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by Friedrich Nietzsche
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Title: Thoughts out of Season (Part One)

Author: Friedrich Nietzsche

Release Date: May, 2004 [EBook #5652]
[Yes, we are more than one year ahead of schedule]
[This file was first posted on August 4, 2002]

Edition: 10

Language: English

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Thoughts Out Of Season - Part One
by Friedrich Nietzsche




The First Complete and Authorised English Translation






Of the First Impression of
One Thousand Copies
this is

No. 1















THE Editor begs to call attention to some of the difficulties he had
to encounter in preparing this edition of the complete works of
Friedrich Nietzsche. Not being English himself, he had to rely upon
the help of collaborators, who were somewhat slow in coming forward.
They were also few in number; for, in addition to an exact knowledge
of the German language, there was also required sympathy and a certain
enthusiasm for the startling ideas of the original, as well as a
considerable feeling for poetry, and that highest form of it,
religious poetry.

Such a combination--a biblical mind, yet one open to new thoughts--was
not easily found. And yet it was necessary to find translators with
such a mind, and not be satisfied, as the French are and must be, with
a free though elegant version of Nietzsche. What is impossible and
unnecessary in French--a faithful and powerful rendering of the
psalmistic grandeur of Nietzsche --is possible and necessary in
English, which is a rougher tongue of the Teutonic stamp, and
moreover, like German, a tongue influenced and formed by an excellent
version of the Bible. The English would never be satisfied, as
Bible-ignorant France is, with a Nietzsche l'Eau de Cologne--they
would require the natural, strong, real Teacher, and would prefer his
outspoken words to the finely-chiselled sentences of the raconteur. It
may indeed be safely predicted that once the English people have
recovered from the first shock of Nietzsche's thoughts, their biblical
training will enable them, more than any other nation, to appreciate
the deep piety underlying Nietzsche's Cause.

As this Cause is a somewhat holy one to the Editor himself, he is
ready to listen to any suggestions as to improvements of style or
sense coming from qualified sources. The Editor, during a recent visit
to Mrs. Foerster-Nietzsche at Weimar, acquired the rights of
translation by pointing out to her that in this way her brother's
works would not fall into the hands of an ordinary publisher and his
staff of translators: he has not, therefore, entered into any
engagement with publishers, not even with the present one, which could
hinder his task, bind him down to any text found faulty, or make him
consent to omissions or the falsification or "sugaring" of the
original text to further the sale of the books. He is therefore in a
position to give every attention to a work which he considers as of no
less importance for the country of his residence than for the country
of his birth, as well as for the rest of Europe.

It is the consciousness of the importance of this work which makes the
Editor anxious to point out several difficulties to the younger
student of Nietzsche. The first is, of course, not to begin reading
Nietzsche at too early an age. While fully admitting that others may
be more gifted than himself, the Editor begs to state that he began to
study Nietzsche at the age of twenty-six, and would not have been able
to endure the weight of such teaching before that time. Secondly, the
Editor wishes to dissuade the student from beginning the study of
Nietzsche by reading first of all his most complicated works. Not
having been properly prepared for them, he will find the Zarathustra
abstruse, the Ecce Homo conceited, and the Antichrist violent. He
should rather begin with the little pamphlet on Education, the
Thoughts out of Season, Beyond Good and Evil, or the Genealogy of
Morals. Thirdly, the Editor wishes to remind students of Nietzsche's
own advice to them, namely: to read him slowly, to think over what
they have read, and not to accept too readily a teaching which they
have only half understood. By a too ready acceptance of Nietzsche it
has come to pass that his enemies are, as a rule, a far superior body
of men to those who call themselves his eager and enthusiastic
followers. Surely it is not every one who is chosen to combat a
religion or a morality of two thousand years' standing, first within
and then without himself; and whoever feels inclined to do so ought at
least to allow his attention to be drawn to the magnitude of his task.



DEAR ENGLISHMEN,--In one of my former writings I have made the remark
that the world would have seen neither the great Jewish prophets nor
the great German thinkers, if the people from among whom these eminent
men sprang had not been on the whole such a misguided, and, in their
misguidedness, such a tough and stubborn race. The arrow that is to
fly far must be discharged from a well distended bow: if, therefore,
anything is necessary for greatness, it is a fierce and tenacious
opposition, an opposition either of open contempt, or of malicious
irony, or of sly silence, or of gross stupidity, an opposition
regardless of the wounds it inflicts and of the precious lives it
sacrifices, an opposition that nobody would dare to attack who was not
prepared, like the Spartan of old, to return either with his shield or
on it.

An opposition so devoid of pity is not as a rule found amongst you,
dear and fair-minded Englishmen, which may account for the fact that
you have neither produced the greatest prophets nor the greatest
thinkers in this world. You would never have crucified Christ, as did
the Jews, or driven Nietzsche into madness, as did the Germans--you
would have made Nietzsche, on account of his literary faculties,
Minister of State in a Whig Ministry, you would have invited Jesus
Christ to your country houses, where he would have been worshipped by
all the ladies on account of his long hair and interesting looks, and
tolerated by all men as an amusing, if somewhat romantic, foreigner. I
know that the current opinion is to the contrary, and that your
country is constantly accused, even by yourselves, of its insularity;
but I, for my part, have found an almost feminine receptivity amongst
you in my endeavour to bring you into contact with some ideas of my
native country--a receptivity which, however, has also this in common
with that of the female mind, that evidently nothing sticks deeply,
but is quickly wiped out by what any other lecturer, or writer, or
politician has to tell you. I was prepared for indifference--I was not
prepared for receptivity and that benign lady's smile, behind which
ladies, like all people who are only clever, usually hide their inward
contempt for the foolishness of mere men! I was prepared for abuse,
and even a good fight--I was not prepared for an extremely
faint-hearted criticism; I did not expect that some of my opponents
would be so utterly inexperienced in that most necessary work of
literary execution. No, no: give me the Germans or the Jews for
executioners: they can do the hanging properly, while the English
hangman is like the Russian, to whom, when the rope broke, the
half-hanged revolutionary said: "What a country, where they cannot
hang a man properly!" What a country, where they do not hang
philosophers properly--which would be the proper thing to do to
them--but smile at them, drink tea with them, discuss with them, and
ask them to contribute to their newspapers!

To get to the root of the matter: in spite of many encouraging signs,
remarks and criticisms, adverse or benevolent, I do not think I have
been very successful in my crusade for that European thought which
began with Goethe and has found so fine a development in Nietzsche.
True, I have made many a convert, but amongst them are very
undesirable ones, as, for instance, some enterprising publishers, who
used to be the toughest disbelievers in England, but who have now come
to understand the "value" of the new gospel--but as neither this
gospel is exactly Christian, nor I, the importer of it, I am not
allowed to count my success by the conversion of publishers and
sinners, but have to judge it by the more spiritual standard of the
quality of the converted. In this respect, I am sorry to say, my
success has been a very poor one.

As an eager missionary, I have naturally asked myself the reason of my
failure. Why is there no male audience in England willing to listen to
a manly and daring philosophy? Why are there no eyes to see, no ears
to hear, no hearts to feel, no brains to understand? Why is my
trumpet, which after all I know how to blow pretty well, unable to
shatter the walls of English prejudice against a teacher whose school
cannot possibly be avoided by any European with a higher purpose in
his breast?... There is plenty of time for thought nowadays for a man
who does not allow himself to be drawn into that aimless bustle of
pleasure business or politics, which is called modern life because
outside that life there is--just as outside those noisy Oriental
cities-a desert, a calmness, a true and almost majestic leisure, a
leisure unprecedented in any age, a leisure in which one may arrive at
several conclusions concerning English indifference towards the new

First of all, of course, there stands in the way the terrible abuse
which Nietzsche has poured upon the heads of the innocent Britishers.
While France and the Latin countries, while the Orient and India, are
within the range of his sympathies, this most outspoken of all
philosophers, this prophet and poet-philosopher, cannot find words
enough to express his disgust at the illogical, plebeian, shallow,
utilitarian Englishman. It must certainly be disagreeable to be
treated like this, especially when one has a fairly good opinion of
one's self; but why do you take it so very, very seriously? Did
Nietzsche, perchance, spare the Germans? And aren't you accustomed to
criticism on the part of German philosophers? Is it not the ancient
and time-honoured privilege of the whole range of them from Leibnitz
to Hegel -- even of German poets, like Goethe and Heine -- to call you
bad names and to use unkind language towards you? Has there not always
been among the few thinking heads in Germany a silent consent and an
open contempt for you and your ways; the sort of contempt you
yourselves have for the even more Anglo-Saxon culture of the
Americans? I candidly confess that in my more German moments I have
felt and still feel as the German philosophers do; but I have also my
European turns and moods, and then I try to understand you and even
excuse you, and take your part against earnest and thinking Germany.
Then I feel like telling the German philosophers that if you, poor
fellows, had practised everything they preached, they would have had
to renounce the pleasure of abusing you long ago, for there would now
be no more Englishmen left to abuse! As it is, you have suffered
enough on account of the wild German ideals you luckily only partly
believed in: for what the German thinker wrote on patient paper in his
study, you always had to write the whole world over on tender human
skins, black and yellow skins, enveloping ungrateful beings who
sometimes had no very high esteem for the depth and beauty of German
philosophy. And you have never taken revenge upon the inspired masters
of the European thinking-shop, you have never reabused them, you have
never complained of their want of worldly wisdom: you have invariably
suffered in silence and agony, just as brave and staunch Sancho Panza
used to do. For this is what you are, dear Englishmen, and however
well you brave, practical, materialistic John Bulls and Sancho Panzas
may know this world, however much better you may be able to perceive,
to count, to judge, and to weigh things than your ideal German Knight:
there is an eternal law in this world that the Sancho Panzas have to
follow the Don Quixotes; for matter has to follow the spirit, even the
poor spirit of a German philosopher! So it has been in the past, so it
is at present, and so it will be in the future; and you had better
prepare yourselves in time for the eventuality. For if Nietzsche were
nothing else but this customary type of German philosopher, you would
again have to pay the bill largely; and it would be very wise on your
part to study him: Sancho Panza may escape a good many sad experiences
by knowing his master's weaknesses. But as Nietzsche no longer belongs
to the Quixotic class, as Germany seems to emerge with him from her
youthful and cranky nebulosity, you will not even have the pleasure of
being thrashed in the company of your Master: no, you will be thrashed
all alone, which is an abominable thing for any right-minded human
being. "Solamen miseris socios habuisse malorum."[6]*

[Footnote * : It is a comfort to the afflicted to have companions in
their distress.]

The second reason for the neglect of Nietzsche in this country is that
you do not need him yet. And you do not need him yet because you have
always possessed the British virtue of not carrying things to
extremes, which, according to the German version, is an euphemism for
the British want of logic and critical capacity. You have, for
instance, never let your religion have any great influence upon your
politics, which is something quite abhorrent to the moral German, and
makes him so angry about you. For the German sees you acting as a
moral and law-abiding Christian at home, and as an unscrupulous and
Machiavellian conqueror abroad; and if he refrains from the reproach
of hypocrisy, with which the more stupid continentals invariably
charge you, he will certainly call you a "British muddlehead." Well, I
myself do not take things so seriously as that, for I know that men of
action have seldom time to think. It is probably for this reason also
that liberty of thought and speech has been granted to you, the
law-giver knowing very well all the time that you would be much too
busy to use and abuse such extraordinary freedom. Anyhow, it might now
be time to abuse it just a little bit, and to consider what an
extraordinary amalgamation is a Christian Power with imperialistic
ideas. True, there has once before been another Christian conquering
and colonising empire like yours, that of Venice--but these Venetians
were thinkers compared with you, and smuggled their gospel into the
paw of their lion.... Why don't you follow their example, in order not
to be unnecessarily embarrassed by it in your enterprises abroad? In
this manner you could also reconcile the proper Germans, who
invariably act up to their theories, their Christianity, their
democratic principles, although, on the other hand, in so doing you
would, I quite agree, be most unfaithful to your own traditions, which
are of a more democratic character than those of any other European

For Democracy, as every schoolboy knows, was born in an English
cradle: individual liberty, parliamentary institutions, the sovereign
rights of the people, are ideas of British origin, and have been
propagated from this island over the whole of Europe. But as the
prophet and his words are very often not honoured in his own country,
those ideas have been embraced with much more fervour by other nations
than by that in which they originated. The Continent of Europe has
taken the desire for liberty and equality much more seriously than
their levelling but also level-headed inventors, and the fervent
imagination of France has tried to put into practice all that was
quite hidden to the more sober English eye. Every one nowadays knows
the good and the evil consequences of the French Revolution, which
swept over the whole of Europe, throwing it into a state of unrest,
shattering thrones and empires, and everywhere undermining authority
and traditional institutions. While this was going on in Europe, the
originator of the merry game was quietly sitting upon his island
smiling broadly at the excitable foreigners across the Channel,
fishing as much as he could out of the water he himself had so
cleverly disturbed, and thus in every way reaping the benefit from the
mighty fight for the apple of Eros which he himself had thrown amongst
them. As I have endeavoured above to draw a parallel between the
Germans and the Jews, I may now be allowed to follow this up with one
between the Jews and the English. It is a striking parallel, which
will specially appeal to those religious souls amongst you who
consider themselves the lost tribes of our race (and who are perhaps
even more lost than they think),--and it is this: Just as the Jews
have brought Christianity into the world, but never accepted it
themselves, just as they, in spite of their democratic offspring, have
always remained the most conservative, exclusive, aristocratic, and
religious people, so have the English never allowed themselves to be
intoxicated by the strong drink of the natural equality of men, which
they once kindly offered to all Europe to quaff; but have, on the
contrary, remained the most sober, the most exclusive, the most
feudal, the most conservative people of our continent.

But because the ravages of Democracy have been less felt here than
abroad, because there is a good deal of the mediaeval building left
standing over here, because things have never been carried to that
excess which invariably brings a reaction with it--this reaction has
not set in in this country, and no strong desire for the necessity of
it, no craving for the counterbalancing influence of a Nietzsche, has
arisen yet in the British mind. I cannot help pointing out the grave
consequences of this backwardness of England, which has arisen from
the fact that you have never taken any ideas or theories, not even
your own, seriously. Democracy, dear Englishmen, is like a stream,
which all the peoples of Europe will have to cross: they will come out
of it cleaner, healthier, and stronger, but while the others are
already in the water, plunging, puffing, paddling, losing their
ground, trying to swim, and even half-drowned, you are still standing
on the other side of it, roaring unmercifully about the poor swimmers,
screamers, and fighters below,--but one day you will have to cross
this same river too, and when you enter it the others will just be out
of it, and will laugh at the poor English straggler in their turn!

The third and last reason for the icy silence which has greeted
Nietzsche in this country is due to the fact that he has--as far as I
know--no literary ancestor over here whose teachings could have
prepared you for him. Germany has had her Goethe to do this; France
her Stendhal; in Russia we find that fearless curiosity for all
problems, which is the sign of a youthful, perhaps too youthful
nation; while in Spain, on the other hand, we have an old and
experienced people, with a long training away from Christianity under
the dominion of the Semitic Arabs, who undoubtedly left some of their
blood behind,--but I find great difficulty in pointing out any man
over here who could serve as a useful guide to the heights of the
Nietzschean thought, except one, who was not a Britisher. I am
alluding to a man whose politics you used to consider and whose
writings you even now consider as fantastic, but who, like another
fantast of his race, may possess the wonderful gift of resurrection,
and come again to life amongst you--to Benjamin Disraeli.

The Disraelian Novels are in my opinion the best and only preparation
for those amongst you who wish gradually to become acquainted with the
Nietzschean spirit. There, and nowhere else, will you find the true
heroes of coming times, men of moral courage, men whose failures and
successes are alike admirable, men whose noble passions have
altogether superseded the ordinary vulgarities and moralities of lower
beings, men endowed with an extraordinary imagination, which, however,
is balanced by an equal power of reason, men already anointed with a
drop of that sacred and noble oil, without which the High
Priest-Philosopher of Modern Germany would not have crowned his Royal
Race of the Future.

Both Disraeli and Nietzsche you perceive starting from the same
pessimistic diagnosis of the wild anarchy, the growing melancholy, the
threatening Nihilism of Modern Europe, for both recognised the danger
of the age behind its loud and forced "shipwreck gaiety," behind its
big-mouthed talk about progress and evolution, behind that veil of
business-bustle, which hides its fear and utter despair--but for all
that black outlook they are not weaklings enough to mourn and let
things go, nor do they belong to that cheap class of society doctors
who mistake the present wretchedness of Humanity for sinfulness, and
wish to make their patient less sinful and still more wretched. Both
Nietzsche and Disraeli have clearly recognised that this patient of
theirs is suffering from weakness and not from sinfulness, for which
latter some kind of strength may still be required; both are therefore
entirely opposed to a further dieting him down to complete moral
emaciation, but are, on the contrary, prescribing a tonic, a
roborating, a natural regime for him --advice for which both doctors
have been reproached with Immorality by their contemporaries as well
as by posterity. But the younger doctor has turned the tables upon
their accusers, and has openly reproached his Nazarene colleagues with
the Immorality of endangering life itself, he has clearly demonstrated
to the world that their trustful and believing patient was shrinking
beneath their very fingers, he has candidly foretold these Christian
quacks that one day they would be in the position of the quack
skin-specialist at the fair, who, as a proof of his medical skill,
used to show to the peasants around him the skin of a completly cured
patient of his. Both Nietzsche and Disraeli know the way to health,
for they have had the disease of the age themselves, but they
have--the one partly, the other entirely-- cured themselves of it,
they have resisted the spirit of their time, they have escaped the
fate of their contemporaries; they therefore, and they alone, know
their danger. This is the reason why they both speak so violently, why
they both attack with such bitter fervour the utilitarian and
materialistic attitude of English Science, why they both so ironically
brush aside the airy and fantastic ideals of German Philosophy--this
is why they both loudly declare (to use Disraeli's words) "that we are
the slaves of false knowledge; that our memories are filled with ideas
that have no origin in truth; that we believe what our fathers
credited, who were convinced without a cause; that we study human
nature in a charnel house, and, like the nations of the East, pay
divine honours to the maniac and the fool." But if these two great men
cannot refrain from such outspoken vituperation--they also lead the
way: they both teach the divinity of ideas and the vileness of action
without principle; they both exalt the value of personality and
character; they both deprecate the influence of society and
socialisation; they both intensely praise and love life, but they both
pour contempt and irony upon the shallow optimist, who thinks it
delightful, and the quietist, who wishes it to be calm, sweet, and
peaceful. They thus both preach a life of danger, in opposition to
that of pleasure, of comfort, of happiness, and they do not only
preach this noble life, they also act it: for both have with equal
determination staked even their lives on the fulfilment of their

It is astonishing--but only astonishing to your superficial student of
the Jewish character--that in Disraeli also we find an almost
Nietzschean appreciation of that eternal foe of the Jewish race, the
Hellenist, which makes Disraeli, just like Nietzsche, confess that the
Greek and the Hebrew are both amongst the highest types of the human
kind. It is not less astonishing--but likewise easily intelligible for
one who knows something of the great Jews of the Middle Ages--that in
Disraeli we discover that furious enmity against the doctrine of the
natural equality of men which Nietzsche combated all his life. It was
certainly the great Maimonides himself, that spiritual father of
Spinoza, who guided the pen of his Sephardic descendant, when he thus
wrote in his Tancred: "It is to be noted, although the Omnipotent
Creator might have formed, had it pleased him, in the humblest of his
creations, an efficient agent for his purpose that Divine Majesty has
never thought fit to communicate except with human beings of the very
highest order."

But what about Christianity, to which Disraeli was sincerely attached,
and whose creation he always considered as one of the eternal glories
of his race? Did not the Divine Majesty think it fit then to
communicate with the most humble of its creatures, with the fishermen
of Galilee, with the rabble of Corinth, with the slaves, the women,
the criminals of the Roman Empire? As I wish to be honest about
Disraeli, I must point out here, that his genius, although the most
prominent in England during his lifetime, and although violently
opposed to its current superstitions, still partly belongs to his
age--and for this very pardonable reason, that in his Jewish pride he
overrated and even misunderstood Christianity. He all but overlooked
the narrow connection between Christianity and Democracy. He did not
see that in fighting Liberalism and Nonconformity all his life, he was
really fighting Christianity, the Protestant Form of which is at the
root of British Liberalism and Individualism to this very day. And
when later in his life Disraeli complained that the disturbance in the
mind of nations has been occasioned by "the powerful assault on the
Divinity of the Semitic Literature by the Germans," he overlooked
likewise the connection of this German movement with the same
Protestantism, from the narrow and vulgar middle-class of which have
sprung all those rationalising, unimaginative, and merely clever
professors, who have so successfully undermined the ancient and
venerable lore. And thirdly, and worst of all, Disraeli never
suspected that the French Revolution, which in the same breath he once
contemptuously denounced as "the Celtic Rebellion against Semitic
laws," was, in spite of its professed attack against religion, really
a profoundly Christian, because a democratic and revolutionary
movement. What a pity he did not know all this! What a shower of
splendid additional sarcasms he would have poured over those
flat-nosed Franks, had he known what I know now, that it is the
eternal way of the Christian to be a rebel, and that just as he has
once rebelled against us, he has never ceased pestering and rebelling
against any one else either of his own or any other creed.

But it is so easy for me to be carried away by that favourite sport of
mine, of which I am the first inventor among the Jews--Christian
baiting. You must forgive this, however, in a Jew, who, while he has
been baited for two thousand years by you, likes to turn round now
that the opportunity has come, and tries to indulge on his part also
in a little bit of that genial pastime. I candidly confess it is
delightful, and I now quite understand your ancestors hunting mine as
much as they could--had I been a Christian, I would, probably, have
done the same; perhaps have done it even better, for no one would now
be left to write any such impudent truisms against me-- rest assured
of that! But as I am a Jew, and have had too much experience of the
other side of the question, I must try to control myself in the midst
of victory; I must judge things calmly; I must state fact honestly; I
must not allow myself to be unjust towards you. First of all, then,
this rebelling faculty of yours is a Jewish inheritance, an
inheritance, however, of which you have made a more than generous, a
truly Christian use, because you did not keep it niggardly for
yourselves, but have distributed it all over the earth, from Nazareth
to Nishni-Novgorod, from Jerusalem to Jamaica, from Palestine to
Pimlico, so that every one is a rebel and an anarchist nowadays. But,
secondly, I must not forget that in every Anarchist, and therefore in
every Christian, there is also, or may be, an aristocrat--a man who,
just like the anarchist, but with a perfectly holy right, wishes to
obey no laws but those of his own conscience; a man who thinks too
highly of his own faith and persuasion, to convert other people to it;
a man who, therefore, would never carry it to Caffres and Coolis; a
man, in short, with whom even the noblest and exclusive Hebrew could
shake hands. In Friedrich Nietzsche this aristocratic element which
may be hidden in a Christian has been brought to light, in him the
Christian's eternal claim for freedom of conscience, for his own
priesthood, for justification by his own faith, is no longer used for
purposes of destruction and rebellion, but for those of command and
creation; in him--and this is the key to the character of this
extraordinary man, who both on his father's and mother's side was the
descendant of a long line of Protestant Parsons--the Christian and
Protestant spirit of anarchy became so strong that he rebelled even
against his own fellow-Anarchists, and told them that Anarchy was a
low and contemptible thing, and that Revolution was an occupation fit
only for superior slaves. But with this event the circle of
Christianity has become closed, and the exclusive House of Israel is
now under the delightful obligation to make its peace with its once
lost and now reforming son.

The venerable Owner of this old house is still standing on its
threshold: his face is pale, his expression careworn, his eyes
apparently scanning something far in the distance. The wind--for there
is a terrible wind blowing just now--is playing havoc with his long
white Jew-beard, but this white Jew-beard of his is growing black
again at the end, and even the sad eyes are still capable of quite
youthful flashes, as may be noticed at this very moment. For the eyes
of the old Jew, apparently so dreamy and so far away, have suddenly
become fixed upon something in the distance yonder. The old Jew looks
and looks-- and then he rubs his eyes--and then he eagerly looks
again. And now he is sure of himself. His old and haggard face is
lighting up, his stooped figure suddenly becomes more erect, and a
tear of joy is seen running over his pale cheek into that long beard
of his. For the old Jew has recognised some one coming from afar--some
one whom he had missed, but never mentioned, for his Law forbade him
to do this--some one, however, for whom he had secretly always
mourned, as only the race of the psalmists and the prophets can
mourn--and he rushes toward him, and he falls on his neck and he
kisses him, and he says to his servants: "Bring forth the best robe
and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and shoes on his feet.
And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it and let us eat and be
merry!" AMEN.


LONDON, January 1909.


To the reader who knows Nietzsche, who has studied his Zarathustra and
understood it, and who, in addition, has digested the works entitled
Beyond Good and Evil, The Genealogy of Morals, The Twilight of the
Idols, and The Antichrist,-- to such a reader everything in this
volume will be perfectly clear and comprehensible. In the attack on
Strauss he will immediately detect the germ of the whole of
Nietzsche's subsequent attitude towards too hasty contentment and the
foolish beatitude of the "easily pleased"; in the paper on Wagner he
will recognise Nietzsche the indefatigable borer, miner and
underminer, seeking to define his ideals, striving after
self-knowledge above all, and availing himself of any contemporary
approximation to his ideal man, in order to press it forward as the
incarnation of his thoughts. Wagner the reformer of mankind! Wagner
the dithyrambic dramatist!--The reader who knows Nietzsche will not be
misled by these expressions.

To the uninitiated reader, however, some words of explanation are due,
not only in regard to the two papers before us, but in regard to
Nietzsche himself. So much in our time is learnt from hearsay
concerning prominent figures in science, art, religion, or philosophy,
that it is hardly possible for anybody to-day, however badly informed
he may be, to begin the study of any great writer or scientist with a
perfectly open mind. It were well, therefore, to begin the study of
Nietzsche with some definite idea as to his unaltered purpose, if he
ever possessed such a thing; as to his lifelong ideal, if he ever kept
one so long; and as to the one direction in which he always travelled,
despite apparent deviations and windings. Had he such a purpose, such
an ideal, such a direction? We have no wish to open a controversy
here, neither do we think that in replying to this question in the
affirmative we shall give rise to one; for every careful student of
Nietzsche, we know, will uphold us in our view. Nietzsche had one very
definite and unaltered purpose, ideal and direction, and this was "the
elevation of the type man." He tells us in The Will to Power: "All is
truth to me that tends to elevate man!" To this principle he was
already pledged as a student at Leipzig; we owe every line that he
ever wrote to his devotion to it, and it is the key to all his
complexities, blasphemies, prolixities, and terrible earnestness. All
was good to Nietzsche that tended to elevate man; all was bad that
kept man stationary or sent him backwards. Hence he wrote David
Strauss, the Confessor and Writer (1873).

The Franco-German War had only just come to an end, and the keynote of
this polemical pamphlet is, "Beware of the intoxication of success."
When the whole of Germany was delirious with joy over her victory, at
a time when the unquestioned triumph of her arms tended rather to
reflect unearned glory upon every department of her social
organisation, it required both courage and discernment to raise the
warning voice and to apply the wet blanket. But Nietzsche did both,
and with spirit, because his worst fears were aroused. Smug content
(erbrmliches Behagen) was threatening to thwart his one purpose--the
elevation of man; smug content personified in the German scholar was
giving itself airs of omniscience, omnipotence, and ubiquity, and all
the while it was a mere cover for hidden rottenness and jejune

Nietzsche's attack on Hegelian optimism alone (pp. 46, 53-54), in the
first paper, fully reveals the fundamental idea underlying this essay;
and if the personal attack on Strauss seems sometimes to throw the
main theme into the background, we must remember the author's own
attitude towards this aspect of the case. Nietzsche, as a matter of
fact, had neither the spite nor the meanness requisite for the purely
personal attack. In his Ecce Homo, he tells us most emphatically: "I
have no desire to attack particular persons--I do but use a
personality as a magnifying glass; I place it over the subject to
which I wish to call attention, merely that the appeal may be
stronger." David Strauss, in a letter to a friend, soon after the
publication of the first Thought out of Season, expresses his utter
astonishment that a total stranger should have made such a dead set at
him. The same problem may possibly face the reader on every page of
this fssay: if, however, we realise Nietzsche's purpose, if we
understand his struggle to be one against "Culture-Philistinism" in
general, as a stemming, stultifying and therefore degenerate factor,
and regard David Strauss--as the author himself did, that is to say,
simply as a glass, focusing the whole light of our understanding upon
the main theme-- then the Strauss paper is seen to be one of such
enormous power, and its aim appears to us so lofty, that, whatever our
views may be concerning the nature of the person assailed, we are
forced to conclude that, to Nietzsche at least, he was but the
incarnation and concrete example of the evil and danger then
threatening to overtake his country, which it was the object of this
essay to expose.

When we read that at the time of Strauss's death (February 7th, 1874)
Nietzsche was greatly tormented by the fear that the old scholar might
have been hastened to his end by the use that had been made of his
personality in the first Unzeitgemsse Betrachtung; when we remember
that in the midst of this torment he ejaculated, "I was indeed not
made to hate and have enemies!"--we are then in a better position to
judge of the motives which, throughout his life, led him to engage
such formidable opponents and to undertake such relentless attacks. It
was merely his ruling principle that, all is true and good that tends
to elevate man; everything is bad and false that keeps man stationary
or sends him backwards.

Those who may think that his attacks were often unwarrantable and
ill-judged will do well, therefore, to bear this in mind, that
whatever his value or merits may have been as an iconoclast, at least
the aim he had was sufficiently lofty and honourable, and that he
never shirked the duties which he rightly or wrongly imagined would
help him to

Wagner paper (1875-1876) we are faced by a somewhat different problem.
Most readers who will have heard of Nietzsche's subsequent
denunciation of Wagner's music will probably stand aghast before this
panegyric of him; those who, like Professor Saintsbury, will fail to
discover the internal evidence in this essay which points so
infallibly to Nietzsche's real but still subconscious opinion of his
hero, may even be content to regard his later attitude as the result
of a complete volte-face, and at any rate a flat contradiction of the
one revealed in this paper. Let us, however, examine the internal
evidence we speak of, and let us also discuss the purpose and spirit
of the essay.

We have said that Nietzsche was a man with a very fixed and powerful
ideal, and we have heard what this ideal was. Can we picture him,
then,--a young and enthusiastic scholar with a cultured love of music,
and particularly of Wagner's music, eagerly scanning all his circle,
the whole city and country in which he lived--yea, even the whole
continent on which he lived--for something or some one that would set
his doubts at rest concerning the feasibility of his ideal? Can we now
picture this young man coming face to face with probably one of the
greatest geniuses of his age--with a man whose very presence must have
been electric, whose every word or movement must have imparted some
power to his surroundings--with Richard Wagner?

If we can conceive of what the mere attention, even, of a man like
Wagner must have meant to Nietzsche in his twenties, if we can form
any idea of the intoxicating effect produced upon him when this
attention developed into friendship, we almost refuse to believe that
Nietzsche could have been critical at all at first. In Wagner, as was
but natural, he soon began to see the ideal, or at least the means to
the ideal, which was his one obsession. All his hope for the future of
Germany and Europe cleaved, as it were, to this highest manifestation
of their people's life, and gradually he began to invest his already
great friend with all the extra greatness which he himself drew from
the depths of his own soul.

The friendship which grew between them was of that rare order in which
neither can tell who influences the other more. Wagner would often
declare that the beautiful music in the third act of Siegfried was to
be ascribed to Nietzsche's influence over him; he also adopted the
young man's terminology in art matters, and the concepts implied by
the words "Dionysian" and "Apollonian" were borrowed by him from his
friend's discourses. How much Nietzsche owed to Wagner may perhaps
never be definitely known; to those who are sufficiently interested to
undertake the investigation of this matter, we would recommend Hans
Belart's book, Nietzsche's Ethik; in it references will be found which
give some clue as to the probable sources from which the necessary
information may be derived. In any case, however, the reciprocal
effects of their conversations will never be exactly known; and
although it would be ridiculous to assume that Nietzsche was
essentially the same when he left as when he met him, what the real
nature of the change was it is now difficult to say.

For some years their friendship continued firm, and grew ever more and
more intimate. The Birth Of Tragedy was one of the first public
declarations of it, and after its publication many were led to
consider that Wagner's art was a sort of resurrection of the Dionysian
Grecian art. Enemies of Nietzsche began to whisper that he was merely
Wagner's "literary lackey"; many friends frowned upon the promising
young philologist, and questioned the exaggerated importance he was
beginning to ascribe to the art of music and to art in general, in
their influence upon the world; and all the while Nietzsche's one
thought and one aim was to help the cause and further the prospects of
the man who he earnestly believed was destined to be the salvation of
European culture.

Every great ideal coined in his own brain he imagined to be the ideal
of his hero; all his sublimest hopes for society were presented
gratis, in his writings, to Wagner, as though products of the latter's
own mind; and just as the prophet of old never possessed the requisite
assurance to suppose that his noblest ideas were his own, but
attributed them to some higher and supernatural power, whom he thereby
learnt to worship for its fancied nobility of sentiment, so Nietzsche,
still doubting his own powers, created a fetich out of nis most
distinguished friend, and was ultimately wounded and well-nigh wrecked
with disappointment when he found that the Wagner of the
Gotterdammerung and Parsifal was not the Wagner of his own mind.

While writing Ecce Homo, he was so well aware of the extent to which
he had gone in idealising his friend, that he even felt able to say:
"Wagner in Bayreuth is a vision of my own future.... Now that I can
look back upon this work, I would not like to deny that, at bottom, it
speaks only of myself" (p. 74). And on another page of the same book
we read: "... What I heard, as a young man, in Wagnerian music, had
absolutely nothing to do with Wagner: when I described Dionysian
music, I only described what I had heard, and I thus translated and
transfigured all that I bore in my own soul into the spirit of the new
art. The strongest proof of this is my essay, Wagner in Bayreuth: in
all decidedly psychological passages of this book the reader may
simply read my name, or the name 'Zarathustra,' wherever the text
contains the name 'Wagner'" (p. 68).

As we have already hinted, there are evidences of his having
subconsciously discerned the REAL Wagner, even in the heyday of their
friendship, behind the ideal he had formed of him; for his eyes were
too intelligent to be deceived, even though his understanding refused
at first to heed the messages they sent it: both the Birth of Tragedy
and Wagner in Bayreuth are with us to prove this, and not merely when
we read these works between the lines, but when we take such passages
as those found on pp. 115, 149, 150, 151, 156, 158, 159 of this book
quite literally.

