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an international and interdisciplinary journal of postmodern cultural sound, text and image

Volume 16, Fall/Winter 2019/2020, ISSN 1552-5112



Hegel on Lyric Poetry: Between Classical and Romantic



William Desmond





Lyric poetry is a genre that has long resisted theorization, and among theories of lyric, Hegel’s has received relatively little sustained attention. In the context of his overall system, however, and of the Romantic era in which he lived, Hegel’s theory of lyric remains highly suggestive. No doubt Hegel was a philosophical idealist, and his idealism of a self-evolving, self-related Absolute finds a corollary in his understanding of lyric as one expression of free minds and peoples. More ambiguous is Hegel’s stance relative to the categories of ‘classical’ and ‘romantic’ so favoured in his time. In this article, drawing mainly on Hegel’s mature aesthetics,[1] I will outline Hegel’s understanding of lyric, and argue that he approaches it from a predominantly Romantic perspective: lyric is the poetry of subjectivity, at once individual and communal. At the same time, however, Hegel looks more firmly back to Classical Greece for lyric techniques and models, even as he conceptualizes Greek exemplars like Pindar and Anacreon in an essentially Romantic way. As a result, a fundamental ambivalence pervades his assessment of lyric poetry: the genre expresses the self-consciousness individual spirit and thus may seem poised to become the dominant art-form for a self-conscious modern and ‘Romantic’ world; and yet the unrepeatable Greek achievement may well mean that lyric in its highest vocation is a thing of the past.

The Berlin Lectures of Fine Art are a rich source of aesthetic thought partly for the manner in which they freely reflect on and compare each of its chosen art-forms (architecture, sculpture, painting, music, poetry) and styles (symbolic, classical, romantic), attempting to understand each in itself and in relation to the entirety of thought and even of human history. In this effort at a totalizing system, lyric poetry is brought into special relation with music, as one of the least material and most interior of art forms. Yet though Hegel’s lectures suggest a multiplicity of connections, one should not be distracted from the most obvious aspect of his classification. Namely, lyric poetry is poetry--the art-form that Hegel privileges, like Friedrich Schlegel, Novalis, Schelling and other ‘Romantic’ thinkers, as essentially the universal art: the form of sensuous expression that can capture experience most comprehensively, the ‘poetic’ for Hegel is both that which differentiates all art-forms from mere ‘prose’ and which is the ultimate telos of artistic development.[2] In turn, poetry has three fundamental sub-species: epic poetry is objective and universalizing, lyric poetry is subjective and particular, while drama synthesizes epic action and lyric passion in a significant clash of character. In this analysis, Hegel gives his own gloss to terms that were, and still are, standard. For Goethe in 1819 had named epic, lyric, and drama as the three ‘natural’ forms of poetry, and in time this Goethean classification is said to have become the ‘undisputed basis for most generic classifications of literature’ with ‘an almost world-wide relevance.’[3] But Hegel characteristically goes one step further by associating Goethe’s Urformen with quasi-logical moments in the ‘concept’ of poetry, itself a moment of his larger concept of the beautiful. Indeed, each of the poetic sub-species are structured by the dialectic of the Hegelian Concept: in any poem, some guiding universal (e.g. epic war, lyric emotion, dramatic conflict) differentiates itself into a range of particular details (e.g. images, personae, metaphors), each of which is so skillfully handled that they resonate with all others as individual reflections of the universal permeating them.[4]

