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[This remarkable essay, on the puz- ingly silent. No hermit, no desert
faith, still had their God, whose shadow
dwelt within their cell or fell athwart A great man is beaten back, driven back,
their column. But he, 'the murderer of tortured back into solitude.
God,'no longer had either God or man. 'O SOLITUDE, solitude, my home!' The more he won himself, the more he This melancholy refrain breaks the lost the world; the farther he wandered, silence of a glacier world. Zarathustra the wider the desert grew. Ordinarily composes his evensong, his song before a writer's books slowly and silently his last night, his song before his create a human-magnetic field around eternal home-going. For had not him, even in case of the most solitary; loneliness always been this wanderer’s by some obscure attraction they draw only home, his cold hearth, his stone an ever-growing invisible company to roof? He had visited unnumbered
unnumbered his presence. But Nietzsche's works had
But as this loneliness had wan- interest in his writings faded. First he
at his own expense only forty copies,
and then found but seven men among
the seventy million Germans in Europe it is not applause, assent, fame, that to whom he could send a copy. So he craves. On the contrary, nothing solitary, so incomprehensibly solitary, would have pleased his combative was Nietzsche at the height of his temperament better than indignation, creative period. None showed him a disagreement — aye, even contempt. shred of confidence, an iota of appre- 'When a person is like a tautly drawn ciation. On the contrary, that he bow any shock is welcome provided it might not lose Overbeck, the last be violent.' A response, - warm, cold, friend of his youth, he must apologize or even lukewarm, - anything to make to him for what he wrote, must humbly him conscious that he was part of crave pardon. ‘Old chap,'.
the living world. But even his friends almost hear the timidly pleading voice; sedulously avoided him, evaded menone can almost see the pain-racked tioning his writings in their letters, as countenance, the appealing hands, the if they were a painful subject. That gesture to ward off a new stroke of the was the wound that ate deeper and lash, — ‘read it from the beginning deeper into his soul, that cut his pride and from the end. Do not let yourself to the quick, stung his self-respect, and be bewildered and estranged. Summon branded upon his innermost being up
all your good-will for my sake. If “the burning scar of receiving no you find the book as a whole intoler- response.
response.' That is what poisoned his able, perhaps a hundred details in it solitude and made it a nightmare. may not be so.' Thus did the greatest It was as if sudden fever seized mind of his century proffer to his upon and consumed the stricken man. contemporaries the most wonderful If we listen to the pulsation that throbs books of his age; and the most heroic through the writings and the letters of title he could give to a friendship was his later years, we hear the blood to say that nothing could destroy it - hammering in his arteries, as if pumped 'even the Zarathustra.' Even the by the heart of a climber who has Zarathustra! Such a crucial test, a reached the rarefied air of a lofty Calvary, had Nietzsche's creations mountain-top where all life ceases. become for his fellow men! So deep In his very latest letters this violent was the gulf that yawned between his knocking, as of a machine about to
ius and the inferiority of his age! burst asunder, becomes unendurably Ever thinner became the atmosphere painful. An impatient, nervous spasm on his heights, ever stiller, ever emptier. flashes through Nietzsche's usually
This silence made Nietzsche's last, tolerant and polished manner: “Your sevenfold loneliness an inferno. He long silence has stung my pride.' He beat his head vainly against its un- insists upon, he demands, an answer echoing wall. 'After such a cry of heart at anycost. He drives his printer anguish as my Zarathustra, lifted from with letters and telegrams — quicker, the uttermost depths of my soul, not quicker, as if all were staked on haste. to hear even a whisper of response.
He decides not to wait, as he originally Nothing, nothing, only silence, only a planned, until his Will to Power, his thousandfold solitude that masterpiece, is finished, but impaterrible beyond all conception, some- tiently rushes each section to the press, thing to crush the strongest.' And after as a man might cast a firebrand into this wild protest he added: ‘And I am a black abyss. His ‘halcyon tone'is not the strongest. Since then I have extinguished; his last writings groan been like one stricken unto death.' But with suppressed suffering and with a
measureless, defiant anger. They are
They are posing monument of words. His hamlashed out of him with the scourge of mer-blows rang louder than any others impatience. This haughty, indifferent in his century. In an ecstasy of exaltaman, stung in his pride, bade studied tion he chanted his death song defiance to his age in a vain effort to exaggerated, exuberant pæan of his provoke its retaliation.
deeds and victories. Darkness gathered That this challenge might be the about him with a great roaring as of more provocative, he related the story coming tempests, through which broke of his life, Ecce Homo, 'with a cynicism shrieks of laughter — the shrill, malithat will go down in history. Never cious, insane laughter of despair before had books been written with the Ecce Homo swan song.
