Ecce Homo

Page 17 of 30

Who can be in any doubt as to what "glorious hoping" means here, when he has realised the[Pg 96] diamond beauty of the first of Zarathustra's words as they appear in a glow of light at the close of the fourth book? Or when he reads the granite sentences at the end of the third book, wherein a fate for all times is first given a formula? The songs of Prince Free-as-a-Bird, which, for the most part, were written in Sicily, remind me quite forcibly of that Provencal notion of "Gaya Scienza," of that union of singer, knight, and free spirit, which distinguishes that wonderfully early culture of the Provencals from all ambiguous cultures. The last poem of all, "To the Mistral,"—an exuberant dance song in which, if you please, the new spirit dances freely upon the corpse of morality,—is a perfect Provenalism.

[1] Translated for Joyful Wisdom by Paul V. Cohn.—TR.



I now wish to relate the history of Zarathustra. The fundamental idea of the work, the Eternal Recurrence, the highest formula of a Yea-saying to life that can ever be attained, was first conceived in the month of August 1881. I made a note of the idea on a sheet of paper, with the postscript: "Six thousand feet beyond man and time." That day I happened to be wandering through the woods alongside of the Lake of Silvaplana, and I halted not far from Surlei, beside a huge rock that towered aloft like a pyramid. It was then that[Pg 97] the thought struck me. Looking back now, I find that exactly two months before this inspiration I had an omen of its coming in the form of a sudden and decisive change in my tastes—more particularly in music. The whole of Zarathustra might perhaps be classified under the rubric music. At all events, the essential condition of its production was a second birth within me of the art of hearing. In Recoaro, a small mountain resort near Vicenza, where I spent the spring of 1881, I and my friend and maestro, Peter Gast—who was also one who had been born again, discovered that the phnix music hovered over us, in lighter and brighter plumage than it had ever worn before. If, therefore, I now calculate from that day forward the sudden production of the book, under the most unlikely circumstances, in February 1883,—the last part, out of which I quoted a few lines in my preface, was written precisely in the hallowed hour when Richard Wagner gave up the ghost in Venice,—I come to the conclusion that the period of gestation covered eighteen months. This period of exactly eighteen months, might suggest, at least to Buddhists, that I am in reality a female elephant The interval was devoted to the Gaya Scienza, which contains hundreds of indications of the proximity of something unparalleled; for, after all, it shows the beginning of Zarathustra, since it presents Zarathustra's fundamental thought in the last aphorism but one of the fourth book. To this interval also belongs that Hymn to Life (for a mixed choir and orchestra), the score of which was published in[Pg 98] Leipzig two years ago by E. W. Fritsch, and which gave perhaps no slight indication of my spiritual state during this year, in which the essentially yea-saying pathos, which I call the tragic pathos, completely filled me heart and limb. One day people will sing it to my memory. The text, let it be well understood, as there is some misunderstanding abroad on this point, is not by me; it was the astounding inspiration of a young Russian lady, Miss Lou von Salome, with whom I was then on friendly terms. He who is in any way able to make some sense of the last words of the poem, will divine why I preferred and admired it: there is greatness in them. Pain is not regarded as an objection to existence: "And if thou hast no bliss now left to crown me—Lead on! Thou hast thy Sorrow still."

Maybe that my music is also great in this passage. (The last note of the oboe, by the bye, is C sharp, not C. The latter is a misprint.) During the following winter, I was living on that charmingly peaceful Gulf of Rapallo, not far from Genoa, which cuts inland between Chiavari and Cape Porto Fino. My health was not very good; the winter was cold and exceptionally rainy; and the small albergo in which I lived was so close to the water that at night my sleep was disturbed if the sea was rough. These circumstances were surely the very reverse of favourable; and yet, in spite of it all, and as if in proof of my belief that everything decisive comes to life in defiance of every obstacle, it was precisely during this winter and in the midst of these unfavourable[Pg 99] circumstances that my Zarathustra originated. In the morning I used to start out in a southerly direction up the glorious road to Zoagli, which rises up through a forest of pines and gives one a view far out to sea. In the afternoon, or as often as my health allowed, I walked round the whole bay from Santa Margherita to beyond Porto Fino. This spot affected me all the more deeply because it was so dearly loved by the Emperor Frederick III. In the autumn of 1886 I chanced to be there again when he was revisiting this small forgotten world of happiness for the last time. It was on these two roads that all Zarathustra came to me, above all, Zarathustra himself as a type—I ought rather to say that it was on these walks that he waylaid me.


In order to understand this type, you must first be quite clear concerning its fundamental physiological condition: this condition is what I call great healthiness. In regard to this idea I cannot make my meaning more plain or more personal than I have done already in one of the last aphorisms (No. 382) of the fifth book of the Gaya Scienza: "We new, nameless, and unfathomable creatures," so reads the passage, "we firstlings of a future still unproved—we who have a new end in view also require new means to that end, that is to say, a new healthiness, a stronger, keener, tougher, bolder, and merrier healthiness than any that has existed heretofore. He who longs to[Pg 100] feel in his own soul the whole range of values and aims that have prevailed on earth until his day, and to sail round all the coasts of this ideal 'Mediterranean Sea'; who, from the adventures of his own inmost experience, would fain know how it feels to be a conqueror and discoverer of the ideal;—as also how it is with the artist, the saint, the legislator, the sage, the scholar, the man of piety and the godlike anchorite of yore;—such a man requires one thing above all for his purpose, and that is, great healthiness—such healthiness as he not only possesses, but also constantly acquires and must acquire, because he is continually sacrificing it again, and is compelled to sacrifice it! And now, therefore, after having been long on the way, we Argonauts of the ideal, whose pluck is greater than prudence would allow, and who are often shipwrecked and bruised, but, as I have said, healthier than people would like to admit, dangerously healthy, and for ever recovering our health—it would seem as if we had before us, as a reward for all our toils, a country still undiscovered, the horizon of which no one has yet seen, a beyond to every country and every refuge of the ideal that man has ever known, a world so overflowing with beauty, strangeness, doubt, terror, and divinity, that both our curiosity and our lust of possession are frantic with eagerness. Alas! how in the face of such vistas, and with such burning desire in our conscience and consciousness, could we still be content with the man of the present day? This is bad indeed; but, that we should regard his worthiest aims and hopes with ill-concealed amusement,[Pg 101] or perhaps give them no thought at all, is inevitable. Another ideal now leads us on, a wonderful, seductive ideal, full of danger, the pursuit of which we should be loath to urge upon any one, because we are not so ready to acknowledge any one's right to it: the ideal of a spirit who plays ingenuously (that is to say, involuntarily, and as the outcome of superabundant energy and power) with everything that, hitherto, has been called holy, good, inviolable, and divine; to whom even the loftiest thing that the people have with reason made their measure of value would be no better than a danger, a decay, and an abasement, or at least a relaxation and temporary forgetfulness of self: the ideal of a humanly superhuman well-being and goodwill, which often enough will seem inhuman—as when, for instance, it stands beside all past earnestness on earth, and all past solemnities in hearing, speech, tone, look, morality, and duty, as their most lifelike and unconscious parody—but with which, nevertheless, great earnestness perhaps alone begins, the first note of interrogation is affixed, the fate of the soul changes, the hour hand moves, and tragedy begins."

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