Comparing and contrasting Hegel’s treatment of epic and lyric poetry may help to illustrate his quasi-logical structuring of poetic forms and history--and to highlight the essentially Romantic tenor of his approach to lyric specifically. In Hegel’s triad of poetic forms, lyric follows epic as its dialectical opposite and twin. Epics are long, lyrics short. Epics tend to celebrate a glorious past of a whole people, lyrics the intense, present experiences of an individual.[5]  Epics narrate the objective deeds of gods and heroes with a single metre--the broad, impressive hexameter; lyric adopts an endless array of metres and forms to match the ‘incalculable variety’ of subjective moods, feelings and ideas.[6] Epic juxtaposes discrete phenomenon in the panorama of a verbal space; lyric evokes feelings as they emerge in time.[7] In sum, where epic is the universal poetry that depicts a whole world through one characteristic action, in a single style and hexameter meter, lyric is the poetry of particularity that sings the self with its infinite profusion of feelings and ideas.[8] This quasi-logical structuring of poetic forms seems designed also to account for the chronological precedence of epic in many national histories: epics tend to occur early as a people emerge from pastoral nomadism, but lyric voices appear as later, self-conscious reactions against the settled, ‘prosaic’ conditions of work, fixed customs, laws, and institutions.[9] Many of these reflections remain quite suggestive and widely shared: notably, Hegel’s association of lyric with his logical moment of particularity—and with hence the realm of shifting contingencies that seem to evade the full intelligibility of concepts—fully anticipates contemporary theorists’ standard remark (and lament) that lyric resists full theorization, though they rarely realize the Hegelian precedent.[10]

Hegel himself is too optimistic about the powers of reason to let the matter rest there. For while in their multifarious content and forms lyrics may seem to resist full categorization, Hegel would claim to detect the dynamic of his Idea at work. In broad outline, the Hegelian Idea is that process or reality that overreaches itself to overcome the otherness of nature and human history, and gradually subsume them into ever higher spiritual forms: in even more Hegelian terms, the Concept is unified with Nature in Spirit or the Idea, and ‘the Idea is the unity of the Concept and existence.’[11] This absolute idealism has its corollaries in Hegel’s remarks on the dynamic of artistic composition and works. Epics, for example, can be analyzed as moving from some universal situation (e.g. a war of national importance) to particular representative moments (e.g. duels), while lyrics, develop a particular momentary mood with language and images that are universally resonant; and so where the epic poet submerges his personality in the matter-of-fact narrative of an objective past, the lyric poet lets his mood ‘overflow’ into charged language most appropriate to his passionate present. Once again, for Hegel, lyric song arises when a ‘mood of the heart [is] concentrated on a concrete situation’[12] and thereby made objectively intelligible to others; again, lyric develops a particular momentary mood with language and images that are universally suggestive; the lyric poet lets his mood ‘overflow’ into the charged language of words, images, metaphors, rhythm, or rhyme—all of these become means of giving subjectivity a sensuous, objective expression.[13] The dialectical dynamic that Hegel detects in the background here is summarized in the remark that the content of all poetry is ‘reason individualized.’[14] In more concrete terms, poetry can treat all experience, external and internal. The objective tone of epic orients it to the seemingly external, but while the lyric poet can also sing of anything, what distinguishes it as lyric is the poet’s arresting selection, ordering, and revelatory treatment.[15] Thus lyric content gains its poetic importance only in relation to the genius of the poet--and for his brilliant insights, there can be ‘no fixed apriori criterion.’[16] The lyric poet, then, becomes for Hegel a ‘subjective totality’ and even a ‘subjective work of art,’ who contains multitudes within himself and is able to express that inner universality to others.[17] It is in this way that great lyric poetry is not merely subjective, but has a universality of appeal. The lyric poet does not simply speak his own feelings and experiences; more precisely, he sings of some dominant feeling with a concision that yet draws intensely on all the resources of his culture. In doing so, he can capture and evoke the mind of an entire people or nation. Thus, just as epics are often the ‘bibles’ of a people, so ‘the entirety of a nation’s lyric poetry may ... run through the entirety of the nation’s interests, ideas and aims,’ including fundamental religious and philosophical ideas.[18] Moreover, the lyric poet binds his subjective feelings and ideas so perfectly with objective expressions and lyric forms that the two become inseparably one in the poem: in the lyric poem, mind and the objective world are unified into a single, seamless whole. Thus the lyric poem becomes (in Hegelian language) truly Ideal, beautiful, and an expression of the Absolute Spirit, which is the full union of subjectivity and objectivity, of the Concept and Nature. It is as if in the Hegelian systematic, the lyric poet becomes the vessel through which the divine cosmos comes to voice itself.

