BEYOND GOOD AND EVIL
[This document, which has been prepared by Ian Johnston of Vancouver Island University, Nanaimo, BC, has certain copyright restrictions. For information, please consult Copyright. Editorial comments and translations in square brackets and italics are by Ian Johnston; comments in normal brackets are from Nietzsche’s text. Last revised in December 2013]
PEOPLES AND FATHERLANDS
I heard once again for the first time Richard Wagner’s overture to the Meistersinger: it is a splendid, overloaded, difficult, and late art, which prides itself on the fact that, in order to understand it, one has to assume that two centuries of music are still vital. It is to the Germans’ credit that such a pride was not misplaced! What juices and forces, what seasons and climates are intermingled here! It impresses us sometimes as old fashioned, sometimes as strange, bitter, and too young; it is as arbitrary as it is conventionally grandiose, if not infrequently mischievous, still more frequently tough and coarse—it has fire and courage and, at the same time, the loose dun-coloured skin of fruits which become ripe too late. It streams out wide and full, and suddenly a moment of inexplicable hesitation, a gap, as it were, springs up between cause and effect, a pressure that makes us dream, almost a nightmare—but already the old stream of contentment is spreading and widening once more, of manifold contentment, of old and new happiness, which very much includes the happiness of the artist with himself, something he has no desire to conceal, his amazed and happily shared knowledge of the mastery of the means he has used here, new and newly acquired artistic means, so far untried, as he seems to inform us. All in all, no beauty, nothing of the south, nothing of the delicate southern brightness of heaven, nothing of grace, no dance, scarcely any will for logic, indeed a certain awkwardness that is even emphasized, as if the artist wanted to tell us, “That is part of my purpose,” a ponderous drapery, something arbitrarily barbaric and ceremonial, a shimmy of scholarly and venerable precious objects and lace; something German, in the best and worst senses of the word, something manifold, formless, and inexhaustible in the German way, a certain German power and spiritual excess, which has no fear of hiding under the refinements of decay—and which perhaps feels at its best only there, a truly authentic emblem of the German soul, young and obsolete both at the same time, over-rotten and still over-rich for the future. This kind of music expresses best what I think of the Germans: they belong to the day before yesterday and the day after tomorrow—but they still have no today.
We “good Europeans,” we too have hours when we allow ourselves a hearty feeling for our fatherland, a tumble and relapse into old loves and narrow places—I have just given a sample of that—hours of national tumults, patriotic apprehensions, and all sorts of other floods of old-fashioned emotion. Slower moving spirits than we are might take a longer period of time to be done with things which with us last and have run their course in a matter of hours—some need half a year, others half a human lifetime, each according to the speed and power with which they digest and “transform their stuff.” In fact, I could think of some dull, hesitant races which, even in our rapidly moving Europe, would require half a century in order to overcome such atavistic attacks of patriotism and attachment to their soil and to return to reason, that is to say, to “good Europeanness [guten Europäerthum]” And while I indulge myself with this possibility, it so happens that I listen in on a conversation between two old “patriots.” They both were obviously hard of hearing and so spoke all the louder. One said, “That man possesses and understands philosophy as much as a peasant or a student in a fraternity. He is still innocent. But what does that matter these days! This is age of the masses, who prostrate themselves before anything built on a massive scale. That’s how it is in politics, as well. If a statesman piles up a new Tower of Babel for them, anything at all that’s immense in power and empire, they call him ‘great.’ What does it matter that in the meantime those of us who are more cautious and reserved still do not give up the old belief that only a great idea confers greatness on an act or a cause? What if a statesman brought his people into a situation where from that point on they had to practise ‘grand politics,’ something for which they were by nature poorly adapted and prepared, so that it would be necessary for them to sacrifice their old and certain virtues for the sake of a new and doubtful mediocrity—suppose a statesman sentenced his people to a general ‘politicking,’ although up to that point those same people had had better things to do and to think about and in the depth of their souls could not rid themselves of a cautious disgust with the anxiety, emptiness, noise, and devilish squabbling of those peoples who were truly politicking—suppose such a statesman goaded the sleeping passions and desires of his people and turned their earlier shyness and their pleasure in standing to one side into defects, their fondness for foreign things [Ausländerei] and their secret boundlessness into a liability, devalued for them their most heartfelt inclinations, turned their conscience around, made their spirit narrow, and their taste ‘national,’—well, would a statesman who did all those things, someone for whom his people would have to atone through all future time, in the event they had a future, would such a statesman be great?” “Undoubtedly,” the other old patriot answered him vehemently, “otherwise he would have been incapable of doing it! Perhaps it was idiotic to want something like that? But perhaps every great thing was merely idiotic at the beginning!” “That’s an abuse of words!” cried his conversational partner in response, “Strong! Strong! Strong and idiotic! Not great!” The old men had evidently worked themselves up, as they shouted their “truths” into each other’s faces like this. But I, in my happiness and remoteness, thought about how a stronger man will soon become master over the strong, and also how there is a compensation for the spiritual flattening of one people, namely, the deepening of another people.—
