. To some extent, the problem is that in this age, our poetry lacks
real music. In ancient Greece, no difference existed between poetry and
music; Homeric bards created both with voice and lyre. Pindar, whom
H¨ olderlin admired greatly and used as a model, wrote both the words and
the music for his compositions; what we read of his poetry today bears
the same relation to his original compositions as a libretto does to the
performance of an opera. The poet of “Dichterberuf” speaks of poetry
“immerneu besungen”; in these needy times, singing must wait until a full
communion with the gods is possible. The poetry of these times is a dream
of the eventual performance of poetry, the enactment of poetry which will
do something. As mere writing on paper and enclosed in mute books,
poetry does nothing but cause private thought in a single reader – and
some seven types of ambiguity. The recitation of poetry reaches the gods’
ears, becomes a blessing, a celebration – in other words, its performance
becomes, in J. L. Austin’s words, “a performative utterance,” a statement
that is itself an action.
As the metrical element of poetry, its sound and
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58 H¨ olderlin’s Deutscher Gesang
rhythm, restores the lost music of the Greeks, its lexical sense recreates their
blessed condition, when they communed with the gods.
H¨ olderlin’s words in the last strophe of “Brod und Wein” therefore
function as a kind of prophecy:
Was der Alten Gesang von Kindern Gottes geweissagt,
Siehe! wir sind es, wir; Frucht von Hesperien ists!
Wunderbar und genau ists als an Menschen erf¨ ullet,
Glaube, wer es gepr¨ uft! aber so vieles geschieht,
Keines wirket, denn wir sind herzlos, Schatten, bis unser
Vater Aether erkannt jeden und allen geh¨ ort.
Aber indessen kommt als Fakelschwinger des H¨ ochsten
Sohn, der Syrier, unter die Schatten herab.
Seelige Weise sehns; ein L¨ acheln aus der gefangnen
Seele leuchtet, dem Licht thauet ihr Auge noch auf.
Sanfter tr¨ aumet und schl¨ aft in Armen der Erde der Titan,
Selbst der neidische, selbst Cerberus trinket und schl¨ aft.
(StA II, 1, p. 95)
What of the children of God was foretold in the songs of the ancients,
Look, we are it, ourselves; fruit of Hesperia it is!
Strictly it has come true, fulfilled as in men by a marvel,
Let those who have seen it believe! Much, however, occurs,
Nothing succeeds, because we are heartless, mere shadows until our
Father Aether, made known, recognized, fathers us all.
Meanwhile, though to us shadows comes the Son of the Highest,
Comes the Syrian and down into our gloom bears his torch.
Blissful, the wise men see it; in souls that were captive there gleams a
Smile, and their eyes shall yet thaw in response to the light.
Dreams more gentle and sleep in the arms of Earth lull the Titan,
Even that envious one, Cerberus, drinks and lies down.
The poets of Hesperia are those who come to fulfill the prophecy of the
“old songs,” the fruit of a particular time and place. However, these songs,
their predictions, and the entire cycle of history that encompasses them are
H¨ olderlin’s own creation; the fictional Father Aether’s ability to give living
flesh and hearts to the shadows of German poetry is really a reflection of
H¨ olderlin’s own poetic power, generated by faith in divine inspiration. At
the center of “Brod und Wein” is a clear and distinct vision of the poet: an
autonomous subject who has acquired self-consciousness through poetry
and whose words allow this self-consciousness to have real existence when
poetry once againbecomes song. Whennight falls, ending the reasoning day
and allowing song to replace other, more rational modes of discourse, the
terrible guardian of the border between the living and the dead, Cerberus,
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“Brod und Wein,” “Patmos,” and “Wie wenn am Feiertage” 59
sleeps, and allows us to commune with the Greeks, however briefly. As in
other moments in H¨ olderlin’s poetry where words, signs, and songs are
invoked, H¨ olderlin solves the problem of being by ascribing the power of
self-origination to his melopoetic language, that is, language that is both
sign and sound, at once linguistic and material.
The opening lines of “Patmos” likewise reveal H¨ olderlin’s attempt to
span the distance between ancient Greece and our own needful times,
where an additional dialectical opposition between danger and salvation
Nah ist
Und schwer zu fassen der Gott.
Wo aber Gefahr ist, w¨ achst
Das Rettende auch.
Im Finstern wohnen
Die Adler und furchtlos gehn
Die S¨ ohne der Alpen ¨ uber den Abgrund weg
Auf leichtgebaueten Br¨ uken.
Drum, da geh¨ auft sind rings
Die Gipfel der Zeit, und die Liebsten
Nah wohnen, ermattend auf
Getrenntesten Bergen,
So gieb unschuldig Wasser,
O Fittige gieb uns, treuesten Sinns
Hin¨ uberzugehn und wiederzukehren.
So sprach ich . . .
(StA II, 1, p. 165)
Near is
And difficult to grasp, the God.
But where danger threatens
That which saves from also grows.
In gloomy places dwell
The eagles, and fearless over
The chasm walk the sons of the Alps
On bridges lightly built.
Therefore, since round about
Are heaped the summits of Time
And the most loved live near, growing faint
On mountains most separate,
Give us innocent water,
O pinions give us, with minds most faithful
To cross over and return.
So I spoke . . .
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60 H¨ olderlin’s Deutscher Gesang
The “peaks of time” embody a transformation of chronological distance to
geographical distance, which in “Patmos” takes on particular significance
because of the positionof the island of Patmos betweenEurope and Asia and
its role as both in the Greek world and in the beginning of Christianity. The
last two lines of the first strophe, “O pinions give us . . . /To cross over and
return,” reinforce the identification of the poet’s vocation and the crossing
of this distance between ourselves, in these times, and the gods, in the
mythological past. The gods are indeed near, not hopelessly lost in the past
or in heaven, and the abyss between themcan be crossed. The phrase schwer
zu fassen, “difficult to grasp,” plays on the literal and figurative meanings of
the word fassen; it is both “to grasp,” meaning “to touch” and thereby “to
determine the concrete reality of an object,” and “to understand,” a term
usually applied to things that can never be touched in reality. In this case,
both normally mutually exclusive meanings of fassen become exactly the
opposite; the word is meant in both senses simultaneously: the gods are
both difficult to understand and to touch.
What connects these issues of abstract and concrete is the subtext of
“Patmos,” the place the island itself has in the history of Christianity as the
island on which John received the Revelation. Patmos itself is the concrete
element of John’s text (“I, John . . . was on an island called Patmos . . . ”;
Revelation 1:9), the literal basis for a text for which reading involves the
conversion of figurative events into literal history, that of the end of the
world. To grasp the meaning of Revelation, that is, to comprehend its
abstract and literal meanings simultaneously, is indeed to fly over an abyss,
into which the world of reality falls at the end of time, when the literal
end of the world and its figurative prophecy in Revelation become the same
In view of this radical collapse in the distinction between literal and
figurative, several complex questions concerning the problem of self-
consciousness arise. What effect does the beginning of the next strophe
(So sprach ich) have on the rhetorical status of the first strophe? If the
dream described in “Brod und Wein” and the “lightly built bridges” of line
seven of “Patmos” are metaphors for an idealized poetry, what is the status
of self-consciousness in a poem in which this activity itself is described?
Karlheinz Stierle perceives this moment between invocation and quotation
in “Patmos” as a release from “isolation and separation, which is the law
of the historical moment”
and interprets this as another of a series of
motions from far to near. In this instance, the difference between chrono-
logical distance and geographic distance is one of rhetorical level, whether
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“Brod und Wein,” “Patmos,” and “Wie wenn am Feiertage” 61
one takes “far” and “near” as geographic distance (between Greece and
Western Europe) or as chronological distance (between the fifth century
b.c.e. and the nineteenth century c.e.). In both cases, the poet is a figure
of mediation, and poetry an act of crossing.
This paradox of divine will and self-determination becomes even more
vivid in relation to his theory of poetic language, which H¨ olderlin addresses
in one of his most difficult passages, the last strophe of “Patmos”:
Zu lang, zu lang schon ist
Die Ehre der Himmlischen unsichtbar.
Denn fast die Finger m¨ ussen sie
Uns f¨ uhren und schm¨ alich
Entreißt das Herz uns eine Gewalt.
Denn Opfer will der Himmlischen jedes,
Wenn aber eines vers¨ aumt ward,
Nie hat es Gutes gebracht.
Wir haben gedienet der Mutter Erd’
Und haben j ¨ ungst dem Sonnenlichte gedient,
Unwissend, der Vater aber liebt,
Der ¨ uber allen waltet,
Am meisten, daß gepfleget werde
Der veste Buchstab, und bestehendes gut
Gedeutet. Dem folgt deutscher Gesang.
(StA II, 1, pp. 171–2)
Too long, too long now
The honour of the Heavenly has been invisible.
For almost they must guide
Our fingers, and shamefully
A power is wresting our hearts from us.
For every one of the Heavenly wants sacrifices, and
When one of these was omitted
No good ever came of it.
We have served Mother Earth
And lately have served the sunlight,
Unwittingly, but what the Father
Who reigns over all loves most
Is that the solid letter
Be given scrupulous care, and the existing
Be well interpreted. This German song observes.
Poetry requires sacrifice, yet nothing can be omitted; the poetry of this age
must be all-encompassing, preserving the world of the Greeks yet aware
of the present. A mysterious force tears at the poet’s heart; the difficulty
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62 H¨ olderlin’s Deutscher Gesang
of his task is so great that the divine must almost lead his fingers. Still,
the word “almost” (fast) leaves open the role of the individual will in the
process. The poet, one of many included in the “we” in the second half of
the strophe, suffers precisely because his poetry must come from his own
self-consciousness. The highest service of the divine involves caring for the
“firmletter,” Der veste Buchstab, of the belated age of written preservation of
what has previously been sung; it encompasses both the universe as it really
is, and the principles behind it indicated in the greatest poetry already
existing. The final words of the poem attest to the success of the poet’s
mission; “This German song observes” (“Dem folgt deutscher Gesang”)
confirms that the German poetry follows the example of the Greeks and
sings in its own language.
H¨ olderlin’s faithfulness to this poetic program, despite its inherent diffi-
culties, reveals itself in“Wie wennamFeiertage . . . ” (“As ona Holiday . . . ”),
a fragmentary poem that begins as a strict metrical imitation of Pindaric
but breaks off suddenly in several exclamations of distress. However,
this fragment provides aninteresting andunusual moment of perspective on
the poet’s accomplishments. Unlike “Friedensfeier” or “Brod und Wein,”
“Wie wenn am Feiertage . . . ” does not itself celebrate a moment or event
but provides a metaphorical distance from the act of celebration through
an extended and balanced simile, where the first stanza begins with the
word wie, (“as”) and the second stanza follows with the corresponding so:
Wie wenn am Feiertage, das Feld zu sehn
Ein Landmann geht, des Morgens, wenn
Aus heißer Nacht die k¨ uhlenden Blize fielen
Die ganze Zeit und fern noch t¨ onet der Donner . . .
So stehn sie unter g¨ unstiger Witterung
Sie die kein Meister allein, die wunderbar
Allgegenw¨ artig erzieht in leichtem Umfangen
Die m¨ achtige, die g¨ ottlichsch¨ one Natur.
(StA II, 1, p. 118)
As on a holiday, to see the field
A countryman goes out, at morning, when
Out of hot night the cooling flashes had fallen
For hours on end, and thunder still rumbles afar . . .
So now in favourable weather they stand
Whom no mere master teaches, but in
A light embrace, miraculously omnipresent,
God-like in power and beauty, Nature brings up.
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“Brod und Wein,” “Patmos,” and “Wie wenn am Feiertage” 63
The two stanzas juxtapose the cultivator, a human agent, with the weather,
a natural force, to establish a dialectical opposition between humanity and
nature based on mutual benefit. The Landmann, a farmer, observes his
fields the day after a storm, noting how order has been restored, enabling
new seeds to sprout, following a natural process that he has nonetheless
assisted and organized. The Feiertag is a day of contemplation and rest for
the farmer as natural processes take over, creating new life from his labor.
The poem contains abundant references to images of change upheaval that
H¨ olderlin used in other poems, yet in this instance, these entities have come
to some kind of resolution. The lightning is already past, not striking in the
present (as it does in “Dichterberuf ”); the grapes are still on the vine, not yet
transformed into wine to be drunk in celebration (as in “Brod und Wein”);
the river has returned to its banks, no longer overflowing in confusion (as
in “Der Rhein”). Like the Landmann, the poet can rest from normal duties
and contemplate his accomplishments, which have been transformed from
moments of action, creation, and performance into a natural landscape.
The poet, like the farmer, mediates natural and artificial processes, wisely
knowing when to intervene or to rest. The pronoun “they” (Sie) who “seem
to be alone” refers to the new plants of the farmer’s land, both objects
of the farmer’s cultivation and natural, living beings. Poetry, like farming,
requires alternating times of dormancy and growth, along with a reliance
on natural processes of renewal.
This celebration of spring returns with a new dawn, and the poet’s
sudden exclamation abruptly changes the poem’s tone, completing the
triadic structure by uniting the poet’s efforts with nature’s:
Jetz aber tagts! Ich harrt und sah es kommen,
Und was ich sah, das Heilige sei mein Wort.
Denn sie, sie selbst, die ¨ alter denn die Zeiten
Und ¨ uber die G¨ otter des Abends und Orients ist,
Die Natur ist jezt mit Waffenklang erwacht,
Und hoch vom Aether bis zum Abgrund nieder
Nach vestem Geseze, wie einst, aus heiligem Chaos gezeugt,
F¨ uhlt neu die Begeisterung sich,
Die Allerschaffende wieder.
(StA II, 1, p. 118)
But now day breaks! I waited and saw it come,
And what I saw, the hallowed, my word shall convey,
For she, she herself, who is older than the ages
And higher than the gods of Orient and Occident,
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64 H¨ olderlin’s Deutscher Gesang
Nature has now awoken amid the clang of arms,
And from high Aether down to the low abyss,
According to fixed law, begotten, as in the past, on holy Chaos,
Delight, the all-creative,
Delights in self-renewal.
Here, a broad and continuous view of the universe, from its highest to its
lowest levels, reveals everything to be in its proper place after the chaos of
the storm the night before. H¨ olderlin uses a rare Ich to insert his activity
into the poem, along with an odd shift to the subjunctive, “Und was ich
sah, das Heilige sei mein Wort,” (“And what I saw, the hallowed, my word
shall convey”). Hamburger’s translation of the subjunctive of sein, sei, (“to
be”) does not adequately emphasize the force of the poet’s statement – his
vision has made him capable of making his word holy merely by uttering
it. All renewal here is self-renewal, the poetic version of the Fichtean “I am
I,” a creation of the self-as-poet through the performative statement.
This poetic inspiration is not only holy, but also heroic, as the poem
changes tone once again toward the heroic in the fourth strophe with
another extended simile:
Und wie im Aug’ ein Feuer dem Manne gl¨ anzt,
Wenn hohes er entwarf; so ist
Von neuem an dem Zeichen, den Thaten der Welt jezt
Ein Feuer angez¨ undet in Seelen der Dichter.
(StA II, 1, p. 119)
And as a fire gleams in the eye of that man
Who has conceived a lofty design,
Once more by the tokens, the deeds of the world now
A fire has been lit in the souls of the poets.
A revealing chiasmus occurs in the course of the simile: the fire in the eye of
the herobecomes a fire inthe souls of the poets. Usually, poets have visions of
fire, whereas heroes have fire in the soul; the association between vision and
poetic creation as well as that between fiery spirits and heroic action is well
established in tradition. Moreover, two terms are used in apposition which
normally appear as opposites: dem Zeichen and den Thaten, the sign and
the deeds. Together, these reversals indicate that language and action are
somehow interchangeable. Renate B¨ oschenstein-Sch¨ afer has examined a
similar collapsing of the distinction between sign and deed in several of
H¨ olderlin’s late fragments and correctly concludes that making these ele-
ments interchangeable is an essential part of H¨ olderlin’s poetics – that
is, what is usually considered the domain of empirical reality becomes
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“Brod und Wein,” “Patmos,” and “Wie wenn am Feiertage” 65
a system of signification, and poetic language gains both a physical and
historical reality.
In a sense, H¨ olderlin takes Goethe’s famous rewriting
of the beginning of the Gospel of St. John in Faust one step further – he
not only substitutes Tat for Wort, but also does the reverse as well, making
words into deeds.
The next two stanzas describe how song springs forth as “thoughts of
the communal spirit” (“Des gemeinsamen Geistes Gendanken” StA, II, 1,
p. 119), the result of a joyous union of gods and men, as when Bacchus was
born from the lightning that struck Semele. However, H¨ olderlin cannot
sustain this joyous assertion of divine order for long; the poem breaks off
in sudden despair soon after these lines with the words “Weh mir!,” “My
shame!” Perfect order in poetry is perhaps too large a task for H¨ olderlin, as is
such a large perspective on the universal order. In either real or metaphorical
terms, the burden of following Pindar’s meter and describing the position
of the poet in the universe and in history became overwhelming. H¨ olderlin
must break off because, as he asserts in so many other poems, he is too
late, it is winter, and it is the wrong time in the cycle of history. The last
stanzas of the poem indicate an overwhelming crisis occurring at precisely
the moment the poet comes closest to divine inspiriation:
Doch uns geb¨ uhrt es, unter Gottes Gewittern,
Ihr Dichter! mit entbl¨ oßtem Haupte zu stehen
Des Vaters Stral, ihn selbst, mit eigner Hand
Zu fassen und dem Volk ins Lied
Geh¨ ullt die himmlische Gaabe zu reichen.
Denn sind nur reinen Herzens,
Wie Kinder, wir, sind schuldlos unsere H¨ ande,
Des Vaters Stral, der reine versengt es nicht
Und tief ersch¨ uttert, die Leiden des St¨ arkeren,
Mitleidend, bleibt in den hochherst¨ urzenden St¨ urmen
Des Gottes wenn er nahet, das Herz doch fest
Doch weh mir! wenn von
Weh mir!
(StA II, 1, pp. 119–20)
Yet, fellow poets, us it behooves to stand
Bare-headed beneath God’s thunderstorms,
To grasp the Father’s ray, no less, with out own two hands
And, wrapping in song the heavenly gift,
To offer it to the people.
For if only we are pure in heart,
Like children, and our hands are guiltless,
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66 H¨ olderlin’s Deutscher Gesang
The Father’s ray, the pure, will not sear our hearts
And, deeply convulsed, and sharing his sufferings
Who is stronger than we are, yet in the far-flung down-rushing storms of
The God, when he draws near, will the heart stand fast.
But, oh, my shame! when of
My shame!
Although the drama of this abrupt break is striking, few commentators
discuss it.
After what has been a measured series of transitions from
general descriptions of the process of becoming a poet to a personal history
of that process, the poem abruptly leaps to an unprecedented rhetorical
level that has not appeared before, that of the cry of pain. The effect is
even more startling in the contrast that this outburst makes with the metric
imitation of Pindar of the preceding verses.
Interpretation of this strange moment presents several textual difficul-
ties as well. Like the vast majority of H¨ olderlin’s poems, “Wie wenn am
Feiertage . . . ” was never published during his lifetime, and its manuscript
cannot be considered fair copy. One one hand, it is undisputedly a frag-
ment – a second abrupt break at the end of the text, several indications from
a prose sketch, as well as the interruption of the formal structure provide
overwhelming evidence that H¨ olderlin intended to write more than he did
On the other hand, whatever fragments remain are nevertheless part
of the text, and subject to interpretation. The final lines show a surprising
consciousness of the poet’s difficulties, and indicate that every word may
indeed count:
Und sag ich gleich,
Ich sei genaht, die Himmlischen zu schauen,
Sie selbst, sie werfen mich tief unter die Lebenden
Den falscher Priester, ins Dunkel, daß ich
Das warnende Lied den Gelehringen singe.
(StA II, 1, p. 120)
And let me say at once
That I approached to see the Heavenly,
And they themselves cast me down, deep down
Below the living, into the dark cast down
The false priest that I am, to sing,
For those who have ears to hear, the warning song.
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“Brod und Wein,” “Patmos,” and “Wie wenn am Feiertage” 67
The last strophe, relating the punishment of the poet for attempting to
come too close to divinity, serves as an explanation for the cry of “Weh
mir!” which, as well as the line “Und sag ich gleich,” essentially makes the
earlier stanzas a kind of quotation, forcing the reader to reconsider the status
and time frame of the previous lines, as well as the location of the
speaker. This sudden chronological and temporal removal, similar to that
of “Patmos,” transforms the entire poem into “das warnende Lied,” which
breaks off with the word which explains the poet’s loss of voice, “there”
(Dort). The poet’s location in both time and space, here in the fallen Hes-
perian world, determines his fate as a poet, whether he succeeds or fails.
H¨ olderlin has constructed a system in which the poet’s vocation, poetic
language, and finally poetry itself manifest themselves as a combination
of self-consciousness and divine will. H¨ olderlin’s insistence that what he
has become was not determined by him, but for him, disguises his role
as the originator of the poetic world he creates, and reveals that his words
originate not in the natural world but in his mind as the perception of
this role as the mediator between the Greeks and the Hesperians, and the
gods and mankind. In song, this idea becomes reality: the word becomes
deed. Whether the poet celebrates in triumph or falls into an abyss, he has
created his own self-consciousness in song, leaving behind the strictures of
philosophy, free to commune with the divine, or fall into despair.
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chapter 3
Hegel’s Aesthetic Theory: Self-Consciousness
and Musical Material
Music performs on the clavichord within us which is our own inmost
– J. G. Herder
In March of 1830, the year before his death, G. W. F. Hegel, by then the
rector of the University of Berlin and a celebrated philosopher, met Princess
Marianne of Hesse-Homburg, the wife of the crown prince of Prussia. The
princess was the daughter of the Landgrave of Hesse-Homburg, for whom
H¨ olderlin had written “Patmos.” In her diary, Princess Marianne records
that she asked Hegel about Isaac von Sinclair, a friend to both Hegel and
H¨ olderlin from their T¨ ubingen days, and received a curious response: “At
that point, he [Hegel] began to speak of H¨ olderlin, whom the world has
forgotten. . . . A whole lost past went through me.”
The T¨ ubinger Freunde
had long dispersed and Hegel had essentially given up on H¨ olderlin as
hopelessly mad in 1803 when Schelling wrote to him about their friend’s
worsening condition.
Suddenly, the mention of a friend’s name brought
H¨ olderlin to Hegel’s mind, along with the plans they had made long ago
in Jena, Frankfurt, and Homburg. The “lost past” mentioned by Princess
Marianne refers to the time immediately after the French Revolution that
had raised fleeting hopes for reform before Napoleon ravaged Europe and
released the forces that would control European politics for the rest of
the nineteenth century. It also refers to the period in Hegel’s life when
a project like the one described in the Systemprogramm fragment seemed
worth considering and even possible. Princess Marianne’s question did not
elicit remembrances of Sinclair himself but of H¨ olderlin, whom the world
had indeed forgotten, but Hegel, clearly, had not.
This incident represents in microcosm the project Hegel had been con-
tinuing for over a decade: the assimilation of aesthetics into his overall
philosophy. In 1818, while still at Heidelberg, Hegel gave his first series of
lectures on aesthetics and later delivered revised and expanded versions of
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Hegel’s Aesthetic Theory: Self-Consciousness and Musical Material 69
the course at Berlinin1820–1, 1823, 1826, and1828–9. By the end, attendance
at Hegel’s aesthetic lectures became almost mandatory for anyone inter-
ested in culture; many observers even preserved their notes for posterity.
In a sense, Hegel’s Berlin lectures represented an attempt to accomplish the
promise of the Systemprogramm fragment in mature form. What had begun
as a new and final system of metaphysics, ethics, and aesthetics summed
up in a few pages – no matter who had really composed the document –
had become a life-long project of organizing human knowledge within the
intellectual framework of philosophy and the institutional framework of
the university. Hegel had essentially replaced the revolutionary stance of the
Systemprogramm fragment and its bold ambition to create a “new mythol-
ogy” with an understanding of all previous knowledge as part of the gradual
realization of truth over time. As Hegel turned more frequently toward the
arts, both for his own edification and as the subject of his lectures, he sawhis
philosophical principles demonstrated in them and articulated their posi-
tion within his system in increasingly detailed terms. Although the results
of this extraordinary project were not always felicitious,
Hegel’s aesthetic
theory remains one of the most enduring applications of his speculative
philosophy to actual objects, regarding both continuing interest and con-
temporary relevance. In particular, his views of music depend on a concept
of musical meaning as a manifestation of self-consciousness. Later, however,
he went on to deny music’s ability to represent self-consciousness, so that
philosophy, rather than art, could maintain its primary position within his
overall system.
Reconciling the theoretical aspect of Hegel’s views on aesthetics with
his practice of aesthetic judgment and interpretation has not been an easy
task for scholars. Anne-Marie Gethmann-Siefert’s recent assessment shows
many devoted Hegelians at a loss in their attempt to derive a coherent
position encompassing Hegel’s theoretical claims and his actual encounters
with the artistic world.
By comparing the printed edition of the aesthetic
lectures with the notes of those who actually attended, she has come to
the conclusion that the editor of the best-known printed version, H. G.
Hotho, added many – if not all – of the examples and particular aesthetic
judgments in the text.
Moreover, the most famous statement in the lec-
tures, “art, considered in its highest vocation, is and remains for us a thing
of the past,”
seems oddly nostalgic and pessimistic in a system that gen-
erally views culture as progressive. Even Hegel’s most devoted students at
the time found this claim difficult to accept, provoking many notorious
Like Hegel himself, the lectures on aesthetics contain
many contradictions, not all of which can, or even should, be resolved.
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70 Hegel’s Aesthetic Theory: Self-Consciousness and Musical Material
A completely coherent Hegel would undoubtedly be an idealized fiction; a
completely incoherent or disingenuous version of the philosopher – or his
editor, for that matter – would probably be a misrepresentation as well.
Here, I plan to continue tracing the connection between Idealist ver-
sions of self-consciousness and the aesthetics of music and poetry. Doing
so involves examining precisely where and howHegel varied fromhis prede-
cessors on both self-consciousness and aesthetics and restoring the context
of his aesthetic theory and artistic judgments, however compromised by
editorial interference. I argue that Hegel’s views of poetry and music, as key
elements in his general aesthetic theory, reflect an attempt to reconcile the
Romantic accounts of aesthetic experience current in 1820s Berlin with the
manifestation of self-consciousness that he had so diligently described in
his philosophy. However, any discussion of the relationship between these
two major elements in Hegel’s thought must begin with an examination of
the reliability and context of the most disputed text, Hotho’s version of the
Lectures on Aesthetics and its relationship with the more recently published
transcription of the 1823 lectures.
hegel’s aesthetic lectures: origin and context
Few works of philosophical aesthetics approach the scale and ambition of
Hegel’s Lectures on Aesthetics, which takes both a systematic and historical
approach to its subject. The text explains the existence and history of
art according to two central principles: that an artwork is the external
particularization of the idea of beauty for sensuous apprehension and that
the creation and contemplation of art is an act of self-reflection by means
of the sensuous material of the artwork. Hegel’s proof and explication of
these principles encompass the historical development of artistic modes,
as well as detailed descriptions of different media, with examples ranging
from the sculpture of ancient Egypt and Greece to the poems of Goethe
and Schiller.
A study of a philosophical work of this large a scope would be daunt-
ing enough even if one could be absolutely sure of the text. The Lec-
tures on Aesthetics, edited by a H. G. Hotho, a devoted student, rather
than by Hegel himself, is not a single written treatise but a transcrip-
tion of oral lectures delivered in various university courses over several
years. Despite their piecemeal origin, the lectures are remarkably coherent;
their consistency and symmetry have even been cited as reasons to doubt
their authenticity as Hegel’s own work. Until recently, most readers have
believed Hotho’s claim that he provided a faithful transcription of Hegel’s
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Hegelian Self-Consciousness and Art 71
own words.
However, Anne-Marie Gethmann-Siefert has matched her
continuing efforts to examine the validity of Hotho’s text, as noted earlier,
with her determination to collect and publish versions of the lectures based
on other sources. Her recent publication of Hotho’s transcript of the 1823
Berlin lectures reveals many parallels with the more questionable but far
more complete version Hotho originally published, especially on the most
controversial points.
Nevertheless, the text of the Lectures on Aesthetics, as originally pub-
lished and reprinted in the collected works of Hegel since Hotho’s first
edition of 1835, represents more than the vaguely filtered, and perhaps
adulterated, views of the philosopher. The work has a long history of
its own that inevitably contributes to our understanding of it. However
compromised it may be, this edition represents what has been considered
Hegel’s thoughts for almost two centuries and as Stephen Bungay notes,
will remain “an important historical document in its own right,” no mat-
ter how discredited.
It is also indicative of what a group of devoted and
knowledgeable students – not just Hotho – understood as Hegel’s views,
rigorously and systematically applied to their cultural surroundings. Many
who had attended the same lectures would be in a position to reveal any
variation from at least the spirit, if not the letter, of Hegel’s words. More-
over, many more readers of Hotho’s edition already knew other works by
Hegel well and would also recognize variations in style and thought.
I therefore treat the text, with certain reservations, as both indicative
of a particular development in the history of philosophy and aesthetic
thought and as representative of a cultural moment. Comparisons of the
more recent reconstruction of Hegel’s 1823 lectures will undoubtedly create
a more secure understanding of what parts of the Lectures on Aesthetics are
truly Hegel’s words and thoughts. I consider striving for authenticity in
this regard to be of secondary importance to the examination of Hegelian
thought on aesthetics overall.
hegelian self-consciousness and art
Hegel had addressed the problem of art and the category of the aesthetic
long before he began lecturing on them, but the connection between his
highly developed positions on art in the Berlin lectures and his earlier
writings on metaphysics does not become clear unless examined in the
context of Hegel’s predecessors. Self-consciousness, as I explained in the
introductory chapter, was the central issue of Idealist philosophy, yet no
description of the concept had yet presented itself as entirely adequate until
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72 Hegel’s Aesthetic Theory: Self-Consciousness and Musical Material
Hegel published The Phenomenology of Spirit in 1807. Despite Schelling’s
Hegel’s theory of self-consciousness in the Phenomenology repre-
sents a significant departure from all previous theories and solves some of
the recurring problems in the works of his predecessors.
When Hegel began work on the Phenomenology early in the nine-
teenth century, theories of self-consciousness had reached an impasse
between theory and practice, or, as H¨ olderlin formulated it, between
judgment and being. (It is unlikely that Hegel read H¨ olderlin’s fragmen-
tary essay.) Schelling’s solution to the infinitely regressive series of posit-
ing self-consciousness to have experience yet needing experience to posit
self-consciousness, was the Selbstobjektwerden, the “self-becoming-object.”
However, this abstract entity does not seem to correspond to any real, intu-
itive experience of self-consciousness and does not necessarily resolve the
problem of infinite regression: the point at which one posits the Selbstob-
jektwerden is ultimately arbitrary.
Hegel’s solution, as described in the Phenomenology, requires a different
kindof logic; he consequently defines the discourse of philosophy somewhat
differently from that of his predecessors. Kant’s main works take the form
of Kritik, that is, critical commentary on processes external to the works
themselves; Fichte’s Wissenschaftlehre is, ostensibly, a science of knowing –
a method; Schelling’s philosophy is clearly named a system. Hegel calls
his work a “phenomenology,” simultaneously a description of a process
that actually took place as a phenomenon, and a logical examination of the
workings of that process. By coining this term, Hegel describes the process
of coming to self-consciousness as both historical and retrospective: both the
narrative of becoming self-conscious and the understanding of one’s own
consciousness emerge from knowing that history.
By specifically addressing the problem of self-consciousness in the form
of a phenomenology, Hegel confronts the divisionbetweentheory andprac-
tice directly. Self-consciousness is not a theoretical construct that somehow
leaps into the practice of individuals and then into humanity as a whole;
it is the practice of becoming self-conscious and understanding oneself as
such. According to Hegel, this process of becoming self-conscious follows a
familiar progression: it begins with mere “consciousness” (the initial aware-
ness of the perception of an external object, or sense-certainty) followed
by a complex manifestation of self-consciousness itself, which develops
out of the knowledge of one’s own existence. Kant and Fichte had exam-
ined the moment of sense-certainty extensively but had not extended their
theories of self-consciousness into the social realm, as Hegel does in the
famous “Lordship and Bondage” section of the Phenomenology. As Andrzej
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Hegelian Self-Consciousness and Art 73
Warminski astutely observes, Hegel does not see sense-certainty as a simple
or definite beginning of self-consciousness. Sense-certainty is not merely
an epistemological moment but instead the particular moment in ontol-
ogy that becomes a central issue in the act of defining “sense-certainty”
If the answer to the question “What is sense-certainty?” reads “Sense-certainty is
(its own) history,” this answer calls for a double reading – by us and by sense-
certainty – and a rewriting of both question and answer. In spite of (or rather
because of ) its rhetoric of being and nothing (nichts anders als . . . nichts anders als),
which echoes the first sentence, this answer forces us to reread Being – the “is,”
the copula – and thus the truth of sense-certainty. That is, Being – as object and
as subject – has turned out to be the name . . . of an empty abstraction . . . which,
in order not to mean nothing, to distinguish itself from nothing, has to be thought
as mediated, as having and being a history.
Just as H¨ olderlin rightly asked, “How can I say I! without self-con-
sciousness?” Hegel implicitly asks, “How can I say what sense-certainty
‘is’ – without knowing what ‘is’ means and how it operates?” Furthermore,
knowing the meaning of “is” or “being” requires knowing its history, that
is, the history of asking the question and the understanding that existence
takes place in the dimension of time. (Sense-certainty is not certain until the
terms of the “I” and “not-I” have been confirmed by the self-conscious “I,”
as I discussed earlier.) Hegel therefore turns Kant’s synthetic unity of apper-
ception, the deduction of the self as having continuous experiences over
time, into a recursive cycle of sensation, self-consciousness, and retrospec-
tive perception. The “I” is always inthe process of becoming a self-conscious
“I” by synthesizing different kinds of experience, but the experiences are
only distinguishable after the “I” has acquired self-consciousness.
Therefore, the problem of being, as mere existence of the subject and
the object, is not the differentiation between being and not-being but the
triadic relation of being, not-being, and becoming. This pattern of posit-
ing, negation, and sublation, or Aufhebung, appears constantly in Hegel’s
writings, in both his larger works and as a logical principle in his overall phi-
losophy. Although Schelling perceived the traces of the Selbstobjektwerden
in this pattern, the progression of Geist, Hegel’s name for the collective and
individual spirit that comes to self-consciousness and absolute knowledge
in the Phenomenology (usually rendered in English as “Sprit”), takes a pro-
gressive rather than a regressive path, in contrast to the Selbstobjektwerden.
As Hegel made even clearer in the Science of Logic of 1812–16, this version of
self-consciousness, in contrast to that of his predecessors, satisfies both its
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74 Hegel’s Aesthetic Theory: Self-Consciousness and Musical Material
logical and ontological demands by accounting for the both the inference
of self-consciousness and the existence of the subject.
Hegel’s assertion that a universal Spirit comes to self-consciousness in the
actual world, uniting the theory and practice of self-consciousness, remains
perhaps the single greatest source of misunderstanding in his works. Many
sophisticated critics and philosophers have fallen into the trap of creat-
ing a purely anthropological or psychological version of this theory, treat-
ing the Phenomenology as an account, however farfetched, of the work-
ings of individual consciousness; perhaps an equal number of critics have
treated it as a purely cultural description or taken Hegel’s claims to signify a
strange kind of pantheism. However, Hegel himself tells his readers howthe
Phenomenology manages to be both and neither, explaining the necessity of
the text’s particular task:
The task of leading the individual from his uneducated standpoint to knowledge
had to be seen in its universal sense, just as it was the universal individual, self-
conscious Spirit, whose formative education had to be studied. As regards the
relation between them, every moment, as it gains concrete form and a shape of its
own, displays itself in the universal individual.
To mistake the Phenomenology for a purely theoretical, psychological, or
historical-cultural text means more than missing one of its aspects; it means
missing the point entirely: self-consciousness is itself the history of Spirit
becoming self-conscious and actual. Hegel makes a useful analogy to illus-
trate this essential point a few sentences later:
Thus, as far as factual information is concerned, we find that what in former ages
engaged the attention of men of mature mind, has been reduced to the level of facts,
exercises, and even games for children; and, in the child’s progress through school,
we shall recognize the history of the cultural development of the world traced, as
it were, in a silhouette. . . . In this respect, formative education, regarded from the
side of the individual, consists in his acquiring what thus lies at hand, devouring
his inorganic nature, and taking possession of it for himself. But, regarded from
the side of universal Spirit as substance, this is nothing but its own acquisition
of self-consciousness, the bringing-about of its own becoming and reflection into
The acquisition of purely factual knowledge followed by self-reflection
forms the self-conscious character of the individual, and represents part
of the overall development of civilization as it, too, becomes increasingly
self-conscious in the course of history. No meaningful distinction exists
between the theoretical and practical sides of Hegel’s description of self-
consciousness. Self-consciousness cannot occur merely as the positing of
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Hegelian Self-Consciousness and Art 75
an individual self in an encounter with an individual object, because this
encounter can only yield self-consciousness for that entity as part of a larger
whole that includes all conscious individuals. Hegel asserts that a theoretical
description of self-consciousness cannot make sense as theory; no adequate
description of self-consciousness can exist without the subject-object dis-
tinction, and no object functions as such unless it is an actual, practical
object. Hegel thereby reverses the priority of the concepts that Schelling
had described – in Hegel’s version of self-consciousness, the subject does
not become an object to provide the system with an absolute standpoint of
knowledge, but instead, the object in the theoretical subject-object relation
becomes a real, practical object, enabling the theoretical subject to enter
the historical world.
The path of Spirit toward Absolute Knowledge in the course of the
Phenomenology thus leads through many external relations, driven by desire
to a combined “art-religion” immediately prior to absolute knowledge,
which exerts a strong influence on the later lectures on aesthetics, as
Annemarie Gethmann-Siefert has stated succinctly:
The “Phenomenology,” which develops the spirit-concept as the way of individual
historical knowledge to absolute knowledge, therefore orders art and religion as the
objective and subjective sides of the grasping of the absolute, that is, the appearance
and the imagination, clearly of philosophy, under absolute knowledge.
Art, the objective side of the path toward Absolute Knowledge (literally, the
“grasping” [Erfassung] of the absolute), demonstrates spiritual development
through specific, concrete manifestations in works of art. Because they are
enduring products of human consciousness, art objects provide a picture of
this development not necessarily accessible through the remote and often
accidental patterns of the “slaughter-bench of history” or the subjective
complexities of theology. In this way, aesthetics, for Hegel, represents more
thana temporary departure fromthe serious business of writing philosophy:
it is the concrete, sensuous representation of absolute knowledge.
The conjoining of art and religion as two sides of the progress of Spirit
explains, to some degree, Hegel’s puzzling statement about the end of
art, which appears not only in the Lectures on Aesthetics but also in the
transcription of the 1823 lectures and in reports of contemporaries.
“end of art thesis,” as it is frequently called, does not mean that all artistic
endeavors would abruptly come to an end in the late 1820s; it simply
means that the high point of the significance of art for humanity had
already been reached in classical times, when art and religion were part of
the same spiritual experience. As Hegel says in the 1823 lectures, in classical
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76 Hegel’s Aesthetic Theory: Self-Consciousness and Musical Material
sculpture, “It [sculpture] exhibits the divine shape itself. The god inhabits
its externality in silent, holy, rigid calm.”
Art, for us, is a thing of the past
not because it no longer exists but because our experience of it is merely
a diminished, belated echo of what the Greeks experienced when viewing,
for instance, the statue of Athena in the Parthenon.
Sculpture, as Hegel says several times, was the consummate medium
for classical times; the Romantic era, which he defined as anything post-
classical, that is, the era of Christianity, must turn inward now that God
has appeared in human form:
Since therefore the actual individual man is the appearance of God, art now wins
for the first time the higher right of turning the human form, and the mode of
externality in general, into an expression of the Absolute, although the new task of
art can only consist in bringing before contemplation in this human form not the
immersion of the inner in external corporeality but, conversely, the withdrawal of
the inner into itself, the spiritual consciousness of God in the individual.
The particular artistic media suited to bringing “the withdrawal of the
inner into itself” are painting, music, and poetry. Painting collapses three-
dimensions into two through linear perspective, providing the illusion of
depthrather thanthe immanence of the divine figure itself, as classical sculp-
ture did. Similarly, music and poetry cannot represent an object by occupy-
ing precisely the same physical space and visual appearance; their material
existence as word and sound invariably involve some kind of abstraction.
Models of representation in these forms invariably involve moving away
from the classical principles and into what Hegel calls the “symbolic art
music and the hegelian forms of art
Early in the Lectures on Aesthetics, Hegel has some puzzling reservations
about the suitability of music for the expression of serious content. In an
abstract discussion of the relation between content and its manifestation
in the artwork, he attempts to explain why some art forms seem to require
more maturity of their creators than others:
Of course, in this respect, one art needs more than another the consciousness and
knowledge of such content. Music, for example, which is concerned only with the
completely indeterminate movement of the inner spirit and with sounds as if they
were feeling without thought, needs to have little or no spiritual material present
in consciousness. Therefore musical talent announces itself very early in youth,
when the head is empty and the heart little moved, and it may sometimes attain a
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Music and the Hegelian Forms of Art 77
very considerable height before spirit and life have experience of themselves. Often
enough, after all, we have seen very great virtuosity in musical composition and
performance accompanied by remarkable barrenness of spirit and character.
T. M. Knox believes that Hegel may be alluding to Mozart,
whose unique
combination of scatological humor and extraordinary talent was already a
legend in 1820s Berlin. (Mendelssohn, a well-known prodigy who attended
many of the lectures on aesthetics, is another possibility.) However, this
passage does more than explain away a troublesome counterexample to
an earlier statement on the depth of spirit needed to produce great art.
In the sentence in which he claims that music is an example of those art
forms that require less maturity, Hegel provides a short description of the
way music works: “Music, for example, which is concerned only with the
completely indeterminate movement of the inner spirit and with sounds
as if they were feeling without thought.” According to Hegel, music does
not necessarily need “spiritual material in consciousness” yet reflects the
movement of the inner spirit. In an attempt to connect the paradoxical
fact of immature prodigies like Mozart with the nonrepresentational aspect
of music, Hegel compromises an essential element of his general theory
of art: the determinate nature of the art work. Despite the parenthetical
“for example,” music is the only art form that receives this symmetrical
exemption from the requirements of other art forms – it needs neither
maturity of spirit on the part of the composer nor does its realization need
to be more than “an indeterminate movement of the spiritual inner.”
Exactly howfar removed this description of music is fromHegel’s viewof
the artwork in general becomes clear a few pages later, when he emphasizes
the sensuous aspects of art:
Thereby the sensuous aspect of a work of art, in comparison with the immediate
existence of things in nature, is elevated to a pure appearance, and the work of
art stands in the middle between immediate sensuousness and ideal thought. It is
not yet pure thought, but, despite its sensuousness, is no longer a purely material
existent either, like stones, plants, and organic life; on the contrary, the sensuous
in the work of art is itself something ideal, but which, not being ideal as thought
is ideal, is still at the same time there externally as a thing.
In distinguishing art objects from natural objects while maintaining the
essentially sensuous character of art, Hegel has created an ontological area
for art between thought and the purely external existence of natural objects,
“in the middle.” The art object is neither a mere “thing” nor is it thought
itself, but instead it is an object whose existence lies in pure appearance:
it must simultaneously consist of thought and materiality. The problem
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78 Hegel’s Aesthetic Theory: Self-Consciousness and Musical Material
with the musical art object is that it cannot be contemplated as a material
object with definite content the way paintings, sculpture, and poetry can.