Nietzsche's infatuation we have explained; the consequent idealisation
of the object of his infatuation he himself has confessed; we have
also pointed certain passages which we believe show beyond a doubt
that almost everything to be found in The Case of Wagner and Nietzsche
contra Wagner was already subconscious in our author, long before he
had begun to feel even a coolness towards his hero: let those who
think our interpretation of the said passages is either strained or
unjustified turn to the literature to which we have referred and judge
for themselves. It seems to us that those distinguished critics who
complain of Nietzsche's complete volte-face and his uncontrollable
recantations and revulsions of feeling have completely overlooked this
aspect of the question.

It were well for us to bear in mind that we are not altogether free to
dispose of Nietzsche's attitude to Wagner, at any given period in
their relationship, with a single sentence of praise or of blame.
After all, we are faced by a problem which no objectivity or
dispassionate detachment on our parts can solve. Nietzsche endowed
both Schopenhauer and Wagner with qualities and aspirations so utterly
foreign to them both, that neither of them would have recognised
himself in the images he painted of them. His love for them was
unusual; perhaps it can only be fully understood emotionally by us:
like all men who are capable of very great love, Nietzsche lent the
objects of his affection anything they might happen to lack in the way
of greatness, and when at last his eyes were opened, genuine pain, not
malice, was the motive of even the most bitter of his diatribes.

Finally, we should just like to give one more passage from Ecce Homo
bearing upon the subject under discussion. It is particularly
interesting from an autobiographical standpoint, and will perhaps
afford the best possible conclusion to this preface.

Nietzsche is writing about Wagner's music, and he says: "The world
must indeed be empty for him who has never been unhealthy enough for
this 'infernal voluptuousness'; it is allowable and yet almost
forbidden to use a mystical expression in this behalf. I suppose I
know better than any one the prodigies Wagner was capable of, the
fifty worlds of strange raptures to which no one save him could soar;
and as I stand to-day--strong enough to convert even the most
suspicious and dangerous phenomenon to my own use and be the stronger
for it--I declare Wagner to be the great benefactor of my life.
Something will always keep our names associated in the minds of men,
and that is, that we are two who have suffered more
excruciatingly--even at each other's hands--than most men are able to
suffer nowadays. And just as Wagner is merely a misunderstanding among
Germans, so am I and ever will be. You lack two centuries of
psychological and artistic discipline, my dear countrymen!... But it
will be impossible for you ever to recover the time now lost" (p. 43).






Public opinion in Germany seems strictly to forbid any allusion to the
evil and dangeious consequences of a war, more particularly when the
war in question has been a victorious one. Those writers, therefore,
command a more ready attention who, regarding this public opinion as
final, proceed to vie with each other in their jubilant praise of the
war, and of the powerful influences it has brought to bear upon
morality, culture, and art. Yet it must be confessed that a gieat
victory is a great danger. Human nature bears a triumph less easily
than a defeat; indeed, it might even be urged that it is simpler to
gain a victory of this sort than to turn it to such account that it
may not ultimately proxe a seiious rout.

But of all evil results due to the last contest with France, the most
deplorable, peihaps, is that widespread and even universal error of
public opinion and of all who think publicly, that German culture was
also victorious in the struggle, and that it should now, therefore, be
decked with garlands, as a fit recognition of such extraordinary
events and successes. This error is in the highest degree pernicious:
not because it is an error,--for there are illusions which are both
salutary and blessed,--but because it threatens to convert our victory
into a signal defeat. A defeat? --I should say rather, into the
uprooting of the "German Mind" for the benefit of the "German Empire."

Even supposing that the fight had been between the two cultures, the
standard for the value of the victor would still be a very relative
one, and, in any case, would certainly not justify such exaggerated
triumph or self-glorification. For, in the first place, it would be
necessary to ascertain the worth of the conquered culture. This might
be very little; in which case, even if the victory had involved the
most glorious display of arms, it would still offer no warrant for
inordinate rapture.

Even so, however, there can be no question, in our case, of the
victory of German culture; and for the simple reason, that French
culture remains as heretofore, and that we depend upon it as
heretofore. It did not even help towards the success of our arms.
Severe military discipline, natural bravery and sustaining power, the
superior generalship, unity and obedience in the rank and file--in
short, factors which have nothing to do with culture, were
instrumental in making us conquer an opponent in whom the most
essential of these factors were absent. The only wonder is, that
precisely what is now called "culture" in Germany did not prove an
obstacle to the military operations which seemed vitally necessary to
a great victory. Perhaps, though, this was only owing to the fact that
this "thing" which dubs itself "culture" saw its advantage, for once,
in keeping in the background.

If however, it be permitted to grow and to spread, if it be spoilt by
the flattering and nonsensical assurance that it has been
victorious,--then, as I have said, it will have the power to extirpate
German mind, and, when that is done, who knows whether there will
still be anything to be made out of the surviving German body!

Provided it were possible to direct that calm and tenacious bravery
which the German opposed to the pathetic and spontaneous fury of the
Frenchman, against the inward enemy, against the highly suspicious
and, at all events, unnative "cultivation" which, owing to a dangerous
misunderstanding, is called "culture" in Germany, then all hope of a
really genuine German "culture"--the reverse of that
"cultivation"--would not be entirely lost. For the Germans have never
known any lack of clear-sighted and heroic leaders, though these,
often enough, probably, have lacked Germans. But whether it be
possible to turn German bravery into a new direction seems to me to
become ever more and more doubtful; for I realise how fully convinced
every one is that such a struggle and such bravery are no longer
requisite; on the contrary, that most things are regulated as
satisactorily as they possibly can be--or, at all events, that
everything of moment has long ago been discovered and accomplished: in
a word, that the seed of culture is already sown everywhere, and is
now either shooting up its fresh green blades, or, here and there,
even bursting forth into luxuriant blossom. In this sphere, not only
happiness but ecstasy reigns supreme. I am conscious of this ecstasy
and happiness, in the ineffable, truculent assurance of German
journalists and manufacturers of novels, tragedies, poems, and
histories (for it must be clear that these people belong to one
category), who seem to have conspired to improve the leisure and
ruminative hours--that is to say, "the intellectual lapses"--of the
modern man, by bewildering him with their printed paper. Since the
war, all is gladness, dignity, and self-consciousness in this merry
throng. After the startling successes of German culture, it regards
itself, not only as approved and sanctioned, but almost as sanctified.
It therefore speaks with gravity, affects to apostrophise the German
People, and issues complete works, after the manner of the classics;
nor does it shrink from proclaiming in those journals which are open
to it some few of its adherents as new German classical writers and
model authors. It might be supposed that the dangers of such an abuse
of success would be recognised by the more thoughtful and enlightened
among cultivated Germans; or, at least, that these would feel how
painful is the comedy that is being enacted around them: for what in
truth could more readily inspire pity than the sight of a cripple
strutting like a cock before a mirror, and exchanging complacent
glances with his reflection! But the "scholar" caste willingly allow
things to remain as they are, and re too much concerned with their own
affairs to busy themselves with the care of the German mind. Moreover,
the units of this caste are too thoroughly convinced that their own
scholarship is the ripest and most perfect fruit of the age--in fact,
of all ages--to see any necessity for a care of German culture in
general; since, in so far as they and the legion of their brethren are
concerned, preoccupations of this order have everywhere been, so to
speak, surpassed. The more conscientious observer, more particularly
if he be a foreigner, cannot help noticing withal that no great
disparity exists between that which the German scholar regards as his
culture and that other triumphant culture of the new German classics,
save in respect of the quantum of knowledge. Everywhere, where
knowledge and not ability, where information and not art, hold the
first rank,--everywhere, therefore, where life bears testimony to the
kind of culture extant, there is now only one specific German
culture--and this is the culture that is supposed to have conquered

The contention appears to be altogether too preposterous. It was
solely to the more extensive knowledge of German officers, to the
superior training of their soldiers, and to their more scientific
military strategy, that all impartial Judges, and even the French
nation, in the end, ascribed the victory. Hence, if it be intended to
regard German erudition as a thing apart, in what sense can German
culture be said to have conquered? In none whatsoever; for the moral
qualities of severe discipline, of more placid obedience, have nothing
in common with culture: these were characteristic of the Macedonian
army, for instance, despite the fact that the Greek soldiers were
infinitely more cultivated. To speak of German scholarship and culture
as having conquered, therefore, can only be the outcome of a
misapprehension, probably resulting from the circumstance that every
precise notion of culture has now vanished from Germany.

Culture is, before all things, the unity of artistic style, in every
expression of the life of a people. Abundant knowledge and learning,
however, are not essential to it, nor are they a sign of its
existence; and, at a pinch, they might coexist much more harmoniously
with the very opposite of culture--with barbarity: that is to say,
with a complete lack of style, or with a riotous jumble of all styles.
But it is precisely amid this riotous jumble that the German of to-day
subsists; and the serious problem to be solved is: how, with all his
learning, he can possibly avoid noticing it; how, into the bargain, he
can rejoice with all his heart in his present "culture"? For
everything conduces to open his eyes for him--every glance he casts at
his clothes, his room, his house; every walk he takes through the
streets of his town; every visit he pays to his art-dealers and to his
trader in the articles of fashion. In his social intercourse he ought
to realise the origin of his manners and movements; in the heart of
our art-institutions, the pleasures of our concerts, theatres, and
museums, he ought to become apprised of the super- and juxta-position
of all imaginable styles. The German heaps up around him the forms,
colours, products, and curiosities of all ages and zones, and thereby
succeeds in producing that garish newness, as of a country fair, which
his scholars then proceed to contemplate and to define as "Modernism
per se"; and there he remains, squatting peacefully, in the midst of
this conflict of styles. But with this kind of culture, which is, at
bottom, nothing more nor less than a phlegmatic insensibility to real
culture, men cannot vanquish an enemy, least of all an enemy like the
French, who, whatever their worth may be, do actually possess a
genuine and productive culture, and whom, up to the present, we have
systematically copied, though in the majority of cases without skill.

Even supposing we had really ceased copying them, it would still not
mean that we had overcome them, but merely that we had lifted their
yoke from our necks. Not before we have succeeded in forcing an
original German culture upon them can there be any question of the
triumph of German culture. Meanwhile, let us not forget that in all
matters of form we are, and must be, just as dependent upon Paris now
as we were before the war; for up to the present there has been no
such thing as a original German culture.

We all ought to have become aware of this, of our own accord. Besides,
one of the few who had he right to speak to Germans in terms of
reproach Publicly drew attention to the fact. "We Germans are of
yesterday," Goethe once said to Eckermann. "True, for the last hundred
years we have diligently cultivated ourselves, but a few centuries may
yet have to run their course before our fellow-countrymen become
permeated with sufficient intellectuality and higher culture to have
it said of them, it is a long time since they were barbarians."


If, however, our public and private life is so manifestly devoid of
all signs of a productive and characteristic culture; if, moreover,
our great artists, with that earnest vehemence and honesty which is
peculiar to greatness admit, and have admitted, this monstrous
fact--so very humiliating to a gifted nation; how can it still be
possible for contentment to reign to such an astonishing extent among
German scholars? And since the last war this complacent spirit has
seemed ever more and morerready to break forth into exultant cries and
demonstrations of triumph. At all events, the belief seems to be rife
that we are in possession of a genuine culture, and the enormous
incongruity of this triumphant satisfaction in the face of the
inferiority which should be patent to all, seems only to be noticed by
the few and the select. For all those who think with the public mind
have blindfolded their eyes and closed their ears. The incongruity is
not even acknowledged to exist. How is this possible? What power is
sufficiently influential to deny this existence? What species of men
must have attained to supremacy in Germany that feelings which are so
strong and simple should he denied or prevented from obtaining
expression? This power, this species of men, I will name--they are the
Philistines of Culture.

As every one knows, the word "Philistine" is borrowed from the
vernacular of student-life, and, in its widest and most popular sense,
it signifies the reverse of a son of the Muses, of an artist, and of
the genuine man of culture. The Philistine of culture, however, the
study of whose type and the hearing of whose confessions (when he
makes them) have now become tiresome duties, distinguishes himself
from the general notion of the order "Philistine" by means of a
superstition: he fancies that he is himself a son of the Muses and a
man of culture. This incomprehensible error clearly shows that he does
not even know the difference between a Philistine and his opposite. We
must not be surprised, therefore, if we find him, for the most part,
solemnly protesting that he is no Philistine. Owing to this lack of
self-knowledge, he is convinced that his "culture" is the consummate
manifestation of real German culture; and, since he everywhere meets
with scholars of his own type, since all public institutions, whether
schools, universities, or academies, are so organised as to be in
complete harmony with his education and needs, wherever he goes he
bears with him the triumphant feeling that he is the worthy champion
of prevailing German culture, and he frames his pretensions and claims

If, however, real culture takes unity of style for granted (and even
an inferior and degenerate culture cannot be imagined in which a
certain coalescence of the profusion of forms has not taken place), it
is just possible that the confusion underlying the
Culture-Philistine's error may arise from the fact that, since he
comes into contact everywhere with creatures cast in the same mould as
himself, he concludes that this uniformity among all "scholars" must
point to a certain uniformity in German education--hence to culture.
All round him, he sees only needs and views similar to his own;
wherever he goes, he finds himself embraced by a ring of tacit
conventions concerning almost everything, but more especially matters
of religion and art. This imposing sameness, this tutti unisono which,
though it responds to no word of command, is yet ever ready to burst
forth, cozens him into the belief that here a culture must be
established and flourishing. But Philistinism, despite its systematic
organisation and power, does not constitute a culture by virtue of its
system alone; it does not even constitute an inferior culture, but
invariably the reverse--namely, firmly established barbarity. For the
uniformity of character which is so apparent in the German scholars of
to-day is only the result of a conscious or unconscious exclusion and
negation of all the artistically productive forms and requirements of
a genuine style. The mind of the cultured Philistine must have become
sadly unhinged; for precisely what culture repudiates he regards as
culture itself; and, since he proceeds logically, he succeeds in
creating a connected group of these repudiations--a system of
non-culture, to which one might at a pinch grant a certain "unity of
style," provided of course it were Ot nonsense to attribute style to
barbarity. If he have to choose between a stylish act and its
opposite, he will invariably adopt the latter, and, since this rule
holds good throughout, every one of his acts bears the same negative
stamp. Now, it is by means of this stamp that he is able to identify
the character of the "German culture," which is his own patent; and
all things that do not bear it are so many enemies and obstacles drawn
up against him. In the presence of these arrayed forces the
Culture-Philistine either does no more than ward off the blows, or
else he denies, holds his tongue, stops his ears, and refuses to face
facts. He is a negative creature--even in his hatred and animosity.
Nobody, however, is more disliked by him than the man who regards him
as a Philistine, and tells him what he is--namely, the barrier in the
way of all powerful men and creators, the labyrinth for all who doubt
and go astray, the swamp for all the weak and the weary, the fetters
of those who would run towards lofty goals, the poisonous mist that
chokes all germinating hopes, the scorching sand to all those German
thinkers who seek for, and thirst after, a new life. For the mind of
Germany is seeking; and ye hate it because it is seeking, and because
it will not accept your word, when ye declare that ye have found what
it is seeking. How could it have been possible for a type like that of
the Culture-Philistine to develop? and even granting its development,
how was it able to rise to the powerful Position of supreme judge
concerning all questions of German culture? How could this have been
possible, seeing that a whole procession of grand and heroic figures
has already filed past us, whose every movement, the expression of
whose every feature, whose questioning voice and burning eye betrayed
the one fact, that they were seekers, and that they sought that which
the Culture-Philistine had long fancied he had found--to wit, a
genuine original German culture? Is there a soil--thus they seemed to
ask--a soil that is pure enough, unhandselled enough, of sufficient
virgin sanctity, to allow the mind of Germany to build its house upon
it? Questioning thus, they wandered through the wilderness, and the
woods of wretched ages and narrow conditions, and as seekers they
disappeared from our vision; one of them, at an advanced age, was even
able to say, in the name of all: "For half a century my life has been
hard and bitter enough; I have allowed myself no rest, but have ever
striven, sought and done, to the best and to the utmost of my

What does our Culture-Philistinism say of these seekers? It regards
them simply as discoverers, and seems to forget that they themselves
only claimed to be seekers. We have our culture, say her sons; for
have we not our "classics"? Not only is the foundation there, but the
building already stands upon it--we ourselves constitute that
building. And, so saying, the Philistine raises his hand to his brow.

But, in order to be able thus to misjudge, and thus to grant
left-handed veneration to our classics, people must have ceased to
know them. This, generally speaking, is precisely what has happened.
For, otherwise, one ought to know that there is only one way of
honouring them, and that is to continue seeking with the same spirit
and with the same courage, and not to weary of the search. But to
foist the doubtful title of "classics" upon them, and to "edify"
oneself from time to time by reading their works, means to yield to
those feeble and selfish emotions which all the paying public may
purchase at concert-halls and theatres. Even the raising of monuments
to their memory, and the christening of feasts and societies with
their names--all these things are but so many ringing cash payments by
means of which the Culture-Philistine discharges his indebtedness to
them, so that in all other respects he may be rid of them, and, above
all, not bound to follow in their wake and prosecute his search
further. For henceforth inquiry is to cease: that is the Philistine

This watchword once had some meaning. In Germany, during the first
decade of the nineteenth century, for instance, when the heyday and
confusion of seeking, experimenting, destroying, promising, surmising,
and hoping was sweeping in currents and cross-currents over the land,
the thinking middle-classes were right in their concern for their own
security. It was then quite right of them to dismiss from their minds
with a shrug of their shoulders the omnium gatherum of fantastic and
language-maiming philosophies, and of rabid special-pleading
historical studies, the carnival of all gods and myths, and the
poetical affectations and fooleries which a drunken spirit may be
responsible for. In this respect they were quite right; for the
Philistine has not even the privilege of licence. With the cunning
proper to base natures, however, he availed himself of the
opportunity, in order to throw suspicion even upon the seeking spirit,
and to invite people to join in the more comfortable pastime of
finding. His eye opened to the joy of Philistinism; he saved himself
from wild experimenting by clinging to the idyllic, and opposed the
restless creative spirit that animates the artist, by means of a
certain smug ease--the ease of self-conscious narrowness,
tranquillity, and self-sufficiency. His tapering finger pointed,
without any affectation of modesty, to all the hidden and intimate
incidents of his life, to the many touching and ingenuous joys which
sprang into existence in the wretched depths of his uncultivated
existence, and which modestly blossomed forth on the bog-land of

There were, naturally, a few gifted narrators who, with a nice touch,
drew vivid pictures of the happiness, the prosaic simplicity, the
bucolic robustness, and all the well-being which floods the quarters
of children, scholars, and peasants. With picture-books of this class
in their hands, these smug ones now once and for all sought to escape
from the yoke of these dubious classics and the command which they
contained--to seek further and to find. They only started the notion
of an epigone-age in order to secure peace for themselves, and to be
able to reject all the efforts of disturbing innovators summarily as
the work of epigones. With the view of ensuring their own
tranquillity, these smug ones even appropriated history, and sought to
transform all sciences that threatened to disturb their wretched ease
into branches of history--more particularly philosophy and classical
philology. Through historical consciousness, they saved themselves
from enthusiasm; for, in opposition to Goethe, it was maintained that
history would no longer kindle enthusiasm. No, in their desire to
acquire an historical grasp of everything, stultification became the
sole aim of these philosophical admirers of "nil admirari." While
professing to hate every form of fanaticism and intolerance, what they
really hated, at bottom, was the dominating genius and the tyranny of
the real claims of culture. They therefore concentrated and utilised
all their forces in those quarters where a fresh and vigorous movement
was to be expected, and then paralysed, stupefied, and tore it to
shreds. In this way, a philosophy which veiled the Philistine
confessions of its founder beneath neat twists and flourishes of
language proceeded further to discover a formula for the canonisation
of the commonplace. It expatiated upon the rationalism of all reality,
and thus ingratiated itself with the Culture-Philistine, who also
loves neat twists and flourishes, and who, above all, considers
himself real, and regards his reality as the standard of reason for
the world. From this time forward he began to allow every one, and
even himself, to reflect, to investigate, to astheticise, and, more
particularly, to make poetry, rnusic, and even pictures--not to
mention systems philosophy; provided, of course, that everything were
done according to the old pattern, and that no assault were made upon
the "reasonable" and the "real"--that is to say, upon the Philistine.
The latter really does not at all mind giving himself up, from time to
time, to the delightful and daring transgressions of art or of
sceptical historical studies, and he does not underestimate the charm
of such recreations and entertainments; but he strictly separates "the
earnestness of life" (under which term he understands his calling, his
business, and his wife and child) from such trivialities, and among
the latter he includes all things which have any relation to culture.
Therefore, woe to the art that takes itself seriously, that has a
notion of what it may exact, and that dares to endanger his income,
his business, and his habits! Upon such an art he turns his back, as
though it were something dissolute; and, affecting the attitude of a.
guardian of chastity, he cautions every unprotected virtue on no
account to look.

Being such an adept at cautioning people, he is always grateful to any
artist who heeds him and listens to caution. He then assures his
protege that things are to be made more easy for him; that, as a
kindred spirit, he will no longer be expected to make sublime
masterpieces, but that his work must be one of two kinds--either the
imitation of reality to the point of simian mimicry, in idylls or
gentle and humorous satires, or the free copying of the best-known and
most famous classical works, albeit with shamefast concessions to the
taste of the age. For, although he may only be able to appreciate
slavish copying or accurate portraiture of the present, still he knows
that the latter will but glorify him, and increase the well-being of
"reality"; while the former, far from doing him any harm, rather helps
to establish his reputation as a classical judge of taste, and is not
otherwise troublesome; for he has, once and for all, come to terms
with the classics. Finally, he discovers the general and effective
formula "Health" for his habits, methods of observation, judgments,
and the objects of his patronage; while he dismisses the importunate
disturber of the peace with the epithets "hysterical" and "morbid." It
is thus that David Strauss--a genuine example of the satisfait in
regard to our scholastic institutions, and a typical Philistine--it is
thus that he speaks of "the philosophy of Schopenhauer" as being
"thoroughly intellectual, yet often unhealthy and unprofitable." It is
indeed a deplorable fact that intellect should show such a decided
preference for the "unhealthy" and the "unprofitable"; and even the
Philistine, if he be true to himself, will admit that, in regard to
the philosophies which men of his stamp produce, he is conscious of a
frequent lack of intellectuality, although of course they are always
thoroughly healthy and profitable.

Now and again, the Philistines, provided they are by themselves,
indulge in a bottle of wine, and then they grow reminiscent, and speak
of the great deeds of the war, honestly and ingenuously. On such
occasions it often happens that a great deal comes to light which
would otherwise have been most stead-fastly concealed, and one of them
may even be heard to blurt out the most precious secrets of the whole
brotherhood. Indeed, a lapse of this sort occurred but a short while
ago, to a well-known aesthete of the Hegelian school of reasoning. It
must, however, be admitted that the provocation thereto was of an
unusual character. A company of Philistines were feasting together, in
celebration of the memory of a genuine anti-Philistine--one who,
moreover, had been, in the strictest sense of the words, wrecked by
Philistinism. This man was Holderlin, and the afore-mentioned aesthete
was therefore justified, under the circumstances, in speaking of the
tragic souls who had foundered on "reality"--reality being understood,
here, to mean Philistine reason. But the "reality" is now different,
and it might well be asked whether Holderlin would be able to find his
way at all in the present great age. "I doubt," says Dr. Vischer,
"whether his delicate soul could have borne all the roughness which is
inseparable from war, and whether it had survived the amount of
perversity which, since the war, we now see flourishing in every
quarter. Perhaps he would have succumbed to despair. His was one of
the unarmed souls; he was the Werther of Greece, a hopeless lover; his
life was full of softness and yearning, but there was strength and
substance in his will, and in his style, greatness, riches and life;
here and there it is even reminiscent of AEschylus. His spirit,
however, lacked hardness. He lacked the weapon humour; he could not
grant that one may be a Philistine and still be no barbarian." Not the
sugary condolence of the post-prandial speaker, but this last sentence
concerns us. Yes, it is admitted that one is a Philistine; but, a
barbarian?--No, not at any price! Unfortunately, poor Holderlin could
not make such flne distinctions. If one reads the reverse of
civilisation, or perhaps sea-pirating, or cannibalism, into the word
"barbarian," then the distinction is justifiable enough. But what the
aesthete obviously wishes to prove to us is, that we may be
Philistines and at the same time men of culture. Therein lies the
humour which poor Holderlin lacked and the need of which ultimately
wrecked him.[7]*

[Footnote * : Nietzsche's allusion to Holderlin here is full of tragic
significance; for, like Holderlin, he too was ultimately wrecked and
driven insane by the Philistinism of his age. --Translator's note.]

On this occasion a second admission was made by the speaker: "It is
not always strength of will, but weakness, which makes us superior to
those tragic souls which are so passionately responsive to the
attractions of beauty," or words to this effect. And this was said in
the name of the assembled "We"; that is to say, the "superiors," the
"superiors through weakness." Let us content ourselves with these
admissions. We are now in possession of information concerning two
matters from one of the initiated: first, that these "We" stand beyond
the passion for beauty; secondly, that their position was reached by
means of weakness. In less confidential moments, however, it was just
this weakness which masqueraded in the guise of a much more beautiful
name: it was the famous "healthiness" of the Culture-Philistine. In
view of this very recent restatement of the case, however, it would be
as well not to speak of them any longer as the "healthy ones," but as
the "weakly," or, still better, as the "feeble." Oh, if only these
feeble ones were not in power! How is it that they concern themselves
at all about what we call them! They are the rulers, and he is a poor
ruler who cannot endure to be called by a nickname. Yes, if one only
have power, one soon learns to poke fun--even at oneself. It cannot
matter so very much, therefore, even if one do give oneself away; for
what could not the purple mantle of triumph conceal? The strength of
the Culture-Philistine steps into the broad light of day when he
acknowledges his weakness; and the more he acknowledges it-- the more
cynically he acknowledges it--the more completely he betrays his
consciousness of his own importance and superiority. We are living in
a period of cynical Philistine confessions. Just as Friedrich Vischer
gave us his in a word, so has David Strauss handed us his in a book;
and both that word and that book are cynical.


Concerning Culture-Philistinism, David Strauss makes a double
confession, by word and by deed; that is to say, by the word of the
confessor, and the act of the writer. His book entitled The Old Faith
and the New is, first in regard to its contents, and secondly in
regard to its being a book and a literary production, an uninterrupted
confession; while, in the very fact that he allows himself to write
confessions at all about his faith, there already lies a confession.
Presumably, every one seems to have the right to compile an
autobiography after his fortieth year; for the humblest amongst us may
have experienced things, and may have seen them at such close
quarters, that the recording of them may prove of use and value to the
thinker. But to write a confession of one's faith cannot but be
regarded as a thousand times more pretentious, since it takes for
granted that the writer attaches worth, not only to the experiences
and investigations of his life, but also to his beliefs. Now, what the
nice thinker will require to know, above all else, is the kind of
faith which happens to be compatible with natures of the Straussian
order, and what it is they have "half dreamily conjured up" (p. 10)
concerning matters of which those alone have the right to speak who
are acquainted with them at first hand. Whoever would have desired to
possess the confessions, say, of a Ranke or a Mommsen? And these men
were scholars and historians of a very different stamp from David
Strauss. If, however, they had ever ventured to interest us in their
faith instead of in their scientific investigations, we should have
felt that they were overstepping their limits in a most irritating
fashion. Yet Strauss does this when he discusses his faith. Nobody
wants to know anything about it, save, perhaps, a few bigoted
opponents of the Straussian doctrines, who, suspecting, as they do, a
substratum of satanic principles beneath these doctrines, hope that he
may compromise his learned utterances by revealing the nature of those
principles. These clumsy creatures may, perhaps, have found what they
sought in the last book; but we, who had no occasion to suspect a
satanic substratum, discovered nothing of the sort, and would have
felt rather pleased than not had we been able to discern even a dash
of the diabolical in any part of the volume. But surely no evil spirit
could speak as Strauss speaks of his new faith. In fact, spirit in
general seems to be altogether foreign to the book-- more particularly
the spirit of genius. Only those whom Strauss designates as his "We,"
speak as he does, and then, when they expatiate upon their faith to
us, they bore us even more than when they relate their dreams; be they
"scholars, artists, military men, civil employes, merchants, or landed
proprietors; come they in their thousands, and not the worst people in
the land either!" If they do not wish to remain the peaceful ones in
town or county, but threaten to wax noisy, then let not the din of
their unisono deceive us concerning the poverty and vulgarity of the
melody they sing. How can it dispose us more favourably towards a
profession of faith to hear that it is approved by a crowd, when it is
of such an order that if any individual of that crowd attempted to
make it known to us, we should not only fail to hear him out, but
should interrupt him with a yawn? If thou sharest such a belief, we
should say unto him, in Heaven's name, keep it to thyself! Maybe, in
the past, some few harmless types looked for the thinker in David
Strauss; now they have discovered the "believer" in him, and are
disappointed. Had he kept silent, he would have remained, for these,
at least, the philosopher; whereas, now, no one regards him as such.
He no longer craved the honours of the thinker, however; all he wanted
to be was a new believer, and he is proud of his new belief. In making
a written declaration of it, he fancied he was writing the catechism
of "modern thought," and building the "broad highway of the world's
future." Indeed, our Philistines have ceased to be faint-hearted and
bashful, and have acquired almost cynical assurance. There was a time,
long, long ago, when the Philistine was only tolerated as something
that did not speak, and about which no one spoke; then a period ensued
during which his roughness was smoothed, during which he was found
amusing, and people talked about him. Under this treatment he
gradually became a prig, rejoiced with all his heart over his rough
places and his wrongheaded and candid singularities, and began to
talk, on his own account, after the style of Riehl's music for the

"But what do I see? Is it a shadow? Is it reality? How long and broad
my poodle grows!"

For now he is already rolling like a hippopotamus along "the broad
highway of the world's future," and his growling and barking have
become transformed into the proud incantations of a religious founder.
And is it your own sweet wish, Great Master, to found the religion of
the future? "The times seem to us not yet ripe (p. 7). It does not
occur to us to wish to destroy a church." But why not, Great Master?
One but needs the ability. Besides, to speak quite openly in the
latter, you yourself are convinced that you Possess this ability. Look
at the last page of your book. There you actually state, forsooth,
that your new way "alone is the future highway of the world, which now
only requires partial completion, and especially general use, in order
also to become easy and pleasant."

Make no further denials, then. The religious founder is unmasked, the
convenient and agreeable highway leading to the Straussian Paradise is
built. It is only the coach in which you wish to convey us that does
not altogether satisfy you, unpretentious man that you are! You tell
us in your concluding remarks: "Nor will I pretend that the coach to
which my esteemed readers have been obliged to trust themselves with
me fulfils every requirement,... all through one is much jolted" (p.
438). Ah! you are casting about for a compliment, you gallant old
religious founder! But let us be straightforward with you. If your
reader so regulates the perusal of the 368 pages of your religious
catechism as to read only one page a day--that is to say, if he take
it in the smallest possible doses-then, perhaps, we should be able to
believe that he might suffer some evil effect from the book--if only
as the outcome of his vexation when the results he expected fail to
make themselves felt. Gulped down more heartily, however, and as much
as possible being taken at each draught, according to the prescription
to be recommended in the case of all modern books, the drink can work
no mischief; and, after taking it, the reader will not necessarily be
either out of sorts or out of temper, but rather merry and
well-disposed, as though nothing had happened; as though no religion
had been assailed, no world's highway been built, and no profession of
faith been made. And I do indeed call this a result! The doctor, the
drug, and the disease--everything forgotten! And the joyous laughter!
The continual provocation to hilarity! You are to be envied, Sir; for
you have founded the most attractive of all religions --one whose
followers do honour to its founder by laughing at him.


The Philistine as founder of the religion of the future--that is the
new belief in its most emphatic form of expression. The Philistine
becomes a dreamer--that is the unheard-of occurrence which
distinguishes the German nation of to-day. But for the present, in any
case, let us maintain an attitude of caution towards this fantastic
exaltation. For does not David Strauss himself advise us to exercise
such caution, in the following profound passage, the general tone of
which leads us to think of the Founder of Christianity rather than of
our particular author? (p. 92): "We know there have been noble
enthusiasts--enthusiasts of genius; the influence of an enthusiast can
rouse, exalt, and produce prolonged historic effects; but we do not
wish to choose him as the guide of our life. He will be sure to
mislead us, if we do not subject his influence to the control of
reason." But we know something more: we know that there are
enthusiasts who are not intellectual, who do not rouse or exalt, and
who, nevertheless, not only expect to be the guides of our lives, but,
as such, to exercise a very lasting historical influence into the
bargain, and to rule the future;--all the more reason why we should
place their influence under the control of reason. Lichtenberg even
said: "There are enthusiasts quite devoid of ability, and these are
really dangerous people." In the first place, as regards the
above-mentioned control of reason, we should like to have candid
answers to the three following questions: First, how does the new
believer picture his heaven? Secondly, how far does the courage lent
him by the new faith extend? And, thirdly, how does he write his
books? Strauss the Confessor must answer the first and second
questions; Strauss the Writer must answer the third.

The heaven of the new believer must, perforce, be a heaven upon earth;
for the Christian "prospect of an immortal life in heaven," together
with the other consolations, "must irretrievably vanish" for him who
has but "one foot" on the Straussian platform. The way in which a
religion represents its heaven is significant, and if it be true that
Christianity knows no other heavenly occupations than singing and
making music, the prospect of the Philistine, la Strauss, is truly
not a very comforting one. In the book of confessions, however, there
is a page which treats of Paradise (p. 342). Happiest of Philistines,
unroll this parchment scroll before anything else, and the whole of
heaven will seem to clamber down to thee! "We would but indicate how
we act, how we have acted these many years. Besides our
profession--for we are members of the most various professions, and by
no means exclusively consist of scholars or artists, but of military
men and civil employes, of merchants and landed proprietors;... and
again, as I have said already, there are not a few of us, but many
thousands, and not the worst people in the country;--besides our
profession, then, I say, we are eagerly accessible to all the higher
interests of humanity; we have taken a vivid interest, during late
years, and each after his manner has participated in the great
national war, and the reconstruction of the German State; and we have
been profoundly exalted by the turn events have taken, as unexpected
as glorious, for our much tried nation. To the end of forming just
conclusions in these things, we study history, which has now been made
easy, even to the unlearned, by a series of attractively and popularly
written works; at the same time, we endeavour to enlarge our knowledge
of the natural sciences, where also there is no lack of sources of
information; and lastly, in the writings of our great poets, in the
performances of our great musicians, we find a stimulus for the
intellect and heart, for wit and imagination, which leaves nothing to
be desired. Thus we live, and hold on our way in joy."