Now, let’s call what we’re looking for as the distinguishing mark of Europeans “civilization,” or “humanizing,” or “progress”; let’s use a political formula and call it simply, without praise or blame, Europe’s democratic movement: behind all the moral and political foregrounds indicated with such labels, an immense physiological process is completing itself, something whose momentum is constantly growing—the process by which the Europeans are becoming more similar to each other, their growing detachment from the conditions under which arise races linked to a climate and class, their increasing independence from any distinct environment that for centuries wanted to inscribe itself on body and soul with the same demands—hence, the slow emergence of an essentially supra-national and nomadic type of human being, who, physiologically speaking, possesses as his characteristic mark a maximum of the art and power of adaptation. This process of the developing European, which can be held back by great relapses in tempo, but which for that very reason perhaps acquires and augments its vehemence and depth—the furious storm and stress of “national feeling” still raging today belongs here, along with that anarchism which is just emerging—this process will probably rush ahead to conclusions which its naive proponents and advocates, the apostles of “modern ideas,” are least likely to expect. The same new conditions which will, on average, create a situation in which human beings are homogenous and mediocre—useful, hard-working, practical in many tasks, clever men from an animal herd—are to the highest degree suitable for giving rise to exceptional men with the most dangerous and most attractive qualities. For while that power to adapt, which keeps testing constantly changing conditions and begins a new task with every generation, almost with every decade, by no means makes possible the full power of the type, while the collective impression of such future Europeans probably will be one of many kinds of extremely useful chattering workers with little will power, men who will need a master, someone to give orders, as much as they need their daily bread, and while the democratizing of Europe thus moves towards the creation of a type prepared for slavery in the most subtle sense, the strong man, in single and exceptional cases, will have to turn out stronger and richer than he has perhaps ever been before now—thanks to the absence of prejudice in his education, thanks to the immense multiplicity of practice, art, and mask. What I wanted to say is this: the democraticizing of Europe is at the same time an involuntary way of organizing for the breeding of tyrants—understanding that word in every sense, including the most spiritual.
I am pleased to hear that our sun is caught up in a rapid movement towards the constellation Hercules, and I hope that men on this earth act like the sun in this respect. And we first, we good Europeans!
There was a time when people were accustomed to confer on the Germans, as a mark of distinction, the label “profound.” Now, when the most successful type of the new Germanism craves completely different honours and perhaps finds that everything profound lacks “flair,” it is almost timely and patriotic to doubt whether we were not deceiving ourselves previously with that praise: in short, to wonder whether German profundity is not basically something else, something worse—and something which, thank God, we are about to succeed in removing. So let’s try to learn to think differently about German profundity. For that we don’t have to do anything except a little vivisection on the German soul. More than anything else, the German soul is multifaceted, with various origins, more cobbled together and superimposed than truly constructed. That comes from how it emerged. A German who had the audacity to claim “Alas, two souls dwell within my breast” would be seriously violating the truth, or, putting the matter more correctly, would lag behind the truth by several souls. As a people of the most monstrous mixing and stirring together of races, perhaps even with an excess of the pre-Aryan element, as “a people of the middle” in every sense, the Germans are more incomprehensible, more extensive, more contradictory, more unknown, more unpredictable, more surprising, and even more terrifying to themselves than other people are—they elude definition and for that reason alone are the despair of the French. It’s typical of the Germans that with them the question “What is German?” never dies away. Kotzebue certainly knew his Germans well enough: “We have been acknowledged,” they cheered to him—but Sand also thought he knew them. John Paul understood what he was doing when he expressed his anger over Fichte’s false but patriotic flatteries and exaggerations—but it is likely that Goethe’s thinking about the Germans was different from Jean Paul’s, even if he thought he was right in his opinion about Fichte.1 What did Goethe really think about the Germans?—But he never spoke clearly about many things around him, and all his life he knew how to keep a delicate silence—he probably had good reasons for that. What’s certain is that “the Wars of Liberation” did not make him look up in a happier mood, any more than the French Revolution.2 The event which made him rethink his Faust and, indeed, the entire problem of “man” was the appearance of Napoleon. There are words of Goethe in which, as if from a foreign country, he repudiates with an impatient severity what the Germans reckon as something they can be proud of: he once defined the famous German disposition [Gemüth] as “indulgence towards the weaknesses of strangers and towards one’s own.” Was he wrong in that? It’s characteristic of the Germans that one is rarely completely wrong about them. The German soul has within it lanes and connecting paths; in it there are caves, hiding places, and dungeons. Its lack of order has a great deal of the charm of something full of secrets. The German is well acquainted with the secret routes to chaos. And just as everything loves its own metaphorical likeness, so the German loves clouds and everything unclear, developing, dim, damp, and shrouded: any kind of uncertainty, shapelessness, shifting around, or evolving he senses as something “profound.” In himself, the German man does not exist—he is becoming something—he “is developing himself.” Hence, “developing” is the essential German discovery and successful stroke in the great realm of philosophical formulas—a governing idea which, along with German beer and German music, is working to Germanize all Europe. Foreigners stand there amazed at and attracted to the riddles which the contradictory nature underlying the German soul presents to them (something Hegel organized into a system and Richard Wagner finally even set to music). “Good natured and malicious”—such a juxtaposition, a contradiction if applied to any other people, unfortunately justifies itself too often in Germany. Just live for a while among the Swabians! The ponderousness of the German scholar, his social tastelessness, gets on alarmingly well with an inner agility in dancing on a tightrope and with a light impudence, faced with which all the gods have by now learned about fear. If people want an ad oculos [visual] demonstration “the German soul,” let them just look into German taste, into German arts and customs: what a boorish indifference to “taste”! See how there the noblest and the meanest stand next to each other! How disorderly and rich this entire spiritual household is! The German drags his soul along; he drags along everything he experiences. He digests his events badly—he’s never “finished” with them. German profundity is often only a difficult and hesitant “digestion.” And just as all chronic invalids, all dyspeptics, have an inclination for comfort, so the German loves “openness” and “conventional probity”: how comfortable it is to be open and conventional!—Today that is perhaps the most dangerous and most successful disguise the German knows—this trusting, cooperative, cards-on-the-table nature of German honesty. It is his true Mephistophelean art; with it he can “still go far!” The German lets himself go, as he gazes with true, blue, empty German eyes—and foreigners immediately confuse him with his dressing gown! What I wanted to say is this—let “German profundity” be what it will—when we are entirely among ourselves perhaps we’ll allow ourselves to laugh about it?—we’ll do well to hold its appearance and its good name in honour in future and not to dispose of our old reputation as people of profundity too cheaply for Prussian “dash” and Berlin wit and sand. It’s clever for a people to make itself pass for—and to let others think it—profound, clumsy, good natured, honest, unwise. That could even be—profound! Finally one should be a credit to one’s name—not for nothing are we called the “tiusche” people, the deceiving people . . .
The “good old” days are gone. In Mozart they sang themselves out:—how lucky we are that his rococo still speaks to us, that his “good society,” his loving raptures, his childish delight in Chinese effects and curlicues, the civility in his heart, his desire for delicacy, lovers, dancers, those with blissful tears, and his faith in the south can still appeal to some remnant in us! Alas, at some point it will be gone!—But who can doubt that the understanding of and taste for Beethoven will be gone even earlier!—Beethoven was, in fact, only the final chords of a stylistic transition, a break in style, and not, like Mozart, the last notes of a great centuries-long European taste. Beethoven is something that happens between an old worn out soul which is constantly breaking up and a very young soul of the future which is constantly coming on. In his music there lies that half light of eternal loss and of eternally indulgent hoping—that same light in which Europe was bathed when it dreamed with Rousseau, when it danced around the Liberty Tree of revolution and finally almost worshipped before Napoleon. But how quickly now this very feeling fades. Nowadays how difficult it has already become to know this feeling—how foreign to our ears the language of Rousseau, Schiller, Shelley, and Byron sounds, in whom collectively the same European fate found a way in words which it knew how to sing in Beethoven!3 What has come in German music since then belongs to Romanticism, that is, historically considered, to an even shorter, even more fleeting, even more superficial movement than that great interlude, that transition in Europe from Rousseau to Napoleon and to the arrival of democracy. There is Weber: but what are Freischutz and Oberson these days for us? Or Marschner’s Hans Heiling and Vampyr!4 Or even Wagner’s Tannhauser! That music has faded away, even if it has not yet been forgotten. In addition, all this Romantic music was not sufficiently noble, not sufficiently musical, to justify itself anywhere other than in the theatre and in front of crowds. Right from the start it was second-rate music, of little interest among true musicians. The situation was different with Felix Mendelssohn, that halcyon master, who won rapid admiration for his lighter, purer, and happier soul and then was forgotten just as quickly, as a lovely event in German music.5 But as for the case of Robert Schumann, who took his work seriously and from the beginning was also taken seriously—he was the last one who founded a school—nowadays don’t we count it as good luck, as a relief, and as a liberation that this very Schumann-style Romanticism has been overthrown? Schumann ran off into the “Saxon Switzerland” of his soul, half like Werther, half like Jean-Paul, but certainly nothing like Beethoven, certainly nothing like Byron!—the music of his Manfred is an error in judgment and a misunderstanding to the point of injustice.6—Schumann with his taste, which was basically a petty taste (that is, a dangerous tendency, doubly dangerous among the Germans, toward quiet lyricism and a drunken intoxication of feeling), always going off to the side, shyly withdrawing himself and pulling back, a nobly tender soul, who wallowed in nothing but anonymous happiness and sorrow, from the start a sort of young maiden and noli me tangere [do not touch me]: this Schumann was already merely a German event in music, no longer something European, as Beethoven was, and, to an even greater extent, Mozart. With him German music was threatened by its greatest danger, the loss of the voice for the soul of Europe and its descent to something dealing merely with the fatherland.