Because music affects our innermost subjectivity directly, it does not have
a clear location for its sensuous existence, yet it is not thought – the precise
nature of the existence of music, as well as its position in Hegel’s system,
remains unknown. If music is essentially movement (rather than an object)
and Hegel’s aesthetic theory depends on the notion of an art object with a
determinate existence then music will be difficult to include in the system.
However, Hegel’s determination to provide a comprehensive view of the
arts precludes omitting a troublesome artistic mediumand requires another
solution for the systematic categorization for the arts. Hegel’s approach
combines formal and historical categories in the “forms of art” (Kunstfor-
men), which he divides into Symbolic, Classical, and Romantic. The forms
of art represent the modalities of representation used by particular cultures
and historical epochs; in each, the individual characteristics of different
artistic media are more and less suitable. Architecture, for example, suited
the civilizations of ancient Egypt, Persia, and India, because their art fol-
lowed the Symbolic mode; ancient Greece and Rome found sculpture suit-
able for their Classical mode. Music, on the other hand is a “Romantic”
art, as are painting and poetry, because it is better suited to the sublime,
unknowable, yet human God of Christianity than the immanent gods of
classical antiquity.
Hegel needs the intermediary concept of the forms of art to prevent tradi-
tional period divisions, such as those originally outlined by Winckelmann,
from obscuring what Hegel considers the more important relationships
between form and content as they relate to the emergence of the idea of
Thus the forms of art are nothing but the different relations of meaning and shape,
relations which proceed from the Idea itself and therefore provide the true basis
for the division of this sphere. For division must always be implicit in the concept,
the particularization and division of which is in question.
The forms of art themselves are the relationships between the overall idea
of beauty (often called the “Idea”) and its realization in the artwork and are
therefore the proper divisions for the classification of art.
The correspon-
dence of the various forms of art to particular historical epochs is only the
indirect consequence of the tendency of artists in particular times to work
in a particular style. Hegel describes these relationships between content
(Inhalt) and particularization (Besonderung) as essentially epistemological
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Music and the Hegelian Forms of Art 79
in nature, that is, as a conceptual framework in which the content of
the artwork is apprehended by the perceiver. This method of classifica-
tion enables the system to accommodate the anomalies of a particular art
work while remaining entirely consistent with the assertion (implicit in
the introduction to the Lectures on Aesthetics) that one overall concept of
art serves for all art forms. In other words, what accounts for the infinite
variety of particular art works is not that the overall idea of art changes
over time but that history transforms both its content and its epistemolog-
ical relation to its perceivers. The suitability of one medium over another
for the particularization of the Idea in the art work changes according to
differences in historical epochs and in cultures. Therefore, the difficulties
that previous philosophers and art historians have had in connecting the
various phases of political history with the currents of artistic history are
actually the result of their failure to recognize the intermediate term of
the form of art. A functional aesthetics, in Hegel’s view, requires a sec-
ondary theoretical structure along epistemological lines and must address
the specific historical problems of an individual art (in this case, music) at a
level once removed from political and social history and from the medium
Hegel’s belief that the forms of art constitute a necessary intermediary
term between works of art and their historical context has acquired a num-
ber of skeptics. Konrad Sch¨ uttauf is among those who believe that Hegel
has erred in placing aesthetic and generic theory before artistic practice, “as
if ‘art’ would already exist before its genres and could ‘do’ something.”
In other words, Sch¨ uttauf claims that Hegel has improperly ascribed the
ability to think and act to an abstract concept of art, when in reality, artistic
practice precedes all theorizing about it. This objection bears an unmis-
takable resemblance to Marx’s critique of Hegel’s view of history. Marx
famously criticized Hegel for building his system from the air of Spirit
downward to the ground of reality, instead of beginning with the ground
of social and historical materialism and building his theories on this (pre-
sumably solid) foundation. Although I do not contend with Marx here, I
believe Sch¨ uttauf has misunderstood Hegel in this respect. No artist begins
a work of art without at least an implicit idea of the role that this particular
artwork will fulfill, and what function works of art have in general. Other
factors (biographical, historical, or economic) may affect the creation of an
artwork to varying degrees, but without an artist who possesses an idea of
art, artworks do not spontaneously come into being. The same may or may
not be the case for history, but art, as defined in the Lectures on Aesthetics,
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80 Hegel’s Aesthetic Theory: Self-Consciousness and Musical Material
requires deliberate agency. Hegel carefully excludes natural beauty from
his aesthetic system for exactly this reason.
Moreover, the charge that
Hegel begins with a theory and gathers evidence selectively to prove it
may merely be a misunderstanding of Hegel’s method of argumentation.
In several works, including the History of Philosophy and the Philosophy
of History, Hegel organizes his argument lemmatically, that is, by stating
his thesis and several intermediate conclusions at the outset and following
them with inferences made from available information.
In addition, Hegel considers his views on aesthetics to be the logical
extension of Kant’s Critique of Judgment rather than an entirely new system;
his arguments therefore have a basis both in themselves and as part of the
philosophical tradition. In particular, Hegel refers to Kant’s works as a
“transition” from older philosophy to a new science of knowledge because
of Kant’s achievements in creating a practical epistemology and an aesthetic
theory, both based on a priori principles. Hegel’s own efforts are therefore
the next step in the historical process of developing a more accurate and
complete conception of art:
I will therefore touch briefly on the history of this transition which I have in mind,
partly for the sake of the history itself, partly because in this way there are more
closely indicated the views which are important and on which as a foundation
we will build further. This foundation in its most general character consists in
recognizing that the beauty of art is one of the means which dissolve and reduce to
unity the above-mentioned opposition and contradiction between the abstractly
self-concentrated spirit and nature – both the nature of external phenomena and
that of inner subjective feeling and emotion.
Hegel therefore bases his conclusions in the
Asthetik both on his observa-
tions of particular works of art and on the conclusions of philosophical
predecessors. Beauty, for Kant, resides in the formal characteristics of the
work and in the subjective apprehension of the work by the perceiver, yet
Hegel finds Kant’s views of aesthetics, like his metaphysics, inadequate
to the task of reconciling the subjective self with the objective world.
Hegel manages this task by using the same principle that he had previously
employed in the description of self-consciousness, the concept of historical
progression. Placing himself (or rather, the text or lecture series) in histori-
cal context as the endpoint in the progression from concept to actualization
reinforces his argument by creating a role for it in the history of aesthetics
that parallels the course of self-consciousness.
Hegel’s praise of Kant nevertheless introduces the question of the neces-
sity of his own addition to the history of aesthetic theory, previously
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Music and the Hegelian Forms of Art 81
considered in Hegel’s works as merely a penultimate stage on the way
to philosophy and absolute knowledge. The answer to this question, fun-
damental to any understanding of the Lectures on Aesthetics, becomes clear
in a brief passage on the higher purpose of his philosophy of art from the
In this point of higher truth, as the spirituality which the artistic formation has
achieved in conformity with the Concept of spirit, there lies the basis for the
division of the philosophy of art. For, before reaching the true Concept of its
absolute essence, the spirit has to go through a course of stages, a series grounded
in this Concept itself; and to this course of the content which the spirit gives to itself
there corresponds a course, immediately connected therewith, of configurations of
art, in the form of which the spirit, as artist, gives itself a consciousness of itself.
By turning Spirit into the artist, Hegel has given the Lectures on Aesthetics
the same structure as the Phenomenology or the Philosophy of History; in
other words, the Lectures on Aesthetics become a narrative account of Spirit
realizing itself in the world through its progress toward self-consciousness.
As Spirit reaches a higher level of consciousness, the content of art comes
to a higher level with it, which in turn determines the mode of presenta-
tion and consequently the concrete manifestations of art in the individual
works. Because Spirit is the motivating force behind both history and art,
both fields are immediately and inextricably connected to the realization
of self-consciousness. Through this description of artistic development,
Hegel manages to combine elements of Schiller’s Aesthetic Education and
the periodization of Winckelmann’s theory of art history. Artistic develop-
ment corresponds to the general course of the history of civilization, as well
as to the development of the individual; Hegel’s theory thereby accounts
for both individual and collective education.
The use of the “forms of art” concept as an intermediary term between
individual works of art and the course of cultural history also insulates
Hegel’s aesthetic theory, to some extent, from the vagaries of individual
taste, a problem he considered a terrible weakness in the writings of the
Schlegel brothers.
More important, Hegel associates historical epochs with
characteristic modes of representation in a way that takes into account
changing religious and spiritual ideals. As I mentioned earlier, the three
distinct forms of art correspond to three historical eras: Symbolic (Egyp-
tian and Oriental art), Classical (Greek and Roman art), and Romantic
(Christian era art). Defining artistic creations solely in terms of historical
development would obscure the enormous conceptual changes evident in
the works and the varying suitability of particular media for each mode;
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82 Hegel’s Aesthetic Theory: Self-Consciousness and Musical Material
defining them purely in terms of the particular media would obscure the
historical dimension. Both elements of art, the history and the medium,
must be brought together in a third term for art to be fully intelligible. As
StephenBungay observes, Hegel did not create his aesthetic lectures because
we need another history of art, but “because we no longer know what we
are doing when we look at paintings, read poems, or listen to music.”
Lectures on Aesthetics is neither a handbook of artistic creation nor a history
of art; it is a philosophy of art or, more precisely, the enactment of Spirit
coming to self-consciousness in art, that is, a phenomenology of art.
In the lectures on music, Hegel discusses the inherent subjectivity of the
medium and the difference between the kinds of fulfillment received from
other arts and that received from music:
The fulfillment [from other arts] is always differentiated from my self. The ful-
fillment is in its nature external, spatial and thereby always differentiated from
the interiority of the “I.” But in music this differentiation falls away. The “I” is
no longer differentiated from the sensuous itself, the notes go forth in my deep-
est interior. The inmost subjectivity itself is enlisted and set in motion. This is
therefore exactly what really makes up the power of [musical] notes.
However, the text also includes, in outline form, a list of the physical
characteristics of music added later in the corner of the manuscript on
two separate pages, including lists of both the structural elements of music
(rhythm, harmony, melody, etc.) and several more abstract – and distinctly
Hegelian – concepts regarding the aesthetics of music.
Whether these
added outlines are Hegel’s own words or notes fromHotho’s later research is
impossible todetermine withabsolute certainty; however, their resemblance
to the overall structure of the music chapter of the Lectures on Aesthetics is
unmistakable. In light of Hotho’s own admission that his contribution to
the text was to add structure,
the probable genesis of the more mundane
parts of the music chapter in the Lectures on Aesthetics begins to appear –
Hotho has most likely taken Hegel’s distinctly theoretical statements and
attempted to link them to the physical characteristics of music, preserving
the encyclopedic spirit of the enterprise.
In contrast, the central principle described in this strange passage
remains: Hegel claims that music is a special case among the arts because it
does not possess the exteriority that is the central characteristic of artworks
in other media. Hegel consistently asserts that music, although undeniably
an art form, has no particular Dasein, and therefore bypasses the normal
process of sensuous apprehension of an art object, in which the essential
differentiation between the self and the object occurs. Music goes directly
to the self, setting the “inmost subjectivity” in motion, without allowing the
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Music and the Hegelian Forms of Art 83
self to distinguish the musical artwork as something exterior to itself. This
anomalous characteristic throws several essential claims of Hegel’s aesthetic
theory into doubt. If music has no particular existence, it has no place in
which form and content can come together to present the idea of beauty;
if an encounter with music bypasses the moment in which the self divines
the content of the concrete form, then the form versus content distinction
does not hold in this case. In fact, Hegel seems to be vacillating between
a theory of music which asserts that music has no content (because it can
be played well by immature prodigies) and that it has no form (because it
seems to have no exteriority).
At this point, Hegel could reasonably be expected to leave music aside,
or to declare it an exception to the rule of art. However, when discussing
the relation between form and content in the Romantic form of art, he
places music at its center:
Therefore if we sum up in one word this relation of content and form in romantic
art wherever this relation is preserved in its own special character, we may say that,
precisely because the ever expanded universality and the restlessly active depths of
the heart are the principle here, the keynote of romantic art is musical and, if we
make the content of this idea determinate, lyrical. For romantic art the lyric is as
it were the elementary fundamental characteristic, a note which epic and drama
strike too and which wafts even round works of visual art as a universal fragrance
of soul, because here spirit and heart strive to speak, through every one of their
productions, to the spirit and the heart.
This passage summarizes Hegel’s description of the relationship between
content and the means of representation in the Romantic art form, the form
appropriate to our own post-classical era. The word Grundton, which T. M.
Knox translates as “key note,” more specifically refers to the tonic note of
a particular key, the fundamental tonality of any work of music. Basically,
Hegel uses music as a metonymy for the entire field of the Romantic
art because it provides such a clear example of both its strengths and its
weaknesses. As music, Romantic art communicates great depth of feeling
directly to the soul.
Here, music is clearly no longer an exception to the rules of art but a
paradigmatic case for Romantic forms of art in general, whose indetermi-
nacy, like a fragrance, clings to works of Romantic visual art as well. Because
Spirit has progressed fromthe anthropomorphic pantheon of classical times
to the sublime, internalized conception of God in the Christian era, the
concrete manifestation of the ideal in the work of art is no longer possible;
less determinate works of art must take the place of their Classical pre-
decessors. However, Hegel must choose between the pure subjectivity of
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84 Hegel’s Aesthetic Theory: Self-Consciousness and Musical Material
music and the variable subjectivity of poetry for the Romantic art that most
closely approaches the condition of philosophy.
music and subjectivity
In the section of the Lectures on Aesthetics called “The System of the Indi-
vidual Arts,” Hegel presents his consideration of particular artistic media
almost as an afterthought. The forms of art receive far more explanation,
and textual evidence indicates that Hegel did not add this section to his
aesthetic lectures until the last time he delivered them, in 1829.
the chapter on music contains a significant attempt – perhaps embellished
by Hotho – to explain the connection between the physics of sound and
the power of the musical artwork, an issue that had eluded successful expla-
nation for many centuries and is still somewhat mysterious. Hegel begins
by dividing the process of hearing into two different senses, das Geh¨ or and
das Ohr, literally “hearing” and “the ear.” “Hearing” refers to the subjective
understanding of sound:
Now, with sound, music relinquishes the element of an external form and a per-
ceptible visibility and therefore needs for the treatment of its productions another
subjective organ, namely hearing which, like sight, is one of the theoretical and not
practical senses, and it is still more ideal than sight.
“The ear,” on the other hand, represents the mental faculty of hearing, the
intellectual process of perceiving the practical sensations received by the
body’s actual ear:
The ear, on the contrary, without itself turning to a practical relation to objects,
listens to the result of the inner vibration of the body through which what comes
before us is no longer the peaceful and material shape but the first and more ideal
breath of the soul. Further, since the negativity into which the vibrating material
enters here is on one side the cancelling of the spatial situation, a cancellation
cancelled again by the reaction of the body, therefore the expression of this double
negation, i.e. sound, is an externality which in its coming-to-be is annihilated again
by its very existence, and it vanishes of itself. Owing to this double negation of
externality, implicit in the principle of sound, inner subjectivity corresponds to
it because the resounding, which in and by itself is something more ideal than
independently really subsistent corporeality, gives up this more ideal existence also
and therefore becomes a mode of expression adequate to the inner life.
This passage deals with Ton, basic musical sound itself, and is closely based
on Hegel’s more general discussion of the distinction between Ton, musical
sound, and Klang, sound in general, in the Encyclopedia.
The self-negation
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Music and Subjectivity 85
of Ton has two meanings: it indicates the limited and controlled duration
of musical sound, and it describes the back-and-forth motion of physical
vibration, where a movement in one direction is immediately countered
by a movement in another. Hegel derives this “doubled negation of exter-
nality” from his concept of the physical nature of sound and a separate,
external sense of hearing, not from any particular encounter with music,
momentarily leaving aside the more difficult discussion of what the mind
makes of this sound in the ear. Clearly, Hegel is aware of Kant’s assess-
ment of music as “the beautiful play of the emotions,” yet he is unwilling
to support that position without reservation. Instead, Hegel has used the
distinction between music in itself, that is, music as initially apprehended
by the ear, and music as representation, music perceived and understood
by hearing.
The point of this distinction, as well as the long digressionintothe physics
of music, is twofold. First, it reclaims a form-content distinction for music
by dividing the process of listening into external, sensory apprehension
and internal perception. Second, it restores the possibility of an intellectual
content for music by refusing to accept music as merely a kind of emotional
painting. Music, for Hegel, is therefore neither purely formal nor purely
emotional – it contains a Hegeliansublationof its two central characteristics
in the manifestation of the musical work. In addition, it improves on
Kant’s description of music as “the art of the beautiful play of emotions” by
explicitly examining the physical basis for music and explaining, however
tentatively, the relationship between the physical and the emotional in
Hegel makes a similar point in the Encyclopedia in a discussion of the
mathematical basis of harmony, a subject that had been the source of mys-
tical speculation since Pythagoras:
Harmony concerns the felicity of consonances and one of the unities felt in dif-
ferences, like symmetry in architecture. Enchanting harmony and melody, those
which speak to feeling and sorrow, are said to depend on abstract numbers? That
seems remarkable, even miraculous.
Hegel goes on to state that the mathematical relations present in harmony
contribute to the beauty of music, along with meter, rhythm, and melody,
which also have mathematically defined characteristics. More important,
Hegel argues that the basis for musical beauty does not reside in emotional
content but on the “unity felt in difference,” a basic positive-negative rela-
tion that, like the similar passage on hearing in the Lectures on Aesthetics,
refers to music’s physical nature, that is, the back and forth of vibration.
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86 Hegel’s Aesthetic Theory: Self-Consciousness and Musical Material
If Hegel is depending on music to be a paradigmatic art form that enables
him to justify elements of his system outside the field of aesthetics, he must
explain music in its entirety, from the concrete physical production of
sound to the abstract apprehension of inner subjectivity. In this way, Hegel
manages to resolve an apparent contradiction – the incorporeal nature of
music allows him to have an art object within his system that eliminates the
intermediary sensuous nature of a spatial object, while his purely physical
explanation of the element of sound and its effects as music allows him to
demystify this same incorporeality.
Hegel’s focus on the physical characteristics of music and deliberate
avoidance of music as a communicative or symbolic system nevertheless
seem almost perverse or deliberately obtuse. Is it so difficult to hear and
understand music that its effects must be explained as a kind of physical
reaction? Again, the problem of finding the location of the existence of
music seems to send Hegel in two directions at once. The effects of music
are closely tied to its physical characteristics, yet its content is extremely
vague, perhaps too much so. Soon after describing the self-negating nature
of music, Hegel explains the deficiencies of the mediumfor communicating
On this account what alone is fitted for expression in music is the object-free inner
life, abstract subjectivity as such. This is our entirely empty self, the self without any
further content. Consequently the chief task of music consists in making resound,
not the objective world itself, but, on the contrary, the manner in which the inmost
self is moved to the depths of its personality and conscious soul.
Music is either too much itself, that is, just vibration in the ear, or it is
too much within us, “abstract subjectivity as such.” Music communicates
directly with the “completely objectless inner”: the self without reference
to the external world, the solipsistic, abstract “I am I.” In Andrew Bowie’s
view, the Lectures on Aesthetics reveals a critical fault at this point; Hegel
cannot incorporate an element of subjectivity that does not ultimately have
its articulation in language.
Hegel’s concept of artistic content depends
too much on its linguistic expression; he therefore fails to account for the
content of absolute instrumental music, of music as such, because he cannot
find words for it. Although Bowie has correctly pointed out this flaw in
Hegel’s theory of music, I believe it should be considered in the context
of the historical circumstances of the aesthetic lectures, which included
an increasingly significant debate over precisely this point: the nature of
instrumental music, which began to be called “absolute music” at about
this time.
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The Problem of Absolute Music 87
the problem of absolute music
Commentators have often given up on the music chapter, taking Hegel at
his word when he admits he does not know much about music,
his aesthetic judgments seem so contrary to the spirit of the 1820s, when
Viennese Classicism and Romanticism had raised works of absolute music,
that is, instrumental music with no specific descriptive program, to new
heights in artistic and intellectual life. Stephen Bungay says that “one always
feels that Hegel was not at home with music,”
while T. M. Knox, a
determined advocate of Hegel’s continued relevance, admits that Hegel
“may be at sea when he comes to deal with instrumental music,”
and calls
Hegel’s admission of limited knowledge of music “a relief.”
This show of
emotion in two ordinarily solemn commentators reveals the nature of their
difficulty – one of defeated expectations. After the long theoretical discus-
sions I have just pursued concerning the “completely objectless inner” of
music and the remarkable flourishing of instrumental forms at the turn
of the nineteenth century, one might reasonably expect Hegel to valorize
some of the great achievements of his age – for instance, the symphonies
and concertos of Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven – and to recognize the
increasing theoretical importance of absolute music in aesthetics. Instead,
Hegel asserts that vocal music is inherently superior to instrumental music
for the expression of inner spiritual life and that absolute music can easily
descend into a display of purely technical skill:
For music takes as its subject-matter the subjective inner life itself, with the aim
of presenting itself, not as an external shape or as an objectively existing work, but
as that inner life; consequently its expression must be the direct communication
of a living individual who has put into it the entirety of his own inner life. This is
most clearly the case in the song of the human voice, but it is relatively true also
of instrumental music which can be performed only by practicing artists with the
living skill both spiritual and technical.
It is only this subjective aspect in the actual production of a musical work that
completes in music the significance of the subjective; but the performance may
go so far in this subjective direction that the subjective side may be isolated as a
one-sided extreme, with the result that subjective virtuosity in the production may
as such be made the sole centre and content of the enjoyment.
After Hegel has stated that music has “the subjective life itself ” as its sub-
ject matter, why does the virtuosity of the instrumental performer lead to a
“one-sided extreme”? Even for as cautious and deliberate a lecturer as Hegel,
this warning against asserting the value of absolute music seems excessive,
as if he had to prevent such arguments from occurring. After examining
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88 Hegel’s Aesthetic Theory: Self-Consciousness and Musical Material
the particular debates about music that Hegel would have encountered in
Berlin in the 1820s, Carl Dahlhaus concludes that Hegel’s stance against
instrumental music was intimately connected to a widespread debate over
the value of Beethoven’s instrumental music versus Rossini’s operas. More-
over, Dahlhaus asserts that “Hegel’s theory of instrumental music is a hid-
den reply to E. T. A. Hoffmann’s Beethoven review, which had appeared
in the Allgemeine musikalische Zeiting in 1810 and was later reprinted by
Hoffmann in the first volume of the Phantasiest¨ ucke.”
Hoffmann’s famous
essay, which identifies music as the most romantic of arts and Beethoven
the most romantic of composers, essentially claims that pure instrumental
music is the highest manifestation of the romantic sublime.
to Dahlhaus, this essay was well known in German-speaking countries
in the early nineteenth century, in which it could hardly have escaped
Hegel’s notice. The memoirs of A. B. Marx, a noted theorist and edi-
tor of the Berliner allgemeine musikalische Zeitung, likewise confirm that
Hoffmann’s Phantasiest¨ ucke had caused a sensation throughout Berlin and
that Hoffmann’s opinions on music were held in high esteem.
Hegel refers to Hoffmann by name earlier in the
Asthetik as the author of
“repugnant dissonances” and works that express “a sickness of spirit” due to
their excessive reference to supernatural matters.
In contrast, Hegel takes
particular care throughout the Lectures on Aesthetics to demystify art and to
connect every aspect of artistic creation and reception into his philosophical
system as a whole. Hoffmann’s extraordinarily influential essay was prob-
ably what Hegel wanted to see least: a mystification and valorization of
the aesthetic experience of music that would detach artistic endeavors from
the rigorous logic of philosophy, along with a detailed musical analysis far
more sophisticated than any Hegel could produce. To counter it, Hegel
must explain music’s particular power and effect from its physical mani-
festation onward, position it within his system, and prove decisively that
vocal or program music can even be superior to absolute music, completely
inverting Hoffmann’s claim and reestablishing an intelligible content for
Seen in this context, Hegel’s claims and judgments in the music chap-
ter begin to make more sense, as does his failure to mention the name
of the composer at the center of this controversy: Beethoven. Accord-
ing to Dahlhaus, at the time of Hegel’s lectures on aesthetics, a debate
over the relative merits of Beethoven versus Rossini was raging throughout
as a well-informed intellectual, Hegel could hardly have avoided
hearing about it. Robin Wallace’s research into the reception of Beethoven’s
work during his lifetime also clearly demonstrates the extraordinary
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The Problem of Absolute Music 89
influence Beethoven exerted on musical aesthetic debates even before
1810, the year Hoffmann’s review appeared.
Although the course of music
history has judged Beethoven differently, even sympathetic experts of
the time often considered Beethoven’s music too experimental,
Rossini’s melodies, then as now, were widely accepted as clever and enjoy-
able. In a lecture hall in the 1820s, Hegel’s audience would certainly under-
stand that he meant to take Rossini’s side, mentioning him several times
elsewhere in the Lectures on Aesthetics, and that his omission of Beethoven
was deliberate. His audience likewise probably understood his criticism
of “empty technicality” as a reference to Beethoven and his praise of
melody and aria form as a reference to Rossini and other Italian opera
Hegel also makes a veiled reference to unknown holders of a “tasteless
opinion” immediately after asserting that music must have a content:
Therefore we may not cherish a tasteless opinion about the all-powerfulness of
music as such, a topic on which ancient writers, profane an sacred alike, have told
so many fabulous stories.
Although Hegel continues with a recounting of the Orpheus myth, the fall
of Jericho, and several other legends of the magical power of music, the
target of his scornful criticism is probably Hoffmann, who wrote of a “won-
derful, infinite spirit-kingdom” to which music gave access.
To maintain
the systematic discipline of his overall project, Hegel cannot allow Hoff-
mann to create another world for music in particular, nor valorize music
among the other arts at the expense of the theoretical basis for art Hegel
has so carefully constructed. For Hegel, Hoffmann’s “spirit-kingdom” is a
mythological explanation improperly invoked in the middle of a serious
work of musical analysis. Hoffmann’s opinion is rendered even more taste-
less when juxtaposed with the specific and concrete musical analysis he
includes in the essay; a layperson might be allowed to resort to grandiose
metaphors, but an expert should know better.
Hegel’s discussion of instrumental music also includes an overt mention
of the difference betweenlay and expert opinion, with Hegel againchoosing
sides in an apparent debate:
What the layman likes most in music is the intelligible expression of feelings and
ideas, something tangible, a topic, and therefore turns in preference to music as an
accompaniment: whereas the expert who has at his fingers’ ends the inner musical
relations between notes and instruments, loves instrumental music in its artistic
use of harmonies and melodious interactings and changing forms; he is entirely
satisfied by the music itself and he has the closer interest of comparing what he
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90 Hegel’s Aesthetic Theory: Self-Consciousness and Musical Material
has heard with the rules and laws that are familiar to him so that he can fully
criticize and enjoy the composition, although here the inventive genius of the
artist may often perplex the expert who is not accustomed to precisely this or that
development, modulation, etc.
Despite having attended many concerts and opera performances, Hegel
considers himself a layman with corresponding tastes and opinions; he has
already expressed his preference for vocal and program music, as well as
his lack of expertise. In contrast, the expert, “for whom the inner musical
relationships of notes and instruments are accessible,” must not only be a
connoisseur of music but also someone with virtually professional knowl-
edge, that is, a musician or composer like Hoffmann. Although Hegel
appears to make a slight concession to Hoffmann’s expertise and the popu-
larity of his ideas, Hegel is still unwilling to admit that the correct aesthetic
response to music is not what he and the lay audience experience. Nowhere
else in the Lectures on Aesthetics does Hegel draw such a distinction between
the layman and the expert, nor does he declare himself on the side of those
less learned in a subject at any other point.
The lay response determines the role of music within the system because
Hegel must find a way to remove the apparent formlessness and solipsismof
music fromhis understanding of its effects. If what experts experience when
listening to instrumental music were merely an intensified or more refined
version of the lay experience, then music – and by extension, the experience
of the aesthetic – would be radically separate from other kinds of mental
activity, including encounters with religion and philosophy. Had Hegel
agreed with Hoffmann regarding the sublime power of music, he could
not make any philosophical claims about music or any of the other arts,
nor could his painstakingly constructed relation between form and content
continue to hold. The experience of art in general would follow music into
Hoffmann’s spirit-kingdom, leaving the actualization of Spirit an artifact
of a rational (and rationalizing) age, a relic of Enlightenment attempts to
catalog and categorize. Hegel precludes this possibility by replacing Hoff-
mann’s “tasteless” valorization of music and invention of a Spirit with his
own explanation of the effects of music and a different candidate for the
most Romantic art: poetry.
poetry and music
At the beginning of the chapter on poetry, Hegel outlines the relationship
between the two arts in terms of form and content and explains what he
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Poetry and Music 91
means by spiritual content in a way that clearly distinguishes his position
from any of Hoffmann’s extravagant claims:
But the spiritual content, by essentially belonging to the inner life of consciousness,
has at the same time an existence alien to that life in the pure element of external
appearance and in the vision to which the external shape is offered. Art must
withdraw from this foreign element in order to enshrine its conceptions in a
sphere of an explicitly inner and ideal kind in respect alike of the material used
and the manner of expression. This was the forward step which we saw music
taking, in that it made the inner life as such, and subjective feeling, something
for apprehension by the inner life, not in visible shapes, but in the figurations of
inwardly reverberating sound. But in this way it went to the other extreme, to an
undeveloped concentration of feeling, the content of which found once again only
a purely symbolic expression in notes.
“The mere element of outward appearance,” a constituent element of the
visual arts, has been left behind by both music and poetry. This withdrawal
from the sensuous, along with its corresponding apprehension of inner life,
is a step forward, progress made toward a more ideal art form. However,
unlike music, poetry has the ability to connect the subjective with the
objective sides of art; that is, it can be as abstract or as concrete as the poet
requires and provide more continuity between abstract inner life and the
concrete world of appearance than any other art form. Poetry shares the
medium of sound with music, yet does not suffer from the lack of explicit
content that absolute music does. In other words, music is either hopelessly
subjective (in the case of absolute music) or compromised by recourse to
another art (poetry, in the form of lyrics, or an accompanying narrative
description); poetry is neither.
However, the motivation for this distinction between poetry and music
runs deeper than the desire to refute Hoffmann’s claims about music. The
passage bears a strong resemblance to a section of The Phenomenology of
Spirit. Virtually the same withdrawal from sensuous appearance occurs
when Spirit makes the transition from sense-certainty to self-consciousness
in the chapter on Stoicism, Skepticism, and Unhappy Consciousness:
This thinking consciousness as determined in the form of abstract freedom is thus
only the incomplete negation of otherness. Withdrawn from existence only into
itself, it has not there achieved its consummation as absolute negation of that
existence. The content, it is true, only counts as thought, but also as thought that
is determinate and at the same time determinateness as such.
Music and unhappy consciousness (specifically, the unhappy conscious-
ness of Stoicism) suffer from a kind of solipsism, where the content has no
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92 Hegel’s Aesthetic Theory: Self-Consciousness and Musical Material
relation to anything outside of itself. The thought of unhappy conscious-
ness is only thought; absolute music is only music. Both can only find “a
merely self-replicating symbolic expression,” that is, an expression that can
only refer once again to its own symbolic representation. Thought as pure
thought, or music as pure music, is a closed system; one may study and
analyze the relations between elements of these systems to a fine degree
and be able to represent the results by means of symbols, but they will
not relate to anything outside the system without recourse to an exter-
nal means of articulation. Both music and unhappy consciousness lack an
external object, a true other, which would enable them to escape the isola-
tion of their own self-negation. They merely withdraw into themselves and
are only the “incomplete negation of the being of the other,” in that their
withdrawal does not negate the other, but themselves instead. The “being
as other” is an existence that is wholly other, not mere negation of the
self; unfortunately, music does not allow such a being to find an adequate
representation within its system. The inadequacy of music, as well as the
unhappiness of unhappy consciousness, stems from its lack of grounding
in the nonmusical, nonartistic, exterior world.
The parallel dilemmas of music and unhappy consciousness demonstrate
more than a recurring pattern in Hegel’s writing. Rather, they are indicative
of a recurring epistemological question: how does an art form (or any form
of consciousness) confront the world outside of itself, if this is even possible?
In other words, how does any art object express its content without being
trapped in a mere symbolic representation of itself ? In this regard, Hegel
once again holds up poetry as the highest form of art:
Poetry, the art of speech, is the third term, the totality, which unites in itself, within
the province of the spiritual inner life and on a higher level, the two extremes, i.e.,
the visual arts and music. For, on the one hand, poetry, like music, contains that
principle of the self-apprehension of the inner life as inner, which architecture,
sculpture, and painting lack; while, on the other hand, in the very field of inner
ideas, perceptions, and feelings it broadens out into an objective world which does
not altogether lose the determinate character of sculpture and painting. Finally,
poetry is more capable than any other art of completely unfolding the totality of
an event, a successive series and the changes of the heart’s movements, passions,
ideas, and the complete course of an action.
Calling poetry the “third term” positions this explanation clearly within
Hegel’s tertiary logical schemes. Poetry is the “speaking art,” combining the
concrete, representational qualities of the visual arts with the inner, spiritual
qualities of music through language. Poetry is simultaneously capable of
the “self-perception of the Inner as Inner” and the expression of inner
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Poetry and Music 93
imagination, experience, and feeling in an objective world. According to
Hegel, poetry can also present sequential events more completely than
any other art form, even if these events are inner emotions. Although
music shares the dimension of time with poetry, music lacks the ability
to particularize its content that poetry has. The higher level occupied by
poetry stems from its ability to reconcile the inner with the outer, the world
of thought, emotion, and imagination with the objective world of sensuous
The particular medium that gives poetry this ability to recognize the
Inner as Inner and manifest it in the exterior world is, naturally, language,
the flexibility of which also enables it to be the means of expression in phi-
losophy and theology as well. The particular problems of language and its
referentiality have been debated endlessly, both before and after Hegel, and
I cannot confront all of them here. For now, I note that Hegel considered
language both an adequate means of expressing abstractions and describ-
ing concrete objects, as well as capable of providing continuity between the
two. For Hegel, language is the fundamental material of thought; he makes
little distinction between consciousness and its verbal representation.
Although Hegel did not anticipate the explorations of the problem of
language by those who followed him, this particular claim for language
represents a notable problem in his reasoning because it confines the idea
of content to terms that are translatable into language. Hegel considers
the relation of content to the artistic means of expression to be one of
yet he does not admit the possibility that a musical idea, or,
for that matter, a visual idea, couldbe anidea inandof itself, worthy of being
named content. Because Hegel’s idea of content is essentially an extrinsic
one, art must in all cases be made to speak, and the “speaking art” of poetry
must therefore be the best of all. Once art speaks, it becomes translatable
into the terms of philosophy and theology. What is not translatable in art
is therefore of less value; yet this untranslatable element makes art into
something other than theology or philosophy. Art as art, whether as the
experience of formal beauty or the pleasure derived from the experience of
an idea in sensuous form, becomes secondary in this scheme.
This limitation would undoubtedly have given Hegel problems with
abstract painting, which he did not live to see and the content of which is
no more or less than the exploration of space, form, and color. In the case of
music, however, abstraction had long since arrived during Hegel’s lifetime,
and his inability to perceive content in absolute music clearly prevented
him from writing about it adequately. Absolute music may be moving or
cerebral and the experience of listening emotional or intellectual, but it
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94 Hegel’s Aesthetic Theory: Self-Consciousness and Musical Material
undeniably has content and attempts to identify the content of art that
cannot be expressed linguistically have inevitably returned to the concept
of the aesthetic.
The aesthetic, as much as Hegel might want to deny it, makes steady
and subtle appearances in Hegel’s scheme. For instance, Hegel makes a
reference to the abstract, purely musical ideas that occur in the process of
performance and improvisation:
Here the bravura of the virtuoso is in its right place, while genius is not restricted to
the mere execution of what is given but has a wider scope so that the executant artist
himself composes in his interpretation, fills in gaps, deepens what is superficial,
ensouls what is soulless and in this way appears as downright independent and
Hegel emphasizes the word “artist,” indicating that, in his view, the per-
former is also an artist and that the duty of a good performer is to deliver
a version of the work that contains more than the “mere execution” of
the piece. As Adolf Nowak has pointed out, Hegel fails to see the further
implications of the mediation between composer and performer for his
ideas about the nature of music in general.
He calls the improvisation
brought to the performance by a good opera singer, for instance, nothing
more than mere room to play.
The performer therefore ranges between
his or her role as an artist and that of a thoughtless vehicle for emotion,
whose “soul . . . gives itself over to its outpouring.”
When lost in the music
this way, the performer and the audience have nearly the same experience –
the music moves them both. The terms which we are accustomed to using
in descriptions of performances demonstrate the same ambiguity; the per-
former is an “artist,” yet his performance is not an artwork in itself, but an
“interpretation” of one. Hegel makes it clear that without the artistry of
the performer, a work of music is flat, empty, and soulless, yet he does not
give the performer the status of a true artist, someone who creates as well
as mediates.
The dilemma of the musical performer provides us with an apt
emblem for Hegel’s problems with music and their relationship with self-
consciousness. The performer realizes the idea of music in performance,
yet the work endures only as long as the performance lasts. The work van-
ishes as it becomes fully realized; the idea of the work becomes actual in
performance, yet ceases to exist upon completion. The performer realizes
the idea of the work yet cannot fully articulate the idea except through the
performance itself. Self-consciousness, in the practical terms of the individ-
ual, follows a similar pattern. Individual consciousness inevitably contains
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Poetry and Music 95
elements of the unhappy consciousness, isolated and self-negating, yet
it participates in the collective consciousness of Sprit, whose fully self-
conscious manifestation will result in absolute knowledge.
Poetry transcends the condition of the musical work by participating
in both the abstract and the concrete but also remains closely allied with
music. Poetry has metrical form and exists both as concrete realization (the
work on paper) and in performance (the recitation). However, Hegel does
not claim the status of highest art for all literature – poetry (epic, dramatic,
and lyric) alone occupies this position. What distinguishes poetry from
prose literary forms is its untranslatability – a translation (or paraphrase,
for that matter) of a poem is not the poem itself in a way that a paraphrase
of a prose work is not. The material of art – here, language as both sign
and sound – remains necessary, as Hegel explains in the 1823 lectures:
The content of the speaking art, the particular structure into which the subjective
element is transposed, is the imagination, the content of the speaking art [is] the
entire realm of the imagination, the spiritual existing of itself, that in one element
is that to which Spirit itself belongs. In that the sound preserves such a fulfillment,
it is reduced to a mere means, [it] is only a sign and becomes a word, and this
expression is therefore different from content itself.
In poetry, language exists as material sound, then becomes mere sign, as
the content of poetry, its imaginative elements, causes its listeners to forget
the sensuous manifestation of the work and lose themselves in the realm
of the imagination. Nevertheless, the expression remains, “different from
content itself,” that is, as expression, the sensuous manifestation of the work.
Most significantly, Hegel refers to poetry as “the speaking art,” which
remains art but must speak. Music remains on the verge of speech, either
as emotional content or pure sound but does not make the same crossing
from material to sign that characterizes poetry. Spirit is indeed the artist of
the history of culture, and as Spirit realizes itself in the world, becoming
self-conscious and articulate, it follows the process of moving frommusic to
poetry, striving toward articulation in sound. However, in both music and
poetry, the beauty of orderedsound, either inthe mathematical symmetry of
musical notes or in the rhythm and rhyme of poetic versification, continues
to be an essential element in the process of becoming self-conscious.
This process does not exist without all its elements intact. Like the Other
that Spirit requires for the recognition of its own self-consciousness, the
content of art requires that which is not content, yet is art. The aesthetic,
the category that Hegel at times seems to be leaving behind on Spirit’s
path toward religion and philosophy, reappears and reasserts itself as the
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96 Hegel’s Aesthetic Theory: Self-Consciousness and Musical Material
formal beauty of ordered material. Art contains an element that cannot be
articulated other than by means of the art object itself, which Hegel rec-
ognizes in both music and poetry, yet toward which he demonstrates some
ambivalence. Ironically, music, the art form Hegel claims to understand
the least, becomes emblematic for his idea of art as a whole, and even for
the process of coming to self-consciousness that was the basis for his entire
philosophical system.
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chapter 4
Nature, Music, and the Imagination
in Wordsworth’s Poetry
Of course the work of art presents itself to sensuous apprehension. It
is there for sensuous feeling, external or internal, for sensuous intu-
ition and ideas, just as nature is, whether the external nature that
surrounds us, or our own sensitive nature within. After all, a speech,
for example, may be addressed to sensuous ideas and feelings. But
nevertheless the work of art, as a sensuous object, is not merely for
sensuous apprehension; its standing is of such a kind that, though sen-
suous, it is essentially at the same time for spiritual apprehension; the
spirit is meant to be affected by it and to find some satisfaction in it.
Hegel, Lectures on Fine Art
Hegel’s distinction between the sensuous and the spiritual apprehension of
art, like many of his ideas, continues to cast a shadow on literary criticism.
His dismissal of “a speech, for example” as something other thanart (despite
the possibility that a speech might make occasional use of “sensuous ideas
and feelings”) complicates the status of poetry by requiring it, as a true art
form, to exist at once a material object and also as intentional, communica-
tive discourse. As the previous chapter explained at some length, Hegel also
points out that this dual existence in both the sensuous and spiritual realms
is precisely what constitutes an object as art, separating artistic fromnatural
Kant had already distinguished between artistic and natural beauty
in the Kritik der Urteilskraft, but Hegel goes beyond Kant’s formal concept
of artistic beauty by asserting the need for a spiritual element in art, an
element missing from purely instrumental music, but present in poetry.
In contemporary criticism of English Romantic poetry, the tension
between the sensuous and the spiritual remains at issue, although the terms
have shifted considerably. Like Hegel, recent critics have endeavored to
understand poetry as something connected to spiritual life, if the word
“spiritual” can be broadened frommeaning purely religious and philosoph-
ical thought to encompass the entire range of deeply felt ethical, political,
and social concerns. However, these efforts to understand Romantic poetry
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98 Nature, Music, and the Imagination in Wordsworth’s Poetry
as part of Romantic ideology (in Jerome McGann’s apt phrase
) have subor-
dinated the sensuous apprehension of the poem– the immediate encounter
with its sound, diction, metaphors, and images – to its spiritual apprehen-
sion, or more specifically, the consequences of that apprehension for its
historical significance. However, the historically and socially determined
criteria that make us value one poem over another, long after their original
authors, audiences, and publishers have vanished, do not reside entirely in
politics and ideology but also in the particular experience of an individ-
ual work and its way of transforming the sensuous into the spiritual. Karl
Kroeber’s analogy with visual art is illuminating:
Although painting and sculpture frequently – I would say usually – serve nonaes-
thetic purposes, serve that is, practical physical, intellectual, spiritual, and ideolog-
ical needs, they are also to a degree self-sufficient. This becomes obvious whenever
a great work survives beyond knowledge of its original “place” and “practical”
The poem, initself, is still what it is, a text that consists of those words, signi-
fying those sounds, and no others, a material object of ink, paper, word, and
sound, subject to various forces and appearing under various circumstances
but still a particular material object designed to elicit a response from those
who encounter it. An encounter with the poem, whether as written text or
as spoken performance, produces an identifiable phenomenon, the experi-
ence of the particular poemas a material object. Apoemtherefore cannot be
reduced entirely to the status of historical artifact or economic commodity
because to do so would eliminate its difference from all other poems pro-
duced or consumed under similar conditions and would obscure the most
significant characteristic of any artwork: the experience of the aesthetic as
an encounter with sensuous material.