"Here is our man!" cries the Philistine exultingly, who reads this:
"for this is exactly how we live; it is indeed our daily life."[8]*
And how perfectly he understands the euphemism! When, for example, he
refers to the historical studies by means of which we help ourselves
in forming just conclusions regarding the political situation, what
can he be thinking of, if it be not our newspaper-reading? When he
speaks of the active part we take in the reconstruction of the German
State, he surely has only our daily visits to the beer-garden in his
mind; and is not a walk in the Zoological Gardens implied by 'the
sources of information through which we endeavour to enlarge our
knowledge of the natural sciences'? Finally, the theatres and
concert-halls are referred to as places from which we take home 'a
stimulus for wit and imagination which leaves nothing to be
desired.'--With what dignity and wit he describes even the most
suspicious of our doings! Here indeed is our man; for his heaven is
our heaven!"

[Footnote * : This alludes to a German student-song.]

Thus cries the Philistine; and if we are not quite so satisfied as he,
it is merely owing to the fact that we wanted to know more. Scaliger
used to say: "What does it matter to us whether Montaigne drank red or
white wine?" But, in this more important case, how greatly ought we to
value definite particulars of this sort! If we could but learn how
many pipes the Philistine smokes daily, according to the prescriptions
of the new faith, and whether it is the Spener or the National Gazette
that appeals to him over his coffee! But our curiosity is not
satisfied. With regard to one point only do we receive more exhaustive
information, and fortunately this point relates to the heaven in
heaven--the private little art-rooms which will be consecrated to the
use of great poets and musicians, and to which the Philistine will go
to edify himself; in which, moreover, according to his own showing, he
will even get "all his stains removed and wiped away" (p. 433); so
that we are led to regard these private little art-rooms as a kind of
bath-rooms. "But this is only effected for some fleeting moments; it
happens and counts only in the realms of phantasy; as soon as we
return to rude reality, and the cramping confines of actual life, we
are again on all sides assailed by the old cares,"--thus our Master
sighs. Let us, however, avail ourselves of the fleeting moments during
which we remain in those little rooms; there is just sufficient time
to get a glimpse of the apotheosis of the Philistine-- that is to say,
the Philistine whose stains have been removed and wiped away, and who
is now an absolutely pure sample of his type. In truth, the
opportunity we have here may prove instructive: let no one who happens
to have fallen a victim to the confession-book lay it aside before
having read the two appendices, "Of our Great Poets" and "Of our Great
Musicians." Here the rainbow of the new brotherhood is set, and he who
can find no pleasure in it "for such an one there is no help," as
Strauss says on another occasion; and, as he might well say here, "he
is not yet ripe for our point of view." For are we not in the heaven
of heavens? The enthusiastic explorer undertakes to lead us about, and
begs us to excuse him if, in the excess of his joy at all the beauties
to be seen, he should by any chance be tempted to talk too much. "If I
should, perhaps, become more garrulous than may seem warranted in this
place, let the reader be indulgent to me; for out of the abundance of
the heart the mouth speaketh. Let him only be assured that what he is
now about to read does not consist of older materials, which I take
the opportunity of inserting here, but that these remarks have been
written for their present place and purpose" (pp. 345-46). This
confession surprises us somewhat for the moment. What can it matter to
us whether or not the little chapters were freshly written? As if it
were a matter of writing! Between ourselves, I should have been glad
if they had been written a quarter of a century earlier; then, at
least, I should have understood why the thoughts seem to be so
bleached, and why they are so redolent of resuscitated antiquities.
But that a thing should have been written in 1872 and already smell of
decay in 1872 strikes me as suspicious. Let us imagine some one's
falling asleep while reading these chapters--what would he most
probably dream about? A friend answered this question for me, because
he happened to have had the experience himself. He dreamt of a
wax-work show. The classical writers stood there, elegantly
represented in wax and beads. Their arms and eyes moved, and a screw
inside them creaked an accompaniment to their movements. He saw
something gruesome among them--a misshapen figure, decked with tapes
and jaundiced paper, out of whose mouth a ticket hung, on which
"Lessing" was written. My friend went close up to it and learned the
worst: it was the Homeric Chimera; in front it was Strauss, behind it
was Gervinus, and in the middle Chimera. The tout-ensemble was
Lessing. This discovery caused him to shriek with terror: he waked,
and read no more. In sooth, Great Master, why have you written such
fusty little chapters?

We do, indeed, learn something new from them; for instance, that
Gervinus made it known to the world how and why Goethe was no dramatic
genius; that, in the second part of Faust, he had only produced a
world of phantoms and of symbols; that Wallenstein is a Macbeth as
well as a Hamlet; that the Straussian reader extracts the short
stories out of the Wanderjahre "much as naughty children pick the
raisins and almonds out of a tough plum-cake"; that no complete effect
can be produced on the stage without the forcible element, and that
Schiller emerged from Kant as from a cold-water cure. All this is
certainly new and striking; but, even so, it does not strike us with
wonder, and so sure as it is new, it will never grow old, for it never
was young; it was senile at birth. What extraordinary ideas seem to
occur to these Blessed Ones, after the New Style, in their aesthetic
heaven! And why can they not manage to forget a few of them, more
particularly when they are of that unaesthetic, earthly, and ephemeral
order to which the scholarly thoughts of Gervinus belong, and when
they so obviously bear the stamp of puerility? But it almost seems as
though the modest greatness of a Strauss and the vain insignificance
of a Gervinus were only too well able to harmonise: then long live all
those Blessed Ones! may we, the rejected, also live long, if this
unchallenged judge of art continues any longer to teach his borrowed
enthusiasm, and the gallop of that hired steed of which the honest
Grillparzer speaks with such delightful clearness, until the whole of
heaven rings beneath the hoof of that galumphing enthusiasm. Then, at
least, things will be livelier and noisier than they are at the
present moment, in which the carpet-slippered rapture of our heavenly
leader and the lukewarm eloquence of his lips only succeed in the end
in making us sick and tired. I should like to know how a Hallelujah
sung by Strauss would sound: I believe one would have to listen very
carefully, lest it should seem no more than a courteous apology or a
lisped compliment. Apropos of this, I might adduce an instructive and
somewhat forbidding example. Strauss strongly resented the action of
one of his opponents who happened to refer to his reverence for
Lessing. The unfortunate man had misunderstood;--true, Strauss did
declare that one must be of a very obtuse mind not to recognise that
the simple words of paragraph 86 come from the writer's heart. Now, I
do not question this warmth in the very least; on the contrary, the
fact that Strauss fosters these feelings towards Lessing has always
excited my suspicion; I find the same warmth for Lessing raised almost
to heat in Gervinus--yea, on the whole, no great German writer is so
popular among little German writers as Lessing is; but for all that,
they deserve no thanks for their predilection; for what is it, in
sooth, that they praise in Lessing? At one moment it is his
catholicity-- the fact that he was critic and poet, archaeologist and
philosopher, dramatist and theologian. Anon, "it is the unity in him
of the writer and the man, of the head and the heart." The last
quality, as a rule, is just as characteristic of the great writer as
of the little one; as a rule, a narrow head agrees only too fatally
with a narrow heart. And as to the catholicity; this is no
distinction, more especially when, as in Lessing's case, it was a dire
necessity. What astonishes one in regard to Lessing-enthusiasts is
rather that they have no conception of the devouring necessity which
drove him on through life and to this catholicity; no feeling for the
fact that such a man is too prone to consume himself rapidly, like a
flame; nor any indignation at the thought that the vulgar narrowness
and pusillanimity of his whole environment, especially of his learned
contemporaries, so saddened, tormented, and stifled the tender and
ardent creature that he was, that the very universality for which he
is praised should give rise to feelings of the deepest compassion.
"Have pity on the exceptional man!" Goethe cries to us; "for it was
his lot to live in such a wretched age that his life was one long
polemical effort." How can ye, my worthy Philistines, think of Lessing
without shame? He who was ruined precisely on account of your
stupidity, while struggling with your ludicrous fetiches and idols,
with the defects of your theatres, scholars, and theologists, without
once daring to attempt that eternal flight for which he had been born.
And what are your feelings when ye think of Winckelman, who, in order
to turn his eyes from your grotesque puerilities, went begging to the
Jesuits for help, and whose ignominious conversion dishonours not him,
but you? Dare ye mention Schiller's name without blushing? Look at his
portrait. See the flashing eyes that glance contemptuously over your
heads, the deadly red cheek--do these things mean nothing to you? In
him ye had such a magnificent and divine toy that ye shattered it.
Suppose, for a moment, it had been possible to deprive this harassed
and hunted life of Goethe's friendship, ye would then have been
reponsible for its still earlier end. Ye have had no finger in any one
of the life-works of your great geniuses, and yet ye would make a
dogma to the effect that no one is to be helped in the future. But for
every one of them, ye were "the resistance of the obtuse world," which
Goethe calls by its name in his epilogue to the Bell; for all of them
ye were the grumbling imbeciles, or the envious bigots, or the
malicious egoists: in spite of you each of them created his works,
against you each directed his attacks, and thanks to you each
prematurely sank, while his work was still unfinished, broken and
bewildered by the stress of the battle. And now ye presume that ye are
going to be permitted, tamquam re bene gesta, to praise such men! and
with words which leave no one in any doubt as to whom ye have in your
minds when ye utter your encomiums, which therefore "spring forth with
such hearty warmth" that one must be blind not to see to whom ye are
really bowing. Even Goethe in his day had to cry: "Upon my honour, we
are in need of a Lessing, and woe unto all vain masters and to the
whole aesthetic kingdom of heaven, when the young tiger, whose
restless strength will be visible in his every distended muscle and
his every glance, shall sally forth to seek his prey!"


How clever it was of my friend to read no further, once he had been
enlightened (thanks to that chimerical vision) concerning the
Straussian Lessing and Strauss himself. We, however, read on further,
and even craved admission of the Doorkeeper of the New Faith to the
sanctum of music. The Master threw the door open for us, accompanied
us, and began quoting certain names, until, at last, overcome with
mistrust, we stood still and looked at him. Was it possible that we
were the victims of the same hallucination as that to which our friend
had been subjected in his dream? The musicians to whom Strauss
referred seemed to us to be wrongly designated as long as he spoke
about them, and we began to think that the talk must certainly be
about somebody else, even admitting that it did not relate to
incongruous phantoms. When, for instance, he mentioned Haydn with that
same warmth which made us so suspicious when he praised Lessing, and
when he posed as the epopt and priest of a mysterious Haydn cult;
when, in a discussion upon quartette-music, if you please, he even
likened Haydn to a "good unpretending soup" and Beethoven to
"sweetmeats" (p. 432); then, to our minds, one thing, and one thing
alone, became certain--namely, that his Sweetmeat-Beethoven is not our
Beethoven, and his Soup-Haydn is not our Haydn. The Master was
moreover of the opinion that our orchestra is too good to perform
Haydn, and that only the most unpretentious amateurs can do justice to
that music--a further proof that he was referring to some other artist
and some other work, possibly to Riehl's music for the home.

But whoever can this Sweetmeat-Beethoven of Strauss's be? He is said
to have composed nine symphonies, of which the Pastoral is "the least
remarkable"; we are told that "each time in composing the third, he
seemed impelled to exceed his bounds, and depart on an adventurous
quest," from which we might infer that we are here concerned with a
sort of double monster, half horse and half cavalier. With regard to a
certain Eroica, this Centaur is very hard pressed, because he did not
succeed in making it clear "whether it is a question of a conflict on
the open field or in the deep heart of man." In the Pastoral there is
said to be "a furiously raging storm," for which it is "almost too
insignificant" to interrupt a dance of country-folk, and which, owing
to "its arbitrary connection with a trivial motive," as Strauss so
adroitly and correctly puts it, renders this symphony "the least
remarkable." A more drastic expression appears to have occurred to the
Master; but he prefers to speak here, as he says, "with becoming
modesty." But no, for once our Master is wrong; in this case he is
really a little too modest. Who, indeed, will enlighten us concerning
this Sweetmeat-Beethoven, if not Strauss himself--the only person who
seems to know anything about him? But, immediately below, a strong
judgment is uttered with becoming non-modesty, and precisely in regard
to the Ninth Symphony. It is said, for instance, that this symphony
"is naturally the favourite of a prevalent taste, which in art, and
music especially, mistakes the grotesque for the genial, and the
formless for the sublime" (p. 428). It is true that a critic as severe
as Gervinus was gave this work a hearty welcome, because it happened
to confirm one of his doctrines; but Strauss is "far from going to
these problematic productions" in search of the merits of his
Beethoven. "It is a pity," cries our Master, with a convulsive sigh,
"that one is compelled, by such reservations, to mar one's enjoyment
of Beethoven, as well as the admiration gladly accorded to him." For
our Master is a favourite of the Graces, and these have informed him
that they only accompanied Beethoven part of the way, and that he then
lost sight of them. "This is a defect," he cries, "but can you believe
that it may also appear as an advantage?" "He who is painfully and
breathlessly rolling the musical idea along will seem to be moving the
weightier one, and thus appear to be the stronger" (pp. 423-24). This
is a confession, and not necessarily one concerning Beethoven alone,
but concerning "the classical prose-writer" himself. He, the
celebrated author, is not abandoned by the Graces. From the play of
airy jests--that is to say, Straussian jests-- to the heights of
solemn earnestness--that is to say, Straussian earnestness--they
remain stolidly at his elbow. He, the classical prose-writer, slides
his burden along playfully and with a light heart, whereas Beethoven
rolls his painfully and breathlessly. He seems merely to dandle his
load; this is indeed an advantage. But would anybody believe that it
might equally be a sign of something wanting? In any case, only those
could believe this who mistake the grotesque for the genial, and the
formless for the sublime--is not that so, you dandling favourite of
the Graces? We envy no one the edifying moments he may have, either in
the stillness of his little private room or in a new heaven specially
fitted out for him; but of all possible pleasures of this order, that
of Strauss's is surely one of the most wonderful, for he is even
edified by a little holocaust. He calmly throws the sublimest works of
the German nation into the flames, in order to cense his idols with
their smoke. Suppose, for a moment, that by some accident, the Eroica,
the Pastoral, and the Ninth Symphony had fallen into the hands of our
priest of the Graces, and that it had been in his power to suppress
such problematic productions, in order to keep the image of the Master
pure, who doubts but what he would have burned them? And it is
precisely in this way that the Strausses of our time demean
themselves: they only wish to know so much of an artist as is
compatible with the service of their rooms; they know only the
extremes-- censing or burning. To all this they are heartily welcome;
the one surprising feature of the whole case is that public opinion,
in matters artistic, should be so feeble, vacillating, and corruptible
as contentedly to allow these exhibitions of indigent Philistinism to
go by without raising an objection; yea, that it does not even possess
sufficient sense of humour to feel tickled at the sight of an
unaesthetic little master's sitting in judgment upon Beethoven. As to
Mozart, what Aristotle says of Plato ought really to be applied here:
"Insignificant people ought not to be permitted even to praise him."
In this respect, however, all shame has vanished--from the public as
well as from the Master's mind: he is allowed, not merely to cross
himself before the greatest and purest creations of German genius, as
though he had perceived something godless and immoral in them, but
people actually rejoice over his candid confessions and admission of
sins--more particularly as he makes no mention of his own, but only of
those which great men are said to have committed. Oh, if only our
Master be in the right! his readers sometimes think, when attacked by
a paroxysm of doubt; he himself, however, stands there, smiling and
convinced, perorating, condemning, blessing, raising his hat to
himself, and is at any minute capable of saying what the Duchesse
Delaforte said to Madame de Stal, to wit: "My dear, I must confess
that I find no one but myself invariably right."


A corpse is a pleasant thought for a worm, and a worm is a dreadful
thought for every living creature. Worms fancy their kingdom of heaven
in a fat body; professors of philosophy seek theirs in rummaging among
Schopenhauer's entrails, and as long as rodents exist, there will
exist a heaven for rodents. In this, we have the answer to our first
question: How does the believer in the new faith picture his heaven?
The Straussian Philistine harbours in the works of our great poets and
musicians like a parasitic worm whose life is destruction, whose
admiration is devouring, and whose worship is digesting.

Now, however, our second question must be answered: How far does the
courage lent to its adherents by this new faith extend? Even this
question would already have been answered, if courage and
pretentiousness had been one; for then Strauss would not be lacking
even in the just and veritable courage of a Mameluke. At all events,
the "becoming modesty" of which Strauss speaks in the above-mentioned
passage, where he is referring to Beethoven, can only be a stylistic
and not a moral manner of speech. Strauss has his full share of the
temerity to which every successful hero assumes the right: all flowers
grow only for him--the conqueror; and he praises the sun because it
shines in at his window just at the right time. He does not even spare
the venerable old universe in his eulogies--as though it were only now
and henceforward sufficiently sanctified by praise to revolve around
the central monad David Strauss. The universe, he is happy to inform
us, is, it is true, a machine with jagged iron wheels, stamping and
hammering ponderously, but: "We do not only find the revolution of
pitiless wheels in our world-machine, but also the shedding of
soothing oil" (p. 435). The universe, provided it submit to Strauss's
encomiums, is not likely to overflow with gratitude towards this
master of weird metaphors, who was unable to discover better similes
in its praise. But what is the oil called which trickles down upon the
hammers and stampers? And how would it console a workman who chanced
to get one of his limbs caught in the mechanism to know that this oil
was trickling over him? Passing over this simile as bad, let us turn
our attention to another of Strauss's artifices, whereby he tries to
ascertain how he feels disposed towards the universe; this question of
Marguerite's, "He loves me--loves me not--loves me?" hanging on his
lips the while. Now, although Strauss is not telling flower-petals or
the buttons on his waistcoat, still what he does is not less harmless,
despite the fact that it needs perhaps a little more courage. Strauss
wishes to make certain whether his feeling for the "All" is either
paralysed or withered, and he pricks himself; for he knows that one
can prick a limb that is either paralysed or withered without causing
any pain. As a matter of fact, he does not really prick himself, but
selects another more violent method, which he describes thus: "We open
Schopenhauer, who takes every occasion of slapping our idea in the
face" (p. 167). Now, as an idea--even that of Strauss's concerning the
universe--has no face, if there be any face in the question at all it
must be that of the idealist, and the procedure may be subdivided into
the following separate actions:--Strauss, in any case, throws
Schopenhauer open, whereupon the latter slaps Strauss in the face.
Strauss then reacts religiously; that is to say, he again begins to
belabour Schopenhauer, to abuse him, to speak of absurdities,
blasphemies, dissipations, and even to allege that Schopenhauer could
not have been in his right senses. Result of the dispute: "We demand
the same piety for our Cosmos that the devout of old demanded for his
God"; or, briefly, "He loves me." Our favourite of the Graces makes
his life a hard one, but he is as brave as a Mameluke, and fears
neither the Devil nor Schopenhauer. How much "soothing oil" must he
use if such incidents are of frequent occurrence!

On the other hand, we readily understand Strauss's gratitude to this
tickling, pricking, and slapping Schopenhauer; hence we are not so
very much surprised when we find him expressing himself in the
following kind way about him: "We need only turn over the leaves of
Arthur Schopenhauer's works (although we shall on many other accounts
do well not only to glance over but to study them), etc." (p. 166).
Now, to whom does this captain of Philistines address these words? To
him who has clearly never even studied Schopenhauer, the latter might
well have retorted, "This is an author who does not even deserve to be
scanned, much less to be studied." Obviously, he gulped Schopenhauer
down "the wrong way," and this hoarse coughing is merely his attempt
to clear his throat. But, in order to fill the measure of his
ingenuous encomiums, Strauss even arrogates to himself the right of
commending old Kant: he speaks of the latter's General History of the
Heavens of the Year 1755 as of "a work which has always appeared to me
not less important than his later Critique of Pure Reason. If in the
latter we admire the depth of insight, the breadth of observation
strikes us in the former. If in the latter we can trace the old man's
anxiety to secure even a limited possession of knowledge--so it be but
on a firm basis--in the former we encounter the mature man, full of
the daring of the discoverer and conqueror in the realm of thought."
This judgment of Strauss's concerning Kant did not strike me as being
more modest than the one concerning Schopenhauer. In the one case, we
have the little captain, who is above all anxious to express even the
most insignificant opinion with certainty, and in the other we have
the famous prose-writer, who, with all the courage of ignorance,
exudes his eulogistic secretions over Kant. It is almost incredible
that Strauss availed himself of nothing in Kant's Critique of Pure
Reason while compiling his Testament of modern ideas, and that he knew
only how to appeal to the coarsest realistic taste must also be
numbered among the more striking characteristics of this new gospel,
the which professes to be but the result of the laborious and
continuous study of history and science, and therefore tacitly
repudiates all connection with philosophy. For the Philistine captain
and his "We," Kantian philosophy does not exist. He does not dream of
the fundamental antinomy of idealism and of the highly relative sense
of all science and reason. And it is precisely reason that ought to
tell him how little it is possible to know of things in themselves. It
is true, however, that people of a certain age cannot possibly
understand Kant, especially when, in their youth, they understood or
fancied they understood that "gigantic mind," Hegel, as Strauss did;
and had moreover concerned themselves with Schleiermacher, who,
according to Strauss, "was gifted with perhaps too much acumen." It
will sound odd to our author when I tell him that, even now, he stands
absolutely dependent upon Hegel and Schleiermacher, and that his
teaching of the Cosmos, his way of regarding things sub specie
biennii, his salaams to the state of affairs now existing in Germany,
and, above all, his shameless Philistine optimism, can only be
explained by an appeal to certain impressions of youth, early habits,
and disorders; for he who has once sickened on Hegel and
Schleiermacher never completely recovers.

There is one passage in the confession-book where the incurable
optimism referred to above bursts forth with the full joyousness of
holiday spirits (pp. 166-67). "If the universe is a thing which had
better not have existed," says Strauss, "then surely the speculation
of the philosopher, as forming part of this universe, is a speculation
which had better not have speculated. The pessimist philosopher fails
to perceive that he, above all, declares his own thought, which
declares the world to be bad, as bad also; but if the thought which
declares the world to be bad is a bad thought, then it follows
naturally that the world is good. As a rule, optimism may take things
too easily. Schopenhauer's references to the colossal part which
sorrow and evil play in the world are quite in their right place as a
counterpoise; but every true philosophy is necessarily optimistic, as
otherwise she hews down the branch on which she herself is sitting."
If this refutation of Schopenhauer is not the same as that to which
Strauss refers somewhere else as "the refutation loudly and jubilantly
acclaimed in higher spheres," then I quite fail to understand the
dramatic phraseology used by him elsewhere to strike an opponent. Here
optimism has for once intentionally simplified her task. But the
master-stroke lay in thus pretending that the refutation of
Schopenhauer was not such a very difficult task after all, and in
playfully wielding the burden in such a manner that the three Graces
attendant on the dandling optimist might constantly be delighted by
his methods. The whole purpose of the deed was to demonstrate this one
truth, that it is quite unnecessary to take a pessimist seriously; the
most vapid sophisms become justified, provided they show that, in
regard to a philosophy as "unhealthy and unprofitable" as
Schopenhauer's, not proofs but quips and sallies alone are suitable.
While perusing such passages, the reader will grasp the full meaning
of Schopenhauer's solemn utterance to the effect that, where optimism
is not merely the idle prattle of those beneath whose flat brows words
and only words are stored, it seemed to him not merely an absurd but a
vicious attitude of mind, and one full of scornful irony towards the
indescribable sufferings of humanity. When a philosopher like Strauss
is able to frame it into a system, it becomes more than a vicious
attitude of mind--it is then an imbecile gospel of comfort for the "I"
or for the "We," and can only provoke indignation.

Who could read the following psychological avowal, for instance,
without indignation, seeing that it is obviously but an offshoot from
this vicious gospel of comfort?--"Beethoven remarked that he could
never have composed a text like Figaro or Don Juan. Life had not been
so profuse of its snubs to him that he could treat it so gaily, or
deal so lightly with the foibles of men" (p. 430). In order, however,
to adduce the most striking instance of this dissolute vulgarity of
sentiment, let it suffice, here, to observe that Strauss knows no
other means of accounting for the terribly serious negative instinct
and the movement of ascetic sanctification which characterised the
first century of the Christian era, than by supposing the existence of
a previous period of surfeit in the matter of all kinds of sexual
indulgence, which of itself brought about a state of revulsion and

"The Persians call it bidamag buden, The Germans say

[Footnote * : Remorse for the previous night's excesses.--Translator's

Strauss quotes this himself, and is not ashamed. As for us, we turn
aside for a moment, that we may overcome our loathing.


As a matter of fact, our Philistine captain is brave, even audacious,
in words; particularly when he hopes by such bravery to delight his
noble colleagues--the "We," as he calls them. So the asceticism and
self-denial of the ancient anchorite and saint was merely a form of
Katzenjammer? Jesus may be described as an enthusiast who nowadays
would scarcely have escaped the madhouse, and the story of the
Resurrection may be termed a "world-wide deception." For once we will
allow these views to pass without raising any objection, seeing that
they may help us to gauge the amount of courage which our "classical
Philistine" Strauss is capable of. Let us first hear his confession:
"It is certainly an unpleasant and a thankless task to tell the world
those truths which it is least desirous of hearing. It prefers, in
fact, to manage its affairs on a profuse scale, receiving and spending
after the magnificent fashion of the great, as long as there is
anything left; should any person, however, add up the various items of
its liabilities, and anxiously call its attention to the sum-total, he
is certain to be regarded as an importunate meddler. And yet this has
always been the bent of my moral and intellectual nature." A moral and
intellectual nature of this sort might possibly be regarded as
courageous; but what still remains to be proved is, whether this
courage is natural and inborn, or whether it is not rather acquired
and artificial. Perhaps Strauss only accustomed himself by degrees to
the rle of an importunate meddler, until he gradually acquired the
courage of his calling. Innate cowardice, which is the Philistine's
birthright, would not be incompatible with this mode of development,
and it is precisely this cowardice which is perceptible in the want of
logic of those sentences of Strauss's which it needed courage to
pronounce. They sound like thunder, but they do not clear the air. No
aggressive action is performed: aggressive words alone are used, and
these he selects from among the most insulting he can find. He
moreover exhausts all his accumulated strength and energy in coarse
and noisy expression, and when once his utterances have died away he
is more of a coward even than he who has always held his tongue. The
very shadow of his deeds--his morality--shows us that he is a
word-hero, and that he avoids everything which might induce him to
transfer his energies from mere verbosity to really serious things.
With admirable frankness, he announces that he is no longer a
Christian, but disclaims all idea of wishing to disturb the
contentment of any one: he seems to recognise a contradiction in the
notion of abolishing one society by instituting another--whereas there
is nothing contradictory in it at all. With a certain rude
self-satisfaction, he swathes himself in the hirsute garment of our
Simian genealogists, and extols Darwin as one of mankind's greatest
benefactors; but our perplexity is great when we find him constructing
his ethics quite independently of the question, "What is our
conception of the universe?" In this department he had an opportunity
of exhibiting native pluck; for he ought to have turned his back on
his "We," and have established a moral code for life out of bellum
omnium contra omnes and the privileges of the strong. But it is to be
feared that such a code could only have emanated from a bold spirit
like that of Hobbes', and must have taken its root in a love of truth
quite different from that which was only able to vent itself in
explosive outbursts against parsons, miracles, and the "world-wide
humbug" of the Resurrection. For, whereas the Philistine remained on
Strauss's side in regard to these explosive outbursts, he would have
been against him had he been confronted with a genuine and seriously
constructed ethical system, based upon Darwin's teaching.

Says Strauss: "I should say that all moral action arises from the
individual's acting in consonance with the idea of kind" (p. 274). Put
quite clearly and comprehensively, this means: "Live as a man, and not
as an ape or a seal." Unfortunately, this imperative is both useless
and feeble; for in the class Man what a multitude of different types
are included--to mention only the Patagonian and the Master, Strauss;
and no one would ever dare to say with any right, "Live like a
Patagonian," and "Live like the Master Strauss"! Should any one,
however, make it his rule to live like a genius--that is to say, like
the ideal type of the genus Man--and should he perchance at the same
time be either a Patagonian or Strauss himself, what should we then
not have to suffer from the importunities of genius-mad eccentrics
(concerning whose mushroom growth in Germany even Lichtenberg had
already spoken), who with savage cries would compel us to listen to
the confession of their most recent belief! Strauss has not yet
learned that no "idea" can ever make man better or more moral, and
that the preaching of a morality is as easy as the establishment of it
is difficult. His business ought rather to have been, to take the
phenomena of human goodness, such--for instance--as pity, love, and
self-abnegation, which are already to hand, and seriously to explain
them and show their relation to his Darwinian first principle. But no;
he preferred to soar into the imperative, and thus escape the task of
explaining. But even in his flight he was irresponsible enough to soar
beyond the very first principles of which we speak.

"Ever remember," says Strauss, "that thou art human, not merely a
natural production; ever remember that all others are human also, and,
with all individual differences, the same as thou, having the same
needs and claims as thyself: this is the sum and the substance of
morality" (p. 277). But where does this imperative hail from? How can
it be intuitive in man, seeing that, according to Darwin, man is
indeed a creature of nature, and that his ascent to his present stage
of development has been conditioned by quite different laws--by the
very fact that be was continually forgetting that others were
constituted like him and shared the same rights with him; by the very
fact that he regarded himself as the stronger, and thus brought about
the gradual suppression of weaker types. Though Strauss is bound to
admit that no two creatures have ever been quite alike, and that the
ascent of man from the lowest species of animals to the exalted height
of the Culture--Philistine depended upon the law of individual
distinctness, he still sees no difficulty in declaring exactly the
reverse in his law: "Behave thyself as though there were no such
things as individual distinctions." Where is the Strauss-Darwin
morality here? Whither, above all, has the courage gone?

In the very next paragraph we find further evidence tending to show us
the point at which this courage veers round to its opposite; for
Strauss continues: "Ever remember that thou, and all that thou
beholdest within and around thee, all that befalls thee and others, is
no disjointed fragment, no wild chaos of atoms or casualties, but
that, following eternal law, it springs from the one primal source of
all life, all reason, and all good: this is the essence of religion"
(pp. 277-78). Out of that "one primal source," however, all ruin and
irrationality, all evil flows as well, and its name, according to
Strauss, is Cosmos.

Now, how can this Cosmos, with all the contradictions and the
self-annihilating characteristics which Strauss gives it, be worthy of
religious veneration and be addressed by the name "God," as Strauss
addresses it?--"Our God does not, indeed, take us into His arms from
the outside (here one expects, as an antithesis, a somewhat miraculous
process of being "taken into His arms from the inside"), but He
unseals the well-springs of consolation within our own bosoms. He
shows us that although Chance would be an unreasonable ruler, yet
necessity, or the enchainment of causes in the world, is Reason
itself." (A misapprehension of which only the "We" can fail to
perceive the folly; because they were brought up in the Hegelian
worship of Reality as the Reasonable--that is to say, in the
canonisation of success.) "He teaches us to perceive that to demand an
exception in the accomplishment of a single natural law would be to
demand the destruction of the universe" (pp. 435-36). On the contrary,
Great Master: an honest natural scientist believes in the
unconditional rule of natural laws in the world, without, however,
taking up any position in regard to the ethical or intellectual value
of these laws. Wherever neutrality is abandoned in this respect, it is
owing to an anthropomorphic attitude of mind which allows reason to
exceed its proper bounds. But it is just at the point where the
natural scientist resigns that Strauss, to put it in his own words,
"reacts religiously," and leaves the scientific and scholarly
standpoint in order to proceed along less honest lines of his own.
Without any further warrant, he assumes that all that has happened
possesses the highest intellectual value; that it was therefore
absolutely reasonably and intentionally so arranged, and that it even
contained a revelation of eternal goodness. He therefore has to appeal
to a complete cosmodicy, and finds himself at a disadvantage in regard
to him who is contented with a theodicy, and who, for instance,
regards the whole of man's existence as a punishment for sin or a
process of purification. At this stage, and in this embarrassing
position, Strauss even suggests a metaphysical hypothesis--the driest
and most palsied ever conceived--and, in reality, but an unconscious
parody of one of Lessing's sayings. We read on page 255: "And that
other saying of Lessing's-- 'If God, holding truth in His right hand,
and in His left only the ever-living desire for it, although on
condition of perpetual error, left him the choice of the two, he
would, considering that truth belongs to God alone, humbly seize His
left hand, and beg its contents for Himself'-- this saying of
Lessing's has always been accounted one of the most magnificent which
he has left us. It has been found to contain the general expression of
his restless love of inquiry and activity. The saying has always made
a special impression upon me; because, behind its subjective meaning,
I still seemed to hear the faint ring of an objective one of infinite
import. For does it not contain the best possible answer to the rude
speech of Schopenhauer, respecting the ill-advised God who had nothing
better to do than to transform Himself into this miserable world? if,
for example, the Creator Himself had shared Lessing's conviction of
the superiority of struggle to tranquil possession?" What!--a God who
would choose perpetual error, together with a striving after truth,
and who would, perhaps, fall humbly at Strauss's feet and cry to
him,"Take thou all Truth, it is thine!"? If ever a God and a man were
ill-advised, they are this Straussian God, whose hobby is to err and
to fail, and this Straussian man, who must atone for this erring and
failing. Here, indeed, one hears "a faint ring of infinite import";
here flows Strauss's cosmic soothing oil; here one has a notion of the
rationale of all becoming and all natural laws. Really? Is not our
universe rather the work of an inferior being, as Lichtenberg
suggests?--of an inferior being who did not quite understand his
business; therefore an experiment, an attempt, upon which work is
still proceeding? Strauss himself, then, would be compelled to admit
that our universe is by no means the theatre of reason, but of error,
and that no conformity to law can contain anything consoling, since
all laws have been promulgated by an erratic God who even finds
pleasure in blundering. It really is a most amusing spectacle to watch
Strauss as a metaphysical architect, building castles in the air. But
for whose benefit is this entertainment given? For the smug and noble
"We," that they may not lose conceit with themselves: they may
possibly have taken sudden fright, in the midst of the inflexible and
pitiless wheel-works of the world-machine, and are tremulously
imploring their leader to come to their aid. That is why Strauss pours
forth the "soothing oil," that is why he leads forth on a leash a God
whose passion it is to err; it is for the same reason, too, that he
assumes for once the utterly unsuitable rle of a metaphysical
architect. He does all this, because the noble souls already referred
to are frightened, and because he is too. And it is here that we reach
the limit of his courage, even in the presence of his "We." He does
not dare to be honest, and to tell them, for instance: "I have
liberated you from a helping and pitiful God: the Cosmos is no more
than an inflexible machine; beware of its wheels, that they do not
crush you." He dare not do this. Consequently, he must enlist the help
of a witch, and he turns to metaphysics. To the Philistine, however,
even Strauss's metaphysics is preferable to Christianity's, and the
notion of an erratic God more congenial than that of one who works
miracles. For the Philistine himself errs, but has never yet performed
a miracle. Hence his hatred of the genius; for the latter is justly
famous for the working of miracles. It is therefore highly instructive
to ascertain why Strauss, in one passage alone, suddenly takes up the
cudgels for genius and the aristocracy of intellect in general.
Whatever does he do it for? He does it out of fear--fear of the social
democrat. He refers to Bismarck and Moltke, "whose greatness is the
less open to controversy as it manifests itself in the domain of
tangible external facts. No help for it, therefore; even the most
stiff-necked and obdurate of these fellows must condescend to look up
a little, if only to get a sight, be it no farther than the knees, of
those august figures" (p.327). Do you, Master Metaphysician, perhaps
intend to instruct the social democrats in the art of getting kicks?
The willingness to bestow them may be met with everywhere, and you are
perfectly justified in promising to those who happen to be kicked a
sight of those sublime beings as far as the knee. "Also in the domain
of art and science," Strauss continues, "there will never be a dearth
of kings whose architectural undertakings will find employment for a
multitude of carters." Granted; but what if the carters should begin
building? It does happen at times, Great Master, as you know, and then
the kings must grin and bear it.