What a torture are books written in German for the person who has a third ear! How unwillingly he stands beside the slowly revolving swamp of sounds without melody, of rhythms without dance, what among the Germans is called a “book!” And as for the German who reads books! How lazily, how reluctantly, how badly he reads! How many Germans know and demand from themselves the knowledge that there is art in every good sentence, art which must be correctly grasped if the sentence is to be understood! With a misunderstanding about its tempo, for example, the sentence itself is misunderstood! That one must not be in doubt about the rhythmically decisive syllables, that one must feel the break in the extremely strict symmetry as intentional and charming, that one must lend a refined and patient ear to every staccato and every rubato, that one sorts out the sense in the series of vowels and diphthongs, how softly and richly they can colour and re-colour each other as they follow in their sequence—who among our book-reading Germans has enough goodwill to recognize these sorts of duties and demands and to listen for so much art and intentionality in the language? In the end we just “don’t have the ear for that.” And thus the most pronounced contrasts in style are not heard and the most refined artistry is wasted, as if on deaf people. These were my thoughts as I observed how crudely and naively people confused two masters of the art of prose with each other—one whose words drip down, hesitant and cold, as if from the roof of a damp cavern—he’s relying on their dull sound and echo—and the other who handles his language like a flexible sword and feels from his arm down to his toes the dangerous joy in the excessively sharp, shimmering blade that wants to bite, hiss, and cut.—
Just how little German style concerns itself with sound and with the ear is demonstrated in the fact that even our good musicians write badly. The German does not read aloud, not for the ear, but merely with his eyes. In the process he puts his ears away in a drawer. In antiquity a man read, when he read—and that happened rarely enough—to himself aloud and, in fact, in a loud voice. People were amazed if someone read quietly, and they secretly asked themselves why. With a loud voice—that is to say, with all the swellings, inflections, changes in tone, and shifts in tempo which the ancient public world enjoyed. At that time the principles of writing style were the same as those for the speaking style, and these principles depended in part on the astonishing development and the sophisticated needs of the ear and larynx and in part on the strength, endurance, and power of the ancient lungs. A syntactic period is, as the ancients understood it, above all a physiological totality, insofar as it is held together by a single breath. Such periods, as they manifest themselves in Demosthenes and Cicero, swelling up twice and sinking down twice, all within the single breath—that’s what ancient men enjoyed.7 From their own schooling they knew how to value the virtue in such periods—how rare and difficult it was to deliver them. We really have no right to the great syntactical period, we moderns, we short-winded people in every sense! These ancient people were, in fact, themselves collectively dilettantes in public speaking—and as a result connoisseurs and thus critics. Hence, they drove their speakers to the utmost limits. In a similar way in the last century, once all Italian men and women understood how to sing, among them virtuoso singing (and with that the art of melody as well) reached its high point. But in Germany (right up until very recent times, when a sort of platform eloquence started flapping its young wings timidly and crudely enough) there was really only one form of public speaking which came close to being artistic: what came from the pulpit. In Germany only the preacher understood what a syllable or what a word weighs, how a sentence strikes, leaps, falls, runs, and comes to an end; only he had a conscience in his ears, often enough a bad conscience. For there is no shortage of reasons why it’s precisely the German who rarely, and almost always too late, achieves a proficiency in speaking. It is appropriate therefore that the masterwork of German prose is the masterwork of its greatest preacher: up to this point, the Bible has been the best German book. In comparison with Luther’s Bible, almost everything else is mere “literature”—something that did not grow in Germany and hence also did not grow and does not grow in German hearts, as the Bible has.
There are two kinds of genius: one which above all breeds and desires to breed, and another which is happy to let itself be fertilized and give birth. In just the same way, there are among peoples of genius those to whom the female problem of pregnancy and the secret task of shaping, maturing, and perfecting have been assigned—the Greeks, for example, were a people of this kind, like the French—and there are others who have to fertilize and become the origin of new orders of life—like the Jews, the Romans, and, one could ask in all modesty, the Germans?—People tormented and enchanted by unknown fevers and irresistibly driven outside themselves, in love with and lusting after foreign races (after those who “let themselves be fertilized”—) and thus obsessed with mastery, like everything which has a knowledge of itself as full of procreative power and thus “by the grace of God.” These two types of genius seek each other out, like man and woman, but they also misunderstand each other—like man and woman.
Every people has its characteristic Tartufferie [hypocrisy] and calls it its virtues.—The best that man is he does not know—he cannot know.
What does Europe owe the Jews?—All sorts of things, good and bad, and above all one that is at the same time among the best and the worst: the grand style in morality, the terror and majesty of infinite demands, infinite meanings, the whole romanticism and grandeur of morally questionable things [moralischen Fragwürdigkeiten]—and as a result precisely the most attractive, most insidious, and most exquisite parts of those plays of colours and enticements to life, whose afterglow these days makes the sky of our European culture glow in its evening light—perhaps as it burns itself out. Among the spectators and philosophers, we artists are grateful to the Jews for that.
