Ecce Homo

Page 26 of 30


Have you understood me? Dionysus versus Christ.

[1] Needless to say this is Nietzsche, and no longer the Persian.—TR.

[Pg 144]
[Pg 145]


The editor begs to state that, contrary to his announcement in the Editorial Note to The Joyful Wisdom, in which he declared his intention of publishing all of Nietzsche's poetry, he has nevertheless withheld certain less important verses from publication. This alteration in his plans is due to his belief that it is an injustice and an indiscretion on the part of posterity to surprise an author, as it were, in his nglig, or, in plain English, "in his shirt-sleeves." Authors generally are very sensitive on this point, and rightly so: a visit behind the scenes is not precisely to the advantage of the theatre, and even finished pictures not yet framed are not readily shown by the careful artist. As the German edition, however, contains nearly all that Nietzsche left behind, either in small notebooks or on scraps of paper, the editor could not well suppress everything that was not prepared for publication by Nietzsche himself, more particularly as some of the verses are really very remarkable. He has, therefore, made a very plentiful selection from the Songs and Epigrams, nearly all of which are to be found translated here, and from the Fragments of the Dionysus Dithyrambs, of which over half have been given. All the complete Dionysus Dithyrambs[Pg 146] appear in this volume, save those which are duplicates of verses already translated in the Fourth Part of Zarathustra. These Dionysus Dithyrambs were prepared ready for press by Nietzsche himself. He wrote the final manuscript during the summer of 1888 in Sils Maria; their actual composition, however, belongs to an earlier date.

All the verses, unless otherwise stated, have been translated by Mr. Paul Victor Cohn.

[Pg 147]
[Pg 148]
[Pg 149]




O Melancholy, be not wroth with me
That I this pen should point to praise thee only,
And in thy praise, with head bowed to the knee,
Squat like a hermit on a tree-stump lonely.
Thus oft thou saw'st me,—yesterday, at least,—
Full in the morning sun and its hot beaming,
While, visioning the carrion of his feast,
The hungry vulture valleyward flew screaming.

Yet didst thou err, foul bird, albeit I,
So like a mummy 'gainst my log lay leaning!
Thou couldst not see these eyes whose ecstasy
Rolled hither, thither, proud and overweening.
What though they did not soar unto thine height,
or reached those far-off, cloud-reared precipices,
For that they sank the deeper so they might
Within themselves light Destiny's abysses.

Thus oft in sullenness perverse and free,
Bent hideous like a savage at his altar,
There, Melancholy, held I thought of thee,
[Pg 150]A penitent, though youthful, with his psalter.

So crouched did I enjoy the vulture's span,
The thunder of the avalanche's paces,
Thou spakest to me—nor wast false like man,
Thou spakest, but with stern and dreadful faces.

Harsh goddess thou of Nature wild and stark,
Mistress, that com'st with threats to daunt and quell me,
To point me out the vulture's airy are
And laughing avalanches, to repel me.
Around us gnashing pants the lust to kill,
The torment to win life in all its changes;
Alluring on some cliff, abrupt and chill,
Some flower craves the butterfly that ranges.

All this am I—shuddering I feel it all—
O butterfly beguiled, O lonely flower,
The vulture and the ice-pent waterfall,
The moaning storm—all symbols of thy power,—
Thou goddess grim before whom deeply bowed,
With head on knee, my lips with pans bursting,
I lift a dreadful song and cry aloud
For Life, for Life, for Life—forever thirsting!

O vengeful goddess, be not wroth, I ask,
That I to mesh thee in my rhymes have striven.
He trembles who beholds thine awful mask;
He quails to whom thy dread right hand is given.
Song upon trembling song by starts and fits
I chant, in rhythm all my thought unfolding,
The black ink flows, the pointed goose-quill spits,
O goddess, goddess—leave me to my scolding!
[Pg 151]


To-day in misty veils thou hangest dimly,
Gloomy goddess, o'er my window-pane.
Grimly whirl the pallid snow-flakes, grimly
Roars the swollen brook unto the plain.

Ah, by light of haggard levins glaring,
'Neath the untamed thunder's roar and roll,
'Midst the valley's murk wast thou preparing—
Sorceress! thy dank and poisoned bowl.

Shuddering, I heard through midnight breaking
Raptures of thy voice—and howls of pain.
Saw thy bright orbs gleam, thy right hand shaking
With the mace of thunder hurled amain.

Near my dreary couch I heard the crashes
Of thine armoured steps, heard weapons slam,
Heard thy brazen chain strike 'gainst the sashes,
And thy voice: "Come! hearken who I am!

The immortal Amazon they call me;
All things weak and womanish I shun;
Manly scorn and hate in war enthral me;
Victress I and tigress all in one!

Where I tread there corpses fall before me;
From mine eyes the furious torches fly,
And my brain thinks poisons. Bend, adore me!
Worm of Earth and Will o' Wisp—or die!"

[Pg 152]


(Two Fragments)


Goddess Friendship, deign to hear the song
That we sing in friendship's honour!
Where the eye of friendship glances,
Filled with all the joy of friendship
Come thou nigh to aid me,
Rosy dawn in thy gaze and
In holy hand the faithful pledge of youth eternal.


