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Hölderlin's Ganymede
is a sulky, bad-tempered
shepherd boy,
storming about the place,
annoying the neighbours, and yet,
in his own head,
he is somewhere else -
cupbearer to the gods,
beloved of eagles - and so
really rather unexceptional
as adolescents go, except
that he is a shepherd
and who among all the adolescent boys
we know, or were,
can boast of that?
But Hölderlin makes of this really rather
ordinary shepherd boy an image of
winter becoming spring. But why,
then, when spring arrives,
does he disappear?
And who is the "travelled man" who
wakes him from his sleep, causes him
to break his shackles, upset everything -
all the peace of beautiful, calm
snow-clad winter, with all that noisy
bursting out from the earth, from the stem,
from the bud? Why, who but
Hölderlin! The poet! Since only
as poetry can the change of the seasons
be understood - a change that takes place
in the heart, in nearly
every heart. Even the heart
of a lout like Ganymede. But not, perhaps,
me. A cultured person, living
apart from the earth, I can
certainly read Hölderlin
(in translation) but remain
largely impervious to the change
of the seasons - being, as I am,
of the world - and therein I am forced
to acknowledge the greatness of
Ganymede - he who will finally
disappear to become
one with the gods.