Publishing Genius’s Famously Obtuse

Mission Statement

from The Philosophical and Theoretical Works of Friedrich Von Hardenburg

Friedrich Von Hardenburg

Matters concerning speech and writing are genuinely strange; proper conversation is a mere play of words. We can only marvel at the laughable error people make—believing that they speak about things. No one knows precisely what is peculiar to language, that it concerns itself merely with itself. For that reason, it is a wonderful and fertile mystery—that when someone speaks merely in order to speak, one precisely then expresses the most splendid and most original truths. Yet if one wishes to speak of something determinate, then temperamental language has them say the most laughable and perverse things. That is the reason too for the hatred that so many earnest people have toward language. They recognize their own willfulness, but do not observe that contemptible chatter is the infinitely earnest side of language. If only one could make people grasp that the case of language is similar to the case of mathematical formulae—they constitute a world for themselves—they play with themselves alone, express nothing other than their wonderful nature, and precisely for that reason they are so expressive—precisely for that reason they mirror in themselves the curious play of relations in things. Only by way of freedom are they members of nature and only in their free movements does the world soul give utterance, making them a delicate standard of measure and blueprint for things. Thus it is with language too—whoever has a subtle sense of its application, its cadence, its musical spirit, whoever perceives in oneself the delicate effects of its inner nature, and moves one’s tongue and hand in accordance with it will be a prophet; in contrast, whoever knows it but does not have sufficient ear and sensibility for language, writes truths such as these, will be held hostage by language itself and will be mocked by human beings, as was Cassandra among the Trojans. If I believe I have hereby declared most precisely the essence and office of poesy, I know nonetheless that no human being can understand it, and that I have said something quite foolish, for the mere reason that I wanted to say it, so that no poesy comes to be. Yet what would happen if I had to talk? and if this linguistic drive to speak were the characteristic of inspiration of language, and of the efficacy of language in me? and if my will only willed precisely everything that I had to will—then in the end this could be without my knowledge or belief poesy and could make a mystery of language comprehensible? and thus I would be a writer by vocation, inasmuch as a writer is only an enthusiast of language?—