Morning's past: the sun of noonday
Scorches with hot ray our heads.
Let us sit beneath the arbour
Singing songs in praise of friendship.
Friendship was our life's red dawning,
And its sunset red shall be.


All through the night a wanderer walks
Sturdy of stride,
With winding vale and sloping height
E'er at his side.
Fair is the night:
On, on he strides, nor slackens speed,
[Pg 153]And knows not where his path will lead.

A bird's song in the night is heard,
"Ah me, what hast thou done, O bird,
How dost thou grip my sense and feet
And pourest heart-vexation sweet
Into mine ear—I must remain,
To hearken fain:
Why lure me with inviting strain?"

The good bird speaks, staying his song:
"I lure not thee,—no, thou art wrong—
With these my trills
I lure my mate from off the hills—
Nor heed thy plight.
To me alone the night's not fair.
What's that to thee? Forth must thou fare,
On, onward ever, resting ne'er.

Why stand'st thou now?
What has my piping done to thee,
Thou roaming wight?"
The good bird pondered, silent quite,
"Why doth my piping change his plight?
Why stands he now,
That luckless, luckless, roaming wight?"


At noontide hour, when first,
Into the mountains Summer treads,
Summer, the boy with eyes so hot and weary,
Then too he speaks,
[Pg 154]Yet we can only see his speech.

His breath is panting, like the sick man's breath
On fevered couch.
The glacier and the fir tree and the spring
Answer his call
—Yet we their answer only see.
For faster from the rock leaps down
The torrent stream, as though to greet,
And stands, like a white column trembling,
All yearning there.
And darker yet and truer looks the fir-tree
Than e'er before.
And 'twixt the ice-mass and the cold grey stone
A sudden light breaks forth—
Such light I once beheld, and marked the sign.

Even the dead man's eye
Surely once more grows light,
When, sorrowful, his child
Gives him embrace and kiss:
Surely once more the flame of light
Wells out, and glowing into life
The dead eye speaks: "My child!
Ah child, you know I love you true!"

So all things glow and speak—the glacier speaks,
The brook, the fir,
Speak with their glance the selfsame words:
We love you true,
[Pg 155]Ah, child, you know we love you, love you true!

And he,
Summer, the boy with eyes so hot and weary,
Woe-worn, gives kisses
More ardent ever,
And will not go:
But like to veils he blows his words
From out his lips,
His cruel words:
"My greeting's parting,
My coming going,
In youth I die."

All round they hearken
And scarcely breathe
(No songster sings),
And shuddering run
Like gleaming ray
Over the mountain;
All round they ponder,—
Nor speak—

Twas at the noon,
At noontide hour, when first
Into the mountains Summer treads,
Summer, the boy with eyes so hot and weary.


'Tis Autumn:—Autumn yet shall break thy heart!
Fly away! fly away!—
The sun creeps 'gainst the hill
And climbs and climbs
[Pg 156]And rests at every step.

How faded grew the world!
On weary, slackened strings the wind
Playeth his tune.
Fair Hope fled far—
He waileth after.

'Tis Autumn:—Autumn yet shall break thy heart!
Fly away! fly away!
O fruit of the tree,
Thou tremblest, fallest?
What secret whispered unto thee
The Night,
That icy shudders deck thy cheek,
Thy cheek of purple hue?

Silent art thou, nor dost reply—
Who speaketh still?—

'Tis Autumn:—Autumn yet shall break thy heart!
Fly away! fly away!—
"I am not fair,"—
So speaks the lone star-flower,—
"Yet men I love
And comfort men—
Many flowers shall they behold,
And stoop to me,
And break me, ah!—
So that within their eyes shall gleam
Remembrance swift,
Remembrance of far fairer things than I:—
I see it—see it—and I perish so."

'Tis Autumn:—Autumn yet shall break thy heart!
Fly away! fly away!
[Pg 157]


Maiden, in gentle wise
You stroke your lamb's soft fleece,
Yet flashing from your eyes
Both light and flame ne'er cease.
Creature of merry jest
And favourite near and far,
Pious with kindness blest,

What broke so soon the chain,
What does your heart deplore?
And who, pray, would not fain,
If you loved him, adore?—
You're mute, but from your eye,
The tear-drop is not far,
You're mute: you'll yearn and die,


"Little Angel" call they me!—
Now a ship, but once a girl,
Ah, and still too much a girl!
My steering-wheel, so bright to see,
[Pg 158]But for sake of love doth whirl.

"Little Angel" call they me,
With hundred flags to ornament,
A captain smart, on glory bent,
Steers me, puffed with vanity
(He himself's an ornament).

"Little Angel" call they me,
And where'er a little flame
Gleams for me, I, like a lamb,
Go my journey eagerly
(I was always such a lamb!).

"Little Angel" call they me—
Think you I can bark and whine
Like a dog, this mouth of mine
Throwing smoke and flame full free?
Ah, a devil's mouth is mine.

"Little Angel" call they me—
Once I spoke a bitter word,
That my lover, when he heard,
Fast and far away did flee:
Yes, I killed him with that word!