So far, I have attemptedto describe howthe Idealists, especially H¨ olderlin
and Hegel, understood this experience of the aesthetic as a critical element
in self-consciousness, and how both metaphors of music and imitations
of actual musical structures represented this concept in the discourses of
philosophy and poetry. William Wordsworth, who knew little of German
philosophy and less of music, nevertheless shows the pervasiveness of the
musical aesthetics in poetry during the Romantic period, revealing that the
link between poetry and music went beyond the borders of the German-
speaking world. Although Wordsworth lacked the specifically philosophical
(or poetological) project of the kind that H¨ olderlin pursued, he neverthe-
less understood the materiality of poetry through metaphors of music, and
his descriptions of listening to music represent self-consciousness through
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Nature, Music, and the Imagination in Wordsworth’s Poetry 99
metaphors based on the phenomenal encounter of the listener’s mind with
sound. Despite his relatively distant relationship with the world of German
Idealismand high musical culture, Wordsworth makes many important ref-
erences to poetry’s resistance to lexical comprehension that demonstrate his
understanding of the connection between poetic meter and music aesthet-
ics. In particular, Wordsworth’s concept of the metrical element of poetry
is closely allied with the idea of absolute music emerging at the beginning
of the nineteenth century. For Wordsworth, meter and music provide the
material resistance to understanding that defines self-consciousness through
opposition to the self, a resistance that depends on the twofold nature –
sensuous and spiritual – of the aesthetic.
The relationship between the sensuous and the spiritual sides of poetry,
that is, the connection between the material object of the poem and the
phenomenal experience of its apprehension, has received surprisingly little
examination in modern criticism. However, Paul de Man’s essays “Phe-
nomenality and Materiality in Kant”
and “Hypogram and Inscription”
are rare exceptions. De Man demonstrates that the fundamental division
between the material text (“the only thing we have,” as he reminds us
and the reader’s phenomenal apprehension of it represents a labyrinthine
metaphorical structure that undermines the same binary opposition. De
Man also asserts that the formal structure of poetry contains another ele-
ment of phenomenality omitted in semiotic accounts of text and speech:
“the suspension of meaning that defines literary form”
– in other words,
the disjunction between the signifying system of poetic form and its lex-
ical meaning, which necessarily creates a resistance to understanding that
would not occur in, for instance, ordinary discursive speech (to use Hegel’s
To what extent does this theoretical issue of the ontology of literature
affect the interpretation of Wordsworth’s poetry? At crucial moments in
his writings, including the “Preface to the Lyrical Ballads,” “The Solitary
Reaper,” several episodes in The Prelude, and “On the Power of Sound,”
Wordsworth both acknowledges and revisits this suspension of meaning
through metaphors of music. He also acknowledges the difference between
the phenomenal and material elements of poetry at these moments, repre-
senting themas a disjunctionbetweenunderstanding soundas language and
its apprehension as either man-made music or natural sound. Wordsworth
also juxtaposes the permanence of writing and inscription with the imper-
manence of sound, provisionally resolving the conflict between static mate-
riality and temporal phenomenality in the contested site of the aesthetic.
In particular, Wordsworth’s treatment of poetic meter at these moments
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100 Nature, Music, and the Imagination in Wordsworth’s Poetry
reveals that the immanent experience of music as ordered, aesthetic sound
bridges the gap between the linguistic and textual material of poetry and the
aesthetic experience. For Wordsworth, the sound of poetry, like the imag-
ination, contains its own power to present itself to human consciousness
as intentional and communicative discourse, enabling auditory revelations
equaling those of the visionary spots of time. In addition, sound represents
the untranslatable, immediate presence of aesthetic material, the quality
of poetry that cannot be anything other than the poem itself, a quality
mirroring the role of the aesthetic in contemporaneous ideas of absolute
However, the issue of materiality extends beyond the particular question
of sound and music in Wordsworth to the general issue of the ontology of
poetry, which several prominent critics have recently addressed in depth.
In his work on poetics, Paul Fry calls attention to a gesture he calls “the
ostensive moment,” that is, the moment in which poetry indicates directly
through demonstration (for example, when a poet uses onomatopoeia,
and the poem contains the “buzz” or “snap” being described), rather than
through metaphor or allusion, becoming “language viewed strictly as pure
sound and as graphic trace.”
Karl Kroeber
and Jonathan Bate,
in con-
trast, demonstrate that the English Romantic poets’ view of nature did
not merely serve as a mask for ideology, history, or alterity but to a far
greater extent represented a sophisticated understanding of nature as mate-
rial reality and a complex, dynamic system operating both in conjunction
with human society and apart from it. These new directions in ecological
criticism indicate a distinct departure from the understanding of poetry
as a closed discursive system, suggesting instead a consideration of poets,
poetry, and language with a dynamic relation to a real world of sounds,
rocks, trees, and ecosystems. Although they approach poetry fromdifferent
directions, Fry, Kroeber, and Bate address the relationship between poetry
and the material as a genuine issue, rather than as the product of an ideolog-
ical blindness. This chapter, and indeed, this entire book, follows a similar
methodology: the consideration of musical structures as both metaphors
and as real sound, the material of both music and poetry. I argue here that
references to music in Wordsworth’s poetry carry a double significance with
regard to materiality; they are at once a self-reflexive consideration of the
poetic material itself, the real sound of the words of which the poem con-
sists, and a meditation on the actual world of aesthetic and natural sound.
In particular, allusions to human-made music in Wordsworth reflect an
awareness of the issues surrounding absolute music, whose overall theoret-
ical basis requires more explanation.
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Nature, Music, and the Imagination in Wordsworth’s Poetry 101
The issue of absolute music, which has dominated musicological debate
for at least two hundred years, separates into three more or less distinct
positions. According to Carl Dahlhaus,
the formalists (in the tradition of
Kant, Hanslick, and Stravinsky) maintain that absolute music has no con-
tent and derives its beauty from pure form. Other more moderate theorists
claimed that while absolute music has no directly referential content, it does
follow an emotional program, often too subtle and complex for linguistic
description, or as Christian Gottfried K¨ orner believed, a program based on
moral character, or ethos.
The theories are essentially more sophisticated
versions of the eighteenth-century doctrine of the Affektenlehre, in which
musical forms, keys, and tonal colors were catalogued according to their
emotional effect. Finally, many later Romantics, such as Hoffmann, Niet-
zsche, Liszt, and Wagner, found hidden programs in absolute music and
often created highly conjectural programs for well-known works. Although
none of these schools of thought ever came to a consensus on how listeners
understood the content of music, they were all certain that music com-
municated something, even if only a concept of formal beauty, and that
the experience of listening involved receiving this communication in some
Contemporary musicology has not reached a consensus either, and the
limitations of all these approaches has become even more apparent over
time. Formalism in music theory, like its counterparts in literary criti-
cism, cannot seem to account for the essential difference between the work
itself and a theoretical description of the work and tends to label aesthetic
response to the sophisticated structures it uncovers as purely subjective
impressions. The concept of emotional meaning in musical structure, even
in Leonard B. Meyer’s compelling description of it as sequences of ten-
sion, delay, and release,
does not sufficiently take into account differences
in musical or historical context. Similarly, claims for hidden programs
offered by historicist, feminist, and Marxist musicologists not only fre-
quently run aground on contradictory historical information about the
composer’s methods and intentions but also tend toward anachronism,
reflecting current concerns instead of qualities intrinsic to the musical
works themselves or relevant to the circumstances in which they were com-
posed. Even the rigorous arguments made by Rose Rosengard Subotnik
and Susan McCleary
do not entirely justify the specificity with which
they identify particular musical structures with highly specific concepts of
gender or class conflict. No matter how much a structural resemblance
seems to establish a concrete connection between musical and social forms,
an equally compelling resemblance between tonal music and some other
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102 Nature, Music, and the Imagination in Wordsworth’s Poetry
oppositional concept presents itself. As Karl Kroeber points out in another
context, these concerns may not be relevant to the Romantic era (or, for
that matter, of the Enlightenment) as to the rigidly binary terms of con-
temporary politics.
Nevertheless, music undeniably conveys something besides pure abstrac-
tion that listeners know, feel, and sense but cannot often defend. Lawrence
Kramer, a scholar of both literature and music, has suggested a possible
solution to this problem. Music, in his view, does not consist of two distinct
and inflexible categories of formal structure and denotative, emotional, or
nonexistent content. Instead, it consists of a series of “structural tropes,”
that is, formal units, either large or small scale, that connect compositional
choices to both their historical context and any existing structure of mean-
ing attached to that musical form.
In practical terms, a structural trope
allows the interpreter to bridge the gap between the internal workings of a
composition and its possible meaning by determining what it meant to use
a particular formal element for that composer and the intended audience.
Musical sound, like language, can have meaning defined according to con-
vention, even if that meaning exists only as an untranslatable connotation
rather than a clearly identifiable denotation. For instance, the offstage horn
sounded in the second act of Beethoven’s Fidelio has a specific, denotative
meaning for which the libretto has prepared both the characters and the
audience; everyone has already been told that a horn will sound when Don
Fernando, the minister, arrives to save Florestan. However, absolute music
also contains reliable connotative effects, which can be perceived even when
the audience has not been prepared to understand their meaning. To given
another example, when the final cadence of a chorale or instrumental work
resolves upward, or resolves to a major key when the work is in minor (as in
Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, as well as many hymns), listeners frequently
report an effect of exaltation although no specific meaning for that moment
has been indicated by any external signal. This effect defies translation into
more specific language, even though it occurs at a particular moment and
under identifiable, repeatable conditions according to well-known compo-
sitional techniques.
For the Romantic poets, poetic meter performs a similar function as
the purely formal element of poetry – it can either provide clear, denota-
tive meaning, or it can carry follow well-known techniques for conveying
a connotative meaning or effect. This element, long considered a mat-
ter of mysterious genius, talent, and poetic inspiration, follows patterns
of compositional practice, convention, and deliberate effect and carries
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Nature, Music, and the Imagination in Wordsworth’s Poetry 103
with it patterns of implicit connotation similar to those perceived in abso-
lute music. John Hollander’s explanation of the meaning and function of
Romantic verse form supports this analogy:
The stylistic choices [of Romantic verse form] (which I am calling metrical, rather
than rhythmic) occur at a different level of decision-making from those of mys-
terious choices which must occur in actual composition. . . . The metrical choice
provides a basic schematic fabric of contingencies governing the range of expressive
effect. But it also establishes a kind of frame around the work as a whole. Like a
title, it indicates how it is to be taken, what sort of thing the poem is supposed to
be, and, perhaps, taken in historical context, what the poet thought he was doing
by calling his curious bit of language a poem at all.
The poet’s decision to use a particular verse form does not necessarily
affect the poem’s content directly, but the choice of metrical form is far
from arbitrary. A poet chooses meter in a specific historical context that
creates a “contract” (the legal term is Wordsworth’s, from the “Preface
to the Lyrical Ballads”
) between the reader and the poet. Each reader
expects a poem to do certain things according to the artistic context of
its composition; no poet may vary from these expectations (his end of the
contract) without justification. However, when an innovative aspect of the
poemvaries this contract, it creates a newset of conditions by which readers
will judge the next set of poetic agreements. In time, these innovations alter
the previous set of conventions; what was once variation now becomes
convention, and what was once convention becomes somehow “natural”
(that is, intrinsic) to the genre. Hollander argues correctly that uncovering
these moments of formal transformationprovides anexcellent starting point
for scholarly investigation and reveals much about the terms of this implicit
Wordsworth most famous work on poetics, the “Preface to the Lyrical
Ballads,” not only demonstrates his concerns about these contractual con-
ditions but also his conception of their meaning. Despite worries about
money and criticism from his friends, he insisted on writing the theoret-
ical “Preface” for the 1800 edition, expanding it for the 1802 edition, and
reprinting it in his first collected works.
Although Wordsworth possessed
an unshakable belief in his own importance as a poet, he was concerned
that his readers might accuse him of breaking the unspoken agreement of
comprehensibility between the poet and his readers. His attempt to deflect
criticism for “prosaisms,” places where poetry, despite adherence to a met-
rical scheme, becomes too much like prose, demonstrates this anxiety most
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104 Nature, Music, and the Imagination in Wordsworth’s Poetry
clearly. After citing an instance of this potential difficulty in a poem by
Thomas Gray, whom he assumes to be above reproach, he explains why
his own poetry also avoids being too prosaic:
If it be affirmed that rhyme and metrical arrangement of themselves constitute a
distinction which overturns what I have been saying on the strict affinity of metrical
language with that of Prose, and paves the way for other artificial distinctions which
the mind voluntarily admits, I answer that the language of such Poetry as I am
recommending is, as far as possible, a selection of the language really spoken
by men; that this selection, wherever it is made with true taste and feeling, will
of itself form a distinction far greater than at first would be imagined, and will
entirely separate the composition fromthe vulgarity and meanness of ordinary life;
and, if metre be superadded thereto, I believe that a dissimilitude will be produced
altogether sufficient for the gratification of a rational mind. What other distinction
would we have? Whence is it to come? And where is it to exist?
Wordsworth wrote this passage before he encountered any public reaction
to the poems and kept it in the second edition over Coleridge’s strenuous
objections; clearly he believed a defense of his poetry as poetry, that is, as
metrical utterance, was essential. Fortunately for us, this defense of his prac-
tice provides a precise description of this moment in the history of poetics
and what he perceived as its next phase. Although twenty-first-century
standards for versification allow almost anything to call itself poetry, in
Wordsworth’s time he needed to defend himself against the charge of being
“a man ignorant of his own profession”
(later echoed by Byron) by clearly
justifying any difference from the normal (and unspoken) expectations
of a reader in 1800. Implicit in Wordsworth’s justification of the use of
the language of ordinary people are the assumptions that poetry formerly
had nothing to do with ordinary people and that their language by itself
was not in the least poetic. For Wordsworth, poetry is not merely “the
spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings”
(as many believe) but a com-
bination of poetic craft and carefully chosen language. To make the lives
and the language of ordinary people poetic, someone with skill and taste
must do the work of transforming these utterances into poetry through
This transformation results from two distinct processes: the selection of
the poem’s subject and language and the versification of that raw mate-
rial. Only a poet with “true taste and feeling” has the skill required to
manipulate the material of language as sound, in much the same way a
sculptor manipulates the material of stone. The three rhetorical questions
Wordsworth asks at the end of the passage (“What other distinction would
we have? Whence is it to come? And where is it to exist?”) carry a tone of
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Nature, Music, and the Imagination in Wordsworth’s Poetry 105
impatience that reveals his desire to disabuse readers of the notion that a
poetic sensibility alone is sufficient for the creation of great works. Like-
wise, the mere choice to work in a poetic idiom does not create a sufficient
distinction between prosaic and poetic subjects; to transform prose into
poetry, the poet must completely rework the language according to both
taste and skill. Language, both of ordinary and extraordinary people, is
everywhere, but good poetry does not come from mere quotation, whether
of common talk or high style; it comes from the combination of taste and
the “metre superadded thereto.”
If meter is merely “superadded,” does it really carry any significance for
the reader beyond indicating that the text is a poem? Later on in the “Preface
tothe Lyrical Ballads,” Wordsworthdescribes the functionof poetic meter in
overtly musical terms, with a straightforward statement on the connection
between a poem’s metrical elements and its resistance to interpretation as
a form of aesthetic pleasure:
Now the music of harmonious metrical language, the sense of difficulty overcome
and the blind associationof pleasure which has beenpreviously received fromworks
of rhyme or metre of the same or similar construction, and indistinct perception
perpetually renewed of language closely resembling that of real life and yet in the
circumstance of metre, imperceptibly make up a complex feeling of delight, which
will always be found intermingled with powerful descriptions of the passions.
Although this text is twenty years older and in a different language, it shows
a remarkable affinity with Hegel’s statement on the artwork that began
this chapter. For Wordsworth, his poetry does resist easy comprehension
because of the complexity and difficulty of its language – he has deliberately
taken his materials from “the language of ordinary men” rather than high
poetic diction – but because of precisely those elements that distinguish
poetry from prose, “harmonious metrical language.” Because his diction
no longer presents such difficulty, the sound of the poem must provide the
resistance that results in the “sense of difficulty overcome.” Moreover, the
metrical elements of a poem contribute to its emotional content, either
through associations with other poems or emotional states. Poetic meter
connects the newly created poem with the reader’s previous experience of
the pleasure of poetry, at once positioning the poem within the tradition
and recalling the pleasure associated with other poems as a pleasure of
form – the association with other poems does not derive its pleasure from
allusion, but from meter. The “complex feeling of delight” that poetry
evokes stems from the combination of sensuous and spiritual pleasures in
one experience.
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106 Nature, Music, and the Imagination in Wordsworth’s Poetry
Likewise, Brendan O’Donnell’s thorough analysis of Wordsworth’s ver-
sification confirms Wordsworth’s belief that the metrical elements of poetry
represented a fully independent mode of signification that worked in con-
cert with the poem’s overt meaning:
Wordsworth offers a great deal of evidence in his critical prose, letters, and con-
versations of his concern with these [metrical] elements of his art. And his poems
everywhere demonstrate that he habitually regarded the complex patterning of
rhythmic and sonic elements within the context of conventional use to be a deeply
vital and constitutive element of meaning.
O’Donnell’s assertion that Wordsworth considered meter “a constitutive
element of meaning” deserves emphasis; meter defines poetry as poetry,
signifying its status and its existence in the material world. Wordsworth’s
phrase for poetic sound, “the music of harmonious metrical language,” is
more than an apt metaphor for good metrical practice; it a conception
of a separate and significant art of ordered sound, not merely as part of
poetic discourse but a symbolic system in its own right, possessing a similar
combination of nonspecificity and signifying power to that of absolute
Another astute critic, David Haney, has made remarkable progress relat-
ing Wordsworth’s already well-known metaphors of vision to the relatively
unexplored problem of voice. In doing so, Haney has uncovered a set of
binary oppositions that may well change current literary theory signifi-
cantly. As Haney observes (with reference to W. J. T. Mitchell),
If “ear” and “eye” thus become “figures of difference between words and images”
(Mitchell 119), articulate language is the spoken and heard other of the image, not
as in the Derridean model used by Jacobus and Kneale, the written and seen other
of the voice.
The key word here is “articulate”: the word that distinguishes sound as
comprehensible language from sound as pure sensory experience, a central
issue both in poetics and in the concept of absolute music. As I intend
to show here, Wordsworth frequently confronts the problem of the degree
to which the sound he hears is, or should be, comprehensible, and he
often struggles in his efforts to understand. At times, as Brian Bartlett
and Jeffrey Robinson
have shown, Wordsworth hears a musical voice
in natural sound; at others, the sound of nature is utterly alien to him.
However, when Wordsworth describes the sound of song in “The Solitary
Reaper,” he discovers that his inability to understand Gaelic, the language
of the reaper’s song, has rendered it a kind of absolute music.
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Song and Articulate Meaning: “The Solitary Reaper” 107
song and articulate meaning: “the solitary reaper”
Although Wordsworth shows a great deal of concern in the “Preface to the
Lyrical Ballads” that his poetry would be too innovative for his audience,
not many years afterward, he found himself attacked for not being inno-
vative enough. The Poems, in Two Volumes of 1807, in which “The Solitary
Reaper” appears, received much negative criticism for adhering too closely
to traditional forms; Byron even called them “namby-pamby.”
To some
extent, Wordsworth had created an expectation of innovation. The consen-
sus of his time (perhaps echoed by some critics in the twentieth century)
was that his efforts toward simplicity had gone too far, leaving the poems
with both form and content too ordinary for the sophisticated audience
he had developed in his earlier works. The first stanza of “The Solitary
Reaper” demonstrates the quality of simplicity clearly:
Behold her, single in the field,
Yon solitary Highland lass!
Reaping and singing by herself;
Stop here, or gently pass!
Alone she cuts and binds the grain,
And sings a melancholy strain;
O listen! for the Vale profound
Is overflowing with the sound.
Rhyming couplets, tetrameter, and a rustic scene – Wordsworth has nearly
reached the point of clich´ e. Nevertheless, this poem raises some difficult
questions. “Behold her,” “Stop here,” and “O listen” are bold commands;
to whom are they addressed, and in what context? Wordsworth names no
“friend” or “gentle reader” inthe poem, nor does he indicate that anyone but
the speaker can heed these commands. Geoffrey Hartman reads these apos-
trophes as a variation on epitaphs that ask the passing traveler to stop and
consider his mortality through the brief cautionary tale of the person buried
beneath the tombstone; this pause in the journey establishes a moment of
self-conscious reflection.
Certainly, death lies behind the reaper’s “melan-
choly strain” and these reflections on the Scottish landscape; his brother
had died in the time between the journey to Scotland and the composition
of the poem.
The poem that precedes it in the collection, “Rob Roy’s
Grave,” also overtly uses the epitaphic mode. Nevertheless, this moment
of self-consciousness and self-recognition is a song and commands to stop
and listen follow the traditional rhetorical mode of the balladeer as well as
that of the tombstone.
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108 Nature, Music, and the Imagination in Wordsworth’s Poetry
In addition, the speaker’s rhetorical stance, speaking poetry to himself
and for himself, parallels the reaper’s solitary song. The singer works as
she sings; the poet speaks in the middle of his tour of Scotland. His song
keeps him moving in his journey of grief, just as a melancholy work song
keeps the reaper to her task. The command “Stop here, or gently pass”
comes after the image has been presented, and “O listen” after her song has
been heard clearly enough to perceive its melancholy. The speaker must
insist on stopping and listening rather than continuing his parallel action
of traveling through Scotland, lost in melancholy thoughts. The reaper has
taken over the traveler’s hard work of moving and mourning for a time,
giving him a respite in which to consider the scene before him.
The second stanza emphasizes this respite by comparisons to bird-
song heard by travelers through desert and ocean, with a clear reference
to the difficulty of assigning denotative reference to musical and natural
No Nightingale did ever chaunt
More welcome notes to weary bands
Of travellers in some shady haunt,
Among Arabian sands:
A voice so thrilling ne’er was heard
In spring-time from the Cuckoo-bird,
Breaking the silence of the seas
Among the furthest Hebrides.
The stanza spans the widest extremes possible, from the nightingale in the
Arabian desert to the cuckoo in the Hebrides off the coast of Scotland. In
both cases, the birds do not produce articulate words but natural cries that
acquire meaning through the poet’s interpretation of their context.
To the
travelers in the desert, the song indicates that they have arrived at an oasis.
To the listener in the Hebrides, not far from where Wordsworth traveled
on his tour, it carries the double message that land is near or that spring has
come. This ambiguity reflects Wordsworth’s desire to find a spring of hope
after a long winter of mourning as well; travel and time have long been
known to ease sorrow. Although both bird songs communicate welcome
news to their listeners, neither is a message in words; they are merely sounds
that accompany welcome natural events. In this respect, the reaper’s song
is also a natural sound, the result of a seasonal change in a particular
place. That he finds relief in her voice results from his own condition, not
her intent. This relief may even depend on her solitude; neither audience
nor any social dynamic disturbs the scene, reassuring him that natural
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Song and Articulate Meaning: “The Solitary Reaper” 109
order – the seasons, the harvest, life and death – continues regardless of
personal sorrow, and that he can still find refuge within it.
Nevertheless, the reaper sings real words in a human language, although
the poet cannot understand her. The opening question of the next stanza
allows her song to rejoin human discourse, while maintaining its association
with the sounds of the natural world:
Will no one tell me what she sings?
Perhaps the plaintive numbers flow
For old, unhappy, far-off things,
And battles long ago:
Or is it some more humble lay,
Familiar matter of today?
Some natural sorrow, loss, or pain,
That has been, and may be again?
The desire for translation reveals an assumption of potential intelligibility;
“the plaintive numbers” follow a metrical pattern recognizable as a ballad
form. “The battles long ago” could easily be Rob Roy’s or another Scot-
tish hero’s – by raising this possibility, Wordsworth connects the song to
folk poetic tradition and to history, yet does not definitively explain how.
Although the comparison to birdsong in the second stanza may appear to
dehumanize her by making her into a kind of bird, (or, as one critic sug-
gests, to rape her
), this consideration of her as a potential bard reasserts
her humanity and her participation in culture. Her song remains unintel-
ligible because of the poet’s linguistic inadequacy, not because of his desire
to reduce her to the condition of an animal or to overpower her. Indeed,
if Wordsworth blurs the distinction between human and animal, he does
so by anthropomorphizing birds and other parts of nature (as in “To a
Cuckoo” in the same volume) rather than by dehumanizing the reaper.
The reaper is both part of the natural landscape and clearly human; by
keeping the denotative content of her song at a distance, Wordsworth
emphasizes the connection between the sensuous enjoyment of the natural
landscape and that of musical material.
The final stanza confirms the reaper’s status as a human maker of music
and gives the speaker hope and pleasure in this suspension of meaning in
the aesthetic. It also demonstrates an avoidance of narrative closure that
adds to its power:
Whate’er the theme, the Maiden sang
As if her song could have no ending;
I saw her singing at her work,
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110 Nature, Music, and the Imagination in Wordsworth’s Poetry
And o’er the sickle bending.
I listen’d, motionless and still;
And, as I mounted up the hill,
The music in my heart I bore,
Long after it was heard no more.
The speaker reiterates her essential humanity by calling attention to her
role in the work of agriculture. From the perspective of the speaker, her
song has become absolute music, pure sound free from the constraints of
denotation and narrative. Far frombecoming a subjugated or dehumanized
figure, the reaper instead becomes an emblem for what Wordsworth seeks
on his tour in Scotland: solace and a renewed covenant between humanity
and nature. A single human life is linear and finite, yet nature is cyclical and
infinite; solace comes from his understanding of the connection between
the two. Just as the reaper harvests grain in the fall and plants again in the
spring, so does nature end the lives of human beings while providing for
their renewal. The reaper sings as she works, creating art that will outlast
her particular circumstances and go beyond the basic human necessity of
gathering food. Solace lies in the expression of this truth in song, which
can last as part of human civilization long after the death of its creator.
What the speaker can bear in his heart “long after it was heard no more”
can be borne as a song of the imagination by others who read “The Solitary
The moment described by “The Solitary Reaper” has therefore become
a “spot of time,” a moment in which an ordinary scene carries a restorative
power, as Wordsworth describes in Book XII of The Prelude (208–25).
Paul Fry has correctly reclaimed these moments in Wordsworth’s poetry
as suspensions of history, rather than deliberate obfuscations of it. As Fry
there are many “spots of time” in Wordsworth’s Prelude, each with its unique
spatio-temporal context, yet their main characteristic is not their historicality but
their repeated and repeatable identity as moments in which the semantic under-
determination of feeling stands revealed.
Wordsworth’s deliberate conflation of the terms of time and space, “spot”
and “time,” indicates the degree to which he wishes to separate these
moments from the linear chronological progression of historical time, not
as a way to deny social and political history but to free himself from the
agony of personal history. This moment restores him precisely because it
releases himfromthe narrative of his ownloss, giving himinstead a moment
of pure experience, the experience of pure sound, absolute music. That this
“spot of time” is predicated on an experience of music emphasizes the
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Song and Articulate Meaning: “The Solitary Reaper” 111
apparent paradox of a spatial understanding of a temporal moment. Music
is sound in the element of time, a self-constituting discourse in which
the notes, whether sounding simultaneously in harmony or in melodic
sequence, must follow each other to exist as music and must therefore dis-
appear as the music plays. A singer who “sang / As if her song could have
no ending” has suspended time and transformed the ephemeral experience
of music into a permanent aesthetic object in the memory of the listener.
Likewise, the natural setting also directs the listener toward an experience
of nature as sensuous material. As Hegel states in the citation that began this
chapter, the work of art “is there for sensuous feeling . . . just as nature is,
whether the external nature that surrounds us, or our own sensitive nature
within.” The work of art presents itself for the senses, for the apprehen-
sion of the moment, not as a historically or symbolically determined set of
social constructs but as a material object. Like art, nature has an immediate
material presence; agriculture, as the manipulation of nature for the con-
tinued physical existence of humanity, represents its acknowledgment. In
harvesting, the reaper participates in the fundamental connection between
humanity and nature, the cultivation of plants for human sustenance. In
singing, she participates in the fundamentally human activity of providing
art for the pleasure of the senses.
The material of artistic expression therefore does more than merely trans-
mit a message from artist to audience. For aesthetic experience to have
its effect, the perceiver must see, hear, or feel something; otherwise, the
essential connection to material existence reinforced and reclaimed by art
disappears. Works of art, as material objects, confirm the self-awareness of
the viewer or listener by restoring the vital distinction between the self and
the nonself through the senses. The artwork presents itself for sensuous
apprehension; it exists in itself and as a phenomenon. The formal charac-
teristics of a poem do not merely exist as communicative structures; they
enable the poem to maintain what Walter Benjamin calls the “authority of
the object,”
the material substance that makes a poema particular work of
art and no other. In the case of “The Solitary Reaper,” Wordsworth chooses
a traditional verse form as a communicative structure for his poem then
meditates on the essence of purely formal apprehension of song, stating,
in effect, that his poetry should be understood as both metrical and lexical
Wordsworth’s choice of a verse form so close to the traditional ballad
form as to approach clich´ e now seems far less “namby-pamby” than Byron
believed. The form, as an echo of the ballad form the reaper uses, reminds
us of the pleasures of simpler poetry and its capacity to provide solace. Its
verse form therefore becomes a structural trope (to borrow Kramer’s term)
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112 Nature, Music, and the Imagination in Wordsworth’s Poetry
for the experience of hearing the reaper’s song, the phenomenality of music.
Likewise, Wordsworth’s poem about the experience of hearing her song
relieves sorrow through the immediacy of experience. The pleasure of sen-
suous apprehension denies sorrow its place in the linear narrative of a
particular biography and generalizes it as part of human existence in the
natural world, enabling an understanding of it apart from the slaughter
bench of history. Similarly, criticism that can account for both history and
the desire to suspend it momentarily in the pleasure of sensuous material,
as well as both the materiality of the artwork and the phenomenality of the
aesthetic experience, as “The Solitary Reaper” does in poetic terms, will
best describe the ordered sound of Wordsworth’s poetry. However, “The
Solitary Reaper” describes merely one moment; the complexities of the
poet’s understanding of sound in poetry find a more detailed expression in
The Prelude.
natural music in the prelude
Like many long poems, The Prelude begins with an invocation to the muse
that both situates the poem in the tradition and asserts its independence
from it. The beginning of the poem confirms that it will be of sufficient
length and depth to participate in the epic tradition, while also revealing its
two extraordinary departures from that tradition. First, the poem’s subject,
clearly enough, will not be great wars or the justification of God’s ways to
man, but the story of how the poet became who he is. In a letter to Sir
George Beaumont, Wordsworth even admitted that it was “an alarming
length! and a thing unprecedented in literary history that a man should
talk so much about himself.”
Nearly as surprising as the poem’s subject
is its muse. In the first line of this poem, “O, there is blessing in this
gentle breeze . . . ” (I, 1)
the poet asks the muse for blessing, much as
his predecessors did, but the muse here is nature itself; he needs no other
inspiration than an ordinary puff of wind.
Soon afterward, Wordsworth describes a state of peaceful, productive
coexistence for nature, poetry, and music in these lines:
For I, methought, while the sweet breath of heaven
Was blowing on my body, felt within
A correspondent breeze, that gently moved
With quickening virtue, but is now become
A tempest, a redundant energy,
Vexing its own creation . . .
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Natural Music in The Prelude 113
Thus, O Friend! did I, not used to make
A present joy the matter of a song,
Pour forth that day my soul in measured strains
That would not be forgotten, and are here
(I, 33–8, 46–50)
The poet feels a breeze, both within and without, and makes “a song . . . in
measured strains” for a specific audience, his friend Coleridge. At the
moment of composition itself, the inner breeze of inspiration has become
a “tempest,” a natural force, which makes “present joy” a “the matter of a
song.” Curiously, the text contains a sudden shift in narrative chronology;
the phrase “Thus . . . did I . . . / Pour forth that day” reveals that he is not
describing the act of composition itself but the memory of that act. In the
recalled moment, poetic inspiration comes from the inner response to the
outer, natural breeze, but fromthe later perspective of the next lines, the act
of creation requires him to write “measured strains.” The process of com-
position described here, as in the “Preface to Lyrical Ballads,” involves an
initial moment of inspiration, in which the poet finds the material for
his poem and the crafting of that material into metrical form. However,
The Prelude dramatizes the process of poetic transformation through mem-
ory by means of this self-quotation, elaborating the process of creating
poetry through “emotion recollected in tranquility,” in the famous phrase
from the “Preface to the Lyrical Ballads.”
The process of recollection and composition is far from simple; here,
Wordsworth intertwines the recollection of an emotional state and the
memory of a sound in a deceptively complex doubling of poetic voice:
My own voice cheered me, and, far more, the mind’s
Internal echo of the imperfect sound;
To both I listened, drawing from them both
A cheerful confidence in things to come.
(I, 55–9)
The Idealist formula of the creation of self-consciousness through opposi-
tion to an external other often depends on a metaphor of touch or vision;
here, the sound of “my own voice” and the “internal echo of the imperfect
sound” reinforce each other, providing the poet with a clear sense of self and
“confidence in things to come.” A real echo is an actual sound, a distorted
reflection from a sufficient distance to delay the sound’s return so it can be
differentiated fromthe initial sound; here, “the mind’s internal echo” makes
the sensory opposition of self-consciousness a purely imaginary event, a
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114 Nature, Music, and the Imagination in Wordsworth’s Poetry
self-positing poetic voice delayed by memory. “My own voice” is the sound
of the here and now, the present sensation of one’s own ability to create.
Between the voice of the present and the internal echo of recollection, the
poet draws confidence from the knowledge that this process will lead to
greater self-consciousness; he will have constructed his self through the
echo of his own voice as it is preserved in poetry.
Wordsworth introduces the process by which he will construct this self-
consciousness with an important simile:
Dust as we are, the immortal spirit grows
Like harmony in music; there is a dark
Inscrutable workmanship that reconciles
Discordant elements, makes them cling together
In one society. How strange that all
The terrors, pains, and early miseries,
Regrets, vexations, lassitudes interfused
Within my mind, should e’er have bourne a part,
And that a needful part, in making up
The calm existence that is mine when I
Am worthy of myself! Praise to the end!
(I, 340–50)
The 1805 version of the first two lines of this excerpt is even plainer: “The
mind of man is framed even like the breath / And harmony of music”
(1805, I, 351–2). We are mere material, dust, yet mysteriously, something
immortal and conscious can emerge fromthis dust, the way the mere sound
of a single note gains significance when in harmony with others. Like chords
in music, events in life take their meaning from the imaginative structure
imposed on them in an artistic design; they are, and are not, “as the mind
answers to them,” that is, they have meaning both in themselves and within
a deliberately designed scheme. For Wordsworth, the emotion and vision
of a moment resembles harmony in music because poetry, like music, takes
the flash of inspiration and turns it into the material of ordered sound
in time. Memories of difficulty and unhappiness even contribute to the
harmonious whole as a “needful part” of the state of mind that poetry can
create, just as dissonance in music creates the possibility of resolution.
However, Wordsworth remains painfully aware that he cannot become
a poet merely by feeling nature’s breeze and that his poetic voice depends
on a great deal of growth and development. He recognizes that despite his
affinity with nature, his voice must be separate from it and that he must
balance the competing demands of nature, humanity, imagination, and
self. As several episodes later in The Prelude show, Wordsworth must learn
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Text, Voice, and Imagination 115
to mediate these forces through the sound of poetry, which has physical
reality yet is not natural, which communicates to other humans but is the
voice of the self. When he enters a world of pure imagination in the “Dream
of the Arab” of Book V, an apocalypse threatens; when he tries to become
one with nature in the “Boy of Winander” episode (also in Book V), an
abyss of silence and death opens up underneath him. Finally, when he
strays too far from nature in the city, as in “The Blind Beggar” episode of
Book VII, he loses his voice in a pathetic and horrifying vision. Only at the
end of The Prelude does he discover the way to find his own voice and self
among these forces.
text, voice, and imagination: “the dream of the arab”
The section of Book Vknown as “The Dreamof the Arab,” one of the most
puzzling episodes in the Prelude, contains a surprisingly direct acknowl-
edgment of the poet’s difficulty in creating a work of lasting value in an
impermanent world. As the episode begins, the poet expresses sorrow to
an unnamed friend that the great thoughts enshrined in books should be
preserved by such frail materials as paper, glue, and leather. The mysterious
and anomalous friend (Wordsworth rarely mentions any audience in The
Prelude besides Coleridge) remains silent as the poet tells him of a dream:
Whereupon I told,
That once in the stillness of a summer’s noon,
While I was seated in a rocky cave
By the seaside, perusing, so it chanced,
The famous history of the errant knight
Recorded by Cervantes, these same thoughts
Beset me, and to height unusual rose,
While listlessly I sate, and, having closed
The book, had turned my eyes toward the wide sea.
On poetry and geometric truth,
And their high privilege of lasting life,
From all internal injury exempt,
I mused, upon these chiefly: and at length,
My senses yielding to the sultry air,
Sleep seized me, and I passed into a dream.
(V, 56–70)
In earlier versions of the text, the dream actually belongs to the friend,
and the poet is the audience; Wordsworth simply changed “he” to “I” in
most instances tocreate the reversal of roles. However, once Wordsworthhas
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116 Nature, Music, and the Imagination in Wordsworth’s Poetry
made it his own dream, the friend no longer fulfills much of a purpose in the
narrative; why keep him in the poem at all? Jane Worthington Smyser has
provided the most plausible explanation for the change and has also found
the source of the dream itself in the works of Descartes.
Smyser suggests
that by the time the passage had been edited and rewritten several times,
the dream had become more Wordsworthian than Cartesian, prompting
him to acknowledge complete ownership of it; the friend remains in the
1850 version as an “awkward vestige” of its borrowed origin.
As both the
author of the cogito theory of self-consciousness and the founder of an
entire field of geometry, Descartes’s hidden presence in the episode looms
large; moreover, his method of excluding all received knowledge and relying
only on what his mind can generate a priori, described in the Discourse
on Method, makes him an apt emblem for Wordsworth’s isolated dream-
The friend not only leaves us with a covert figure for Descartes but
also remains an essential element of the elaborate series of narrative frames
present in this episode. Wordsworth rarely used the device of creating “sto-
ries within stories” in other circumstances yet finds it necessary here to
reinforce the episode’s meta-literary and purely imaginary aspects. Having
begun with a meditation on the fragility of the physical frame of books,
Wordsworth creates a delicate metaphorical frame for this story to empha-
size the tenuous relationshipbetweenthe material andthe spiritual existence
of literature. The frame has three clear layers of memory and narration; it
is a story (remembered to the friend) of a dream (remembered upon awak-
ening) within another story (remembered while writing) of a discussion
with a friend (Coleridge). By removing the story so far from its origins,
these narrative frames demonstrate how the external circumstances of a
work, whether physical or narrative, do not alter the value or durability of
its ideas in themselves. Books of real worth are “From all internal injury
exempt”; they cannot be diminished or destroyed by changes in circum-
stances and remain valuable forever. Like the story itself, no matter how
far removed from direct narration or how often recalled, books carry their
own internal truths.
The dreamitself begins with allusions to several other literary works with
elaborate narrative frames:
I saw before me stretched a boundless plain
Of sandy wilderness, all black and void,
And as I looked around, distress and fear
Came creeping over me, when at my side,
Close at my side, an uncouth shape appeared
Upon a dromedary, mounted high.
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Text, Voice, and Imagination 117
He seemed an Arab of the Bedouin tribes:
A lance he bore, and underneath one arm
A stone, and in the opposite hand, a shell
Of a surpassing brightness.
(V, 72–80)
Like Dante in the Inferno, the poet finds himself lost in a wilderness until
someone appears at his side, and he feels a similar religious and cultural
distance fromhis guide; both the Arab and Dante’s guide, Virgil, are strange
apparitions (“an uncouth shape”) and non-Christians. The Arab also rides
a camel and carries strange, magical objects, as if he were from the Tales
of the Thousand and One Nights. The Tales (known in Wordsworth’s time
as Arabian Nights Entertainments, or The Thousand and One Nights) also
have a characteristic series of narrative frames in which the overall story
is suspended while Scheherazade (the heroine) tells a story to delay her
execution, which inevitably contains a character who tells another story,
followed by another, and so on. The Arab at the center of this elaborately
framed story will guide Wordsworth through this strange underworld of
dreams, carrying the legacy of both past literary achievements and popular
literature. Significantly, the episode links oral and written literary culture
through the figure of the Arab. The Tales are themselves written representa-
tions of an oral folktales, and the hero’s visit to the underworld is a standard
part of the Western epic tradition in which the present hero consults char-
acters from previous epics for advice and guidance. In these episodes, the
dead texts of ancient works are made to speak, essentially acknowledging
the tradition and providing a model for what can be learned from poetry.
Here in the Prelude, the Arab does not reveal his identity immediately,
and the poet asks what the Arab is carrying. The answer contains many
ambiguous and antithetical objects, the kind that appear only in dreams:
the Arab told me that the stone
Was ‘Euclid’s Elements’; and ‘This’, said he,
‘Is something of more worth’; and at the word
Stretched forth the shell, so beautiful in shape,
In colour so resplendent, with command
That I should hold it to my ear. I did so,
And heard that instant in an unknown tongue,
Which I understood, articulate sounds,
A loud prophetic blast of harmony;
An Ode, in passion uttered, which foretold
Destruction to the children of the earth
By deluge, now at hand.
(V, 86–98)
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118 Nature, Music, and the Imagination in Wordsworth’s Poetry
The objects are clearly what Freud would call “dream-material,” objects
taken from waking life that later become part of a dream. The stone, as the
Arab tells him bluntly, is Euclid’s Elements of Geometry, which the poet had
been reading before falling asleep. The other object, harder to identify at
first, is “something of more worth”: a shell that is also an ode foretelling the
Apocalypse. These strange objects are at once products of nature, a shell
and a stone, and artificial products of the human mind. The Arab claims
that the shell is “of more worth” because it possesses both beauty and truth
and connects the real world of nature and experience with the artificial
world of language and music. The shell also extends the reach of poetry
to a miraculous extent. Breaking the confines of a particular language, it
speaks in an “unknown tongue, / Which I understood.” It has achieved
Schiller’s impossible aspiration to become music, “a loud prophetic blast
of harmony,” yet it speaks in “articulate sounds,” at once the pure, formal
sound of absolute music and denotative language.
Events soon confirm the truth told by the shell and reveal that the Arab’s
mission is not to guide the poet out of the wilderness but to preserve these
No sooner ceased
The song, than the Arab with calm look declared
That all would come to pass of which the voice
Had given forewarning, and that he himself
Was going then to bury those two books:
The one that held acquaintance with the stars,
And wedded soul to soul in purest bond
Of reason, undisturbed by space or time;
The other that was a god, yea many gods,
Had voices more than all the winds, with power
To exhilarate the spirit, and to soothe,
Through every clime, the heart of human kind.
(V, 98–109)
These absolute, idealized books do not even need readers; they are still
valuable when buried. They are also represented as two separate books
because the pure reason of geometry cannot be preserved in the same book
with voices “with power / To exhilarate the spirit.” In a previous era (most
visibly during the Renaissance), the rules of mathematics, music, and poetic
meter were all considered different aspects of one universal order, but for
Wordsworth, geometric and poetic truth represent two sides of a large divi-
sion in human thought. Geometry is a priori reason itself: a single, unified
hierarchy of pure logic. Poetry, on the other hand, is diverse and enigmatic,
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Text, Voice, and Imagination 119
combining the power of a priori reason with the lessons of a posteriori
experience to create a pantheon that can both inspire and give solace.
