Nietzsche contra Wagner: Documents of a Psychologist
|Nietzche contra Wagner: Documents of a Psychologist (1888)
by , translated by Anthony M. Ludovici
THE following chapters have been selected from past works of mine, and not without care. Some of them date back as far as 1877. Here and there, of course, they will be found to have been made a little more intelligible, but above all, more brief. Read consecutively, they can leave no one in any doubt, either concerning myself, or concerning Wagner. we are antipodes. The reader will come to other conclusions, too, in his perusal of these pages: for instance, that this is an essay for psychologists and not for Germans . . I have my readers everywhere, in Vienna, St Petersburg, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Paris, and New York- but I have none in Europe's Flat-land-Germany. . . . And I might even have something to say to Italians whom I love just as much as I ... Quousque tandem, Crispi . . . Triple alliance: a people can only conclude a mésalliance with the "Empire." . . .
TURIN, Christmas 1888.
Wherein I Admire Wagner
I BELIEVE that artists very often do not know what they are best able to do. They are much too vain. Their minds are directed to something prouder than merely to appear like little plants, which, with freshness, rareness, and beauty, know how to sprout from their soil with real perfection. The ultimate goodness of their own garden and vineyard is superciliously under-estimated by them, and their love and their insight are not of the same quality. Here is a musician who is a greater master than anyone else in the discovering of tones, peculiar to suffering, oppressed, and tormented souls, who can endow even dumb misery with speech. Nobody can approach him in the colours of late autumn, in the indescribably touching joy of a last, a very last, and all too short gladness; he knows of a chord which expresses those secret and weird midnight hours of the soul, when cause and effect seem to have fallen asunder, and at every moment something may spring out of nonentity. He is happiest of all when creating from out the nethermost depths of human happiness, and, so to speak, from out man's empty bumper, in which the bitterest and most repulsive drops have mingled with the sweetest for good or evil at last. He knows that weary shuffling along of the soul which is no longer able either to spring or to fly, nay, which is no longer able to walk , he has the modest glance of concealed suffering, of understanding without comfort, of leave-taking without word or sign; verily as the Orpheus of all secret misery he is greater than anyone, and many a thing was introduced into art for the first time by him, which hitherto had not been given expression, had not even been thought worthy of art—the cynical revolts, for instance, of which only the greatest sufferer is capable, also many a small and quite microscopical feature of the soul, as it were the scales of its amphibious nature—yes indeed, he is the master of everything very small. But this he refuses to be! His tastes are much more in love with vast walls and with daring frescoes! . . . He does not see that his spirit has another desire and bent—a totally different outlook—that it prefers to squat peacefully in the corners of broken-down houses: concealed in this way, and hidden even from himself, he paints his really great masterpieces, all of which are very short, often only one bar in length—there, only, does he become quite good, great and perfect, perhaps there alone.—Wagner is one who has suffered much—and this elevates him above other musicians.—I admire Wagner wherever he sets himself to music—
With all this I do not wish to imply that I regard this music as healthy, and least of all in those places where it speaks of Wagner himself. My objections to Wagner's music are physiological objections. Why should I therefore begin by clothing them in aesthetic formulae? Æsthetic is indeed nothing more than applied physiology— The fact I bring forward, my "petit fait vrai," is that I can no longer breathe with ease when this music begins to have its effect upon me; that my foot immediately begins to feel indignant at it and rebels: for what it needs is time, dance, march, even the young German Kaiser could not march to Wagner's Imperial March,—what my foot demands in the first place from music is that ecstasy which lies in good walking, stepping and dancing. But do not my stomach, my heart, my circulation also protest ? Are not my intestines also troubled ? And do I not become hoarse unawares ? ... in order to listen to Wagner I require Géraudel's Pastilles. . . , And then I ask myself, what is it that my whole body must have from music in general ? for there is no such thing as a soul. ... I believe it must have relief: as if all animal functions were accelerated by means of light, bold, unfettered, self-reliant rhythms , as if brazen and leaden life could lose its weight by means of delicate and smooth melodies. My melancholy would fain rest its head in the haunts and abysses of perfection : for this reason I need music. But Wagner makes one ill—What do I care about the theatre? What do I care about the spasms of its moral ecstasies in which the mob—and who is not the mob to-day?