On the Future of our Educational Institutions - Homer and Classical Philology

Page 21 of 31

"Ah," began the philosopher's companion, "when you quote the divine Plato and the world of ideas, I do not think you are angry with me, however much my previous utterance may have merited your disapproval and wrath. As soon as you speak of it, I feel that Platonic wing rising within me; and it is only at intervals, when I act as the charioteer of my soul, that I have any difficulty with the resisting and unwilling horse that [Pg 115]Plato has also described to us, the 'crooked, lumbering animal, put together anyhow, with a short, thick neck; flat-faced, and of a dark colour, with grey eyes and blood-red complexion; the mate of insolence and pride, shag-eared and deaf, hardly yielding to whip or spur.'[8] Just think how long I have lived at a distance from you, and how all those temptations you speak of have endeavoured to lure me away, not perhaps without some success, even though I myself may not have observed it. I now see more clearly than ever the necessity for an institution which will enable us to live and mix freely with the few men of true culture, so that we may have them as our leaders and guiding stars. How greatly I feel the danger of travelling alone! And when it occurred to me that I could save myself by flight from all contact with the spirit of the time, I found that this flight itself was a mere delusion. Continuously, with every breath we take, some amount of that atmosphere circulates through every vein and artery, and no solitude is lonesome or distant enough for us to be out of reach of its fogs and clouds. Whether in the guise of hope, doubt, profit, or virtue, the shades of that culture hover about us; and we have been deceived by that jugglery even here in the presence of a true hermit of culture. How steadfastly and faithfully must the few followers of that culture—which might almost be called sectarian—be ever on the alert! How they must strengthen and uphold one another! How adversely would [Pg 116]any errors be criticised here, and how sympathetically excused! And thus, teacher, I ask you to pardon me, after you have laboured so earnestly to set me in the right path!"

"You use a language which I do not care for, my friend," said the philosopher, "and one which reminds me of a diocesan conference. With that I have nothing to do. But your Platonic horse pleases me, and on its account you shall be forgiven. I am willing to exchange my own animal for yours. But it is getting chilly, and I don't feel inclined to walk about any more just now. The friend I was waiting for is indeed foolish enough to come up here even at midnight if he promised to do so. But I have waited in vain for the signal agreed upon; and I cannot guess what has delayed him. For as a rule he is punctual, as we old men are wont, to be, something that you young men nowadays look upon as old-fashioned. But he has left me in the lurch for once: how annoying it is! Come away with me! It's time to go!"

At this moment something happened.

[6] It will be apparent from these words that Nietzsche is still under the influence of Schopenhauer.—TR.

[7] This prophecy has come true.—TR.

[8] Phaedrus; Jowett's translation.

[Pg 117]


(Delivered on the 23rd of March 1872.)

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN,—If you have lent a sympathetic ear to what I have told you about the heated argument of our philosopher in the stillness of that memorable night, you must have felt as disappointed as we did when he announced his peevish intention. You will remember that he had suddenly told us he wished to go; for, having been left in the lurch by his friend in the first place, and, in the second, having been bored rather than animated by the remarks addressed to him by his companion and ourselves when walking backwards and forwards on the hillside, he now apparently wanted to put an end to what appeared to him to be a useless discussion. It must have seemed to him that his day had been lost, and he would have liked to blot it out of his memory, together with the recollection of ever having made our acquaintance. And we were thus rather unwillingly preparing to depart when something else suddenly brought him to a standstill, and the foot he had just raised sank hesitatingly to the ground again.

A coloured flame, making a crackling noise for a few seconds, attracted our attention from the [Pg 118]direction of the Rhine; and immediately following upon this we heard a slow, harmonious call, quite in tune, although plainly the cry of numerous youthful voices. "That's his signal," exclaimed the philosopher, "so my friend is really coming, and I haven't waited for nothing, after all. It will be a midnight meeting indeed—but how am I to let him know that I am still here? Come! Your pistols; let us see your talent once again! Did you hear the severe rhythm of that melody saluting us? Mark it well, and answer it in the same rhythm by a series of shots."

This was a task well suited to our tastes and abilities; so we loaded up as quickly as we could and pointed our weapons at the brilliant stars in the heavens, whilst the echo of that piercing cry died away in the distance. The reports of the first, second, and third shots sounded sharply in the stillness; and then the philosopher cried "False time!" as our rhythm was suddenly interrupted: for, like a lightning flash, a shooting star tore its way across the clouds after the third report, and almost involuntarily our fourth and fifth shots were sent after it in the direction it had taken.

"False time!" said the philosopher again, "who told you to shoot stars! They can fall well enough without you! People should know what they want before they begin to handle weapons."

And then we once more heard that loud melody from the waters of the Rhine, intoned by numerous and strong voices. "They understand us," said the philosopher, laughing, "and who indeed could [Pg 119]resist when such a dazzling phantom comes within range?" "Hush!" interrupted his friend, "what sort of a company can it be that returns the signal to us in such a way? I should say they were between twenty and forty strong, manly voices in that crowd—and where would such a number come from to greet us? They don't appear to have left the opposite bank of the Rhine yet; but at any rate we must have a look at them from our own side of the river. Come along, quickly!"

We were then standing near the top of the hill, you may remember, and our view of the river was interrupted by a dark, thick wood. On the other hand, as I have told you, from the quiet little spot which we had left we could have a better view than from the little plateau on the hillside; and the Rhine, with the island of Nonnenwrth in the middle, was just visible to the beholder who peered over the tree-tops. We therefore set off hastily towards this little spot, taking care, however, not to go too quickly for the philosopher's comfort. The night was pitch dark, and we seemed to find our way by instinct rather than by clearly distinguishing the path, as we walked down with the philosopher in the middle.

We had scarcely reached our side of the river when a broad and fiery, yet dull and uncertain light shot up, which plainly came from the opposite side of the Rhine. "Those are torches," I cried, "there is nothing surer than that my comrades from Bonn are over yonder, and that your friend must be with them. It is they who sang that peculiar song, and they have doubtless [Pg 120]accompanied your friend here. See! Listen! They are putting off in little boats. The whole torchlight procession will have arrived here in less than half an hour."

Free Learning Resources