In this study of the Austrian lyric poet Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Adrian Del Caro proves that this precocious contemporary of Rilke, too often considered a typical fin-de-siecle aesthete, was in fact an early and consistent opponent of aestheticism. In lucid and graceful prose Del Caro clearly establishes a parallel between Hofmannsthal's work and Nietzsche's Lebensphilosophie, demonstrating that the poet, with his efforts to find a legitimate source for values, can indeed be seen as Nietzsche's heir. The author's thesis is that poets are more articulate spokespersons for life than philosophers. "For this reason," concludes Del Caro, "and perhaps best for this reason, namely that the poets are naive and disavow the role of teacher, they are heard when the philosophers are not heard." In thoughtfully sequenced chapters Del Caro presents the basic themes of Hofmannsthal's poetry - themes such as Pre-existence, Threshold, and Transformation. His explications of these themes effortlessly draw on figures as diverse as Goethe, Sartre, and Schopenhauer while anchoring each concept to the texts of the poems themselves and illustrating with well-chosen metaphors and poems their relevance to day-to-day existence. In the early chapter "Words," for example, Del Caro discusses Hofmannsthal's perspective on the relationship between Art and Life, between Word and Deed. Beauty, Hofmannsthal posits, competes with life for the poet's attention, and there is always the danger of mistaking words for actual events and experiences, thus living life vicariously rather than embracing it "as a series of actions or deeds." The poet's attempts to resolve such oppositions are dazzlingly illuminated in Del Caro's exegesis of the poem "Secret of the World," wherein the secret cannot be plumbed through cognition but only through poetry. Poetry, moreover, is understood not by reading but by living. To the poet, according to Hofmannsthal, words are feral things over which no power can be exerted. Thematically and linguistically, Del Caro's important reassessment of this gifted poet maintains a consistently sophisticated level of discourse. Yet, while it will certainly appeal to scholars of German literature, the book has also been conceived to serve as an introduction of Hofmannsthal to a broader reading public in the English-speaking world.