"Eaglelike, Pantherlike, Are the Poet's Desires"
Tonight, some of German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche's (1844-1900) writings about poetry. Selections are from two of his books, first Beyond Good and Evil, and then Thus Spake Zarathustra: A Book for All and None. Included along with his philosophical musings, are some of Nietzsche's poetry.
The following seven quotes, plus the poem "From the Heights" are from Friedrich Nietzsche's Beyond Good and Evil, the Helen Zimmern Translation.
Poets act shamelessly towards their experiences: they exploit them.
How much trouble have the poets and orators of every nation given themselves!--not excepting some of the prose writers of today, in whose ear dwells an inexorable conscientiousness--"for the sake of a folly," as utilitarian bunglers say, and thereby deem themselves wise--"from submission to arbitrary laws," as the anarchists say, and thereby fancy themselves "free," even free-spirited.
Supposing that someone has often flown in his dreams, and that at last, as soon as he dreams, he is conscious of the power and art of flying as his privilege and his peculiarly enviable happiness; such a person, who believes that on the slightest impulse, he can actualize all sorts of curves and angles, who knows the sensation of a certain divine levity, an "upwards" without effort or constraint, a "downwards" without descending or lowering--without TROUBLE!--how could the man with such dream-experiences and dream-habits fail to find "happiness" differently coloured and defined, even in his waking hours! How could he fail--to long DIFFERENTLY for happiness? "Flight," such as is described by poets, must, when compared with his own "flying," be far too earthly, muscular, violent, far too "troublesome" for him.
Finally, let us only understand profoundly enough Napoleon's astonishment when he saw Goethe it reveals what had been regarded for centuries as the "German spirit" "VOILA UN HOMME!"--that was as much as to say "But this is a MAN! And I only expected to see a German!"
All of them steeped in literature to their eyes and ears--the first artists of universal literary culture--for the most part even themselves writers, poets, intermediaries and blenders of the arts and the senses (Wagner, as musician is reckoned among painters, as poet among musicians, as artist generally among actors); all of them fanatics for EXPRESSION "at any cost"--I specially mention Delacroix, the nearest related to Wagner; all of them great discoverers in the realm of the sublime, also of the loathsome and dreadful, still greater discoverers in effect, in display, in the art of the show-shop; all of them talented far beyond their genius, out and out VIRTUOSI, with mysterious accesses to all that seduces, allures, constrains, and upsets; born enemies of logic and of the straight line, hankering after the strange, the exotic, the monstrous, the crooked, and the self-contradictory; as men, Tantaluses of the will, plebeian parvenus, who knew themselves to be incapable of a noble TEMPO or of a LENTO in life and action--think of Balzac, for instance,--unrestrained workers, almost destroying themselves by work; antinomians and rebels in manners, ambitious and insatiable, without equilibrium and enjoyment; all of them finally shattering and sinking down at the Christian cross (and with right and reason, for who of them would have been sufficiently profound and sufficiently original for an ANTI-CHRISTIAN philosophy?);--on the whole, a boldly daring, splendidly overbearing, high-flying, and aloft-up-dragging class of higher men, who had first to teach their century--and it is the century of the MASSES--the conception "higher man."
Hence we can understand without further detail why love AS A PASSION--it is our European specialty--must absolutely be of noble origin; as is well known, its invention is due to the Provencal poet-cavaliers, those brilliant, ingenious men of the "gai saber," to whom Europe owes so much, and almost owes itself.
Those great poets, for example, such as Byron, Musset, Poe, Leopardi, Kleist, Gogol (I do not venture to mention much greater names, but I have them in my mind), as they now appear, and were perhaps obliged to be: men of the moment, enthusiastic, sensuous, and childish, light-minded and impulsive in their trust and distrust; with souls in which usually some flaw has to be concealed; often taking revenge with their works for an internal defilement, often seeking forgetfulness in their soaring from a too true memory, often lost in the mud and almost in love with it, until they become like the Will-o'-the-Wisps around the swamps, and PRETEND TO BE stars--the people then call them idealists,--often struggling with protracted disgust, with an ever-reappearing phantom of disbelief, which makes them cold, and obliges them to languish for GLORIA and devour "faith as it is" out of the hands of intoxicated adulators:--what a TORMENT these great artists are and the so-called higher men in general, to him who has once found them out!
translated by L A Magnus
by F W Nietzsche
From the Heights
Midday of Life! Oh, season of delight!
My summer's park!