— rejoices? What do I care about the whole pantomimic hocus-pocus of the actor ? You are beginning to see that I am essentially anti-theatrical at heart. For the stage, this mob art par excellence, my soul has that deepest scorn felt by every artist to-day. With a stage success a man sinks to such an extent in my esteem as to drop out of sight; failure in this quarter makes me prick my ears, makes me begin to pay attention. But this was not so with Wagner, next to the Wagner who created the most unique music that has ever existed there was the Wagner who was essentially a man of the stage, an actor, the most enthusiastic mimomaniac that has perhaps existed on earth, even as a musician. And let it be said en passant that if Wagner's theory was " drama is the object, music is only a means"—his practice was from beginning to end " the attitude is the end, drama and even music can never be anything else than means." Music as the manner of accentuating, of strengthening, and deepening dramatic poses and all things which please the senses of the actor; and Wagnerian drama only an opportunity for a host of interesting attitudes!—Alongside of all other instincts he has the dictatorial instinct of a great actor in everything and, as I have already said, as a musician also.—On one occasion, and not without trouble, I made this clear to a Wagnerite pur sang,—clearness and a Wagnerite! I won't say another word. There were reasons for adding; " For heaven's sake, be a little more true unto yourself! We are not in Bayreuth now. In Bayreuth people are only upright in the mass; the individual lies, he even lies to himself. One leaves oneself at home when one goes to Bayreuth, one gives up all right to one's own tongue and choice, to one's own taste and even to one's own courage, one knows these things no longer as one is wont to have them and practise them before God and the world and between one's own four walls. In the theatre no one brings the finest senses of his art with him, and least of all the artist who works for the theatre,—for here loneliness is lacking; everything perfect does not suffer a witness. ... In the theatre one becomes mob, herd, woman, Pharisee, electing cattle, patron, idiot—Wagnerite: there, the most personal conscience is bound to submit to the levelling charm of the great multitude, there the neighbour rules, there one becomes a neighbour.
Wagner As a Danger
The aim after which more modern music is striving, which is now given the strong but obscure name of " unending melody," can be clearly understood by comparing it to one's feelings on entering the sea. Gradually one loses one's footing and one ultimately abandons oneself to the mercy or fury of the elements: one has to swim. In the solemn, or fiery, swinging movement, first slow and then quick, of old music—one had to do something quite different; one had to dance. The measure which was required for this and the control of certain balanced degrees of time and energy, forced the soul of the listener to continual sobriety of thought —Upon the counterplay of the cooler currents of air which came from this sobriety, and from the warmer breath of enthusiasm, the charm of all good music rested—Richard Wagner wanted another kind of movement,—he overthrew the physiological first principle of all music before his time. It was no longer a matter of walking or dancing,—we must swim, we must hover. . . . This perhaps decides the whole matter. "Unending melody" really wants to break all the symmetry of time and strength; it actually scorns these things—Its wealth of invention resides precisely in what to an older ear sounds like rhythmic paradox and abuse. From the imitation or the prevalence of such a taste there would arise a danger for music—so great that we can imagine none greater —the complete degeneration of the feeling for rhythm, chaos in the place of rhythm. . . . The danger reaches its climax when such music cleaves ever more closely to naturalistic play-acting and pantomime, which governed by no laws of form, aim at effect and nothing more. . . , Expressiveness at all costs and music a servant, a slave to attitudes—this is the end. . . .
What? would it really be the first virtue of a performance (as performing musical artists now seem to believe), under all circumstances to attain to a haut-relief which cannot be surpassed ? If this were applied to Mozart, for instance, would it not be a real sin against Mozart's spirit,- Mozart's cheerful, enthusiastic, delightful and loving spirit? He who fortunately was no German, and whose seriousness is a charming and golden seriousness and not by any means that of a German clodhopper. . . . Not to speak of the earnestness of the " marble statue " . . . But you seem to think that all music is the music of the " marble statue" ?—that all music should, so to speak, spring out of the wall and shake the listener to his very bowels ? . . . Only thus could music have any effect! But on whom would the effect be made ? Upon something in which a noble artist ought never to deign to act,—upon the mob, upon the immature! upon the blasts! upon the diseased ! upon idiots ! upon Wagnerites! . .
