The Joyful Wisdom

Фридрих Вильгельм Ницше
The Joyful Wisdom


"The Joyful Wisdom," written in 1882, just before "Zarathustra," is rightly judged to be one of Nietzsche's best books. Here the essentially grave and masculine face of the poet-philosopher is seen to light up and suddenly break into a delightful smile. The warmth and kindness that beam from his features will astonish those hasty psychologists who have never divined that behind the destroyer is the creator, and behind the blasphemer the lover of life. In the retrospective valuation of his work which appears in "Ecce Homo" the author himself observes with truth that the fourth book, "Sanctus Januarius," deserves especial attention: "The whole book is a gift from the Saint, and the introductory verses express my gratitude for the most wonderful month of January that I have ever spent." Book fifth "We Fearless Ones," the Appendix "Songs of Prince Free-as-a-Bird," and the Preface, were added to the second edition in 1887.

The translation of Nietzsche's poetry has proved to be a more embarrassing problem than that of his prose. Not only has there been a difficulty in finding adequate translators – a difficulty overcome, it is hoped, by the choice of Miss Petre and Mr Cohn, – but it cannot be denied that even in the original the poems are of unequal merit. By the side of such masterpieces as "To the Mistral" are several verses of comparatively little value. The Editor, however, did not feel justified in making a selection, as it was intended that the edition should be complete. The heading, "Jest, Ruse and Revenge," of the "Prelude in Rhyme" is borrowed from Goethe.



Perhaps more than one preface would be necessary for this book; and after all it might still be doubtful whether any one could be brought nearer to the experiences in it by means of prefaces, without having himself experienced something similar. It seems to be written in the language of the thawing-wind: there is wantonness, restlessness, contradiction and April-weather in it; so that one is as constantly reminded of the proximity of winter as of the victory over it: the victory which is coming, which must come, which has perhaps already come… Gratitude continually flows forth, as if the most unexpected thing had happened, the gratitude of a convalescent – for convalescence was this most unexpected thing. "Joyful Wisdom": that implies the Saturnalia of a spirit which has patiently withstood a long, frightful pressure – patiently, strenuously, impassionately, without submitting, but without hope – and which is now suddenly o'erpowered with hope, the hope of health, the intoxication of convalescence. What wonder that much that is unreasonable and foolish thereby comes to light: much wanton tenderness expended even on problems which have a prickly hide, and are not therefore fit to be fondled and allured. The whole book is really nothing but a revel after long privation and impotence: the frolicking of returning energy, of newly awakened belief in a to-morrow and after-to-morrow; of sudden sentience and prescience of a future, of near adventures, of seas open once more, and aims once more permitted and believed in. And what was now all behind me! This track of desert, exhaustion, unbelief, and frigidity in the midst of youth, this advent of grey hairs at the wrong time, this tyranny of pain, surpassed, however, by the tyranny of pride which repudiated the consequences of pain – and consequences are comforts, – this radical isolation, as defence against the contempt of mankind become morbidly clairvoyant, this restriction upon principle to all that is bitter, sharp, and painful in knowledge, as prescribed by the disgust which had gradually resulted from imprudent spiritual diet and pampering – it is called Romanticism, – oh, who could realise all those feelings of mine! He, however, who could do so would certainly forgive me everything, and more than a little folly, boisterousness and "Joyful Wisdom" – for example, the handful of songs which are given along with the book on this occasion, – songs in which a poet makes merry over all poets in a way not easily pardoned. – Alas, it is not only on the poets and their fine "lyrical sentiments" that this reconvalescent must vent his malignity: who knows what kind of victim he seeks, what kind of monster of material for parody will allure him ere long? Incipit tragœdia, it is said at the conclusion of this seriously frivolous book; let people be on their guard! Something or other extraordinarily bad and wicked announces itself: incipit parodia, there is no doubt…