Not only does this approach reflect Hegel’s absolute idealism: it also echoes many themes associated with ‘Romanticism.’ Hegel was of course explicitly critical of a certain aesthetic irrationalism in Schelling, the gothic obscurities of Hoffman and von Kleist, the ‘nullity and indecision… and trash’ of Goethe’s Werther or Jacobi’s Woldemar, the ironies of Friedrich Schlegel, and the general Romantic decadence that has produced an ‘awful confusion of our taste which takes pleasure in anything and everything.’[19] Romanticism itself is, of course, a plurivocal term, whose centre has been variously located: imagination, emotionalism, organic unity, the wayward genius, the genius of the people, the natural and ordinary, the supernatural and exotic, knightly romances and medieval Christendom, the post-Classical and the modern. Hegel uses the label ‘Romantic’ for art in which the consciousness of the Idea has become too great for sensual expression and yearns for some deeper religious or philosophical embodiment. So in Hegel’s sense, the ‘Romantic’ is associated with the Christian and post-classical, hence with the ‘Germanic’ world and ultimately the modern, scientific present. Yet, despite all this, with regard to lyric poetry, his conception of it as concise self-expression that is at once intensely personal and implicitly universal, voicing an individual’s inner experience (ranging from vague feelings to precise Schillerian ideas) and yet capturing the spirit of his times, people, and even mankind itself, rooted in the twin inspirations of experience and Spirit or God--herein may be detected many elements of an essentially Romantic approach to lyric: self-expression, genius and organic totality. Perhaps most tellingly, Hegel associates lyric primarily with music (for him the Romantic art par excellence), an idea shared by Schiller, Novalis, Nietzsche, and others, who speak of how an indeterminate ‘musical mood’ or rhythmical line comes first—and only after, the determinate words, which give the underlying feeling objective embodiment, as it were.[20] In sum, one imagines that Hegel would not have disagreed with Wordsworth’s famous definition of ‘good poetry [as] the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings recollected in tranquility.’[21]

Like Wordsworth and others, Hegel associates the Romantic most with the modern present. And when he would dialectically trace his universal ‘concept’ of lyric through the particulars that instantiate and actualize it in historical reality, we see him applying an essential ‘Romantic’ approach to past exemplars. It is this essential Romanticism, I suggest, that is more determinative of his understanding of individual poems than are the parallel sets of categories that he himself adduces or draws on: by genre, into hymns, odes, and songs (Lieder); by style, into Symbolic, Classical, and Romantic; and by historical period, into Oriental, Greek, Roman, and Germanic. Thus, in the case of hymns, it is not simply that a poet praises a deity. Rather, the hymn (in Hegel’s analysis) arises from the poet’s inner absorption in the god, so that what the poet really expresses is his own awe and wonder before the sublime Other--truly other in the Psalms, more individualized in the case of the anthropomorphic deities of the Homeric Hymns.[22] The difference between poet and subject-matter that defines Symbolic hymns is elided in the central genre of the Classical style--the ode. In odes, it is again some mighty external other that is the initial impetus for song, but with much struggle the poet ‘masters his subject, transforms it within himself, brings himself to expression in it.’ The struggle leaves its mark in the ‘swing and boldness of language,’ the leaps of thought, that characterize great odes. [23] Such descriptions of the genre seem most inspired primarily by Pindar, known for his difficult expression, and who for Hegel occupies the ‘summit of perfection’ in this type of lyric.[24]

The following passage touches upon many of Hegel’s ideas concerning the Pindaric ode, as it evolved from commission to performance: 


…Pindar was frequently asked to celebrate this or that victor in the Games and indeed he made his living by taking money for his compositions; and yet, as bard, he puts himself in his hero’s place and independently combines with his own imagination the praise of the deeds of his hero’s ancestors, it may be; he recalls old myths, or he expresses his own profound view of life, wealth, dominion, whatever is great and honourable, the sublimity and charm of the Muses, but above all the dignity of the bard. Consequently in his poems he is not so much concerned to honour the hero whose fame he spreads in this way as to make himself, the poet, heard. He himself has not the honour of having sung the praises of victors, for it is they who have acquired honour by being made the subject of Pindar’s verse (LA 2.1129-30, italics added).