Significantly, the shell/book speaks of its own accord, the way a shell
appears to produce the sound of the ocean and maintains its simultaneous
existence as both a natural and an artificial object, a condition that can
only exist in dreams. The poet notices the strangeness of this impossible
condition upon retelling the story, but not within the dream itself:
While this was uttering, strange as it may seem,
I wondered not, although I plainly saw
The one to be a stone, the other a shell;
Nor doubted once but that they both were books,
Having a perfect faith in all that passed.
(V, 110–14)
The strangeness here derives from both the uncanny nature of dream sym-
bolism and that of poetic language. Things are, and are not, what they
appear; they are simultaneously that which they represent and that which
interpretation makes of them. The structure of poetic language therefore
parallels that of the sound of a shell. A shell in itself makes no sound; what
one hears when the shell is pressed to the ear, according to Hollander, is
background noise of a certain texture and frequency, audible only because
the shell simultaneously reflects this sound and blocks out the other, usually
more prominent noises of the outside world.
The sound of a shell also
makes a natural analogy with the mimetic and symbolic modes of poetic
discourse. Just as the sound of the shell resembles the sound of the ocean, so
do the rhythmic and onomatopoetic associations of poetic language resem-
ble their objects. Likewise, the association between the object and its origin
makes an inevitable symbolic or synechdochal connection.
The shell/book therefore represents an imaginary, idealized poem that
transcends the limitations of ordinary poetic discourse on every level. It
is articulate, yet musical; its language is wholly removed from ordinary
speech, yet comprehensible; its metaphors and images are purely symbolic,
yet entirely credible, giving the poet “a perfect faith in all that passed.”
The book reads itself and has a devoted follower dedicated to preserving it
against apocalyptic destruction, which the book miraculously predicts as it
occurs. Like the book of Revelation, the shell/book foretells the end of time,
when signs become reality, and the distinction between symbol and refer-
ent collapses as all prophecies are fulfilled. The shell/book both reads and
interprets itself, eliminating the resistance of poetic language entirely. Fur-
thermore, the shell/book maintains a perfect connection between language
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120 Nature, Music, and the Imagination in Wordsworth’s Poetry
and referent; the flood it predicts is within sight. Finally, the shell/book
achieves all these impossible literary ideals so easily that it seems to be both
a work of natural and artistic beauty, collapsing Kant’s distinctions.
The impossibility of achieving this kind of perfection becomes clear as
the poet notices that the Arab, too, has a double identity, based on a literary
Lance in rest,
He rode, I keeping pace with him; and now
He, to my fancy, had become the knight
Whose tale Cervantes tells; yet not the knight,
But was an Arab of the desert too;
Of these he was neither, and was both at once.
(V, 120–5)
People and objects found in dreams are well known to possess double
identities; they enable the dreamer to make symbolic connections hidden
in the subconscious during waking hours. Of course, the character of Don
Quixote also had two identities, one as a minor nobleman fond of chivalric
romance novels, the other as a character within them, a knight, and the
central theme of this novel (which the poet had been reading just before
he fell asleep) is the distance between literary ideals and ordinary reality.
As long as the mysterious dream-figure remains an Arab, he presents the
possibility that a story can last forever, endlessly told and retold, printed
and reprinted, like an Arabian Tale; when the Arab becomes Don Quixote,
the poet realizes that the quest for permanence may be a self-aggrandizing
delusion. Until this point, the poet has believed everything the Arab has
said and trusted that the Arab will succeed in his mission to preserve the
books; as the waters rush forward, the poet begins to fear that this is all a
hopeless fantasy and sees a flood approach that will destroy him and his
Like Lot’s wife, the poet looks back and is left behind, lost to the Arab
and his mission.
His countenance, meanwhile, grew more disturbed;
And, looking backwards when he looked, mine eyes
Saw, over half the wilderness diffused,
A bed of glittering light: I asked the cause:
‘It is’, said he, ‘the waters of the deep
Gathering upon us’; quickening then the pace
Of the unwieldy creature he bestrode,
He left me: I called after him aloud.
(V, 126–33)
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Text, Voice, and Imagination 121
Interpretations of this passage vary widely because so many of its elements
have already been identified within the poem as having multiple meanings.
Alan Liu argues that the shell is the death of history by lyric poetry,
whereas Andrzej Warminski identifies both an “Apocalypse of Nature” and
an “Apocalypse of Books” in the episode.
Harold Bloom sees the Arab’s
quest as an attempt “to save Imagination from the abyss of desert and
ocean, man’s solitary isolation from and utter absorption into Nature.”
According to Geoffrey Hartman, the dream is sent by Imagination itself;
He [the poet] pursues the hope that man’s mind may be saved though radically
involved in nature: yet the flood growing in pursuit denies that chance of salvation
for a more terrible one. The flood is Wordsworth’s recognition of a power in him
(imagination) which implies and even prophesies nature’s death.
In my view, the flood of the imagination overwhelms the poet here precisely
because the entire episode is so far removed from direct experience. All
natural objects inthis episode turnout to be symbols, books, or references to
literature; everything else, including the setting, the characters, the events,
and the dialogue, comes from the imagination. A poet who has based his
poetics on encounters with nature, the language of ordinary people, and
has “at all times endeavoured to look steadily at . . . [his] subject”
help feeling lost and overwhelmed in a purely imaginative setting, without
nature or human contact to restore his sense of reality and self. To rely solely
on the imagination would be to fall, like Don Quixote, into a solipsistic
However, the degree of self-delusion necessary to sustain the Arab’s quest,
or to go along with it, remains beyond this poet’s powers; he therefore
cannot catch the Arab-Quixote. As the flood approaches, he must wake
from the terrors of the dream to those of reality:
He heeded not; but, with his twofold charge
Still in his grasp, before me, full in view,
Went hurrying o’er the illimitable waste,
With the fleet waters of a drowning world
In chase of him; whereat I waked in terror,
And saw the sea before me, and the book,
In which I had been reading, at my side.
(V, 134–40)
Caught in an unresolvable conflict in the guise of an Apocalyptic flood,
the poet can dream no longer and wakes to find the last bit of dream-
material, the sea, beside him. In the dream, the flood is pure Imagination,
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122 Nature, Music, and the Imagination in Wordsworth’s Poetry
yet in waking reality, it is nature itself; this sudden reversal gives the episode
an appropriately antithetical coda. An episode that began with a wish to
save books from nature has ultimately been transformed into a wish to save
nature fromthe imagination. Which side in the conflict of nature and imag-
ination needs saving fromthe other depends ultimately on which of the two
dominates the particular mode in which the poet is writing; imagination
clearly rules the world of dreams, whereas nature reigns absolutely over all
that is not of human artifice. In poetry, these two powers strive endlessly
for supremacy, yet neither can exist without the other. When imagina-
tion rules, an anarchical world of double meanings eventually gives way to
Apocalypse; when nature rules (as we shall see in “The Boy of Winander”),
the human voice is silenced, and the poet’s ability to encounter nature
directly dies. Poetry, in the form of a strange seashell book, gives him the
only way to mediate these dangerous forces, and its harmony makes an
unknown language intelligible. Unfortunately, the seashell only exists in a
dream, and the threat from nature is very real.
natural sound and childhood death:
“the boy of winander”
Nature possesses great restorative power, but can nature alone make
Wordsworth a poet? One of the most famous passages in the Prelude,
known as “The Boy of Winander,” explains the dangers of believing that
inspiration from nature alone will suffice and explains how Wordsworth
learned the difference between natural sound and articulated speech, as well
as the relationship between nature and music through pain and loss. The
first part of this passage, a first-person narrative when originally drafted,
recalls a peculiar exchange between a boy and some owls:
There was a Boy: ye knew him well, ye cliffs
And islands of Winander! – many a time
At evening, when the earliest stars began
To move along the edges of the hills,
Rising or setting, would he stand alone
Beneath the trees or by the glimmering lake,
And there, with fingers interwoven, both hands
Pressed closely palm to palm, and to his mouth
Uplifted, he, as through an instrument,
Blew mimic hootings to the silent owls,
That they might answer him; . . .
(V, 364–74)
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Natural Sound and Childhood Death: “The Boy of Winander” 123
The Boy hoots through his hands “as through an instrument,” as if he had
made artificial sound with a tool manufactured for that purpose, yet he
imitates a natural sound. He is surrounded by nature but hardly engaged
in a natural activity; he alters his environment, although only subtly and
temporarily, by entering into a peculiar dialogue of artificial boy-hootings
andreal owl-hootings. Not content merely toobserve nature, the Boy wishes
to engage it directly in conversation and become part of the natural world.
His sounds, however, remain “mimic hootings,” imitations of animal sound
directed at silent owls in hopes of a response. He has nothing to say to the
owls, nor do the owls say anything intelligible to him; he is simply enjoying
the sound without finding any specific meaning in it.
The Boy can only sustain the exchange of artificial and natural hoots
for a short time. The owls suddenly stop responding, and he abruptly
becomes aware of the unbridgeable distance between himself and the owls,
the human and the natural:
and they would shout
Across the watery vale, and shout again,
Responsive to his call, with quivering peals,
And long halloos and screams, and echoes loud,
Redoubled and redoubled, concourse wild
Of jocund din; and, when a lengthened pause
Of silence came and baffled his best skill,
Then sometimes, in that silence while he hung
Listening, a gentle shock of mild surprise
Has carried far into his heart the voice
Of mountain torrents; or the visible scene
Would enter unawares into his mind,
With all its solemn imagery, its rocks,
Its woods, and that uncertain heaven, received
Into the bosom of the steady lake.
(V, 374–88)
At first, the hoots “double and redouble,” echoing through the landscape,
but the owls stop hooting, having “baffled his best skill.” At this moment,
“A gentle shock of mild surprise” strikes the Boy, leading to what Geoffrey
Hartman recognizes as “a crisis of self-recognition – the shock of self-
that results fromthe realization that he cannot really hoot,
that is, actually have a communicative exchange with owls, only imitate
them. The Boy has made a sound, heard a response and its echo, but he
must acknowledge that he remains fundamentally separate fromthe natural
landscape and its representatives, the owls. As in “The Solitary Reaper,”
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124 Nature, Music, and the Imagination in Wordsworth’s Poetry
the material of sound and the suspension of lexical understanding lead to
a moment of self-recognition, where, like the reaper’s song, “the voice / Of
mountain torrents” “is “carried far into his heart,” asserting the priority of
sound over vision.
The reason sound takes such priority in this passage has to do with
the varying kinds of language and signification present in this passage, as
Andrzej Warminski has observed. For Warminski, Boy-hooting is articulate
sound: a “disfigurement of nature” that constitutes the Boy as a subject. On
the other hand, owl-hooting is merely owl-hooting: natural sound with-
out meaning. The difference in rhetorical status between Boy-hooting and
owl-hooting reveals an aporia in their linguistic exchange; as Warminski
says, “The gap between the Boy and Nature is the gap between semantics
and syntax.”
In other words, the Boy attempts either to achieve commu-
nication with the owls (transforming their natural sounds into articulate
speech) or to become owlish himself in successful imitation (transforming
his articulate speech into natural sound). The owls’ sudden silence indicates
that the Boy has failed to create a successful linguistic exchange with the
owls, and that this strange dialogue of hooting is neither communication
nor imitation, but a breakdown of both language and sound somewhere
between the two.
In my view, this episode reveals the inevitable consequence of the Boy’s
attempt to be simultaneously part of nature and a self-conscious subject.
The problem is not that the Boy is too human and the owls are too natural,
but rather the contrary; the Boy is too natural, at this moment behaving
like an animal in the woods, and the owls are too conscious, not an echo
but living creatures responding to what they think is one of their own kind.
The shock of self-consciousness, the silence that occurs when the exchange
breaks down, stems from the realization on the part of both the Boy and
the owls that the hooting has been falsified; the Boy may hoot, but he has
no idea what he is saying, or whether owls actually say anything at all when
they hoot. The owls, meanwhile, remain unknowable, for the boy and for
us – no human being knows what owls mean by their hooting, and neither
we nor the boy can resolve the status of owl-hooting. The Boy’s hooting
is not speech but hooting for the sheer pleasure of hooting, purposeful
hoots without purpose, hooting as purely formal sound. The shock of self-
consciousness arrives when the owls interpret the Boy’s aesthetic hooting
as a fraudulent claim to being an owl, essentially reversing the relation
between human and natural in that moment of silence and reasserting the
distinction between their two worlds. This sudden confrontation of the
limits of the self and the real opposition of the other emerges only when
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Natural Sound and Childhood Death: “The Boy of Winander” 125
the Boy’s sound extends into the natural world, returns to him as echo and
imitation, and then abruptly stops, creating a moment of reflection.
As in “The Solitary Reaper,” death lurks behind the exchange with
nature, revealing that the innocent state of boyhood cannot survive the
shock of self-consciousness, either literally or figuratively:
This Boy was taken from his mates, and died
In childhood, ere he was full twelve years old.
Fair is the spot, most beautiful the vale,
Where he was born; the churchyard hangs
Upon a slope above the village school,
And through that churchyard when my way has led
On summer evenings, I believe that there
A long half-hour together I have stood
Mute, looking at the grave in which he lies!
(V, 389–98)
Wordsworth’s transformation of the passage from a first-person narrative
to the story of a dead, unnamed Boy between the first manuscript and its
inclusion in the 1850 version of The Prelude does not merely add poignancy
to the scene but also reveals the untenable position he occupied between
the human and natural worlds. Neither a natural animal nor a mature con-
sciousness, the Boy dies because the conditions necessary for his existence
have ended. For the poet Wordsworth to exist, Wordsworth’s childhood,
in the person of the Boy, must die; his death is a loss both of innocence and
of self-deception. The fate of the Boy is sealed when the first silence occurs,
when his disfigurement of nature becomes clear to himself and to the owls,
breaking down not only the hooting dialogue but also the idea that it was
ever really a dialogue at all. No longer innocent (in the sense of unknowing
as well as guiltless) and alienated from nature, the Boy suddenly becomes
self-conscious and is therefore no longer a boy. There can be no “Man of
Winander”; we already have one in Wordsworth, and the Boy has no other
If Wordsworth has so ruthlessly cleared the way for his later voice by
silencing his earlier one in the person of the Boy, why does he stand mute?
Paul de Man has an answer:
The boy’s surprise at standing perplexed before the sudden silence of nature was an
anticipatory announcement of his death, a movement of his consciousness passing
beyond the deceptive constancy of a world of correspondences into a world in
which our mind knows itself to be in an endlessly precarious state of suspension:
above an earth, the stability of which it cannot participate in, and beneath a heaven
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126 Nature, Music, and the Imagination in Wordsworth’s Poetry
that has rejected it. The only hope is that the precariousness will be full and wholly
understood through the mediation of poetic language.
In the 1805 version of the Prelude, the lines about the sudden silence of the
owls read, “And when it chanced, / That pauses of deep silence mocked
his skill” (1805, V, 404–5). Death, the unavoidable end of human life in a
natural world, lies in the mocking silence of the owls, reversing the process
of coming to self-consciousness. Similarly, in Wordsworth’s “Lucy” poems,
the once-conscious and alive Lucy becomes a natural object when she dies;
she is “Rolled round in earth’s diurnal course / With rocks and stones
and trees.”
Neither Wordsworth nor the Boy can choose his position
within the natural scheme, because each must remain human while living
and become natural when dead. The recognition of mortality and of self-
consciousness in the second silence parallels that of the first silence; it
contains the same moment of perplexity, the same shock at the loss of a set
of correspondences between Boy and owl, poet and Nature, and the same
vertigo at the sudden opening of the abyss. In the first silence, the Boy hears
“the voice of mountaintorrents,” inthe second, the poet sees the churchyard
and school. Both moments of listening are among the visionary moments in
which Wordsworth trusts for restorative power, yet here, anxiety overcomes
any possibility of restoration. This episode differs from, for instance, the
visionary moment in Book VI known as the Simplon Pass episode, where
Imagination “rose from the mind’s abyss / Like an unfathered vapour” (VI,
594–5) because nothing rises fromthis abyss. Whenone creates harmonious,
ordered sound, a product of the mind, and hears it reflected, one becomes
a self-conscious poet; when one extends mimics the sounds of the natural
world and expects to become natural in return, the reward is silence and
death. The silence of the text, however, is another matter entirely.
textual silence: “the blind beggar”
Must poetry be sound, and can the self-conscious mind emerge from a
silent form of discourse, from text as pure text? For Wordsworth, not being
read aloud is not being read at all and will lead to an impoverished, sad end,
with both the poet and his work ignored and lost among the multitudes of
the city. We have seen the abyss that opens when the boy tries to become
part of nature; in the episode known as “The Blind Beggar” in Book VII,
Wordsworth looks into another abyss, the fate of the poet who wanders
too far from nature and voice and becomes lost in the city and the culture
of print.
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Textual Silence: “The Blind Beggar” 127
Wordsworth uses an extended simile with classical overtones to begin
the episode:
As the black storm upon the mountain top
Sets off the sunbeam in the valley, so
That huge fermenting mass of human-kind
Serves as a solemn back-ground, or relief,
To single forms and objects, whence they draw,
For feeling and contemplative regard,
More than inherent liveliness and power.
(VII, 619–25)
The lines quoted here show that they are the work of the late Wordsworth,
formal andcautious, following the structure of a traditional Homeric simile,
“As . . . , so.” According to the editors of the Norton/Cornell edition of The
Prelude, these lines were among the last Wordsworth wrote for the work,
added during revisions between 1839 and 1850.
For most of the forty-five
years between the 1805 and the 1850 manuscripts, this large simile was not
in the poem at all, yet Wordsworth’s last and most radical rewriting was
devoted to including it. Wordsworth wrote this passage late in his career,
when he had become increasingly aware of howhis powers had faded, and it
reflects his growing concern that the excesses of his youthful style might be
considered too extreme for posterity. The simile therefore serves a double
purpose; it both demonstrates his technical skill within a classical formula
and justifies his choice of subject matter.
The subject of the simile itself, however, does not follow any classical
model by referring to a concrete object, but instead enters the abstract world
of poetics. It does not compare a storm cloud and sunbeam to a particular
thing but to a general class of “single forms and objects” for which the power
to elicit feeling and thought is enhanced by their contrast to the general
tide of humanity. The particular object of this type that Wordsworth has
in mind, the beggar, does not arrive in the poem until much later. Here,
the simile describes the origin of the visionary object and an artistic process
of contrast and relief, rather than the object itself. In effect, these lines
justify the choice of subject by alluding to a traditional poetic style, calling
unusual attention not only to the object itself but also to the process of
poetic composition.
Wordsworth needs this justification because in this instance, he does not
find his visionary object in nature but in the city, where he found asserting
his independence and writing poetry much more difficult. The next passage
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128 Nature, Music, and the Imagination in Wordsworth’s Poetry
shows him in a desperate search for something or someone intelligible in
the streets of London:
How oft, amid those overflowing streets,
Have I gone forward with the crowd, and said
Unto myself, “The face of every one
That passes by me is a mystery!”
Thus have I looked, nor ceased to look, oppressed
By thoughts of what and whither, when and how,
Until the shapes before my eyes became
A second-sight procession, such as glides
Over still mountains, or appears in dreams
(VII, 625–34)
“What and whither, when and how” – the poet finds himself at a loss when
confronted by so many people about whom he knows nothing but their
current appearance; he is overwhelmed by their sheer numbers and by the
utter lack of any context or natural landscape. In the “second-sight proces-
sion,” he recognizes something familiar, yet nothing he canidentify clearly –
the uncanny feeling of unconscious recognition. These strangers, simulta-
neously disturbingly familiar and utterly alien, form a murky backdrop for
the sudden appearance of the visionary character of the beggar, whom the
poet recognizes with painful clarity as a version of himself.
The shock of this self-recognition causes him to have an almost physical
And once, far-travelled in such mood, beyond
The reach of common indication, lost
Amid the moving pageant, I was smitten
Abruptly, with the view (a sight not rare)
Of a blind Beggar, who, with upright face,
Stood, propped against a wall, upon his chest
Wearing a written paper, to explain
His story, whence he came, and who he was.
(VII, 635–42)
The process of selection has been reversed; he does not choose this subject,
he is “smitten” by it. Although “a sight not rare,” this Beggar stands out
sharply because he has written “what and whither, when and how” plainly
across his chest, and the story cannot be a happy one. The Prelude, like the
beggar’s sign, explains Wordsworth’s story, “whence he came, and who he
was”; the violence of this sight therefore lies in the horrible caricature it
makes of the poet himself. Having begun with lofty ambitions and writing
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Textual Silence: “The Blind Beggar” 129
in the style of the blind epic poets, Homer and Milton, the poet suddenly
confronts a vision of himself sharing the blindness of his great predecessors,
with no achievement but a pathetic version of the Prelude pinned to his
chest. By the time of the final revisions of this poem, it had become clear to
Wordsworth that he would never write The Recluse, and that this story of his
youth and development, originally planned as a mere preface to his greatest
work, would be his longest and most ambitious poem. For Wordsworth,
who never made an independent living from his poetry, depending initially
on an annuity from a friend and finally a government pension, the beggar
shows him the worst of what he thought of himself.
The horror of self-recognition turns the poet’s thoughts inward, forcing
him to accept his fate as a poet who must tell the story of his own self-
Caught by the spectacle my mind turned round
As with the might of waters; an apt type
This label seemed of the utmost we can know,
Both of ourselves and of the universe;
And, on the shape of that unmoving man,
His steadfast face and sightless eyes, I gazed,
As if admonished from another world.
(VII, 643–9)
The familiar dialectic of blindness and insight, of sight as vision and sight
as understanding, reminds the poet that what he seeks can only be found
by looking into himself, instead of on the faces of the city dwellers. The
Blind Beggar is a blunt and traditional symbol; he is Tiresias, who sees
the truth that Oedipus does not, and St. Paul, who must be blinded by
a light from heaven to receive divine revelation. In the midst of a search
for subtle answers in the outside world, the appearance of so obvious an
emblem of the poet’s condition reproaches him for both faulty observation
and hubris. The piece of paper pinned to the Beggar’s chest is not only “the
utmost we can know,” but also all a poet can do with his life and ambition.
The Beggar, although unaware of the poet, nevertheless reminds him of
the cruel reality of the poet’s vocation. Whether a poet laureate or a blind
beggar, a poet lives by telling his own story, in the hope that whoever reads
it will be moved to give him money. No more lofty possibility is offered;
the paper is “the utmost,” and all poetry merely more and less successful
versions of the same crude note. Most significantly, the Beggar has neither
sight nor voice, rendering him unable to describe anything but his own
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130 Nature, Music, and the Imagination in Wordsworth’s Poetry
life and utterly dependent on a single piece of paper. He has become the
ultimate city poet, a writer focused entirely on himself and immersed in
the world of urban print culture, with no connection to the sound of the
human voice or the beauty of well-crafted verse read aloud. Here, the roar
of the multitude drowns out individual voices, leaving him unable even to
ask for alms except through a paper notice. For Wordsworth, text without
voice becomes poetry at its most impoverished, and he must avoid the fate
of the silent city poet at all costs.
conclusions: “on the power of sound” and the prelude
Can Wordsworth save himself from silence by addressing the question of
music directly? In one poem, “The Power of Music,” he both addresses
and evades the question by focusing on a street performer as a kind of
visionary character; the result is a less satisfactory version of “Resolution
and Independence.” He also arrived at a kind of answer in “On the Power
of Sound,” a poem first published in the collection Yarrow Revisited in
1835, and probably composed in 1828 or 1829.
According to a letter he
wrote to Alexander Dyce, he believed “On the Power of Sound” to be
the equal of any of his works, and deliberately included it in the sec-
tion titled “Poems of the Imagination.”
It begins with an “argument,”
that is, a summary and explication of the poem, a device Wordsworth
rarely used, despite numerous complaints that his poems were hard to
The Ear addressed, as occupied by a spiritual functionary, in communion with
sounds, individual, or combined in studied harmony. – Sources and effects of those
sounds (to the close of the 6th Stanza). – The power of music, whence proceeding,
exemplified in the idiot. – Origin of music, and its effect in early ages – how
produced (to the middle of the 10th Stanza). – The mind recalled to sounds acting
casually and severally. – Wish uttered (11th Stanza) that these could be united into
a scheme or system for moral interests and intellectual contemplation. – (Stanza
12th). The Pythagorean theory of numbers and music, with their supposed power
over the motions of the universe – imaginations constant with such a theory. –
Wish expressed (in 11th Stanza) realised, in some degree, by the representation
of all sounds under the form of thanksgiving to the Creator. – (Last Stanza) the
destruction of earth and the planetary system – the survival of audible harmony,
and its support in the Divine Nature, as revealed in Holy Writ.
The abstract contains a surprisingly large number of references to con-
temporaneous musicological issues, in equally surprising detail, including
parenthetical notes connecting the concepts to particular stanzas. He begins
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Conclusions 131
with a reference to the physical faculty of hearing, “the Ear,” and tries to
connect the physical manifestation of sound and hearing to the aesthetic
effects of music through historical, mathematical, and, finally, cosmological
principles. The abstract also has a generally philosophical tone; the idiot,
as someone who can appreciate music despite mental defects that would
prevent him from enjoying visual art or literature to the same degree, estab-
lishes almost experimentally that music has a direct effect on the emotions.
He then examines the “origin of music, and its effect in early ages,” follow-
ing the historicizing tendency of many nineteenth-century philosophers,
and expresses a wish for a unified system that would explain how music fits
into the system of the arts. (Wordsworth was unable to have read Hegel’s
not yet transcribed or translated Lectures on Aesthetics in 1828.) After a con-
sideration of outdated Pythagorean theories of the connection between
music and the harmony of the spheres through mathematics, the argument
turns toward theological explanations, representing music in all its forms as
a means of praising God and partaking, in small measure, of the eventual
call of trumpets that will end the world.
Both the argument and the poem as a whole, in my view, seem forced, as
if the reconciliation of these different versions of music’s causes and effects
did not easily fit into a medium-length poem, and as if the theological
explanation that ends the poem were simply a kind of theoretical deus
ex machina, or “God term,” used as a last resort to resolve an intractable
conflict. Stylistic and metrical elements in the first stanza also reflect these
Thy functions are etherial,
As if within thee dwelt a glancing Mind,
Organ of Vision! And a Spirit aerial
Informs the cell of hearing, dark and blind;
Intricate labyrinth, more dread for thought
To enter than oracular cave;
Strict passage, through which sighs are brought,
And whispers, for the heart, their slave;
And shrieks, that revel in abuse
Of shivering flesh; and warbled air,
Whose piercing sweetness can unloose
The chains of frenzy, or entice a smile
Into the ambush of despair;
Hosannas pealing down the long-drawn aisle,
And requiems answered by the pulse that beats
Devoutly, in life’s last retreats!
PS (I, 1–32)
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132 Nature, Music, and the Imagination in Wordsworth’s Poetry
According to the argument, this stanza addresses “the Ear,” although the
stanza itself does not use this term, using instead a complicated metaphor
for the ear’s anatomy, the “intricate labyrinth” and “oracular cave” of the ear
canal and cochlea. The stanza then praises its ability to communicate both
the most primitive and most exalted of human emotions, from “shrieks” to
“Hosannas,” directly to the heart. The meter is strict tetrameter, beginning
with alternating couplets, and ending with an interlocking variation and
a heroic pair following an ABACBCDD rhyme scheme beginning with
the ninth line. The poem also contains a double rhyme (“etherial” and
“aerial”) and almost excessive precision on all other rhymes (for instance,
“smile” and “aisle”), giving it a slightly comic tone that nearly contradicts
the seriousness with which it treats its subject. Similarly, the number and
variety of different images packed into a single stanza make it difficult for
the reader to settle on the poem’s overall tone and direction. It is as if
Wordsworth could not entirely abandon his visually oriented terminology
in favor of a real consideration of the ear’s capabilities, leading to tangled
imagery; the phrase “Organ of Vision!” invokes the figurative meaning of
“vision” precisely when its literal meaning would conflict with the stanza’s
The beginning of the third stanza contains a similar conflation of visual
and sonic metaphors:
Ye voices, and ye Shadows,
And Images of voice – to hound and horn
From rocky steep and rock-bestudded meadows
Flung back, and, in the sky’s blue caves, reborn,
On with your pastime! Till the church-tower bells
A greeting give of measured glee;
And milder echoes from their cells
Repeat the bridal symphony.
(III, 33–48)
Here, the poem comes closer to what Wordsworth has been trying to
achieve: a connection between the qualities of natural sound and the clearly
artistic effects of music. The stanza begins with abstractions – “Ye voices,
and ye Shadows, / And Images of voice” – and follows them with nat-
ural scenes and an instance of music at its most denotative: the hunter’s
horn. Then, church bells call back the hunters in “measured glee,” with
Wordsworth’s italics making the unmistakable point that humanity has con-
trolled sound to serve religious and social purposes. Wordsworth’s under-
standing of music in 1828 reflects many of the concerns of his later career
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Conclusions 133
that represented a reversal of his views earlier in life. The impulse to express
transcendent experience in secular terms, as he did in his earlier poetry, has
been replaced by more conventional piety, experienced in the community
of the church, rather than in the solitude of nature. In addition, both the
first stanza and this selection from the third indicate a retreat toward tra-
ditional religion as the poet grows older, a desire to settle down to married
life and its “milder echoes” of wedding bells and, later, to find solace in the
requiems “of life’s last retreats.” Music in this poem is therefore a civilizing
force, organizing and socializing the wild, emotional impulses from which
it originated, calling back the hunt to the conventions of a settled society.
The final stanza recalls the apocalypse of “The Dream of the Arab” but
provides a far more traditional account of the music heard at the end of
time and omits the poet’s ambition to create a lasting work entirely:
A Voice to Light gave Being;
To Time, and Man his earth-born Chronicler;
A Voice shall finish doubt and dim foreseeing,
And sweep away life’s visionary stir;
The Trumpet (we, intoxicate with pride,
Arm at its blast for deadly wars)
To archangelic lips applied,
The grave shall open, quench the stars.
O Silence! Are Man’s noisy years
No more than moments of thy life?
Is Harmony, blest Queen of smiles and tears,
With her smooth tones and discords just,
Tempered into rapturous strife,
Thy destined Bond-slave? No! though Earth be dust
And vanish, though the Heavens dissolve, her stay
Is in the WORD, that shall not pass away.
(XIV, 209–25)
The world begins and ends with the sound of a voice, and Wordsworth
alludes the Gospel of St. John in asserting the primacy of the Divine Word
over silence. No longer does he concern himself with the durability of his
own works, as he did in “The Dream of the Arab”; instead, he hears the
trumpets of the Second Coming, blown by angels, not by poets. The Voice
of God that “shall sweep away life’s visionary stir” has clearly superseded his
own visionary gleam and the transcendence of nature. The poet no longer
dwells on the inevitable end of earthly life or on the restorative power of the
seasons but prefers to think of last things and to trust in a clearly traditional,
biblical God.
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134 Nature, Music, and the Imagination in Wordsworth’s Poetry
What has happened to the Wordsworth who found solace in nature and
whose visionary moments were far more that a mere “stir”? The conser-
vative, pious Wordsworth of his later years disappointed many admirers
of his earlier works, including Byron and Shelley, who lamented both his
change in politics and his turn away from nature and toward traditional
religion. As early as 1816, Shelley lamented in “To Wordsworth” that “thou
leavest me to grieve, / Thus having been, that thou shouldst cease to be.”
However, the balance between nature, the imagination, and sound that
Wordsworth had sought earlier in his career still resided in the last books
of The Prelude (largely complete in 1805), where he found a far more sat-
isfactory answer to the question of music. In Book XII, after listening to
sounds of wind, streams, and waves, and then finally to the silence of the
groves, Wordsworth exclaims,
Oh! that I had a music and voice
Harmonious as your own, that I might tell
What ye have done for me. The morning shines,
Nor heedeth Man’s perverseness; Spring returns, –
I saw the Spring return, and could rejoice . . .
(XII, 29–33)
Here, Wordsworth turns natural sound into the voice and music of nature,
and finds his ability to rejoice restored by a change in season. As in “The
Solitary Reaper,” the poet finds that nature’s sounds have order and mean-
ing, as do the seasons, and that his ability to find joy returns with this
realization. Wordsworth’s desire to answer in kind, in the joyful song of
poetic expression, shows that the restorative beauty of these sounds does not
lie in any denotative content – they tell him no stories, and use no words –
but in their contextual significance, as natural sounds associated with the
seasons. Like the nightingale in “The Solitary Reaper, these sounds tell him
that spring comes and that natural cycles still exist, gloriously independent
of humanity. Here, he has hope for his own voice, separate from nature,
yet restored by it.
His final coming to consciousness as a poet takes place in the last book
of The Prelude, where he contemplates the completed poem and the course
of his own life up to that point:
I said unto the life which I had lived,
Where art thou? Hear I not a voice from thee
Which ‘tis reproach to hear? Anon I rose
As if on wings, and saw beneath me stretched
Vast prospect of the world which I had been
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Conclusions 135
And was; and hence this Song, which like a lark
I have protracted, in the unwearied heavens
Singing, and often with more plaintive voice
To earth attempered and her deep-drawn sighs,
Yet centring all in love, and in the end
All gratulant, if rightly understood.
(XIV, 379–89)
Wordsworth’s self-conscious reflection comes from the echo of his own
voice in song, the personification of his own life, as represented in The
Prelude itself, a life that he can question directly and the reproaches of which
he can answer. He has become the poet he imagined himself to be in Book I
by becoming a poet of nature, a lark, whose flight takes himover a temporal
landscape of his own self-formation. He has also transformed the story of
the growth of his mind into a landscape, a continuous and expanding
“spot of time” that he can view from his place in the heavens. His song
is nevertheless still grounded in nature and reality, “To earth attempered,”
partaking of both the sensuous earth and the spiritual heaven. The reproach
he hears may come later in life, as disappointment and caution overtake
him, but now, he flies between nature and the imagination and sings a
joyful song.
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chapter 5
Beethoven and Musical Self-Consciousness
People talk so much about music and they say so little. I amabsolutely
certain that words are not adequate to it, and if ever I found that they
were, I should eventually give up composition.
– Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy
Mendelssohn’s low opinion of talk about music, a common sentiment
among composers, musicians, and music lovers, did not prevent him from
continuing to engage in it. He not only composed many brilliant works,
and performed many more, he also attended Hegel’s lectures on aesthetics
and read widely on music, art, and literature. He was a close friend of
Adolf Bernhard Marx, the editor of the Berliner allgemeine musikalische
Zeitung, a leading journal of music reviews and essays on music, and as both
an active composer and a member of Berlin society, Mendelssohn had an
excellent working knowledge of current debates in the philosophy of music.
People in early-nineteenth-century Europe did, indeed, talk about music
a lot, and the same issue came up repeatedly: does all this talk really have
anything to do withthe actual composition, performance, andexperience of
I believe that it does. Listeners from E. T. A. Hoffmann to the present
have frequently reported the singular affective power of Beethoven’s music
and attributed some formof self-consciousness to it as well,
but describing
the relationship between this perceived content and Beethoven’s composi-
tional technique runs directly counter to the persistent view, expressed by
Mendelssohn, Schiller, Hegel, Wordsworth, and many others, that music
represents precisely the antidiscursive element contained in all art forms:
the aesthetic. I argue that this contradictory impulse – to claim that words
are inadequate to music, then to describe the experience of music in many
words – resulted from both the intellectual atmosphere of the era and
Beethoven’s deliberate compositional strategies, which led to the formation
of anidea of music as the highest expressionof Romantic self-consciousness.
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Beethoven and Musical Self-Consciousness 137
Although Schiller – and other early Romantics, as Beate Julia Perrey has
cogently argued
– had begun the project of raising the status of music
years earlier, its elevation to the position as the consummate Romantic art
form nevertheless represents an extraordinary event in music history: the
precise moment of convergence between instrumental composition and
aesthetic theory that transformed musical works from pleasant arrange-
ments of sound to exalted representations of genius. Beethoven, the most
influential among the many significant composers of the time, led the way
through this transformation by moving from Viennese classicism, the style
he shared with Haydn and Mozart, into two subsequent stylistic phases, the
heroic and late styles. In his heroic-style compositions, Beethoven provided
audiences with a way of perceiving a coherent, heroic personality in instru-
mental music; in his late style, he created an occasion for self-conscious
reflection on musical representations of inner life. The late works therefore
both continue the heroic era project of positing a conscious self through
music and reflect on this act, creating a metaphor for self-consciousness
in the composer’s act of creating music similar to that seen in Romantic
poetry, especially that of H¨ olderlin and Wordsworth.
The difficulty commentators have had so far in establishing specific con-
nections between self-consciousness and Beethoven’s music results from
the composer’s decision to write his heroic period symphonic works in
a way that would create suggestive, but not entirely specific, responses.
Beethoven’s heroic period music is often an essay on sonata formand struc-
ture, demonstrating his fundamental concern with compositional tech-
nique, especially the kinetic power of motives, their harmonic/structural
implications, and other formal problems. His compositional decisions
therefore branch into two distinct paths: programmatic and formal – his
music not only describedexternal circumstances but also the inner workings
of the music itself. Despite some reliance on gestures and tonal colorations
derived from opera in his symphonic writing, he generally avoided giv-
ing his instrumental works detailed programmatic labels, a tendency that
invited speculation on their meaning but precluded easy resolution to the
questionof what, precisely, a work meant. Early attempts to create definitive
programmatic descriptions of Beethoven’s instrumental music were often
based on the assumption of the existence of a hidden dramatic program,
usually a narrative of emotional states, known only to Beethoven and per-
ceived (falsely) as the fundamental structural principle of his instrumental
Any number of these narrative descriptions could fit a given piece;
arbitrarily choosing a particular one as the proper interpretation often gives
the narrative internal consistency (that is, a set of specific characters and
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138 Beethoven and Musical Self-Consciousness
events forming a coherent story) at the expense of demonstrable connec-
tions to the music. An apt illustration of this problem appears in E. M.
Forster’s early twentieth-century novel Howards End, when one character,
Helen, asks others listening to Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony to “look out
for the part where you think you have done with the goblins and they come
back” to general mystification; Helen thinks she knows exactly what the
symphony “meant,” but no one else has heard any goblins at all.
Of course, Helen is neither wrong nor right; the real story behind the
Fifth Symphony does not exist, but her story fits the music as well as any
other. As far as most scholars have been able to tell, the vast majority of
Beethoven’s instrumental works were not based on any external program,
and even when he used overtly programmatic titles, he tended to structure
the work according to the formal conventions of a particular genre, rather
than an extra-musical narrative. As Maynard Solomon observes, even in the
case of a well-known descriptive work, Beethoven follows formal, rather
than programmatic principles for the work’s structure:
As many have observed, in composing the Pastoral Symphony [No. 6 in F major,
Opus 68] Beethoven was not anticipating Romantic program music but rather
was continuing in the Baroque pastoral tradition, as manifested in many works by
Bach, Handel, Vivaldi, and more particularly in Haydn’s two oratorios.
The pastoral description in Beethoven’s Symphony no. 6 has no particular
structural property to associate it with nature, and its denotative program-
matic effects were already part of a well-established musical language, the
idiom of pastoral music. Obvious imitative effects of storms in the bass and
percussion or birds in the wind instruments are only the textural surface
of the Pastoral Symphony; its internal structure is dictated primarily by
formal musical concepts of coherence and balance. All Beethoven’s other
symphonies (except the Ninth) lack any clear connection to a traditional
descriptive idiom, yet share many of the Sixth’s characteristics, making it
more an instance of the rule than an exception.
Nevertheless, few listeners can resist attempting to put the immediate
experience of Beethoven’s music into words and many have chosen philo-
sophical, rather than literary, language for that purpose. Although several
observers have noted the dialectical structure of classical tonal music,
does not necessarily followthat musical interpretationwill produce a unique
corresponding philosophical discourse any more than attempts to discover
hidden emotional or dramatic programs produce a valid literary analogue.
Attempts to translate absolute music into philosophical argument through
structural analysis often founder on the same fundamental ambiguity – an
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Beethoven and Musical Self-Consciousness 139
interpretation based on structure alone would fit any work written with a
similar set of compositional principles.
Bridging the wide gulf between technical description and musical expe-
rience therefore requires maintaining a delicate balance between the gener-
ality of abstraction and the specificity of musical analysis. As Carl Dahlhaus
observes in an essay on Beethoven,
The meaning of a piece of music does not “consist” in its extramusical substrate;
rather it emerges from the relation between the extramusical substrate and its
musical formulation. Nevertheless, in romantic music, it is not inappropriate to
attach mottos, captions, or programs to the underlying moods, characters, or
subjects – in a manner of speaking, naming them by name. This underscores the
point that the elements of content are more essential to the [romantic] music than
is the case with Beethoven, and this for reasons which have to do with the relation
between theme and form. In the romantic period, the individuality of a piece of
music . . . was imparted primarily by the themes and motives as such rather than by
the formal process they set in motion. And the fact that the paramount aesthetic
factor is the musical idea per se means that the substrate of the contents is subject
to less far-reaching transformations than is the case with Beethoven, where the
“poetic idea” is focused in the formal process.
The programmatic, or “extramusical” names given to certain sections of
Romantic era works make perfect sense if the composers worked from a
programmatic schema, as many Romantics did, following what they falsely
believed to be Beethoven’s precedent. These programs, however, do not
apply to Beethoven’s compositions in the same way, and even when he uses
programmatic labels, they can actually be misleading. Dahlhaus therefore
suggests a challenging but ultimately helpful solution. The content of a
musical work, in his view, exists in the relation between these extramusical
elements and the formal characteristics of the work associated with them,
not in the programmatic elements alone. Avalid interpretation of a musical
work, like that of a poem or a painting, describes the relationship between
the work and its effects and does not consist solely in a narrative or argu-
ment separate from the work, even when the composer has provided it. In
Beethoven’s works, the essence of the heroic style consists of the extensive,
dramatic transformation of simple thematic material, rather than in the
presence of an extramusical program, whether real or imagined. Although
Beethoven’s music generated such powerful subjective impressions among
its nineteenth-century listeners that even technically skilled composers,
such as Liszt and Wagner, were convinced that they contained hidden
extramusical programs, critics should avoid the temptation of searching for
a programmatic key to unlock the secret of its power.
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140 Beethoven and Musical Self-Consciousness
Still, the “extra-musical substrate,” as Dahlhaus calls it, although not
constitutive of the musical art work in itself, should be taken into con-
sideration because it remains the most defensible link between a compo-
sition and its interpretation. Like any other organized system, music can
be assigned meaning by convention; the extramusical elements of a work,
from the labels added by titles and programs, to the traditional associations
created by march time, drum rolls, horn calls, or dance forms, constitute
the interpretive matrix between the music and its listeners. Criticism, no
matter how solidly based on formal analysis, must nevertheless include
some reconstructive history of musical reception, that is, the history of this
interpretive connection. Music is, after all, a system of signification, the
meaning of which for its composer and its listeners alike is constructed
within the language and idioms of a long-standing tradition of musical
communication and social contexts. However unlocalized its meaning may
be, a musical composition nevertheless involves the systematic and mean-
ingful manipulation of established patterns. Philosophical concepts, like
those in any other discourse, also tend to follow established patterns as
part of the general intellectual current of an era. If these patterns reveal
a correspondence between the philosophy and music of a particular time,
then it remains the critic’s task to explain its existence.