A Music Without a Future
Of all the arts which succeed in growing on the soil of a particular culture, music is the last plant to appear; maybe because it is the one most dependent upon our innermost feelings, and therefore the last to come to the surface—at a time when the culture to which it belongs is in its autumn season and beginning to fade. It was only in the art of the Dutch masters that the spirit of mediaeval Christianity found its expression—, its architecture of sound is the youngest, but genuine and legitimate, sister of the Gothic. It was only in Handel's music that the best in Luther and in those like him found its voice, the Judeo-heroic trait which gave the Reformation a touch of greatness—the Old Testament not the New, become music. It was left to Mozart, to pour out the epoch of Louis XIV., and of the art of Racine and Claude Lorrain, in ringing gold; only in Beethoven's and Rossini's music did the Eighteenth Century sing itself out—the century of enthusiasm, broken ideals, and fleeting joy. All real and original music is a swan song—Even our last form of music, despite its prevalence and its will to prevail, has perhaps only a short time to live for it sprouted from a soil which was in the throes of a rapid subsidence, —of a culture which will soon be submerged. A certain Catholicism of feeling, and a predilection for some ancient indigenous (so-called national) ideals and eccentricities, was its first condition. Wagner's appropriation of old sagas and songs, in which scholarly prejudice taught us to see something German par excellence—now we laugh at it all, the resurrection of these Scandinavian monsters with a thirst for ecstatic sensuality and spiritualisation—the whole of this taking and giving on Wagner's part, in the matter of subjects, characters, passions, and nerves, would also give unmistakable expression to the spirit of his music provided that this music, like any other, did not know how to speak about itself save ambiguously: for musica is a woman. . . . We must not let ourselves be misled concerning this state of things, by the fact that at this very moment we are living in a reaction, in the heart itself of a reaction. The age of international wars, of ultramontane martyrdom, in fact, the whole interlude—character which typifies the present condition of Europe, may indeed help an art like Wagner's to sudden glory, without, however, in the least ensuring its future prosperity. The Germans themselves have no future. . .
Perhaps a few people, or at least my friends, will remember that I made my first plunge into life armed with some errors and some exaggerations, but that, in any case, I began with hope in my heart. In the philosophical pessimism of the nineteenth century, I recognised—who knows by what by-paths of personal experience—the symptom of a higher power of thought, a more triumphant plenitude of life, than had manifested itself hitherto in the philosophies of Hume, Kant and Hegel!—I regarded tragic knowledge as the most beautiful luxury of our culture, as its most precious, most noble, most dangerous kind of prodigality; but, nevertheless, in view of its overflowing wealth, as a justifiable luxury. In the same way, I began by interpreting Wagner's music as the expression of a Dionysian powerfulness of soul. In it I thought I heard the earthquake by means of which a primeval life-force, which had been constrained for ages, was seeking at last to burst its bonds, quite indifferent to how much of that which nowadays calls itself culture, would thereby be shaken to ruins. You see how I misinterpreted, you see also, what I bestowed upon Wagner and Schopenhauer—myself. . . . Every art and every philosophy may be regarded either as a cure or as a stimulant to ascending or declining life : they always presuppose suffering and sufferers. But there are two kinds of sufferers:—those that suffer from overflowing vitality, who need Dionysian art and require a tragic insight into, and a tragic outlook upon, the phenomenon life,—and there are those who suffer from reduced vitality, and who crave for repose, quietness, calm seas, or else the intoxication, the spasm, the bewilderment which art and philosophy provide. Revenge upon life itself—this is the most voluptuous form of intoxication for such indigent souls! . . . Now Wagner responds quite as well as Schopenhauer to the twofold cravings of these people,—they both deny life, they both slander it but precisely on this account they are my antipodes.