"Little Angel" call they me:
Hardly heard, I sprang so glib
From the cliff and broke a rib:
From my frame my soul went free,
Yes, escaped me through that rib.

"Little Angel" call they me—
Then my soul, like cat in flight
Straight did on this ship alight
Swiftly bounding—one, two, three!
[Pg 159]Yes, its claws are swift to smite.

"Little Angel" call they me!—
Now a ship, but once a girl,
Ah, and still too much a girl!
My steering-wheel, so bright to see,
For sake of love alone doth whirl.


Yesterday with seventeen years
Wisdom reached I, a maiden fair,
I am grey-haired, it appears,
Now in all things—save my hair.

Yesterday, I had a thought,
Was't a thought?—you laugh and scorn!
Did you ever have a thought?
Rather was a feeling born.

Dare a woman think? This screed
Wisdom long ago begot:
"Follow woman must, not lead;
If she thinks, she follows not."

Wisdom speaks—I credit naught:
Rather hops and stings like flea:
"Woman seldom harbours thought;
If she thinks, no good is she!"

To this wisdom, old, renowned,
Bow I in deep reverence:
Now my wisdom I'll expound
[Pg 160]In its very quintessence.

A voice spoke in me yesterday
As ever—listen if you can:
"Woman is more beauteous aye,
But more interesting—man!"


Cave where the dead ones rest,
O marble falsehood, thee
I love: for easy jest
My soul thou settest free.

To-day, to-day alone,
My soul to tears is stirred,
At thee, the pictured stone,
At thee, the graven word.

This picture (none need wis)
I kissed the other day.
When there's so much to kiss
Why did I kiss the—clay?

Who knows the reason why?
"A tombstone fool!" you laugh:
I kissed—I'll not deny—
E'en the long epitaph.


Hail to thee, Friendship!
My hope consummate,
My first red daybreak!
[Pg 161]Alas, so endless
Oft path and night seemed,
And life's long road
Aimless and hateful!
Now life I'd double
In thine eyes seeing
Dawn-glory, triumph,
Most gracious goddess!


O'er man and beast I grew so high,
And speak—but none will give reply.

Too lone and tall my crest did soar:
I wait: what am I waiting for?

The clouds are grown too nigh of late,
'Tis the first lightning I await.


Why did ye, blockheads, me awaken
While I in blissful blindness stood?
Ne'er I by fear more fell was shaken—
Vanished my golden dreaming mood.

Bear-elephants, with trunks all greedy,
Knock first! Where have your manners fled?
I threw—and fear has made me speedy—
[Pg 162]Dishes of ripe fruit—at your head.


(After a Gipsy Proverb)

Here the gallows, there the cord,
And the hangman's ruddy beard.
Round, the venom-glancing horde:—
Nothing new to me's appeared.
Many times I've seen the sight,
Now laughing in your face I cry,
"Hanging me is useless quite:
Die? Nay, nay, I cannot die!"

Beggars all! Ye envy me
Winning what ye never won!
True, I suffer agony,
But for you—your life is done.
Many times I've faced death's plight,
Yet steam and light and breath am I.
Hanging me is useless quite:
Die? Nay, nay, I cannot die!


"Dearest," said Columbus, "never
Trust a Genoese again.
At the blue he gazes ever,
Distance doth his soul enchain.

Strangeness is to me too dear—
Genoa has sunk and passed—
Heart, be cool! Hand, firmly steer!
[Pg 163]Sea before me: land—at last?

Firmly let us plant our feet,
Ne'er can we give up this game—
From the distance what doth greet?
One death, one happiness, one fame.


The cawing crows
Townwards on whirring pinions roam;
Soon come the snows—
Thrice happy now who hath a home!

Fast-rooted there,
Thou gazest backwards—oh, how long!
Thou fool, why dare
Ere winter come, this world of wrong?

This world—a gate
To myriad deserts dumb and hoar!
Who lost through fate
What thou hast lost, shall rest no more.

Now stand'st thou pale,
A frozen pilgrimage thy doom,
Like smoke whose trail
Cold and still colder skies consume.

Fly, bird, and screech,
Like desert-fowl, thy song apart!
Hide out of reach,
Fool! in grim ice thy bleeding heart.

Firmly let us plant our feet,
Ne'er can we give up this game—
From the distance what doth greet?
[Pg 164]One death, one happiness, one fame.

The cawing crows
Townwards on whirring pinions roam:
Soon come the snows—
Woe unto him who hath no home!

My Answer

The man presumes—
Good Lord!—to think that I'd return
To those warm rooms
Where snug the German ovens burn

My friend, you see
'Tis but thy folly drives me far,—
Pity for thee
And all that German blockheads are!


ON the bridge I stood,
Mellow was the night,
Music came from far—
Drops of gold outpoured
On the shimmering waves.
Song, gondolas, light,
Floated a-twinkling out into the dusk.

The chords of my soul, moved
By unseen impulse, throbbed
Secretly into a gondola song,
With thrills of bright-hued ecstasy.
Had I a listener there?[Pg 165]

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