Hegel implicitly associates Pindar’s odes in praise of athletic victors with eighteenth-century Gelegenheitsgedichte, ‘occasional poems’ composed for a prince or patron to celebrate a birth, wedding or official event. But whereas these were relatively bureaucratic affairs of princelings, the Greek Games were public occasions of ‘the highest importance and substantive worth, the glorification of the gods as well as of victors in those games wherein the Greeks… had an objective vision of their national unity.’[25] These grand Panhellenic occasions Pindar manages to raise to an even higher significance by relating them to the religious and poetic tradition, thus associating the victors to the gods and heroes, and charging the listening community with something of the poet’s own sublime consciousness. On the one hand, Hegel tries to justify Pindar’s odes as ‘classical’ in his sense of the term: they balance seeming opposites—particular occasion and universal significance, human community and divine background, traditional myths and free poetic imagination, or abstractly, the Concept and its particular instantiations. On the other hand, what takes on ultimate importance is not so much the occasion, athletic victory and subject-matter, as the poet himself, the mind whose universal vision transforms bare particulars into concrete individual events shot through with absolute meaning. Pindar himself asserts the ‘dignity of the bard’ as equal to that of kings, yet for Hegel, it is even higher than that, for Pindar first asserts the sacred status of the poet as bard, vates and free creator against the prosaic world of princes, patrons and publishers--a feat accomplished also by Hegel’s Klopstock and Schiller. In all this, what is most determinative for Hegel is how a lyricist like Pindar ultimately sings himself -- as the true embodiment of all that Greece was. As the ‘overflowing’ of a poetic soul seeped in the history, mythology, and mentality of his people, the odes of Pindar allow Greek to think itself: through the odes, Greece attains its highest self-consciousness, that Hegel would associate further with the divine Mind, the self-thinking Idea.[26]

Such an idealistic / Romantic understanding of the ode make it (for Hegel) the logical predecessor for the next main lyric form, the song (Lied), which makes more explicit still the universal dynamic of the genre. Hafiz, Anacreon, and Goethe are taken as champions of the Lied for the Symbolic Orient, Classical Greece, and Romantic Germany, respectively. Let us dwell briefly on the latter two. First, the Anacreonta with their themes of the rose, vine, women, wine, and the passing of time, had long been favourites for translation and imitation: in eighteenth-century Germany by von Hagedorn, Gleim, Uz, Götz, Hölty and Johann Jacobi; Thomas Moore was known as ‘the Irish Anacreon,’ and Hafiz ‘the Persian Anacreon.’ Goethe too wrote his Anacreontics in his Leipziger Liederbuch of 1770, and his 1806 Anakreons Grab is much anthologized. It is the same Rococo figure that appears in Hegel’s Anacreon, as he sings about himself in all circumstances and times, ‘among roses, lovely girls and youths, as drinking and dancing, in cheerful enjoyment, without desire or longing, without duty, and without neglecting higher ends’—a ‘hero’ and a ‘subjective work of art.’[27] Thus, like Pindar, Hegel’s Anacreon ultimately sings himself. With a little extrapolation, the verdict would seem valid for Hegel’s Goethe too: while Hegel acknowledges Goethe’s accomplishments in many lyric genres, he ultimately categorizes him as the poet of the Lied in German. Taking all experience as an occasion for song, Goethe’s Lieder express his own self in its complexity, and give voice to the ‘German’ heart as nothing else has done.[28] Hegel does not quite call Goethe the German Anacreon, but his juxtaposition of the two within the ‘Romantic’ genre of the Lied may point in that direction: a rather deflating view, if so, that would make Goethe’s lyric songs purely private expressions, somewhat tangential to the great events of the early 1800s. 

