Themes and Meanings

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 419

“Homecoming” is a profound meditation upon the nature, or essence, of home. The blessings of home are brightness, friendliness, the experience of belonging, a sense of rightness, and ultimately a communion with the divinity who confers the blessings.

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Martin Heidegger has provided a cogent essay on the meanings inherent in “Homecoming”; it was published as “Heimkunft / An die Verwandten” in Erläuterungen zu Hölderlins Dichtung (1944; a translation of the essay as “Remembrance of the Poet,” along with its foreword, “Prefatory Remark to a Repetition of the Address,” appears in the collection Existence and Being, 1949): “The innermost essence of home is already the destiny of a Providence, or as we call it: History. Nevertheless, in the dispensation of Providence, the essence is not yet completely handed over.” It is reserved, given to be discovered but kept back from all. Heidegger identifies the reserved as that which introduces care (Sorge) into joyousness. He observes that the poem ends with a recognition that the poet must dispel care by caring rightly, not as he may wish or choose to care. He emphasizes the fact that the last word of the poem is a “blunt not”’ (nicht).

Following Heidegger’s lead, one could add that nicht is an element of the Sorge theme as it develops from the expression of joyousness. Nicht is absent from the first two stanzas; it then appears once in each of the next three stanzas and five times, in all, in the last stanza. The increasing note of negativity serves as a check on the joyousness that the poet feels. Words denoting joy appear fourteen times in the poem, five times in the sixth stanza, and are missing only from the fourth stanza—which does, however, include the word “happy” in modification of Lindau, the locale of the homecoming.

Heidegger selected Hölderlin’s poetry as the prime example of his notion that poetry alone is receptive of Being’s reserved unfolding of itself. Poetry, he says, is not about homecoming: poetry is the actual homecoming. The homecoming is serenification, the return to the serenity of Being. The unfolding of this serenity is best and most nearly fully experienced in one’s existential home, where long residence effectively inhibits one’s ability to achieve the experience. Distancing oneself from home ultimately serves to sharpen the ability to experience serenity upon returning or drawing near to home once again. The sensibility of the poet, exclusively, is attuned to the joyousness of homecoming and its attendant quality of care.

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Analysis