– But let us leave Herr Nietzsche; what does it matter to people that Herr Nietzsche has got well again?.. A psychologist knows few questions so attractive as those concerning the relations of health to philosophy, and in the case when he himself falls sick, he carries with him all his scientific curiosity into his sickness. For, granting that one is a person, one has necessarily also the philosophy of one's personality; there is, however, an important distinction here. With the one it is his defects which philosophise, with the other it is his riches and powers. The former requires his philosophy, whether it be as support, sedative, or medicine, as salvation, elevation, or self-alienation; with the latter it is merely a fine luxury, at best the voluptuousness of a triumphant gratitude, which must inscribe itself ultimately in cosmic capitals on the heaven of ideas. In the other more usual case, however, when states of distress occupy themselves with philosophy (as is the case with all sickly thinkers – and perhaps the sickly thinkers preponderate in the history of philosophy), what will happen to the thought itself which is brought under the pressure of sickness? This is the important question for psychologists: and here experiment is possible. We philosophers do just like a traveller who resolves to awake at a given hour, and then quietly yields himself to sleep: we surrender ourselves temporarily, body and soul, to the sickness, supposing we become ill – we shut, as it were, our eyes on ourselves. And as the traveller knows that something does not sleep, that something counts the hours and will awake him, we also know that the critical moment will find us awake – that then something will spring forward and surprise the spirit in the very act, I mean in weakness, or reversion, or submission, or obduracy, or obscurity, or whatever the morbid conditions are called, which in times of good health have the pride of the spirit opposed to them (for it is as in the old rhyme: "The spirit proud, peacock and horse are the three proudest things of earthly source"). After such self-questioning and self-testing, one learns to look with a sharper eye at all that has hitherto been philosophised; one divines better than before the arbitrary by-ways, side-streets, resting-places, and sunny places of thought, to which suffering thinkers, precisely as sufferers, are led and misled: one knows now in what direction the sickly body and its requirements unconsciously press, push, and allure the spirit – towards the sun, stillness, gentleness, patience, medicine, refreshment in any sense whatever. Every philosophy which puts peace higher than war, every ethic with a negative grasp of the idea of happiness, every metaphysic and physic that knows a finale, an ultimate condition of any kind whatever, every predominating, æsthetic or religious longing for an aside, a beyond, an outside, an above – all these permit one to ask whether sickness has not been the motive which inspired the philosopher. The unconscious disguising of physiological requirements under the cloak of the objective, the ideal, the purely spiritual, is carried on to an alarming extent, – and I have often enough asked myself, whether on the whole philosophy hitherto has not generally been merely, an interpretation of the body, and a misunderstanding of the body. Behind the loftiest estimates of value by which the history of thought has hitherto been governed, misunderstandings of the bodily constitution, either of individuals, classes, or entire races are concealed. One may always primarily consider these audacious freaks of metaphysic, and especially its answers to the question of the worth of existence, as symptoms of certain bodily constitutions; and if, on the whole, when scientifically determined, not a particle of significance attaches to such affirmations and denials of the world, they nevertheless furnish the historian and psychologist with hints so much the more valuable (as we have said) as symptoms of the bodily constitution, its good or bad condition, its fullness, powerfulness, and sovereignty in history; or else of its obstructions, exhaustions, and impoverishments, its premonition of the end, its will to the end. I still expect that a philosophical physician, in the exceptional sense of the word – one who applies himself to the problem of the collective health of peoples, periods, races, and mankind generally – will some day have the courage to follow out my suspicion to its ultimate conclusions, and to venture on the judgment that in all philosophising it has not hitherto been a question of "truth" at all, but of something else, – namely, of health, futurity, growth, power, life…


It will be surmised that I should not like to take leave ungratefully of that period of severe sickness, the advantage of which is not even yet exhausted in me: for I am sufficiently conscious of what I have in advance of the spiritually robust generally, in my changeful state of health. A philosopher who has made the tour of many states of health, and always makes it anew, has also gone through just as many philosophies: he really cannot do otherwise than transform his condition on every occasion into the most ingenious posture and position, – this art of transfiguration is just philosophy. We philosophers are not at liberty to separate soul and body, as the people separate them; and we are still less at liberty to separate soul and spirit. We are not thinking frogs, we are not objectifying and registering apparatuses with cold entrails, – our thoughts must be continually born to us out of our pain, and we must, motherlike, share with them all that we have in us of blood, heart, ardour, joy, passion, pang, conscience, fate and fatality. Life – that means for us to transform constantly into light and flame all that we are, and also all that we meet with; we cannot possibly do otherwise. And as regards sickness, should we not be almost tempted to ask whether we could in general dispense with it? It is great pain only which is the ultimate emancipator of the spirit; for it is the teacher of the strong suspicion which makes an X out of every U1, a true, correct X, i. e., the ante-penultimate letter… It is great pain only, the long slow pain which takes time, by which we are burned as it were with green wood, that compels us philosophers to descend into our ultimate depths, and divest ourselves of all trust, all good-nature, veiling, gentleness, and averageness, wherein we have perhaps formerly installed our humanity. I doubt whether such pain "improves" us; but I know that it deepens us. Be it that we learn to confront it with our pride, our scorn, our strength of will, doing like the Indian who, however sorely tortured, revenges himself on his tormentor with his bitter tongue; be it that we withdraw from the pain into the oriental nothingness – it is called Nirvana, – into mute, benumbed, deaf self-surrender, self-forgetfulness, and self-effacement: one emerges from such long, dangerous exercises in self-mastery as another being, with several additional notes of interrogation, and above all, with the will to question more than ever, more profoundly, more strictly, more sternly, more wickedly, more quietly than has ever been questioned hitherto. Confidence in life is gone: life itself has become a problem.– Let it not be imagined that one has necessarily become a hypochondriac thereby! Even love of life is still possible – only one loves differently. It is the love of a woman of whom one is doubtful… The charm, however, of all that is problematic, the delight in the X, is too great in those more spiritual and more spiritualised men, not to spread itself again and again like a clear glow over all the trouble of the problematic, over all the danger of uncertainty, and even over the jealousy of the lover. We know a new happiness…


