The Poem

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

Friedrich Hölderlin’s “The Poet’s Courage” consists of seven four-line classical hexameter stanzas that examine the relationship of the poet to nature, lament the loss of the poet to natural forces beyond the poet’s control, and exhort the reader to take both courage and caution from the poet’s costly struggle. The poem begins by posing a rhetorical question to the reader, asking if the reader understands that human beings are kin to all that is alive and asserting that humans exist ultimately to serve “Fate.” Based on these assertions, the poem directs the reader to travel without fear though life.

This idea of accepting “all that happens there” continues into the second stanza as the reader is once again provided with affirmations that neither harm nor offense should be found in the progression of that which must be. The images of the third stanza support this representation of human existence in service to nature’s larger forces, in the “quiet near shores” or over “silent deep/ Water” through which the “flimsy/ Swimmer” travels. The fragile poet loves to be among these living, teeming creatures, and it is this union that makes possible the poet’s song. Moving from the general human condition to that of the poet in particular, the fourth stanza establishes the relationship of the poet to all “those alive, our kin” for whom “we sing his god.” The poet is developed as nature’s spokesperson, one who exists in...

(The entire section is 478 words.)