When a people is suffering from nationalistic nervous fever and political ambition and wants to suffer, we have to accept the fact that various kinds of clouds and disturbances—in short, small attacks of stupidity—will pass over its spirit: for example, among contemporary Germans sometimes the anti-French stupidity, sometimes the anti-Jewish, sometimes the anti-Polish, sometimes the Christian-Romantic, sometimes the Wagnerian, sometimes the Teutonic, sometimes the Prussian (take a look at these poor historians Sybel and Treitzschke and their thickly bandaged heads—), and whatever else all these small obfuscations of the German spirit and conscience may call themselves.8 May I be forgiven for the fact that I, too, during a short and risky stay in a very infected region did not remain entirely free of this illness and, like all the world, began to have ideas about things which were no concern of mine, the first sign of the political infection. For example, about the Jews. Hear me out.—I have not yet met a single German who was well disposed towards the Jews. And no matter how absolute the rejection of real anti-Semitism on the part of all cautious and political types may be, nonetheless this caution and politics directs itself not against this type of feeling itself, but only against its dangerous excess, in particular against the tasteless and disgraceful expression of this excessive feeling—on that point people should not deceive themselves. That Germany has a richly sufficient number of Jews, that the German stomach and German blood have difficulty (and will still have difficulty for a long time to come) absorbing even this quantum of “Jew”—in the way the Italians, the French, and the English have absorbed them, as a result of a stronger digestive system—that is the clear message and language of a general instinct which we must listen to and according to which we must act. “Let no more Jews in! And especially bar the doors to the east (also to Austria)!” So orders the instinct of a people whose type is still weak and uncertain, so that it could be easily erased, easily dissolved away by a stronger race. But the Jews are without any doubt the strongest, most tenacious, and purest race now living in Europe. They understand how to prevail even under the worst conditions (better even than under favourable conditions), as a result of certain virtues which today people might like to stamp as vices—thanks, above all, to a resolute faith which has no need to feel shame when confronted by “modern ideas.” They always change, if they change, only in the way the Russian empire carries out its conquests—as an empire that has time and was not born yesterday—that is, according to the basic principle “as slowly as possible!” A thinker who has the future of Europe on his conscience will, in all the designs he draws up for himself of this future, take the Jews as well as the Russians into account as, for the time being, the surest and most probable factors in the great interplay and struggle of forces. What we nowadays call a “nation” in Europe is essentially more a res facta [something made] than a res nata [something born](indeed sometimes it looks confusingly like a res ficta et picta [something made up and unreal]—), in any case something developing, young, easily displaced, not yet a race, to say nothing of aere perennius [more enduring than bronze], as is the Jewish type. But these “nations” should be very wary of every hot-headed competition and enmity! That the Jews, if they wanted to—or if people were to force them, as the anti-Semites seem to want to do—could even now become predominant, in fact, quite literally gain mastery over Europe, is certain; that they are not working and planning for that is equally certain. Meanwhile, by contrast, they desire and wish—even with a certain insistence—to be absorbed into and assimilated by Europe. They thirst to be finally established somewhere or other, to be accepted and respected, and to bring to an end their nomadic life, to the “Wandering Jew.” And people should pay full attention to this tendency and impulse (which in itself perhaps even expresses a moderating of Jewish instincts) and accommodate it. And for this, it might perhaps be useful and reasonable to expel the noisy anti-Semitic troublemakers from the country. We should welcome them with all caution, and selectively, more or less the way the English aristocracy does. It’s clear that the stronger and already more firmly established type of the new Germanism could involve itself with them with the least objection, for example, the aristocratic officers from the Mark Brandenburg.9 It would be interesting in all sorts of ways to see whether the genius for money and patience (and above all for some spirit and spirituality, which are seriously deficient in the people just referred to) could be added to and bred into the inherited art of commanding and obeying—in both of which the land mentioned above is nowadays a classic example. But at this point it’s fitting that I break off my cheerful Germanomania [Deutschthümelei] and speech of celebration. For I’m already touching on something serious to me, on the “European problem,” as I understand it, on the breeding of a new ruling caste for Europe.—
These Englishmen are no race of philosophers. Bacon signifies an attack on the spirit of philosophy generally; Hobbes, Hume, and Locke have been a debasement and a devaluing of the idea of a “philosopher” for more than a century. Kant raised himself and rose up in reaction against Hume. It was Locke of whom Schelling was entitled to say, “Je méprise Locke” [I despise Locke].10 In the struggle with the English mechanistic dumbing down of the world, Hegel and Schopenhauer (along with Goethe) were unanimous—both of these hostile fraternal geniuses in philosophy, who moved away from each other towards opposite poles of the German spirit and, in the process, wronged each other, as only brothers do. What’s lacking in England, and what has always been missing, that’s something the semi-actor and rhetorician Carlyle understood well enough, that tasteless muddle-headed Carlyle, who tried to conceal under his passionate grimaces what he understood about himself, that is, what was lacking in Carlyle—a real power of spirituality, a real profundity of spiritual insight, in short, philosophy.11 It is characteristic of such an unphilosophical race that it clings strongly to Christianity. They need its discipline to develop their “moralizing” and humanizing. The Englishman is more gloomy, more sensual, stronger willed, and more brutal than the German—he is also for that very reason, as the more vulgar of the two, also more pious than the German. He is even more in need of Christianity. For more refined nostrils even this English Christianity has still a lingering and truly English smell of spleen and alcoholic dissipation, against which it is used with good reason as a medicinal remedy—that is, the more delicate poison against the coarser one. Among crude people, a subtler poisoning is, in fact, already progress, a step towards spiritualization. The crudity and peasant seriousness of the English are still most tolerably disguised or, stated more precisely, interpreted and given new meaning, by the language of Christian gestures and by prayers and singing psalms. And for those drunken and dissolute cattle who in earlier times learned to make moral grunts under the influence of Methodism and, more recently, once again as the “Salvation Army,” a twitch of repentance may really be, relatively speaking, the highest achievement of “humanity” to which they can be raised: that much we can, in all fairness, concede. But what is still offensive even in the most humane Englishman is his lack of music, speaking metaphorically (and not metaphorically—). He has in the movements of his soul and his body no rhythm and dance—in fact, not even the desire for rhythm and dance, for “music.” Listen to him speak, or watch the most beautiful English woman walk—in no country of the earth are there lovelier doves and swans—and finally, listen to them sing! But I’m demanding too much . . .