Uneaseful joy to look, to lurk, to hark--
I peer for friends, am ready day and night,--
Where linger ye, my friends? The time is right!
Is not the glacier's grey today for you
The brooklet seeks you, wind, cloud, with longing thread
And thrust themselves yet higher to the blue,
To spy for you from farthest eagle's view.
My table was spread out for you on high--
Who dwelleth so
Star-near, so near the grisly pit below?--
My realm--what realm hath wider boundary?
My honey--who hath sipped its fragrancy?
Friends, ye are there! Woe me,--yet I am not
He whom ye seek?
Ye stare and stop--better your wrath could speak!
I am not I? Hand, gait, face, changed? And what
I am, to you my friends, now am I not?
Am I an other? Strange am I to Me?
Yet from Me sprung?
A wrestler, by himself too oft self-wrung?
Hindering too oft my own self's potency,
Wounded and hampered by self-victory?
I sought where-so the wind blows keenest. There
I learned to dwell
Where no man dwells, on lonesome ice-lorn fell,
And unlearned Man and God and curse and prayer?
Became a ghost haunting the glaciers bare?
Ye, my old friends! Look! Ye turn pale, filled o'er
With love and fear!
Go! Yet not in wrath. Ye could ne'er live here.
Here in the farthest realm of ice and scaur,
A huntsman must one be, like chamois soar.
An evil huntsman was I? See how taut
My bow was bent!
Strongest was he by whom such bolt were sent--
Woe now! That arrow is with peril fraught,
Perilous as none.--Have yon safe home ye sought!
Ye go! Thou didst endure enough, oh, heart;--
Strong was thy hope;
Unto new friends thy portals widely ope,
Let old ones be. Bid memory depart!
Wast thou young then, now--better young thou art!
What linked us once together, one hope's tie--
(Who now doth con
Those lines, now fading, Love once wrote thereon?)--
Is like a parchment, which the hand is shy
To touch--like crackling leaves, all seared, all dry.
Oh! Friends no more! They are--what name for those?--
Knocking at my heart's window-pane at night,
Gazing on me, that speaks "We were" and goes,--
Oh, withered words, once fragrant as the rose!
Pinings of youth that might not understand!
For which I pined,
Which I deemed changed with me, kin of my kind:
But they grew old, and thus were doomed and banned:
None but new kith are native of my land!
Midday of life! My second youth's delight!
My summer's park!
Unrestful joy to long, to lurk, to hark!
I peer for friends!--am ready day and night,
For my new friends. Come! Come! The time is right!
This song is done,--the sweet sad cry of rue
Sang out its end;
A wizard wrought it, he the timely friend,
The midday-friend,--no, do not ask me who;
At midday 'twas, when one became as two.
We keep our Feast of Feasts, sure of our bourne,
Our aims self-same:
The Guest of Guests, friend Zarathustra, came!
The world now laughs, the grisly veil was torn,
And Light and Dark were one that wedding-morn.
What follows are two full sections (the 39th section called "Poets" and the 74th called "The Song of Melancholy") from Friedrich Nietzsche's Thus Spake Zarathustra: A Book for All and None, translated by Thomas Common into English.
"Since I have known the body better"--said Zarathustra to one of his disciples--"the spirit hath only been to me symbolically spirit; and all the 'imperishable'--that is also but a simile."
"So have I heard thee say once before," answered the disciple, "and then thou addedst: 'But the poets lie too much.' Why didst thou say that the poets lie too much?"
"Why?" said Zarathustra. "Thou askest why? I do not belong to those who may be asked after their Why.
Is my experience but of yesterday? It is long ago that I experienced the reasons for mine opinions.
Should I not have to be a cask of memory, if I also wanted to have my reasons with me?
It is already too much for me even to retain mine opinions; and many a bird flieth away.
And sometimes, also, do I find a fugitive creature in my dovecote, which is alien to me, and trembleth when I lay my hand upon it.
But what did Zarathustra once say unto thee? That the poets lie too much?--But Zarathustra also is a poet.
Believest thou that he there spake the truth? Why dost thou believe it?"
The disciple answered: "I believe in Zarathustra." But Zarathustra shook his head and smiled.--
Belief doth not sanctify me, said he, least of all the belief in myself.
But granting that some one did say in all seriousness that the poets lie too much: he was right--WE do lie too much.
We also know too little, and are bad learners: so we are obliged to lie.
And which of us poets hath not adulterated his wine? Many a poisonous hotchpotch hath evolved in our cellars: many an indescribable thing hath there been done.