         This brings us to Hegel’s somewhat ambivalent verdict on the temporal placing and durability of the lyric genre itself. The infamous statement of the Lectures has it that art ‘in its highest vocation is a thing of the past’ [H]: modern society is too mediated by general ideas for modern peoples to be able to be enthralled to the spontaneous sensual delight of true aesthetic experience. That the best days of the arts of epic or sculpture belong to the past may have seemed less controversial, but what of lyric? Goethe was still alive in the 1820s, and from one Hegelian perspective it would seem that lyric has a promising future. Hegel affirms that all peoples sing and have their songs, the lyric impulse ‘is renewed at every season’ and ‘every age strikes its new note of song and the earlier one dies away until it is mute altogether.’[29] The earliest peoples sing their naïve folk-songs and ballads, and it would seem that impulse to sing is universal and timeless--and hence not in danger of fading away.[30] For in Hegel’s perspective, lyric proper, as the expression of individual subjectivity, arises only later in national histories, as a reaction against, and antidote to, the emergence of the gray prose of life. Then the lyric poet sings of himself, and discovers in his own experience of small particularities moments of universal significance: such proper lyric Hegel traces through Archaic Greece, late Republic Rome, the Minnesingers of the late Middle Ages, and the Romantic period. His implicit association of lyric with particular subjectivity would seem to make the modern world the best time for lyric poetry: the spirit of medieval and modern Christian peoples is explicitly likened to that of the lyric self, in that it too is based on ‘the basis of the personality which is forced to produce out of its own resources as its own what is substantive and objective.’[31] Indeed, for Hegel the modern mind is reproducing out of its own infinitude the shapes of all realities, and this project of absolute idealism seems the proper context for his remark that lyric is ‘especially opportune in modern times’:[32] both the modern and lyric selves reproduce the world from their ‘idea.’ Such an approach, I suggest, bears a family resemblance to the more famous statements by Novalis and Friedrich Schlegel that the world must be romanticized and made ‘poetic.’[33]  

On the other hand, if the notion of the ‘lyrical’ modern self is more metaphorical than literal, one wonders whether Hegel was as optimistic as a Novalis concerning the ongoing importance of lyric. In Hegel’s historical survey, it is clear that Pindar’s odes sum up the historical and religious experience of the Greeks in a sensuously powerful way: uniting song, mythology, and dance, they were spectacles with a public and religious centrality that is not quite afforded a Klopstock, Goethe, or Schiller. Pindar could sum up the highest spirit of his times, but his unique synthesis was soon overtaken by the art of drama, and by the yet more subjective outlook of Sophistic and Socratic thinkers. Analogously, Goethe was somehow able to translate his multifarious experience into song, but if modern culture, civil society and states demand that individuals specialize, then could it easily produce another Goethe, able to tackle everything from politics and biology to painting and poetry? Whether Goethe is a unique, unrepeatable phenomenon, or a modern type who would recur, Hegel does not say. Yet his attempt at a definitive system suggests that in the course of its history poetry has run through all its logical possibilities: the self-thinking in Pindar’s odes and Anacreon’s songs were overtaken by Attic drama and Socratic philosophy, but the even more acute self-consciousness of Goethe’s lyrics seem to look beyond poetry altogether, to the higher spiritual expressions of Protestant Christianity and idealist philosophy.

Decisive support for this conclusion might be found in Hegel’s long, and neglected, discussion of versification. In some 25 pages, Hegel argues that modern languages cannot reproduce the superlative rhythms of ancient Greek and are therefore deficient poetically. To summarize the argument: Greek rhythm, determined by length of syllables, metrical accent and caesura, produces a subtler variety of word-music and diffuses meaning across the line, thereby fusing sense entirely ‘with the sensuous element of sound and temporal duration, so that this external element can be given its full rights in serenity and joy, and ideal form and movement can be made the sole concern’[34]—a veritable ‘classical’ synthesis of form and content. Medieval and modern rhyme, by contrast, concentrates meaning on stressed root words, effecting a far greater focus on meaning independent of sounds, and thus introducing an incipient split between ideas and their verbal medium. Hegel will therefore claim that Greek verse is ‘most beautiful and richest’; it is paradigmatic; rhyme, by contrast, ‘is a thumping sound that does not need so finely cultivated an ear as Greek versification necessitates.’[35] Hegel mentions how Klopstock, the older Voss, and Goethe attempted to revive ancient metres—but with dubious success, for no abstract programme or act of will can entirely remake a language, reintroduce syllable lengths by position and mitigate verbal accents.[36] The difficulties are not merely technical, Hegel thinks: the cumulative changes of centuries have made modern languages freer and ‘intellectualized.’[37] The project of setting modern content to ancient technical forms (as in Goethe’s classicizing poems, Antiker Form sich nähernd) seems in vain: ‘it is not possible to achieve the plasticity of metre in the sterling way that classical antiquity did.’[38] If so, Hegel’s implicit judgment on Weimar Classicism seems clear: not authentically ‘classical’ at all but rooted in the same spirit of individual, Christian spirit as more obviously ‘Romantic’ productions. If modern languages themselves cannot accommodate the spontaneous complexity of Greek lyric, it would seem that for Hegel, the heyday of lyric is past. ‘Classical’ poetry is a thing of the past, contemporary ‘Romantic’ poetry is edging ever closer to self-conscious and philosophical abstractions—and lyric itself is lost as the highest medium that it enjoyed in the time of Pindar’s Panhellenic odes.