—The richest creature, brimming over with vitality,—the Dionysian God and man, may not only allow himself to gaze upon the horrible and the questionable; but he can also lend his hand to the terrible deed, and can indulge in all the luxury of destruction, disaggregation, and negation,—-in him evil, purposelessness and ugliness, seem just as allowable as they are in nature—because of his bursting plenitude of creative and rejuvenating powers, which are able to convert every desert into a luxurious land of plenty. Conversely, it is the greatest sufferer and pauper in vitality, who is most in need of mildness, peace and goodness—that which to-day is called humaneness—in thought as well as in action, and possibly of a God whose speciality is to be a God of the sick, a Saviour, and also of logic or the abstract intelligibility of existence even for idiots (—the typical "free-spirits," like the idealists, and "beautiful souls," are decadents—) ; in short, of a warm, danger-tight, and narrow confinement, between optimistic horizons which would allow of stultification. . . . And thus very gradually, I began to understand Epicurus, the opposite of a Dionysian Greek, and also the Christian who in fact is only a kind of Epicurean, and who, with his belief that " faith saves," carries the principle of Hedonism as far as possible—far beyond all intellectual honesty. . . If I am ahead of all other psychologists in anything, it is in this fact that my eyes are more keen for tracing those most difficult and most captious of all deductions, in which the largest number of mistakes have been made,—the deduction which makes one infer something concerning the author from his work, something concerning the doer from his deed, something concerning the idealist from the need which produced this ideal, and something concerning the imperious craving which stands at the back of all thinking and valuing—In regard to all artists of what kind soever, I shall now avail myself of this radical distinction, does the creative power in this case arise from a loathing of life, or from an excessive plenitude of life? In Goethe, for instance, an overflow of vitality was creative, in Flaubert—hate. Flaubert, a new edition of Pascal, but as an artist with this instinctive belief at heart: "Flaubert est toujours haissable, l'homme n'est rien, l'æuvre est tout" . . . He tortured himself when he wrote, just as Pascal tortured himself when he thought—the feelings of both were inclined to be "non-egoistic." . . . "Disinterestedness"—principle of decadence, the will to nonentity in art as well as in morality.
Where Wagner Is At Home
Even at the present day, France is still the refuge of the most intellectual and refined culture in Europe, it remains the high school of taste: but one must know where to find this France of taste. The North-German Gazette, for instance, or whoever expresses his sentiments in that paper, thinks that the French are " barbarians,"—as for me, if I had to find the blackest spot on earth, where slaves still required to be liberated, I should turn in the direction of Northern Germany. . . . But those who form part of that select France take very good care to conceal themselves they are a small body of men, and there may be some among them who do not stand on very firm legs—a few may be fatalists, hypochondriacs, invalids; others may be enervated, and artificial,—such are those who would fain be artistic,—but all the loftiness and delicacy which still remains to this world, is in their possession. In this France of intellect, which is also the France of pessimism, Schopenhauer is already much more at home than he ever was in Germany, his principal work has already been translated twice, and the second time so excellently that now I prefer to read Schopenhauer in French (—he was an accident among Germans, just as I am—the Germans have no fingers wherewith to grasp us; they haven't any fingers at all,—but only claws). And I do not mention Heine—l'adorable Heine, as they say in Paris—who long since has passed into the flesh and blood of the more profound and more soulful of French lyricists. How could the horned cattle of Germany know how to deal with the delicatesses of such a nature!—And as to Richard Wagner, it is obvious, it is even glaringly obvious, that Paris is the very soil for him, the more French music adapts itself to the needs of lame moderne, the more Wagnerian it will become,—it is far enough advanced in this direction already—In this respect one should not allow one's self to be misled by Wagner himself—it was simply disgraceful on Wagner's part to scoff at Paris, as he did, in its agony in 1871. ... In spite of it all, in Germany Wagner is only a misapprehension, who could be more incapable of understanding anything about Wagner than the Kaiser, for instance?—To everybody familiar with the movement of European culture, this fact, however, is certain, that French romanticism and Richard Wagner are most intimately related. All dominated by literature, up to their very eyes and ears—the first European artists with a universal literary culture,—most of them writers, poets, mediators and minglers of the senses and the arts, all fanatics in expression, great discoverers in the realm of the sublime as also of the ugly and the gruesome, and still greater discoverers in passion, in working for effect, in the art of dressing their windows,—all possessing talent far above their genius,—virtuosos to their backbone, knowing of secret passages to all that seduces, lures, constrains or overthrows; born enemies of logic and of straight lines, thirsting after the exotic, the strange and the monstrous, and all opiates for the senses and the understanding. On the whole, a daring dare-devil, magnificently violent, soaring and high-springing crew of artists, who first had to teach their own century—it is the century of the mob—what the concept " artist" meant. But they were ill. . . .