And because we know little, therefore are we pleased from the heart with the poor in spirit, especially when they are young women!
And even of those things are we desirous, which old women tell one another in the evening. This do we call the eternally feminine in us.
And as if there were a special secret access to knowledge, which CHOKETH UP for those who learn anything, so do we believe in the people and in their "wisdom."
This, however, do all poets believe: that whoever pricketh up his ears when lying in the grass or on lonely slopes, learneth something of the things that are betwixt heaven and earth.
And if there come unto them tender emotions, then do the poets always think that nature herself is in love with them:
And that she stealeth to their ear to whisper secrets into it, and amorous flatteries: of this do they plume and pride themselves, before all mortals!
Ah, there are so many things betwixt heaven and earth of which only the poets have dreamed!
And especially ABOVE the heavens: for all Gods are poet-symbolisations, poet-sophistications!
Verily, ever are we drawn aloft--that is, to the realm of the clouds: on these do we set our gaudy puppets, and then call them Gods and Supermen:--
Are not they light enough for those chairs!--all these Gods and Supermen?--
Ah, how I am weary of all the inadequate that is insisted on as actual! Ah, how I am weary of the poets!
When Zarathustra so spake, his disciple resented it, but was silent. And Zarathustra also was silent; and his eye directed itself inwardly, as if it gazed into the far distance. At last he sighed and drew breath.--
I am of to-day and heretofore, said he thereupon; but something is in me that is of the morrow, and the day following, and the hereafter.
I became weary of the poets, of the old and of the new: superficial are they all unto me, and shallow seas.
They did not think sufficiently into the depth; therefore their feeling did not reach to the bottom.
Some sensation of voluptuousness and some sensation of tedium: these have as yet been their best contemplation.
Ghost-breathing and ghost-whisking, seemeth to me all the jingle-jangling of their harps; what have they known hitherto of the fervour of tones!--
They are also not pure enough for me: they all muddle their water that it may seem deep.
And fain would they thereby prove themselves reconcilers: but mediaries and mixers are they unto me, and half-and-half, and impure!--
Ah, I cast indeed my net into their sea, and meant to catch good fish; but always did I draw up the head of some ancient God.
Thus did the sea give a stone to the hungry one. And they themselves may well originate from the sea.
Certainly, one findeth pearls in them: thereby they are the more like hard molluscs. And instead of a soul, I have often found in them salt slime.
They have learned from the sea also its vanity: is not the sea the peacock of peacocks?
Even before the ugliest of all buffaloes doth it spread out its tail; never doth it tire of its lace-fan of silver and silk.
Disdainfully doth the buffalo glance thereat, nigh to the sand with its soul, nigher still to the thicket, nighest, however, to the swamp.
What is beauty and sea and peacock-splendour to it! This parable I speak unto the poets.
Verily, their spirit itself is the peacock of peacocks, and a sea of vanity!
Spectators, seeketh the spirit of the poet--should they even be buffaloes!--
But of this spirit became I weary; and I see the time coming when it will become weary of itself.
Yea, changed have I seen the poets, and their glance turned towards themselves.
Penitents of the spirit have I seen appearing; they grew out of the poets.--
Thus spake Zarathustra.
LXXIV. The Song of Melancholy.
When Zarathustra spake these sayings, he stood nigh to the entrance of his cave; with the last words, however, he slipped away from his guests, and fled for a little while into the open air.
"O pure odours around me," cried he, "O blessed stillness around me! But where are mine animals? Hither, hither, mine eagle and my serpent!
Tell me, mine animals: these higher men, all of them--do they perhaps not SMELL well? O pure odours around me! Now only do I know and feel how I love you, mine animals."
--And Zarathustra said once more: "I love you, mine animals!" The eagle, however, and the serpent pressed close to him when he spake these words, and looked up to him. In this attitude were they all three silent together, and sniffed and sipped the good air with one another. For the air here outside was better than with the higher men.
Hardly, however, had Zarathustra left the cave when the old magician got up, looked cunningly about him, and said: "He is gone!
And already, ye higher men--let me tickle you with this complimentary and flattering name, as he himself doeth--already doth mine evil spirit of deceit and magic attack me, my melancholy devil,
--Which is an adversary to this Zarathustra from the very heart: forgive it for this! Now doth it wish to conjure before you, it hath just ITS hour; in vain do I struggle with this evil spirit.