I think this is likely to be Hegel’s final judgment on lyric as a whole, even though his synthesis in LA only partially resolves its own tensions and unstated assumptions. Perhaps less than fully appreciative of his debts to Romantic theorists, Hegel uses his own idealist/Romantic ‘concept’ of lyric to understand all lyrics, even while more consciously echoing philhellenic reverence for the Greek classics, Pindar above all. A similar matrix of elements would inspire others, from Hölderlin to Heidegger, in their struggle to overcome verdicts like Hegel’s. 




an international and interdisciplinary journal of postmodern cultural sound, text and image

 Volume 16, Fall/Winter 2019/2020, ISSN 1552-5112




Works cited


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Bowra, C.M. (1964): Pindar. Oxford.

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Burgin, V. (1986): The End of Art Theory: Criticism and Postmodernity. Macmillan.

Duff, D. (2014): Modern Genre Theory. Routledge.

Fraenkel, E. (1957): Horace. Oxford.

Gilbert, K.E. & H. Kuhn (1939): History of Esthetics. Macmillan.

Gundert, H. (1935): Pindar und sein Dichterberuf. Frankfurt.

Hegel, G.W.F. (1975): Hegel’s Aesthetics, trans. T.M. Knox, Vols. I-II. Oxford.

_____. (1989 [1813-15]): Science of Logic, trans. A.V. Miller. Humanities Press.

Lange, B. (1973): Die Sprache von Schillers Wallenstein. de Gruyter.

Martin, C. (2010): ‘Lyric Poetry.’ In: Grafton, A., G. Most & S. Settis (Eds.): The Classical

            Tradition. Harvard, pp. 547-550.

Mure, G.R.G. (1940): An Introduction to Hegel. Oxford.

Müller, K.O. (1852): Ancient Art and its Remains, ed. F.G. Welcker, trans. J. Leitch. London.

Uerlings, H. (Ed.) (2000): Theorie der Romantik. Reclam.

Rutter, B. (2010): Hegel on the Modern Arts. Cambridge.

Shankmann, S. (1994): In Search of the Classic: Reconsidering the Greco-Roman Tradition,

            Homer to Valery and Beyond. Pennsylvania State.

Trevelyan, H. (1941): Goethe and the Greeks. Cambridge

Wolf, W. (2005): ‘The Lyric: Problems of Definition and a Proposal for

            Reconceptualisation.’ In: Müller-Zettelmann, E. & M. Rubik (Eds.): Theory into

            Poetry: New Approaches to the Lyric. Rhodopi, pp. 21-56




[1] I will draw therefore primarily from Hotho’s edition of the Berlin Lectures on Fine Art (henceforth LA), notably the section on to lyric poetry (LA 2.1111-1157, ed. Knox).

[2] Poetry compared with other art forms: e.g. LA 2. 959-69. Poetry the universal art, identical with beauty, the Ideal: 2.967. Poetry as the romantic art of subjectivity: e.g. 2.960.