In other words, a valid philosophical interpretation of a musical work
must have some demonstrable historical relation to the work’s contem-
poraneous intellectual and musical climate and significantly distinguish
itself from that of other works. Fulfilling these conditions does not nec-
essarily mean establishing precisely what the composer had in mind while
creating the work; critics in many fields have interpreted works in ways
that their creators would not have been able to articulate, or might even
have rejected, yet they nonetheless represent valid approaches. The point is
merely to avoid unwarranted, superfluous elements, such as the appearance
of goblins in Helen’s interpretation of the Fifth Symphony. On the other
hand, one should also prevent the opposite problem: unwarranted vague-
ness. In Beethoven’s case, sufficient information exists to draw effective
conclusions, beginning with his education and historical context.
beethoven’s intellectual life
Although Beethoven’s music has had an extraordinary influence on many
artists and intellectuals working outside music, the extent to which non-
musical pursuits affected his works remains a subject that commenta-
tors approach with some reluctance. With a few notable exceptions, most
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Beethoven’s Intellectual Life 141
scholars hesitate to ascribe philosophical impulses to Beethoven’s compo-
sitional practice, choosing instead to focus on the influence of other com-
posers or on immediate economic and social conditions, if they approach
the subject of influence at all. For example, whenNicholas Marstonsumma-
rizes the complex changes in music aesthetics at the turn of the nineteenth
century in The Beethoven Compendium, he feels it necessary to add, “That
Beethoven was aware of these shifting theoretical positions is doubtful.”
Later in the same volume, Barry Cooper points out that while Beethoven
admired Kant, relatively little evidence exists that Beethoven followed the
complexities of philosophy carefully.
The aesthetic and philosophical cli-
mate in which Beethoven lived, therefore, has become a kind of “deep
background,” that is, important enough to know but not reliable enough
to use. The current aversion to making these kinds of connections may
well have to do with the political corruption of Beethoven scholarship in
Germany during the 1930s. In particular, Arnold Schering’s complex argu-
ments concerning Beethoven’s musical symbolism, including the claim
that Beethoven identified Kantian attraction and repulsion – the Wider-
strebender and Bittender impulses – with thematic contrasts, may have been
abandoned unjustly.
Still, the concrete facts of his education, his pursuits, and his contact
with other luminaries provide a starting point for this investigation but no
easy answers. His formal education ended with elementary school
; he was
known to read widely, but was not an especially active participant in any-
thing not directly related to music.
He loved poetry, and a famous (and
perhaps embellished) account of his meeting with Goethe reveals himmak-
ing a wish for artistic solidarity, thus displaying Beethoven’s acute desire for
recognition as a fellow artist, calling the older, well-known author the only
person who could understand him.
His letters and conversation books
contain references to philosophy and literature, but very little besides the
mention of Kant described earlier reveals any special connection between
his music and the other arts. Moreover, his deafness, which manifested itself
as early as 1801 or 1802, isolated him socially, although he had a number of
close, loyal friends.
Nevertheless, Beethoven had an active cultural life and
gave every indication that he had understood his own significance within
it long before he had achieved fame.
A brief examination of Beethoven’s early musical education and career
reveals that while still in Bonn, the young composer already clearly iden-
tified with the emerging philosophical concept of the self-determining,
self-conscious genius. Leon Plantinga has recently demonstrated how even
as a teenager, Beethoven felt a conflict within his musical identity that
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142 Beethoven and Musical Self-Consciousness
influenced his development of the independent, self-reliant personality he
would possess as an adult. Officially, he performed his duties as an organist
for the elector of Bonn, a minor Catholic ruler in western Germany, assist-
ing his father, a musician and singer, in the court where his grandfather
and namesake had also served for forty years and been Kappellmeister for
For the most part, these duties were confined to church and court
performances, for which he wore official livery,
attire that Mozart had also
resented while in the service of the prince-archbishop of Salzburg.
father actively discouraged any ambition to compose or perform indepen-
dently, although he did have a good teacher, Christian Gottlob Neefe, who
introduced him to Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier, from which he learned
a great deal about keyboard composition.
Despite having received con-
siderably less encouragement and reward for his efforts than, for instance,
either Haydn or Mozart had received in their early careers, he developed
into a brilliant soloist and composer, and according to Plantinga, “appar-
ently pursued his real career mainly in his spare time; this was surely the
case in his cultivation – as composer and player – of the concerto.”
other words, Beethoven chose the same path toward independence and
creative freedom that Mozart had chosen as a young adult, and managed
to do so despite an abusive father and an even more dependent family
than Mozart had possessed. In addition, Beethoven would go on to create
a name for himself in Vienna by precisely this means. Beethoven’s initial
efforts to succeed as a composer and performer in Vienna therefore rep-
resented a determination not just to become financially independent but
also to follow Mozart in this direction.
If the frustrations he experienced in Bonn were not enough to drive
Beethoven in the direction of a forceful assertion of his personality in music,
his deafness would provide an even more daunting obstacle to overcome,
with correspondingly significant effects on his outlook and compositional
style. The Heiligenstadt Testament of 1802, a letter Beethoven wrote (but
never sent) to his brothers Carl and Johann, provides a vivid picture of what
deafness meant to the composer and howit changed his ambitions and self-
image. Alternating wildly between determination and despair, Beethoven
claims that “Only my art held me back” fromcommitting suicide but adds,
“With joy I hasten towards death.” He also makes numerous references
to his last wishes and to the disposition of the Heiligenstadt Testament
itself, which he wanted to make public after his demise.
In the midst of
lamenting the loss of his hearing, he reconciles himself to his fate, saying
“Forced to become a philosopher already in my 28th year, it is not easy,
and for the artist harder than for anyone else.” He had indeed prepared
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The Heroic Style (1803–12) 143
himself to become a kind of philosophical composer, since he could no
longer perform, yet had no other real career options available to him.
Without the ability to promote his works and supplement his income
with performance, he would have to build and maintain an extraordinary
reputation through composition alone, a task no major composer had ever
accomplished before. He would answer this challenge soon after writing
this letter in what became known as his “heroic style,” creating an indelible
connection between the perceived content of the music and the personal
obstacles he faced in writing it.
the heroic style (1803–12)
Few musicologists are completely satisfied with the term “heroic style”
or the three-period division of Beethoven’s career (“early,” “heroic,” and
“late”) in general, but the terms nevertheless remain fundamentally valid
and useful. As Kerman and Tyson state in Grove,
This schema has been attacked, not without reason, as simplistic and suspiciously
consonant with evolutionary preconceptions. Yet it refuses to die, because in spite
of all it obviously does accommodate the bluntest style distinctions to be observed
in Beethoven’s output, and also because the breaks between the periods correspond
with the major turning points in Beethoven’s biography.
These divisions oversimplify by creating a definitive correspondence
between biographically defined periods and stylistic changes, despite the
inevitable problems – and perhaps even false connections – this approach
would entail. For instance, the early Symphony no. 1 (op. 21, composed in
1799–1800) has what can be called heroic elements (far sharper dynamic
contrasts than most other classical-era symphonies, for example), although
it is clearly closer in style to Mozart’s and Haydn’s later symphonies than
to Beethoven’s own Symphony No. 3, (op. 55, from 1803), the work most
commonly cited as having begun the heroic period. Similarly, Symphony
no. 8 (op. 93, from 1812) has a somewhat more classical and less heroic feel
to it than the five heroic-style symphonies that preceded it, despite the fact
that it is the latest of the heroic period symphonies. At the other end of
the scale, the Galitzin String Quartets (opp. 127, 132, and 130/133, all com-
posed in 1826–7) provide the most vivid examples of the “late style,” yet the
String Quartet in F (op. 135, from 1827), his last complete work, seems far
more classical than the Galitzin Quartets written just before it. Beethoven,
like many great composers, artists, and writers, occasionally anticipated
future stylistic developments and reverted to those of an earlier period.
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144 Beethoven and Musical Self-Consciousness
Stylistic change is rarely consistently progressive for any composer, and
Beethoven made no particular effort to adhere to a fixed set of principles
or to change his practices systematically.
Nevertheless, these exceptions prove the rule – the mere fact that they
are all immediately recognizable as anomalies demonstrates how identi-
fiable the period distinctions actually are. Beethoven showed on several
occasions that he could create a successful work in a previously abandoned
style (such as those listed earlier), but he could also fail miserably, at least in
artistic terms, by attempting to revive a style he had clearly left behind. For
instance, Beethoven composed Wellingtons Sieg (op. 91), also known as the
Battle Symphony, in 1813, during a period of disillusion and crisis; the result
is a disastrously bad pastiche of the heroic style that approaches self-parody.
Charles Rosen blames many of its deficiencies on M¨ alzel, Beethoven’s col-
laborator and the inventor of the panharmonicon, the mechanical device
for which it was originally written, but Beethoven still put his name to it
and is responsible for it.
Although Nicolas Cook makes a good case for
Wellingtons Sieg as belonging to different mode of composition altogether,
and therefore receiving retrospective condemnation for ideological, rather
than qualitative, reasons,
Beethoven had clearly reached the limit of the
heroic style at this time and avoided large-scale orchestral composition for
eleven years, until the composition of the Ninth Symphony. That mag-
nificent work, although full of heroically grand ambitions and high ideals,
nevertheless contains many more characteristics of the late style, includ-
ing an increased emphasis on melody and counterpoint, subtler variations
in tonal color and harmony, and a wider range of modulations. (These
characteristics are discussed in greater detail later in the chapter.) Although
thinking of Beethoven’s works in terms of three stylistic periods can lead
to misleading oversimplifications, they also contain an undeniable element
of truth about fundamental shifts in his compositional practice.
Clearly, the heroic style has definite boundaries, both in its reception and
in its formal characteristics. Although no one would use the term “heroic
style” until after his death,
Beethoven would not have felt the demand for
a tribute to the duke of Wellington corresponding to the implicit glorifica-
tion of Napoleon in Symphony no. 3 (Beethoven had famously scratched
out his name in the dedication) unless audiences expected the portrayal of
a heroic persona in a symphonic work. Symphony no. 3, the first work in
this style, from 1803, is fundamentally different from all that came before
it, with an extraordinarily long development, sudden dynamic changes,
sharp contrasts, and unusually forceful harmonic direction. Still, the sym-
phony does not completely sever its ties to the past; instead, it connects
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The Heroic Style (1803–12) 145
established practices to future musical innovations. The first movement,
although absolutely novel in the length and complexity of the development,
nevertheless remains within the boundaries of classical sonata-allegro form.
Moreover, as Michael Broyles argues, the symphony as a whole links the
two extremes of classical form with a sonata-allegro first movement and a
theme-and-variations fourth movement.
As a result, the work contains
a sharply illuminated tension between closed- and an open-ended formal
structure, as well as an implicit conflict between program music, character-
ized by the recognizable military and dance elements, as well as the dramatic
tonal and dynamic contrasts and the emerging concept of absolute music,
illustrated by the first movement’s lengthy and complex development sec-
tion. Similarly, the Fifth Symphony, written four years later, became the
most recognizable work of music in history precisely because Beethoven
again managed to synthesize the diametrically opposed elements of the
heroic style – dramatically affective contrasts and classical form – using the
idiom already established in Symphony no. 3.
The effect the heroic style had on its first audiences soon found expres-
sion in critical writing. Not long after Hoffmann’s famous review of the
Fifth Symphony, critics and theorists began developing more sophisticated
means of addressing the issues associated with it. The high point of this
trend may have been reached in 1824, when Adolf Bernhard Marx began
publishing the Berliner allgemeine musikalische Zeitung and devoted many
articles to explaining Beethoven’s extraordinary significance for music his-
tory. Later, A. B. Marx would declare that Beethoven had achieved a clarity
and unity in the Eroica Symphony, which elevated music fromthe sphere of
undifferentiatedfeeling to that of “brighter andmore certainconsciousness”
[“die Sph¨ are des hellern und bestimmtern Bewusstseins”],
confirming –
in clearly Hegelian terms – the change in music aesthetics created by the
heroic style. A. B. Marx also presented a much more sophisticated dis-
cussion of content in the heroic style, abandoning the idea of a hidden
narrative program in favor of an idea of musical beauty beyond and above
the possibility of articulate expression.
The effect of the increased philosophical complexity of the ideas asso-
ciated with Beethoven’s music was subtle, yet significant. According to
Dahlhaus, this shift from a narrative concept of musical content to an idea
of an “absolute” gradually transformed the reception of Beethoven’s works
to the extent that by 1870, the late quartets had replaced the symphonies as
the paradigmatic case of absolute music.
Even today, self-consciousness
(as it is represented by various psychological terms) is attributed to the
late Beethoven quartets almost as a matter of course.
By establishing the
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146 Beethoven and Musical Self-Consciousness
interpretation that would convince audiences and critics that the heroic
style represented a narrative of transcendence, Beethoven (with the assis-
tance of A. B. Marx and critics like him) prepared the way for the acceptance
of a philosophical idea of content for the late style.
In addition, the extent of A. B. Marx’s influence on Beethoven recep-
tion cannot be confined to the philosophical realm. He was not only an
extremely philosophically minded music critic but also one of the most
influential technical musicologists of the nineteenth century. Along with
Antonin Reicha and Carl Czerny, A. B. Marx created what has become the
standard definition of classical sonata form in Die Lehre der musikalischen
using Beethoven’s works as his principal models of good
His division of the sonata into exposition, development,
recapitulation, and coda remains the normative model of formal analysis
for classical era music. Using this traditional model on Beethoven’s works
without some critical and historical examination would therefore contain
a degree of tautology; A. B. Marx’s prescriptive account of sonata form
(now taken almost as a truism
) invariably fits the works from which it
was derived in the first place. This extraordinarily influential concept of
sonata form nevertheless emerged from the consensus of listeners during
Beethoven’s lifetime, and the extent of its influence indicates that it rang
true for knowledgeable nineteenth-century listeners.
The question remains: how did listeners come to construe the particu-
lar meaning of these middle period works as the embodiment of a heroic
persona, and why was this way of understanding the heroic style so imme-
diately pervasive? According to Scott Burnham, the formal characteristics
of the two most influential heroic style symphonies, no. 3 and no. 5, meshed
with the expectations of early nineteenth-century listeners to forma power-
ful connection between Beethoven’s compositional style and the concept of
the Romantic hero at exactly the right moment for its reception. Burnham
correctly concludes that this connection functions on both small- and large-
scale levels:
Conspicuous dramatic features in the music must be heard to issue fromthe past to
be decisive for the future; they must inspire an intense degree of involvement in a
recognizable yet experientially individual temporal process. This is why Beethoven’s
internalization of classical syntax and phraseology may be seen as paramount: he
is thus provided with a style stable enough in its sense of both local and global
balance to assimilate and project a highly dramatic sense of temporality.
In short, Burnham argues that the perception of heroic character in
Beethoven’s symphonies stems from an inherent progressive temporal
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The Heroic Style (1803–12) 147
development both within the work and in the work’s relation to the musi-
cal tradition. In other words, a heroic period work (here, Symphony no. 3)
presents a kind of Bildungsroman in music; it develops a thematic element
(as a metaphor for the self ) with an increasingly complex and teleological
harmonic treatment, creating the sensation of the self striving toward a
transcendent destiny. Likewise, the heroic style symphony as a whole fol-
lows the general pattern of other classical era works yet threatens to break
free of its constraints, creating a sense of a progress and transcendence
in large-scale historical terms – the work gives audiences the impression
that music history is progressing as they listen. Early-nineteenth-century
audiences heard a boldly stated theme developed in more ways, and in
more exalted musical language, than they had ever heard before and per-
ceived in the work’s social and historical context the apotheosis of the
composer-genius heroically transcending the limitations of his circum-
stances. What they knew about Beethoven and what they heard in the
music formeda mutually reinforcing impressionof precisely what the philo-
sophical currents of the time led them to expect: the assertion of heroic
However, Burnham’s extremely sophisticated account of the musical
hermeneutics of Beethoven’s heroic style does not correspond precisely to
the particular philosophical position he claims for it. After several chapters
of musical analysis, Burnhamdraws an extremely close analogy between the
Third Symphony and the self-conscious subject in Hegel’s Phenomenology
of Spirit:
In Beethoven’s heroic style, both urges [the urge to be subsumed in a greater organic
whole and the urge to be passionately self-assertive] are satisfied: the passionately
individual is made to sound as a larger organic universality. This is because the
passionately individual self, which is heard to be projected by the music, is all there
is: one does not hear a world order against which a hero defines himself – one hears
only the hero, the self, fighting against its own element. Thus the “superclosure”
effect of the “organically unified musical masterpiece”: there is no world beyond
the piece, no fading horizon, no vanishing point of perspective. . . . The feeling
provoked by this music is one of transcendent individuality, of merger with a higher
world order in the name of Self. This effect is identical to that enunciated in the
Idealist trajectory of Hegel’s phenomenology, with one overwhelmingly important
exception: Beethoven’s music is heard and experienced; it is a concretion with
a degree of compression and concentration that Hegel’s philosophy could never
hope to reach.
Burnham bases this persuasive account of the heroic style and its meaning
on a great deal of careful research, yet the self he describes here as creating
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148 Beethoven and Musical Self-Consciousness
an “effect . . . identical to that enunciated in the Idealist trajectory of Hegel’s
phenomenology” does not so much resemble Hegel’s self-conscious subject
as it does Fichte’s “I am I,” particularly in light of the “overwhelmingly
important exception” of music’s physical existence he cites as the central
point of difference between the heroic symphony and the self-conscious
subject. The subject in the Phenomenology, as well as in Hegel’s works on
history and aesthetics, depends on a continuous and recursive interaction
withthe objective world; the Hegelianself is far fromsolipsistic, as “the great
‘I’” (“der große Ich”) in Fichte’s philosophy is. On the contrary, Hegel’s ver-
sion of the self begins with sense-certainty, then develops self-consciousness
through a confrontation with another consciousness, followed by a return
to the material encounter of sense-certainty through reflection. The term
“phenomenology” itself refers to a theory of knowledge based on the rela-
tion between the subject and external reality; Hegel used the word in the
title of his most important work to assert that self-consciousness depended
on phenomenal experience, and could not be achieved by the subjective self
alone. As I have argued elsewhere, both H¨ olderlin’s and Hegel’s versions
of self-consciousness represent largely successful attempts to overcome the
problem of absolute self-sufficiency and self-containment in Idealist sub-
jectivity through encounters with the material aesthetic as the extreme case
of the phenomenon.
Hegel’s theory of self-consciousness is therefore not a
precise match with the version of subjectivity implicit in Beethoven’s heroic
style but rather a later alternative to it.
However, the parallel between Beethoven’s compositional style and Ide-
alist philosophy is still worth pursuing, but on a slightly different scale. I
would argue that this parallel occurs not between Beethoven’s heroic period
music and Hegel’s Ph¨ anomenologie, but between the larger-scale shift from
the heroic period to the late style and the changes in Idealist subjectivity
that occurredbetweenFichte andHegel. Just as Hegel’s Ph¨ anomenologie cor-
rected the solipsistic deficiencies of previous models of self-consciousness,
so do Beethoven’s most characteristic late works contain variations in form,
harmony, and genre that reveal a critique, or even a meta-critique, of the
heroic period designed to overcome its self-sufficiency.
the late style (1813–27)
Although the term “late style” does not provide as readily understandable
a characterization as the term “heroic style,” this period has acquired a par-
ticular philosophical significance due, in part, to the remarkable attention
given to it by Adorno, Dahlhaus, and Subotnik, among others. Dahlhaus
defines the “late work” not only as a way of designating Beethoven’s
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The Late Style (1813–27) 149
compositions after 1812 but also as a means of describing how the
late style actually undermines the process of stylistic and chronological
The sense of “timelessness” that emanates from late works is profoundly different
from that attributed to “classic” works. When its aesthetic validity matures in the
later existence which is its true life, the classic work seems to be detached from the
age in which it was written, and the historical conditions in which it came into
being fall away from it. It is characteristic of a late work, on the other hand, that
already, while it is still new, it is inwardly alien to the age to which it outwardly
belongs. It is not in its aesthetic survival alone, but even in its historical origins,
too, that a gulf separates it from the age that gives it a date.
A late work, in this sense, fulfills the composer’s desire for completion of
his life’s work; it looks back toward the composer’s past and forward toward
the future of musical composition after the composer’s death, contributing
to an odd sense of timelessness because of a lack of stylistic specificity in
late period works which makes them both a summation of the composer’s
career and a reflection of his understanding of music history. The defining
characteristic of the late style, therefore, is actually a meta-characteristic –
it defines itself by defying easy chronological characterization.
To what extent do the concrete musical elements of Beethoven’s late
works justify this designation, and to what degree can the “late style” be
termed a conscious, coherent set of compositional decisions? Biographical
information does not give much assistance in answering these questions.
Although Beethoven went through a period of relative inactivity between
1812 and 1816, no evidence of overt plans to a make a major stylistic shift
has come to light. Nevertheless, the works themselves tell a different and
abundantly clear story. The overall character of the late works reveals unam-
biguously that Beethoven abandoned the heroic style process of developing
a short, bold motif in dramatic ways and began instead to focus on melody,
demonstrating a newemphasis onlyricism, as well as anincreased interest in
counterpoint, especially the fugue.
In general, the personal, political, and
philosophical crises of the years between1812 and 1816 had drivenBeethoven
to concentrate on what he had perceived to be the weakest aspects of his
composition, melody and counterpoint, and make them the central ele-
ments of his new style. Although Martin Cooper believes that “[n]othing
was further fromBeethoven’s whole attitude toward his art than a conscious
search for originality, the deliberate adoption of a ‘new style,’”
we nev-
ertheless cannot avoid observing that the late works differ so significantly
fromthose he had written before that Beethoven must have made a number
of conscious decisions to change his compositional practice. Whatever its
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150 Beethoven and Musical Self-Consciousness
origin, the real stylistic difference between Beethoven’s heroic and late styles
does not lie so much in the emergence of any particular set of techniques
but in the ways these works relate to others of the past, both to Beethoven’s
own previous efforts and to those of Haydn, Mozart, Bach, and Handel.
When Beethoven began incorporating, for instance, a far greater number
of fugues into his compositions than he had before, it did not mean that
he had suddenly realized the potential of the form in isolation. Instead, he
had begun reappropriating the older form because he had rediscovered the
possibilities that his Baroque predecessors found in the fugue, as well as
new affinities for their music.
Beethoven’s late style therefore consists of a complex set of connections
between his philosophical understanding of musical form and his con-
sciousness of music history, and not only in terms of the aging composer’s
relationship to the heroes of his youth. He also had to consider the com-
poser he once was – the late style, to a great degree, is Beethoven’s reflection
on his own past. Adorno, the most influential philosopher and critic on
this topic, perceives Beethoven’s late style as a deliberate attempt to destroy
the idea of autonomous subjectivity the composer asserted so clearly in
the heroic period and that Beethoven’s late style even prefigures the overall
direction of history since that time:
The force of subjectivity in the late works is the rising gesture, with which it
abandons the works. It explodes them, not to express itself, but to cast off expres-
sionlessly the appearance of art. It leaves behind the ruins of the works and com-
municates, as if with ciphers, only by means of the empty spaces, from which
it broke out. Touched by death, the masterful hand releases the material which
previously formed it; the rips and cracks in it, witness of the final powerlessness of
the “I” before existence, are its final work.
Rose Rosengard Subotnik views the essay that contains this passage, as well
as Adorno’s other writings on Beethoven, as indicative of Adorno’s overall
claim that with the late style, Beethoven had destroyed the concept of the
autonomous, free, and self-determining self he created in the heroic period
by means of his late-period acknowledgment of the material:
In the second-period style, according to Adorno, conventions were generally swept
away or engulfed by the individualized, subjective flow of development. But
the third-period subject, Adorno suggests, sees through its won developmental
omnipotence as nothing but an arbitrary, externally derived convention; and the
explicit return to prominence in the third-period style of the convention proper
constitutes clear evidence for Adornothat the subject has enteredinto, andtherefore
abdicated to, a collective invention, into the individual artistic fantasy, instead
allowing “bald,” recurring conventions to break apart the smooth harmony of
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The Late Style (1813–27) 151
the artistic fac¸ade. It has also declared its impotence before all objective reality,
nature as well as society, and thus defined itself by acknowledging indirectly its
own death.
Adorno’s understanding of the historical meaning of Beethoven’s late style
continues to have an extraordinary influence on musicology despite the
relative obscurity of his Beethoven commentaries, which were only recently
collected in German and translated into English. What he accomplished,
as Subotnik states succinctly, was “to expand the human significance of
by connecting it to other spheres of thought and activity, even if
his overwhelming pessimism has prevented others following in his wake.
In particular, Adorno confirms the existence of the connection between
Beethoven’s heroic style and Idealist subjectivity, but, like Burnham, tends
to equate the idea of self-consciousness presented in Beethoven’s heroic style
with that of Hegel’s Phenomenology. Unlike Burnham, Adorno sees nothing
that would exempt Beethoven’s heroic style works from the problem of
solipsism and claims that the concept of Absolute Knowledge in the last
chapter of the Phenomenology has the same effect of enclosing the whole
as the coda in a heroic-style Beethoven symphony.
The late style, for
Adorno, shatters this solipsism, and with it both Beethoven’s and Hegel’s
notions of the heroic, self-conscious subject.
However, the evidence of the Ninth Symphony contradicts this view
in clear, triumphant terms. This late period work contains such a strong
association with individual freedom and the autonomy of the self that
Leonard Bernstein felt he could change the word Freude (“joy”) to Freiheit
(“freedom”) in the last movement for a performance celebrating the fall
of the Berlin Wall.
Adorno even recognized the problem of the Ninth
Symphony for his claims about the late style, saying that he considered the
work a “reconstruction of the classical Beethoven (with the exception of
certain parts of the final movement and above all, the trios in the third).”
As I have said before, Beethoven certainly had the capacity to revert to an
earlier style at times (as he did in op. 117, the K¨ onig Stephan, and op. 124,
The Consecration of the House); the ability to revive the heroic style had
nevertheless eluded him completely in Wellingtons Sieg (op. 91). The Ninth
Symphony would therefore require not just a reversion to earlier principles
but a complete rethinking of them. To imagine it as merely another attempt
to create another heroic style symphony would require us to stretch the
definition of that term almost beyond recognition; clearly Beethoven has
changed his symphonic writing in many ways and has become even more
ambitious in terms of length and complexity.
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152 Beethoven and Musical Self-Consciousness
Furthermore, the symphony has an obvious programmatic element
unseen before in his instrumental music – the use of a text. This particular
text, a slight variation of Schiller’s “An die Freude,” is actually contrary
to the spirit of the heroic period in many ways. The self portrayed in the
heroic style is, above all, both independent and earnest; both Schiller’s
poem and the Ninth Symphony celebrate brotherhood and joy, and some-
times even turn to humor to deflate the claims of the individual ego. The
Turkish march in the last movement, for example, can easily be read as
a parody of military grandeur and an antidote to the celebration of the
savage heroism of Napoleon and Wellington. As their battles faded into
history in the 1820s, Austrian audiences would be more and more likely
to regard heroic tales of the Napoleonic wars with some of the same skep-
tical distance that the previous generation had reserved for those told by
the veterans of the wars against the Ottoman Empire. (Rudolf Raspe’s
M¨ unchausen tales, for instance, are well-known parodies of stories told by
an actual Hessian nobleman who fought for Russia in the Turkish wars.
Lawrence Kramer argues that on the contrary, the Turkish march represents
the absorption of non-Western cultures into “a grand progressive synthesis
of diverse world-historical Spirits,”
following a pattern similar to the one
outlined in Hegel’s Philosophy of History. Although this contention clearly
parallels my own claims to some extent, I would nevertheless argue that
appearance of the Turkish march is more likely part of an ironic reflection
on individual military glory and that the aspects of the Ninth Symphony
most susceptible to Hegelian interpretation are more specifically composi-
tional in nature, leading to a more complex interpretation of the work as a
whole. As Dahlhaus correctly points out, late style works tend to be elusive
in terms of their association with particular time periods – the Ninth Sym-
phony therefore does not so much reconstruct the heroic style, as Adorno
; instead, it uses elements of the heroic style only to transcend
them. Berthold Hoeckner also notes that Adorno’s understanding of the
heroic style depends on a notion of its self-contained integrity as nearly
transcending time – as if an entire symphony were a single moment.
To miss the Ninth’s many indications that Beethoven has left the heroic
style behind – and with it, the notion of a specific historical and national
association – is to miss its ironic stance toward the past and its essentially
diachronic, reflective nature, as well as its celebration of brotherhood over
the individual.
On a more concrete level, the Ninth Symphony also has many formal
characteristics that justify its inclusion in the late style. The emphasis on
melody so often cited as the central difference between the heroic and late
style appears in every movement, and its many sudden tempo and textural
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The Late Style (1813–27) 153
changes represents a kind of critical perspective on the most characteristic
heroic style gestures. At the beginning of the first movement, a bold, caden-
tial motif suddenly becomes far more melodic; the brash, chaotic opening
of the fourth movement is suddenly interrupted by a human voice calling
all to universal brotherhood. Everything about the Ninth Symphony seems
to oppose and then transcend the self-sufficiency that the heroic style held
out as glorious; the clash of individual egos constantly gives way to joy
and brotherhood. The Ninth, in many ways, is also music about music, a
symphony that alters our understanding of previous symphonies. Maynard
Solomon argues that the chorale finale, in particular, represents “a drive
for denotation” that “is itself a prime symbol of the impulse to enlarge
In other words, Beethoven’s famous use of the chorale to end
the Ninth Symphony, far from being a break from the musical language he
had developed over his career, instead links his present (“late-style”) compo-
sitional practices with his well-established and more readily comprehensible
heroic style. As Solomon argues later in the same essay, “Ultimately, the
coercive and subversive implications of the Ninth Symphony may be insep-
arable, perhaps because Beethoven’s futuristic impulse – to create things
that had never before existed – warred with his yearning to belong to
Even Esteban Buch, whose extensive research into the con-
text of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century chorales has yielded intriguing
comparisons between the “Ode to Joy” and patriotic anthems by Handel
and Haydn, admits that the end of the Ninth Symphony leaves its listeners
in an ambiguous position with regard to political meaning:
If the same melody can hymn universal joy and also honor the emperor Francis,
we must either believe, with Metternich, that the emperor was the guarantor of
universal joy, or we must assume a continuity between the musical rhetoric of the
Revolution and that of the Restoration – a continuity that, when added to the
nonreferential nature of the actual sounds themselves, sums up all the ideological
ambiguities of Beethoven’s music.
We cannot praise the Revolution and the emperor simultaneously with-
out contradiction, unless we hear the sound of something else entirely
in the Ninth – the positing of a continuous self-conscious identity that
both confronts and transcends the political meanings of those diametri-
cally opposed moments. The tension between tradition and innovation
apparent in the formal elements of the symphony – a key characteris-
tic of the late style in general – therefore reveals itself to be a represen-
tation of the composer’s struggle to posit his own identity in relation to
time, paralleling the philosophical path of self-consciousness. The question
of whether Beethoven’s concept of the self retains its coherence in other
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154 Beethoven and Musical Self-Consciousness
late-style works, or whether this tension pulls it apart, remains unresolved.
I make the case for coherence through one of the Galitzin Quartets, no. 13
in B , op. 130/133.
opus 130/133, string quartet no. 13 in b :
first movement
The Galitzin Quartets, opp. 127, 132, and 130/133 (named for Prince Boris
Nicholas Galitzin, who commissioned them) occupy an especially sugges-
tive place in the Beethoven canon. They are very nearly Beethoven’s last
complete works – only the op. 135 String Quartet in F major is later –
and the alternate finale for op. 130 is Beethoven’s final completed move-
ment. Opus 130, along with its original finale, op. 133 (Große Fuge) therefore
presents an especially clear instance of the late style, although not all crit-
ics associate the Galitzin Quartets with clarity. Daniel Chua argues that
these quartets, as a group, “are pieces that posit themselves against their
own history and are critically honed against the style they recall” and that
the various attempts to interpret them systematically are undermined by
the nature of the music itself.
I argue that, on the contrary, op. 130/133
represents one of Beethoven’s most successful attempts to represent the self-
conscious mind in its most highly developed form. Chua is correct to say
that “[t]his is music about music,”
but the evident self-reflective nature
of the work, far from undermining its artistic unity, synthesizes its dialectal
tensions – primarily those between tradition and innovation and between
form and affect – into a coherent whole. The formal characteristics of op.
130/133, even more than those of the Ninth Symphony, at once establish
it as part of the classical tradition and enable the work to transcend the
limitations of classicism. In doing so, op. 130/133 fulfills its promise as a
metaphor for self-consciousness by maintaining the work’s intelligibility
in the language of classical tonality while expanding the range of musical
language far beyond the principles of symmetry and closure implicit in the
classical style.
Even referring to elements of musical form as “dialectical” means taking
a stand in a heated debate about the nature of Western tonal music and
its meaning for both the nineteenth century and today, and the issue of
musical meaning must be addressed in terms of compositional structure
again before this kind of interpretation proceeds. Does compositional struc-
ture, specifically the sonata-allegro form, have denotative meaning, and if
so, did early nineteenth-century audiences recognize it as such? Clearly,
audiences hadbecome accustomedto the formby 1825 andhadconsiderable
experience understanding it in purely musical terms. According to Charles
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Opus 130/133, String Quartet No. 13 in B : First Movement 155
Rosen, sonata-allegro form came to dominate all other instrumental forms
at the beginning of Haydn’s career and was the main form of musical dis-
course by 1750. Although late eighteenth-century sonata-allegro formnever
became the set of fixed principles nineteenth-century theorists purported
it to be, several factors in sonata form enabled educated audiences to com-
prehend larger and more complex musical structures than had previously
been possible.
As Rosen states,
The advantage of the sonata forms over earlier musical forms might be termed
a dramatized clarity: sonata forms open with a clearly defined opposition (the
definition is the essence of the form) which is intensified and then symmetrically
The language of eighteenth-century classical tonal music is unavoidably
dialectical: a binary systemfundamentally constituted by the establishment
of the key with tonic and dominant chords. This harmonic pair serves as
both microcosm and macrocosm to the formal structure of the sonata; the
tonic-dominant axis functions not only as part of the small-scale harmonic
grammar (individual successive chords) but also as the structure of a sonata-
allegro movement as a whole. A sonata-allegro movement therefore usually
contains a modulation to the dominant key and then goes back to the main
key for resolution. Variations fromthe tonic-dominant-tonic pattern in the
sequence of modulations follow the same rules as did chordal substitution
insmall-scale harmonic structures, and require the same kinds of resolution.
Any departure from this structure would have disturbed an eighteenth- or
early-nineteenth-century audience in a way that is hard to imagine with our
fragmented postmodern sensibility. Either consciously or unconsciously, an
early-nineteenth-century listener expected to hear the dialectical symmetry
of classical sonata form and would notice its absence.
The beauty of a
sonata-allegro movement lay in the skill and originality with which the
composer fulfilled these expectations while varying the means by which he
did so.
Although sonata-allegro form continued to dominate musical discourse
throughout this period, the fortunes of the string quartet both rose and fell
at the turn of the nineteenth century. According to Paul Griffiths, by 1809
and 1810, the years in which Beethoven wrote two of his “middle-period”
quartets (op. 74 in E major and op. 95 in F minor), the string quartet had
degenerated from a primary division of serious music to “hardly more than
a branch of the concerto.”
What had turned the vast majority of string
quartets into this “flood of fripperies” was, paradoxically, the decline of
amateurism and the rise of the virtuoso player.
From its beginnings in the
1750s to the early 1790s, the Viennese string quartet was distinguished by
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156 Beethoven and Musical Self-Consciousness
its seriousness and the careful balance of its instrumentation, characteristics
markedly different fromthe quatuor concertant and brillant that preceded it.
It began as a salon piece in which four amateur players of passable skill could
engage themselves in high musical art; through widespread distribution of
sheet music, it became a primary means by which composers separated by
great distances communicated ideas to one another.
Later on, as popular
virtuoso performers toured more widely, more and more string quartets
were written in order to be an exhibition of one player’s skill rather than to
be a balancedmusical conversationbetweenequals, resulting ina resurgence
of the brillant style. Biographies of Haydn appearing in 1810 praise him as
the originator of the quartet as a means of working out complex thematic
material, yet already contain clear signals that musical style has moved on.
By the time Beethoven began work on the late quartets in 1825, the only
other composer writing string quartets of high quality was Schubert, of
whom Beethoven was completely unaware.
In short, Beethoven was working in a both a genre that had already
reached a saturation point and had been chosen for him by a patron, yet
he would expand the language of classical tonality with it, breaking new
ground in formand harmony. Still, his choice of the string quartet genre for
an entire cycle of works after the monumental achievement of Symphony
no. 9 in D minor is far less problematic than it may seem; in fact, the genre
enabled him to accomplish two major artistic objectives. First, it allowed
him to reenter a mode of discourse shared by the two greatest composers
he encountered during his lifetime, Haydn and Mozart, and the history of
the musical relationship between the other two major figures in Viennese
classicismunderscores the importance of the quartet for demonstrating this
kind of solidarity. Mozart dedicated six quartets to Haydn; those Haydn
composed after Mozart’s death show a similar sense of indebtedness to
Mozart. Second, Beethoven’s decision to return to chamber music after
so many large and magnificent symphonies demonstrated a desire to be
known not only as the composer of grand statements but as a true innovator
capable of rewriting the rules of composition in its most basic form: four-
part writing. By putting himself so clearly in the company of Haydn and
Mozart at this late point in his career (the end, although he may not have
knownit), Beethovenwouldput every innovationinstructure andharmony
in stark relief.
Moreover, the decision to write the Galitzin Quartets stemmed from a
confluence of arbitrary circumstance (a commission) and an inner drive
toward quartet composition less easily explained. Prince Nicolas Boris
Galitzin’s request for a series of string quartets came in a letter dated
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Opus 130/133, String Quartet No. 13 in B : First Movement 157
November 9, 1822
; however, experts on Beethoven’s notebooks, among
themJoseph Kerman, generally agree that he was already working out some
ideas for string quartets before the letter arrived.
Although op. 130/133
was the last quartet required to complete Prince Galitzin’s commission,
Beethoven wrote two more quartets, op. 131 in C minor and op. 135 in
F major, and wrote a new finale for op. 130 at the request of his publisher.
Beethoven was in poor health in 1826 and 1827 and may well have known
that everything he wrote at this time would benefit posterity more than
Reports from witnesses make it highly probable that Beethoven
thought of the three Galitzin Quartets as a single compositional unit
; pre-
sumably, his ambitions for these works included working out some larger
problem than merely fulfilling his commission. In addition, Beethoven’s
deafness had left him profoundly isolated from Viennese musical society.
Whatever he intended to accomplish with these quartets, it was undoubt-
edly something besides creating a public sensation, which would have been
easier with a larger-scale work in any case.
As he did with the Third and Ninth Symphonies, Beethoven expanded
the op. 130 B major string quartet to an unprecedented length. Although
Beethoven maintained the traditional two violin, viola, and cello instru-
mentationandkept the work to a single home key, he addedtwo movements
for a total of six, rather than the usual four and used an extraordinary num-
ber of key and tempo changes in the first movement. Daniel Chua correctly
observes that the expansion of the number of movements does not indicate
a regression to the “looser, more arbitrary sequence” of Baroque suite form,
as some commentators believe,
yet the assertion contains some truth. In
fact, the work continually questions the assumptions underlying the differ-
ence between the sequential nature of baroque compositional style and the
cadential tendencies of the classical era. David Brodbeck and John Platoff
correctly assert that the tensions between the first movement’s “classical
elements” (those following standard stylistic practice for sonata form at the
turn of the nineteenth century) and its “non-classical elements” undermine
the audience’s sense of traditional compositional practices by exposing their
These tensions nevertheless resolve themselves into a coher-
ent whole through thematic associations rather than by following more
familiar formal and harmonic patterns.
In this respect, the modulations in the first movement aptly represent
the issues raised by the work as a whole. The eight keys Beethoven uses in
this movement are centered on three principal keys: B , the tonic; G , the
diminished submediant; and D, the mediant. The other modulations are
mainly short passages that function as a means of easing the transition to
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158 Beethoven and Musical Self-Consciousness
the others; still, using three main tonal centers this remote from the tonic
is extraordinary. For a composer of the time, the choices for modulations
in sonata-allegro form were generally limited to the dominant; a dominant
substitute, the relative major (if the movement was in a minor key); or the
dominant preceded by a key that would serve as a dominant preparation. All
these had clear analogues in small-scale tonal harmony and were basically
a series of acceptable substitutions carrying the same overall significance.
This key relation, the tonic-dominant axis, held the sonata together and was
expected by the audience, consciously or unconsciously, as a clear sign of
basic artistic unity.
Beethoven’s departure from these traditional choices
required him to find another means to hold the movement together; key
relations this remote would otherwise make the movement sound diffuse,
or even like several unrelated pieces played in close succession.
However, Beethoven relied on the descending interval of the major third
for the direction of his modulations, rather than the ascending fifth or
descending fourth. Although he had used thirds as a large-scale structural
principle before in several works, including the Waldstein Sonata (op. 53,
from 1804) and both Leonore Overtures (op. 72, from 1805 and 1806),
the descending major thirds here are nevertheless innovative. By making
all the thirds major, they reach far more distant keys more quickly than
alternating major and minor thirds would have; they are also closely related
to the thematic material of the adagio introduction. Here are its first few
measures (Example 1):
Example 1. Opus 130, First Movement, Measures 1–4.
At first hearing, the introduction seems perfectly ordinary. A single, slow
melodic line of unisons and octaves descends a minor third before dividing
into traditional four-part harmony on the third note of the first measure,
clearly establishing the home key of B major. The same minor third
resolves upward in the second half of the phrase for a V-I resolution. The
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Opus 130/133, String Quartet No. 13 in B : First Movement 159
opening section is well within the bounds of normal quartet writing, both
melodically and harmonically. The rest of the adagio, another ten mea-
sures, offers no real surprises, other than the mildly interesting fact that
the complement to the initial adagio phrase carefully balances each instru-
ment (unlike many contemporaneous quartets, which by then would have
featured a solo instrument), allowing first the cello, then the second vio-
lin, next the viola, and finally the first violin separate entrances on similar
themes. As a whole, the introduction prepares the audience for a classi-
cal era quartet of high seriousness, firmly in the tradition of Haydn and
Mozart, and somewhat of an anachronism in 1825.
The allegro, which begins the exposition of the primary theme, destroys
the illusion that this will be an ordinary quartet (Example 2):
Example 2. Opus 130, First Movement, Measures 13–19.
Inthese measures, Beethovenreveals the contrapuntal complexity that char-
acterizes this movement and the late style as a whole. The first violin plays
a descending series of forte sixteenth-notes outlining the key of B major
in descending thirds. The second violin enters after two beats of this line
with a simple motif on a perfect fourth. Then, a sudden dynamic shift to
piano in all instruments indicates that something else may be going on,
and within two more measures, all the instruments have picked up the
sixteenth-note line. According to the conventions of sonata form, a clear,
obvious melody should present itself as the primary theme; instead, we
hear a complex counterpoint of sixteenth-notes against the perfect fourth
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160 Beethoven and Musical Self-Consciousness
motif. The movement abruptly returns to the adagio tempo and a slightly
shortened version of the introduction is repeated a fourth lower.
By now, the material of the first section of the exposition has become
clear: descending thirds and ascending fourths played in either straight
sixteenths or in the rhythmic pattern of the primary theme. The first violin
replays this theme at various pitches while the other material is developed,
eventually working its way into a series of loud, clear arpeggios that signal
the transition to the secondary theme. However, the introduction to this
section contains a strange return to the unison (Example 3):
Example 3. Opus 130, First Movement, Measures 51–55.
