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“I saw a great sadness come over mankind,” said the soothsayer. “The best have become weary of their works. A doctrine appeared, a faith ran beside it: ‘All is empty, all is alike, all has been done!’ And from all hills there echoed: ‘All is empty, all is alike, all has been done!’ We have harvested, but why have all our fruits turned rotten and brown? What was it fell last night from the evil moon? All our labour was in vain, our wine became poison, and the evil eye singed our fields and our hearts. We have all become arid, and we turn fire falling upon us to dust like ashes. We made fire itself weary. All our fountains have dried up; even the sea has receded. The ground tries to gape, but the depths will not swallow! ‘Where is there still a sea in which one could be drowned?’ we complain across shallow swamps. Truly, we have become too weary even to die. Now we stay awake and live on in our mausoleums.”
As Zarathustra listened to the soothsayer speak, foreboding touched his heart and transformed him. He went about sorrowfully and wearily. He became like those of whom the soothsayer had spoken.
“Truly,” he said to his disciples, “in a little while, the long twilight will arrive. How shall I preserve my light through it so that it doesn’t smother in this sorrowfulness! It will be a light to remoter worlds, and also to the remotest nights!”
Zarathustra went about with grief in his heart, and for three days he did not eat any meat or drink. He had no rest, and lost his voice. At last he fell into a deep sleep. His disciples sat around him in long night watches, and waited anxiously to see if he would awake, and speak again, and recover from his affliction.
This is what Zarathustra said when he awoke. His voice came to his disciples as from afar:
Hear, I beg you, the dream that I dreamed, my friends, and help me to divine its meaning! It is still a riddle to me, this dream; the meaning is hidden in it and caged, and does not yet fly above it on freed wings.
I dreamt I had renounced All life. I had become a night watchman and grave guardian, on the heights, in the lonely mountain fortress of Death. There, I guarded his coffins. The musty vaults stood full of those trophies of victory. Vanquished life gazed upon me out of glass coffins.
I breathed the odour of dust covered eternity. My soul lay sultry and dust covered. Who could have aired his soul there! The brightness of midnight was always around me. Loneliness cowered beside her, and as a third, death rattle stillness, the worst of my female friends.
I carried the rustiest of all keys, and I knew how to open the creakiest of all gates with them. A sound like bitterly angry croaking ran through the long corridors when the leaves of the gate opened, like a bird crying ungraciously, unwillingly awakened. It was even more frightful and more heart-strangling when it once again became silent and still all around, and I sat alone in that malignant silence.
Time passed for me, slipping by, if there was still time. But at last something happened that woke me. Three times, there was a peal at the gate like thunder. Three times the vaults resounded and howled. Then did I went to the gate.
“Who carries his ashes to the mountain?” I cried.
I turned the key, pulled at the gate, and exerted myself. It was not open a finger’s breadth when a roaring wind tore the folds apart. Whistling, whizzing, and piercing, it threw a black coffin at me. In the roaring, whistling, and whizzing, the coffin burst open, and spouted out a thousand peals of laughter.
A thousand caricatures of children, angels, owls, fools, and child sized butterflies laughed, mocked, and roared at me. I was fearfully I terrified by this. It knocked me flat, and I cried with horror as I never cried before. But my own crying awoke me, and I came to myself.
When Zarathustra had related his dream, he was silent, for as yet he knew not the interpretation of it. But the disciple whom he loved most arose quickly, seized Zarathustra’s hand, and said:
Your life itself interprets this dream to us, Zarathustra! Are you not yourself the shrill whistling wind that burst open the gates of the fortress of Death? Are you not yourself the coffin full of many hued evils and angelic caricatures of life?
Zarathustra comes like a thousand peals of children’s laughter into all sepulchres, laughing at the night watchmen and grave guardians who rattle their sinister keys. With your laughter, you will frighten and prostrate them. Fainting and recovering will demonstrate your power over them.
When the long twilight comes, and mortal weariness, you will not disappear from the heavens, you advocate of life! You made us see new stars and new nocturnal glories. You have spread laughter itself over us like a many hued canopy. Now children’s laughter will always flow from coffins. Now a strong wind will always come victoriously to all mortal weariness. You yourself the promise and the prophet of this!
Truly, your enemies themselves made you dream; that was your worst nightmare. But just as you awoke from it and came to yourself, so shall they awaken themselves, and come to you!
All the disciples thronged around Zarathustra, grasped him by the hands, and tried to persuade him to leave his bed and his sadness, and return to them. Zarathustra, however, sat upright on his couch, with an absent look on his face. He looked on his disciples like one returning from long journey, and examined their features, but he still didn’t know them. But when they raised him up and set him on his feet, all of a sudden his eyes changed. He understood everything that had happened and stroked his beard.
“Well! This life has just its time,” he said in a strong voice. “See to it, my disciples, that we have a good meal, without delay! In this way I mean to make amends for my bad dreams! The soothsayer will eat and drink at my side, and truly, I will show him a sea in which he can drown himself!”
Zarathustra gazed for a long time into the face of the disciple who had been the dream-interpreter, then shook his head.
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