[3] So Wolf 2005: 21-56 on Goethe’s classification of ‘Naturformen der Poesie’ (in Noten und Abhandlungen zum Westoestlichen Divan); cf. Budelmann 2009: 3. Duff also locates ‘the origins of the modern debate on genre… in the European Romantic movement, especially the tradition of radical aesthetic speculation centred in Germany in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries’ (2014: 3):

[4] This triad of universal concept (Begriff), separate particulars (Besondere), and mediated individuals or singulars (Einzelne) is the first triad defining Hegel’s logical Concept and is basic to his theory of the syllogism, as it is to his overall understanding of phenomena as concrete universals, that is, as individuals in whose particularity the universal Concept is uniquely manifested. For a detailed synopsis, see Inwood 1999: 136-39: ‘Similarly the universe involves the logical idea (U), nature (P) and spirit (I): in his system, Hegel presents them in the order U-P-I, but any order would be equally appropriate, since each term mediates the other two’ (139). Hodgson speaks of this as the ‘code’ (2005: 10) or ‘deep structure’ (2006: 11) of Hegelian reality. Hölderlin’s Judgment and Being (1795) provided some inspiration for Hegel’s own understanding of judgment, not as the mental association of separate concepts, but as the Ur-teil (‘original division’) of Being—a division not into subject and object (as for Hölderlin), but into moments of universality, particularity and individuality: one passage suggests that primitive poetry, and the poetic itself, is informed by a ‘substantive unity of outlook’ and so ‘is the original presentation of the truth, a knowing which does not yet separate the universal from its living existence in the individual’ (LA 2.973).

[5] Lyric as poetry of subjectivity: see esp. LA 2.1113, 2.1132, 1153 (‘expression of a heart inwardly concentrated on depth of feeling’) and 2.1168 (‘the lyric principle of concentration, to the present occurrence and expression of passions and ideas’).

[6] See LA 2.1135-38, esp. 2.1136 for how metre expresses mood and is therefore the prime determinant of lyric types; cf. 2.1012-13. These types range from mouth-music with its ‘wholly senseless gibberish, tra-la-la’ (2.1122) to intellectual poetry, with hymns, epigrams, sonnets, narrative romances, pieces d’occasion, political lampoons and other forms proliferating in between in an ‘incalculable variety’ (2.1113) that corresponds with the ‘absolutely unlimited’ moods of the heart (2.1131). 

[7] LA 2.1136.

[8] See e.g. LA 1114-15 where lyric poetry explores ‘the whole gamut of feeling’ in a way analogous to genre painting.

[9] Early epic vs later lyric social conditions: LA 2.1123. The lyric self-consciousness asserts its difference from a prosaic community on which it depends, willy-nilly: e.g. 2.967-68, 2.976-77, 2.1122-23, 2.1127.

[10] See e.g. 2.1116 for the overdetermined ‘mutability of the inner life.’

[11] See e.g. Science of Logic 756-58 (Miller), LA 1.106.

[12] LA 2.1133.

[13] See esp. LA 2.1111, 2.1119-20, 2.1129.

[14] LA 2.977.

[15] LA 2.1115: ‘the topics are wholly accidental, and the important thing is only the poet’s treatment and presentation of them’--notably the ‘sweetness’ or ‘novelty of striking ways of looking at them’ and the ‘wit of surprising points or turns of phrase.’

[16] LA 2.1119.

[17] ‘Subjective work of art’: LA 2.1114-15 (‘an enclosed inner world,’ the poet ‘absorbs into himself the entire world of objects and circumstances’), 2.1120-21, 1129-32; cf. 1.281-82, 2.850ff for similar ideas applied to the artist more generally. Other near contemporaries reflect this Romantic aspect of Hegel’s aesthetics: for Jean Paul Richter, the poetic genius is a homo maxime homo in whom ‘the universe of human powers and characters stands revealed like an image in high relief on a clear day’ (Vorschule der Aesthetic, 56; cited in Gilbert & Kuhn 1939: 384). Goethe impressed many as the artist, because universal genius (cf. Trevelyan 1941: 199-200, Gilbert & Kuhn 1939: 344-47). Of Goethe, Napoleon exclaimed ‘Voila un homme,’ and one early biographer called him ‘a complete civilization in himself’ (cited in Mure 1940: ix). Hegel too takes him as exemplifying the universality of the lyric mind, and a fortiori the German spirit: so universal were his sentiments and ideas that he spoke for the German nation (LA 1.281-82); the ‘joyful wisdom’ of his later years produced songs that ‘belong entirely to him and his nation’ (2.1157).