There are truths which are best recognized by mediocre heads, because they are most appropriate for them; there are truths which have charm and seductive power only for mediocre minds:—at this very point we are pushed back onto this perhaps unpleasant proposition, since the time the spirit of respectable but mediocre Englishmen—I cite Darwin, John Stuart Mill, and Herbert Spencer—is successfully gaining pre-eminence in the middle regions of European taste.12 In fact, who could doubt how useful it is that such spirits rule from time to time? It would be a mistake to think that highly cultivated spirits who fly off to great distances would be particularly skilful at establishing many small, common facts, collecting them, and pushing to a conclusion:—they are, by contrast, as exceptional men, from the very start in no advantageous position vis-à-vis the “rules.” In the final analysis, they have more to do than merely have knowledge—for they have to be something new, to mean something new, to present new values! The gap between knowing something and being able to do something is perhaps greater as well as more mysterious than people think. It’s possible that the man who can act in the grand style, the creating man, will have to be a person who does not know; whereas, on the other hand, for scientific discoveries of the sort Darwin made a certain narrowness, aridity, and conscientious diligence, in short, something English, may not be an unsuitable arrangement. Finally we should not forget that the English with their profoundly average quality have already once brought about a collective depression of the European spirit. What people call “modern ideas” or “the ideas of the eighteenth century” or even “French ideas”—in other words, what the German spirit has risen against with a deep disgust—were English in origin. There’s no doubt of that. The French have been only apes and actors of these ideas, their best soldiers, as well, and at the same time unfortunately their first and most complete victims. For with the damnable Anglomania of “modern ideas” the âme française [French soul] has finally become so thin and emaciated that nowadays we remember almost with disbelief its sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, its profoundly passionate power, its resourceful nobility. But with our teeth we must hang on to the following principle of historical fairness and defend it against the appearance of the moment: European noblesse [nobility]—in feeling, in taste, in customs, in short, the word taken in every higher sense—is the work and invention of France; European nastiness, the plebeian quality of modern ideas, the work of England.
Even now France is still the place with the most spiritual and most refined European culture and the leading school of taste. But we have to know how to find this “France of taste.” Whoever belongs to it keeps himself well concealed—the number of those in whom it is embodied and lives may be small, and in addition they may perhaps be people who are not standing on the strongest legs, partly fatalistic, dark, sick, and partly mollycoddled and artificial, such people as have the ambition to conceal themselves. All of them have something in common: confronted with the raging stupidity and the noisy chattering of the democratic bourgeois, they keep their ears plugged. In fact, rolling around these days in the foreground is a stupid and coarsened France—recently, at the funeral of Victor Hugo, it celebrated a true orgy of tastelessness and at the same time of self-admiration.13 Something else is also common to them: a great will to stand against spiritual Germanization—and an even greater inability to do so! Perhaps these days Schopenhauer is already more at home and has become more indigenous in this France of the spirit, which is also a France of pessimism, than he ever was in Germany, not to mention Heinrich Heine, who has long since been transformed into the flesh and blood of the more sophisticated and discriminating Parisian lyric poets, or Hegel, who today exercises an almost tyrannical influence in the form of Taine, the pre-eminent living historian.14 And so far as Richard Wagner is concerned—the more French music learns to shape itself according to the real needs of the âme moderne [modern soul], the more it will become “Wagnerian.” That’s something we can predict—it’s already doing enough of that now. Nonetheless, in spite of all the voluntary or involuntary Germanizing and vulgarizing of taste, there are three things which nowadays the French can still point to with pride as their inheritance and property and as the indelible mark of an old cultural superiority over Europe. The first is the capacity for artistic passions, for devotion to “form,” for which the expression l’art pour l’art [art for art’s sake] has been invented, along with a thousand others—something like that has been present in France for three centuries and, thanks to the reverence for the “small number,” has made possible again and again a kind of chamber music in literature, which is not to be found in the rest of Europe.—The second thing on which the French can base a superiority over Europe is their ancient, multifaceted, moralistic culture, because of which we find, on average, even in the small romanciers [novelists] of the newspapers and random boulevardiers de Paris [Parisian men about town], a psychological sensitivity and curiosity of which people in Germany, for example, have no idea (to say nothing of the thing itself!). For that the Germans are lacking a couple of centuries of moralistic behaviour which, as mentioned, France did not spare itself. Anyone who calls the Germans “naive” because of this is praising them for a defect. (In contrast to the German inexperience and innocence in voluptate psychologica [in psychological delight], which is not too distantly related to the boredom of associating with Germans—and as the most successful expression of a genuine French curiosity and talent for invention in this empire of tender thrills, Henry Beyle may well qualify, that remarkably prescient and pioneering man, who ran at a Napoleonic tempo through his Europe, through several centuries of the European soul, as a tracker and discoverer of this soul. It took