“Homecoming” is the last of Friedrich Hölderlin’s eight elegies. It consists of six stanzas of eighteen lines each, for a total of fifty-four elegiac distichs. The poem begins with unqualified expressions of joy in the sight and sounds of a world disclosing itself in its pristine relation. It then moves to a somberness still marked by joy but wrought with care: The poet must care, if others cannot, about apprehending the divine source of joyousness and finding names for the High Ones to supersede the outworn terms that have lost the glory of radiant holiness. The naming of God, in the deity’s disclosure of himself, is a participation in creation as a constant reality. The poet, still joyous in his ability to address the higher powers (the great Father and the angels), confronts incipient despair at the apparent impossibility of new efficacious naming.
The first stanza picks up the ambiguity of the poem’s dedication, “An die Verwandten,” which might be dedicating the poem to relatives to whom the poet is returning or simply to like-minded persons whom the poet is addressing. It exhibits creation as gloriously fraught with inherently resolved contradictions: bright night under a cloud; a cloud in the act of composing the poetic lines that the poet is composing about the cloud; a gähnende valley (a valley that is gaping or yawning as it comes awake and that is swallowing—presumably swallowing the night covered by the cloud in infantile self-sustenance). The stanza begins, “There inside the Alps it is still bright night, and the cloud, composing/ Joyousness, covers it within the yawning valley.” The darkness is bright within a yawning (deep) valley that is waking with a yawn and gapingly...
(The entire section is 707 words.)