As a matter of fact, this union of impudence and weakness, of daring
words and cowardly concessions, this cautious deliberation as to which
sentences will or will not impress the Philistine or smooth him down
the right way, this lack of character and power masquerading as
character and power, this meagre wisdom in the guise of
omniscience,--these are the features in this book which I detest. If I
could conceive of young men having patience to read it and to value
it, I should sorrowfully renounce all hope for their future. And is
this confession of wretched, hopeless, and really despicable
Philistinism supposed to be the expression of the thousands
constituting the "We" of whom Strauss speaks, and who are to be the
fathers of the coming generation? Unto him who would fain help this
coming generation to acquire what the present one does not yet
possess, namely, a genuine German culture, the prospect is a horrible
one. To such a man, the ground seems strewn with ashes, and all stars
are obscured; while every withered tree and field laid waste seems to
cry to him: Barren! Forsaken! Springtime is no longer possible here!
He must feel as young Goethe felt when he first peered into the
melancholy atheistic twilight of the Systme de la Nature; to him this
book seemed so grey, so Cimmerian and deadly, that he could only
endure its presence with difficulty, and shuddered at it as one
shudders at a spectre.


We ought now to be sufficiently informed concerning the heaven and the
courage of our new believer to be able to turn to the last question:
How does he write his books? and of what order are his religious

He who can answer this question uprightly and without prejudice will
be confronted by yet another serious problem, and that is: How this
Straussian pocket-oracle of the German Philistine was able to pass
through six editions? And he will grow more than ever suspicious when
he hears that it was actually welcomed as a pocket-oracle, not only in
scholastic circles, but even in German universities as well. Students
are said to have greeted it as a canon for strong intellects, and,
from all accounts, the professors raised no objections to this view;
while here and there people have declared it to be a religions book
for scholars. Strauss himself gave out that he did not intend his
profession of faith to be merely a reference-book for learned and
cultured people; but here let us abide by the fact that it was first
and foremost a work appealing to his colleagues, and was ostensibly a
mirror in which they were to see their own way of living faithfully
reflected. For therein lay the feat. The Master feigned to have
presented us with a new ideal conception of the universe, and now
adulation is being paid him out of every mouth; because each is in a
position to suppose that he too regards the universe and life in the
same way. Thus Strauss has seen fulfilled in each of his readers what
he only demanded of the future. In this way, the extraordinary success
of his book is partly explained: "Thus we live and hold on our way in
joy," the scholar cries in his book, and delights to see others
rejoicing over the announcement. If the reader happen to think
differently from the Master in regard to Darwin or to capital
punishment, it is of very little consequence; for he is too conscious
throughout of breathing an atmosphere that is familiar to him, and of
hearing but the echoes of his own voice and wants. However painfully
this unanimity may strike the true friend of German culture, it is his
duty to be unrelenting in his explanation of it as a phenomenon, and
not to shrink from making this explanation public.

We all know the peculiar methods adopted in our own time of
cultivating the sciences: we all know them, because they form a part
of our lives. And, for this very reason, scarcely anybody seems to ask
himself what the result of such a cultivation of the sciences will
mean to culture in general, even supposing that everywhere the highest
abilities and the most earnest will be available for the promotion of
culture. In the heart of the average scientific type (quite
irrespective of the examples thereof with which we meet to-day) there
lies a pure paradox: he behaves like the veriest idler of independent
means, to whom life is not a dreadful and serious business, but a
sound piece of property, settled upon him for all eternity; and it
seems to him justifiable to spend his whole life in answering
questions which, after all is said and done, can only be of interest
to that person who believes in eternal life as an absolute certainty.
The heir of but a few hours, he sees himself encompassed by yawning
abysses, terrible to behold; and every step he takes should recall the
questions, Wherefore? Whither? and Whence? to his mind. But his soul
rather warms to his work, and, be this the counting of a floweret's
petals or the breaking of stones by the roadside, he spends his whole
fund of interest, pleasure, strength, and aspirations upon it. This
paradox--the scientific man--has lately dashed ahead at such a frantic
speed in Germany, that one would almost think the scientific world
were a factory, in which every minute wasted meant a fine. To-day the
man of science works as arduously as the fourth or slave caste: his
study has ceased to be an occupation, it is a necessity; he looks
neither to the right nor to the left, but rushes through all
things--even through the serious matters which life bears in its
train--with that semi-listlessness and repulsive need of rest so
characteristic of the exhausted labourer. This is also his attitude
towards culture. He behaves as if life to him were not only otium but
sine dignitate: even in his sleep he does not throw off the yoke, but
like an emancipated slave still dreams of his misery, his forced haste
and his floggings. Our scholars can scarcely be distinguished--and,
even then, not to their advantage--from agricultural labourers, who in
order to increase a small patrimony, assiduously strive, day and
night, to cultivate their fields, drive their ploughs, and urge on
their oxen. Now, Pascal suggests that men only endeavour to work hard
at their business and sciences with the view of escaping those
questions of greatest import which every moment of loneliness or
leisure presses upon them--the questions relating to the wherefore,
the whence, and the whither of life. Curiously enough, our scholars
never think of the most vital question of all--the wherefore of their
work, their haste, and their painful ecstasies. Surely their object is
not the earning of bread or the acquiring of posts of honour? No,
certainly not. But ye take as much pains as the famishing and
breadless; and, with that eagerness and lack of discernment which
characterises the starving, ye even snatch the dishes from the
sideboard of science. If, however, as scientific men, ye proceed with
science as the labourers with the tasks which the exigencies of life
impose upon them, what will become of a culture which must await the
hour of its birth and its salvation in the very midst of all this
agitated and breathless running to and fro--this sprawling

For it no one has time--and yet for what shall science have time if
not for culture? Answer us here, then, at least: whence, whither,
wherefore all science, if it do not lead to culture? Belike to
barbarity? And in this direction we already see the scholar caste
ominously advanced, if we are to believe that such superficial books
as this one of Strauss's meet the demand of their present degree of
culture. For precisely in him do we find that repulsive need of rest
and that incidental semi-listless attention to, and coming to terms
with, philosophy, culture, and every serious thing on earth. It will
be remembered that, at the meetings held by scholars, as soon as each
individual has had his say in his own particular department of
knowledge, signs of fatigue, of a desire for distraction at any price,
of waning memory, and of incoherent experiences of life, begin to be
noticeable. While listening to Strauss discussing any worldly
question, be it marriage, the war, or capital punishment, we are
startled by his complete lack of anything like first-hand experience,
or of any original thought on human nature. All his judgments are so
redolent of books, yea even of newspapers. Literary reminiscences do
duty for genuine ideas and views, and the assumption of a moderate and
grandfatherly tone take the place of wisdom and mature thought. How
perfectly in keeping all this is with the fulsome spirit animating the
holders of the highest places in German science in large cities! How
thoroughly this spirit must appeal to that other! for it is precisely
in those quarters that culture is in the saddest plight; it is
precisely there that its fresh growth is made impossible--so
boisterous are the preparations made by science, so sheepishly are
favourite subjects of knowledge allowed to oust questions of much
greater import. What kind of lantern would be needed here, in order to
find men capable of a complete surrender to genius, and of an intimate
knowledge of its depths--men possessed of sufficient courage and
strength to exorcise the demons that have forsaken our age? Viewed
from the outside, such quarters certainly do appear to possess the
whole pomp of culture; with their imposing apparatus they resemble
great arsenals fitted with huge guns and other machinery of war; we
see preparations in progress and the most strenuous activity, as
though the heavens themselves were to be stormed, and truth were to be
drawn out of the deepest of all wells; and yet, in war, the largest
machines are the most unwieldy. Genuine culture therefore leaves such
places as these religiously alone, for its best instincts warn it that
in their midst it has nothing to hope for, and very much to fear. For
the only kind of culture with which the inflamed eye and obtuse brain
of the scholar working-classes concern themselves is of that
Philistine order of which Strauss has announced the gospel. If we
consider for a moment the fundamental causes underlying the sympathy
which binds the learned working-classes to Culture-Philistinism, we
shall discover the road leading to Strauss the Writer, who has been
acknowledged classical, and tihence to our last and principal theme.

To begin with, that culture has contentment written in its every
feature, and will allow of no important changes being introduced into
the present state of German education. It is above all convinced of
the originality of all German educational institutions, more
particularly the public schools and universities; it does not cease
recommending these to foreigners, and never doubts that if the Germans
have become the most cultivated and discriminating people on earth, it
is owing to such institutions. Culture-Philistinism believes in
itself, consequently it also believes in the methods and means at its
disposal. Secondly, however, it leaves the highest judgment concerning
all questions of taste and culture to the scholar, and even regards
itself as the ever-increasing compendium of scholarly opinions
regarding art, literature, and philosophy. Its first care is to urge
the scholar to express his opinions; these it proceeds to mix, dilute,
and systematise, and then it administers them to the German people in
the form of a bottle of medicine. What conies to life outside this
circle is either not heard or attended at all, or if heard, is heeded
half-heartedly; until, at last, a voice (it does not matter whose,
provided it belong to some one who is strictly typical of the scholar
tribe) is heard to issue from the temple in which traditional
infallibility of taste is said to reside; and from that time forward
public opinion has one conviction more, which it echoes and re-echoes
hundreds and hundreds of times. As a matter of fact, though, the
aesthetic infallibility of any utterance emanating from the temple is
the more doubtful, seeing that the lack of taste, thought, and
artistic feeling in any scholar can be taken for granted, unless it
has previously been proved that, in his particular case, the reverse
is true. And only a few can prove this. For how many who have had a
share in the breathless and unending scurry of modern science have
preserved that quiet and courageous gaze of the struggling man of
culture--if they ever possessed it--that gaze which condemns even the
scurry we speak of as a barbarous state of affairs? That is why these
few are forced to live in an almost perpetual contradiction. What
could they do against the uniform belief of the thousands who have
enlisted public opinion in their cause, and who mutually defend each
other in this belief? What purpose can it serve when one individual
openly declares war against Strauss, seeing that a crowd have decided
in his favour, and that the masses led by this crowd have learned to
ask six consecutive times for the Master's Philistine

If, without further ado, we here assumed that the Straussian
confession-book had triumphed over public opinion and had been
acclaimed and welcomed as conqueror, its author might call our
attention to the fact that the multitudinous criticisms of his work in
the various public organs are not of an altogether unanimous or even
favourable character, and that he therefore felt it incumbent upon him
to defend himself against some of the more malicious, impudent, and
provoking of these newspaper pugilists by means of a postscript. How
can there be a public opinion concerning my book, he cries to us, if
every journalist is to regard me as an outlaw, and to mishandle me as
much as he likes? This contradiction is easily explained, as soon as
one considers the two aspects of the Straussian book--the theological
and the literary, and it is only the latter that has anything to do
with German culture. Thanks to its theological colouring, it stands
beyond the pale of our German culture, and provokes the animosity of
the various theological groups--yea, even of every individual German,
in so far as he is a theological sectarian from birth, and only
invents his own peculiar private belief in order to be able to dissent
from every other form of belief. But when the question arises of
talking about Strauss THE WRITER, pray listen to what the theological
sectarians have to say about him. As soon as his literary side comes
under notice, all theological objections immediately subside, and the
dictum comes plain and clear, as if from the lips of one congregation:
In spite of it all, he is still a classical writer!

Everybody--even the most bigoted, orthodox Churchman--pays the writer
the most gratifying compliments, while there is always a word or two
thrown in as a tribute to his almost Lessingesque language, his
delicacy of touch, or the beauty and accuracy of his aesthetic views.
As a book, therefore, the Straussian performance appears to meet all
the demands of an ideal example of its kind. The theological
opponents, despite the fact that their voices were the loudest of all,
nevertheless constitute but an infinitesimal portion of the great
public; and even with regard to them, Strauss still maintains that he
is right when he says: "Compared with my thousands of readers, a few
dozen public cavillers form but an insignificant minority, and they
can hardly prove that they are their faithful interpreters. It was
obviously in the nature of things that opposition should be clamorous
and assent tacit." Thus, apart from the angry bitterness which
Strauss's profession of faith may have provoked here and there, even
the most fanatical of his opponents, to whom his voice seems to rise
out of an abyss, like the voice of a beast, are agreed as to his
merits as a writer; and that is why the treatment which Strauss has
received at the hands of the literary lackeys of the theological
groups proves nothing against our contention that Culture-Philistinism
celebrated its triumph in this book. It must be admitted that the
average educated Philistine is a degree less honest than Strauss, or
is at least more reserved in his public utterances. But this fact only
tends to increase his admiration for honesty in another. At home, or
in the company of his equals, he may applaud with wild enthusiasm, but
takes care not to put on paper how entirely Strauss's words are in
harmony with his own innermost feelings. For, as we have already
maintained, our Culture-Philistine is somewhat of a coward, even in
his strongest sympathies; hence Strauss, who can boast of a trifle
more courage than he, becomes his leader, notwithstanding the fact
that even Straussian pluck has its very definite limits. If he
overstepped these limits, as Schopenhauer does in almost every
sentence, he would then forfeit his position at the head of the
Philistines, and everybody would flee from him as precipitately as
they are now following in his wake. He who would regard this artful if
not sagacious moderation and this mediocre valour as an Aristotelian
virtue, would certainly be wrong; for the valour in question is not
the golden mean between two faults, but between a virtue and a
fault--and in this mean, between virtue and fault, all Philistine
qualities are to be found.


"In spite of it all, he is still a classical writer." Well, let us
see! Perhaps we may now be allowed to discuss Strauss the stylist and
master of language; but in the first place let us inquire whether, as
a literary man, he is equal to the task of building his house, and
whether he really understands the architecture of a book. From this
inquiry we shall be able to conclude whether he is a respectable,
thoughtful, and experienced author; and even should we be forced to
answer "No" to these questions, he may still, as a last shift, take
refuge in his fame as a classical prose-writer. This last-mentioned
talent alone, it is true, would not suffice to class him with the
classical authors, but at most with the classical improvisers and
virtuosos of style, who, however, in regard to power of expression and
the whole planning and framing of the work, reveal the awkward hand
and the embarrassed eye of the bungler. We therefore put the question,
whether Strauss really possesses the artistic strength necessary for
the purpose of presenting us with a thing that is a whole, totum

As a rule, it ought to be possible to tell from the first rough sketch
of a work whether the author conceived the thing as a whole, and
whether, in view of this original conception, he has discovered the
correct way of proceeding with his task and of fixing its proportions.
Should this most important Part of the problem be solved, and should
the framework of the building have been given its most favourable
proportions, even then there remains enough to be done: how many
smaller faults have to be corrected, how many gaps require filling in!
Here and there a temporary partition or floor was found to answer the
requirements; everywhere dust and fragments litter the ground, and no
matter where we look, we see the signs of work done and work still to
be done. The house, as a whole, is still uninhabitable and gloomy, its
walls are bare, and the wind blows in through the open windows. Now,
whether this remaining, necessary, and very irksome work has been
satisfactorily accomplished by Strauss does not concern us at present;
our question is, whether the building itself has been conceived as a
whole, and whether its proportions are good? The reverse of this, of
course, would be a compilation of fragments--a method generally
adopted by scholars. They rely upon it that these fragments are
related among themselves, and thus confound the logical and the
artistic relation between them. Now, the relation between the four
questions which provide the chapter-headings of Strauss's book cannot
be called a logical one. Are we still Christians? Have we still a
religion? What is our conception of the universe? What is our rule of
life? And it is by no means contended that the relation is illogical
simply because the third question has nothing to do with the second,
nor the fourth with the third, nor all three with the first. The
natural scientist who puts the third question, for instance, shows his
unsullied love of truth by the simple fact that he tacitly passes over
the second. And with regard to the subject of the fourth
chapter--marriage, republicanism, and capital punishment--Strauss
himself seems to have been aware that they could only have been
muddled and obscured by being associated with the Darwinian theory
expounded in the third chapter; for he carefully avoids all reference
to this theory when discussing them. But the question, "Are we still
Christians?" destroys the freedom of the philosophical standpoint at
one stroke, by lending it an unpleasant theological colouring.
Moreover, in this matter, he quite forgot that the majority of men
to-day are not Christians at all, but Buddhists. Why should one,
without further ceremony, immediately think of Christianity at the
sound of the words "old faith"? Is this a sign that Strauss has never
ceased to be a Christian theologian, and that he has therefore never
learned to be a philosopher? For we find still greater cause for
surprise in the fact that he quite fails to distinguish between belief
and knowledge, and continually mentions his "new belief" and the still
newer science in one breath. Or is "new belief" merely an ironical
concession to ordinary parlance? This almost seems to be the case; for
here and there he actually allows "new belief" and "newer science" to
be interchangeable terms, as for instance on page II, where he asks on
which side, whether on that of the ancient orthodoxy or of modern
science, "exist more of the obscurities and insufficiencies
unavoidable in human speculation."

Moreover, according to the scheme laid down in the Introduction, his
desire is to disclose those proofs upon which the modern view of life
is based; but he derives all these proofs from science, and in this
respect assumes far more the attitude of a scientist than of a

At bottom, therefore, the religion is not a new belief, but, being of
a piece with modern science, it has nothing to do with religion at
all. If Strauss, however, persists in his claims to be religious, the
grounds for these claims must be beyond the pale of recent science.
Only the smallest portion of the Straussian book--that is to say, but
a few isolated pages--refer to what Strauss in all justice might call
a belief, namely, that feeling for the "All" for which he demands the
piety that the old believer demanded for his God. On the pages in
question, however, he cannot claim to be altogether scientific; but if
only he could lay claim to being a little stronger, more natural, more
outspoken, more pious, we should be content. Indeed, what perhaps
strikes us most forcibly about him is the multitude of artificial
procedures of which he avails himself before he ultimately gets the
feeling that he still possesses a belief and a religion; he reaches it
by means of stings and blows, as we have already seen. How indigently
and feebly this emergency-belief presents itself to us! We shiver at
the sight of it.

Although Strauss, in the plan laid down in his Introduction, promises
to compare the two faiths, the old and the new, and to show that the
latter will answer the same purpose as the former, even he begins to
feel, in the end, that he has promised too much. For the question
whether the new belief answers the same purpose as the old, or is
better or worse, is disposed of incidentally, so to speak, and with
uncomfortable haste, in two or three pages (p. 436 et seq.-), and is
actually bolstered up by the following subterfuge: "He who cannot help
himself in this matter is beyond help, is not yet ripe for our
standpoint" (p. 436). How differently, and with what intensity of
conviction, did the ancient Stoic believe in the All and the
rationality of the All! And, viewed in this light, how does Strauss's
claim to originality appear? But, as we have already observed, it
would be a matter of indifference to us whether it were new, old,
original, or imitated, so that it were only more powerful, more
healthy, and more natural. Even Strauss himself leaves this
double-distilled emergency-belief to take care of itself as often as
he can do so, in order to protect himself and us from danger, and to
present his recently acquired biological knowledge to his "We" with a
clear conscience. The more embarrassed he may happen to be when he
speaks of faith, the rounder and fuller his mouth becomes when he
quotes the greatest benefactor to modern men-Darwin. Then he not only
exacts belief for the new Messiah, but also for himself--the new
apostle. For instance, while discussing one of the most intricate
questions in natural history, he declares with true ancient pride: "I
shall be told that I am here speaking of things about which I
understand nothing. Very well; but others will come who will
understand them, and who will also have understood me" (p. 241).

According to this, it would almost seem as though the famous "We" were
not only in duty bound to believe in the "All," but also in the
naturalist Strauss; in this case we can only hope that in order to
acquire the feeling for this last belief, other processes are
requisite than the painful and cruel ones demanded by the first
belief. Or is it perhaps sufficient in this case that the subject of
belief himself be tormented and stabbed with the view of bringing the
believers to that "religious reaction" which is the distinguishing
sign of the "new faith." What merit should we then discover in the
piety of those whom Strauss calls "We"?

Otherwise, it is almost to be feared that modern men will pass on in
pursuit of their business without troubling themselves overmuch
concerning the new furniture of faith offered them by the apostle:
just as they have done heretofore, without the doctrine of the
rationality of the All. The whole of modern biological and historical
research has nothing to do with the Straussian belief in the All, and
the fact that the modern Philistine does not require the belief is
proved by the description of his life given by Strauss in the
chapter,"What is our Rule of Life?" He is therefore quite right in
doubting whether the coach to which his esteemed readers have been
obliged to trust themselves "with him, fulfils every requirement." It
certainly does not; for the modern man makes more rapid progress when
he does not take his place in the Straussian coach, or rather, he got
ahead much more quickly long before the Straussian coach ever existed.
Now, if it be true that the famous "minority" which is "not to be
overlooked," and of which, and in whose name, Strauss speaks,
"attaches great importance to consistency," it must be just as
dissatisfied with Strauss the Coachbuilder as we are with Strauss the

Let us, however, drop the question of the logician. Perhaps, from the
artistic point of view, the book really is an example of a.
well-conceived plan, and does, after all, answer to the requirements
of the laws of beauty, despite the fact that it fails to meet with the
demands of a well-conducted argument. And now, having shown that he is
neither a scientist nor a strictly correct and systematic scholar, for
the first time we approach the question: Is Strauss a capable writer?
Perhaps the task he set himself was not so much to scare people away
from the old faith as to captivate them by a picturesque and graceful
description of what life would be with the new. If he regarded
scholars and educated men as his most probable audience, experience
ought certainly to have told him that whereas one can shoot such men
down with the heavy guns of scientific proof, but cannot make them
surrender, they may be got to capitulate all the more quickly before
"lightly equipped" measures of seduction. "Lightly equipped," and
"intentionally so," thus Strauss himself speaks of his own book. Nor
do his public eulogisers refrain from using the same expression in
reference to the work, as the following passage, quoted from one of
the least remarkable among them, and in which the same expression is
merely paraphrased, will go to prove:--

"The discourse flows on with delightful harmony: wherever it directs
its criticism against old ideas it wields the art of demonstration,
almost playfully; and it is with some spirit that it prepares the new
ideas it brings so enticingly, and presents them to the simple as well
as to the fastidious taste. The arrangement of such diverse and
conflicting material is well thought out for every portion of it
required to be touched upon, without being made too prominent; at
times the transitions leading from one subject to another are
artistically managed, and one hardly knows what to admire most--the
skill with which unpleasant questions are shelved, or the discretion
with which they are hushed up."

The spirit of such eulogies, as the above clearly shows, is not quite
so subtle in regard to judging of what an author is able to do as in
regard to what he wishes. What Strauss wishes, however, is best
revealed by his own emphatic and not quite harmless commendation of
Voltaire's charms, in whose service he might have learned precisely
those "lightly equipped" arts of which his admirer speaks--granting,
of course, that virtue may be acquired and a pedagogue can ever be a

Who could help having a suspicion or two, when reading the following
passage, for instance, in which Strauss says of Voltaire, "As a
philosopher [he] is certainly not original, but in the main a mere
exponent of English investigations: in this respect, however, he shows
himself to be completely master of his subject, which he presents with
incomparable skill, in all possible lights and from all possible
sides, and is able withal to meet the demands of thoroughness,
without, however, being over-severe in his method"? Now, all the
negative traits mentioned in this passage might be applied to Strauss.
No one would contend, I suppose, that Strauss is original, or that he
is over-severe in his method; but the question is whether we can
regard him as "master of his subject," and grant him "incomparable
skill"? The confession to the effect that the treatise was
intentionally "lightly equipped" leads us to think that it at least
aimed at incomparable skill.

It was not the dream of our architect to build a temple, nor yet a
house, but a sort of summer-pavilion, surrounded by everything that
the art of gardening can provide. Yea, it even seems as if that
mysterious feeling for the All were only calculated to produce an
aesthetic effect, to be, so to speak, a view of an irrational element,
such as the sea, looked at from the most charming and rational of
terraces. The walk through the first chapters-- that is to say,
through the theological catacombs with all their gloominess and their
involved and baroque embellishments--was also no more than an
aesthetic expedient in order to throw into greater relief the purity,
clearness, and common sense of the chapter "What is our Conception of
the Universe?" For, immediately after that walk in the gloaming and
that peep into the wilderness of Irrationalism, we step into a hall
with a skylight to it. Soberly and limpidly it welcomes us: its mural
decorations consist of astronomical charts and mathematical figures;
it is filled with scientific apparatus, and its cupboards contain
skeletons, stuffed apes, and anatomical specimens. But now, really
rejoicing for the first time, we direct our steps into the innermost
chamber of bliss belonging to our pavilion-dwellers; there we find
them with their wives, children, and newspapers, occupied in the
commonplace discussion of politics; we listen for a moment to their
conversation on marriage, universal suffrage, capital punishment, and
workmen's strikes, and we can scarcely believe it to be possible that
the rosary of public opinions can be told off so quickly. At length an
attempt is made to convince us of the classical taste of the inmates.
A moment's halt in the library, and the music-room suffices to show us
what we had expected all along, namely, that the best books lay on the
shelves, and that the most famous musical compositions were in the
music-cabinets. Some one actually played something to us, and even if
it were Haydn's music, Haydn could not be blamed because it sounded
like Riehl's music for the home. Meanwhile the host had found occasion
to announce to us his complete agreement with Lessing and Goethe,
although with the latter only up to the second part of Faust. At last
our pavilion-owner began to praise himself, and assured us that he who
could not be happy under his roof was beyond help and could not be
ripe for his standpoint, whereupon he offered us his coach, but with
the polite reservation that he could not assert that it would fulfil
every requirement, and that, owing to the stones on his road having
been newly laid down, we were not to mind if we were very much jolted.
Our Epicurean garden-god then took leave of us with the incomparable
skill which he praised in Voltaire.

Who could now persist in doubting the existence of this incomparable
skill? The complete master of his subject is revealed; the lightly
equipped artist-gardener is exposed, and still we hear the voice of
the classical author saying, "As a writer I shall for once cease to be
a Philistine: I will not be one; I refuse to be one! But a
Voltaire--the German Voltaire--or at least the French Lessing."

With this we have betrayed a secret. Our Master does not always know
which he prefers to be--Voltaire or Lessing; but on no account will he
be a Philistine. At a pinch he would not object to being both Lessing
and Voltaire--that the word might be fulfilled that is written, "He
had no character, but when he wished to appear as if he had, he
assumed one."


If we have understood Strauss the Confessor correctly, he must be a
genuine Philistine, with a narrow, parched soul and scholarly and
common-place needs; albeit no one would be more indignant at the title
than David Strauss the Writer. He would be quite happy to be regarded
as mischievous, bold, malicious, daring; but his ideal of bliss would
consist in finding himself compared with either Lessing or
Voltaire--because these men were undoubtedly anything but Philistines.
In striving after this state of bliss, he often seems to waver between
two alternatives--either to mimic the brave and dialectical petulance
of Lessing, or to affect the manner of the faun-like and free-spirited
man of antiquity that Voltaire was. When taking up his pen to write,
he seems to be continually posing for his portrait; and whereas at
times his features are drawn to look like Lessing's, anon they are
made to assume the Voltairean mould. While reading his praise of
Voltaire's manner, we almost seem to see him abjuring the consciences
of his contemporaries for not having learned long ago what the modern
Voltaire had to offer them. "Even his excellences are wonderfully
uniform," he says: "simple naturalness, transparent clearness,
vivacious mobility, seductive charm. Warmth and emphasis are also not
wanting where they are needed, and Voltaire's innermost nature always
revolted against stiltedness and affectation; while, on the other
hand, if at times wantonness or passion descend to an unpleasantly low
level, the fault does not rest so much with the stylist as with the
man." According to this, Strauss seems only too well aware of the
importance of simplicity in style; it is ever the sign of genius,
which alone has the privilege to express itself naturally and
guilelessly. When, therefore, an author selects a simple mode of
expression, this is no sign whatever of vulgar ambition; for although
many are aware of what such an author would fain be taken for, they
are yet kind enough to take him precisely for that. The genial writer,
however, not only reveals his true nature in the plain and
unmistakable form of his utterance, but his super-abundant strength
actually dallies with the material he treats, even when it is
dangerous and difficult. Nobody treads stiffly along unknown paths,
especially when these are broken throughout their course by thousands
of crevices and furrows; but the genius speeds nimbly over them, and,
leaping with grace and daring, scorns the wistful and timorous step of

Even Strauss knows that the problems he prances over are dreadfully
serious, and have ever been regarded as such by the philosophers who
have grappled with them; yet he calls his book lightly equipped! But
of this dreadfulness and of the usual dark nature of our meditations
when considering such questions as the worth of existence and the
duties of man, we entirely cease to be conscious when the genial
Master plays his antics before us, "lightly equipped, and
intentionally so." Yes, even more lightly equipped than his Rousseau,
of whom he tells us it was said that he stripped himself below and
adorned himself on top, whereas Goethe did precisely the reverse.
Perfectly guileless geniuses do not, it appears, adorn themselves at
all; possibly the words "lightly equipped" may simply be a euphemism
for "naked." The few who happen to have seen the Goddess of Truth
declare that she is naked, and perhaps, in the minds of those who have
never seen her, but who implicitly believe those few, nakedness or
light equipment is actually a proof, or at least a feature, of truthi
Even this vulgar superstition turns to the advantage of the author's
ambition. Some one sees something naked, and he exclaims: "What if
this were the truth!" Whereupon he grows more solemn than is his wont.
By this means, however, the author scores a tremendous advantage; for
he compels his reader to approach him with greater solemnity than
another and perhaps more heavily equipped writer. This is
unquestionably the best way to become a classical author; hence
Strauss himself is able to tell us: "I even enjoy the unsought honour
of being, in the opinion of many, a classical writer of prose. "He has
therefore achieved his aim. Strauss the Genius goes gadding about the
streets in the garb of lightly equipped goddesses as a classic, while
Strauss the Philistine, to use an original expression of this
genius's, must, at all costs, be "declared to be on the decline," or
"irrevocably dismissed."

But, alas! in spite of all declarations of decline and dismissal, the
Philistine still returns, and all too frequently. Those features,
contorted to resemble Lessing and Voltaire, must relax from time to
time to resume their old and original shape. The mask of genius falls
from them too often, and the Master's expression is never more sour
and his movements never stiffer than when he has just attempted to
take the leap, or to glance with the fiery eye, of a genius. Precisely
owing to the fact that he is too lightly equipped for our zone, he
runs the risk of catching cold more often and more severely than
another. It may seem a terrible hardship to him that every one should
notice this; but if he wishes to be cured, the following diagnosis of
his case ought to be publicly presented to him:-- Once upon a time
there lived a Strauss, a brave, severe, and stoutly equipped scholar,
with whom we sympathised as wholly as with all those in Germany who
seek to serve truth with earnestness and energy, and to rule within
the limits of their powers. He, however, who is now publicly famous as
David Strauss, is another person. The theologians may be to blame for
this metamorphosis; but, at any rate, his present toying with the mask
of genius inspires us with as much hatred and scorn as his former
earnestness commanded respect and sympathy. When, for instance, he
tells us, "it would also argue ingratitude towards my genius if I were
not to rejoice that to the faculty of an incisive, analytical
criticism was added the innocent pleasure in artistic production," it
may astonish him to hear that, in spite of this self-praise, there are
still men who maintain exactly the reverse, and who say, not only that
he has never possessed the gift of artistic production, but that the
"innocent" pleasure he mentions is of all things the least innocent,
seeing that it succeeded in gradually undermining and ultimately
destroying a nature as strongly and deeply scholarly and critical as
Strauss's--in fact, the real Straussian Genius. In a moment of
unlimited frankness, Strauss himself indeed adds: "Merck was always in
my thoughts, calling out, 'Don't produce such child's play again;
others can do that too!'" That was the voice of the real Straussian
genius, which also asked him what the worth of his newest, innocent,
and lightly equipped modern Philistine's testament was. Others can do
that too! And many could do it better. And even they who could have
done it best, i.e. those thinkers who are more widely endowed than
Strauss, could still only have made nonsense of it.

I take it that you are now beginning to understand the value I set on
Strauss the Writer. You are beginning to realise that I regard him as
a mummer who would parade as an artless genius and classical writer.
When Lichtenberg said, "A simple manner of writing is to be
recommended, if only in view of the fact that no honest man trims and
twists his expressions," he was very far from wishing to imply that a
simple style is a proof of literary integrity. I, for my part, only
wish that Strauss the Writer had been more upright, for then he would
have written more becomingly and have been less famous. Or, if he
would be a mummer at all costs, how much more would he not have
pleased me if he had been a better mummer--one more able to ape the
guileless genius and classical author! For it yet remains to be said
that Strauss was not only an inferior actor but a very worthless
stylist as well.