Instead of a standard modulation to the dominant by means of a pivot
chord or a V/V, Beethoven approaches a unison D (the dominant of the
next key) by chromatic steps, then silences every instrument except the
cello, which establishes G as the next tonal center by means of another
solo sixteenth-note motif in descending thirds. Joseph Kerman calls this
chromatic approach to D “the most devastating event yet in the compo-
sition” and the establishment of G as the new key “utterly precarious.”
Even Brodbeck and Platoff, who argue for the movement’s overall coher-
ence, nevertheless admit that “the secondary theme begins tentatively, as
though Beethoven himself can scarcely believe the key.”
Although the
connection may seem tenuous, Beethoven’s use of previous thematic mate-
rial, the sixteenth-notes and the descending thirds, ties this new tonality to
the beginning of the piece closely.
Why does Beethoven use descending thirds instead of descending fifths,
or rising fourths, either of which would establish the new key much more
clearly? Why does he modulate to G , instead of a more closely related
key? The answers to these questions reside in the expanded possibilities
that establishing the descending third as an alternative structural principle
would give the composer. By constructing this movement around sequences
of descending thirds, instead of V-I cadences, Beethoven creates a new
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Opus 130/133, String Quartet No. 13 in B : First Movement 161
large-scale structure that can substitute for, and even oppose, traditional
structure. G is a major third lower than B ; the key relation is not that of
I to VI, but instead the large-scale continuation of the descending-third
principle used at the beginning of the allegro. The next modulation, after
the repeat of the exposition, follows precisely the same pattern, descend-
ing a major third from G to D, the enharmonic equivalent to E
on a tempered scale.
If the initial tonal center is established by means
of descending thirds, then the subsequent modulations can be related by
descending thirds, outlining (as Kerman
and others have observed) in
this case an augmented chord, B -D-F (G )-B . While both Haydn and
Mozart made ample use of descending thirds as a small-scale compositional
the use of descending major thirds as a large-scale modulatory
structure is unprecedented. It nevertheless works well; although the aug-
mented chord is dissonant, it is stable and leaves open more possibilities
than a simple modulation to the dominant would.
Beethoven’s exposition of the secondary theme fits into the overall
scheme perfectly, while paradoxically managing to bothdisturb andreassure
the listener (Example 4):
Example 4. Opus 130, First Movement, Measures 55–60.
The secondary theme begins with a simple inversion of the major third
motif, a minor sixth, and bears an overall resemblance to an inverted version
of the opening adagio theme. The theme begins inthe first violin, supported
by ordinary harmony in the other instruments. After a slight variation on
the transition, the theme is repeated an octave higher, again in the first
violin. This is perhaps the least original treatment possible for this theme,
which is itself the least original theme possible as well. The movement at this
point sounds like a parody of a Haydn or a Mozart string quartet, although
these composers rarely wrote anything quite so deliberately banal; Kerman
correctly calls the secondary theme a “caricature of a lyric phrase, complete
with trite-sounding harmonies.”
Beethoven’s salute to the obligations of
binary form, a contrasting secondary theme, is a parody of the ordinary
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162 Beethoven and Musical Self-Consciousness
composer’s willingness to fulfill the expectations of the bourgeois audience
in every case. This theme’s bland treatment after such a tenuous, disturbing
transition tells the audience that the composer has not forgotten what they
are used to hearing, and gives them the expected theme in the expected
place. It may also serve to clarify the hint of parody at the beginning of
the allegro section. What even the most sophisticated listener may not yet
realize is that Beethoven’s choice of tonal centers has given him license to
use three balancing themes instead of the usual two.
Fromhere, the exposition continues the pattern of sixteenth-note against
quarter-note exchanges to confirm G as the new tonal center, eventually
leading to the first ending of the exposition. Once again, the opening
adagio theme and the primary theme appear, then appear again a third
lower, leading back to the beginning of the piece. The entire exposition is
repeated, but this time, the listener is more prepared for the surprises to
come; relationships between the material that may have escaped the listener
the first time become clearer. The repetition also serves as a reminder of the
first tonal center and the strangeness of the modulation, further building
up the expectation of another tonal center to balance the first two.
The modulation to the third tonal center, D major, immediately after
the second ending follows the descending-third principle in a manner that
by now has become characteristic of this movement (Example 5):
Example 5. Opus 130, First Movement, Measures 94–105.
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Opus 130/133, String Quartet No. 13 in B : First Movement 163
The adagio opening and the primary theme are played twice, each time a
thirdlower, arriving at Dmajor, the thirdtonal center inrelatively little time.
Fromhere, these very basic themes canbe developedwithgreater complexity
than usual because the possibilities of the traditional fifth relations inherent
in them have been left virtually untouched in the exposition and in the
modulations so far. Beethoven takes full advantage of these fifth relations
in the modulation back to the tonic – D to G to C to F to B – in fewer
than thirty-four measures, an extremely swift harmonic tempo. In fact,
the modulation seems almost perfunctory, as if it were to be accomplished
as quickly as the listener can accommodate it. Why reassert the cadential
fifth relation at all, if it has already been established in the movement that
simpler and more radical means of modulation is now available?
Beethoven returns to the traditional cadential relation for two rea-
sons. First, the fifths appearing here in the development are anything but
perfunctory; they are inversions of the fourth in the primary theme, serv-
ing as a variation on the thematic material as well as fulfilling a necessary
harmonic function. Second, the strong fifth relations allow the variation
on the secondary theme to take on greater significance as an independent
theme than it would in an ordinary development. A closer look at this
variation illustrates the point more clearly. Here is its first appearance, in
D major (Example 6):
Example 6. Opus 130, First Movement, Measures 106–111.
The primary theme makes yet another appearance in the first violin, played
in a subtle piano, with an ostinato figure in the cello and viola that will
continue in at least two of the three lower instruments (either cello and
viola or second violin and viola) for the duration of the development. The
variation on the secondary theme (measures 106–7) appears first in the cello
with an octave leap on A(an augmentation of the sixth leap of the secondary
theme) and is harmonized so that at first it sounds like a six-four inversion
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164 Beethoven and Musical Self-Consciousness
of the tonic, a chord which normally serves as a dominant preparation.
Instead, the ostinato figure returns to the cello with a chromatic alteration
(the C natural in measures 108–9) that reveals its function as a pivot chord
in the modulation to G major after the variation on the secondary theme is
repeated. These deceptive moves are disorienting, but the overall effect, as
Brodbeck and Platoff point out, is to create a development that is “relatively
more stable than the exposition.”
To compound the effect, this same variation appears again in the cello
of the G major section (leading to C major), and a slightly altered version
appears soon afterward, twice in the first violin. The development ends
with yet another replaying of this variation in the cello, leading the F major
section back to B for the recapitulation. After so many repetitions of the
same variation on the secondary theme, as well as a repeated variation on
the variation (measures 123–4 and 130–1), the demarcations of exposition
and development become blurred almost beyond recognition. Even when
the repetition of the exposition is taken into consideration, by the end of
the development the secondary theme has been played only four times,
whereas this variation has been played in one form or another six times.
The variation is also much more interesting and powerful, arguably one
of the most moving in all of Beethoven. Even as sober a commentator as
Kerman finds the development ambiguous and unsettling:
in the B Quartet the entire development section exists in a trance, as
though somehow another movement has got going without our quite noticing
how. . . . Alternately, a far-fetched derivative of the second theme appears, an ugly
duckling dream-transformed into a graceful arching element which still, however,
exhibits much ambiguity in the matter of continuation.
It is worth reiterating that a movement of this length and with so many
modulations already risks sounding as if it were several movements run
together; the prominence of this variation pushes that risk to the limit. The
variation almost sounds as if it were part of a new exposition because it is
stronger, more sincere, and more interesting than the secondary theme, yet
the section as a whole continues to function as the development – and is
understood as such – because it contains solid links to previous thematic
material and occupies that position by formal convention. If we do not
quite notice how the connection between the variation and the secondary
theme works, it is because it has been entirely intelligible to us all along.
The ambiguity of the development lies in its strength as an independent
section and the relative weakness of the original secondary theme. At this
point, the triadic tonal structure of the movement strives hardest against the
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String Quartet No. 13: Middle Movements 165
binary nature of classical sonata form; it naturally follows that this section
should elicit the strongest response from its listeners.
The recapitulation resolves the ambiguity of the development in a fairly
straightforward manner. The primary and secondary themes are restated
with various figures that have been introduced before, mainly sixteenth-
note runs and fragmented versions of the rhythmic pattern of the primary
theme. The fourth of the primary theme itself is inverted to produce a fifth
and prepare the way for the cadential sequence in the coda. The reprise
of the secondary theme appears in a D section that has been introduced
with the same sixteenth-note figure used in the exposition. This time,
however, the viola plays the sixteenth-note figure. The listener has not only
become accustomed to it, but the key relation, B major to D, is not nearly
so distant. By contrast, the harmonization of the secondary theme in this
instance is much more interesting than it was in the exposition (a chromatic
bass line in the cello leads to a clever modulation back to B ), providing the
overall compositional structure with an effective symmetry; an innovative
modulation followed by an ordinary harmonization in the exposition is
balanced by a more ordinary modulation followed by a more interesting
harmonization of the same material. Furthermore, the more sophisticated
treatment of the secondary theme in the recapitulation makes its original
parodic function in the exposition even clearer.
The attention paid to the resolution of the main material in the reca-
pitulation leaves the coda with little left to accomplish other than to end
the movement. The coda begins with an adagio section to complement the
introduction; its main difference from the introduction is a more widely
spaced voicing that allows a smoother transition from the recapitulation
than an exact repetition of the opening adagio would. From there, the
familiar sixteenth-note runs and the primary theme are reworked and occa-
sionally inverted to bring a clear conclusion to the movement. The final
cadence, like many of Beethoven’s, is absolutely unambiguous due to the
forte marking and the double and triple stops in all instruments except the
cello, whose final interval is, naturally, a rising fourth (F-B ).
string quartet no. 13: middle movements
How does one follow a first movement of such depth and complexity?
Traditionally, one follows it with a lyrical slow movement, made up of
beautiful melodies and a relatively simple structure, often in either the
relative or parallel minor key. As we have come to expect from him in this
quartet, Beethoven keeps some traditions and deliberately violates others
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166 Beethoven and Musical Self-Consciousness
in his treatment of the second movement. It is indeed simple in structure
and written in the parallel minor key, but the tempo marking is presto, and
the form is that of a bagatelle,
a dance form more popular in the baroque
era than in classical or Romantic times. Although this little dance runs by
in just under two minutes (approximately one-fifth the duration of the
first movement),
it manages to confirm that some of the more innovative
elements of the first movement are integral to the piece as a whole. The
distant tonal centers of the first movement, G , D , and D (D minor
instead of major in this instance), reappear in the second, although they
are almost as distant from B minor as they are from B major.
There is
also a curious moment of chromaticism (Example 7):
Example 7. Opus 130, Second Movement, Measures 49–65.
Unisons and octaves approach a single note and are followed by a solo
chromatic line which arrives at the same single note before the end of the
second movement, just as the transitions to the primary and secondary
themes in the first movement were accomplished. In this case, the fast
tempo and the glissando followed by three quick staccato notes make this
phrase a kind of insolent joke, as if Beethoven were declaring that these
unisons and chromaticisms were perfectly permissible anywhere he chose
to put them. Together, these gestures indicate that the liberties Beethoven
took in the first movement are now to be considered part of the normal
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String Quartet No. 13: Middle Movements 167
tonal language of the piece. In effect, they are now part of the idiom of this
string quartet and can even be used in a presto dance movement only two
minutes long.
Although the third movement begins with the chord that ended the sec-
ond movement, B minor, it is really in D major, further emphasizing
D major’s status as an important tonal center in the work as a whole.
Although it has a slower tempo than the first two, marked “andante con
moto ma non troppo,” it does not go as slowly as typical adagio second
movement, but instead walks along as a true andante. Robert Hatten sug-
gests that this movement “might be viewed as a trope at the level of genre, in
that it creatively fuses the playfulness and rhythmic drive of a scherzo with
the tunefulness of an Andante”
; on the whole, it retains an important
role in the quartet as a respite from the complexities of the first movement
and the chromaticism of both the first and second movements. Despite the
apparent density of its notes on the page (it is notoriously difficult to sight-
read), this movement provides a calm contrast to the first two, its complex
rhythms becoming clearer as they are imitated by each instrument. Its rel-
atively few surprises come from sudden changes in volume and complex
harmonies. Still, the simple beauty of the movement has made it a favorite
of many Beethoven experts, including Kerman and Helm.
The fourth movement is a danza alla tedesca, marked allegro assai, in
G major. The term “alla tedesca” means “in the German style,” that is, in
three, like a German waltz. The Italian title is therefore a little disingenuous
when used by a German composer living in Vienna, the city whose name
has become synonymous with waltzing. The movement is in its way disin-
genuous as well. At the beginning, it is almost banal; it has both a tempo
appropriate to a quick waltz (a curious regression for the composer who
gave the world the absurdly fast scherzo), and an opening chord progression
that is so standard that it has become a joke among composition students:
I-VI-IV-V7-I, all in root position. Later on in the movement, Beethoven
makes this very ordinary dance more interesting through some rhythmic
variations, none of which would be too radical for the later, but simpler
Strauß. In general, this simple dance movement serves as a short break in
an extremely complex quartet. It also reminds the listener that Beethoven
has not lost his ability to write a more traditional piece. The Italian title
may even indicate Beethoven’s desire to demonstrate that he could easily
have written many light melodic pieces to equal those of Rossini (whom he
hated and whose success he envied),
if he had wished to reduce the level
of innovation in his works to that degree. The light tone and occasional
off-beat rhythms in this dance (the ending is uncharacteristically delicate
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168 Beethoven and Musical Self-Consciousness
for Beethoven) reveal a parodic element behind the obvious grace and skill.
Little of even the earliest of Beethoven’s works is as light as this movement;
its extreme delicacy may well be ironic.
If there were any doubts left after the danza alla tedesca about Beethoven’s
ability to write a beautiful melodic line and work within the constraints
of a very simple form, they would be dispelled by the fifth movement, a
cavatina with a tempo marking of adagio molto espressivo. The cavatina
is a song form, used traditionally in opera and even simpler than the da
capo aria, usually with no repeated sections. Beethoven chooses E major
as the key for this movement, a major third lower than the G major key
of the previous movement and not too remote from B major, the home
key of the quartet. The adagio tempo makes this movement the only true
slow movement of the work, which, along with its simple structure and
attention to melodic line, balances the lightness of the dance movements
and the harmonic complexity of the first movement well.
However, as Lewis Lockwood has observed,
underneath the apparent
simplicity of the cavatina lies considerable harmonic complexity. Beethoven
carefully uses the cavatina to expand the possibilities of harmonic voice
leading by combining an imitation of vocal music with a balanced and sys-
tematic probing of new possibilities. Lockwood describes these incursions
into new harmonic territory succinctly:
He intensifies the interactive role of the voices by unexpected shifts in register,
both within instrumental parts and between instruments; by the resolution of
dissonances in registers other than those in which they are introduced; and by the
avoidance of traditional step and leap motions in the bass part. The bass achieves
a participatory role in the motivic content and operates as little as possible in the
role of harmonic support; in the Cavatina the avoidance of direct V-I motions in
the bass at intermediate points of closure is one of the most striking features of the
Beethoven manages to make the cavatina sing despite intervals and har-
monizations that would normally be considered out of the bounds of tra-
ditional vocal music. What he achieves by doing so is a greater sense of
coherence between the individual lines of each instrument and a transi-
tion to the even greater liberties taken with voice leading in the original
Große Fuge finale. The deliberately sparse use of V-I cadences emphasizes
the point that Beethoven has been making all along in op. 130/133: that con-
trapuntal elements can be expanded to become part of the overall structure
of the movement as effectively as harmonic elements are.
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String Quartet No. 13: Große Fuge and Finale 169
string quartet no. 13: große fuge and finale
The finale of op. 130/133 is one of the great curiosities of music history.
Originally, Beethoven concluded his String Quartet No. 13 in B major
with the Große Fuge, later published separately as Opus 133. The length and
difficulty of the Große Fuge proved to be too much for its first performers,
its first audience, and its first publisher alike.
This fifteen-minute long
movement was so far beyond the experience of Beethoven’s contemporaries
that Beethoven’s publisher, Matthias Artaria, dared to write the notoriously
stubborn composer and ask him for a simpler and more palatable finale for
op. 130. To the publisher’s surprise, Beethoven agreed to replace the finale
and allowed Artaria to publish the Große Fuge as a separate work. (Artaria’s
suggestion that the Große Fuge be published separately may even have been
motivated by his desire to mollify Beethoven with a financial incentive.
The problem of the finale stayed on Beethoven’s mind until his death; the
new finale became the last piece of music he ever finished.
The little that is known for certain about the history of the Große Fuge
and its replacement leaves many important questions unanswered. What
motivated Beethoven to turn to the older form of the fugue to conclude a
work this advanced? What kind of fugue is it? Why did he agree to replace
it, and what does the newfinale reveal about the work as a whole? To answer
the first question, it is not enough to remember Dahlhaus’s definition of
the Sp¨ atwerk and say that the Große Fuge is merely that part of the work
which looks back to the past; it is too long and too strange to be a deliberate
anachronismalone. It does bear comparison to Bach’s Kunst der Fuge as one
of the definitive works in the form, but, as Kerman points out, the Große
Fuge is nothing like the practical and exemplary work that the Kunst der
Fuge was, either in intent or execution.
Understanding the Große Fuge requires consideration of the form of
the fugue in its most basic definition: a single theme explored to its fullest
extent by means of contrapuntal devices. Although the Große Fuge has many
elements that are more appropriate to sonata form(contrasting sections and
thematic transformations, among others), its specifically fugal elements
serve the overall intention of op. 130 well; they emphasize thematic unity
and interval (that is, contrapuntal) relations at the expense of harmonic
unity and the tonic-dominant axis, just as the unusual modulations of the
first movement did. Moreover, the fugal structure enables the movement
to explore a wide range of tonal centers while leading back through the
circle of fifths to the home key of B , confirming the overall tonal unity of
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170 Beethoven and Musical Self-Consciousness
the work despite its abnormally large share of dissonance and complexity.
The Große Fuge is in this respect an apt emblem for op. 130/133 as a whole;
its unsettling quality stems from the same dialectical tensions inherent
in the rest of the work: fugue and sonata, harmony and counterpoint.
Ultimately, the dissonant quality of the Große Fuge has its origin in the
clash between tradition and innovation; one hears the sound of rules being
In light of the obvious pains Beethoven took in writing the Große Fuge
as the conclusion of the quartet, it is hard to understand now why the
usually uncompromising Beethoven agreed to replace the Große Fuge with
the much lighter finale of the published version of op. 130. However, from
the perspective of a working composer in 1826, it is a little easier to compre-
hend Beethoven’s concession to Artaria and his audience. The Große Fuge
is still an overwhelming and difficult work; to Beethoven’s contemporaries,
it was virtually incomprehensible. To have it as the finale of an already long
and arduous string quartet went beyond the overwhelming into the realm
of absurdity. Even modern performers in an era of attention to historical
accuracy and the composer’s original intentions sometimes hesitate to per-
form the work as it was first written. William Kinderman, on the other
hand, makes an excellent case for keeping the Große Fuge as the finale,
arguing that
it is this form of the work that pushes most strongly toward new aesthetic per-
spectives. Of all Beethoven’s compositions, the original B Quartet is perhaps the
most heavily end-weighted, with a diverse series of shorter and lighter movements
followed by a colossal fugal essay. . . . Without the rest of the quartet, moreover, the
Great Fuge is effectively orphaned, and the beginning of its elaborate Overatura
loses point.
From the distance of nearly two centuries, one cannot deny the essential
unity and power of the work as originally written (although several critics
have tried), yet neither can one question the judgment of an aging composer
who had already received clear indications that he had reached the limits
of his audience’s capacity to understand him.
The allegro finale of the published version of op. 130 should therefore
not be considered a weak compromise between composer and publisher,
althoughit is far lighter andsimpler thanthe Große Fuge. I argue insteadthat
it invokes the irony seen in some of the earlier movements with subtlety and
wit. The first phrase of the finale reflects the tone of the whole movement
accurately (Example 8):
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String Quartet No. 13: Große Fuge and Finale 171
Example 8. Opus 130, Sixth Movement, Measures 1–6.
The octave eighth-notes on G in the viola start the movement with a
clocklike ticking. By now, the listener has already heard a movement in
G major and has realized that the work has more than four movements,
leaving open the question of whether what is about to follow is another
quick middle movement or the actual finale. As the first violin enters with
the melody, the question is put to rest; the eighth-notes were part of a
V/V chord in the key of B major, the home key. The appearance of
the tonic chord itself occurs briefly at the end of the second phrase and
leads directly into a repetition of the melody in the second violin, with the
ticking eighth-notes in the viola and first violin. To extend the metaphor
further, the ticking clock, the driving motion of the circle of fifths, and
the rondolike feeling of the finale make it clear that time has run out on
this long composition. Beethoven is in a hurry to reassert the primacy of
the tonic-dominant axis, if only to give the work a solid cadence at the
end, but the extensive use of V/V chords and the predominance of fourth-
and fifth-related modulations (B -F-A -F-B -E -B ) as well as the
deceptive ticking on G remind the listener that the tonic-dominant axis
may not be as solid as it once was.
A ticking clock and deceptive V/V cadences are among the more famous
trademarks of Haydn, and the finale may well contain an element of trib-
ute to the mentor whose life and career influenced those of Beethoven
and Mozart so much. Nevertheless, one cannot forget how much further
Beethoven has expanded the language of the string quartet in this work.
If Beethoven looks back in homage to his predecessor and teacher at this
point, he does so to balance how far he has already looked forward toward
an expanded notion of tonality in the first movement. The ticking clock in
this last movement also provides an ironic, if unintentional metaphor for
its chronological position in Beethoven’s works; the composer died shortly
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172 Beethoven and Musical Self-Consciousness
after he completed this second finale. In turn, op. 130/133 as a whole is
emblematic of the composer’s paradoxical career. It contains some of his
most advanced musical thought, as well as some of his most traditional
writing; parts of the composition were immediately acclaimed as works of
genius, whereas other parts were ignored and even edited out.
reception of the late quartets
On the whole, however, the work was not appreciated by its first audience.
Opus 130/133, as well as the other late quartets, remained generally misun-
derstood, misinterpreted, or merely unheard until late in the nineteenth
century. As Griffiths observes of the next forty-five years after the deaths of
Beethoven and Schubert in 1827 and 1828,
The development of the string quartet virtually stopped, and even went backwards,
for throughout this period, for different reasons, the highest achievements of the
1820’s remained little observed. Schubert’s Gmajor quartet was not published until
1851, and the late quartets of Beethoven existed only on the fringes of the repertory,
rarely played and rarely understood: the extreme case is the Große Fuge, which
apparently lay unheard between its first performance in 1826 and a revival in Paris
in 1853.
That the Große Fuge, possibly Beethoven’s most difficult piece, was not
a popular favorite is unsurprising, but that it languished unheard for
twenty-seven years is shocking. Still, popular taste is, to a certain extent,
inexplicable; Beethoven’s most popular work during his lifetime was, of
course, op. 91, Wellingtons Sieg, one of his least successful works artistically.
The Große Fuge is nearly its opposite: an extraordinary artistic achievement
but not a commercial success until long after its composition.
The Große Fuge – and the late works in general – also ended the direc-
tion of formal innovation Beethoven was exploring. Rather than finding
new ways to maintain internal coherence within classical forms, mid- and
late-nineteenth-century composers began to rely more on extra-musical
elements, evincing the ever-growing necessity of characterizing music with
literary ideas. Composers increasingly made a conscious effort to create
expression, beginning an exchange between means and end which would
influence the evolution of Romantic music. Music became increasingly
programmatic, thus compromising its autonomy and paralleling the gen-
eral movement toward sentimentality described in Schiller’s On Na¨ıve and
Sentimental Poetry. This tendency to fragment inherently musical struc-
tures (which began with Schumann) continued to the point where, with
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Reception of the Late Quartets 173
Wagner, individual chords and leitmotives were identified with particular
characters and situations. These were arranged according to plot consid-
erations, further relegating purely musical structure to a position of sec-
ondary importance in the compositional process. By the beginning of the
twentieth century, when interest in absolute music once again began to
increase, the diatonic axis had been utterly shattered and composers began
experimenting with alternate forms and systems. It is by no means a coin-
cidence that interest in Beethoven’s late quartets and the elevation of their
reputation as some of his finest works also occurred at that time. In a sense,
the quartets represented the point at which music in and of itself had left off
and the point to which abstract musical thought had to return to continue
its development.
Still, the present task is not so much to determine what Beethoven’s late
quartets meant to Sch¨ onberg and Webern
as to determine what, in light
of the historical and analytical observations already presented, op. 130/133
can mean to us now. We may actually be in a better position now to hear
the central significance of this quartet than Beethoven’s contemporaries.
Our ears, accustomed to sounds in both contemporary music and daily
life that no one in the nineteenth century could imagine, are perhaps not
so easily distracted by the jarring dissonances and discontinuities of op.
130/133 and therefore better able to hear it for the meditative study of the
musical self that it is. Indeed, the overwhelming appeal that Beethoven’s late
quartets have now that they did not have at the time they were composed
is probably due to how contemporary they sound; there is so little that is
noticeably archaic about them that they fit more seamlessly in a concert
program with modern compositions than they do in a program with works
by Mozart and Haydn.
The fundamental reasonfor the present affinity for Beethoven’s late quar-
tets lies in their characteristic inversion of formal and thematic structure,
which, as Dahlhaus points out, is particularly clear in the case of op. 130:
There is an exchange effect between expressive and structural moments, and as
soon as the thematic elements become mere surface structure – even if they appear
to fulfill the laws of formal doctrines – the expressive characteristics assume a
mask-like appearance.
Beyond the various patterns and structural principles that have already
become clear through this analysis of op. 130/133 is an overriding con-
cern at the core of the work’s existence: a desire to transform sonata
form from a structural element to a surface element and to use the the-
matic material itself as the work’s fundamental structure. Both small-scale
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174 Beethoven and Musical Self-Consciousness
compositional decisions and the overall design of the entire work are based
on the concept that form should be secondary to theme, instead of the
reverse. For present-day listeners, for whom these formal conventions are
anachronisms, this inversion gives op. 130/133 an artistic coherence that
retains its full power where stricter adherence to classical sonata formwould
not. The formal conventions of sonata form are indeed kept in op. 130/133,
but in the last two centuries their main function has changed from main-
taining the intelligibility of the quartet to creating the dialectical tension
between tradition and innovation that so clearly characterizes Beethoven’s
late works.
conclusion: the meaning of a quartet
However, the Rezeptionsgeschichte of a work, as well as the reasons behind
it, is not a substitute for analysis of the work itself but merely the means to
that end. As we have seen throughout op. 130/133, constant, audible refer-
ences to the past as well as a constant strain of thematic force against formal
structure are not only characteristic of the work but actually constitutive
of it. Just as the strain of three against two in a hemiola figure actually
serves to reassert the meter when the normal rhythm is reestablished, so
does the strain of tripartite tonal structure against a binary form – as well
as the tension created by having six movements instead of four – serve to
reassert the primacy of the tonic-dominant axis while apparently under-
mining it. In turn, Beethoven creates his own tonal language between the
established norms of harmony and counterpoint. Opus 130/133 has a musi-
cal language unto itself, operating according to its own rules, while simul-
taneously participating in the discourse of traditional classical harmony,
counterpoint, and sonata-allegro form. This is self-consciousness expressed
in musical terms: an identity in musical discourse that becomes aware of
itself through its opposition and contrast to the other of traditional musical
This set of dialectical tensions, along with the primacy of thematic mate-
rial over formal convention, creates the sense of self-consciousness commu-
nicated by op. 130/133 that exists not only in the minds of music historians
but also in the actual aesthetic experience of the work. For the composer
who is immediately identifiable to almost anyone in the Western world
by the single opening motif of his Fifth Symphony, the thematic mate-
rial is the assertion of the composer’s identity, the self as a musical theme.
In op. 130/133, Beethoven’s creation of his own musical language over its
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Conclusion: The Meaning of a Quartet 175
conventional elements, and even over the normal limitations of classical
tonality, demonstrates an even greater challenge than the assertion of the
heroic self of his earlier work. Opus 130/133 is, in musical terms, the asser-
tion of a self that looks back on its constitutive elements, and in a clear,
audible, and real sense, achieves self-consciousness through this reflection.
Whether or not the composer himself thought about his music in these
terms, the same pattern of self-realization through dialectical opposition
seen in early-nineteenth-century philosophical and poetic discourse also
occurs in Beethoven’s late music. That music became a metaphor for self-
consciousness among philosophers and poets should not surprise us; its
presence is implicit in the discourse of music itself.
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chapter 6
The Persistence of Sound
Two hundred years have passed since the premiere of Beethoven’s Fifth
and Sixth Symphonies, the publication of Hegel’s Phenomenology, the end
of Wordsworth’s Golden Decade, and the beginning of H¨ olderlin’s mad-
ness, yet their influence is everywhere. Beethoven’s works are performed,
recorded, and downloaded more often than any composer except for per-
haps Mozart. Hegel’s works are selling well, if not briskly, in any bookstore
of reasonable size; his influence among intellectuals in many fields rivals
that of Aristotle and Machiavelli. Wordsworth is an industry, with new
editions of his poetry, along with biographies and critical works, coming
out at a steady rate. Even H¨ olderlin, who languished in obscurity for nearly
a century, has many editions and translations going into multiple printings;
his major critics, Heidegger, Szondi, Adorno, Henrich, and de Man, have
themselves become objects of study. These four figures –, H¨ olderlin, Hegel,
Wordsworth, and Beethoven – occupy a greater place in the cultural imag-
ination than ever, for reasons that have nothing to do with profit motives,
official approval, or nostalgia. They remain important simply because their
works address issues of identity, freedom, and beauty that still matter.
Still, I feel obligated to make a brief case for their continued relevance
that goes beyond the mere observation that so many people still find them
important – too many intelligent writers have argued that their popularity
is not necessarily the direct result of genuine value and that their works are
merely artifacts of a more na¨ıve era. On a purely rational level, I understand
and appreciate how the Industrial Revolution, the 1848 uprisings, the two
World Wars, the Vietnam War, and now the seemingly ceaseless “War on
Terror” might make the Romantic assertionof independent subjectivity and
the primacy of the aesthetic seem quaint, ridiculous, or even pernicious.
Nevertheless, I must assert the opposite. Adorno, as I discussed in the
last chapter, heard the disintegration of the subjective self in Beethoven’s
late works, and I cannot blame him or any member of his generation for
perceiving a melancholy despair in their complex, and often dark, harmonic
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The Persistence of Sound 177
ruminations. Surely the late Beethoven can be heard grieving for his heroic
past at times, but I believe that we can now hear something else as well:
hope for the reintegration of the self through beauty.
Yet is such an optimistic conclusion possible? Certainly, many people –
from Karl Marx to Louis Althusser to Judith Butler – have made the case to
the contrary in the last two centuries, and they have a point. We may well be
in the grip of a relentless propaganda machine that sustains the hegemony
of the ruling class and convinces us that whatever is, is right. Sufficient
evidence for this claim can be found all around us, and these critiques
have served the commendable purpose of revealing both the pompous sub-
servience of many high-culture productions and the disingenuous nature
of much public discourse – one does not necessarily have to be a radical
to be troubled by the alliances among global media organizations, defense
contractors, and government officials. Yet as the Idealists observed even of
Kant’s works, a critique is not a system and does not solve the problem
of spontaneity – the unconditional appearance of both conscious self and
the apprehension of beauty. Consequently, these contemporary critiques of
Idealism do not satisfy us very deeply either as metaphysics or as aesthetics.
If the self and the aesthetic are all masks for social constructions, why do
they persist when unmasked? And what would be the point of unmask-
ing if nothing were left afterward? Even if our subjective selves have been
constructed for us out of a web of socially determined performances and
ideologies, we still treasure freedom and independence, and even if our
aesthetic judgment is a Pavlovian response to predetermined conditions,
we still long for beauty.
I believe that we continue to value the self and the aesthetic for two
reasons: because we need them and because they belong to us. We need
the self fundamentally as a practical matter; no matter what Hume or the
postmodernists say, H¨ olderlin was right: we cannot say “I” without self-
consciousness, and we have to say “I” all the time, in many spheres, or
we risk losing what makes us human. We need the aesthetic to restore
our knowledge of who we are – self-knowledge, as Hegel tells us in the
Phenomenology, begins with an aesthetic moment: the initial knowledge of
sense-certainty that allows us to differentiate ourselves from the external
world and to establish that whatever a sensation may mean, it is really hap-
pening, here and now. The aesthetic resides in this phenomenal moment;
works of art, especially great ones, extend and intensify our experience of it.
What distinguishes H¨ olderlin, Wordsworth, and Beethovenfromany num-
ber of their contemporaries is their ability to shape the concrete material of
words or sounds into works that make this experience unavoidable – and
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178 The Persistence of Sound
therefore inexplicable in purely ideological terms. The well-known denial
of history and politics in Romantic thought is not so much a hegemonic
conspiracy as a recognition of human freedom and individuality – includ-
ing the freedom to leave behind ideology and politics, if only for the time
it takes to experience a work of art.
For these reasons and many more, the works of the past that have the
most significance for us now are those that place the immediate experience
of the self and the aesthetic in greatest relief. They do so not because they
have become monuments of art; their role as canonical works is secondary
to what they are, and what they do, as I hope I have demonstrated in
this book. Wordsworth and Beethoven have more or less topped the canon
charts for many years –but what canexplainH¨ olderlin’s rise fromobscurity?
Barely known in Germany for much of the nineteenth century, and still
far from well-known in the English-speaking world, he continues to rise
against the grain of history and ideology, rather than because of it. Likewise,
Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony may be more of a monument than the Statue
of Liberty, Mother Russia, and the V¨ olkerschlacht Denkmal combined, but
why it still has the same, enormous impact everywhere – from concert
halls in California and Korea to the utterly decontextualized headphones
of countless digital devices worn on heads all over the world – would remain
incomprehensible without an understanding of how its exaltation of the
human spirit transcends the solipsism of the individual ego and the false
consciousness of nationalism.
The extent to which these early Romantics have described, and in a sense,
created, self-consciousness and the aesthetic has demonstrated, at least to
my satisfaction, that they fulfill the conditions of valid philosophical ideas,
even in our analytic age – they describe a defensible set of positions, and
when we use these terms, others generally know what we mean. What
matters far more is howmuch we need them, however, and howthey belong
to all of us. I do not believe many of us would want to live in a world without
respect for the freedom of the individual or for the experience of beauty.
I am also increasingly convinced that when ideological concerns displace
this respect, the worst kinds of crimes suddenly become justifiable. We
define ourselves by what we find most meaningful; the relationship between
objects of beauty and the self-conscious beings who encounter them has an
individual element that cannot be explained away and, indeed, should be
valued. If these statements are themselves ideological, then let them be so –
I shall still prefer them to any other, and I shall continue to hear a hopeful
future in the sounds of the past.
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chapter 1: self-consciousness and music
in the late enlightenment
1. Marshall Brown, “Mozart and After: The Revolution in Musical Conscious-
ness,” Turning Points: Essays in the History of Cultural Expressions (Stanford:
Stanford University Press, 1997), p. 154.
2. Scott Burnham, Beethoven Hero (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995).
3. Andrew Brook, Kant and the Mind (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
1994), p. 46. I should note that Brook translates Bewußtein and Selbstbewußtsein
as “awareness” and “self-awareness.” In my view, when translating well-known
terms that have a specialized meaning for a particular set of authors, it is often
better to adhere to tradition than to risk confusion by attempting to improve
the accuracy of the translation. I will therefore continue to translate these two
terms as “consciousness” and “self-consciousness.”
4. Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason, trans. Werner S. Pluhar (Indianapolis:
Hackett, 1996), p. 180. Hereafter abbreviated CPR. The original reads as
Der oberste Grundsatz ebenderselbeninBeziehung auf denVerstand ist: daß alles Man-
nigfalitge der Anschauung unter Bedingungen der urspr¨ unglich-synthetischen Einheit
der Apperzeption stehe . . . unter dem [Prinzip], sofern sie in einem Bewustsein m¨ ussen
verbunden werden k¨ onnen; denn ohne das kann nichts dadurch gedacht oder erkannt
werden, weil die gegebenen Vorstellungen den Aktus der Apperzeption “Ich denke”
nicht gemein haben und dadurch nicht in einem Selbsbewußtsein zusammengefaßt
sein w¨ urden.
Immanuel Kant, Kritik der reinen Vernunft (Berlin: Cassirer, 1922), A 117 =
B136–7. I include the page numbers fromthe original AandBversions of Kant’s
works according to standardpractice. The original is hereafter abbreviatedKrV.
5. Brook, Kant, pp. 64–6.
6. Kant, CPR, p. 74. A 21 = B 36. The original reads as follows:
Die Deutschen sind die einzigen, welche sich jetzt des Worts
Asthetik bedienen, um
dadurch das zu bezeichnen, was andere Kritik des Geschmacks heißen. Es liegt hier
eine verfehlte Hoffnung zum Grunde, die der vortreffliche Analyst Baumgarten faßte,
die kritische Beurteilung des Sch¨ onen unter Vernunftprinzipien zu bringen, und die
Regeln derselben zur Wissenschaft zu erheben. Allein diese Bem¨ uhung is vergeblich.
9780521887618not CUUS116/Donelan 978 0 521 88761 8 January 25, 2008 14:11
180 Notes to pages 8–15
Denn gedachte Regeln order Kriterien sind ihren vornehmsten Quellen nach bloß
empirisch und k¨ onnen also niemals zu bestimmten Gesetzen a priori dienen. . . . Um
deswillen ist es ratsam, diese Benennung entweder widerum eingehen zu lassen und
sie derjenigen Lehre aufzubehalten . . . oder sich in diese Benennung mit der speku-
lativen Philosophie zu teilen und
Asthetik teils im transzendentalen Sinne, teils in
pyschologischer Bedeutung zu nehmen. Kant, KrV, A, pp. 56–7 = B, p. 35.
7. Kant, Kritik der Urteilskraft (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1968) p. 74. A V = B V.
The original is hereafter abbreviated KdU; the first page number refers to the
Suhrkamp edition, and A and B page numbers refer to page numbers used in
the two editions published during Kant’s lifetime.
8. KdU, p. 207. A 129 = B 131.
9. Author’s translation. Hereafter, all unattributed translations are the author’s.
The original reads as follows:
Mit einer Wahrnehmung kann aber auch unmittlebar ein Gef¨ uhl der Lust (oder Unlust)
und ein Wohlgefallen verbunden werden, welches die Vorstellung des Objekts begleitet
undderselbenstatt Pr¨ adikats dient, undso ein ¨ asthetisches Urteil, welches keinErkennt-
nisurteil ist, entspringen. Einem solchen, wenn es nicht bloßes Empfindungs- sondern
ein formales Reflexions-Urteil ist, welches dieses Wohlgefallen jederman als notwendig
ansinnet, muß etwas als Prinzip a priori zum Grunde liegen, welches allenfalls ein
bloß subjektives sein mag (wenn ein objektives zu solcher Art Urteile unm¨ oglich sein
sollte), aber auch als ein solches einer Deduktion bedarf, damit begriffen werde, wie ein
¨ aesthetisches Urteil auf Notwendigkeit Anspruch machen k¨ onne. KdU, pp. 218–19. A
145–6 = B 147–8.
10. Jacques Derrida, The Truth in Painting, trans. Geoff Bennington and Ian
MacLeod (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987), p. 38.
11. Frances Ferguson, Solitude and the Sublime (New York: Routledge, 1992),
p. 73.
12. The original reads as follows:
Die K¨ unste des sch¨ onen Spiels der Empfindungen (die von außen erzeugt werden),
und das sich gleichwohl doch muß allgemein mitteilen lassen, kann nicht anders, als
die Proportion der verschiedenen Grade der Stimmung (Spannung) des Sinns, dem die
Empfindung angeh¨ ort, d.i. den Ton desselben, betreffen; und in dieser weitl¨ auftigen
Bedeutung des Worts kann sie in das k¨ unstliche Spiel der Empfindungen des Geh¨ ors
und der des Gesichts, mithin in Musik und Farbenkunst, eingeteilt werden. KdU,
pp. 262–3. A 208–9 = B 211.
13. Edward Lippmann, AHistory of Western Musical Aesthetics (Lincoln: University
of Nebraska Press, 1992), p. 133.
14. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, On the Origins of Languages, excerpted in The Essential
Rousseau, trans. J. H. Mason, ed. J. H. Moran (New York: Quartet Books,
1974), pp. 96–7.
15. Carl Dahlhaus, Esthetics of Music, trans. William Austin (Cambridge: Cam-
bridge University Press, 1983), pp. 31–3.
16. Peter Kivy, The Fine Art of Repetition: Essays in the Philosophy of Music
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993), pp. 256–7.
17. Dieter Henrich, “Fichtes urspr¨ ungliche Einsicht,” Subjektivit¨ at und Metaphysik
(Frankfurt: Klostermann, 1966), pp. 188–232.
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Notes to pages 15–17 181
18. Robert B. Pippin, Hegel’s Idealism: The Satisfactions of Self-Consciousness
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), p. 49.
19. Pippin, Hegel’s Idealism, pp. 48–50.
20. G¨ unther Z¨ oller, “An Eye for an I: Fichte’s Transcendental Experiment,” in
Figuring the Self: Subject, Absolute, and Others in Classical German Philoso-
phy, ed. David E. Klemm and G¨ unter Z¨ oller (Albany: SUNY Press, 1997),
p. 78.
21. The original reads as follows:
Er denke sichhingegeneinen ¨ außernGegenstand. Er wird sichdabei nicht als das Denk-
ende des Objekts bemerken, daß er das Denkende des Objekts sei, sondern gleichsam
im Objekt verschwinden. Es findet sich aber leicht und offenbar, daß das Denkende
und Gedachte von einander verschieden sei. . . . Verschieden sind sie dadurch: bei der
Vorstellung meines Ichs ist das Denkende und Gedachte ebendasselbe – im Begriffe
des Ichs. Ich bin das Denkende und Gedachte. Bei jenen ging die T¨ atigkeit außer mir;
hier aber geht die T¨ atigkeit auf mich selbst zur¨ uck.
Johann Gottlieb Fichte, Wissenschaftslehre nova methodo (1798) in Schriften
aus den jahren 1790–1800: Nachgelassene Schriften II, ed. Hans Jacob (Berlin:
Junker & D¨ unnhaupt Verlag, 1937), p. 354. Excerpted in Manfred Frank, ed.
Selbstbewußtseinstheorien von Ficthe bis Sartre (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1990),
p. 10.
22. Friedrich Schiller, On the Aesthetic Education of Man: In a Series of Letters,
trans. Elizabeth M. Wilkinson and L. A. Willoughby (Oxford: Clarendon
Press, 1967), p. 7. (Text contains both German and English.)
23. G¨ unther Z¨ oller, Fichte’s Transcendental Philosophy: The Original Duplicity of
Intelligence and Will (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), p. 12.