two generations to catch up with him somehow, to grasp some of the riddles which tormented and delighted him, this strange Epicurean and question mark of a man, who was France’s last great psychologist). There is still a third claim to superiority: in the nature of the French there is a semi-successful synthesis of north and south, which enables them to understand many things and tells them to do other things which an Englishman will never understand. In the French, the temperament which periodically turns towards and away from the south and in which, from time to time, the Provencal and Ligurian blood bubbles over, protects them from the dreadful northern gray on gray and the sunless conceptual ghostliness and anaemia—our German sickness of taste, against the excesses of which at the moment we have prescribed for ourselves, with great decisiveness, blood and iron—or I should say “grand politics” (in accordance with a dangerous art of healing which teaches me to wait and wait, but up to this point has not taught me to hope).15 Even today there is still in France an advance understanding of and an accommodation with those rarer and rarely satisfied people who are too all-embracing to find their contentment in some patriotism or other and know how to love the south in the north and the north in the south—the born mid-landers, the “good Europeans.”—For them Bizet created his music, this last genius who saw a new beauty and enticement and—who discovered a piece of the south in music.16
I think all sorts of precautions are necessary against German music. Suppose that someone loves the south the way I love it, as a great school for convalescing in the most spiritual and sensual sense, as an unrestrained abundance of sun and transfiguration by the sun, which spreads itself over an existence which rules itself and believes in itself. Now, such a man will learn to be quite careful as far as German music is concerned, because in ruining his taste again it ruins his health again as well. Such a man of the south, not by descent but by faith, must, if he dreams of the future of music, also dream of a redemption of music from the north and have in his ears the prelude to a more profound, more powerful, perhaps more evil and more mysterious music, a supra-German music which does not fade away, turn yellow, and grow pale at the sight of the blue voluptuous sea and the brightness of the Mediterranean sky, the way all German music does, a supra-European music which justifies itself even when confronted with the brown desert sunsets, whose soul is related to the palm trees and knows how to be at home and to wander among huge, beautiful, solitary, predatory beasts. . . . I could imagine to myself a music whose rarest magic consisted in the fact that it no longer knew anything about good and evil, only that perhaps here and there some mariner’s nostalgia or other, some golden shadow and tender weaknesses would race across it, an art which from a great distance could see speeding towards it the colours of a sinking moral world—one which has become almost unintelligible—and which would be sufficiently hospitable and deep to take in such late fugitives.—
Thanks to the pathological alienation which the nationalist idiocy has established and still establishes among European peoples, thanks as well to the short-sighted politicians with hasty hands, who with the help of this idiocy are on top nowadays and have no sense of how much the politics of disintegration which they carry on can necessarily be only politics for an intermission—thanks to all this and to many things today which are quite impossible to utter, now the most unambiguous signs indicating that Europe wants to become a unity are being overlooked or wilfully and mendaciously reinterpreted. With all the more profound and more comprehensive men of this century the real overall direction in the mysterious work of their souls has been to prepare the way to this new synthesis and to anticipate, as an experiment, the European of the future. Only in their foregrounds or in their weaker hours, as in old age, for example, did they belong to their “fatherlands”—they were only taking a rest from themselves when they became “patriots.” I’m thinking of men like Napoleon, Goethe, Beethoven, Stendhal, Heinrich Heine, and Schopenhauer. Don’t get upset with me if I also count Richard Wagner among them. About him people should not let themselves be seduced by his own misunderstandings—geniuses of his kind rarely have the right to understand themselves. Even less, of course, by the uncivilized noise with which people in France these days close themselves off from and resist Richard Wagner. Nonetheless, the fact remains that the late French Romanticism of the forties and Richard Wagner belong together in the closest and most inner relation. In all the heights and depths of their needs they are related to each other, fundamentally related. It is Europe, the one Europe, whose soul pushes out and upward through their manifold and impetuous art, and it longs to go—where? Into a new light? Towards a new sun? But who could express exactly what all these masters of new ways of speaking did not know how to express clearly? What is certain is that the same storm and stress tormented them, that they sought in the same way, these last great seekers! All of them were dominated by literature up to their eyes and ears—the first artists educated in world literature—most of them were even themselves writers, poets, conveyers of and mixers in the arts and senses (Wagner belongs as a musician with the painters, as a poet with the musicians, as an artist generally with the actors); they were all fanatics of expression “at any price”—I’ll cite Delacroix, the one most closely related to Wagner—they were all great discoverers in the realm of the sublime, as well as of the ugly and the horrific, even greater discoverers in effects, in display, in the art of the store window—all talents far beyond their genius, virtuosos through and through, with mysterious access to everything that seduces, entices, compels, knocks over, born enemies of logic and the straight line, greedy for the strange, the exotic, the monstrous, the crooked, the self-contradictory; as men they were Tantaluses of the will, up-and-coming plebeians, who knew that they were incapable of a noble tempo, a lento [slow movement], in their lives and works—think, for example, of Balzac—unrestrained workers, almost killing themselves with work, antinomians and rebels against morals, ambitious and insatiable without equilibrium and enjoyment; all of them finally collapsing and sinking down before the Christian cross (and they were right and justified in that, for who among them would have been sufficiently profound and original for a philosophy of the Antichrist?