Of course, the blame attaching to Strauss for being a bad writer is
greatly mitigated by the fact that it is extremely difficult in
Germany to become even a passable or moderately good writer, and that
it is more the exception than not, to be a really good one. In this
respect the natural soil is wanting, as are also artistic values and
the proper method of treating and cultivating oratory. This latter
accomplishment, as the various branches of it, i.e. drawing-room,
ecclesiastical and Parliamentary parlance, show, has not yet reached
the level of a national style; indeed, it has not yet shown even a
tendency to attain to a style at all, and all forms of language in
Germany do not yet seem to have passed a certain experimental stage.
In view of these facts, the writer of to-day, to some extent, lacks an
authoritative standard, and he is in some measure excused if, in the
matter of language, he attempts to go ahead of his own accord. As to
the probable result which the present dilapidated condition of the
German language will bring about, Schopenhauer, perhaps, has spoken
most forcibly. "If the existing state of affairs continues," he says,
"in the year 1900 German classics will cease to be understood, for the
simple reason that no other language will be known, save the trumpery
jargon of the noble present, the chief characteristic of which is
impotence." And, in truth, if one turn to the latest periodicals, one
will find German philologists and grammarians already giving
expression to the view that our classics can no longer serve us as
examples of style, owing to the fact that they constantly use words,
modes of speech, and syntactic arrangements which are fast dropping
out of currency. Hence the need of collecting specimens of the finest
prose that has been produced by our best modern writers, and of
offering them as examples to be followed, after the style of Sander's
pocket dictionary of bad language. In this book, that repulsive
monster of style Gutzkow appears as a classic, and, according to its
injunctions, we seem to be called upon to accustom ourselves to quite
a new and wondrous crowd of classical authors, among which the first,
or one of the first, is David Strauss: he whom we cannot describe more
aptly than we have already--that is to say, as a worthless stylist.
Now, the notion which the Culture-Philistine has of a classic and
standard author speaks eloquently for his pseudo-culture--he who only
shows his strength by opposing a really artistic and severe style, and
who, thanks to the persistence of his opposition, finally arrives at a
certain uniformity of expression, which again almost appears to
possess unity of genuine style. In view, therefore, of the right which
is granted to every one to experiment with the language, how is it
possible at all for individual authors to discover a generally
agreeable tone? What is so generally interesting in them? In the first
place, a negative quality--the total lack of offensiveness: but every
really productive thing is offensive. The greater part of a German's
daily reading matter is undoubtedly sought either in the pages of
newspapers, periodicals, or reviews. The language of these journals
gradually stamps itself on his brain, by means of its steady drip,
drip, drip of similar phrases and similar words. And, since he
generally devotes to reading those hours of the day during which his
exhausted brain is in any case not inclined to offer resistance, his
ear for his native tongue so slowly but surely accustoms itself to
this everyday German that it ultimately cannot endure its absence
without pain. But the manufacturers of these newspapers are, by virtue
of their trade, most thoroughly inured to the effluvia of this
journalistic jargon; they have literally lost all taste, and their
palate is rather gratified than not by the most corrupt and arbitrary
innovations. Hence the tutti unisono with which, despite the general
lethargy and sickliness, every fresh solecism is greeted; it is with
such impudent corruptions of the language that her hirelings are
avenged against her for the incredible boredom she imposes ever more
and more upon them. I remember having read "an appeal to the German
nation," by Berthold Auerbach, in which every sentence was un-German,
distorted and false, and which, as a whole, resembled a soulless
mosaic of words cemented together with international syntax. As to the
disgracefully slipshod German with which Edward Devrient solemnised
the death of Mendelssohn, I do not even wish to do more than refer to
it. A grammatical error--and this is the most extraordinary feature of
the case--does not therefore seem an offence in any sense to our
Philistine, but a most delightful restorative in the barren wilderness
of everyday German. He still, however, considers all really productive
things to be offensive. The wholly bombastic, distorted, and
threadbare syntax of the modern standard author--yea, even his
ludicrous neologisms--are not only tolerated, but placed to his credit
as the spicy element in his works. But woe to the stylist with
character, who seeks as earnestly and perseveringly to avoid the trite
phrases of everyday parlance, as the "yester-night monster blooms of
modern ink-flingers," as Schopenhauer says! When platitudes,
hackneyed, feeble, and vulgar phrases are the rule, and the bad and
the corrupt become refreshing exceptions, then all that is strong,
distinguished, and beautiful perforce acquires an evil odour. From
which it follows that, in Germany, the well-known experience which
befell the normally built traveller in the land of hunchbacks is
constantly being repeated. It will be remembered that he was so
shamefully insulted there, owing to his quaint figure and lack of
dorsal convexity, that a priest at last had to harangue the people on
his behalf as follows: "My brethren, rather pity this poor stranger,
and present thank-offerings unto the gods, that ye are blessed with
such attractive gibbosities."

If any one attempted to compose a positive grammar out of the
international German style of to-day, and wished to trace the
unwritten and unspoken laws followed by every one, he would get the
most extraordinary notions of style and rhetoric. He would meet with
laws which are probably nothing more than reminiscences of bygone
schooldays, vestiges of impositions for Latin prose, and results
perhaps of choice readings from French novelists, over whose
incredible crudeness every decently educated Frenchman would have the
right to laugh. But no conscientious native of Germany seems to have
given a thought to these extraordinary notions under the yoke of which
almost every German lives and writes.

As an example of what I say, we may find an injunction to the effect
that a metaphor or a simile must be introduced from time to time, and
that it must be new; but, since to the mind of the shallow-pated
writer newness and modernity are identical, he proceeds forthwith to
rack his brain for metaphors in the technical vocabularies of the
railway, the telegraph, the steamship, and the Stock Exchange, and is
proudly convinced that such metaphors must be new because they are
modern. In Strauss's confession-book we find liberal tribute paid to
modern metaphor. He treats us to a simile, covering a page and a half,
drawn from modern road-improvement work; a few pages farther back he
likens the world to a machine, with its wheels, stampers, hammers, and
"soothing oil" (p. 432); "A repast that begins with champagne" (p.
384); "Kant is a cold-water cure" (p. 309); "The Swiss constitution is
to that of England as a watermill is to a steam-engine, as a
waltz-tune or a song to a fugue or symphony" (p. 301); "In every
appeal, the sequence of procedure must be observed. Now the mean
tribunal between the individual and humanity is the nation" (p. 165);
"If we would know whether there be still any life in an organism which
appears dead to us, we are wont to test it by a powerful, even painful
stimulus, as for example a stab" (p. 161); "The religious domain in
the human soul resembles the domain of the Red Indian in America" (p.
160); "Virtuosos in piety, in convents"(p. 107); "And place the
sum-total of the foregoing in round numbers under the account" (p.
205); "Darwin's theory resembles a railway track that is just marked
out... where the flags are fluttering joyfully in the breeze." In this
really highly modern way, Strauss has met the Philistine injunction to
the effect that a new simile must be introduced from time to time.

Another rhetorical rule is also very widespread, namely, that didactic
passages should be composed in long periods, and should be drawn out
into lengthy abstractions, while all persuasive passages should
consist of short sentences followed by striking contrasts. On page 154
in Strauss's book we find a standard example of the didactic and
scholarly style--a passage blown out after the genuine Schleiermacher
manner, and made to stumble along at a true tortoise pace: "The reason
why, in the earlier stages of religion, there appear many instead of
this single Whereon, a plurality of gods instead of the one, is
explained in this deduction of religion, from the fact that the
various forces of nature, or relations of life, which inspire man with
the sentiment of unqualified dependence, still act upon him in the
commencement with the full force of their distinctive characteristics;
that he has not as yet become conscious how, in regard to his
unmitigated dependence upon them, there is no distinction between
them, and that therefore the Whereon of this dependence, or the Being
to which it conducts in the last instance, can only be one."

On pages 7 and 8 we find an example of the other kind of style, that
of the short sentences containing that affected liveliness which so
excited certain readers that they cannot mention Strauss any more
without coupling his name with Lessing's. "I am well aware that what I
propose to delineate in the following pages is known to multitudes as
well as to myself, to some even much better. A few have already spoken
out on the subject. Am I therefore to keep silence? I think not. For
do we not all supply each other's deficiencies? If another is better
informed as regards some things, I may perhaps be so as regards
others; while yet others are known and viewed by me in a different
light. Out with it, then! let my colours be displayed that it may be
seen whether they are genuine or not.'"

It is true that Strauss's style generally maintains a happy medium
between this sort of merry quick-march and the other funereal and
indolent pace; but between two vices one does not invariably find a
virtue; more often rather only weakness, helpless paralysis, and
impotence. As a matter of fact, I was very disappointed when I glanced
through Strauss's book in search of fine and witty passages; for, not
having found anything praiseworthy in the Confessor, I had actually
set out with the express purpose of meeting here and there with at
least some opportunities of praising Strauss the Writer. I sought and
sought, but my purpose remained unfulfilled. Meanwhile, however,
another duty seemed to press itself strongly on my mind--that of
enumerating the solecisms, the strained metaphors, the obscure
abbreviations, the instances of bad taste, and the distortions which I
encountered; and these were of such a nature that I dare do no more
than select a few examples of them from among a collection which is
too bulky to be given in full. By means of these examples I may
succeed in showing what it is that inspires, in the hearts of modern
Germans, such faith in this great and seductive stylist Strauss: I
refer to his eccentricities of expression, which, in the barren waste
and dryness of his whole book, jump out at one, not perhaps as
pleasant but as painfully stimulating, surprises. When perusing such
passages, we are at least assured, to use a Straussian metaphor, that
we are not quite dead, but still respond to the test of a stab. For
the rest of the book is entirely lacking in offensiveness --that
quality which alone, as we have seen, is productive, and which our
classical author has himself reckoned among the positive virtues. When
the educated masses meet with exaggerated dulness and dryness, when
they are in the presence of really vapid commonplaces, they now seem
to believe that such things are the signs of health; and in this
respect the words of the author of the dialogus de oratoribus are very
much to the point: "illam ipsam quam jactant sanitatem non firmitate
sed jejunio consequuntur." That is why they so unanimously hate every
firmitas, because it bears testimony to a kind of health quite
different from theirs; hence their one wish to throw suspicion upon
all austerity and terseness, upon all fiery and energetic movement,
and upon every full and delicate play of muscles. They have conspired
to twist nature and the names of things completely round, and for the
future to speak of health only there where we see weakness, and to
speak of illness and excitability where for our part we see genuine
vigour. From which it follows that David Strauss is to them a
classical author.

If only this dulness were of a severely logical order! but simplicity
and austerity in thought are precisely what these weaklings have lost,
and in their hands even our language has become illogically tangled.
As a proof of this, let any one try to translate Strauss's style into
Latin: in the case of Kant, be it remembered, this is possible, while
with Schopenhauer it even becomes an agreeable exercise. The reason
why this test fails with Strauss's German is not owing to the fact
that it is more Teutonic than theirs, but because his is distorted and
illogical, whereas theirs is lofty and simple. Moreover, he who knows
how the ancients exerted themselves in order to learn to write and
speak correctly, and how the moderns omit to do so, must feel, as
Schopenhauer says, a positive relief when he can turn from a German
book like the one under our notice, to dive into those other works,
those ancient works which seem to him still to be written in a new
language. "For in these books," says Schopenhauer, "I find a regular
and fixed language which, throughout, faithfully follows the laws of
grammar and orthography, so that I can give up my thoughts completely
to their matter; whereas in German I am constantly being disturbed by
the author's impudence and his continual attempts to establish his own
orthographical freaks and absurd ideas-- the swaggering foolery of
which disgusts me. It is really a painful sight to see a fine old
language, possessed of classical literature, being botched by asses
and ignoramuses!"

Thus Schopenhauer's holy anger cries out to us, and you cannot say
that you have not been warned. He who turns a deaf ear to such
warnings, and who absolutely refuses to relinquish his faith in
Strauss the classical author, can only be given this last word of
advice--to imitate his hero. In any case, try it at your own risk; but
you will repent it, not only in your style but in your head, that it
may be fulfilled which was spoken by the Indian prophet, saying, "He
who gnaweth a cow's horn gnaweth in vain and shorteneth his life; for
he grindeth away his teeth, yet his belly is empty."


By way of concluding, we shall proceed to give our classical
prose-writer the promised examples of his style which we have
collected. Schopenhauer would probably have classed the whole lot as
"new documents serving to swell the trumpery jargon of the present
day"; for David Strauss may be comforted to hear (if what follows can
be regarded as a comfort at all) that everybody now writes as he does;
some, of course, worse, and that among the blind the one-eyed is king.
Indeed, we allow him too much when we grant him one eye; but we do
this willingly, because Strauss does not write so badly as the most
infamous of all corrupters of German--the Hegelians and their crippled
offspring. Strauss at least wishes to extricate himself from the mire,
and he is already partly out of it; still, he is very far from being
on dry land, and he still shows signs of having stammered Hegel's
prose in youth. In those days, possibly, something was sprained in
him, some muscle must have been overstrained. His ear, perhaps, like
that of a boy brought up amid the beating of drums, grew dull, and
became incapable of detecting those artistically subtle and yet mighty
laws of sound, under the guidance of which every writer is content to
remain who has been strictly trained in the study of good models. But
in this way, as a stylist, he has lost his most valuable possessions,
and stands condemned to remain reclining, his life long, on the
dangerous and barren shifting sand of newspaper style--that is, if he
do not wish to fall back into the Hegelian mire. Nevertheless, he has
succeeded in making himself famous for a couple of hours in our time,
and perhaps in another couple of hours people will remember that he
was once famous; then, however, night will come, and with her
oblivion; and already at this moment, while we are entering his sins
against style in the black book, the sable mantle of twilight is
falling upon his fame. For he who has sinned against the German
language has desecrated the mystery of all our Germanity. Throughout
all the confusion and the changes of races and of customs, the German
language alone, as though possessed of some supernatural charm, has
saved herself; and with her own salvation she has wrought that of the
spirit of Germany. She alone holds the warrant for this spirit in
future ages, provided she be not destroyed at the sacrilegious hands
of the modern world. "But Di meliora! Avaunt, ye pachyderms, avaunt!
This is the German language, by means of which men express themselves,
and in which great poets have sung and great thinkers have written.
Hands off!" [10]*

[Footnote * : Translator's note.--Nietzsche here proceeds to quote
those passages he has culled from The Old and the New Faith with which
he undertakes to substantiate all he has said relative to Strauss's
style; as, however, these passages, with his comments upon them, lose
most of their point when rendered into English, it was thought best to
omit them altogether.]

To put it in plain words, what we have seen have been feet of clay,
and what appeared to be of the colour of healthy flesh was only
applied paint. Of course, Culture-Philistinism in Germany will be very
angry when it hears its one living God referred to as a series of
painted idols. He, however, who dares to overthrow its idols will not
shrink, despite all indignation, from telling it to its face that it
has forgotten how to distinguish between the quick and the dead, the
genuine and the counterfeit, the original and the imitation, between a
God and a host of idols; that it has completely lost the healthy and
manly instinct for what is real and right. It alone deserves to be
destroyed; and already the manifestations of its power are sinking;
already are its purple honours falling from it; but when the purple
falls, its royal wearer soon follows.

Here I come to the end of my confession of faith. This is the
confession of an individual; and what can such an one do against a
whole world, even supposing his voice were heard everywhere! In order
for the last time to use a precious Straussism, his judgment only
possesses "that amount of subjective truth which is compatible with a
complete lack of objective demonstration"--is not that so, my dear
friends? Meanwhile, be of good cheer. For the time being let the
matter rest at this "amount which is compatible with a complete lack"!
For the time being! That is to say, for as long as that is held to be
out of season which in reality is always in season, and is now more
than ever pressing; I refer to...speaking the truth.[11]*

[Footnote * : Translator's note.--All quotations from The Old Faith
and the New which appear in the above translation have either been
taken bodily out of Mathilde Blind's translation (Asher and Co.,
1873), or are adaptations from that translation.]



FOR an event to be great, two things must be united--the lofty
sentiment of those who accomplish it, and the lofty sentiment of those
who witness it. No event is great in itself, even though it be the
disappearance of whole constellations, the destruction of several
nations, the establishment of vast empires, or the prosecution of wars
at the cost of enormous forces: over things of this sort the breath of
history blows as if they were flocks of wool. But it often happens,
too, that a man of might strikes a blow which falls without effect
upon a stubborn stone; a short, sharp report is heard, and all is
over. History is able to record little or nothing of such abortive
efforts. Hence the anxiety which every one must feel who, observing
the approach of an event, wonders whether those about to witness it
will be worthy of it. This reciprocity between an act and its
reception is always taken into account when anything great or small is
to be accomplished; and he who would give anything away must see to it
that he find recipients who will do justice to the meaning of his
gift. This is why even the work of a great man is not necessarily
great when it is short, abortive, or fruitless; for at the moment when
he performed it he must have failed to perceive that it was really
necessary; he must have been careless in his aim, and he cannot have
chosen and fixed upon the time with sufficient caution. Chance thus
became his master; for there is a very intimate relation between
greatness and the instinct which discerns the proper moment at which
to act.

We therefore leave it to those who doubt Wagner's power of discerning
the proper time for action, to be concerned and anxious as to whether
what is now taking place in Bayreuth is really opportune and
necessary. To us who are more confident, it is clear that he believes
as strongly in the greatness of his feat as in the greatness of
feeling in those who are to witness it. Be their number great or
small, therefore, all those who inspire this faith in Wagner should
feel extremely honoured; for that it was not inspired by everybody, or
by the whole age, or even by the whole German people, as they are now
constituted, he himself told us in his dedicatory address of the 22nd
of May 1872, and not one amongst us could, with any show of
conviction, assure him of the contrary. "I had only you to turn to,"
he said, "when I sought those who I thought would be in sympathy with
my plans,-- you who are the most personal friends of my own particular
art, my work and activity: only you could I invite to help me in my
work, that it might be presented pure and whole to those who manifest
a genuine interest in my art, despite the fact that it has hitherto
made its appeal to them only in a disfigured and adulterated form."

It is certain that in Bayreuth even the spectator is a spectacle worth
seeing. If the spirit of some observant sage were to return, after the
absence of a century, and were to compare the most remarkable
movements in the present world of culture, he would find much to
interest him there. Like one swimming in a lake, who encounters a
current of warm water issuing from a hot spring, in Bayreuth he would
certainly feel as though he had suddenly plunged into a more temperate
element, and would tell himself that this must rise out of a distant
and deeper source: the surrounding mass of water, which at all events
is more common in origin, does not account for it. In this way, all
those who assist at the Bayreuth festival will seem like men out of
season; their raison-d'etre and the forces which would seem to account
for them are elsewhere, and their home is not in the present age. I
realise ever more clearly that the scholar, in so far as he is
entirely the man of his own day, can only be accessible to all that
Wagner does and thinks by means of parody,--and since everything is
parodied nowadays, he will even get the event of Bayreuth reproduced
for him, through the very un-magic lanterns of our facetious
art-critics. And one ought to be thankful if they stop at parody; for
by means of it a spirit of aloofness and animosity finds a vent which
might otherwise hit upon a less desirable mode of expression. Now, the
observant sage already mentioned could not remain blind to this
unusual sharpness and tension of contrasts. They who hold by gradual
development as a kind of moral law must be somewhat shocked at the
sight of one who, in the course of a single lifetime, succeeds in
producing something absolutely new. Being dawdlers themselves, and
insisting upon slowness as a principle, they are very naturally vexed
by one who strides rapidly ahead, and they wonder how on earth he does
it. No omens, no periods of transition, and no concessions preceded
the enterprise at Bayreuth; no one except Wagner knew either the goal
or the long road that was to lead to it. In the realm of art it
signifies, so to speak, the first circumnavigation of the world, and
by this voyage not only was there discovered an apparently new art,
but Art itself. In view of this, all modern arts, as arts of luxury
which have degenerated through having been insulated, have become
almost worthless. And the same applies to the nebulous and
inconsistent reminiscences of a genuine art, which we as modern
Europeans derive from the Greeks; let them rest in peace, unless they
are now able to shine of their own accord in the light of a new
interpretation. The last hour has come for a good many things; this
new art is a clairvoyante that sees ruin approaching--not for art
alone. Her warning voice must strike the whole of our prevailing
civilisation with terror the instant the laughter which its parodies
have provoked subsides. Let it laugh and enjoy itself for yet a while

And as for us, the disciples of this revived art, we shall have time
and inclination for thoughtfulness, deep thoughtfulness. All the talk
and noise about art which has been made by civilisation hitherto must
seem like shameless obtrusiveness; everything makes silence a duty
with us--the quinquennial silence of the Pythagoreans. Which of us has
not soiled his hands and heart in the disgusting idolatry of modern
culture? Which of us can exist without the waters of purification? Who
does not hear the voice which cries, "Be silent and cleansed"? Be
silent and cleansed! Only the merit of being included among those who
give ear to this voice will grant even us the lofty look necessary to
view the event at Bayreuth; and only upon this look depends the great
future of the event.

When on that dismal and cloudy day in May 1872, after the foundation
stone had been laid on the height of Bayreuth, amid torrents of rain,
and while Wagner was driving back to the town with a small party of
us, he was exceptionally silent, and there was that indescribable look
in his eyes as of one who has turned his gaze deeply inwards. The day
happened to be the first of his sixtieth year, and his whole past now
appeared as but a long preparation for this great moment. It is almost
a recognised fact that in times of exceptional danger, or at all
decisive and culminating points in their lives, men see the remotest
and most recent events of their career with singular vividness, and in
one rapid inward glance obtain a sort of panorama of a whole span of
years in which every event is faithfully depicted. What, for instance,
must Alexander the Great have seen in that instant when he caused Asia
and Europe to be drunk out of the same goblet? But what went through
Wagner's mind on that day--how he became what he is, and what he will
be--we only can imagine who are nearest to him, and can follow him, up
to a certain point, in his self-examination; but through his eyes
alone is it possible for us to understand his grand work, and by the
help of this understanding vouch for its fruitfulness.


It were strange if what a man did best and most liked to do could not
be traced in the general outline of his life, and in the case of those
who are remarkably endowed there is all the more reason for supposing
that their life will present not only the counterpart of their
character, as in the case of every one else, but that it will present
above all the counterpart of their intellect and their most individual
tastes. The life of the epic poet will have a dash of the Epos in
it--as from all accounts was the case with Goethe, whom the Germans
very wrongly regarded only as a lyrist--and the life of the dramatist
will probably be dramatic.

The dramatic element in Wagner's development cannot be ignored, from
the time when his ruling passion became self-conscious and took
possession of his whole being. From that time forward there is an end
to all groping, straying, and sprouting of offshoots, and over his
most tortuous deviations and excursions, over the often eccentric
disposition of his plans, a single law and will are seen to rule, in
which we have the explanation of his actions, however strange this
explanation may sometimes appear. There was, however, an ante-dramatic
period in Wagner's life--his childhood and youth-- which it is
impossible to approach without discovering innumerable problems. At
this period there seems to be no promise yet of himself, and what one
might now, in a retrospect, regard as a pledge for his future
greatness, amounts to no more than a juxtaposition of traits which
inspire more dismay than hope; a restless and excitable spirit,
nervously eager to undertake a hundred things at the same time,
passionately fond of almost morbidly exalted states of mind, and ready
at any moment to veer completely round from calm and profound
meditation to a state of violence and uproar. In his case there were
no hereditary or family influences at work to constrain him to the
sedulous study of one particular art. Painting, versifying, acting,
and music were just as much within his reach as the learning and the
career of a scholar; and the superficial inquirer into this stage of
his life might even conclude that he was born to be a dilettante. The
small world within the bounds of which he grew up was not of the kind
we should choose to be the home of an artist. He ran the constant risk
of becoming infected by that dangerously dissipated attitude of mind
in which a person will taste of everything, as also by that condition
of slackness resulting from the fragmentary knowledge of all things,
which is so characteristic of University towns. His feelings were
easily roused and but indifferently satisfied; wherever the boy turned
he found himself surrounded by a wonderful and would-be learned
activity, to which the garish theatres presented a ridiculous
contrast, and the entrancing strains of music a perplexing one. Now,
to the observer who sees things relatively, it must seem strange that
the modern man who happens to be gifted with exceptional talent should
as a child and a youth so seldom be blessed with the quality of
ingenuousness and of simple individuality, that he is so little able
to have these qualities at all. As a matter of fact, men of rare
talent, like Goethe and Wagner, much more often attain to
ingenuousness in manhood than during the more tender years of
childhood and youth. And this is especially so with the artist, who,
being born with a more than usual capacity for imitating, succumbs to
the morbid multiformity of modern life as to a virulent disease of
infancy. As a child he will more closely resemble an old man. The
wonderfully accurate and original picture of youth which Wagner gives
us in the Siegfried of the Nibelungen Ring could only have been
conceived by a man, and by one who had discovered his youthfulness but
late in life. Wagner's maturity, like his adolesence, was also late in
making its appearance, and he is thus, in this respect alone, the very
reverse of the precocious type.

The appearance of his moral and intellectual strength was the prelude
to the drama of his soul. And how different it then became! His nature
seems to have been simplified at one terrible stroke, and divided
against itself into two instincts or spheres. From its innermost
depths there gushes forth a passionate will which, like a rapid
mountain torrent, endeavours to make its way through all paths,
ravines, and crevices, in search of light and power. Only a force
completely free and pure was strong enough to guide this will to all
that is good and beneficial. Had it been combined with a narrow
intelligence, a will with such a tyrannical and boundless desire might
have become fatal; in any case, an exit into the open had to be found
for it as quickly as possible, whereby it could rush into pure air and
sunshine. Lofty aspirations, which continually meet with failure,
ultimately turn to evil. The inadequacy of means for obtaining success
may, in certain circumstances, be the result of an inexorable fate,
and not necessarily of a lack of strength; but he who under such
circumstances cannot abandon his aspirations, despite the inadequacy
of his means, will only become embittered, and consequently irritable
and intolerant. He may possibly seek the cause of his failure in other
people; he may even, in a fit of passion, hold the whole world guilty;
or he may turn defiantly down secret byways and secluded lanes, or
resort to violence. In this way, noble natures, on their road to the
most high, may turn savage. Even among those who seek but their own
personal moral purity, among monks and anchorites, men are to be found
who, undermined and devoured by failure, have become barbarous and
hopelessly morbid. There was a spirit full of love and calm belief,
full of goodness and infinite tenderness, hostile to all violence and
self-deterioration, and abhorring the sight of a soul in bondage. And
it was this spirit which manifested itself to Wagner. It hovered over
him as a consoling angel, it covered him with its wings, and showed
him the true path. At this stage we bring the other side of Wagner's
nature into view: but how shall we describe this other side?

The characters an artist creates are not himself, but the succession
of these characters, to which it is clear he is greatly attached, must
at all events reveal something of his nature. Now try and recall
Rienzi, the Flying Dutchman and Senta, Tannhauser and Elizabeth,
Lohengrin and Elsa, Tristan and Marke, Hans Sachs, Woden and
Brunhilda,--all these characters are correlated by a secret current of
ennobling and broadening morality which flows through them and becomes
ever purer and clearer as it progresses. And at this point we enter
with respectful reserve into the presence of the most hidden
development in Wagner's own soul. In what other artist do we meet with
the like of this, in the same proportion? Schiller's characters, from
the Robbers to Wallenstein and Tell, do indeed pursue an ennobling
course, and likewise reveal something of their author's development;
but in Wagner the standard is higher and the distance covered is much
greater. In the Nibelungen Ring, for instance, where Brunhilda is
awakened by Siegfried, I perceive the most moral music I have ever
heard. Here Wagner attains to such a high level of sacred feeling that
our mind unconsciously wanders to the glistening ice-and snow-peaks of
the Alps, to find a likeness there;-- so pure, isolated, inaccessible,
chaste, and bathed in love-beams does Nature here display herself,
that clouds and tempests--yea, and even the sublime itself--seem to
lie beneath her. Now, looking down from this height upon Tannhauser
and the Flying Dutchman, we begin to perceive how the man in Wagner
was evolved: how restlessly and darkly he began; how tempestuously he
strove to gratify his desires, to acquire power and to taste those
rapturous delights from which he often fled in disgust; how he wished
to throw off a yoke, to forget, to be negative, and to renounce
everything. The whole torrent plunged, now into this valley, now into
that, and flooded the most secluded chinks and crannies. In the night
of these semi-subterranean convulsions a star appeared and glowed high
above him with melancholy vehemence; as soon as he recognised it, he
named it Fidelity--unselfish fidelity. Why did this star seem to him
the brightest and purest of all? What secret meaning had the word
"fidelity" to his whole being? For he has graven its image and
problems upon all his thoughts and compositions. His works contain
almost a complete series of the rarest and most beautiful examples of
fidelity: that of brother to sister, of friend to friend, of servant
to master; of Elizabeth to Tannhauser, of Senta to the Dutchman, of
Elsa to Lohengrin, of Isolde, Kurvenal, and Marke to Tristan, of
Brunhilda to the most secret vows of Woden--and many others. It is
Wagner's most personal and most individual experience, which he
reveres like a religious mystery, and which he calls Fidelity; he
never wearies of breathing it into hundreds of different characters,
and of endowing it with the sublimest that in him lies, so overflowing
is his gratitude. It is, in short, the recognition of the fact that
the two sides of his nature remained faithful to each other, that out
of free and unselfish love, the creative, ingenuous, and brilliant
side kept loyally abreast of the dark, the intractable, and the
tyrannical side.


The relation of the two constituent forces to each other, and the
yielding of the one to the other, was the great requisite by which
alone he could remain wholly and truly himself. At the same time, this
was the only thing he could not control, and over which he could only
keep a watch, while the temptations to infidelity and its threatening
dangers beset him more and more. The uncertainty derived therefrom is
an overflowing source of suffering for those in process of
development. Each of his instincts made constant efforts to attain to
unmeasured heights, and each of the capacities he possessed for
enjoying life seemed to long to tear itself away from its companions
in order to seek satisfaction alone; the greater their exuberance the
more terrific was the tumult, and the more bitter the competition
between them. In addition, accident and life fired the desire for
power and splendour in him; but he was more often tormented by the
cruel necessity of having to live at all, while all around him lay
obstacles and snares. How is it possible for any one to remain
faithful here, to be completely steadfast? This doubt often depressed
him, and he expresses it, as an artist expressed his doubt, in
artistic forms. Elizabeth, for instance, can only suffer, pray, and
die; she saves the fickle and intemperate man by her loyalty, though
not for this life. In the path of every true artist, whose lot is cast
in these modern days, despair and danger are strewn. He has many means
whereby he can attain to honour and might; peace and plenty
persistently offer themselves to him, but only in that form recognised
by the modern man, which to the straightforward artist is no better
than choke-damp. In this temptation, and in the act of resisting it,
lie the dangers that threaten him--dangers arising from his disgust at
the means modernity offers him of acquiring pleasure and esteem, and
from the indignation provoked by the selfish ease of modern society.
Imagine Wagner's filling an official position, as for instance that of
bandmaster at public and court theatres, both of which positions he
has held: think how he, a serious artist, must have struggled in order
to enforce seriousness in those very places which, to meet the demands
of modern conventions, are designed with almost systematic frivolity
to appeal only to the frivolous. Think how he must have partially
succeeded, though only to fail on the whole. How constantly disgust
must have been at his heels despite his repeated attempts to flee it,
how he failed to find the haven to which he might have repaired, and
how he had ever to return to the Bohemians and outlaws of our society,
as one of them. If he himself broke loose from any post or position,
he rarely found a better one in its stead, while more than once
distress was all that his unrest brought him. Thus Wagner changed his
associates, his dwelling-place and country, and when we come to
comprehend the nature of the circles into which he gravitated, we can
hardly realise how he was able to tolerate them for any length of
time. The greater half of his past seems to be shrouded in heavy mist;
for a long time he appears to have had no general hopes, but only
hopes for the morrow, and thus, although he reposed no faith in the
future, he was not driven to despair. He must have felt like a
nocturnal traveller, broken with fatigue, exasperated from want of
sleep, and tramping wearily along beneath a heavy burden, who, far
from fearing the sudden approach of death, rather longs for it as
something exquisitely charming. His burden, the road and the
night--all would disappear! The thought was a temptation to him. Again
and again, buoyed up by his temporary hopes, he plunged anew into the
turmoil of life, and left all apparatus behind him. But his method of
doing this, his lack of moderation in the doing, betrayed what a
feeble hold his hopes had upon him; how they were only stimulants to
which he had recourse in an extremity. The conflict between his
aspirations and his partial or total inability to realise them,
tormented him like a thorn in the flesh. Infuriated by constant
privations, his imagination lapsed into the dissipated, whenever the
state of want was momentarily relieved. Life grew ever more and more
complicated for him; but the means and artifices that he discovered in
his art as a dramatist became evermore resourceful and daring. Albeit,
these were little more than palpable dramatic makeshifts and
expedients, which deceived, and were invented, only for the moment. In
a flash such means occurred to his mind and were used up. Examined
closely and without prepossession, Wagner's life, to recall one of
Schopenhauer's expressions, might be said to consist largely of
comedy, not to mention burlesque. And what the artist's feelings must
have been, conscious as he was, during whole periods of his life, of
this undignified element in it,--he who more than any one else,
perhaps, breathed freely only in sublime and more than sublime
spheres,-- the thinker alone can form any idea.

In the midst of this mode of life, a detailed description of which is
necessary in order to inspire the amount of pity, awe, and admiration
which are its due, he developed a talent for acquiring knowledge,
which even in a German--a son of the nation learned above all
others--was really extraordinary. And with this talent yet another
danger threatened Wagner--a danger more formidable than that involved
in a life which was apparently without either a stay or a rule, borne
hither and thither by disturbing illusions. From a novice trying his
strength, Wagner became a thorough master of music and of the theatre,
as also a prolific inventor in the preliminary technical conditions
for the execution of art. No one will any longer deny him the glory of
having given us the supreme model for lofty artistic execution on a
large scale. But he became more than this, and in order so to develop,
he, no less than any one else in like circumstances, had to reach the
highest degree of culture by virtue of his studies. And wonderfully he
achieved this end! It is delightful to follow his progress. From all
sides material seemed to come unto him and into him, and the larger
and heavier the resulting structure became, the more rigid was the
arch of the ruling and ordering thought supporting it. And yet access
to the sciences and arts has seldom been made more difficult for any
man than for Wagner; so much so that he had almost to break his own
road through to them. The reviver of the simple drama, the discoverer
of the position due to art in true human society, the poetic
interpreter of bygone views of life, the philosopher, the historian,
the aesthete and the critic, the master of languages, the mythologist
and the myth poet, who was the first to include all these wonderful
and beautiful products of primitive times in a single Ring, upon which
he engraved the runic characters of his thoughts-- what a wealth of
knowledge must Wagner have accumulated and commanded, in order to have
become all that! And yet this mass of material was just as powerless
to impede the action of his will as a matter of detail--however
attractive--was to draw his purpose from its path. For the exceptional
character of such conduct to be appreciated fully, it should be
compared with that of Goethe,-- he who, as a student and as a sage,
resembled nothing so much as a huge river-basin, which does not pour
all its water into the sea, but spends as much of it on its way there,
and at its various twists and turns, as it ultimately disgorges at its
mouth. True, a nature like Goethe's not only has, but also engenders,
more pleasure than any other; there is more mildness and noble
profligacy in it; whereas the tenor and tempo of Wagner's power at
times provoke both fear and flight. But let him fear who will, we
shall only be the more courageous, in that we shall be permitted to
come face to face with a hero who, in regard to modern culture, "has
never learned the meaning of fear."