24. The original reads as follows:
Jetzt aber herrscht das Bed¨ urfnis und beugt die gesunkene Menschheit unter sein
tyrannisches Joch. Der Nutzen ist das grosse Idol der Zeit, dem alle Kr¨ afte fronen und
all Talente huldigen sollen. . . . Selbst der philosophische Untersuchungsgeist entreisst
der Einbildungskraft eine Provinz nachder andern, unddie Grenzender Kunst verengen
sich, je mehr die Wissenschaft ihre Schranken erweiteret. (Schiller, Aesthetic Education,
pp. 7–8)
25. Schiller, Aesthetic Education, p. 9.
26. Terry Pinkard discusses the difference between Bildung and Erziehung and its
importance for intellectuals of the 1790s in Hegel: A Biography (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 2000), p. 49.
27. Schiller, Aesthetic Education, pp. 102–5.
28. The original reads as follows:
Die Musik inihrer h¨ ochstenVeredlung muss Gestalt werdenundmit der ruhigenMacht
der Antike auf uns wirken; die bildende Kunst in ihrer h¨ ochsten Vollendung muss
Musik werden und uns durch unmittelbare sinnliche Gegenwart r¨ uhren; die Poesie
in ihrere vollkommensten Ausbildung muss uns, wie die Tonkunst, m¨ achtig fassen,
zugleich aber, wie die Plastik, mit ruhiger Klarheit umgeben. Darin eben zeigt sich der
vollkommene Stil in jeglicher Kunst, dass er die spezifischen Schranken derselben zu
entfernen weiss, ohne doch ihre spezifischen Vorz¨ uge mit aufzuheben, und durch eine
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182 Notes to pages 17–21
weise Benutzung ihre Eignet¨ umlichkeit ihr einen mehr allgemeinen Charakter erteilt.
(Schiller, Aesthetic Education, pp. 154–5)
29. Schiller’s reference here to “the serene power of antiquity” is explored more
fully in Na¨ıve and Sentimental Poetry, where he distinguishes na¨ıve, original
artistic creation from sentimental longing for a lost past. Friedrich Schiller, On
Na¨ıve and Sentimental Poetry, trans. Julias A. Elias (New York: F. Ungar, 1966).
30. The original reads as follows:
H¨ olderlin hat im Fr¨ uhjahr 1795, wenig mehr als ein Jahr nach dem theologischen
Examen, an der Jenaer Universit¨ at, unter Fichtes Einfluß und zugleich im Gegenzug
gegen ihn, eine eigene philosophische Position formuliert. Sie hat Hegel, zwei Jahre
sp¨ ater und im in Frankfurt erneuerten Gespr¨ ach der Freunde, zu einer f¨ ur seinen
Weg entscheidende Wende veranlaßt. Schelling, der mit f¨ unfzehn Jahren 1790 ins Stift
eingetreten war, hat noch vor seinem Examen mit zwei Schriften in die nachkantische
Entwicklung eingegriffen – als erster Autor ¨ uberhaUniversity Presst, der wie er selbst
an Hegel schrieb, “den neuen Helden, Fichte, im Lande der Wahrheit” begr¨ ußte.
Dieter Henrich, “Philosophisch-theologische Problemlagen im T¨ ubinger Stift
zur Studienzeit Hegels, H¨ olderlins und Schellings,” Konstellationen (Stuttgart:
Klett-Cotta, 1991), pp. 174–5.
31. F. W. J. Schelling, System des transzendentalen Idealismus (Hamburg: Felix
Meiner, 1962), p. 32.
32. The original reads as follows:
Das Selbstbewußtsein ist ein Akt, aber durch jeden Akt kommt uns etwas zustande. –
Jedes Denken ist ein Akt, und jedes bestimmte Denken ein bestimmter Akt; aber durch
jedes solches entsteht uns auch ein bestimmter Begriff. Der Begriff is nichts anderes,
als der Akt des Denkens selbst, und abstrahiert von diesem Akt ist er nichts. Durch
den Akt des Sebstbewußtseins muß uns gleichfalls ein Begriff entstehen, und dieser is
kein anderer als der des Ich. Indem ich mir durch das Selbsbewußtsein zum Objekt
werde, ensteht mir mir der Begriff des Ich, und umgekehrt, der Begriff des Ich ist nur
der Begriff des Selbstobjektwerdens. (Schelling, System, p. 35)
33. Schelling, System, pp. 37–8.
34. Werner Marx, “Schelling and Hegel,” The Philosophy of F. W. J. Schelling, trans.
Thomas Nennon (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1984), p. 36.
35. Schelling, System, p. 281.
36. The original reads as follows:
[W]ie kann außer Zweifel gesetzt werden, daß sie [intellektuelle Anschauung] nicht auf
einer bloß subjektiven T¨ auschung beruhe, wenn es nicht eine allgemeine, und von allen
Meschen anerkannte Objektivit¨ at jener Anschauung gibt? Diese allgemein anerkannte
und auf keine Weise hinwegzuleugnende Objektivit¨ at der intelllektuellen Anschauung
is die Kunst selbst. Denn die ¨ asthetische Anschauung eben ist die objektiv gewordene
intellektuelle. (Schelling, System, p. 294)
37. The original reads as follows:
Die nothwendige Form der Musik ist die Succession. – Denn Zeit ist allgemeine
Form der Einbildung des Unendlichen ins Endlich, sofern als Form, abstrahirt von
dem Realen, angeschaut. Das Prinzip der Zeit im Subjekt is das Selbstbewußtseyn,
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Notes to pages 21–26 183
welches eben die Einbildung der Einheit des Bewußtseins in die Vielheit im Idealien
ist. Hieraus is die nahe Verwandschaft des Geh¨ orsinns ¨ uberhaupt und der Musik und
der Rede insbesondere mit dem Selbstbewußtsein begriffen. – Es l¨ aßt sich hieraus auch
lorl¨ aufig, bis wir die noch h¨ ohere Bedeutung davon aufgezeigt haben, die arithmetische
Seite der Musik begriffen.
F. W. J. Schelling, Philosophie der Kunst (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftlich Buch-
handlung, 1966), p. 135.
38. Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe and Jean-Luc Nancy review the provenance of the
document in The Literary Absolute: The Theory of Literature in German Roman-
ticism, trans. Philip Barnard and Cheryl Lester (Albany: SUNY Press, 1988),
p. 27.
39. The original text can be found in Friedrich H¨ olderlin, S¨ amtliche Werke und
Briefe, ed. Friedrich Beißner (Stuttgart: Verlag W. Kohlhammer, 1961), IV, 1,
pp. 297–9, with Beißner’s commentary on pp. 425–6.
40. Pinkard’s analysis of the text inHegel: ABiography also suggests that it represents
H¨ olderlin’s work (p. 136).
41. The original reads as follows:
Die erste Idee ist nat¨ urlich die Vorstellung von mir selbst, als einem absolut freien
Wesen. Mit demfreyen, selbstbewußten Wesen tritt zugleich eine ganze Welt – aus dem
Nichts hervor – die einzig wahre und gedenkbare Sch¨ opfung aus Nichts . . . (H¨ olderlin,
Werke, IV, 1, p. 297)
42. The original reads as follows:
Zuletzt die Idee, die alle vereinigt, die Idee der Sch¨ onheit, das Wort in h¨ oherem pla-
tonischemSinne genommen. Ich bin nun ¨ uberzeugt, daß der h¨ ochste Akt der Vernunft,
der, indem sie alle Ideen umfast, ein ¨ asthetischer Akt ist, und daß Wahrheit und G¨ ute,
nur in der Sch¨ onheit verschwistert sind. Der Philosoph muß eben so viel Kraft besizen,
als der Dichter. (H¨ olderlin, Werke, IV, 1, p. 298)
43. Lacoue-Labarthe and Nancy see this as evidence of H¨ olderlin’s influence, if
not authorship, of the document. See The Literary Absolute, note 4, pp. 131–2.
44. Andrew Bowie, Aesthetics and Subjectivity from Kant to Nietzsche (Manchester:
Manchester University Press, 1990), p. 48.
45. Lacoue-Labarthe and Nancy, The Literary Absolute, p. 36.
46. Jim Samson, “The Musical Work and Nineteenth-Century Music History,”
in The Cambridge History of Nineteenth-Century Music, ed. Jim Samson
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), pp. 11–12.
47. Letter to Abb´ e Bullinger, 7 August 1778, in W. A. Mozart, The Letters of Mozart
and His Family, trans. and ed. Emily Anderson (London: Macmillan, 1966),
pp. 713–14. Also excerpted in Tim Carter, W. A. Mozart: Le nozze di Figaro
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987), p. 1.
48. John Rink, “The Profession of Music,” in The Cambridge History of Nineteenth-
Century Music, ed. Jim Samson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
2001), p. 67.
49. Lydia Goehr, The Quest for Voice: Music, Politics, and the Limits of Philosophy
(Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997), p. 17.
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184 Notes to pages 27–35
50. Charles Rosen, The Classical Style (New York: W. W. Norton, 1971), pp. 195–6.
51. Rosen, The Classical Style, p. 244.
52. Maynard Solomon, Mozart (New York: Harper Collins, 1995), p. 301.
53. Reprinted and translated in Otto Erich Deutsch, Mozart: A Documentary
Biography, trans. Eric Blom, Peter Branscome, and Jeremy Noble (Stanford:
Stanford University Press, 1965), pp. 273–4. Also excerpted in Carter, Mozart,
p. 36.
54. W. A. Mozart and Lorenzo da Ponte, Le nozze di Figaro, Act I, Scene 3.
55. Dieter Henrich, Der Grund imBewußtsein: Untersuchung zu H¨ olderlins Denken
(Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta, 1992).
56. Bowie, Aesthetics, p. 126.
57. Maynard Solomon, Beethoven (New York: Schirmer, 1977), p. 37.
chapter 2: h ¨ olderlin’s deutscher gesang and the
music of poetic self-consciousness
1. Beate Julia Perry, in Schumann’s Dichterliebe and Early Romantic Poetics
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), gives an excellent account of
the Schlegel brothers’ aptly named “poetological” enterprise and its relation to
2. Gerhard Kurz and Manfred Frank, “Ordo Inversus. Zu einer Reflexionsfigur
bei Novalis, H¨ olderlin, Kleist, und Kafka,” in Geist und Zeichen. Festschrift f¨ ur
Arthur Henkel, ed. H. Anton et al. (Heidelberg: Carl Winter Universit¨ atsverlag,
1977), pp. 75–97.
3. Dieter Henrich, “H¨ olderlin ¨ uber Urteil und Sein: Eine Studie zur Entste-
hungsgeschichte des Idealismus,” H¨ olderlin Jahrbuch 14 (1965–6), 73–96.
4. Manfred Frank, Einf¨ uhrung in die fr¨ uhromantische
Asthetik: Vorlesungen
(Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1989), pp. 137–54.
5. Dieter Henrich, “H¨ olderlin on Judgment and Being,” The Course of Remem-
brance and Other Essays on H¨ olderlin (Stanford: Stanford University Press,
1997), pp. 74–5.
6. The original reads as follows:
Urtheil. ist im h¨ ochsten und strengsten Sinne die urspr¨ ungliche Trennung des in der
intellektualen Anschauung innigst vereinigten Objects und Subjects, diejenige Tren-
nung, wodurch erst Objekt und Subjekt m¨ oglich wird, die Ur=teilung. ImBegriffe der
Theilung liegt schon der Begriff der gegenseitigen Beziehung des Objects und Subjects
aufeinander, und die nothwendige Voraussezung eines Ganzen, wovon Object und
Subject die Teile sind. »Ich bin Ich« ist das passendste Beispiel zu diesem Begriffe der
Urtheilung, als Theoretischer Urtheilung, denn in der praktischen Urtheilung sezt es
sich dem Nichtich, nicht sich selbst entgegen.
Friedrich H¨ olderlin, “Urtheil und Seyn,” S¨ amtliche Werke und Briefe, ed.
Friedrich Beißner (Stuttgart: Verlag W. Kohlhammer, 1961), Vol. IV, p. 216.
Beißner’s commentary is on pp. 245–6. This edition of H¨ olderlin’s works
hereafter referred to as StA, followed by volume and page number. H¨ olderlin’s
original spelling is preserved.
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Notes to pages 36–39 185
7. Andrzej Warminski discusses the problem of the essay’s sequence in Read-
ings in Interpretation: H¨ olderlin, Hegel, Heidegger (Minneapolis: University of
Minnesota Press, 1987), pp. 4–11.
8. The original reads as follows:
Wie kann ich sagen: Ich! ohne Selbstbewußtseyn? Wie ist aber Selbstbewußtseyn
m¨ oglich? Dadurch daß ich mich mir selbst entgegenseze, mich von mir selbst trenne,
aber ungeachtet dieser Trennung mich im entgegengesezten als dasselbe erkenne. Aber
in wieferne als dasselbe? Ich kann, ich muß so fragen; denn in einer andern R¨ ucksicht
ist es sich entgegengesezt. Also ist die Identit¨ at keine Vereinigung des Objects und
Subjects, die schlechthin stattf¨ ande, also ist die Identit¨ at nicht = dem absoluten Seyn.
(StA IV, p. 217)
9. Henrich, Remembrance, p. 86.
10. David Constantine, H¨ olderlin, (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988), pp. 54–8.
11. The original reads as follows:
ich suche mir die Idee eines unendlichen Progresses der Philosophie zu entwickeln, ich
suche zuzeigen, daßdie unnachl¨ aßliche Forderung, die anjedes Systemgemacht werden
muß, die Vereinigung des Subjekts und Objekts in einemabsoluten – Ich oder wie man
es nennen will – zwar ¨ asthetisch, in der intellektualen Anschauung, theoretisch aber
nur durch eine unendliche Ann¨ aherung m¨ oglich ist, wie die Ann¨ aherung des Quadrats
zum Zirkel, und daß, um ein System des Denkens zu realisieren, eine Unsterblichkeit
ebenso notwendig ist, als sie es ist f¨ ur en System des Handelns. Ich glaube dadurch
beweisen zu k¨ onnen, inwieferne de Skeptiker recht haben, und inwieferne nicht. No.
104. (StA, VI, p. 196)
12. No. 117. StA VI, pp. 218–19.
13. Ferdinand von Lindemann, “
Uber die Zahl π,” Mathematische Annalen 20
(1882), 212–25. See Peter Beckman, History of Pi, (New York: St. Martin’s
Press, 1971), p. 168.
14. Descartes’s well-known division between the mind and the body, part of his
overall proof of the existence of God and the immortality of the soul, can be
found in “Meditations on First Philosophy,” Discourse on Method and Medita-
tions on First Philosophy, trans. Donald A. Cress (Indianapolis: Hackett, 1998),
pp. 92–103.
15. Dieter Henrich, Der Grund im Bewußtsein: Untersuchungen zu H¨ olderlins
Denken (1794–1795) (Stuttgart: Klett-Cotta, 1992), pp. 127–8.
16. Martin Heidegger, Erl¨ auterung zu H¨ olderlins Dichtung (Frankfurt: Kloster,
1951), p. 47.
17. Theodor A. Adorno, “Parataxis,” Noten zur Literatur (Frankfurt: Suhrkamp,
1989), pp. 447–91.
18. Paul de Man, “Heidegger’s Exegesis of H¨ olderlin,” Blindness and Insight: Essays
in the Rhetoric of Contemporary Criticism (Minneapolis: University of Min-
nesota Press, 1971, 1983), pp. 246–66.
19. The original reads as follows:
Der Dichter selbst steht zwischen jenen – den G¨ ottern, und diesem – dem Volk. Er
ist ein Hinausgeworfener – hinaus in jenes Zwischen, zwischen den G¨ ottern und den
Menschen. Aber allein und zuerst in diesem Zwischen entscheidet es sich, wer der
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186 Notes to pages 39–43
Mensch sei und wo er sein Dasein ansiedelt. “Dichterisch wohnet der Mensch auf
dieser Erde.”
Unausgesetzt und immer sicherer, aus der F¨ ulle der andr¨ angenden Bilder und immer
einfacher hat H¨ olderlin diesem Zwischenbereich sein dichterisches Wort geweiht.
Heidegger, Erl¨ auterung, p. 47.
20. De Man points out that the quotation in this particular paragraph,
“Dichterisch wohnet der Mensch auf dieser Erde,” is probably apocryphal
(p. 250).
21. Paul de Man, “Temporality in H¨ olderlin’s ‘Wie wenn am Feiertage . . . ,’” in
Romanticism and Contemporary Criticism: The Gauss Seminar and Other Papers
(Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993), p. 55. The essay is a tran-
scription of a lecture given in 1967.
22. Lawrence Ryan, H¨ olderlins Lehre vomWechsel der T¨ one (Stuttgart: W. Kohlham-
mer, 1960), p. 130.
23. Cyrus Hamlin, “The Philosophy of Poetic Form,” in ed. Aris Fioretos, The
Solid Letter: Readings of Friedrich H¨ olderlin (Stanford: Stanford University
Press, 1999), pp. 292 and 311.
24. Wolfgang Seifert, Christian Gottfried K¨ orner: ein Musik¨ asthetiker der deutschen
Klassik (Regensburg: Gustav Bosse: 1960), p. 7.
25. The original reads as follows:
L¨ ost sich nicht die idealische Katastrophe, dadurch, daß der nat¨ urliche Anfangston
zum Gegensatze wird, ins heroische auf?
L¨ ost sich nicht die nat¨ urliche Katastrophe, dadurch, daß der heroische Anfangston
zum Gegensatze wird, ins idealische auf?
L¨ ost sich nicht die heroische Katastrophe, dadurch, daß der idealische Anfangston
zum Gegensatze wird, ins nat¨ urliche auf? (StA IV, 1, p. 238)
26. The original reads as follows:
Auch in der Musik giebt es zwar ein Ziel der Bewegung, den Hauptton der Melodie.
In dem Verh¨ altnisse, wie sich die Fortschreitung des Klangs diesem Ziele n¨ ahert, oder
sich von ihm entfernt, vermehrt oder vermindert sich die Befriedigung des Ohrs. Aber
dieses Ziel der musikalischen Bewegung bezeichnet nichts in der sichtbaren Welt. Was
es andeutet, is ein unbekanntes Etwas, das von der Phantasie nach Willk¨ ur als irgend
ein einzelner Gegenstand, oder als eine Summe von Gegenst¨ anden, als die Außenwelt
¨ uberhaupt gedacht werden kann.
Christian Gottfried K¨ orner,
Uber Charakterdarstellung in der Musik, reprinted
in Seifert, Christian Gottfried K¨ orner, p. 154. English version, in Music and
Aesthetics in the Eighteenth and Early-Nineteenth Centuries, ed. and trans. Peter
le Huray and James Day (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988),
p. 178.
27. The original reads as follows:
Wohl f¨ ur das epische Gedicht. Das tragische Gedicht gehet um einen Ton weiter, das
lyrische gebraucht diesen Ton als Gegensaz und kehrt auf diese Art, bei jedem Styl,
in seinen Anfangston zur¨ uk oder: Das epische Gedicht h¨ ort mit seinem anf¨ anglichem
Gegensatz, das tragische mit dem Tone seiner Katastrophe, das lyrische mit sich selber
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Notes to pages 43–52 187
auf, so daß das lyrische Ende ein naividealisches, das tragische ein naivheroisches, das
epische ein idealischheroisches ist. (StA IV, 2, p. 238)
28. Szondi, H¨ olderlin-Studien, p. 113.
29. Friedrich H¨ olderlin: Poems and Fragments, trans. Michael Hamburger
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1966) p. 173.
30. John Jay Baker, “Poetic Calling, Poetic Failure: Self-reflexivity in Texts of
H¨ olderlin, Wordsworth, and Shelley,” Modern Language Notes, 105 (1990),
31. Guido Schmidlin, H¨ olderlins Ode: Dichterberuf (Bern: Francke Verlag, 1958),
p. 20. The original reads: “Wer beruft der Dichter? Beruft er sich selbst oder
hat er auf “h¨ oheren” Ruf sein Werk zu leisten? H¨ olderlin stellt diese Frage,
indem er sie dichtet.”
32. Hamburger, H¨ olderlin, p. 175.
33. Ibid.
34. The original reads as follows:
Wir lernen nichts schwerer als das Nationelle frei gebrauchen. Und wie ich glaube, ist
gerade die Klarheit der Darstellung uns urspr¨ unglich so nat¨ urlich wie den Griechen
das Feuer von Himmel. Eben deßwegen werden diese eher in sch¨ oner Leidenschaft, die
Du Dir auch erhalten hast, als in jener Homerischen Geistesgegenwart und Darstel-
lungsgaabe zu ¨ ubertreffen seyn.
Es klingt paradox. Aber ichbehaupt’ es nocheinmal, undstelle es Deiner Pr¨ ufung und
DeinemGebrauche frei, das eigentlichnationelle wirdimFortschritt der Bildung immer
der geringere Vorzug werden. Deßwegen sind die Griechen des heiligen Pathos weniger
Meister, weil es ihnenangeborenwar, hingegensindsie vorz¨ uglichinDarstellungsgaabe,
von Homer an, weil dieser außerordentliche Mensch seelenvoll genug war, um die
abendl¨ andische Junonische N¨ uchternheit f¨ ur sein Apollonsreich zu erbeuten, und so
wahrhaft das fremde sich anzueignen.
Bei uns ists umgekehrt. Desswegen ists auch so gef¨ ahrlich sich die Kunstregeln einzig
und allein von griechischer Vortreflichkeit zu abstrahieren. (StA VI, p. 426.)
35. Peter Szondi, “Der
Uberwindug des Klassizisums,” in H¨ olderlinstudien
(Frankfurt: Suhrkamp, 1977), pp. 95–118.
36. Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe, “The Caesura of the Speculative,” H¨ olderlin
Jahrbuch 22 (1980–1), 47–68.
37. Andrzej Warminski, “H¨ olderlin in France,” Readings in Interpretation:
H¨ olderlin, Hegel, Heidegger (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987),
pp. 23–44.
38. Szondi, H¨ olderlinstudien, p. 102.
39. Lacoue-Labarthe, “Caesura,” p. 212.
40. Warminski, Readings, p. 33.
41. Warminski, Readings, p. 35.
42. De Man, Blindness, p. 190.
43. Hamburger, H¨ olderlin, p. 243.
44. Ibid.
45. Hamburger, H¨ olderlin, p. 245.
46. Hamburger, H¨ olderlin, pp. 245–7.
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188 Notes to pages 52–66
47. Hamburger, H¨ olderlin, p. 247.
48. See Steven Shapin and Simon Schaffer, Leviathan and the Air Pump (Princeton:
Princeton University Press, 1985), for an excellent history of Boyle’s discoveries
and their significance.
49. See David Hume, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding (New York:
Prometheus Books, 1988), pp. 100–19 for the empiricist refutation of the exis-
tence of miracles.
50. Hamburger, H¨ olderlin, p. 247.
51. Hamburger, H¨ olderlin, pp. 247–9.
52. Paul de Man, “Intentional Structure of the Romantic Image,” The Rhetoric of
Romanticism (New York: Columbia University Press, 1984) pp. 8–9.
53. Hamburger, H¨ olderlin, p. 249.
54. J. L. Austin, How to Do Things with Words (Oxford: Oxford University Press,
55. Hamburger, H¨ olderlin, p. 253.
56. Hamburger, H¨ olderlin, p. 463.
57. In this regard, Jochen Schmidt has argued that the role of Pietistic Millen-
nialism and Revelation in H¨ olderlin’s late poetry has been neglected and is
the key to understanding his overall poetic project. Although I agree that this
aspect of H¨ olderlin’s religious background is important, I cannot believe its
role in his late poetry is as central and as structured as Schmidt claims it is.
H¨ olderlin failed to fulfill his obligation to become a Lutheran minister after
leaving the T¨ ubinger Stift and was involved with Isaac Sinclair’s radical politics;
a Pietistic Millennialist would have found these actions immoral. Instead, I
would suggest that this is one element among many involved in the creation
of H¨ olderlin’s late work and part of an overall project that is primarily liter-
ary, rather than religious or historical. See Jochen Schmidt, H¨ olderlins Elegie
“Brod und Wein”; die Entwicklung des hymnischen Stils in der elegischen Dichtung
(Berlin: De Gruyter, 1968) pp. 185–8.
58. Karlheinz Stierle, “Dichtung und Auftrag: H¨ olderlins ‘Patmos’-Hymne,”
H¨ olderlin Jahrbuch 22 (1980–1), 52.
59. Hamburger, H¨ olderlin, pp. 475–7.
60. StA II, 2, p. 677.
61. Hamburger, H¨ olderlin, p. 373.
62. Ibid.
63. Hamburger, H¨ olderlin, p. 375.
64. Renate B¨ oschenstein-Sch¨ afer, “Die Sprache des Zeichens in H¨ olderlins hym-
nischen Fragmenten,” H¨ olderlin Jahrbuch 19–20 (1975–7), 283.
65. Hamburger, H¨ olderlin, pp. 375–7.
66. See William Alexander O’Brien, “Getting Blasted: H¨ olderlin’s ‘Wie wenn
am Feiertage . . . ’” Modern Language Notes 94 (1979), 571–86, for an excel-
lent textual history of this poem which takes its fragmentary ending into
67. See StA II, 2, pp. 667–79.
68. Hamburger, H¨ olderlin, p. 377.
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Notes to pages 68–74 189
chapter 3: hegel’s aesthetic theory: self-consciousness
and musical material
1. Johann Gottfried Herder, in Peter le Huray and James Day (eds.), Music and
Aesthetics in the Eighteenth and Early-Nineteenth Centuries (Cambridge: Cam-
bridge UP, 1988), p. 189.
2. Excerpted in Terry Pinkard, Hegel: A Biography (Cambridge: Cambridge Uni-
versity Press, 2000), pp. 626–7.
3. Pinkard, Hegel, p. 114.
4. Yolanda Espi ˜ na, “Kunst als Grenze: Die Musik bei Hegel,” Jahrbuch f¨ ur
Hegelforschung 3 (1997), 103f. See also Pinkard, Hegel, pp. 593 and 612.
5. Robert Pippin rightly calls the characterization of Hegel as someone who
claimed that virtually everything “was necessitated by the requirements of
a progressing spirit,” however accurate, somewhat beside the point. Pippin,
Hegel’s Idealism: The Satisfactions of Self-Consciousness (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1989), pp. 10–11.
6. Annemarie Gethmann-Siefert, “Ph¨ anomen versus System,” in Ph¨ anomen ver-
sus System: zum Verh¨ altnis von Systematik und Kunsturteil in Hegels Berliner
Vorlesungen ¨ uber
Asthetik oder Philosophie der Kunst, ed. Annemarie Gethmann-
Siefert, Hegelstudien Beiheft 34 (1992), pp. 9–10.
7. Gethmann-Siefert, “Ph¨ anomen,” p. 20.
8. G. W. F. Hegel, Hegel’s Aesthetics: Lectures on Fine Art, trans. T. M. Knox
(Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1975), I, p. 28. All English translations of
Asthetik are from this text, the best available. Specific references are
designated by Aesthetics, followed by volume and page number.
9. Annemarie Gethmann-Siefert, introduction to G. W. F. Hegel, Vorlesungen
¨ uber die Philosophie der Kunst: Berlin 1823, transcribed by H. G. Hotho
(Hamburg: Felix Meiner Verlag, 1998), p. xx.
10. Hotho’s explanation of howthe text of the Lectures on Aesthetics was prepared is
reproduced in G. W. F. Hegel, Die Idee und das Ideal. Einleitung in die
Mit den beiden Vorreden von Heinrich Gustav Hotho, ed. Wolfhart Henckmann
(Munich: Wilhelm Fink Verlag, 1967), p. 8.
11. StephenBungay, Beauty and Truth: AStudy of Hegel’s Aesthetics (Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 1984), p. 7.
12. Pinkard, Hegel, pp. 256–7.
13. Andrzej Warminski, Readings in Interpretation: H¨ olderlin, Hegel, Heidegger
(Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987), p. 166.
14. See Christof Schalhorn, “Hegels Enzyklop¨ adischer Begriff von Selbstbewußt-
sein,” Hegelstudien Beiheft 43 (Hamburg: Felix Meiner Verlag, 2000), pp. 88–
15. G. W. F. Hegel, The Phenomenology of Spirit, trans. A. V. Miller (Oxford,
Oxford University Press, 1977), p. 16. The original reads as follows:
Die Aufgabe, das Individuum von seinem ungebildeten Standpunkte aus zum Wissen
zu f¨ uhren, war in ihrem allgemeinen Sinn zu fassen und das allgemeine Individuum,
der selbstbewußte Geist, in siener Bildung zu betrachten. –Was das Verh¨ altnis beider
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190 Notes to pages 74–77
betrifft, so zeigt sich indemallgemeinen Individuumjedes Moment, wie es die konkrete
Form und eigne Gestaltung gewinnt.
G. W. F. Hegel, Ph¨ anomenologie des Geistes, ed. J. Hoffmeister (Hamburg: Felix
Meiner Verlag, 1952), p. 26.
16. Hegel, Phenomenology, pp. 16–17. The original reads:
so sehen wir in Ansehung der Kenntnisse das, was in fr¨ uhern Zeitaltern den reifen Geist
der M¨ annner besch¨ aftigte, zuKentnissen,
Ubungenundselbst Spielendes Knabenalters
herabgesunkenundwerdenindemp¨ adagogischenFortschreitendie wei inSchattenrisse
nachgezeichenete Geschichte der Bildung der Welt erkennen. . . . Die Bildung in dieser
R¨ ucksicht bestehet, von der Seite des Individuums aus betrachtet, darin, daß es dies
Vorhandne erwerbe, seine unorganische Natur in sich zehre und f¨ ur sich in Besitz
nehme. Dies ist aber von der Seite des allgemeinen Geistes als der Substanz nichts
anders, als daß dies sich ihr Selbstbewußtsein gibt, ihr Werden und ihre Reflexion in
sich hervorbringt. (Hegel, Ph¨ anomenologie, p. 27)
17. Annemarie Gethmann-Siefert, “Die
Asthetik in Hegels System der Philoso-
phie” in Hegel: Einf¨ uhrung in seiner Philosophie, ed. Otto P¨ oggeler (Freiburg:
Verlag Karl Alber, 1977), p. 140. Author’s translation. The original reads:
Die “Ph¨ anomenologie,” die den Geistbegriff als Weg des individuell-geschichtlichen
Wissens zu absolutemWissen entwickelt, ordnet deshalb Kunst und Religion als objek-
tive undsubjektive Seite der Erfassung des Absoluten, d.i. Anschauung undVorstellung,
eindeutig der Philosophie, dem absoluten Wissen unter.
18. G. W. F. Hegel, Vorlesungen ¨ uber die Philosophie der Kunst: Berlin 1823, tran-
scribed by H. G. Hotho (Hamburg: Felix Meiner Verlag, 1998), p. 204. See
also a letter from Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy to W. Taubert, No. 675, Hegel
in Berichten seiner Zeitgenossen, ed. G¨ unther Nicolin (Hamburg: Felix Meiner
Verlag, 1970), p. 432.
19. “Sie [sculpture] stellt die g¨ ottliche Gestalt selbst auf. Der Gott wohnt seiner
Außerlichkeit ein in stiller, seliger, erstarrter Ruhe.” Hegel, Vorlesungen: Berlin
1823, p. 38.
20. Aesthetics I, p. 520. In German, G. W. F. Hegel, Vorlesung ¨ uber die
Asthetik, ed.
F. Bassenge (Berlin: Felix Meiner Verlag, 1965), I, p. 501. All further citations
of Hegel’s
Asthetik are from this text, which is based on H. G. Hotho’s revised
second edition (1842) of his transcriptions. Specific references are designated
Asthetik, followed by volume and page number. The original reads:
Indem dadurch das wirkliche Subjekt die Erscheinung Gottes ist, gewinnt die Kunst
jetzt erst das h¨ ohere Recht, die menschliche Gestalt und Weise, der
¨ uberhaupt zum Ausdruck des Absoluten zu verwenden, obschon die neue Aufgabe der
Kunst nun darin bestehen kann, in dieser Gestalt nicht die Versenkung des Inneren in
die ¨ außere Lieblichkeit, sondern umgekehrt die Zur¨ ucknahme des Inneren in sich, das
geistige Bewußtsein Gottes im Subjekt zur Anschauung zu bringen.
21. Aesthetics I, p. 28. In the original text:
Zwar bedarf in dieser Beziehung die eine Kunst mehr als die andere des Bewußtseins
und der Erkenntnis solchen Gehaltes. Die Musik z.B., welche es sich nur mit der
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Notes to pages 77–81 191
ganz unbestimmten Bewegung des geistigen Inneren, mit dem T¨ onen gleichsam der
gedankenlosen Empfindung zu tun macht, hat wenigen oder keinen geistigen Stoff im
Bewußtsein vonn¨ oten. Das musikalische Talent k¨ undigt sich darum auch am meisten
in sehr fr¨ uher Jugend, bei noch leerem Kopfe und wenig bewegtem Gem¨ ute an und
kann beizeiten schon, ehe noch Geist und Leben sich erfahren haben, zu sehr bedeu-
tender H¨ ohe gelangt sein; wie wir denn auch oft genug eine sehr große Virtuousit¨ at in
musikalischer Komposition und Vortrage neben bedeutender D¨ urftigkeit des Geistes
und Charakters bestehen sehen. (
Asthetik I, p. 38)
22. Hegel, Aesthetics I, p. 28 ff.
23. Aesthetics I, p. 38. In the original text:
Deshalbist das Sinnliche imKunstwerk imVergleichmit demunmittelbarenDaseinder
Naturdinge zumbloßen Schein erhoben, und das Kunstwerk steht in der Mitte zwischen
der unmittelbaren Sinnlichkeit und dem ideellen Gedanken. Es ist noch nicht reiner
Gedanke, aber seiner Sinnlichkeit zumTrotz auch nicht mehr bloßes materielles Dasein,
wie Steine, Pflanzen und organisches Leben, sondern das Sinnliche im Kunstwerk ist
selbst ein ideelles, das aber, als nicht das Ideelle des Gedankens, zugleich als Ding noch
¨ außerlich vorhanden ist. (
Asthetik I, p. 48)
24. Aesthetics I, p. 75. In the original text:
Die Kunstformen sind deshalb nichts als die verschiedenen Verh¨ altnisse von Inhalt
und Gestalt, Verh¨ altnisse welche aus der Idee selbst hervorgehen und dadurch den
wahren Einteilungsgrund dieser Sph¨ are geben. Denn die Einteilung muß immer in
dem Begriffe liegen, dessen Besonderung und Einteilung sie ist. (
Asthetik I, p. 82)
25. Period designations became common around this time, especially in response
to systematic, large-scale works on the history of art, such as Winckelmann’s
26. Konrad Sch¨ uttauf, Die Kunst und die bildenen K¨ unste: Eine Auseinandersetzung
mit Hegels
Asthetik (Bonn: Bouvier Verlag, 1984), p. 62.
Asthetik I, pp. 36–40; Aesthetics I, pp. 25–30.
28. See Annemarie Gethmann-Siefert, introduction to Hegel, Vorlesungen: Berlin
1823, pp. lxii–lxiii.
29. Aesthetics I, p. 56. In the original text:
Ich will deshalb das Geschichtliche von diesem
Ubergange, das ich im Sinne habe,
kurz ber¨ uhren, teils um des Geschichtlichen willen, teils weil damit die Standpunkte
n¨ aher bezeichnet sind, auf welche es ankommt und auf deren Grundlage wir fortbauen
wollen. Diese Grundlage ihrer allgemeinsten Bestimmung nach besteht darin, daß das
Kunstsch¨ one als eine der Mitten erkannt worden ist, welche jenen Gegensatz und
Widerspruch des in sich abstrakt beruhenden Geistes und der Natur – sowohl der
¨ außerlicherscheinendenals auchder innerlichendes subjektivenGef¨ uhls undGem¨ uts –
aufl¨ osen und zur Einheit zur¨ uckf¨ uhren. (
Asthetik I, p. 64)
Asthetik I, 68–69; Aesthetics I, 60.
31. Aesthetics I, p. 74. In the original text:
In diesem Punkte der h¨ oheren Wahrheit als der Geistigkeit, welche sich die dem
Begriff des Geistes gem¨ aße Gestaltung errungen hat, liegt der Einteilungsgrund f¨ ur
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192 Notes to pages 81–84
die Wissenschaft der Kunst. Denn der Geist, ehe er zum wahren Begriffe seines abso-
luten Wesens gelangt, hat einen in diesem Begriffe selbst begr¨ undeten Verlauf von
Stufen durchzugehen, und diesem Verlaufe des Inhalts, den er sich gibt, entspricht ein
unmittelbar damit zusammenh¨ angender Verlauf von Gestaltungen der Kunst, in deren
Form der Geist als K¨ unstlerischer sich das Bewußtsein von sich selber gibt. (
Asthetik I,
p. 79)
Asthetik I, pp. 71–2; Aesthetics I, pp. 63–4.
33. Bungay, Beauty and Truth, p. 23.
34. Author’s translation. In the original text:
Die Erf¨ ullung [from other arts] ist von mir immer selbst noch unterschieden. Die
Erf¨ ullung ist ihrer Natur ¨ außerlich, r¨ aumlich und somit immer noch unterschieden
von der Innerlichkeit des Ich. In der Musik aber f¨ allt dieses Unterscheiden weg. Das Ich
ist nicht mehr von dem Sinnlichen selbst unterschieden, die T¨ one gehen in in meinem
tiefsten Innern fort. Die innerste Subjektivit¨ at selbst ist in Anspruch genommen und in
Bewegung gesetzt. Dies is danndasjenige, was die Macht der T¨ one ¨ uberhaupt ausmacht.
(Hegel, Vorlesungen 1823, pp. 262–3)
35. Hegel, Vorlesungen 1823, pp. 263–4.
36. See Gethmann-Siefert, “Ph¨ anomen vs. System,” p. 13.
37. Aesthetics I, pp. 527–8. In the original text:
Fassen wir daher dies Verh¨ altnis des Inhalts und der Form im Romantischen, wo
es sich in seiner Eigent¨ umlichkeit erh¨ alt, zu einem Worte zusammen, so k¨ onnen wir
sagen, der Grundtondes Romantischen, weil ebendie immer vergr¨ oßerte Allgemeinheit
und rastlos arbeitende Tiefe des Gem¨ uts das Prinzip ausmacht, sei musikalisch und,
mit bestimmtem Inhalte der Vorstellung, lyrisch. Das Lyrische ist f¨ ur die romantische
Kunst gleichsam der elementarische Grundzug, ein Ton, den auch Epop¨ oe und Drama
anschlagen und der selbst die Werke der bildenen Kunst als ein allgemeiner Duft des
Gem¨ uts umhaucht, da hier Geist und Gem¨ ut durch jedes ihrer Gebilde zum Geist und
Gem¨ ute sprechen wollen. (
Asthetik I, p. 508)
38. Gethmann-Siefert, Introduction to Hegel, Vorlesungen 1823, p. XLV.
39. Aesthetics II, p. 890. In the original text:
Mit dem Ton nun verl¨ aßt die Musik das Element der ¨ außeren Gestalt und deren
anschauliche Sichtbarkeit und bedarf deshalb zur Auffassung ihrer Produktionen auch
eines anderen subjektiven Organs, des Geh¨ ors, das wie das Gesicht nicht den praktis-
chen, sondern den theoretischen Sinnen zugeh¨ ort und selbst noch ideeller ist als das
Gesicht. (
Asthetik II, p. 261)
40. Aesthetics II, pp. 890–1. In the original text:
Das Ohr dagegenvernimmt, ohne sichselber praktischgegendie Objekte hinauszuwen-
den, das Resultat jenes inneren Erzitterns des K¨ orpers, durch welches nichts mehr die
ruhige materielle Gestalt, sondern die erste ideellere Seelenhaftigkeit zu Vorschein
kommt. Da nun ferner die Negativit¨ at, in die das schwingende Material hier eingeht,
einerseits ein Aufheben des r¨ aumlichen Zustandes ist, das selbst wieder durch die Reak-
tion des K¨ orpers aufgehoben wird, so ist die
Außerung dieser zweifachen Negation,
der Ton, eine
Außerlichkeit, welche sich in ihrem Entstehen durch ihr Dasein selbst
wieder vernichtet und an sich selbst verschwindet. Durch diese gedoppelte Negation
Außerlichkeit, welche im Prinzipe des Tons liegt, entspricht derselbe der inneren
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Notes to pages 84–88 193
Subjektivit¨ at, indem das Klingen, das an und f¨ ur sich schon etwas Ideelleres ist als
die f¨ ur sich real bestehende K¨ orperlichkeit, auch diese ideellere Existenz aufgibt und
dadurch eine dem Innerlichen gem¨ aße
Außerungsweise wird. (
Asthetik II, p. 261)
41. G. W. F. Hegel, Enzyklop¨ adie der philosophischen Wissenschaften II (Frankfurt:
Suhrkamp, 1970), pp. 176–84.
42. Author’s translation. In the original text:
Das Harmonische beruht auf der Leichtigkeit der Konsonanzen und ist eine in dem
Unterschiede empfundene Einheit, wie die Symmetrie in der Architektur. Die beza-
ubernde Harmonie undMelodie, dies die Empfindung undLeidenschaft Ansprechende,
soll von abstrakten Zahlen abh¨ angen? Das scheint merkw¨ urdig, ja wunderlich. (Hegel,
Enzyklop¨ adie II, p. 178)
43. Aesthetics II, p. 891. In the original text:
F¨ ur den Musikausdruck eignet sich deshalb auch nur das ganz objektlose Innere,
die abstrakte Subjektivit¨ at als solche. Diese ist unser ganz leeres Ich, das Selbst ohne
weiteren Inhalt. Die Hauptaufgabe der Musik wird deshalb darin bestehen, nicht die
Gegenst¨ andlichkeit selbst, sondern im Gegenteil die Art und Weise widerklingen zu
lassen, in welcher das innerste Selbst seiner Subjektivit¨ at und ideelen Seele nach in sich
bewegt ist. (
Asthetik II, p. 261)
44. Bowie, Aesthetics and Subjectivity, pp. 187–8.
45. This appears early in the chapter, and may be the only admission of lack of
expertise in the whole Hegel corpus.
Asthetik II, p. 262; Aesthetics II, p. 893.
46. Bungay, Beauty and Truth, p. 141.
47. Hegel, Aesthetics II, p. 892.
48. Hegel Aesthetics II, p. 893.
49. Aesthetics II, p. 909. In the original text:
Denn insofern es das subjektive Innere selbst ist, das die Musik sich mit dem Zweck
zum Inhalt nimmt, sich nict als ¨ außere Gestalt und objektiv dastehendes Werk, son-
dern als subjektive Innerlichkeit zur Erscheinung zu bringen, so muß die
sich auch unmittelbar als Mitteilung eines lebendiges Subjekts ergeben, in welche das-
selbe seine ganze eigene Innerlickeit hineinlegt. Am meisten ist dies im Gesang der
menschlichen Stimme, relativ jedoch auch schon in der Instrumentalmusik der Fall,
die nur durch aus¨ ubende K¨ unstler und deren lebendige, ebenso geistige als technische
Geschicklichkeit zu Ausf¨ uhrung zu gelangen vermag.
Durch diese Subjektivit¨ at in R¨ ucksicht auf die Verwirklichung des musikalischen
Kunstwerks vervollst¨ andigt sich erst die Bedeutung des Subjektiven in der Musik, das
nun aber nach dieser Richtung hin sich auch zu dem einseitigen Extrem isolieren kann,
daß die subjektive Virtuosit¨ at der Reproduktion als solcher zu alleinigen Mittelpunkte
und Inhalte des Genusses gemacht wird. (
Asthetik II, p. 279)
50. Carl Dahlhaus, “Hegel und die Musik seiner Zeit,” Hegelstudien Beiheft 22
(1983), 338.
