Hans-Georg Gadamer on Education, Poetry, and History: Applied Hermeneutics

By Dieter Misgeld; Graeme Nicholson et al. | Go to book overview
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Chapter 8
THE VERSE AND THE WHOLE

With hesitation I stand before you. I wonder about my qualifications and I wonder about the possibilities of analysis which one who has devoted himself to the art of concepts has in facing a poetic work. I also wonder what I should say at all after a number of introductory remarks in which the tone and echo of the intellectual reality and effect of the poet Stefan George was to be heard.

Nevertheless a kind of qualification may exist in the desire for justification, which is -- I believe -- especially incumbent upon the so-called philosopher. Justification, logon didonai, is the old Socratic requirement which no thinker can completely escape. And it is, I believe, such a desire for justification which gathers us all together here. Our gathering does not signify a following in the sense of developing a community or founding a church nor does it concern establishing a political organization. As an individual speaking to you I am one of many, who since their youth have been a witness to the fascination which has emanated from this poet and his poetry. We have also witnessed the provocation with which this poet confronted the consciousness of the era by means of a conscious separation from and through a radical critique of the ideals of modern mass society.

Now justification is always conditioned by its own time and its future. We already know the various changes in evaluation which have occurred to great intellectual and influential persons: consider the time between the nineteenth century and today, the last quarter of the twentieth century, and examine the changing constellations which, for example, Schiller and Geothe exhibited: How Schiller led the way by lending his voice to the patriotic feelings of the developing German national state; how Goethe's broad and encompassing influence was first made possible at the end of the nineteenth century due to its liberal ideals; or how Hölderlin advanced from a poem minor of the Romantic period to a true classical figure in our century. Reciprocally we see countless figures of central and influential importance becoming controversial or of lesser esteem. And even among the greatest preferences shift. For example, think of Richard Wagner as opposed to Verdi or of Beethoven as opposed to Bach. Living tensions express themselves in such comparisons. Or -- to approach our

____________________
*
Address to the Stefan George Seminar in Bingen, 1978.

-83-

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