But neither has he learned to look for repose in history and
philosophy, nor to derive those subtle influences from their study
which tend to paralyse action or to soften a man unduly. Neither the
creative nor the militant artist in him was ever diverted from his
purpose by learning and culture. The moment his constructive powers
direct him, history becomes yielding clay in his hands. His attitude
towards it then differs from that of every scholar, and more nearly
resembles the relation of the ancient Greek to his myths; that is to
say, his subject is something he may fashion, and about which he may
write verses. He will naturally do this with love and a certain
becoming reverence, but with the sovereign right of the creator
notwithstanding. And precisely because history is more supple and more
variable than a dream to him, he can invest the most individual case
with the characteristics of a whole age, and thus attain to a
vividness of narrative of which historians are quite incapable. In
what work of art, of any kind, has the body and soul of the Middle
Ages ever been so thoroughly depicted as in Lohengrin? And will not
the Meistersingers continue to acquaint men, even in the remotest ages
to come, with the nature of Germany's soul? Will they not do more than
acquaint men of it? Will they not represent its very ripest fruit--the
fruit of that spirit which ever wishes to reform and not to overthrow,
and which, despite the broad couch of comfort on which it lies, has
not forgotten how to endure the noblest discomfort when a worthy and
novel deed has to be accomplished?

And it is just to this kind of discomfort that Wagner always felt
himself drawn by his study of history and philosophy: in them he not
only found arms and coats of mail, but what he felt in their presence
above all was the inspiring breath which is wafted from the graves of
all great fighters, sufferers, and thinkers. Nothing distinguishes a
man more from the general pattern of the age than the use he makes of
history and philosophy. According to present views, the former seems
to have been allotted the duty of giving modern man breathing-time, in
the midst of his panting and strenuous scurry towards his goal, so
that he may, for a space, imagine he has slipped his leash. What
Montaigne was as an individual amid the turmoil of the
Reformation--that is to say, a creature inwardly coming to peace with
himself, serenely secluded in himself and taking breath, as his best
reader, Shakespeare, understood him, --this is what history is to the
modern spirit today. The fact that the Germans, for a whole century,
have devoted themselves more particularly to the study of history,
only tends to prove that they are the stemming, retarding, and
becalming force in the activity of modern society--a circumstance
which some, of course, will place to their credit. On the whole,
however, it is a dangerous symptom when the mind of a nation turns
with preference to the study of the past. It is a sign of flagging
strength, of decline and degeneration; it denotes that its people are
perilously near to falling victims to the first fever that may happen
to be rife --the political fever among others. Now, in the history of
modern thought, our scholars are an example of this condition of
weakness as opposed to all reformative and revolutionary activity. The
mission they have chosen is not of the noblest; they have rather been
content to secure smug happiness for their kind, and little more.
Every independent and manly step leaves them halting in the
background, although it by no means outstrips history. For the latter
is possessed of vastly different powers, which only natures like
Wagner have any notion of; but it requires to be written in a much
more earnest and severe spirit, by much more vigorous students, and
with much less optimism than has been the case hitherto. In fact, it
requires to be treated quite differently from the way German scholars
have treated it until now. In all their works there is a continual
desire to embellish, to submit and to be content, while the course of
events invariably seems to have their approbation. It is rather the
exception for one of them to imply that he is satisfied only because
things might have turned out worse; for most of them believe, almost
as a matter of course, that everything has been for the best simply
because it has only happened once. Were history not always a disguised
Christian theodicy, were it written with more justice and fervent
feeling, it would be the very last thing on earth to be made to serve
the purpose it now serves, namely, that of an opiate against
everything subversive and novel. And philosophy is in the same plight:
all that the majority demand of it is, that it may teach them to
understand approximate facts--very approximate facts--in order that
they may then become adapted to them. And even its noblest exponents
press its soporific and comforting powers so strongly to the fore,
that all lovers of sleep and of loafing must think that their aim and
the aim of philosophy are one. For my part, the most important
question philosophy has to decide seems to be, how far things have
acquired an unalterable stamp and form, and, once this question has
been answered, I think it the duty of philosophy unhesitatingly and
courageously to proceed with the task of improving that part of the
world which has been recognised as still susceptible to change. But
genuine philosophers do, as a matter of fact, teach this doctrine
themselves, inasmuch as they work at endeavouring to alter the very
changeable views of men, and do not keep their opinions to themselves.
Genuine disciples of genuine philosophies also teach this doctrine;
for, like Wagner, they understand the art of deriving a more decisive
and inflexible will from their master's teaching, rather than an
opiate or a sleeping draught. Wagner is most philosophical where he is
most powerfully active and heroic. It was as a philosopher that he
went, not only through the fire of various philosophical systems
without fear, but also through the vapours of science and scholarship,
while remaining ever true to his highest self. And it was this highest
self which exacted from his versatile spirit works as complete as his
were, which bade him suffer and learn, that he might accomplish such


The history of the development of culture since the time of the Greeks
is short enough, when we take into consideration the actual ground it
covers, and ignore the periods during which man stood still, went
backwards, hesitated or strayed. The Hellenising of the world--and to
make this possible, the Orientalising of Hellenism--that double
mission of Alexander the Great, still remains the most important
event: the old question whether a foreign civilisation may be
transplanted is still the problem that the peoples of modern times are
vainly endeavouring to solve. The rhythmic play of those two factors
against each other is the force that has determined the course of
history heretofore. Thus Christianity appears, for instance, as a
product of Oriental antiquity, which was thought out and pursued to
its ultimate conclusions by men, with almost intemperate thoroughness.
As its influence began to decay, the power of Hellenic culture was
revived, and we are now experiencing phenomena so strange that they
would hang in the air as unsolved problems, if it were not possible,
by spanning an enormous gulf of time, to show their relation to
analogous phenomena in Hellenistic culture. Thus, between Kant and the
Eleatics, Schopenhauer and Empedocles, AEschylus and Wagner, there is
so much relationship, so many things in common, that one is vividly
impressed with the very relative nature of all notions of time. It
would even seem as if a whole diversity of things were really all of a
piece, and that time is only a cloud which makes it hard for our eyes
to perceive the oneness of them. In the history of the exact sciences
we are perhaps most impressed by the close bond uniting us with the
days of Alexander and ancient Greece. The pendulum of history seems
merely to have swung back to that point from which it started when it
plunged forth into unknown and mysterious distance. The picture
represented by our own times is by no means a new one: to the student
of history it must always seem as though he were merely in the
presence of an old familiar face, the features of which he recognises.
In our time the spirit of Greek culture is scattered broadcast. While
forces of all kinds are pressing one upon the other, and the fruits of
modern art and science are offering themselves as a means of exchange,
the pale outline of Hellenism is beginning to dawn faintly in the
distance. The earth which, up to the present, has been more than
adequately Orientalised, begins to yearn once more for Hellenism. He
who wishes to help her in this respect will certainly need to be
gifted for speedy action and to have wings on his heels, in order to
synthetise the multitudinous and still undiscovered facts of science
and the many conflicting divisions of talent so as to reconnoitre and
rule the whole enormous field. It is now necessary that a generation
of anti-Alexanders should arise, endowed with the supreme strength
necessary for gathering up, binding together, and joining the
individual threads of the fabric, so as to prevent their being
scattered to the four winds. The object is not to cut the Gordian knot
of Greek culture after the manner adopted by Alexander, and then to
leave its frayed ends fluttering in all directions; it is rather to
bind it after it has been loosed. That is our task to-day. In the
person of Wagner I recognise one of these anti-Alexanders: he rivets
and locks together all that is isolated, weak, or in any way
defective; if I may be allowed to use a medical expression, he has an
astringent power. And in this respect he is one of the greatest
civilising forces of his age. He dominates art, religion, and
folklore, yet he is the reverse of a polyhistor or of a mere
collecting and classifying spirit; for he constructs with the
collected material, and breathes life into it, and is a Simplifier of
the Universe. We must not be led away from this idea by comparing the
general mission which his genius imposed upon him with the much
narrower and more immediate one which we are at present in the habit
of associating with the name of Wagner. He is expected to effect a
reform in the theatre world; but even supposing he should succeed in
doing this, what would then have been done towards the accomplishment
of that higher, more distant mission?

But even with this lesser theatrical reform, modern man would also be
altered and reformed; for everything is so intimately related in this
world, that he who removes even so small a thing as a rivet from the
framework shatters and destroys the whole edifice. And what we here
assert, with perhaps seeming exaggeration, of Wagner's activity would
hold equally good of any other genuine reform. It is quite impossible
to reinstate the art of drama in its purest and highest form without
effecting changes everywhere in the customs of the people, in the
State, in education, and in social intercourse. When love and justice
have become powerful in one department of life, namely in art, they
must, in accordance with the law of their inner being, spread their
influence around them, and can no more return to the stiff stillness
of their former pupal condition. In order even to realise how far the
attitude of the arts towards life is a sign of their decline, and how
far our theatres are a disgrace to those who build and visit them,
everything must be learnt over again, and that which is usual and
commonplace should be regarded as something unusual and complicated.
An extraordinary lack of clear judgment, a badly-concealed lust of
pleasure, of entertainment at any cost, learned scruples, assumed airs
of importance, and trifling with the seriousness of art on the part of
those who represent it; brutality of appetite and money-grubbing on
the part of promoters; the empty-mindedness and thoughtlessness of
society, which only thinks of the people in so far as these serve or
thwart its purpose, and which attends theatres and concerts without
giving a thought to its duties,--all these things constitute the
stifling and deleterious atmosphere of our modern art conditions:
when, however, people like our men of culture have grown accustomed to
it, they imagine that it is a condition of their healthy existence,
and would immediately feel unwell if, for any reason, they were
compelled to dispense with it for a while. In point of fact, there is
but one speedy way of convincing oneself of the vulgarity, weirdness,
and confusion of our theatrical institutions, and that is to compare
them with those which once flourished in ancient Greece. If we knew
nothing about the Greeks, it would perhaps be impossible to assail our
present conditions at all, and objections made on the large scale
conceived for the first time by Wagner would have been regarded as the
dreams of people who could only be at home in outlandish places. "For
men as we now find them," people would have retorted, "art of this
modern kind answers the purpose and is fitting-- and men have never
been different." But they have been very different, and even now there
are men who are far from satisfied with the existing state of
affairs--the fact of Bayreuth alone demonstrates this point. Here you
will find prepared and initiated spectators, and the emotion of men
conscious of being at the very zenith of their happiness, who
concentrate their whole being on that happiness in order to strengthen
themselves for a higher and more far-reaching purpose. Here you will
find the most noble self-abnegation on the part of the artist, and the
finest of all spectacles --that of a triumphant creator of works which
are in themselves an overflowing treasury of artistic triumphs. Does
it not seem almost like a fairy tale, to be able to come face to face
with such a personality? Must not they who take any part whatsoever,
active or passive, in the proceedings at Bayreuth, already feel
altered and rejuvenated, and ready to introduce reforms and to effect
renovations in other spheres of life? Has not a haven been found for
all wanderers on high and desert seas, and has not peace settled over
the face of the waters? Must not he who leaves these spheres of ruling
profundity and loneliness for the very differently ordered world with
its plains and lower levels, cry continually like Isolde: "Oh, how
could I bear it? How can I still bear it?" And should he be unable to
endure his joy and his sorrow, or to keep them egotistically to
himself, he will avail himself from that time forward of every
opportunity of making them known to all. "Where are they who are
suffering under the yoke of modern institutions?" he will inquire.
"Where are my natural allies, with whom I may struggle against the
ever waxing and ever more oppressive pretensions of modern erudition?
For at present, at least, we have but one enemy--at present!--and it
is that band of aesthetes, to whom the word Bayreuth means the
completest rout--they have taken no share in the arrangements, they
were rather indignant at the whole movement, or else availed
themselves effectively of the deaf-ear policy, which has now become
the trusty weapon of all very superior opposition. But this proves
that their animosity and knavery were ineffectual in destroying
Wagner's spirit or in hindering the accomplishment of his plans; it
proves even more, for it betrays their weakness and the fact that all
those who are at present in possession of power will not be able to
withstand many more attacks. The time is at hand for those who would
conquer and triumph; the vastest empires lie at their mercy, a note of
interrogation hangs to the name of all present possessors of power, so
far as possession may be said to exist in this respect. Thus
educational institutions are said to be decaying, and everywhere
individuals are to be found who have secretly deserted them. If only
it were possible to invite those to open rebellion and public
utterances, who even now are thoroughly dissatisfied with the state of
affairs in this quarter! If only it were possible to deprive them of
their faint heart and lukewarmness! I am convinced that the whole
spirit of modern culture would receive its deadliest blow if the tacit
support which these natures give it could in any way be cancelled.
Among scholars, only those would remain loyal to the old order of
things who had been infected with the political mania or who were
literary hacks in any form whatever. The repulsive organisation which
derives its strength from the violence and injustice upon which it
relies--that is to say, from the State and Society--and which sees its
advantage in making the latter ever more evil and unscrupulous,--this
structure which without such support would be something feeble and
effete, only needs to be despised in order to perish. He who is
struggling to spread justice and love among mankind must regard this
organisation as the least significant of the obstacles in his way; for
he will only encounter his real opponents once he has successfully
stormed and conquered modern culture, which is nothing more than their

For us, Bayreuth is the consecration of the dawn of the combat. No
greater injustice could be done to us than to suppose that we are
concerned with art alone, as though it were merely a means of healing
or stupefying us, which we make use of in order to rid our
consciousness of all the misery that still remains in our midst. In
the image of this tragic art work at Bayreuth, we see, rather, the
struggle of individuals against everything which seems to oppose them
with invincible necessity, with power, law, tradition, conduct, and
the whole order of things established. Individuals cannot choose a
better life than that of holding themselves ready to sacrifice
themselves and to die in their fight for love and justice. The gaze
which the mysterious eye of tragedy vouchsafes us neither lulls nor
paralyses. Nevertheless, it demands silence of us as long as it keeps
us in view; for art does not serve the purposes of war, but is merely
with us to improve our hours of respite, before and during the course
of the contest,--to improve those few moments when, looking back, yet
dreaming of the future, we seem to understand the symbolical, and are
carried away into a refreshing reverie when fatigue overtakes us. Day
and battle dawn together, the sacred shadows vanish, and Art is once
more far away from us; but the comfort she dispenses is with men from
the earliest hour of day, and never leaves them. Wherever he turns,
the individual realises only too clearly his own shortcomings, his
insufficiency and his incompetence; what courage would he have left
were he not previously rendered impersonal by this consecration! The
greatest of all torments harassing him, the conflicting beliefs and
opinions among men, the unreliability of these beliefs and opinions,
and the unequal character of men's abilities--all these things make
him hanker after art. We cannot be happy so long as everything about
us suffers and causes suffering; we cannot be moral so long as the
course of human events is determined by violence, treachery, and
injustice; we cannot even be wise, so long as the whole of mankind
does not compete for wisdom, and does not lead the individual to the
most sober and reasonable form of life and knowledge. How, then, would
it be possible to endure this feeling of threefold insufficiency if
one were not able to recognise something sublime and valuable in one's
struggles, strivings, and defeats, if one did not learn from tragedy
how to delight in the rhythm of the great passions, and in their
victim? Art is certainly no teacher or educator of practical conduct:
the artist is never in this sense an instructor or adviser; the things
after which a tragic hero strives are not necessarily worth striving
after. As in a dream so in art, the valuation of things only holds
good while we are under its spell. What we, for the time being, regard
as so worthy of effort, and what makes us sympathise with the tragic
hero when he prefers death to renouncing the object of his desire,
this can seldom retain the same value and energy when transferred to
everyday life: that is why art is the business of the man who is
recreating himself. The strife it reveals to us is a simplification of
life's struggle; its problems are abbreviations of the infinitely
complicated phenomena of man's actions and volitions. But from this
very fact--that it is the reflection, so to speak, of a simpler world,
a more rapid solution of the riddle of life--art derives its greatness
and indispensability. No one who suffers from life can do without this
reflection, just as no one can exist without sleep. The more difficult
the science of natural laws becomes, the more fervently we yearn for
the image of this simplification, if only for an instant; and the
greater becomes the tension between each man's general knowledge of
things and his moral and spiritual faculties. Art is with us to
prevent the bow from snapping.

The individual must be consecrated to something impersonal--that is
the aim of tragedy: he must forget the terrible anxiety which death
and time tend to create in him; for at any moment of his life, at any
fraction of time in the whole of his span of years, something sacred
may cross his path which will amply compensate him for all his
struggles and privations. This means having a sense for the tragic.
And if all mankind must perish some day--and who could question this!
--it has been given its highest aim for the future, namely, to
increase and to live in such unity that it may confront its final
extermination as a whole, with one spirit-with a common sense of the
tragic: in this one aim all the ennobling influences of man lie
locked; its complete repudiation by humanity would be the saddest blow
which the soul of the philanthropist could receive. That is how I feel
in the matter! There is but one hope and guarantee for the future of
man, and that is that his sense for the tragic may not die out. If he
ever completely lost it, an agonised cry, the like of which has never
been heard, would have to be raised all over the world; for there is
no more blessed joy than that which consists in knowing what we
know--how tragic thought was born again on earth. For this joy is
thoroughly impersonal and general: it is the wild rejoicing of
humanity, anent the hidden relationship and progress of all that is


Wagner concentrated upon life, past and present, the light of an
intelligence strong enough to embrace the most distant regions in its
rays. That is why he is a simplifier of the universe; for the
simplification of the universe is only possible to him whose eye has
been able to master the immensity and wildness of an apparent chaos,
and to relate and unite those things which before had lain hopelessly
asunder. Wagner did this by discovering a connection between two
objects which seemed to exist apart from each other as though in
separate spheres--that between music and life, and similarly between
music and the drama. Not that he invented or was the first to create
this relationship, for they must always have existed and have been
noticeable to all; but, as is usually the case with a great problem,
it is like a precious stone which thousands stumble over before one
finally picks it up. Wagner asked himself the meaning of the fact that
an art such as music should have become so very important a feature of
the lives of modern men. It is not necessary to think meanly of life
in order to suspect a riddle behind this question. On the contrary,
when all the great forces of existence are duly considered, and
struggling life is regarded as striving mightily after conscious
freedom and independence of thought, only then does music seem to be a
riddle in this world. Should one not answer: Music could not have been
born in our time? What then does its presence amongst us signify? An
accident? A single great artist might certainly be an accident, but
the appearance of a whole group of them, such as the history of modern
music has to show, a group only once before equalled on earth, that is
to say in the time of the Greeks,--a circumstance of this sort leads
one to think that perhaps necessity rather than accident is at the
root of the whole phenomenon. The meaning of this necessity is the
riddle which Wagner answers.

He was the first to recognise an evil which is as widespread as
civilisation itself among men; language is everywhere diseased, and
the burden of this terrible disease weighs heavily upon the whole of
man's development. Inasmuch as language has retreated ever more and
more from its true province--the expression of strong feelings, which
it was once able to convey in all their simplicity--and has always had
to strain after the practically impossible achievement of
communicating the reverse of feeling, that is to say thought, its
strength has become so exhausted by this excessive extension of its
duties during the comparatively short period of modern civilisation,
that it is no longer able to perform even that function which alone
justifies its existence, to wit, the assisting of those who suffer, in
communicating with each other concerning the sorrows of existence. Man
can no longer make his misery known unto others by means of language;
hence he cannot really express himself any longer. And under these
conditions, which are only vaguely felt at present, language has
gradually become a force in itself which with spectral arms coerces
and drives humanity where it least wants to go. As soon as they would
fain understand one another and unite for a common cause, the
craziness of general concepts, and even of the ring of modern words,
lays hold of them. The result of this inability to communicate with
one another is that every product of their co-operative action bears
the stamp of discord, not only because it fails to meet their real
needs, but because of the very emptiness of those all-powerful words
and notions already mentioned. To the misery already at hand, man thus
adds the curse of convention--that is to say, the agreement between
words and actions without an agreement between the feelings. Just as,
during the decline of every art, a point is reached when the morbid
accumulation of its means and forms attains to such tyrannical
proportions that it oppresses the tender souls of artists and converts
these into slaves, so now, in the period of the decline of language,
men have become the slaves of words. Under this yoke no one is able to
show himself as he is, or to express himself artlessly, while only few
are able to preserve their individuality in their fight against a
culture which thinks to manifest its success, not by the fact that it
approaches definite sensations and desires with the view of educating
them, but by the fact that it involves the individual in the snare of
"definite notions," and teaches him to think correctly: as if there
were any value in making a correctly thinking and reasoning being out
of man, before one has succeeded in making him a creature that feels
correctly. If now the strains of our German masters' music burst upon
a mass of mankind sick to this extent, what is really the meaning of
these strains? Only correct feeling, the enemy of all convention, of
all artificial estrangement and misunderstandings between man and man:
this music signifies a return to nature, and at the same time a
purification and remodelling of it; for the need of such a return took
shape in the souls of the most loving of men, and, through their art,
nature transformed into love makes its voice heard.

Let us regard this as one of Wagner's answers to the question, What
does music mean in our time? for he has a second. The relation between
music and life is not merely that existing between one kind of
language and another; it is, besides, the relation between the perfect
world of sound and that of sight. Regarded merely as a spectacle, and
compared with other and earlier manifestations of human life, the
existence of modern man is characterised by indescribable indigence
and exhaustion, despite the unspeakable garishness at which only the
superficial observer rejoices. If one examines a little more closely
the impression which this vehement and kaleidoscopic play of colours
makes upon one, does not the whole seem to blaze with the shimmer and
sparkle of innumerable little stones borrowed from former
civilisations? Is not everything one sees merely a complex of
inharmonious bombast, aped gesticulations, arrogant superficiality?--a
ragged suit of motley for the naked and the shivering? A seeming dance
of joy enjoined upon a sufferer? Airs of overbearing pride assumed by
one who is sick to the backbone? And the whole moving with such
rapidity and confusion that it is disguised and masked-- sordid
impotence, devouring dissension, assiduous ennui, dishonest distress!
The appearance of present-day humanity is all appearance, and nothing
else: in what he now represents man himself has become obscured and
concealed; and the vestiges of the creative faculty in art, which
still cling to such countries as France and Italy, are all
concentrated upon this one task of concealing. Wherever form is still
in demand in society, conversation, literary style, or the relations
between governments, men have unconsciously grown to believe that it
is adequately met by a kind of agreeable dissimulation, quite the
reverse of genuine form conceived as a necessary relation between the
proportions of a figure, having no concern whatever with the notions
"agreeable" or "disagreeable," simply because it is necessary and not
optional. But even where form is not openly exacted by civilised
people, there is no greater evidence of this requisite relation of
proportions; a striving after the agreeable dissimulation, already
referred to, is on the contrary noticeable, though it is never so
successful even if it be more eager than in the first instance. How
far this dissimulation is agreeable at times, and why it must please
everybody to see how modern men at least endeavour to dissemble, every
one is in a position to judge, according to, the extent to which he
himself may happen to be modern. "Only galley slaves know each other,"
says Tasso, "and if we mistake others, it is only out of courtesy, and
with the hope that they, in their turn, should mistake us."

Now, in this world of forms and intentional misunderstandings, what
purpose is served by the appearance of souls overflowing with music?
They pursue the course of grand and unrestrained rhythm with noble
candour--with a passion more than personal; they glow with the mighty
and peaceful fire of music, which wells up to the light of day from
their unexhausted depths--and all this to what purpose?

By means of these souls music gives expression to the longing that it
feels for the company of its natural ally, gymnastics--that is to say,
its necessary form in the order of visible phenomena. In its search
and craving for this ally, it becomes the arbiter of the whole visible
world and the world of mere lying appearance of the present day. This
is Wagner's second answer to the question, What is the meaning of
music in our times? "Help me," he cries to all who have ears to hear,
"help me to discover that culture of which my music, as the
rediscovered language of correct feeling, seems to foretell the
existence. Bear in mind that the soul of music now wishes to acquire a
body, that, by means of you all, it would find its way to visibleness
in movements, deeds, institutions, and customs!" There are some men
who understand this summons, and their number will increase; they have
also understood, for the first time, what it means to found the State
upon music. It is something that the ancient Hellenes not only
understood but actually insisted upon; and these enlightened creatures
would just as soon have sentenced the modern State to death as modern
men now condemn the Church. The road to such a new though not
unprecedented goal would lead to this: that we should be compelled to
acknowledge where the worst faults of our educational system lie, and
why it has failed hitherto to elevate us out of barbarity: in reality,
it lacks the stirring and creative soul of music; its requirements and
arrangements are moreover the product of a period in which the music,
to which We seem to attach so much importance, had not yet been born.
Our education is the most antiquated factor of our present conditions,
and it is so more precisely in regard to the one new educational force
by which it makes men of to-day in advance of those of bygone
centuries, or by which it would make them in advance of their remote
ancestors, provided only they did not persist so rashly in hurrying
forward in meek response to the scourge of the moment. Through not
having allowed the soul of music to lodge within them, they have no
notion of gymnastics in the Greek and Wagnerian sense; and that is why
their creative artists are condemned to despair, as long as they wish
to dispense with music as a guide in a new world of visible phenomena.
Talent may develop as much as may be desired: it either comes too late
or too soon, and at all events out of season; for it is in the main
superfluous and abortive, just as even the most perfect and the
highest products of earlier times which serve modern artists as models
are superfluous and abortive, and add not a stone to the edifice
already begun. If their innermost consciousness can perceive no new
forms, but only the old ones belonging to the past, they may certainly
achieve something for history, but not for life; for they are already
dead before having expired. He, however, who feels genuine and
fruitful life in him, which at present can only be described by the
one term "Music," could he allow himself to be deceived for one moment
into nursing solid hopes by this something which exhausts all its
energy in producing figures, forms, and styles? He stands above all
such vanities, and as little expects to meet with artistic wonders
outside his ideal world of sound as with great writers bred on our
effete and discoloured language. Rather than lend an ear to illusive
consolations, he prefers to turn his unsatisfied gaze stoically upon
our modern world, and if his heart be not warm enough to feel pity,
let it at least feel bitterness and hate! It were better for him to
show anger and scorn than to take cover in spurious contentment or
steadily to drug himself, as our "friends of art" are wont to do. But
if he can do more than condemn and despise, if he is capable of
loving, sympathising, and assisting in the general work of
construction, he must still condemn, notwithstanding, in order to
prepare the road for his willing soul. In order that music may one day
exhort many men to greater piety and make them privy to her highest
aims, an end must first be made to the whole of the pleasure-seeking
relations which men now enjoy with such a sacred art. Behind all our
artistic pastimes-- theatres, museums, concerts, and the like--that
aforementioned "friend of art" is to be found, and he it is who must
be suppressed: the favour he now finds at the hands of the State must
be changed into oppression; public opinion, which lays such particular
stress upon the training of this love of art, must be routed by better
judgment. Meanwhile we must reckon the declared enemy of art as our
best and most useful ally; for the object of his animosity is
precisely art as understood by the "friend of art,"--he knows of no
other kind! Let him be allowed to call our "friend of art" to account
for the nonsensical waste of money occasioned by the building of his
theatres and public monuments, the engagement of his celebrated
singers and actors, and the support of his utterly useless schools of
art and picture-galleries--to say nothing of all the energy, time, and
money which every family squanders in pretended "artistic interests."
Neither hunger nor satiety is to be noticed here, but a dead-and-alive
game is played--with the semblance of each, a game invented by the
idle desire to produce an effect and to deceive others. Or, worse
still, art is taken more or less seriously, and then it is itself
expected to provoke a kind of hunger and craving, and to fulfil its
mission in this artificially induced excitement. It is as if people
were afraid of sinking beneath the weight of their loathing and
dulness, and invoked every conceivable evil spirit to scare them and
drive them about like wild cattle. Men hanker after pain, anger, hate,
the flush of passion, sudden flight, and breathless suspense, and they
appeal to the artist as the conjurer of this demoniacal host. In the
spiritual economy of our cultured classes art has become a spurious or
ignominious and undignified need--a nonentity or a something evil. The
superior and more uncommon artist must be in the throes of a
bewildering nightmare in order to be blind to all this, and like a
ghost, diffidently and in a quavering voice, he goes on repeating
beautiful words which he declares descend to him from higher spheres,
but whose sound he can hear only very indistinctly. The artist who
happens to be moulded according to the modern pattern, however,
regards the dreamy gropings and hesitating speech of his nobler
colleague with contempt, and leads forth the whole brawling mob of
assembled passions on a leash in order to let them loose upon modern
men as he may think fit. For these modern creatures wish rather to be
hunted down, wounded, and torn to shreds, than to live alone with
themselves in solitary calm. Alone with oneself!--this thought
terrifies the modern soul; it is his one anxiety, his one ghastly

When I watch the throngs that move and linger about the streets of a
very populous town, and notice no other expression in their faces than
one of hunted stupor, I can never help commenting to myself upon the
misery of their condition. For them all, art exists only that they may
be still more wretched, torpid, insensible, or even more flurried and
covetous. For incorrect feeling governs and drills them unremittingly,
and does not even give them time to become aware of their misery.
Should they wish to speak, convention whispers their cue to them, and
this makes them forget what they originally intended to say; should
they desire to understand one another, their comprehension is maimed
as though by a spell: they declare that to be their joy which in
reality is but their doom, and they proceed to collaborate in wilfully
bringing about their own damnation. Thus they have become transformed
into perfectly and absolutely different creatures, and reduced to the
state of abject slaves of incorrect feeling.


I shall only give two instances showing how utterly the sentiment of
our time has been perverted, and how completely unconscious the
present age is of this perversion. Formerly financiers were looked
down upon with honest scorn, even though they were recognised as
needful; for it was generally admitted that every society must have
its viscera. Now, however, they are the ruling power in the soul of
modern humanity, for they constitute the most covetous portion
thereof. In former times people were warned especially against taking
the day or the moment too seriously: the nil admirari was recommended
and the care of things eternal. Now there is but one kind of
seriousness left in the modern mind, and it is limited to the news
brought by the newspaper and the telegraph. Improve each shining hour,
turn it to some account and judge it as quickly as possible!--one
would think modern men had but one virtue left--presence of mind.
Unfortunately, it much more closely resembles the omnipresence of
disgusting and insatiable cupidity, and spying inquisitiveness become
universal. For the question is whether mind is present at all
to-day;--but we shall leave this problem for future judges to solve;
they, at least, are bound to pass modern men through a sieve. But that
this age is vulgar, even we can see now, and it is so because it
reveres precisely what nobler ages contemned. If, therefore, it loots
all the treasures of bygone wit and wisdom, and struts about in this
richest of rich garments, it only proves its sinister consciousness of
its own vulgarity in so doing; for it does not don this garb for
warmth, but merely in order to mystify its surroundings. The desire to
dissemble and to conceal himself seems stronger than the need of
protection from the cold in modern man. Thus scholars and philosophers
of the age do not have recourse to Indian and Greek wisdom in order to
become wise and peaceful: the only purpose of their work seems to be
to earn them a fictitious reputation for learning in their own time.
The naturalists endeavour to classify the animal outbreaks of
violence, ruse and revenge, in the present relations between nations
and individual men, as immutable laws of nature. Historians are
anxiously engaged in proving that every age has its own particular
right and special conditions,-- with the view of preparing the
groundwork of an apology for the day that is to come, when our
generation will be called to judgment. The science of government, of
race, of commerce, and of jurisprudence, all have that preparatorily
apologetic character now; yea, it even seems as though the small
amount of intellect which still remains active to-day, and is not used
up by the great mechanism of gain and power, has as its sole task the
defending--and excusing of the present

Against what accusers? one asks, surprised.

Against its own bad conscience.

And at this point we plainly discern the task assigned to modern
art--that of stupefying or intoxicating, of lulling to sleep or
bewildering. By hook or by crook to make conscience unconscious! To
assist the modern soul over the sensation of guilt, not to lead it
back to innocence! And this for the space of moments only! To defend
men against themselves, that their inmost heart may be silenced, that
they may turn a deaf ear to its voice! The souls of those few who
really feel the utter ignominy of this mission and its terrible
humiliation of art, must be filled to the brim with sorrow and pity,
but also with a new and overpowering yearning. He who would fain
emancipate art, and reinstall its sanctity, now desecrated, must first
have freed himself from all contact with modern souls; only as an
innocent being himself can he hope to discover the innocence of art,
for he must be ready to perform the stupendous tasks of
self-purification and self-consecration. If he succeeded, if he were
ever able to address men from out his enfranchised soul and by means
of his emancipated art, he would then find himself exposed to the
greatest of dangers and involved in the most appalling of struggles.
Man would prefer to tear him and his art to pieces, rather than
acknowledge that he must die of shame in presence of them. It is just
possible that the emancipation of art is the only ray of hope
illuminating the future, an event intended only for a few isolated
souls, while the many remain satisfied to gaze into the flickering and
smoking flame of their art and can endure to do so. For they do not
want to be enlightened, but dazzled. They rather hate light --more
particularly when it is thrown on themselves.

That is why they evade the new messenger of light; but he follows
them--the love which gave him birth compels him to follow them and to
reduce them to submission. "Ye must go through my mysteries," he cries
to them; "ye need to be purified and shaken by them. Dare to submit to
this for your own salvation, and abandon the gloomily lighted corner
of life and nature which alone seems familiar to you. I lead you into
a kingdom which is also real, and when I lead you out of my cell into
your daylight, ye will be able to judge which life is more real,
which, in fact, is day and which night. Nature is much richer, more
powerful, more blessed and more terrible below the surface; ye cannot
divine this from the way in which ye live. O that ye yourselves could
learn to become natural again, and then suffer yourselves to be
transformed through nature, and into her, by the charm of my ardour
and love!"