Wagner As the Apostle of Chastity
Is this the German way ?
Comes this low bleating forth from German hearts ?
Should Teutons, sin repenting, lash themselves,
Or spread their palms with priestly unctuousness,
Exalt their feelings with the censer's fumes,
And cower and quake and bend the trembling knee,
And with a sickly sweetness plead a prayer ?
Then ogle nuns, and ring the Ave-bell,
And thus with morbid fervour out-do heaven ?
Is this the German way?
Beware, yet are you free, yet your own Lords.
What yonder lures is Rome, Rome's faith sung
There is no necessary contrast between sensuality and chastity, every good marriage, every genuine love affair is above this contrast; but in those cases where the contrast exists, it is very far from being necessarily a tragic one. This, at least, ought to hold good of all well-constituted and good-spirited mortals, who are not in the least inclined to reckon their unstable equilibrium between angel and petite bête, without further ado, among the objections to existence, the more refined and more intelligent like Hafis and Goethe, even regarded it as an additional attraction. It is precisely contradictions of this kind which lure us to life . . . On the other hand, it must be obvious, that when Circe's unfortunate animals are induced to worship chastity, all they see and worship therein, is their opposite—oh! and with what tragic groaning and fervour, may well be imagined—that same painful and thoroughly superfluous opposition which, towards the end of his life, Richard Wagner undoubtedly wished to set to music and to put on the stage, And to what purpose? we may reasonably ask.
And yet this other question can certainly not be circumvented " what business had he actually with that manly (alas! so unmanly) " bucolic simplicity," that poor devil and son of nature-Parsifal, whom he ultimately makes a catholic by such insidious means—what?—was Wagner in earnest with Parsifal? For, that he was laughed at, I cannot deny, any more than Gottfried Keller can . . . We should like to believe that "Parsifal" was meant as a piece of idle gaiety, as the closing act and satyric drama, with which Wagner the tragedian wished to take leave of us, of himself, and above all of tragedy, in a way which befitted him and his dignity, that is to say, with an extravagant, lofty and most malicious parody of tragedy itself, of all the past and terrible earnestness and sorrow of this world, of the most ridiculous form of the unnaturalness of the ascetic ideal, at last overcome. For Parsifal is the subject par excellence for a comic opera. ... Is Wagner's " Parsifal " his secret laugh of superiority at himself, the triumph of his last and most exalted state of artistic freedom, of artistic transcendence—is it Wagner able to laugh at himself? Once again we only wish it were so; for what could Parsifal be if he were meant seriously? Is it necessary in his case to say (as I have heard people say) that " Parsifal" is " the product of the mad hatred of knowledge, intellect, and sensuality?" a curse upon the senses and the mind in one breath and in one fit of hatred? an act of apostasy and a return to Christianly sick and obscurantist ideals ? And finally even a denial of self, a deletion of self, on the part of an artist who theretofore had worked with all the power of his will in favour of the opposite cause, the spintualisation and sensualisation of his art ? And not only of his art, but also of his life ? Let us remember how enthusiastically Wagner at one time walked in the footsteps of the philosopher Feuerbach. Feuerbach's words "healthy sensuality" struck Wagner in the thirties and forties very much as they struck many other Germans—they called themselves the young Germans—that is to say, as words of salvation. Did he ultimately change his mind on this point? It would seem that he had at least had the desire of changing his doctrine towards the end. ... Had the hatred of life become dominant in him as in Flaubert? For "Parsifal" is a work of rancour, of revenge, of the most secret concoction of poisons with which to make an end of the first conditions of life, it is a bad work. The preaching of chastity remains an incitement to unnaturalness. I despise anybody who does not regard " Parsifal" as an outrage upon morality.—
How I Got Rid Of Wagner