—), on the whole, a boldly daring, marvellously violent, high-flying kind of higher men, who pulled others up into the heights, men who first taught the idea of “higher man” to their century—and it’s the century of the masses!17 The German friends of Richard Wagner should think about whether there is anything essentially German in Wagnerian art or whether it is not precisely its distinction that it comes from supra-German sources and urges. In doing that, one should not underestimate just how indispensable Paris was for the development of a type like him, how at the most decisive period the depth of his instincts called him there, and how his whole way of appearing and his self-apostleship could perfect itself only at the sight of the model of French socialists. Perhaps with a more sophisticated comparison people will discover, to the honour of Richard Wagner’s German nature, that he carried everything out more strongly, more daringly, harder, and higher than a Frenchman of the nineteenth century could have done—thanks to the fact that we Germans are still closer to barbarism than the French are. Perhaps the most peculiar thing that Richard Wagner created is even inaccessible and unsympathetic to and beyond the emulation of the entire Latin race, which is so mature, for all time and not merely for today: the character of Siegfried, that very free man, who, in fact, may be far too free, too hard, too cheerful, too healthy, too anti-Catholic for the taste of an old and worn cultured people. He may even have been a sin against Romanticism, this anti-Romantic [antiromanische] Siegfried. Well, Wagner more than made up for this sin in his old and gloomy days when—in anticipation of a taste which in the meantime has become political—he began, with his characteristic religious vehemence, if not to go to Rome, at least to preach the way there. So that you do not misunderstand these last words of mine, I’ll summon a few powerful rhymes to my assistance, which will reveal what I mean to less refined ears as well—what I have against the “late Wagner” and his Parsifal music:
Did this oppressive screech come from a German heart?
Is this self-mutilation of the flesh a German part?
And is this German, such priestly affectation,
this incense-smelling, sensual stimulation?
And German this faltering, plunging, staggering,
this uncertain bim-bam dangling?
This nun-like ogling and ringing Ave bells,
this whole false heavenly super-heaven of spells?
Is that still German?
Think! You’re still standing by the entrance way.
You’re hearing Rome, Rome’s faith without the words they say.
1August Kotzebue (1761-1819), a well-known German writer assassinated by Karl Sand (1795-1820); John Paul (1763-1825), pen name of Johann Richter, an influential German writer in the Romantic era; Johann Gottlieb Fichte (1797-1879), an influential German philosopher. [Back to Text]
2Wars of Liberation: the wars against Napoleon which followed the French Revolution. [Back to Text]
3Napoleon Bonaparte (I1769-1821) French general, ruler of France, and conqueror of much of Europe; Rousseau: Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778), critic, philosopher and writer whose work influenced the French Revolution; Schiller: Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller (1759-1805), German poet, playwright, and philosopher; Shelley: Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822), a major English poet in the Romantic era; Byron: George Gordon Byron (Lord Byron) (1788-1824), English poet in the Romantic era, a leading international presence in European Romanticism. [Back to Text]
4Carl Maria Friedrich Ernst von Weber (1786-1826), German musician during the Romantic period; Heinrich Marschner (1795-1861), German composer of operas. [Back to Text]
5Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847) German composer in the early Romantic period. [Back to Text]
6Robert Schumann (1810-1856) German composer and music critic; Werther: hero of a famous Romantic novel by Goethe (he commits suicide). [Back to Text]
7Cicero (106-43 BC), the greatest of the Roman orators and prose stylists; Demosthenes (384-322 BC), a very famous Greek orator. [Back to Text]
8Heinrich von Sybel (1817-1895) and Heinrich von Treitschke (1834-1896), important mid-nineteenth century German historians. [Back to Text]
9Mark Brandenburg: a region near Berlin. [Back to Text]
10Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679), English philosopher; David Hume (1711-1776), Scottish historian and philosopher; John Locke (1632-1704), English philosopher; Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling (1775-1854), German philosopher. [Back to Text]
11Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881), Scottish essayist, historian, and biographer. [Back to Text]
12Charles Darwin (1809-1882) English scientist, whose Origin of Species was published in 1859; John Stuart Mill (1806-1873), English utilitarian philosopher and economist; Herbert Spencer (1820-1903), English philosopher. [Back to Text]
13Victor Hugo (1802-1885), French poet, playwright, and novelist. [Back to Text]
14Heinrich Heine (1797-1856), German lyric poet; Hippolye Adolphe Taine (1828-1893), French critic and historian. [Back to Text]
15blood and iron: a phrase made famous by Otto Eduard Leopold von Bismarck (1815-1898), First Chancellor of Germany: “Not by speeches and votes of the majority are the great questions of the time decided . . . but by iron and blood.” [Back to Text]
16Georges Bizet (1838-1875), French composer and pianist. [Back to Text]
17Ferdinand Victor Eugene Delacroix (1798-1863), important French Romantic painter; Honore de Balzac (1799-1850), prolific French novelist. [Back to Text]