In Hyperion, Holderlin has his protagonist say:

"The great, saying, the one differentiated in itself, of Heraclitus, could only be found by a Greek, for it is the very thing of Beauty and before that there was no philosophy"

Did Heraclitus say this? and given its likely that Holderlin paraphrased for dramatic effect, what is the closest verified saying (or sayings, if Holderlin synthesised them) of Heraclitus to this?

Although its not a part of this question, its worth pointing out that Holderlin idealised Greece, and one can discern the same thought, or an aspect of it in the Tao.

2 Answers 2


It seems to be e ref to DK B51, through :

Now, it is obvious to anyone who gives even the slightest thought to the matter that the same reconciliation of opposites applies in music. This perhaps is what Heraclitus meant [This saying can be found in H.Diels and W.Kranz, Die Fragmente der Vorsokratiker, Vol.1, Herakleitos B51], although his actual wording is not accurate; for he says of ‘‘the One’’ [the universe] that ‘‘it is in agreement while being in disagreement with itself, like the harmony of the taut bow or the lyre’’. However, to speak of a harmony as being in disagreement with itself, or as existing when it is composed of elements still in disagreement, is quite absurd. But perhaps what he meant was that harmony is created out of elements, namely the high and the low, that were originally in disagreement but were subsequently brought into agreement through the art of music. [From Plato:The Symposium, Cambridge U.P., 2008, page 19].


οὐ ξυνιᾶσιν ὅκως διαφερόμενον ἑωυτῷ ὁμολογέει· παλίντονος ἁρμονίη ὅκωσπερ τόξου καὶ λύρης

Men do not know how what is at variance agrees with itself. It is an attunement of opposite tension, like that of the bow and the lyre.


  • Would you care to elaborate a bit more? Quote only answers are disencouraged, although this one of course to some extend self-explanatory.
    – Philip Klöcking
    Jul 4, 2016 at 12:37
  • I suppose it is part of dialectical reasoning and an example of the unity of opposites, saying that what is whole and contained full in oneself can at the same time be different. It is the movement of the being through becoming.
    – John Am
    Jul 4, 2016 at 12:44
  • "could only be found by a Greek, for it is the very thing of Beauty and before that there was no philosophy" I think this is referred to Heraclitus
    – John Am
    Jul 4, 2016 at 13:30

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