Already in the summer of 1876, when the first festival at Bayreuth was at its height, I took leave of Wagner in my soul. I cannot endure anything double-faced. Since Wagner had returned to Germany, he had condescended step by step to everything that I despise-even to anti-Semitism ... As a matter of fact, it was then high time to bid him farewell: but the proof of this came only too soon. Richard Wagner, ostensibly the most triumphant creature alive; as a matter of fact, though, a cranky and desperate décadent, suddenly fell helpless and broken on his knees before the Christian cross. . . . Was there no German at that time who had the eyes to see, and the sympathy in his soul to feel, the ghastly nature of this spectacle ? Was I the only one who suffered from it ?—Enough, the unexpected event, like a flash of lightning, made me see only too clearly what kind of a place it was that I had just left,—and it also made me shudder as a man shudders who unawares has just escaped a great danger. As I continued my journey alone, I trembled. Not long after this I was ill, more than ill-I was tired;—tired of the continual disappointments over everything which remained for us modern men to be enthusiastic about, of the energy, industry, hope, youth, and love that are squandered everywhere; tired out of loathing for the whole world of idealistic lying and conscience-softening, which, once again, in the case of Wagner, had scored a victory over a man who was of the bravest; and last but not least, tired by the sadness of a ruthless suspicion-that I was now condemned to be ever more and more suspicious, ever more and more contemptuous, ever more and more deeply alone than I had been theretofore. For I had no one save Richard Wagner. ... I was always condemned to the society of Germans. . . .
Henceforward alone and cruelly distrustful of myself, I then took up sides—not without anger— against myself and for all that which hurt me and fell hard upon me and thus I found the road to that courageous pessimism which is the opposite of all idealistic falsehood, and which, as it seems to me, is also the road to me—to my mission . . . That hidden and dominating thing, for which for long ages we have had no name, until ultimately it comes forth as our mission,—this tyrant in us wreaks a terrible revenge upon us for every attempt we make either to evade him or to escape him, for every one of our experiments in the way of befriending people to whom we do not belong, for every active occupation, however estimable, which may make us diverge from our principal object:— aye, and even for every virtue which would fain protect us from the rigour of our most intimate sense of responsibility. Illness is always the answer, whenever we venture to doubt our right to our mission, whenever we begin to make things too easy for ourselves. Curious and terrible at the same time! It is for our relaxation that we have to pay most dearly! And should we wish after all to return to health, we then have no choice: we are compelled to burden ourselves more heavily than we had been burdened before. . . .
The Psychologist Speaks
The oftener a psychologist—a born, an unavoidable psychologist and soul-diviner—turns his attention to the more select cases and individuals, the greater becomes his danger of being suffocated by sympathy he needs greater hardness and cheerfulness than any other man. For the corruption, the ruination of higher men, is in fact the rule; it is terrible to have such a rule always before our eyes. The manifold torments of the psychologist who has discovered this ruination, who discovers once, and then discovers almost repeatedly throughout all history, this universal inner "hopelessness" of higher men, this eternal " too late!" in every sense—may perhaps one day be the cause of his "going to the dogs " himself. In almost every psychologist we may see a tell-tale predilection in favour of intercourse with commonplace and well-ordered men: and this betrays how constantly he requires healing, that he needs a sort of flight and forgetfulness, away from what his insight and incisiveness-from what his " business "—has laid upon his conscience. A horror of his memory is typical of him. He is easily silenced by the judgment of others, he hears with unmoved countenance how people honour, admire, love, and glorify, where he has opened his eyes and seen—or he even conceals his silence by expressly agreeing with some obvious opinion. Perhaps the paradox of his situation becomes so dreadful that, precisely where he has learnt great sympathy, together with great contempt, the educated have on their part learnt great reverence. And who knows but in all great instances, just this alone happened : that the multitude worshipped a God, and that the " God " was only a poor sacrificial animal! Success has always been the greatest liar—and the " work " itself, the deed, is a success too; the great statesman, the conqueror, the discoverer, are disguised in their creations until they can no longer be recognised, the "work" of the artist, of the philosopher, only invents him who has created it, who is reputed to have created it, the "great men," as they are reverenced, are poor little fictions composed afterwards; in the world of historical values counterfeit coinage prevails.