Ever such an intense craving, with such a louder rose the chant, ever shriller rose morbid, twitching fever of impatience, the laughter, beating against the silent
answer as were Nietzsche's glaciers of his empyrean. Spasmodilast monumental pamphlets. He lashed cally he lifts his hands, dithyrambic the callous indifference of his contem- impulse moves his feet, and suddenly poraries with the scorpions of his pen, begins the dance, the dance over the inspired by the same mad fury that abyss, the abyss of his own destrucmade Xerxes bid his minions flog the tion. disobedient ocean with their rods. An insane fear that he would not live abyss at length looks back into you.
If you gaze too long into the abyss, the be be heard, a demoniacal vehemence, characterized this greedy insistence on The five months closing with the some response. We can see how he
autumn of 1888, Nietzsche's last lucid waited a second after delivering each interval, are unique in the annals of new blow, bending with tense atten- creative production. Probably never tion to catch the cry of those he struck. before or since has a single genius But nothing followed. No echo of an within so short a period thought so answer ascended to his ‘azure' soli- much, so intensely, so continuously, tude. Silence gripped his throat like so hyperbolically, and so radically; an iron ring not to be broken by any never has a human brain been so cry, even the most terrible mankind flooded with ideas, so crowded with knows; until he realized that no god images, so rocked with music, as that could redeem him henceforth from the of this doomed man. No parallel engulfment of this final solitude. exists in the history of the human
At length, in his last hours, apoca- intellect for this abundance, for this lyptic rage seized the outcast. Roaring overwhelming, all-compelling ecstasy, with anger, he hurled boulders about for this fanatical fury of creation him like blinded Polyphemus, heedless unless it was during that very year, and where they struck; and because he under the same heaven, when a painter, had no one to suffer with him, to feel likewise lashed by furies ambushed in with him, he tore at his own quivering eternal mystery, likewise poised on the heart. He had murdered the gods, so verge of madness, experienced a similar he deified himself. 'Must we not our- onrush of productivity. Van Gogh, selves become gods to be worthy of such in the Garden of Arles and in an deeds?' He had shattered all altars; asylum, filled his canvases with the therefore he built an altar to himself, same incredible speed, with the same his Ecce Homo, to glorify him whom ecstatic ease, possessed by the same all men scorned. He built him an im- abnormal creative spirit. Scarcely had
he finished one of his pallid but radiant thinking eyes, and his vision compassed pictures before his unerring brush was infinite time - both past and future. flitting over a new canvas, without an To him, the clairvoyant, his visions instant's pause or respite, without were palpably present. He need only premeditation, without taking breath stretch forth his hand, that feverish, for composition. To create had be- eager hand, to seize them. Scarcely come an all-absorbing imperative, be- had he seized them when they became stowing upon its slave demoniacal alive, thronged with figures, pulsating clairvoyance and facility, an unbroken with music, living, thinking entities. continuity of visions. Friends who had This inflow of ideas, of images, did left Van Gogh an hour previously not cease for one second of these stood speechless on their return before Napoleonic days. His spirit was flooded a picture completed during their brief with them, swept away on their irabsence, and watched him begin, with resistible current. 'Zarathustra seized moist brush, feverish eyes, and breath- me.' He is ever speaking of thus being less impatience, yet another. The carried away, overmastered by some irdemon that had him by the throat resistible power; as if somewhere in the granted his victim no respite, po remoter reaches of his consciousness pause, careless how quickly he, the there were still a secret bulwark of mad rider, drove the fainting and rationality, an instinctive resistance to fevered body to destruction.