[18] LA 2.1113-4.

[19] LA 2.1185. ‘Nullity and trash’: 1.244.  

[20] On this originary musikalische Stimmung, Nietzsche quotes a letter of Schiller to Goethe (Birth of Tragedy, 5); see Lange 1973: 5-6 for quotations from Schiller and a short discussion; the same letter is quoted by the classicist K.O. Müller (1797-1840) in his quasi-Kantian discussion of ‘the artistic idea’ (Kunstidee), in which he asserts ‘feeling remains predominant’ (1852, §8). Novalis: „Poesie ist Darstellung des Gemuets--der inner Welt in ihrer Gesamtheit’ (in Uerlings 2000: 103).

[21] Wordsworth: Lyrical Ballads, Preface.

[22] LA 2.1139-1141.

[23] Pindar’s sublime struggle may be implicitly contrasted Schiller, when Hegel discusses some of Schiller’s compositions under the rubric of ‘songs,’ though they ‘are not, strictly speaking, songs, odes, hymns, epistles, sonnets, or elegies in the classical sense.’ They seem unique in their origin in some ‘grand fundamental thought’ (2.1146) which Schiller is able to unfold with lyric feeling and language, producing from his own meditative moods a poetry that verges on the philosophical.

[24] LA 2.1151. Klopstock is the other main representative of the genre for Hegel; he does not mention Hölderlin’s odes, let alone Keats’.

[25] Occasional poems: LA 2.1118-19. Panhellenic Games: 2.1151. 

[26] For Shankmann, the self-referentiality of much modern literature is the ‘axiomatic’ notion for which contemporary critical theory is ‘indebted’ to Hegel above all (1994: 119). Similar ideas of self-expression are also standard in criticism of classical lyric: Bowra discusses Pindar’s self-awareness as bard (1964: 1-41); Gundert centralizes Pindar’s sense of a poetic calling (Dichterberuf, 1935); E. Fraenkel’s judges that the poetry of Lucilius and Horace is ‘above all, [about] the poet himself and his reactions to things good and evil’ (1957: 153); Martin surveys views of ancient lyric as ‘the literary vehicle best suited to psychological self-exposition, often set against the larger social orthodoxies from which the speaker in the poem stands apart’ (2010: 548).

[27] LA 2.1120-21.

[28] Goethe’s statement that his works are Bruchstücke einer großen Konfession (Dichtung und Wahrheit 7), and that all his poems ‘are occasional poems, they are stimulated by reality and rooted in it’ (to Eckermann; cited in Gilbert & Kuhn 1939: 359-50) is reflected in Hegel’s statements that he ‘lived throughout in himself and transformed into poetic vision whatever touched him’ (2.1131) and that ‘every occurrence in life became a poem for him’ (LA 2.1118).

[29] LA 2.1143-44.

[30] Poetry older than artistic prose: LA 2.973. Most nations, of all epochs, have their poetry: 2.977, 2.1113-14. Lyric appears in practically every period, especially the modern: 2.1123-24.

[31] LA 2.1153.

[32] LA 2.1124.

[33] Novalis: „Die Welt muss romantisiert werden’ (cited in Uerling 2000: 51-52). F. Schlegel: („Sie [die romantische Poesie] will... das Leben und die Gesellschaft poetisch machen’ (cited in Uerling 2000: 79).

[34] LA 2.1022.

[35] Paradigmatic beauty of Greek verse: LA 2.1026; cf. 2.978, 1150. ‘Thumping’ rhyme: 2.1028. Cf. 2.1019: even to appreciate Greek verse and ‘to make the beauty of the rhythm audible is a matter of great difficulty for our modern ear.’

[36] Klopstock, Voss, Goethe: LA 2.1017-18, 2.1031-34. Syllable lengths: 2.1015, 2.1019. Verbal accents: 2.1032.

[37] LA 2.1032.

[38] LA 2.1032.