51. E. T. A. Hoffmann, “Rezension von L. van Beethovens Sinfonie in C moll,”
Schriften zur Musik (Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1979),
pp. 34–51.
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194 Notes to pages 88–92
52. A. B. Marx, Erinnerungen. Aus meinem Leben (Berlin: Otto Janke, 1865), I, 179;
II, p. 46.
Asthetik I, pp. 220 and 239; Aesthetics I, pp. 223 and 243.
54. Dahlhaus, “Hegel,” p. 338.
55. Robin Wallace, Beethoven’s Critics: Aesthetic Dilemmas and Resolutions dur-
ing the Composer’s Lifetime (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986)
pp. 6–7.
56. Wallace, Beethoven’s Critics, p. 18.
57. Aesthetics II, p. 908. In the original text:
Wir d¨ urfen deshalb keine abgeschmackte Meinung von der Allgewalt der Musik als
solcher hegen, von der uns die alten Skribenten, heilige und profane, so mancherlei
fabelhafte Geschichten erz¨ ahlen. (
Asthetik II, p. 278)
58. Hoffmann, “Rezension,” p. 37.
59. Aesthetics II, pp. 953–4. In the original text:
Der Laie liebt in der Musik vornehmlich den verst¨ andlichen Ausdruck von Empfindun-
gen und Vorstellungen, das Stoffartige, den Inhalt, und wendet sich daher vorzugsweise
der begleitenden Musik zu; der Kenner dagegen, dem die inneren musikalischen
Verh¨ altnisse der T¨ one und Instrumente zug¨ anglich sind, liebt die Instrumentalmusik
in ihrem kunstgem¨ aßen Gebrauch der Harmonien und melodischen Verschlingungen
und wechselnden Formen; er wird durch die Musik selbst ganz ausgef¨ ullt und hat das
n¨ ahere Interesse, das Geh¨ orte mit den Regeln und Gesetzen, die ihm gel¨ aufig sind, zu
vergleichen, um vollst¨ andig das Geleistete zu beurteilen und zu genießen, obschon hier
die neu erfindende Genialit¨ at auch den Kenner, der gerade diese oder jene Fortschre-
Uberg¨ ange usf. nicht gewohnt ist, h¨ aufig kann in Verlegenheit setzen. (
II, p. 322)
60. Aesthetics II, p. 959. In the original text:
Nun hat aber der geistige Inhalt, als wesentlich demInnern des Bewußtseins angeh¨ orig,
an dem bloßen Elemente der ¨ außeren Erscheinung und dem Anschauen, welchem die
Außengestalt sich darbietet, ein f¨ ur das Innere zugleich fremdes Dasein, aus dem die
Kunst ihre Konzeptionen deshalb wieder herausziehen muß, um sie in ein Bereich
hineinzuverlegen, das sowohl dem Material als der Ausdrucksart nach f¨ ur sich selbst
innerlicher und ideeller Art ist. Dies war der Schritt, welchen wir die Musik vorw¨ arts
tun sahen, insofern sie das Innerliche als solches und die subjektive Empfindung statt
in anschaubaren Gestalten in den Figurationen des in sich erzitternden Klingens f¨ ur das
Innere machte. Doch trat auch sie dadurch in ein anderes Extrem, in die unexplizierte
subjektive Konzentration her¨ uber, deren Inhalt in den T¨ onen eine nur selbst wieder
Außerung fand. (
Asthetik II, pp. 326–7)
61. Hegel, Phenomenology, p. 122. In the original text:
Dieses denkende Bewußtsein so, wie es sich bestimmt hat, als die abstrakte Freiheit,
ist also nur die unvollendete Negation des Andersseins; aus dem Dasein nur in sich
zur¨ uckgezogen, hat es sich nicht als absolute Negation desselben an ihm vollbracht.
Der Inhalt gilt ihm zwar nur als Gedanke, aber dabei auch als bestimmter, und die
Bestimmtheit als solche zugleich. (Hegel, Ph¨ anomenologie, p. 154)
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Notes to pages 92–99 195
62. Aesthetics II, p. 960. In the original text:
Die Poesie nun, die redende Kunst, ist das dritte, die Totalit¨ at, welche die Extreme der
bildenen K¨ unste und der Musik auf einer h¨ oheren Stufe, in dem Gebiete der geistigen
Innerlichkeit selber, in sich vereinigt. Denn einerseits enth¨ alt die Dichtkunst wie die
Musik das Prinzip des Sichvernehmens des Inneren als Inneren, das der Baukunst,
Skulptur und Malerei abgeht; andererseits breitet sie sich im Felde des inneren Vorstel-
lens, Anschauens und Empfindens selber zu einer objektiven Welt aus, welche die
Bestimmtheit der Skulptur und Malerei nicht durchaus verliert und die Totalit¨ at
einer Begebenheit, eine Reihenfolge, einen Wechsel von Gem¨ utsbewegungen, Leiden-
schaften, Vorstellungen und den abgeschlossenen Verlauf einer Handlung vollst¨ andiger
als irgendeine andere Kunst zu entfalten bef¨ ahigt ist. (
Asthetik II, pp. 327–8)
Asthetik I, p. 77; Aesthetics I, p. 82.
64. Aesthetics II, p. 956. In the original text:
Hier wird teils die virtuoseste Bravour an ihrer rechten Stelle sein, teils begrenzt sich die
Genialit¨ at nicht auf eine bloße Exekution des Gegebenen, sondern erweitert sich dazu,
daß der K¨ unstler selbst im Vortrage komponiert, Fehlendes erg¨ anzt, Flacheres vertieft,
das Seelenlosere beseelt und in dieser Weise schlechthin selbst¨ andig und produzierend
erscheint. (
Asthetik II, p. 324)
65. Adolf Nowak, Hegels Musik¨ asthetik (Regensburg: Gustav Bosse Verlag, 1971),
pp. 98–9.
Asthetik II, 324; Aesthetics II, p. 956.
67. The original reads: “die . . . auf sich beruhende Seele des K¨ unstlers sich ihrem
Ergusse hingibt . . .”
Asthetik II, p. 325; Aesthetics II, p. 957.
68. Author’s translation. In the original text:
Der Inhalt der redenden Kunst, die bestimmte Gestaltung, die ins subjektive Element
verlegt wird, is die Vorstellung, der Inhalt der redenden Kunst der ganze Reichtum der
Vorstellung, das bei sich seiende Geistige, das in einem Elemente ist, das dem Geiste
selbst angeh¨ ort. Indem der Ton eine solche Erf¨ ullung erh¨ alt, wird er zum bloßen
Mittel herabgesetzt, ist nur ein Zeichen und wirt zum Worte, und dieser Ausdruck ist
so verschieden vom Inhalt selbst. (Hegel, Vorlesungen 1823, p. 271)
chapter 4: nature, music, and the imagination
in wordsworth’s poetry
1. G. W. F. Hegel, Lectures on Fine Art, trans. T. M. Knox (Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 1975), p. 35.
2. Hegel, Lectures on Fine Art, pp. 116–50.
3. Jerome McGann, Romantic Ideology (Chicago: University of Chicago Press,
4. Karl Kroeber, “Beyond the Imaginable: Wordsworth and Turner,” in The Age of
William Wordsworth: Critical Essays on the Romantic Tradition, ed. K. Johnston
and G. Ruoff (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1993), p. 198.
5. Paul de Man, Aesthetic Ideology (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press,
1996), pp. 70–90.
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196 Notes to pages 99–106
6. Paul de Man, “Hypogram and Inscription,” in The Resistance to Theory
(Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1986), pp. 27–53.
7. De Man, “Hypogram,” p. 42.
8. De Man, “Hypogram,” p. 39.
9. Paul H. Fry, A Defense of Poetry: Reflections on the Occasion of Writing
(Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1995), p. 12.
10. Karl Kroeber, Ecological Literary Criticism: Romantic Imagining and the Biology
of Mind (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994).
11. Jonathan Bate, Romantic Ecology: Wordsworth and the Environmental Tradition
(London: Routledge, 1991).
12. Carl Dahlhaus, The Idea of Absolute Music (Chicago: University of Chicago
Press, 1989).
13. See Chapter 2 for a longer explanation of K¨ orner’s theory.
14. Leonard B. Meyer, Emotion and Meaning in Music (Chicago: University of
Chicago Press, 1956).
15. Rose Rosengard Subotnik, Developing Variations: Style and Ideology in Western
Music (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1991).
16. SusanMcCleary, Feminine Endings: Music, Gender, and Sexuality (Minneapolis:
University of Minnesota Press, 1991).
17. Kroeber, Ecological Literary Criticism, pp. 37–52.
18. Lawrence Kramer, Music as Cultural Practice (Berkeley: University of California
Press, 1990), pp. 10–12.
19. John Hollander, “Romantic Verse Form and the Metrical Contract,” Roman-
ticism and Consciousness: Essays in Criticism, ed. Harold Bloom (New York:
Norton, 1970), p. 183.
20. Hollander takes the apt term “contract” from Wordsworth’s use of it in the
“Preface.” Hollander, “Romantic Verse Form,” p. 186.
21. Hollander, “Romantic Verse Form,” pp. 183–4.
22. Stephen Gill, William Wordsworth: A Life (Oxford: Oxford University Press,
1989), p. 188.
23. William Wordsworth, “Preface to Lyrical Ballads (1802),” in William
Wordsworth and Samuel Coleridge, Lyrical Ballads, ed. Michael Mason (New
York: Longman Group, 1992), pp. 69–70.
24. Wordsworth, “Preface,” pp. 66–7.
25. Wordsworth, “Preface,” p. 82.
26. Wordsworth, “Preface,” p. 83.
27. Brendan O’Donnell, The Passion of Meter: A Study of Wordsworth’s Metrical
Art (Kent: Kent State University Press, 1995), p. 6.
28. David P. Haney, “‘Rents and openings in the ideal world’: Eye and Ear in
Wordsworth,” Studies in Romanticism 36 (1997), 176. His reference is to W. J.
T. Mitchell, Iconology: Image, Text, Ideology (Chicago: University of Chicago
Press, 1989).
29. Brian Bartlett, “‘Inscrutable Workmanship’: Music and Metaphors of Music
in The Prelude and The Excursion,” The Wordsworth Circle 17: 3 (1986) 175–80.
30. Jeffrey C. Robinson, “The Power of Sound; ‘The Unremitting Voice of Nightly
Streams,’” The Wordsworth Circle 23: 3 (1992) 176–9.
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Notes to pages 107–121 197
31. A useful collection of contemporaneous criticism can be found in Wordsworth:
The 1807 Poems, ed. Alun R. Jones (London: Macmillan, 1990), pp. 25–59.
32. WilliamWordsworth, “The Solitary Reaper,” WilliamWordsworth: The Poems,
Vol. I, ed. John O. Hayden (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1981),
p. 659.
33. Geoffrey Hartman, Wordsworth’s Poetry, 1787–1814 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard
University Press, 1971), pp. 12–13.
34. See Gill, William Wordsworth: A Life, pp. 239–46, for the story of his brother
John’s death and the composition of the poem. Curiously, Wordsworth based
the scene not on a specific memory of his own but on a line in Thomas
Wilkinson’s Tours to the British Mountains.
35. John Hollander goes even farther in describing how natural sound is made to
be articulate in Romantic poetry; in his view, torrents and storms, as well as
birds, become music or speech. See Hollander, “Wordsworth and the Music
of Sound,” in New Perspectives on Coleridge and Wordsworth, ed. Geoffrey
Hartman (New York: Columbia University Press, 1972), p. 48.
36. Nancy A. Jones, “The Rape of the Rural Muse: Wordsworth’s ‘The Solitary
Reaper’” in Rape and Representation, ed. Lynn A. Higgins and Brenda R.
Silver (New York: Columbia University Press, 1991), 263–77. Jones argues that
similarities between “The Solitary Reaper” and the pastourelle indicate a kind
of rape occurring in the poem. Judith W. Page responds to similar views in
Wordsworth and the Cultivation of Women (Berkeley: University of California
Press, 1994), p. 6.
37. Fry, A Defense of Poetry, p. 36.
38. Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,”
in Illuminations (New York: Schocken, 1968), p. 221.
39. Wordsworth to Sir George Beaumont, May 1, 1805.
40. William Wordsworth, The Prelude: 1799, 1805, 1850, ed. J. Wordsworth, M. H.
Abrams, and S. Gill (New York: Norton, 1979), p. 29. All further citations of
The Prelude are from this text, followed by book and line number. The 1850
edition is used unless otherwise stated.
41. Jane Worthington Smyser, “Wordsworth’s Dream of Poetry and Science” Pro-
ceedings of the Modern Language Association of America (PMLA), 121 (1956),
269–75. Smyser’s source is Ren´ e Descartes, CEvres de Descartes, ed. Charles
Adam and Paul Tannery, eds. (Paris: Librairie Philosophique J. Vrin, 1966)
Vol. 10, pp. 184–5.
42. Smyser, “Wordsworth’s Dream,” p. 275.
43. Hollander, Images of Voice, p. 18.
44. AlanLiu, Wordsworth: The Sense of History (Stanford: Stanford University Press,
1989), p. 383.
45. Andrzej Warminski, “Missed Crossing: Wordsworth’s Apocalypses,” Modern
Language Notes 99:2 (1984), 1003.
46. HaroldBloom, The Visionary Company (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1971),
p. 151.
47. Hartman, Wordsworth’s Poetry, pp. 229–30.
48. Wordsworth, “Preface,” p. 66.
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198 Notes to pages 122–140
49. The original version of the passage is in Manuscript JJ, probably written in
1799. The manuscript is reprinted in Wordsworth, The Prelude: 1799, 1805,
1850, p. 492.
50. Hartman, Wordsworth’s Poetry, p. 22.
51. Andrzej Warminski, “Missed Crossing,” p. 998.
52. Paul de Man, “Wordsworth and H¨ olderlin,” The Rhetoric of Romanticism(New
York: Columbia University Press, 1984), pp. 53–4.
53. Wordsworth, “A Slumber Did My Spirit Seal,” Poems I, p. 364.
54. Wordsworth, Prelude, p. 259 ff.
55. Wordsworth, Poems, Vol. II, p. 1030.
56. William Wordsworth to Alexander Dyce, 23 December 1837. Excerpted in
Wordsworth, Poems, Vol. II, p. 1030.
57. Wordsworth, “On the Power of Sound,” Poems II, p. 664. Further references
to this poem indicate stanza and line number.
58. Percy Bysshe Shelley, “To Wordsworth,” The Complete Poetical Works of Percy
Bysshe Shelley, Vol. II, ed. Neville Rodgers (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1975),
p. 10.
chapter 5: beethoven and musical self-consciousness
1. Felix Medelssohn-Bartholdy, Letter to Julius Schubring, 27 February, 1841, in
eds. Peter le Huray and James Day, Music and Aesthetics in the Eighteenth and
Early-Nineteenth Centuries (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988),
p. 311.
2. In Beethoven’s Critics: Aesthetic Dilemmas and Resolutions during the Com-
poser’s Lifetime (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986), Robin Wallace
describes the reactions of Beethoven’s earliest critics, and asserts that Hoff-
mann was virtually alone in his understanding of the relation between affect
and technique in Beethoven’s music (pp. 20–6).
3. Beate Julia Perrey, Schumann’s Dichterliebe and Early Romantic Poetics: Frag-
mentation of Desire (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002).
4. See Carl Dahlhaus, Die Musik des Neunzehnten Jahrhunderts (Laaber: Laaber
Verlag, 1989), pp. 8–9.
5. E. M. Forster, Howards End (New York: Vintage, 1921), p. 33.
6. Maynard Solomon, Beethoven (New York: Schirmer, 1977), p. 206.
7. Charles Rosen, in The Classical Style: Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven (New York:
W. W. Norton, 1971, 1972, revised 1997), presents the most important and
sophisticated version of this view, although it is not universally held.
8. Carl Dahlhaus, Nineteenth-Century Music (Berkeley: University of California
Press, 1989), p. 87.
9. In Music as Cultural Practice: 1800–1900 (Berkeley: University of California
Press, 1990), Lawrence Kramer addresses the problemof musical interpretation
and derives a “musical hermeneutics” in which structural relationships within
a work of music can be brought into the wider sphere of aesthetic, literary,
and philosophical considerations. However, Kramer warns that his (and any)
9780521887618not CUUS116/Donelan 978 0 521 88761 8 January 25, 2008 14:11
Notes to pages 140–145 199
theoretical model should only be “a provisional, implicit, occasional authority”
and that one should “throw away this map before you use it” (p. 14).
10. Nicholas Marston, “Intellectual Currents: Philosophy and Aesthetics,” in ed.
Barry Cooper, The Beethoven Compendium (London: Thames & Hudson,
1991), p. 64.
11. Barry Cooper, “Beethoven’s Beliefs and Opinions,” in ed. Barry Cooper The
Beethoven Compendium (London: Thames & Hudson, 1991), pp. 142–3.
12. See Arnold Schering, “Die Eroica, eine Homer-Symphonie Beethovens?”:
Translated with an Introduction and Commentary, Current Musicology 69
(2000) pp. 68–96.
13. Joseph Kerman and Alan Tyson, The New Grove Beethoven (London: Macmil-
lan, 1980), pp. 2–3.
14. Cooper, “Beethoven’s Beliefs,” p. 143.
15. Bettina Brentano von Arnim’s account is reproduced and translated in
Beethoven: Letters, Journals, and Conversations, ed. and trans. Michael Ham-
burger (London: Thames & Hudson, 1951), pp. 116–18. K. M. Knittel sum-
marizes the evidence against the story’s veracity in “The Construction of
Beethoven,” The Cambridge History of Nineteenth-Century Music (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press) pp. 118–19.
16. Kerman and Tyson, The New Grove Beethoven, pp. 30–1.
17. Leon Plantinga, Beethoven’s Concertos (New York: W. W. Norton, 2000),
pp. 22–4.
18. Plantinga, Beethoven’s Concertos, p. 25.
19. Robert W. Gutman, Mozart: A Cultural Biography (NewYork: Harcourt Brace,
1999), p. 444. Gutman also describes Mozart’s resentment of the practice of
antechambieren, the requirement that the court composer wait in an antecham-
ber in case his services were needed (p. 537).
20. Plantinga, Beethoven’s Concertos, p. 29.
21. Plantinga, Beethoven’s Concertos, p. 30.
22. See De Nora, Beethoven and the Construction of Genius: Musical Politics in
Vienna, 1792–1803 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995), pp. 83–114.
23. Cooper, “Biographical and Source Material,” p. 170.
24. Kerman and Tyson, The New Grove Beethoven, p. 89.
25. Charles Rosen, The Classical Style: Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven (New York:
W. W. Norton, 1971, 1972, revised 1997), p. 401.
26. Nicolas Cook, “The Other Beethoven: Heroism, the Canon, and the Works
of 1813–1814,” Nineteenth-Century Music 27:1 (2003), 11.
27. Kerman and Tyson, The New Grove Beethoven, p. 89.
28. Michael Broyles, The Emergence and Evolution of Beethoven’s Heroic Style (New
York: Excelsior, 1987), p. 89.
29. Adolf Bernhard Marx, Beethoven: Leben und Schaffen (Berlin: Verlag von Otto
Janke, 1828, 1901), I, p. 265.
30. Carl Dahlhaus, The Idea of Absolute Music, trans. Roger Lustig (Chicago:
University of Chicago Press, 1989), p. 13.
31. Dahlhaus, The Idea of Absolute Music, p. 17.
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200 Notes to pages 145–152
32. For example, Martin Cooper describes the late quartets as “self-communing.”
Cooper, Beethoven: the Last Decade, 1817–1827 (Oxford: Oxford University
Press, 1970), p. 349.
33. Adolf Bernhard Marx, Die Lehre der musikalischen Komposition (Leipzig:
Breitkopf & H¨ artel, 1868), III, pp. 220–54.
34. Charles Rosen outlines the history of theorists of sonata form, including A. B.
Marx, in Sonata Forms (New York: W. W. Norton, 1980), p. 3.
35. In Sonata Forms, Rosen complains about the tyranny of the persistent notion
of a fixed “sonata form” yet acknowledges the usefulness of the terminology
derived from it (pp. 1–3).
36. Scott Burnham, Beethoven Hero (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995),
p. 29.
37. Burnham, Beethoven Hero, p. 121.
38. James Donelan, “H¨ olderlin’s Poetic Self-Consciousness,” Philosophy and
Literature 26:1 (2002), pp. 125–42.
39. Carl Dahlhaus, Ludwig van Beethoven: Approaches to His Music, trans. Mary
Whittall (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991), p. 219. The original passage can
be found in Dahlhaus, Ludwig van Beethoven und seine Zeit (Laaber: Laaber
Verlag, 1987), p. 263.
40. See Kerman and Tyson, The New Grove Beethoven, pp. 120–37.
41. Martin Cooper, Beethoven: The Last Decade, p. 416.
42. Theodor W. Adorno, “Sp¨ atstil Beethovens,” in ed. Rolf Tiedemann Beethoven:
Philosophie der Musik (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1994), p. 183. The
original reads:
Die Gewalt der Subjektivit¨ at in den sp¨ aten Kunstwerken ist die auffahrenede Geste,
mit welcher sie die Kunstwerke verl¨ aßt. Sie sprengt sie, nicht um sich auszudr¨ ucken,
sondern um ausdruckslos den Schein der Kunst abzuwerfen. Von den Werken l¨ aßt sie
Tr¨ ummer zur¨ uck und teilt sich, wie mit Chiffren, nur verm¨ oge der Hohlstellen mit, aus
welche sie ausbricht. VomTode ber¨ uhrt, gibt die meisterliche Handdie Stoffmassenfrei,
die sie zuvor formte; die Risse und Spr¨ unge darin, Zeugnis der endlichen Ohnmacht
des Ichs vorm Seienden, sind ihr letztes Werk.
43. Rose Rosengard Subotnik, Developing Variations: Style and Ideology in Western
Music (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1991), p. 29.
44. Subotnik, Developing Variations, p. 41.
45. Adorno, “
Uber Vermittlung der Musik und Gesellschaft,” Beethoven, p. 75.
46. It is widely speculated, but unsubstantiated, that Schiller had intended to use
Freiheit all along but did not do so out of fear that a word so clearly connected
to the French Revolution would be censored.
47. Adorno, “Zur Theorie Beethovens,” Beethoven, p. 146. The original reads, “Die
IX. Symphonie ist kein Sp¨ atwerk sondern die Rekonstruktion des klassischen
Beethoven (mit Ausnahme gewisser Teile des letzten Satzes und vor allem des
Trios im dritten).”
48. Rudolf Erich Raspe, Baron M¨ unchausen’s Narrative of His Marvelous Travels
(London: Cresset Press, 1948).
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Notes to pages 152–161 201
49. Lawrence Kramer, “The Harem Threshold: Turkish Music and Greek Love in
Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy,’” Nineteenth-Century Music 22:1, 1998, p. 79.
50. Adorno, Beethoven, p. 270. Specifically, Adorno claims that the first movement
and the scherzo are not late style works but actually belong to the middle period
and that the symphony as a whole is not a representative late-style work, being
less experimental and developed than the late piano and chamber music. He
also claims – without qualification – that the Missa Solemnis (op. 123) belongs
to Beethoven’s middle-period style (p. 204).
51. Berthold Hoeckner, Programming the Absolute: Nineteenth-century German
Music and the Hermeneutics of the Moment (Princeton: Princeton University
Press, 2002), p. 21.
52. Maynard Solomon, Late Beethoven: Music, Thought, Imagination (Berkeley:
University of California Press, 2003), p. 221.
53. Solomon, Late Beethoven, p. 227.
54. Esteban Buch, Beethoven’s Ninth: A Political History (Chicago: University of
Chicago Press, 2003), p. 88.
55. Daniel K. L. Chua, The “Galitzin” Quartets of Beethoven: opp. 127, 132, 130
(Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995), pp. 8–9.
56. Chua, The “Galitzin” Quartets, p. 8.
57. Rosen, Sonata Forms, p. 10.
58. Rosen, Sonata Forms, p. 12.
59. Rosen, The Classical Style, p. 33.
60. Paul Griffiths, The String Quartet: A History (New York: Thames & Hudson,
1983), p. 92.
61. Griffiths, The String Quartet, p. 92.
62. Griffiths, The String Quartet, pp. 27–8.
63. Ludwig Finscher, Studien zur Geschichte des Streichquartetts (Kassel:
B¨ arenreiter-Verlag, 1974), pp. 131–3.
64. Alfred Wheelock Thayer, The Life of Beethoven (Carbondale: Southern Illinois
University Press, 1960), III, p. 87.
65. Joseph Kerman, The Beethoven Quartets (New York: W. W. Norton, 1966),
p. 223.
66. Cooper, Beethoven: The Last Decade, pp. 73–80.
67. Lewis Lockwood, Beethoven: The Music and the Life (NewYork: W. W. Norton
& Co, 2003), p. 442.
68. Chua, The “Galitzin” Quartets of Beethoven, p. 164.
69. David L. Brodbeck and John Platoff, “Dissociation and Integration: The First
Movement of Beethoven’s Opus 130,” Nineteenth-Century Music 7:2 (1983),
p. 149.
70. Rosen, The Classical Style, p. 33.
71. Kerman, The Beethoven Quartets, p. 309.
72. Brodbeck and Platoff, “Beethoven’s Opus 130,” p. 155.
73. Rosen points out that Beethoven assumes the use of a tempered scale even when
writing exclusively for string instruments, which can play either a natural or
tempered scale (The Classical Style, p. 27).
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202 Notes to pages 161–173
74. Kerman, The Beethoven Quartets, pp. 311–312.
75. Rosen describes this pattern in the work of all three composers in The Classical
Style (pp. 406–409); the opening descending third of Beethoven’s Symphony
No. 5 in C minor may be the most famous interval in Western music.
76. Kerman, The Beethoven Quartets, p. 309.
77. Brodbeck and Platoff, “Beethoven’s Opus 130,” p. 158.
78. Kerman, The Beethoven Quartets, p. 312.
79. See Kerman, The Beethoven Quartets, p. 313.
80. The precise playing times on the 1983 compact disc made by the Alban Berg
Quartet (EMI Digital, CDC 7 47136 2), are 9


for the first movement and


for the second movement.
81. See Kerman, The Beethoven Quartets, p. 314.
82. Robert Hatten, “Plenitude as Fulfillment: The ThirdMovement of Beethoven’s
String Quartet inB, Op. 130,” inThe String Quartets of Beethoven, ed. William
Kinderman (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2006), p. 216.
83. Theodor Helm, author of Beethovens Streichquartette (Nieder Walluf bei
Wiesbaden: M. S¨ andig, 1971); the observation is Kerman’s (p. 314).
84. A useful collection of Beethoven’s opinions on various subjects, Beethoven:
the Man and the Artist, as Revealed in His Own Words, ed, Friedrich Kerst,
ed. and trans. Henry Edward Krehbiel (New York: Dover, 1964), con-
tains three separate instances of Beethoven expressing his scorn for Rossini,
including the suggestion that Rossini needed “some blows ad posteriora”
(pp. 58–9).
85. Lewis Lockwood, Beethoven: Studies in the Creative Process (Cambridge: Har-
vard University Press, 1992), p. 210.
86. Lockwood, Beethoven: Studies in the Creative Process, p. 211.
87. Klaus Kropfinger’s excellent history of the last movement of op. 130, “Das
gespaltene Werk: Beethovens Streichquartett Op. 130/133,” appears in Beitr¨ age
zu Beethovens Kammermusik: Symposion Bonn 1984, ed. Sieghard Brandenburg
and Helmut Loos (Munich: G. Henle Verlag, 1987), pp. 296–335. Accord-
ing to Kropfinger’s sources, both the musicians and the public called op. 133
“unverst¨ andlich” and “chinesisch” (299). Martin Cooper’s account of the first
performance indicates that the movements which were best liked by the audi-
ence were, naturally, the presto, the danza alla tedesca, and the cavatina, the
least innovative of the work (Cooper p. 73).
88. Kropfinger, “Das gespaltene Werk,” pp. 301–2. Beethoven also transcribed it
for piano, four hands.
89. Kerman, The Beethoven Quartets, pp. 276–277.
90. William Kinderman, “Beethoven’s Last Quartets: Threshold to a Fourth Cre-
ative Period?” in ed. William Kinderman, The String Quartets of Beethoven
(Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 2006), p. 295.
91. Griffiths, The String Quartet, p. 112.
92. Carl Dahlhaus, among others, concurs on this point in Die Musik des neun-
zehnten Jahrhunderts (p. 64).
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Notes to page 173 203
93. Theodor W. Adorno has already done an admirable job of explaining this
history in, among other works, Introduction to the Sociology of Music, trans. E.
B. Ashton. (New York: Continuum, 1976), pp. 85–103.
94. Dahlhaus, Die Musik des neunzehnten Jahrhunderts, p. 69. The original is as
Zwischen expressiven und strukturellen Momenten besteht eine Wechselwirkung; und
sobald die Thematik – auch wenn sie nach außen hin noch das Gesetz der Formenlehre
erf¨ ullt – zur bloßen Oberfl¨ achenstruktur wird, nehmen die Ausdruckscharaktere einen
maskenhaften Zug an.
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a posteriori knowledge, 1, 6
a priori knowledge, 1, 6, 23, 24
Absolute Knowledge, 74, 75
Adorno, Theodor Wiesengrund, 4, 39, 148,
on Beethoven’s Late Style, 150–151
aesthetic judgment, 10
Allgemeine musikalische Zeiting, 88
Althusser, Louis, 177
Aristotle, 176
Austin, John Langshaw, 57
Bacchus, 39, 44, 53
Bach, Johann Sebastian, 142, 150
Bacon, Francis, 53
Baker, John Jay, 45
Bartlett, Brian, 106
Bate, Jonathan, 100
Baumgarten, Alexander, 8, 9
Beaumarchais, Pierre Augustine Caron de, 28
Beaumont, Sir George, 112
Beethoven, Ludwig van, 4, 25, 26, 30, 87
brothers, Carl and Johann, 142
education, 140–142
Fidelio, Op. 13, 102
Galitzin Quartets (Opp. 127, 130, 131, and
132), 143, 154, 156, 157
Große Fuge in B flat major, Op. 133, 154, 170
Hegel’s Phenomenology in relation to
Symphony No. 3, 146–148
Heiligenstadt Testament (letter), 142–143
Heroic Style, 143–148
Late Style, 148–154
Leonore Overtures, Op. 72a and 72b, 158
musical form, influence on, 145–146
period divisions, validity of, 143–144
Piano Sonata No. 21 in C major, Op. 53
“Waldstein,” 157
programmatic responses to his music, 139
String Quartet No. 10 in E flat major, Op. 74,
String Quartet No. 11 in F minor, Op. 95, 155
String Quartet No. 13 in B flat major, Op.
130/133, 174
String Quartet No. 13 in B flat major, Op.
130/133 (fifth movement), 168
String Quartet No. 13 in B flat major, Op.
130/133 (first movement), 154–165
String Quartet No. 13 in B flat major, Op.
130/133 (fourth movement), 167–168
String Quartet No. 13 in B flat major, Op.
130/133 (second movement), 165–167
String Quartet No. 13 in B flat major, Op.
130/133 (sixth movement), 170–172
String Quartet No. 13 in B flat major, Op.
130/133 (third movement), 167
String Quartet No. 14 in C sharp minor, Op.
131, 157
String Quartet No. 15 in F major, Op. 135, 154,
Symphony No. 1 in C major, Op. 21, 143
Symphony No. 3 in E flat major, Op. 55, 143,
144–146, 157
Symphony No. 5 in C minor, Op. 67, 31, 102,
138, 140, 145, 146
Symphony No. 6 in F major, Op. 68, 138
Symphony No. 8 in F major, Op. 93, 143
Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125, 30,
144, 151–153, 154, 156, 157, 178
Wellingtons Sieg, Op. 91, 144, 151, 172
Beißner, Friedrich, 36
Benjamin, Walter, 111
Berliner allgemeine musikalische Zeitung, 136,
Bildung, 17
Bloom, Harold, 4, 121
B¨ ohlendorff, Casimir Ulrich, 44, 46, 51
B¨ oschenstein-Sch¨ afer, Renate, 64
Bowie, Andrew, 23, 30, 86
Boyle, Robert, 53
Brodbeck, David, 157, 160, 164
Brook, Andrew, 5, 7
9780521887618ind CUUS116/Donelan 978 0 521 88761 8 March 11, 2008 18:40
214 Index
Brown, Marshall, 2
Broyles, Michael, 145
Buch, Esteban, 153
Bullinger, Abb´ e, 25
Bungay, Stephen, 71, 82, 87
Burnham, Scott, 4, 146–148, 151
Butler, Judith, 177
Byron, Lord (George Gordon), 107, 111, 134
Cervantes, Miguel de, 120
Chua, Daniel, 154, 157
Coleridge, Samuel Taylor, 30, 56, 104, 113, 115,
Colloredo, Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg, 1, 25,
Cook, Nicolas, 144
Cooper, Barry, 141
Cooper, Martin, 149
Czerny, Carl, 146
da Ponte, Lorenzo, 28
da Vinci, Leonardo, 31
Dahlhaus, Carl, 13, 88, 101, 139, 140, 145, 148, 152,
169, 173
Dante (Dante Alighieri), 117
Dasein, 82, 186
de Man, Paul, 39, 48, 55, 99, 125, 176
Derrida, Jacques, 11
Descartes, Ren´ e, 1, 7, 38, 53, 116, 197
Don Quixote, 120, 121
Dyce, Alexander, 130
early Romantic period (defined), 3
Einbildung, 17
entgegensetzen, 16
Euclid, 118
Ferguson, Frances, 11
Fichte, Johann Gottlieb, 2, 5, 56, 72, 148, 181
influence on H¨ olderlin, 34–36
influence on later Idealists, 18–19
self-consciousness, 14–16
Wissenschaftlehre, 16
formalism, 11
Formtrieb, 17
Forster, Edward Morgan, 138
Frank, Manfred, 35
Fry, Paul, 110
Galitzin, Prince Nicolas Boris, 154, 156
Gethmann-Siefert, Anne-Marie, 69, 71, 75, 189
Goehr, Lydia, 26
Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von, 65, 70, 141
Gray, Thomas, 104
Griffiths, Paul, 155, 172
Hamburger, Michael, 50
Hamlin, Cyrus, 40
Handel, George Frideric (Georg Friedrich), 150
Haney, David, 106
Hanslick, Eduard, 101
Hartman, Geoffrey, 107, 121, 123
Hatten, Robert, 167
Haydn, Franz Josef, 26, 87, 137, 138, 142, 143, 150,
153, 155, 156, 159, 161, 171, 173, 198
Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich, 4, 30, 97, 98,
105, 111, 136
aesthetics, lectures on (history), 69–70, 71
Aufhebung (sublation), 73, 85
Encyclopedia of the Philosophical Sciences, 84, 85
end of art thesis, 70, 75
forms of art (Kunstformen) theory, 78
Geist (spirit), 73
History of Philosophy, 80
Lectures on Aesthetics, 131
Lectures on Aesthetics (general principles),
Lectures on Aesthetics (music), 82–90
Lectures on Aesthetics (poetry), 91–95
Phenomenology of Spirit, 16, 47, 72–75, 81, 147,
148, 151, 176, 177, 189
Philosophy of History, 80, 81, 152
role in creation of Systemprogramm Fragment,
Science of Logic, 73
T¨ ubinger Freunde, as member of, 14, 18, 35, 68
unhappy consciousness, 91
Heidegger, Martin, 39
Heinse, Wilhelm, 56
Helm, Theodor, 167
Henrich, Dieter, 15, 18, 35, 37, 176
Herder, Johann Gottfried, 68
Hoeckner, Berthold, 152
Hoffmann, Ernst Theodor Amadeus, 4, 101, 136,
Hegel’s view of, 91
review of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, 88–90
H¨ olderlin, Friedrich, 4, 30, 32, 68, 73, 98, 137,
“An die Parzen,” 50
B¨ ohlendorff letter, 48
“Brod und Wein,” 49–59, 60, 62
“Der Rhein,” 63
“Dichterberuf ,” 44–45, 50, 57, 63
“Diotima,” 43
“Friedensfeier,” 62
Hyperion (novel), 33
madness, 176
“Patmos,” 49, 62, 68
role in creation of Systemprogramm Fragment,
9780521887618ind CUUS116/Donelan 978 0 521 88761 8 March 11, 2008 18:40
Index 215
T¨ ubinger Freunde, as member of, 14, 18
“Urtheil und Seyn,” 34, 35–37, 72
“Wechsel der T¨ one,” 34, 43, 48, 50
“Wie wenn am Feiertage . . . ,” 49, 62–67
Hollander, John, 103, 119
Homer, 127
Hotho, Heinrich Gustav, 69, 70, 71, 82, 84,
Howards End (novel), 138
Hume, David, 6, 177
Industrial Revolution, 176
intellectual intuition, 20
Josef II, Emperor of Austria, 25
Kant, Immanuel, 1, 5, 30, 36, 72, 73, 80, 85, 101,
120, 141, 177
Affektenlehre (“doctrine of emotions”), 13
apperceptive self-awareness, 7
Critique of Judgment, 8, 9, 16, 24, 80
Critique of Practical Reason, 9, 16
Critique of Pure Reason, 1, 5, 7–9, 13, 21
empirical self-awareness, 7
intellectual intuition, 15, 20, 36
on music, 11–13
self-consciousness, 5, 14, 22, 33
synthetic unity of apperception, 6, 7
teleological judgment, 9
transcendental deduction, 6, 7
Kerman, Joseph, 143, 157, 160, 161, 164, 167, 169,
Kivy, Peter, 13
Knox, Thomas Malcolm, 77, 83, 87
Koj` eve, Alexandre, 4
K¨ orner, Christian Gottfried, 40–42, 101
Kramer, Lawrence, 102, 111, 152
Kroeber, Karl, 98, 100, 102
Kurz, Gerhard, 35
Lacoue-Labarthe, Philippe, 24, 46, 47
Leibniz, Gottfried Wilhelm, 38
Lippmann, Edward, 12
Liszt, Franz, 101
Lockwood, Lewis, 168
Lot’s wife, 120
Lukacs, Georg, 4
Machiavelli, Niccol` o, 176
M¨ alzel, Johann Nepomuk, 144
Marianne, Princess of Hesse-Homburg, 68
Marston, Nicholas, 141
Marx, Adolf Bernhard, 4, 88, 136, 145, 146
Marx, Karl, 4, 79, 177
Marx, Werner, 20, 79
McCleary, Susan, 101
McGann, Jerome, 98
Mendelssohn, Felix (Jakob Ludwig Felix
Mendelssohn Bartholdy), 77, 136
Metternich, Prince Klemens Wenzel von, 153
Meyer, Leonard B., 101
Michelangelo (Michelangelo di Lodovico
Buonarroti Simoni), 31
Milton, John, 129
mimesis, 11
Mitchell, W. J. T., 106
Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus, 1, 5, 77, 87, 137,
142, 143, 150, 156, 161
as genius, 24
Don Giovanni, K.527, 29–30, 136
father (Leopold Mozart), 25
La finta giardiniera, K.196, 28, 34
Le nozze di Figaro, K.492, 28–29, 123
piano concerto, 27–28
Piano Concerto No. 23 in A Major, K.488, 27
Salzburg, view of, 25
Nancy, Jean-Luc, 24
Napoleon (Napol´ eon Bonaparte), 68
Neefe, Christian Gottlob, 142
Newton, Isaac, 38, 53
Niethammer, Immanuel, 37
Nietzsche, Friedrich, 101
Nowak, Adolf, 94
O’Donnell, Brendan, 106
Oedipus, 129
Perrey, Beate Julia, 137
Pindar, 43, 49, 53
Pippin, Robert, 15
Plantinga, Leon, 141, 142
Plato, 37
Platoff, John, 157, 160, 164
Pythagoras, 22, 85
quatuor brillant, 156
quatuor concertant, 156
Raspe, Rudolf, 152
Reicha, Antonin, 146
Revelation, 60, 119
Rink, John, 26
Rob Roy (Robert Roy MacGregor), 109
Robinson, Jeffrey, 106
Romantic ideology, 98
Rosen, Charles, 27, 144, 155
Rossini, Gioachino, 88, 89, 167
Rousseau, Jean-Jacques, 39
Ryan, Lawrence, 40
9780521887618ind CUUS116/Donelan 978 0 521 88761 8 March 11, 2008 18:40
216 Index
Salieri, Antonio, 26
Samson, Jim, 25
Schelling, Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von, 3, 14,
38, 72
on music, 21–22
on self-consciousness, 19–21
Philosophie der Kunst, 21, 23, 189
role in creation of Systemprogramm Fragment,
System des transzendentalen Idealismus, 21, 22
T¨ ubinger Freunde, as member of, 18, 35
Schering, Arnold, 141
Schiller, Friedrich, 2, 5, 14, 21, 37, 40, 42, 70, 81,
118, 136, 137, 152, 172
compared to Fichte, 18
On Aesthetic Education, 16, 23
on music, 16–18
Schlegel, August Friedrich and Karl Wilhelm, 35,
Schmidlin, Guido, 45
Schopenhauer, Arthur, 3
Schubert, Franz, 3
Sch¨ uttauf, Konrad, 79
Selbstobjektwerden, 20, 72, 73
self-consciousness (defined), 3
self-positing, 15
Semele, 65
Shelley, Percy Bysshe, 134
Sinclair, Isaac von, 68
Smyser, Jane Worthington, 116
Solomon, Maynard, 27, 138, 153
sonata-allegro form, dialectical nature of,
Spieltrieb, 17
spontaneity (of self-consciousness), 14
St. John, 60, 65, 133
St. Matthew, 54
St. Paul, 129
Stierle, Karlheinz, 60
stile brillante, 26
Stofftrieb, 17
Strauss, Johann, 167
Stravinsky, Igor, 101
Subotnik, Rose Rosengard, 101, 148, 150, 151
Systemprogramm Fragment, 22–24, 30, 32, 33, 37,
38, 68, 69
Szondi, Peter, 46, 47, 176
Tales of the Thousand and One Nights, 117
Tathandlung, 15
Tiresias, 129
tonic-dominant axis, 155
transcendental deduction, 5
T¨ ubinger Freunde, 18, 68
Tyson, Alan, 143
Viennese Classicism, 4, 31, 87, 137, 156
Vietnam War, 176
Virgil (Publius Virgilius Maro), 117
Vorstellung, 7, 11, 12, 17
Wagner, Richard, 101
Wallace, Robin, 88
War on Terror, 176
Warminski, Andrzej, 46, 47, 73, 121, 124
Wellesley, Arthur, First Duke of Wellington, 144
Winckelmann, Johann Joachim, 78, 81
Wordsworth, William, 4, 30, 136, 137
Golden Decade, 176
knowledge of German philosophy, 98
Lucy poems, 126
“On the Power of Sound,” 99, 130, 133
Poems, in Two Volumes (1807), 107
“Power of Music, The,” 130
“Preface to the Lyrical Ballads,” 99, 103–105,
Prelude, 99, 110
Prelude, Book I, 112–115
Prelude, Book V, “The Boy of Winander,”
Prelude, Book V, “The Dream of the Arab,”
115–122, 133
Prelude, Book VI, “Simplon Pass” episode, 126
Prelude, Book VII, “The Blind Beggar,”
Prelude, Book XII, 134–135
“Resolution and Independence,” 130
“Rob Roy’s Grave,” 107
“Solitary Reaper, The,” 99, 107–112, 123, 125
The Prelude, 56
The Recluse, 129
“To a Cuckoo,” 109
Z¨ oller, G¨ unther, 15, 16
Zur Wohlt¨ atigkeit (Masonic lodge), 29