Those great poets, for example, such as Byron, Musset, Poe, Leopardi, Kleist, Gogol (I do not dare to mention much greater names, but I imply them), as they now appear, and were perhaps obliged to be: men of the moment, sensuous, absurd, versatile, light-minded and quick to trust and to distrust, with souls in which usually some flaw has to be concealed, often taking revenge with their works for an internal blemish, often seeking forgetfulness in their soaring from a too accurate memory, idealists out of proximity to the mud:—what a torment these great artists are and the so-called higher men in general, to him who has once found them out! We are all special pleaders in the cause of mediocrity. It is conceivable that it is just from woman—who is clairvoyant in the world of suffering, and, alas! also unfortunately eager to help and save to an extent far beyond her powers—that they have learnt so readily those outbreaks of boundless sympathy which the multitude, above all the reverent multitude, overwhelms with prying and self-gratifying interpretations. This sympathising invariably deceives itself as to its power; woman would like to believe that love can do everything—it is the superstition peculiar to her. Alas, he who knows the heart finds out how poor, helpless, pretentious, and blundering even the best and deepest love is—how much more readily it destroys than saves . . .
The intellectual loathing and haughtiness of every man who has suffered deeply—the extent to which a man can suffer, almost determines the order of rank—the chilling uncertainty with which he is thoroughly imbued and coloured, that by virtue of his suffering he knows more than the shrewdest and wisest can ever know, that he has been familiar with, and " at home " in many distant terrible worlds of which "you know nothing!"—this silent intellectual haughtiness, this pride of the elect of knowledge, of the " initiated," of the almost sacrificed, finds all forms of disguise necessary to protect itself from contact with gushing and sympathising hands, and in general from all that is not its equal in suffering. Profound suffering makes noble; it separates.—One of the most refined forms of disguise is Epicurism, along with a certain ostentatious boldness of taste which takes suffering lightly, and puts itself on the defensive against all that is sorrowful and profound. There are " cheerful men " who make use of good spirits, because they are misunderstood on account of them—they wish to be misunderstood There are " scientific minds " who make use of science, because it gives a cheerful appearance, and because love of science leads people to conclude that a person is shallow—they wish to mislead to a false conclusion. There are free insolent spirits which would fain conceal and deny that they are at bottom broken, incurable hearts—this is Hamlet's case—and then folly itself can be the mask of an unfortunate and alas! all too dead-certain knowledge.
I HAVE often asked myself whether I am not much more deeply indebted to the hardest years of my life than to any others. According to the voice of my innermost nature, everything necessary, seen from above and in the light of a superior economy, is also useful in itself—not only should one bear it, one should love it, ... Amor fati: this is the very core of my being—And as to my prolonged illness, do I not owe much more to it than I owe to my health ? To it I owe a higher kind of health, a sort of health which grows stronger under everything that does not actually kill it!—To it, I owe even my philosophy. . . . Only great suffering is the ultimate emancipator of spirit, for it teaches one that vast suspiciousness which makes an X out of every U, a genuine and proper X, i.e., the antepenultimate letter. Only great suffering; that great suffering, under which we seem to be over a fire of greenwood, the suffering that takes its time—forces us philosophers to descend into our nethermost depths, and to let go of all trustfulness, all good-nature, all whittling-down, all mildness, all mediocrity,—on which things we had formerly staked our humanity. I doubt whether such suffering improves a man ; but I know that it makes him deeper. . . . Supposing we learn to set our pride, our scorn, our strength of will against it, and thus resemble the Indian who, however cruelly he may be tortured, considers himself revenged on his tormentor by the bitterness of his own tongue. Supposing we withdraw from pain into nonentity, into the deaf, dumb, and rigid sphere of self-surrender, self-forgetfulness, self-effacement—one is another person when one leaves these protracted and dangerous exercises in the art of self-mastery, one has one note of interrogation the more, and above all one has the will henceforward to ask more, deeper, sterner, harder, more wicked, and more silent questions, than anyone has ever asked on earth before. . . . Trust in life has vanished ; life itself has become a problem.—But let no one think that one has therefore become a spirit of gloom or a blind owl! Even love of life is still possible,—but it is a different kind of love. . . It is the love for a woman whom we doubt. . .