It is the voice of Wagner's art which thus appeals to men. And that
we, the children of a wretched age, should be the first to hear it,
shows how deserving of pity this age must be: it shows, moreover, that
real music is of a piece with fate and primitive law; for it is quite
impossible to attribute its presence amongst us precisely at the
present time to empty and meaningless chance. Had Wagner been an
accident, he would certainly have been crushed by the superior
strength of the other elements in the midst of which he was placed,
out in the coming of Wagner there seems to have been a necessity which
both justifies it and makes it glorious. Observed from its earliest
beginnings, the development of his art constitutes a most magnificent
spectacle, and--even though it was attended with great
suffering--reason, law, and intention mark its course throughout.
Under the charm of such a spectacle the observer will be led to take
pleasure even in this painful development itself, and will regard it
as fortunate. He will see how everything necessarily contributes to
the welfare and benefit of talent and a nature foreordained, however
severe the trials may be through which it may have to pass. He will
realise how every danger gives it more heart, and every triumph more
prudence; how it partakes of poison and sorrow and thrives upon them.
The mockery and perversity of the surrounding world only goad and spur
it on the more. Should it happen to go astray, it but returns from its
wanderings and exile loaded with the most precious spoil; should it
chance to slumber, "it does but recoup its strength." It tempers the
body itself and makes it tougher; it does not consume life, however
long it lives; it rules over man like a pinioned passion, and allows
him to fly just in the nick of time, when his foot has grown weary in
the sand or has been lacerated by the stones on his way. It can do
nought else but impart; every one must share in its work, and it is no
stinted giver. When it is repulsed it is but more prodigal in its
gifts; ill used by those it favours, it does but reward them with the
richest treasures it possesses,--and, according to the oldest and most
recent experience, its favoured ones have never been quite worthy of
its gifts. That is why the nature foreordained, through which music
expresses itself to this world of appearance, is one of the most
mysterious things under the sun--an abyss in which strength and
goodness lie united, a bridge between self and non-self. Who would
undertake to name the object of its existence with any
certainty?--even supposing the sort of purpose which it would be
likely to have could be divined at all. But a most blessed foreboding
leads one to ask whether it is possible for the grandest things to
exist for the purpose of the meanest, the greatest talent for the
benefit of the smallest, the loftiest virtue and holiness for the sake
of the defective and faulty? Should real music make itself heard,
because mankind of all creatures least deserves to hear it, though it
perhaps need it most? If one ponder over the transcendental and
wonderful character of this possibility, and turn from these
considerations to look back on life, a light will then be seen to
ascend, however dark and misty it may have seemed a moment before.


It is quite impossible otherwise: the observer who is confronted with
a nature such as Wagner's must, willy-nilly, turn his eyes from time
to time upon himself, upon his insignificance and frailty, and ask
himself, What concern is this of thine? Why, pray, art thou there at
all? Maybe he will find no answer to these questions, in which case he
will remain estranged and confounded, face to face with his own
personality. Let it then suffice him that he has experienced this
feeling; let the fact that he has felt strange and embarrassed in the
presence of his own soul be the answer to his question For it is
precisely by virtue of this feeling that he shows the most powerful
manifestation of life in Wagner--the very kernel of his strength--that
demoniacal magnetism and gift of imparting oneself to others, which is
peculiar to his nature, and by which it not only conveys itself to
other beings, but also absorbs other beings into itself; thus
attaining to its greatness by giving and by taking. As the observer is
apparently subject to Wagner's exuberant and prodigally generous
nature, he partakes of its strength, and thereby becomes formidable
through him and to him. And every one who critically examines himself
knows that a certain mysterious antagonism is necessary to the process
of mutual study. Should his art lead us to experience all that falls
to the lot of a soul engaged upon a journey, i.e. feeling sympathy
with others and sharing their fate, and seeing the world through
hundreds of different eyes, we are then able, from such a distance,
and under such strange influences, to contemplate him, once we have
lived his life. We then feel with the utmost certainty that in Wagner
the whole visible world desires to be spiritualised, absorbed, and
lost in the world of sounds. In Wagner, too, the world of sounds seeks
to manifest itself as a phenomenon for the sight; it seeks, as it
were, to incarnate itself. His art always leads him into two distinct
directions, from the world of the play of sound to the mysterious and
yet related world of visible things, and vice versa. He is continually
forced--and the observer with him--to re-translate the visible into
spiritual and primeval life, and likewise to perceive the most hidden
interstices of the soul as something concrete and to lend it a visible
body. This constitutes the nature of the dithyrambic dramatist, if the
meaning given to the term includes also the actor, the poet, and the
musician; a conception necessarily borrowed from schylus and the
contemporary Greek artists--the only perfect examples of the
dithyrambic dramatist before Wagner. If attempts have been made to
trace the most wonderful developments to inner obstacles or
deficiencies, if, for instance, in Goethe's case, poetry was merely
the refuge of a foiled talent for painting; if one may speak of
Schiller's dramas as of vulgar eloquence directed into uncommon
channels; if Wagner himself tries to account for the development of
music among the Germans by showing that, inasmuch as they are devoid
of the entrancing stimulus of a natural gift for singing, they were
compelled to take up instrumental music with the same profound
seriousness as that with which their reformers took up
Christianity,--if, on the same principle, it were sought to associate
Wagner's development with an inner barrier of the same kind, it would
then be necessary to recognise in him a primitive dramatic talent,
which had to renounce all possibility of satisfying its needs by the
quickest and most methods, and which found its salvation and its means
of expression in drawing all arts to it for one great dramatic
display. But then one would also have to assume that the most powerful
musician, owing to his despair at having to appeal to people who were
either only semi-musical or not musical at all, violently opened a
road for himself to the other arts, in order to acquire that capacity
for diversely communicating himself to others, by which he compelled
them to understand him, by which he compelled the masses to understand
him. However the development of the born dramatist may be pictured, in
his ultimate expression he is a being free from all inner barriers and
voids: the real, emancipated artist cannot help himself, he must think
in the spirit of all the arts at once, as the mediator and intercessor
between apparently separated spheres, the one who reinstalls the unity
and wholeness of the artistic faculty, which cannot be divined or
reasoned out, but can only be revealed by deeds themselves. But he in
whose presence this deed is performed will be overcome by its gruesome
and seductive charm: in a flash he will be confronted with a power
which cancels both resistance and reason, and makes every detail of
life appear irrational and incomprehensible. Carried away from
himself, he seems to be suspended in a mysterious fiery element; he
ceases to understand himself, the standard of everything has fallen
from his hands; everything stereotyped and fixed begins to totter;
every object seems to acquire a strange colour and to tell us its tale
by means of new symbols;--one would need to be a Plato in order to
discover, amid this confusion of delight and fear, how he accomplishes
the feat, and to say to the dramatist: "Should a man come into our
midst who possessed sufficient knowledge to simulate or imitate
anything, we would honour him as something wonderful and holy; we
would even anoint him and adorn his brow with a sacred diadem; but we
would urge him to leave our circle for another, notwithstanding." It
may be that a member of the Platonic community would have been able to
chasten himself to such conduct: we, however, who live in a very
different community, long for, and earnestly desire, the charmer to
come to us, although we may fear him already,--and we only desire his
presence in order that our society and the mischievous reason and
might of which it is the incarnation may be confuted. A state of human
civilisation, of human society, morality, order, and general
organisation which would be able to dispense with the services of an
imitative artist or mimic, is not perhaps so utterly inconceivable;
but this Perhaps is probably the most daring that has ever been
posited, and is equivalent to the gravest expression of doubt. The
only man who ought to be at liberty to speak of such a possibility is
he who could beget, and have the presentiment of, the highest phase of
all that is to come, and who then, like Faust, would either be obliged
to turn blind, or be permitted to become so. For we have no right to
this blindness; whereas Plato, after he had cast that one glance into
the ideal Hellenic, had the right to be blind to all Hellenism. For
this reason, we others are in much greater need of art; because it was
in the presence of the realistic that our eyes began to see, and we
require the complete dramatist in order that he may relieve us, if
only for an hour or so, of the insufferable tension arising from our
knowledge of the chasm which lies between our capabilities and the
duties we have to perform. With him we ascend to the highest pinnacle
of feeling, and only then do we fancy we have returned to nature's
unbounded freedom, to the actual realm of liberty. From this point of
vantage we can see ourselves and our fellows emerge as something
sublime from an immense mirage, and we see the deep meaning in our
struggles, in our victories and defeats; we begin to find pleasure in
the rhythm of passion and in its victim in the hero's every footfall
we distinguish the hollow echo of death, and in its proximity we
realise the greatest charm of life: thus transformed into tragic men,
we return again to life with comfort in our souls. We are conscious of
a new feeling of security, as if we had found a road leading out of
the greatest dangers, excesses, and ecstasies, back to the limited and
the familiar: there where our relations with our fellows seem to
partake of a superior benevolence, and are at all events more noble
than they were. For here, everything seemingly serious and needful,
which appears to lead to a definite goal, resembles only detached
fragments when compared with the path we ourselves have trodden, even
in our dreams,-- detached fragments of that complete and grand
experience whereof we cannot even think without a thrill. Yes, we
shall even fall into danger and be tempted to take life too easily,
simply because in art we were in such deadly earnest concerning it, as
Wagner says somewhere anent certain incidents in his own life. For if
we who are but the spectators and not the creators of this display of
dithyrambic dramatic art, can almost imagine a dream to be more real
than the actual experiences of our wakeful hours, how much more keenly
must the creator realise this contrast! There he stands amid all the
clamorous appeals and importunities of the day, and of the necessities
of life; in the midst of Society and State--and as what does he stand
there? Maybe he is the only wakeful one, the only being really and
truly conscious, among a host of confused and tormented sleepers,
among a multitude of deluded and suffering people. He may even feel
like a victim of chronic insomnia, and fancy himself obliged to bring
his clear, sleepless, and conscious life into touch with somnambulists
and ghostly well-intentioned creatures. Thus everything that others
regard as commonplace strikes him as weird, and he is tempted to meet
the whole phenomenon with haughty mockery. But how peculiarly this
feeling is crossed, when another force happens to join his quivering
pride, the craving of the heights for the depths, the affectionate
yearning for earth, for happiness and for fellowship--then, when he
thinks of all he misses as a hermit-creator, he feels as though he
ought to descend to the earth like a god, and bear all that is weak,
human, and lost, "in fiery arms up to heaven," so as to obtain love
and no longer worship only, and to be able to lose himself completely
in his love. But it is just this contradiction which is the miraculous
fact in the soul of the dithyrambic dramatist, and if his nature can
be understood at all, surely it must be here. For his creative moments
in art occur when the antagonism between his feelings is at its height
and when his proud astonishment and wonder at the world combine with
the ardent desire to approach that same world as a lover. The glances
he then bends towards the earth are always rays of sunlight which
"draw up water," form mist, and gather storm-clouds. Clear-sighted and
prudent, loving and unselfish at the same time, his glance is
projected downwards; and all things that are illumined by this double
ray of light, nature conjures to discharge their strength, to reveal
their most hidden secret, and this through bashfulness. It is more
than a mere figure of speech to say that he surprised Nature with that
glance, that he caught her naked; that is why she would conceal her
shame by seeming precisely the reverse. What has hitherto been
invisible, the inner life, seeks its salvation in the region of the
visible; what has hitherto been only visible, repairs to the dark
ocean of sound: thus Nature, in trying to conceal herself, unveils the
character of her contradictions. In a dance, wild, rhythmic and
gliding, and with ecstatic movements, the born dramatist makes known
something of what is going on within him, of what is taking place in
nature: the dithyrambic quality of his movements speaks just as
eloquently of quivering comprehension and of powerful penetration as
of the approach of love and self-renunciation. Intoxicated speech
follows the course of this rhythm; melody resounds coupled with
speech, and in its turn melody projects its sparks into the realm of
images and ideas. A dream-apparition, like and unlike the image of
Nature and her wooer, hovers forward; it condenses into more human
shapes; it spreads out in response to its heroically triumphant will,
and to a most delicious collapse and cessation of will:--thus tragedy
is born; thus life is presented with its grandest knowledge-- that of
tragic thought; thus, at last, the greatest charmer and benefactor
among mortals--the dithyrambic dramatist--is evolved.


Wagner's actual life--that is to say, the gradual evolution of the
dithyrambic dramatist in him-- was at the same time an uninterrupted
struggle with himself, a struggle which never ceased until his
evolution was complete. His fight with the opposing world was grim and
ghastly, only because it was this same world--this alluring
enemy--which he heard speaking out of his own heart, and because he
nourished a violent demon in his breast--the demon of resistance. When
the ruling idea of his life gained ascendancy over his mind--the idea
that drama is, of all arts, the one that can exercise the greatest
amount of influence over the world--it aroused the most active
emotions in his whole being. It gave him no very clear or luminous
decision, at first, as to what was to be done and desired in the
future; for the idea then appeared merely as a form of
temptation--that is to say, as the expression of his gloomy, selfish,
and insatiable will, eager for power and glory. Influence--the
greatest amount of influence--how? over whom?--these were henceforward
the questions and problems which did not cease to engage his head and
his heart. He wished to conquer and triumph as no other artist had
ever done before, and, if possible, to reach that height of tyrannical
omnipotence at one stroke for which all his instincts secretly craved.
With a jealous and cautious eye, he took stock of everything
successful, and examined with special care all that upon which this
influence might be brought to bear. With the magic sight of the
dramatist, which scans souls as easily as the most familiar book, he
scrutinised the nature of the spectator and the listener, and although
he was often perturbed by the discoveries he made, he very quickly
found means wherewith he could enthral them. These means were ever
within his reach: everything that moved him deeply he desired and
could also produce; at every stage in his career he understood just as
much of his predecessors as he himself was able to create, and he
never doubted that he would be able to do what they had done. In this
respect his nature is perhaps more presumptuous even than Goethe's,
despite the fact that the latter said of himself: "I always thought I
had mastered everything; and even had I been crowned king, I should
have regarded the honour as thoroughly deserved." Wagner's ability.
his taste and his aspirations--all of which have ever been as closely
related as key to lock--grew and attained to freedom together; but
there was a time when it was not so. What did he care about the feeble
but noble and egotistically lonely feeling which that friend of art
fosters, who, blessed with a literary and aesthetic education, takes
his stand far from the common mob! But those violent spiritual
tempests which are created by the crowd when under the influence of
certain climactic passages of dramatic song, that sudden bewildering
ecstasy of the emotions, thoroughly honest and selfless--they were but
echoes of his own experiences and sensations, and filled him with
glowing hope for the greatest possible power and effect. Thus he
recognised grand opera as the means whereby he might express his
ruling thoughts; towards it his passions impelled him; his eyes turned
in the direction of its home. The larger portion of his life, his most
daring wanderings, and his plans, studies, sojourns, and acquaintances
are only to be explained by an appeal to these passions and the
opposition of the outside world, which the poor, restless,
passionately ingenuous German artist had to face. Another artist than
he knew better how to become master of this calling, and now that it
has gradually become known by means of what ingenious artifices of all
kinds Meyerbeer succeeded in preparing and achieving every one of his
great successes, and how scrupulously the sequence of "effects" was
taken into account in the opera itself, people will begin to
understand how bitterly Wagner was mortified when his eyes were opened
to the tricks of the metier which were indispensable to a great public
success. I doubt whether there has ever been another great artist in
history who began his career with such extraordinary illusions and who
so unsuspectingly and sincerely fell in with the most revolting form
of artistic trickery. And yet the way in which he proceeded partook of
greatness and was therefore extraordinarily fruitful. For when he
perceived his error, despair made him understand the meaning of modern
success, of the modern public, and the whole prevaricating spirit of
modern art. And while becoming the critic of "effect," indications of
his own purification began to quiver through him. It seems as if from
that time forward the spirit of music spoke to him with an
unprecedented spiritual charm. As though he had just risen from a long
illness and had for the first time gone into the open, he scarcely
trusted his hand and his eye, and seemed to grope along his way. Thus
it was an almost delightful surprise to him to find that he was still
a musician and an artist, and perhaps then only for the first time.

Every subsequent stage in Wagner's development may be distinguished
thus, that the two fundamental powers of his nature drew ever more
closely together: the aversion of the one to the other lessened, the
higher self no longer condescended to serve its more violent and baser
brother; it loved him and felt compelled to serve him. The tenderest
and purest thing is ultimately--that is to say, at the highest stage
of its evolution-- always associated with the mightiest; the storming
instincts pursue their course as before, but along different roads, in
the direction of the higher self; and this in its turn descends to
earth and finds its likeness in everything earthly. If it were
possible, on this principle, to speak of the final aims and
unravelments of that evolution, and to remain intelligible, it might
also be possible to discover the graphic terms with which to describe
the long interval preceding that last development; but I doubt whether
the first achievement is possible at all, and do not therefore attempt
the second. The limits of the interval separating the preceding and
the subsequent ages will be described historically in two sentences:
Wagner was the revolutionist of society; Wagner recognised the only
artistic element that ever existed hitherto--the poetry of the people.
The ruling idea which in a new form and mightier than it had ever
been, obsessed Wagner, after he had overcome his share of despair and
repentance, led him to both conclusions. Influence, the greatest
possible amount of influence to be exercised by means of the stage!
--but over whom? He shuddered when he thought of those whom he had,
until then, sought to influence. His experience led him to realise the
utterly ignoble position which art and the artist adorn; how a callous
and hard-hearted community that calls itself the good, but which is
really the evil, reckons art and the artist among its slavish retinue,
and keeps them both in order to minister to its need of deception.
Modern art is a luxury; he saw this, and understood that it must stand
or fall with the luxurious society of which it forms but a part. This
society had but one idea, to use its power as hard-heartedly and as
craftily as possible in order to render the impotent--the people--ever
more and more serviceable, base and unpopular, and to rear the modern
workman out of them. It also robbed them of the greatest and purest
things which their deepest needs led them to create, and through which
they meekly expressed the genuine and unique art within their soul:
their myths, songs, dances, and their discoveries in the department of
language, in order to distil therefrom a voluptuous antidote against
the fatigue and boredom of its existence-- modern art. How this
society came into being, how it learned to draw new strength for
itself from the seemingly antagonistic spheres of power, and how, for
instance, decaying Christianity allowed itself to be used, under the
cover of half measures and subterfuges, as a shield against the masses
and as a support of this society and its possessions, and finally how
science and men of learning pliantly consented to become its
drudges--all this Wagner traced through the ages, only to be convulsed
with loathing at the end of his researches. Through his compassion for
the people, he became a revolutionist. From that time forward he loved
them and longed for them, as he longed for his art; for, alas! in them
alone, in this fast disappearing, scarcely recognisable body,
artificially held aloof, he now saw the only spectators and listeners
worthy and fit for the power of his masterpieces, as he pictured them.
Thus his thoughts concentrated themselves upon the question, How do
the people come into being? How are they resuscitated?

He always found but one answer: if a large number of people were
afflicted with the sorrow that afflicted him, that number would
constitute the people, he said to himself. And where the same sorrow
leads to the same impulses and desires, similar satisfaction would
necessarily be sought, and the same pleasure found in this
satisfaction. If he inquired into what it was that most consoled him
and revived his spirits in his sorrow, what it was that succeeded best
in counteracting his affliction, it was with joyful certainty that he
discovered this force only in music and myth, the latter of which he
had already recognised as the people's creation and their language of
distress. It seemed to him that the origin of music must be similar,
though perhaps more mysterious. In both of these elements he steeped
and healed his soul; they constituted his most urgent need:--in this
way he was able to ascertain how like his sorrow was to that of the
people, when they came into being, and how they must arise anew if
many Wagners are going to appear. What part did myth and music play in
modern society, wherever they had not been actually sacrificed to it?
They shared very much the same fate, a fact which only tends to prove
their close relationship: myth had been sadly debased and usurped by
idle tales and stories; completely divested of its earnest and sacred
virility, it was transformed into the plaything and pleasing bauble of
children and women of the afflicted people. Music had kept itself
alive among the poor, the simple, and the isolated; the German
musician had not succeeded in adapting himself to the luxurious
traffic of the arts; he himself had become a fairy tale full Of
monsters and mysteries, full of the most touching omens and
auguries--a helpless questioner, something bewitched and in need of
rescue. Here the artist distinctly heard the command that concerned
him alone--to recast myth and make it virile, to break the spell lying
over music and to make music speak: he felt his strength for drama
liberated at one stroke, and the foundation of his sway established
over the hitherto undiscovered province lying between myth and music.
His new masterpiece, which included all the most powerful, effective,
and entrancing forces that he knew, he now laid before men with this
great and painfully cutting question: "Where are ye all who suffer and
think as I do? Where is that number of souls that I wish to see become
a people, that ye may share the same joys and comforts with me? In
your joy ye will reveal your misery to me." These were his questions
in Tannhauser and Lohengrin, in these operas he looked about him for
his equals --the anchorite yearned for the number.

But what were his feelings withal? Nobody answered him. Nobody had
understood his question. Not that everybody remained silent: on the
contrary, answers were given to thousands of questions which he had
never put; people gossipped about the new masterpieces as though they
had only been composed for the express purpose of supplying subjects
for conversation. The whole mania of aesthetic scribbling and small
talk overtook the Germans like a pestilence, and ith that lack of
modesty which characterises both German scholars and German
journalists, people began measuring, and generally meddling with,
these masterpieces, as well as with the person of the artist. Wagner
tried to help the comprehension of his question by writing about it;
but this only led to fresh confusion and more uproar, --for a musician
who writes and thinks was, at that time, a thing unknown. The cry
arose: "He is a theorist who wishes to remould art with his
far-fetched notions--stone him!" Wagner was stunned: his question was
not understood, his need not felt; his masterpieces seemed a message
addressed only to the deaf and blind; his people-- an hallucination.
He staggered and vacillated. The feasibility of a complete upheaval of
all things then suggested itself to him, and he no longer shrank from
the thought: possibly, beyond this revolution and dissolution, there
might be a chance of a new hope; on the other hand, there might not.
But, in any case, would not complete annihilation be better than the
wretched existing state of affairs? Not very long afterwards, he was a
political exile in dire distress.

And then only, with this terrible change in his environment and in his
soul, there begins that period of the great man's life over which as a
golden reflection there is stretched the splendour of highest mastery.
Now at last the genius of dithyrambic drama doffs its last disguise.
He is isolated; the age seems empty to him; he ceases to hope; and his
all-embracing glance descend once more into the deep, and finds the
bottom, there he sees suffering in the nature of things, and
henceforward, having become more impersonal, he accepts his portion of
sorrow more calmly. The desire for great power which was but the
inheritance of earlier conditions is now directed wholly into the
channel of creative art; through his art he now speaks only to
himself, and no longer to a public or to a people, and strives to lend
this intimate conversation all the distinction and other qualities in
keeping with such a mighty dialogue. During the preceding period
things had been different with his art; then he had concerned himself,
too, albeit with refinement and subtlety, with immediate effects: that
artistic production was also meant as a question, and it ought to have
called forth an immediate reply. And how often did Wagner not try to
make his meaning clearer to those he questioned! In view of their
inexperience in having questions put to them, he tried to meet them
half way and to conform with older artistic notions and means of
expression. When he feared that arguments couched in his own terms
would only meet with failure, he had tried to persuade and to put his
question in a language half strange to himself though familiar to his
listeners. Now there was nothing to induce him to continue this
indulgence: all he desired now was to come to terms with himself, to
think of the nature of the world in dramatic actions, and to
philosophise in music; what desires he still possessed turned in the
direction of the latest philosophical views. He who is worthy of
knowing what took place in him at that time or what questions were
thrashed out in the darkest holy of holies in his soul--and not many
are worthy of knowing all this--must hear, observe, and experience
Tristan and Isolde, the real opus metaphysicum of all art, a work upon
which rests the broken look of a dying man with his insatiable and
sweet craving for the secrets of night and death, far away from life
which throws a horribly spectral morning light, sharply, upon all that
is evil, delusive, and sundering: moreover, a drama austere in the
severity of its form, overpowering in its simple grandeur, and in
harmony with the secret of which it treats--lying dead in the midst of
life, being one in two. And yet there is something still more
wonderful than this work, and that is the artist himself, the man who,
shortly after he had accomplished it, was able to create a picture of
life so full of clashing colours as the Meistersingers of Nurnberg,
and who in both of these compositions seems merely to have refreshed
and equipped himself for the task of completing at his ease that
gigantic edifice in four parts which he had long ago planned and
begun--the ultimate result of all his meditations and poetical flights
for over twenty years, his Bayreuth masterpiece, the Ring of the
Nibelung! He who marvels at the rapid succession of the two operas,
Tristan and the Meistersingers, has failed to understand one important
side of the life and nature of all great Germans: he does not know the
peculiar soil out of which that essentially German gaiety, which
characterised Luther, Beethoven, and Wagner, can grow, the gaiety
which other nations quite fail to understand and which even seems to
be missing in the Germans of to-day--that clear golden and thoroughly
fermented mixture of simplicity, deeply discriminating love,
observation, and roguishness which Wagner has dispensed, as the most
precious of drinks, to all those who have suffered deeply through
life, but who nevertheless return to it with the smile of
convalescents. And, as he also turned upon the world the eyes of one
reconciled, he was more filled with rage and disgust than with sorrow,
and more prone to renounce the love of power than to shrink in awe
from it. As he thus silently furthered his greatest work and gradually
laid score upon score, something happened which caused him to stop and
listen: friends were coming, a kind of subterranean movement of many
souls approached with a message for him--it was still far from being
the people that constituted this movement and which wished to bear him
news, but it may have been the nucleus and first living source of a
really human community which would reach perfection in some age still
remote. For the present they only brought him the warrant that his
great work could be entrusted to the care and charge of faithful men,
men who would watch and be worthy to watch over this most magnificent
of all legacies to posterity. In the love of friends his outlook began
to glow with brighter colours; his noblest care--the care that his
work should be accomplished and should find a refuge before the
evening of his life--was not his only preoccupation. something
occurred which he could only understand as a symbol: it was as much as
a new comfort and a new token of happiness to him. A great German war
caused him to open his eyes, and he observed that those very Germans
whom he considered so thoroughly degenerate and so inferior to the
high standard of real Teutonism, of which he had formed an ideal both
from self-knowledge and the conscientious study of other great Germans
in history; he observed that those very Germans were, in the midst of
terrible circumstances, exhibiting two virtues of the highest
order--simple bravery and prudence; and with his heart bounding with
delight he conceived the hope that he might not be the last German,
and that some day a greater power would perhaps stand by his works
than that devoted yet meagre one consisting of his little band of
friends--a power able to guard it during that long period preceding
its future glory, as the masterpiece of this future. Perhaps it was
not possible to steel this belief permanently against doubt, more
particularly when it sought to rise to hopes of immediate results:
suffice it that he derived a tremendous spur from his environment,
which constantly reminded him of a lofty duty ever to be fulfilled.

His work would not have been complete had he handed it to the world
only in the form of silent manuscript. He must make known to the world
what it could not guess in regard to his productions, what was his
alone to reveal--the new style for the execution and presentation of
his works, so that he might set that example which nobody else could
set, and thus establish a tradition of style, not on paper, not by
means of signs, but through impressions made upon the very souls of
men. This duty had become all the more pressing with him, seeing that
precisely in regard to the style of their execution his other works
had meanwhile succumbed to the most insufferable and absurd of fates:
they were famous and admired, yet no one manifested the slightest sign
of indignation when they were mishandled. For, strange to say, whereas
he renounced ever more and more the hope of success among his
contemporaries, owing to his all too thorough knowledge of them, and
disclaimed all desire for power, both "success" and "power" came to
him, or at least everybody told him so. It was in vain that he made
repeated attempts to expose, with the utmost clearness, how worthless
and humiliating such successes were to him: people were so unused to
seeing an artist able to differentiate at all between the effects of
his works that even his most solemn protests were never entirely
trusted. Once he had perceived the relationship existing between our
system of theatres and their success, and the men of his time, his
soul ceased to be attracted by the stage at all. He had no further
concern with aesthetic ecstasies and the exultation of excited crowds,
and he must even have felt angry to see his art being gulped down
indiscriminately by the yawning abyss of boredom and the insatiable
love of distraction. How flat and pointless every effect proved under
these circumstances-- more especially as it was much more a case of
having to minister to one quite insatiable than of cloying the hunger
of a starving man-- Wagner began to perceive from the following
repeated experience: everybody, even the performers and promoters,
regarded his art as nothing more nor less than any other kind of
stage-music, and quite in keeping with the repulsive style of
traditional opera; thanks to the efforts of cultivated conductors, his
works were even cut and hacked about, until, after they had been
bereft of all their spirit, they were held to be nearer the
professional singer's plane. But when people tried to follow Wagner's
instructions to the letter, they proceeded so clumsily and timidly
that they were not incapable of representing the midnight riot in the
second act of the Meistersingers by a group of ballet-dancers. They
seemed to do all this, however, in perfectly good faith--without the
smallest evil intention. Wagner's devoted efforts to show, by means of
his own example, the correct and complete way of performing his works,
and his attempts at training individual singers in the new style, were
foiled time after time, owing only to the thoughtlessness and iron
tradition that ruled all around him. Moreover, he was always induced
to concern himself with that class of theatricals which he most
thoroughly loathed. Had not even Goethe, m his time, once grown tired
of attending the rehearsals of his Iphigenia? "I suffer unspeakably,"
he explained, "when I have to tumble about Wlth these spectres, which
never seem to act as they should." Meanwhile Wagner's "success" in the
kind of drama which he most disliked steadily increased; so much so,
indeed, that the largest theatres began to subsist almost entirely
upon the receipts which Wagner's art, in the guise of operas, brought
into them. This growing passion on the part of the theatre-going
public bewildered even some of Wagner's friends; but this man who had
endured so much, had still to endure the bitterest pain of all--he had
to see his friends intoxicated with his "successes" and "triumphs"
everywhere where his highest ideal was openly belied and shattered. It
seemed almost as though a people otherwise earnest and reflecting had
decided to maintain an attitude of systematic levity only towards its
most serious artist, and to make him the privileged recipient of all
the vulgarity, thoughtlessness, clumsiness, and malice of which the
German nature is capable. When, therefore, during the German War, a
current of greater magnanimity and freedom seemed to run through every
one, Wagner remembered the duty to which he had pledged himself,
namely, to rescue his greatest work from those successes and affronts
which were so largely due to misunderstandings, and to present it in
his most personal rhythm as an example for all times. Thus he
conceived the idea of Bayreuth. In the wake of that current of better
feeling already referred to, he expected to notice an enhanced sense
of duty even among those with whom he wished to entrust his most
precious possession. Out of this two-fold duty, that event took shape
which, like a glow of strange sunlight, will illumine the few years
that lie behind and before us, and was designed to bless that distant
and problematic future which to our time and to the men of our time
can be little more than a riddle or a horror, but which to the fevv
who are allowed to assist in its realisation is a foretaste of coming
joy, a foretaste of love in a higher sphere, through which they know
themselves to be blessed, blessing and fruitful, far beyond their span
of years; and which to Wagner himself is but a cloud of distress,
care, meditation, and grief, a fresh passionate outbreak of
antagonistic elements, but all bathed in the starlight of selfless
fidelity, and changed by this light into indescribable joy.

It scarcely need be said that it is the breath of tragedy that fills
the lungs of the world. And every one whose innermost soul has a
presentiment of this, every one unto whom the yoke of tragic deception
concerning the aim of life, the distortion and shattering of
intentions, renunciation and purification through love, are not
unknown things, must be conscious of a vague reminiscence of Wagner's
own heroic life, in the masterpieces with which the great man now
presents us. We shall feel as though Siegfried from some place far
away were relating his deeds to us: the most blissful of touching
recollections are always draped in the deep mourning of waning summer,
when all nature lies still in the sable twilight.


All those to whom the thought of Wagner's development as a man may
have caused pain will find it both restful and healing to reflect upon
what he was as an artist, and to observe how his ability and daring
attained to such a high degree of independence. If art mean only the
faculty of communicating to others what one has oneself experienced,
and if every work of art confutes itself which does not succeed in
making itself understood, then Wagner's greatness as an artist would
certainly lie in the almost demoniacal power of his nature to
communicate with others, to express itself in all languages at once,
and to make known its most intimate and personal experience with the
greatest amount of distinctness possible. His appearance in the
history of art resembles nothing so much as a volcanic eruption of the
united artistic faculties of Nature herself, after mankind had grown
to regard the practice of a special art as a necessary rule. It is
therefore a somewhat moot point whether he ought to be classified as a
poet, a painter, or a musician, even using each these words in its
widest sense, or whether a new word ought not to be invented in order
to describe him.

Wagner's poetic ability is shown by his thinking in visible and actual
facts, and not in ideas; that is to say, he thinks mythically, as the
people have always done. No particular thought lies at the bottom of a
myth, as the children of an artificial ulture would have us believe;
but it is in itself a thought: it conveys an idea of the world, but
through the medium of a chain of events, actions, and pains. The Ring
of the Nihelung is a huge system of thought without the usual
abstractness of the latter. It were perhaps possible for a philosopher
to present us with its exact equivalent in pure thought, and to purge
it of all pictures drawn from life, and of all living actions, in
which case we should be in possession of the same thing portrayed in
two completely different forms--the one for the people, and the other
for the very reverse of the people; that is to say, men of theory. But
Wagner makes no appeal to this last class, for the man of theory can
know as little of poetry or myth as the deaf man can know of music;
both of them being conscious only of movements which seem meaningless
to them. It is impossible to appreciate either one of these completely
different forms from the standpoint of the other: as long as the
poet's spell is upon one, one thinks with him just as though one were
merely a feeling, seeing, and hearing creature; the conclusions thus
reached are merely the result of the association of the phenomena one
sees, and are therefore not logical but actual causalities.

If, therefore, the heroes and gods of mythical dramas, as understood
by Wagner, were to express themselves plainly in words, there would be
a danger (inasmuch as the language of words might tend to awaken the
theoretical side in us) of our finding ourselves transported from the
world of myth to the world of ideas, and the result would be not only
that we should fail to understand with greater ease, but that we
should probably not understand at all. Wagner thus forced language
back to a more primeval stage in its development a stage at which it
was almost free of the abstract element, and was still poetry,
imagery, and feeling; the fearlessness with which Wagner undertook
this formidable mission shows how imperatively he was led by the
spirit of poetry, as one who must follow whithersoever his phantom
leader may direct him. Every word in these dramas ought to allow of
being sung, and gods and heroes should make them their own--that was
the task which Wagner set his literary faculty. Any other person in
like circumstances would have given up all hope; for our language
seems almost too old and decrepit to allow of one's exacting what
Wagner exacted from it; and yet, when he smote the rock, he brought
forth an abundant flow. Precisely owing to the fact that he loved his
language and exacted a great deal from it, Wagner suffered more than
any other German through its decay and enfeeblement, from its manifold
losses and mutilations of form, from its unwieldy particles and clumsy
construction, and from its unmusical auxiliary verbs. All these are
things which have entered the language through sin and depravity. On
the other hand, he was exceedingly proud to record the number of
primitive and vigorous factors still extant in the current speech; and
in the tonic strength of its roots he recognised quite a wonderful
affinity and relation to real music, a quality which distinguished it
from the highly volved and artificially rhetorical Latin languages.
Wagner's poetry is eloquent of his affection for the German language,
and there is a heartiness and candour in his treatment of it which are
scarcely to be met with in any other German writer, save perhaps
Goethe. Forcibleness of diction, daring brevity, power and variety in
rhythm, a remarkable wealth of strong and striking words, simplicity
in construction, an almost unique inventive faculty in regard to
fluctuations of feeling and presentiment, and therewithal a perfectly
pure and overflowing stream of colloquialisms--these are the qualities
that have to be enumerated, and even then the greatest and most
wonderful of all is omitted. Whoever reads two such poems as Tristan
and the Meistersingers consecutively will be just as astonished and
doubtful in regard to the language as to the music; for he will wonder
how it could have been possible for a creative spirit to dominate so
perfectly two worlds as different in form, colour, and arrangement, as
in soul. This is the most wonderful achievement of Wagner's talent;
for the ability to give every work its own linguistic stamp and to
find a fresh body and a new sound for every thought is a task which
only the great master can successfully accomplish. Where this rarest
of all powers manifests itself, adverse criticism can be but petty and
fruitless which confines itself to attacks upon certain excesses and
eccentricities in the treatment, or upon the more frequent obscurities
of expression and ambiguity of thought. Moreover, what seemed to
electrify and scandalise those who were most bitter in their criticism
was not so much the language as the spirit of the Wagnerian
operas--that is to say, his whole manner of feeling and suffering. It
were well to wait until these very critics have acquired another
spirit themselves; they will then also speak a different tongue, and,
by that time, it seems to me things will go better with the German
language than they do at present.

