Thus Spake Zarathustra: Poets

poetsPrevious Post: Scholars

After trashing Scholars, Zarathustra is kinder to the poets, even considering himself one of them.

* * *

“Since I have known the body better,” Zarathustra said to one of his disciples, “the mind to me has only been symbolically spirit, and all the ‘imperishable’ is also merely a simile.”

“I have heard you say this before,” answered the disciple, “but then you added: ‘But the poets lie too much.’ Why did you say that the poets lie too much?”

“Why?” said Zarathustra. “you ask why? I do not belong to those who may be asked why. Is my experience only of yesterday? Long ago I experienced the reasons for mine opinions. I would have to be a memory vault if I wanted to have my reasons with me. It is already too much for me even to retain my opinions, and many a bird flies away. Sometimes I even find a fugitive creature in my dovecote that is alien to me, and trembles when I lay my hand upon it. What did Zarathustra once say to you? That poets lie too much? But Zarathustra also is a poet. Do you believe that he there spoke the truth? Why do you believe it?”

“I believe in Zarathustra,” the disciple answered.

Zarathustra shook his head and smiled.

Belief does not make me right, least of all belief in myself. But I grant that I did say in all seriousness that the poets lie too much. I was right—We do lie too much. We also know too little, and are bad learners, so we are obliged to lie. Which of us poets has not fortified his wine? Many a poisonous concoction has evolved in our cellars, and many indescribable things have there been done.

Because we know little, our hearts are pleased with the poor in spirit, especially when they are young women! We even desire those things that old women tell one another in the evening. We call this the eternally feminine in us.

As if there were a special secret access to knowledge, which chokes up for those who learn anything, we believe in the people and in their “wisdom.” This, however, all poets believe: whoever pricks up his ears while lying in the grass or on lonely slopes, learns something of things between heaven and earth.

If tender emotions come to them, poets always think that nature herself is in love with them, and that she steals to them to whisper secrets in their ears, and amorous flattery. Because of this, they preen take and pride in themselves before all mortals!

Ah, there are so many things between heaven and earth of which only poets have dreamed! And especially above the heavens, for all gods are poetic symbolism, poetic sophistication! Truly, we are forever drawn aloft, to the realm of the clouds. We set our gaudy puppets on them, and then call them gods and supermen. Aren’t they light enough for those chairs, all these gods and supermen?

Ah, how I weary of all that is inadequate but is insisted on as actual! I am weary of the poets!

When Zarathustra had said this, his disciple resented it, but was silent. Zarathustra was also silent, and his eye directed itself inward, as if it gazed into the far distance. At last he sighed and drew breath.

I am of today and the past, but something is in me that is of tomorrow, and the day following, and the days thereafter. I became weary of the poets, of the old and new. They are all superficial to me, like shallow seas. They did not think sufficiently in depth; therefore their feelings do not reach to the bottom.

A sensation of voluptuousness and the sensation of tedium: these have as yet been their best contemplation. All the jangling of their harps seem to me mere ghosts breathing and ghosts playing. What have they known so far of the fervour of tones! They are also not pure enough for me. They muddy the waters so that they seem deep. By this they wish to prove themselves reconcilers, but they are mere intermediaries and mixers to me, half and half, and impure!

I cast my net into their sea, meaning to catch good fish, but I always drew up the head of some ancient god. The sea gave a stone to the hungry one. They themselves may well originate from the sea. Certainly, one finds pearls in them; they are like oysters. Instead of a soul, I often find salt slime in it.

They have also learned vanity from the sea. Isn’t the sea the peacock of peacocks? It even spreads its tail before the ugliest of all buffaloes. It never tires of its fan of lace, silver, and silk. The buffalo glances disdainfully at the sea, with its soul near the earth, nearer still to the thicket, and nearest to the swamp. What are the beauty of the sea and peacock-splendour to it!

I give this parable to the poets. Truly, their spirit itself is the peacock of peacocks, and a sea of vanity! The spirit of the poet seeks spectators, even if they are buffaloes!

But of this spirit became I weary, and I see the time coming when it will become weary of itself. I have seen the poets change, and their gaze turned towards themselves. I have seen penitents of the spirit appearing. They grew out of poets.

So said Zarathustra.

Next Post: Great Events

About jimbelton

I'm a software developer, and a writer of both fiction and non-fiction, and I blog about movies, books, and philosophy. My interest in religious philosophy and the search for the truth inspires much of my writing.
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2 Responses to Thus Spake Zarathustra: Poets

  1. Pingback: Thus Spake Zarathustra: Scholars | Jim's Jumbler

  2. Pingback: Thus Spake Zarathustra: Great Events | Jim's Jumbler

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