the mysterious forces that took posIt was precisely thus that Nietzsche session of him. 'Possibly nothing was threw off work after work, breathlessly, ever produced out of such an overflow without
of power,' Nietzsche exclaimed ecedented lucidity and speed. Ten days, statically of these last works. But he fourteen days, three weeks - these never ventured to say that it was his were the periods required for his last own power. On the contrary, he felt books, for their conception, planning, himself intoxicated with the spirit, 'a completion. There was no period of mere mouthpiece of some transcenincubation, no interval of repose, no dental imperative.' tentative approach to the subject from Who can presume to portray this different angles, no changing, no revis- miracle of inspiration, and yet the tering; they sprang forth from his pen ror and the dread of these last months spotless, final, finished - at the same of incessant mind-and-body-exhausting time incandescent and tempered from creation, when he himself has described the forge. Never has a brain functioned it in the transport of gratitude, in the so long at such high pressure. Never vivid rapture, of the immediate exhave associations tied themselves to- perience? It is enough to catch these gether in a human mind with such flashing glimpses from his pen: magic speed. The vision instantly sug- ‘Has anyone at the end of the ninegested the word; the idea instantly teenth century a clear conception of stood forth precise and clear. And this
what poets of a greater age called inmarvelous abundance came without a spiration? I shall try to describe it. trace of effort. Creation had long since A man with even the faintest trace of ceased to be a labor. It had become superstition in himself will be unable to merely a laissez faire, a passive serving escape the feeling that he is merely an as a vehicle for higher powers. Pos- incarnation, a mouthpiece, a medium of sessed by the spirit, Nietzsche had only superior powers. The conception of to lift his eyes, those farsighted, deep- revelation, in the sense that suddenly,
with indescribable certainty and per- that one would have to go back ten fection, something visible, audible, thousand years to find another who comes to him, something that thrills would dare to say to me, “It is also and stirs his deepest being, simply mine.' records a fact. A man hears and does I know that the psychiater will see not seek; a man receives and does not in this exhilarated, ecstatic self-glorifiask who gives. A thought flashes into cation the euphoria, the final flash of the mind like lightning, final and ir- joy, of the doomed, the stigma of refutable. It has never been of my megalomania, the self-exaltation typichoosing. A rapture so intense that it cal in certain forms of insanity. But dissolves in tears, that makes a man yet I ask, has any other man iminvoluntarily hasten or slacken his mortalized with such crystalline clearsteps; a feeling of complete disembodi- ness the state of creative frenzy? For ment combined with a distinct con- this is the unique, the unprecedented sciousness of a succession of tremors. miracle of Nietzsche's last work that and thrills running over one from head a supreme degree of clarity accompato toe; a sensation of deep joy in which nied the climax of his somnambulistic the most painful and poignant ex- frenzy, that the wisdom of the serpent periences seem not discords but only dwelt with him in the very midst of its necessary shadowings in an overwhelm- bacchantic fury. All others thus selfing flood of light; an instinct of rhyth- deified, those whose souls Dionysus has mic relations spanning the infinite uni- made drunken, have maundered and verse of forms, — indeed, the expan- lost themselves in misty obscurities. sion, the conscious necessity, of an They have spoken vaguely and conall-embracing rhythm is pretty nearly a fusedly, as men in dreams. All others measure of the power of an inspiration, who have gazed into the abyss have a sort of compensation for its pressure used an Orphic, a Pythian, a weird, and tension, — all this comes upon one mysterious speech that carries dread involuntarily, in a whirlwind of sensa- but not understanding to our minds, tions of freedom, illimitability, power, and that our intellect refuses to comdivinity. ... The spontaneousness of prehend. But Nietzsche was as clear as the image, of the simile, is its most re crystal in the midst of his frenzy. His markable characteristic. A man is no words are keen and precise in the very longer conscious that it is an image, flame of the tripod. Possibly there a simile. It comes to him directly as the never was another living man who bent immediate, the original, the simple over the brink of madness so intensely form of expression. It really seems, to clear-sighted and conscious, so recall a saying of Zarathustra, as if the shrinking and free from dizziness. thing in itself came to one and offered Nietzsche's language is never colored, itself as a simile: “Hereupon all things never clouded with mystery. On the come caressingly to thy speech and contrary, at no time was he clearer and flatter thee, for they will ride upon thy truer than during those last few moback. On every simile thou ridest to ments when he was, so to speak, every truth. The words and treasure irradiated by the mystery of existence. stores of words of all existence fly open To be sure, it was a dangerous radiance for thee; all being seeks embodiment in that made his soul so luminous. It was words; all that comes into being would the weird, morbid glow of a midnight learn to speak from thee.” This is my sun falling over icebergs. It was a experience of inspiration. I doubt not northern light of the soul that fills the