In the first place, however, no one who studies Wagner the poet and
word-painter should forget that none of his dramas were meant to be
read, and that it would therefore be unjust to judge them from the
same standpoint as the spoken drama. The latter plays upon the
feelings by means of words and ideas, and in this respect it is under
the dominion of the laws of rhetoric. But in real life passion is
seldom eloquent: in spoken drama it perforce must be, in order to be
able to express itself at all. When, however, the language of a people
is already in a state of decay and deterioration, the word-dramatist
is tempted to impart an undue proportion of new colour and form both
to his medium and to his thoughts; he would elevate the language in
order to make it a vehicle capable of conveying lofty feelings, and by
so doing he runs the risk of becoming abstruse. By means of sublime
phrases and conceits he likewise tries to invest passion with some
nobility, and thereby runs yet another risk, that of appearing false
and artificial. For in real life passions do not speak in sentences,
and the poetical element often draws suspicion upon their genuineness
when it departs too palpably from reality. Now Wagner, who was the
first to detect the essential feeling in spoken drama, presents every
dramatic action threefold: in a word, in a gesture, and in a sound.
For, as a matter of fact, music succeeds in conveying the deepest
emotions of the dramatic performers direct to the spectators, and
while these see the evidence of the actors' states of soul in their
bearing and movements, a third though more feeble confirmation of
these states, translated into conscious will, quickly follows in the
form of the spoken word. All these effects fulfil their purpose
simultaneously, without disturbing one another in the least, and urge
the spectator to a completely new understanding and sympathy, just as
if his senses had suddenly grown more spiritual and his spirit more
sensual, and as if everything which seeks an outlet in him, and which
makes him thirst for knowledge, were free and joyful in exultant
perception. Because every essential factor in a Wagnerian drama is
conveyed to the spectator with the utmost clearness, illumined and
permeated throughout by music as by an internal flame, their author
can dispense with the expedients usually employed by the writer of the
spoken play in order to lend light and warmth to the action. The whole
of the dramatist's stock in trade could be more simple, and the
architect's sense of rhythm could once more dare to manifest itself in
the general proportions of the edifice; for there was no more need of
"the deliberate confusion and involved variety of tyles, whereby the
ordinary playwright strove in the interests of his work to produce
that feeling of wonder and thrilling suspense which he ultimately
enhanced to one of delighted amazement. The impression of ideal
distance and height was no more to be induced by means of tricks and
artifices. Language withdrew itself from the length and breadth of
rhetoric into the strong confines of the speech of the feelings, and
although the actor spoke much less about all he did and felt in the
performance, his innermost sentiments, which the ordinary playwright
had hitherto ignored for fear of being undramatic, was now able to
drive the spectators to passionate sympathy, while the accompanying
language of gestures could be restricted to the most delicate
modulations. Now, when passions are rendered in song, they require
rather more time than when conveyed by speech; music prolongs, so to
speak, the duration of the feeling, from which it follows, as a rule,
that the actor who is also a singer must overcome the extremely
unplastic animation from which spoken drama suffers. He feels himself
incited all the more to a certain nobility of bearing, because music
envelopes his feelings in a purer atmosphere, and thus brings them
closer to beauty.

The extraordinary tasks which Wagner set his actors and singers will
provoke rivalry between them for ages to come, in the personification
of each of his heroes with the greatest possible amount of clearness,
perfection, and fidelity, according to that perfect incorporation
already typified by the music of drama. Following this leader, the eye
of the plastic artist will ultimately behold the marvels of another
visible world, which, previous to him, was seen for the first time
only by the creator of such works as the Ring of the Nibelung --that
creator of highest rank, who, like AEschylus, points the way to a
coming art. Must not jealousy awaken the greatest talent, if the
plastic artist ever compares the effect of his productions with that
of Wagnerian music, in which there is so much pure and sunny happiness
that he who hears it feels as though all previous music had been but
an alien, faltering, and constrained language; as though in the past
it had been but a thing to sport with in the presence of those who
were not deserving of serious treatment, or a thing with which to
train and instruct those who were not even deserving of play? In the
case of this earlier kind of music, the joy we always experience while
listening to Wagner's compositions is ours only for a short space of
time, and it would then seem as though it were overtaken by certain
rare moments of forgetfulness, during which it appears to be communing
with its inner self and directing its eyes upwards, like Raphael's
Cecilia, away from the listeners and from all those who demand
distraction, happiness, or instruction from it.

In general it may be said of Wagner the Musician, that he endowed
everything in nature which hitherto had had no wish to speak with the
power of speech: he refuses to admit that anything must be dumb, and,
resorting to the dawn, the forest, the mist, the cliffs, the hills,
the thrill of night and the moonlight, he observes a desire common to
them all--they too wish to sing their own melody. If the philosopher
says it is will that struggles for existence in animate and inanimate
nature, the musician adds: And this will wherever it manifests itself,
yearns for a melodious existence.

Before Wagner's time, music for the most part moved in narrow limits:
it concerned itself with the permanent states of man, or with what the
Greeks call ethos. And only with Beethoven did it begin to find the
language of pathos, of passionate will, and of the dramatic
occurrences in the souls of men. Formerly, what people desired was to
interpret a mood, a stolid, merry, reverential, or penitential state
of mind, by means of music; the object was, by means of a certain
striking uniformity of treatment and the prolonged duration of this
uniformity, to compel the listener to grasp the meaning of the music
and to impose its mood upon him. To all such interpretations of mood
or atmosphere, distinct and particular forms of treatment were
necessary: others were established by convention. The question of
length was left to the discretion of the musician, whose aim was not
only to put the listener into a certain mood, but also to avoid
rendering that mood monotonous by unduly protracting it. A further
stage was reached when the interpretations of contrasted moods were
made to follow one upon the other, and the charm of light and shade
was discovered; and yet another step was made when the same piece of
music was allowed to contain a contrast of the ethos--for instance,
the contest between a male and a female theme. All these, however, are
crude and primitive stages in the development of music. The fear of
passion suggested the first rule, and the fear of monotony the second;
all depth of feeling and any excess thereof were regarded as
"unethical." Once, however, the art of the ethos had repeatedly been
made to ring all the changes on the moods and situations which
convention had decreed as suitable, despite the most astounding
resourcefulness on the part of its masters, its powers were exhausted.
Beethoven was the first to make music speak a new language--till then
forbidden--the language of passion; but as his art was based upon the
laws and conventions of the ETHOS, and had to attempt to justify
itself in regard to them, his artistic development was beset with
peculiar difficulties and obscurities. An inner dramatic factor--and
every passion pursues a dramatic course--struggled to obtain a new
form, but the traditional scheme of "mood music" stood in its way, and
protested--almost after the manner in which morality opposes
innovations and immorality. It almost seemed, therefore, as if
Beethoven had set himself the contradictory task of expressing pathos
in the terms of the ethos. This view does not, however, apply to
Beethoven's latest and greatest works; for he really did succeed in
discovering a novel method of expressing the grand and vaulting arch
of passion. He merely selected certain portions of its curve; imparted
these with the utmost clearness to his listeners, and then left it to
them to divine its whole span. Viewed superficially, the new form
seemed rather like an aggregation of several musical compositions, of
which every one appeared to represent a sustained situation, but was
in reality but a momentary stage in the dramatic course of a passion.
The listener might think that he was hearing the old "mood" music over
again, except that he failed to grasp the relation of the various
parts to one another, and these no longer conformed with the canon of
the law. Even among minor musicians, there flourished a certain
contempt for the rule which enjoined harmony in the general
construction of a composition and the sequence of the parts in their
works still remained arbitrary. Then, owing to a misunderstanding, the
discovery of the majestic treatment of passion led back to the use of
the single movement with an optional setting, and the tension between
the parts thus ceased completely. That is why the symphony, as
Beethoven understood it, is such a wonderfully obscure production,
more especially when, here and there, it makes faltering attempts at
rendering Beethoven's pathos. The means ill befit the intention, and
the intention is, on the whole, not sufficiently clear to the
listener, because it was never really clear, even in the mind of the
composer. But the very injunction that something definite must be
imparted, and that this must be done as distinctly as possible,
becomes ever more and more essential, the higher, more difficult, and
more exacting the class of work happens to be.

That is why all Wagner's efforts were concentrated upon the one object
of discovering those means which best served the purpose of
distinctness, and to this end it was above all necessary for him to
emancipate himself from all the prejudices and claims of the old
"mood" music, and to give his compositions--the musical
interpretations of feelings and passion--a perfectly unequivocal mode
of expression. If we now turn to what he has achieved, we see that his
services to music are practically equal in rank to those which that
sculptor-inventor rendered to sculpture who introduced "sculpture in
the round." All previous music seems stiff and uncertain when compared
with Wagner's, just as though it were ashamed and did not wish to be
inspected from all sides. With the most consummate skill and
precision, Wagner avails himself of every degree and colour in the
realm of feeling; without the slightest hesitation or fear of its
escaping him, he seizes upon the most delicate, rarest, and mildest
emotion, and holds it fast, as though it had hardened at his touch,
despite the fact that it may seem like the frailest butterfly to every
one else. His music is never vague or dreamy; everything that is
allowed to speak through it, whether it be of man or of nature, has a
strictly individual passion; storm and fire acquire the ruling power
of a personal will in his hands. Over all the clamouring characters
and the clash of their passions, over the whole torrent of contrasts,
an almighty and symphonic understanding hovers with perfect serenity,
and continually produces concord out of war. Taken as a whole,
Wagner's music is a reflex of the world as it was understood by the
great Ephesian poet--that is to say, a harmony resulting from strife,
as the union of justice and enmity. I admire the ability which could
describe the grand line of universal passion out of a confusion of
passions which all seem to be striking out in different directions:
the fact that this was a possible achievement I find demonstrated in
every individual act of a Wagnerian drama, which describes the
individual history of various characters side by side with a general
history of the whole company. Even at the very beginning we know we
are watching a host of cross currents dominated by one great violent
stream; and though at first this stream moves unsteadily over hidden
reefs, and the torrent seems to be torn asunder as if it were
travelling towards different points, gradually we perceive the central
and general movement growing stronger and more rapid, the convulsive
fury of the contending waters is converted into one broad, steady, and
terrible flow in the direction of an unknown goal; and suddenly, at
the end, the whole flood in all its breadth plunges into the depths,
rejoicing demoniacally over the abyss and all its uproar. Wagner is
never more himself than when he is overwhelmed with difficulties and
can exercise power on a large scale with all the joy of a lawgiver. To
bring restless and contending masses into simple rhythmic movement,
and to exercise one will over a bewildering host of claims and
desires--these are the tasks for which he feels he was born, and in
the performance of which he finds freedom. And he never loses his
breath withal, nor does he ever reach his goal panting. He strove just
as persistently to impose the severest laws upon himself as to lighten
the burden of others in this respect. Life and art weigh heavily upon
him when he cannot play wit their most difficult questions. If one
considers the relation between the melody of song and that of speech,
one will perceive how he sought to adopt as his natural model the
pitch, strength, and tempo of the passionate man's voice in order to
transform it into art; and if one further considers the task of
introducing this singing passion into the general symphonic order of
music, one gets some idea of the stupendous difficulties he had to
overcome. In this behalf, his inventiveness in small things as in
great, his omniscience and industry are such, that at the sight of one
of Wagner's scores one is almost led to believe that no real work or
effort had ever existed before his time. It seems almost as if he too
could have said, in regard to the hardships of art, that the real
virtue of the dramatist lies in self-renunciation. But he would
probably have added, There is but one kind of hardship-- that of the
artist who is not yet free: virtue and goodness are trivial

Viewing him generally as an artist, and calling to mind a more famous
type, we see that Wagner is not at all unlike Demosthenes: in him also
we have the terrible earnestness of purpose and that strong prehensile
mind which always obtains a complete grasp of a thing; in him, too, we
have the hand's quick clutch and the grip as of iron. Like
Demosthenes, he conceals his art or compels one to forget it by the
peremptory way he calls attention to the subject he treats; and yet,
like his great predecessor, he is the last and greatest of a whole
line of artist-minds, and therefore has more to conceal than his
forerunners: his art acts like nature, like nature recovered and
restored. Unlike all previous musicians, there is nothing bombastic
about him; for the former did not mind playing at times with their
art, and making an exhibition of their virtuosity. One associates
Wagner's art neither with interest nor with diversion, nor with Wagner
himself and art in general. All one is conscious of is of the great
necessity of it all. No one will ever be able to appreciate what
severity evenness of will, and self-control the artist required during
his development, in order, at his zenith, to be able to do the
necessary thing joyfully and freely. Let it suffice if we can
appreciate how, in some respects, his music, with a certain cruelty
towards itself, determines to subserve the course of the drama, which
is as unrelenting as fate, whereas in reality his art was ever
thirsting for a free ramble in the open and over the wilderness.


An artist who has this empire over himself subjugates all other
artists, even though he may not particularly desire to do so. For him
alone there lies no danger or stemming-force in those he has
subjugated--his friends and his adherents; whereas the weaker natures
who learn to rely on their friends pay for this reliance by forfeiting
their independence. It is very wonderful to observe how carefully,
throughout his life, Wagner avoided anything in the nature of heading
a party, notwithstanding the fact that at the close of every phase in
his career a circle of adherents formed, presumably with the view of
holding him fast to his latest development He always succeeded,
however, in wringing himself free from them, and never allowed himself
to be bound; for not only was the ground he covered too vast for one
alone to keep abreast of him with any ease, but his way was so
exceptionally steep that the most devoted would have lost his breath.
At almost every stage in Wagner's progress his friends would have
liked to preach to him, and his enemies would fain have done so
too--but for other reasons. Had the purity of his artist's nature been
one degree less decided than it was, he would have attained much
earlier than he actually did to the leading position in the artistic
and musical world of his time. True, he has reached this now, but in a
much higher sense, seeing that every performance to be witnessed in
any department of art makes its obeisance, so to speak, before the
judgment-stool of his genius and of his artistic temperament. He has
overcome the most refractory of his contemporaries; there is not one
gifted musician among them but in his innermost heart would willingly
listen to him, and find Wagner's compositions more worth listening to
than his own and all other musical productions taken together. Many
who wish, by hook or by crook, to make their mark, even wrestle with
Wagner's secret charm, and unconsciously throw in their lot with the
older masters, preferring to ascribe their "independence" to Schubert
or Handel rather than to Wagner. But in vain! Thanks to their very
efforts in contending against the dictates of their own consciences,
they become ever meaner and smaller artists; they ruin their own
natures by forcing themselves to tolerate undesirable allies and
friends And in spite of all these sacrifices, they still find perhaps
in their dreams, that their ear turns attentively to Wagner. These
adversaries are to be pitied: they imagine they lose a great deal when
they lose themselves, but here they are mistaken.

Albeit it is obviously all one to Wagner whether musicians compose in
his style, or whether they compose at all, he even does his utmost to
dissipate the belief that a school of composers should now necessarily
follow in his wake; though, in so far as he exercises a direct
influence upon musicians, he does indeed try to instruct them
concerning the art of grand execution. In his opinion, the evolution
of art seems to have reached that stage when the honest endeavour to
become an able and masterly exponent or interpreter is ever so much
more worth talking about than the longing to be a creator at all
costs. For, at the present stage of art, universal creating has this
fatal result, that inasmuch as it encourages a much larger output, it
tends to exhaust the means and artifices of genius by everyday use,
and thus to reduce the real grandeur of its effect. Even that which is
good in art is superfluous and detrimental when it proceeds from the
imitation of what is best. Wagnerian ends and means are of one piece:
to perceive this, all that is required is honesty in art matters, and
it would be dishonest to adopt his means in order to apply them to
other and less significant ends.

If, therefore, Wagner declines to live on amid a multitude of creative
musicians, he is only the more desirous of imposing upon all men of
talent the new duty of joining him in seeking the law of style for
dramatic performances. He deeply feels the need of establishing a
traditional style for his art, by means of which his work may continue
to live from one age to another in a pure form, until it reaches that
future which its creator ordained for it.

Wagner is impelled by an undaunted longing to make known everything
relating to that foundation of a style, mentioned above, and,
accordingly, everything relating to the continuance of his art. To
make his work--as Schopenhauer would say-- a sacred depository and the
real fruit of his life, as well as the inheritance of mankind, and to
store it for the benefit of a posterity better able to appreciate
it,--these were the supreme objects of his life, and for these he bore
that crown of thorns which, one day, will shoot forth leaves of bay.
Like the insect which, in its last form, concentrates all its energies
upon the one object of finding a safe depository for its eggs and of
ensuring the future welfare of its posthumous brood,--then only to die
content, so Wagner strove with equal determination to find a place of
security for his works.

This subject, which took precedence of all others with him, constantly
incited him to new discoveries; and these he sought ever more and more
at the spring of his demoniacal gift of communicability, the more
distinctly he saw himself in conflict with an age that was both
perverse and unwilling to lend him its ear. Gradually however, even
this same age began to mark his indefatigable efforts, to respond to
his subtle advances, and to turn its ear to him. Whenever a small or a
great opportunity arose, however far away, which suggested to Wagner a
means wherewith to explain his thoughts, he availed himself of it: he
thought his thoughts anew into every fresh set of circumstances, and
would make them speak out of the most paltry bodily form. Whenever a
soul only half capable of comprehending him opened itself to him, he
never failed to implant his seed in it. He saw hope in things which
caused the average dispassionate observer merely to shrug his
shoulders; and he erred again and again, only so as to be able to
carry his point against that same observer. Just as the sage, in
reality, mixes with living men only for the purpose of increasing his
store of knowledge, so the artist would almost seem to be unable to
associate with his contemporaries at all, unless they be such as can
help him towards making his work eternal. He cannot be loved otherwise
than with the love of this eternity, and thus he is conscious only of
one kind of hatred directed at him, the hatred which would demolish
the bridges bearing his art into the future. The pupils Wagner
educated for his own purpose, the individual musicians and actors whom
he advised and whose ear he corrected and improved, the small and
large orchestras he led, the towns which witnessed him earnestly
fulfilling the duties of ws calling, the princes and ladies who half
boastfully and half lovingly participated in the framing of his plans,
the various European countries to which he temporarily belonged as the
judge and evil conscience of their arts,--everything gradually became
the echo of his thought and of his indefatigable efforts to attain to
fruitfulness in the future. Although this echo often sounded so
discordant as to confuse him, still the tremendous power of his voice
repeatedly crying out into the world must in the end call forth
reverberations, and it will soon be impossible to be deaf to him or to
misunderstand him. It is this reflected sound which even now causes
the art-institutions of modern men to shake: every time the breath of
his spirit blew into these coverts, all that was overripe or withered
fell to the ground; but the general increase of scepticism in all
directions speaks more eloquently than all this trembling. Nobody any
longer dares to predict where Wagner's influence may not unexpectedly
break out. He is quite unable to divorce the salvation of art from any
other salvation or damnation: wherever modern life conceals a danger,
he, with the discriminating eye of mistrust, perceives a danger
threatening art. In his imagination he pulls the edifice of modern
civilisation to pieces, and allows nothing rotten, no unsound
timber-work to escape: if in the process he should happen to encounter
weather-tight walls or anything like solid foundations, he immediately
casts about for means wherewith he can convert them into bulwarks and
shelters for his art. He lives like a fugitive, whose will is not to
preserve his own life, but to keep a secret-- like an unhappy woman
who does not wish to save her own soul, but that of the child lying in
her lap: in short, he lives like Sieglinde, "for the sake of love."

For life must indeed be full of pain and shame to one who can find
neither rest nor shelter in this world, and who must nevertheless
appeal to it, exact things from it, contemn it, and still be unable to
dispense with the thing contemned, --this really constitutes the
wretchedness of the artist of the future, who, unlike the philosopher,
cannot prosecute his work alone in the seclusion of a study, but who
requires human souls as messengers to this future, public institutions
as a guarantee of it, and, as it were, bridges between now and
hereafter. His art may not, like the philosopher's, be put aboard the
boat of written documents: art needs capable men, not letters and
notes, to transmit it. Over whole periods in Wagner's life rings a
murmur of distress--his distress at not being able to meet with these
capable interpreters before whom he longed to execute examples of his
work, instead of being confined to written symbols; before whom he
yearned to practise his art, instead of showing a pallid reflection of
it to those who read books, and who, generally speaking, therefore are
not artists.

In Wagner the man of letters we see the struggle of a brave fighter,
whose right hand has, as it were, been lopped off, and who has
continued the contest with his left. In his writings he is always the
sufferer, because a temporary and insuperable destiny deprives him of
his own and the correct way of conveying his thoughts--that is to say,
in the form of apocalyptic and triumphant examples. His writings
contain nothing canonical or severe: the canons are to be found in his
works as a whole. Their literary side represents his attempts to
understand the instinct which urged him to create his works and to get
a glimpse of himself through them. If he succeeded in transforming his
instincts into terms of knowledge, it was always with the hope that
the reverse process might take place in the souls of his readers--it
was with this intention that he wrote. Should it ultimately be proved
that, in so doing, Wagner attempted the impossible, he would still
only share the lot of all those who have meditated deeply on art; and
even so he would be ahead of most of them in this, namely, that the
strongest instinct for all arts harboured in him. I know of no written
aesthetics that give more light than those of Wagner; all that can
possibly be learnt concerning the origin of a work of art is to be
found in them. He is one of the very great, who appeared amongst us a
witness, and who is continually improving his testimony and making it
ever clearer and freer; even when he stumbles as a scientist, sparks
rise from the ground. Such tracts as "Beethoven," "Concerning the Art
of Conducting," "Concerning Actors and Singers," "State and Religion,"
silence all contradiction, and, like sacred reliquaries, impose upon
all who approach them a calm, earnest, and reverential regard. Others,
more particularly the earlier ones, including "Opera and Drama,"
excite and agitate one; their rhythm is so uneven that, as prose they
are bewildering. Their dialectics is constantly interrupted, and their
course is more retarded than accelerated by outbursts of feeling; a
certain reluctance on the part of the writer seems to hang over them
like a pall, just as though the artist were somewhat ashamed of
speculative discussions. What the reader who is only imperfectly
initiated will probably find most oppressive is the general tone of
authoritative dignity which is peculiar to Wagner, and which is very
difficult to describe: it always strikes me as though Wagner were
continually addressing enemies; for the style of all these tracts more
resembles that of the spoken than of the written language, hence they
will seem much more intelligible if heard read aloud, in the presence
of his enemies, with whom he cannot be on familiar terms, and towards
whom he must therefore show some reserve and aloofness, The entrancing
passion of his feelings, however, constantly pierces this intentional
disguise, and then the stilted and heavy periods, swollen with
accessary words, vanish, and his pen dashes off sentences, and even
whole pages, which belong to the best in German prose. But even
admitting that while he wrote such passages he was addressing friends,
and that the shadow of his enemies had been removed for a while, all
the friends and enemies that Wagner, as a man of letters, has, possess
one factor in common, which differentiates them fundamentally from the
"people" for whom he worked as an artist. Owing to the refining and
fruitless nature of their education, they are quite devoid of the
essential traits of the national character, and he who would appeal to
them must speak in a way which is not of the people--that is to say,
after the manner of our best prose-writers and Wagner himself; though
that he did violence to himself in writing thus is evident. But the
strength of that almost maternal instinct of prudence in him, which is
ready to make any sacrifice, rather tends to reinstall him among the
scholars and men of learning, to whom as a creator he always longed to
bid farewell. He submits to the language of culture and all the laws
governing its use, though he was the first to recognise its profound
insufficiency as a means of communication.

For if there is anything that distinguishes his art from every other
art of modern times, it is that it no longer speaks the language of
any particular caste, and refuses to admit the distinctions "literate"
and "illiterate." It thus stands as a contrast to every culture of the
Renaissance, which to this day still bathes us modern men in its light
and shade. Inasmuch as Wagner's art bears us, from time to time,
beyond itself, we are enabled to get a general view of its uniform
character: we see Goethe and Leopardi as the last great stragglers of
the Italian philologist-poets, Faust as the incarnation of a most
unpopular problem, in the form of a man of theory thirsting for life;
even Goethe's song is an imitation of the song of the people rather
than a standard set before them to which they are expected to attain,
and the poet knew very well how truly he spoke when he seriously
assured his adherents: "My compositions cannot become popular; he who
hopes and strives to make them so is mistaken."

That an art could arise which would be so clear and warm as to flood
the base and the poor in spirit with its light, as well as to melt the
haughtiness of the learned--such a phenomenon had to be experienced
though it could not be guessed. But even in the mind of him who
experiences it to-day it must upset all preconceived notions
concerning education and culture; to such an one the veil will seem to
have been rent in twain that conceals a future in which no highest
good or highest joys exist that are not the common property of all.
The odium attaching to the word "common" will then be abolished.

If presentiment venture thus into the remote future, the discerning
eye of all will recognise the dreadful social insanity of our present
age, and will no longer blind itself to the dangers besetting an art
which seems to have roots only in the remote and distant future, and
which allows its burgeoning branches to spread before our gaze when it
has not yet revealed the ground from which it draws its sap. How can
we protect this homeless art through the ages until that remote future
is reached? How can we so dam the flood of a revolution seemingly
inevitable everywhere, that the blessed prospect and guarantee of a
better future--of a freer human life--shall not also be washed away
with all that is destined to perish and deserves to perish?

He who asks himself this question shares Wagner's care: he will feel
himself impelled with Wagner to seek those established powers that
have the goodwill to protect the noblest passions of man during the
period of earthquakes and upheavals. In this sense alone Wagner
questions the learned through his writings, whether they intend
storing his legacy to them--the precious Ring of his art--among their
other treasures. And even the wonderful confidence which he reposes in
the German mind and the aims of German politics seems to me to arise
from the fact that he grants the people of the Reformation that
strength, mildness, and bravery which is necessary in order to divert
"the torrent of revolution into the tranquil river-bed of a calmly
flowing stream of humanity": and I could almost believe that this and
only this is what he meant to express by means of the symbol of his
Imperial march.

As a rule, though, the generous impulses of the creative artist and
the extent of his philanthropy are too great for his gaze to be
confined within the limits of a single nation. His thoughts, like
those of every good and great German, are more than German, and the
language of his art does not appeal to particular races but to mankind
in general.

But to the men of the future.

This is the belief that is proper to him; this is his torment and his
distinction. No artist, of what past soever, has yet received such a
remarkable portion of genius; no one, save him, has ever been obliged
to mix this bitterest of ingredients with the drink of nectar to which
enthusiasm helped him. It is not as one might expect, the
misunderstood and mishandled artist, the fugitive of his age, who
adopted this faith in self-defence: success or failure at the hands of
his contemporaries was unable either to create or to destroy it
Whether it glorified or reviled him, he did not belong to this
generation: that was the conclusion to which his instincts led him.
And the possibility of any generation's ever belonging to him is
something which he who disbelieves in Wagner can never be made to
admit. But even this unbeliever may at least ask, what kind of
generation it will be in which Wagner will recognise his "people," and
in which he will see the type of all those who suffer a common
distress, and who wish to escape from it by means of an art common to
them all. Schiller was certainly more hopeful and sanguine; he did not
ask what a future must be like if the instinct of the artist that
predicts it prove true; his command to every artist was rather--

Soar aloft in daring flight Out of sight of thine own years! In thy
mirror, gleaming bright, Glimpse of distant dawn appears.


May blessed reason preserve us from ever thinking that mankind will at
any time discover a final and ideal order of things, and that
happiness will then and ever after beam down upon us uniformly, like
the rays of the sun in the tropics. Wagner has nothing to do with such
a hope; he is no Utopian. If he was unable to dispense with the belief
in a future, it only meant that he observed certain properties in
modern men which he did not hold to be essential to their nature, and
which did not seem to him to form any necessary part of their
constitution; in fact, which were changeable and transient; and that
precisely owing to these properties art would find no home among them,
and he himself had to be the precursor and prophet of another epoch.
No golden age, no cloudless sky will fall to the portion of those
future generations, which his instinct led him to expect, and whose
approximate characteristics may be gleaned from the cryptic characters
of his art, in so far as it is possible to draw conclusions concerning
the nature of any pain from the kind of relief it seeks. Nor will
superhuman goodness and justice stretch like an everlasting rainbow
over this future land. Belike this coming generation will, on the
whole, seem more evil than the present one--for in good as in evil it
will be more straightforward. It is even possible, if its soul were
ever able to speak out in full and unembarrassed tones, that it might
convulse and terrify us, as though the voice of some hitherto
concealed and evil spirit had suddenly cried out in our midst. Or how
do the following propositions strike our ears?--That passion is better
than stocism or hypocrisy; that straightforwardness, even in evil, is
better than losing oneself in trying to observe traditional morality;
that the free man is just as able to be good as evil, but that the
unemancipated man is a disgrace to nature, and has no share in
heavenly or earthly bliss; finally, that all who wish to be free must
become so through themselves, and that freedom falls to nobody's lot
as a gift from Heaven. However harsh and strange these propositions
may sound, they are nevertheless reverberations from that future
world, which is verily in need of art, and which expects genuine
pleasure from its presence; they are the language of
nature--reinstated even in mankind; they stand for what I have already
termed correct feeling as opposed to the incorrect feeling that reigns

But real relief or salvation exists only for nature not for that which
is contrary to nature or which arises out of incorrect feeling. When
all that is unnatural becomes self-conscious, it desires but one
thing--nonentity; the natural thing, on the other hand, yearns to be
transfigured through love: the former would fain not be, the latter
would fain be otherwise. Let him who has understood this recall, in
the stillness of his soul, the simple themes of Wagner's art, in order
to be able to ask himself whether it were nature or nature's opposite
which sought by means of them to achieve the aims just described.

The desperate vagabond finds deliverance from his distress in the
compassionate love of a woman who would rather die than be unfaithful
to him: the theme of the Flying Dutchman. The sweet-heart, renouncing
all personal happiness, owing to a divine transformation of Love into
Charity, becomes a saint, and saves the soul of her loved one: the
theme of Tannhauser. The sublimest and highest thing descends a
suppliant among men, and will not be questioned whence it came; when,
however, the fatal question is put, it sorrowfully returns to its
higher life: the theme of Lohengrin. The loving soul of a wife, and
the people besides, joyfully welcome the new benevolent genius,
although the retainers of tradition and custom reject and revile him:
the theme of the Meistersingers. Of two lovers, that do not know they
are loved, who believe rather that they are deeply wounded and
contemned, each demands of the other that he or she should drink a cup
of deadly poison, to all intents and purposes as an expiation of the
insult; in reality, however, as the result of an impulse which neither
of them understands: through death they wish to escape all possibility
of separation or deceit. The supposed approach of death loosens their
fettered souls and allows them a short moment of thrilling happiness,
just as though they had actually escaped from the present, from
illusions and from life: the theme of Tristan and Isolde.

In the Ring of the Nibelung the tragic hero is a god whose heart
yearns for power, and who, since he travels along all roads in search
of it, finally binds himself to too many undertakings, loses his
freedom, and is ultimately cursed by the curse inseparable from power.
He becomes aware of his loss of freedom owing to the fact that he no
longer has the means to take possession of the golden Ring--that
symbol of all earthly power, and also of the greatest dangers to
himself as long as it lies in the hands of his enemies. The fear of
the end and the twilight of all gods overcomes him, as also the
despair at being able only to await the end without opposing it. He is
in need of the free and fearless man who, without his advice or
assistance--even in a struggle against gods--can accomplish
single-handed what is denied to the powers of a god. He fails to see
him, and just as a new hope finds shape within him, he must obey the
conditions to which he is bound: with his own hand he must murder the
thing he most loves, and purest pity must be punished by his sorrow.
Then he begins to loathe power, which bears evil and bondage in its
lap; his will is broken, and he himself begins to hanker for the end
that threatens him from afar off. At this juncture something happens
which had long been the subject of his most ardent desire: the free
and fearless man appears, he rises in opposition to everything
accepted and established, his parents atone for having been united by
a tie which was antagonistic to the order of nature and usage; they
perish, but Siegfried survives. And at the sight of his magnificent
development and bloom, the loathing leaves otan's soul, and he follows
the hero's history with the eye of fatherly love and anxiety. How he
forges his sword, kills the dragon, gets possession of the ring,
escapes the craftiest ruse, awakens Brunhilda; how the curse abiding
in the ring gradually overtakes him; how, faithful in faithfulness, he
wounds the thing he most loves, out of love; becomes enveloped in the
shadow and cloud of guilt, and, rising out of it more brilliantly than
the sun, ultimately goes down, firing the whole heavens with his
burning glow and purging the world of the curse,--all this is seen by
the god whose sovereign spear was broken in the contest with the
freest man, and who lost his power through him, rejoicing greatly over
his own defeat: full of sympathy for the triumph and pain of his
victor, his eye burning with aching joy looks back upon the last
events; he has become free through love, free from himself.

And now ask yourselves, ye generation of to-day, Was all this composed
for you? Have ye the courage to point up to the stars of the whole of
this heavenly dome of beauty and goodness and to say, This is our
life, that Wagner has transferred to a place beneath the stars?

Where are the men among you who are able to interpret the divine image
of Wotan in the light of their own lives, and who can become ever
greater while, like him, ye retreat? Who among you would renounce
power, knowing and having learned that power is evil? Where are they
who like Brunhilda abandon their knowledge to love, and finally rob
their lives of the highest wisdom, "afflicted love, deepest sorrow,
opened my eyes"? and where are the free and fearless, developing and
blossoming in innocent egoism? and where are the Siegfrieds, among

He who questions thus and does so in vain, will find himself compelled
to look around him for signs of the future; and should his eye, on
reaching an unknown distance, espy just that "people" which his own
generation can read out of the signs contained in Wagnerian art, he
will then also understand what Wagner will mean to this
people--something that he cannot be to all of us, namely, not the
prophet of the future, as perhaps he would fain appear to us, but the
interpreter and clarifier of the past.


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