The rarest of all things is this: to have after all another taste—a second taste. Out of such abysses, out of the abyss of great suspicion as well, a man returns as though born again, he has a new skin, he is more susceptible, more full of wickedness; he has a finer taste for joyfulness; he has a more sensitive tongue for all good things ; his senses are more cheerful; he has acquired a second, more dangerous, innocence in gladness; he is more childish too, and a hundred times more cunning than ever he had been before.
Oh, how much more repulsive pleasure now is to him, that coarse, heavy, buff-coloured pleasure, which is understood by our pleasure-seekers, our " cultured people," our wealthy folk and our rulers! With how much more irony we now listen to the hubbub as of a country fair, with which the "cultured" man and the man about town allow themselves to be forced through art, literature, music, and with the help of intoxicating liquor, to "intellectual enjoyments." How the stage-cry of passion now stings our ears; how strange to our taste the whole romantic riot and sensuous bustle, which the cultured mob are so fond of, together with its aspirations to the sublime, to the exalted and the distorted, have become. No: if we convalescents require an art at all, it is another art—a mocking, nimble, volatile, divinely undisturbed, divinely artificial art, which blazes up like pure flame into a cloudless sky! But above all, an art for artists, only for artists! We are, after all, more conversant with that which is in the highest degree necessary-cheerfulness, every kind of cheerfulness, my friends! . . . We men of knowledge, now know something only too well: oh how well we have learnt by this time, to forget, not to know, as artists! ... As to our future: we shall scarcely be found on the track of those Egyptian youths who break into temples at night, who embrace statues, and would fain unveil, strip, and set in broad daylight, everything which there are excellent reasons to keep concealed.  No, we are disgusted with this bad taste, this will to truth, this search after truth " at all costs " this madness of adolescence, "the love of truth"; we are now too experienced, too serious, too joyful, too scorched, too profound for that . . . We no longer believe that truth remains truth when it is unveiled,—we have lived enough to understand this. . . . To-day it seems to us good form not to strip everything naked, not to be present at all things, not to desire to "know" all. Tout comprendre c'est tout mépriser? . . . . " Is it true," a little girl once asked her mother, "that the beloved Father is everywhere?—I think it quite improper,"—a hint to philosophers . . . The shame with which Nature has concealed herself behind riddles and enigmas should be held in higher esteem. Perhaps truth is a woman who has reasons for not revealing her reasons? . . . Perhaps her name, to use a Greek word is Baubo?—Oh these Greeks, they understood the art of living! For this it is needful to halt bravely at the surface, at the fold, at the skin, to worship appearance, and to believe in forms, tones, words, and the whole Olympus of appearance! These Greeks were superficial—from profundity. . . . And are we not returning to precisely the same thing, we dare-devils of intellect who have scaled the highest and most dangerous pinnacles of present thought, in order to look around us from that height, in order to look down from that height ? Are we not precisely in this respect—Greeks? Worshippers of form, of tones, of words ? Precisely on that account—artists ?
- An allusion to Schiller's poem: "Das verschleierte Bild zu Sais." -Tr.
|This is a translation and has a separate copyright status from the original text. The license for the translation applies to this edition only.|