Unto all of you, whatever honours ye like to assume in your names, whether ye call yourselves 'the free spirits' or 'the conscientious,' or 'the penitents of the spirit,' or 'the unfettered,' or 'the great longers,'--
--Unto all of you, who like me suffer FROM THE GREAT LOATHING, to whom the old God hath died, and as yet no new God lieth in cradles and swaddling clothes--unto all of you is mine evil spirit and magic-devil favourable.
I know you, ye higher men, I know him,--I know also this fiend whom I love in spite of me, this Zarathustra: he himself often seemeth to me like the beautiful mask of a saint,
--Like a new strange mummery in which mine evil spirit, the melancholy devil, delighteth:--I love Zarathustra, so doth it often seem to me, for the sake of mine evil spirit.--
But already doth IT attack me and constrain me, this spirit of melancholy, this evening-twilight devil: and verily, ye higher men, it hath a longing--
--Open your eyes!--it hath a longing to come NAKED, whether male or female, I do not yet know: but it cometh, it constraineth me, alas! open your wits!
The day dieth out, unto all things cometh now the evening, also unto the best things; hear now, and see, ye higher men, what devil--man or woman--this spirit of evening-melancholy is!"
Thus spake the old magician, looked cunningly about him, and then seized his harp.
In evening's limpid air,
What time the dew's soothings
Unto the earth downpour,
Invisibly and unheard--
For tender shoe-gear wear
The soothing dews, like all that's kind-gentle--:
Bethinkst thou then, bethinkst thou, burning heart,
How once thou thirstedest
For heaven's kindly teardrops and dew's down-droppings,
All singed and weary thirstedest,
What time on yellow grass-pathways
Wicked, occidental sunny glances
Through sombre trees about thee sported,
Blindingly sunny glow-glances, gladly-hurting?
"Of TRUTH the wooer? Thou?"--so taunted they-
"Nay! Merely poet!
A brute insidious, plundering, grovelling,
That aye must lie,
That wittingly, wilfully, aye must lie:
For booty lusting,
Himself his booty-
HE--of truth the wooer?
Nay! Mere fool! Mere poet!
Just motley speaking,
From mask of fool confusedly shouting,
Circumambling on fabricated word-bridges,
On motley rainbow-arches,
'Twixt the spurious heavenly,
And spurious earthly,
Round us roving, round us soaring,--
MERE FOOL! MERE POET!
HE--of truth the wooer?
Not still, stiff, smooth and cold,
Become an image,
A godlike statue,
Set up in front of temples,
As a God's own door-guard:
Nay! hostile to all such truthfulness-statues,
In every desert homelier than at temples,
With cattish wantonness,
Through every window leaping
Quickly into chances,
Every wild forest a-sniffing,
That thou, in wild forests,
'Mong the motley-speckled fierce creatures,
Shouldest rove, sinful-sound and fine-coloured,
With longing lips smacking,
Blessedly mocking, blessedly hellish, blessedly bloodthirsty,
Robbing, skulking, lying--roving:--
Or unto eagles like which fixedly,
Long adown the precipice look,
Adown THEIR precipice:--
Oh, how they whirl down now,
To ever deeper profoundness whirling!--
With aim aright,
With quivering flight,
On LAMBKINS pouncing,
Headlong down, sore-hungry,
For lambkins longing,
Fierce 'gainst all lamb-spirits,
Furious-fierce all that look
Sheeplike, or lambeyed, or crisp-woolly,
--Grey, with lambsheep kindliness!
Are the poet's desires,
Are THINE OWN desires 'neath a thousand guises,
Thou fool! Thou poet!
Thou who all mankind viewedst--
So God, as sheep--:
The God TO REND within mankind,
As the sheep in mankind,
And in rending LAUGHING--
THAT, THAT is thine own blessedness!
Of a panther and eagle--blessedness!
Of a poet and fool--the blessedness!--
In evening's limpid air,
What time the moon's sickle,
Green, 'twixt the purple-glowings,
And jealous, steal'th forth:
--Of day the foe,
With every step in secret,
The rosy garland-hammocks
Downsickling, till they've sunken
Down nightwards, faded, downsunken:--
Thus had I sunken one day
From mine own truth-insanity,
From mine own fervid day-longings,
Of day aweary, sick of sunshine,
--Sunk downwards, evenwards, shadowwards:
By one sole trueness
All scorched and thirsty:
--Bethinkst thou still, bethinkst thou, burning heart,
How then thou thirstedest?-
THAT I SHOULD BANNED BE
FROM ALL THE TRUENESS!
MERE FOOL! MERE POET!