Finally (that the most essential may not remain unsaid), one comes back out of such abysses, out of such severe sickness, and out of the sickness of strong suspicion —new-born, with the skin cast; more sensitive, more wicked, with a finer taste for joy, with a more delicate tongue for all good things, with a merrier disposition, with a second and more dangerous innocence in joy; more childish at the same time, and a hundred times more refined than ever before. Oh, how repugnant to us now is pleasure, coarse, dull, drab pleasure, as the pleasure-seekers, our "cultured" classes, our rich and ruling classes, usually understand it! How malignantly we now listen to the great holiday-hubbub with which "cultured people" and city-men at present allow themselves to be forced to "spiritual enjoyment" by art, books, and music, with the help of spirituous liquors! How the theatrical cry of passion now pains our ear, how strange to our taste has all the romantic riot and sensuous bustle which the cultured populace love become (together with their aspirations after the exalted, the elevated, and the intricate)! No, if we convalescents need an art at all, it is another art – a mocking, light, volatile, divinely serene, divinely ingenious art, which blazes up like a clear flame, into a cloudless heaven! Above all, an art for artists, only for artists! We at last know better what is first of all necessary for it —namely, cheerfulness, every kind of cheerfulness, my friends! also as artists: – I should like to prove it. We now know something too well, we men of knowledge: oh, how well we are now learning to forget and not know, as artists! And as to our future, we are not likely to be found again in the tracks of those Egyptian youths who at night make the temples unsafe, embrace statues, and would fain unveil, uncover, and put in clear light, everything which for good reasons is kept concealed2. No, we have got disgusted with this bad taste, this will to truth, to "truth at all costs," this youthful madness in the love of truth: we are now too experienced, too serious, too joyful, too singed, too profound for that… We no longer believe that truth remains truth when the veil is withdrawn from it: we have lived long enough to believe this. At present we regard it as a matter of propriety not to be anxious either to see everything naked, or to be present at everything, or to understand and "know" everything. "Is it true that the good God is everywhere present?" asked a little girl of her mother: "I think that is indecent": – a hint to philosophers! One should have more reverence for the shame-facedness with which nature has concealed herself behind enigmas and motley uncertainties. Perhaps truth is a woman who has reasons for not showing her reasons? Perhaps her name is Baubo, to speak in Greek?.. Oh, those Greeks! They knew how to live: for that purpose it is necessary to keep bravely to the surface, the fold and the skin; to worship appearance, to believe in forms, tones, and words, in the whole Olympus of appearance! Those Greeks were superficial —from profundity! And are we not coming back precisely to this point, we dare-devils of the spirit, who have scaled the highest and most dangerous peak of contemporary thought, and have looked around us from it, have looked down from it? Are we not precisely in this respect – Greeks? Worshippers of forms, of tones, and of words? And precisely on that account – artists?


>Autumn, 1886.


Venture, comrades, I implore you,
On the fare I set before you,
You will like it more to-morrow,
Better still the following day:
If yet more you're then requiring,
Old success I'll find inspiring,
And fresh courage thence will borrow
Novel dainties to display.
My Good Luck
Weary of Seeking had I grown,
So taught myself the way to Find:
Back by the storm I once was blown,
But follow now, where drives the wind.
Where you're standing, dig, dig out:
Down below's the Well:
Let them that walk in darkness shout:
"Down below – there's Hell!"
A. Was I ill? and is it ended?
Pray, by what physician tended?
I recall no pain endured!
B. Now I know your trouble's ended:
He that can forget, is cured.
To the Virtuous
Let our virtues be easy and nimble-footed in
Like unto Homer's verse ought they to come and
to go.
Worldly Wisdom
Stay not on level plain,
Climb not the mount too high.
But half-way up remain —
The world you'll best descry!
Vademecum – Vadetecum
Attracted by my style and talk
You'd follow, in my footsteps walk?
Follow yourself unswervingly,
So – careful! – shall you follow me.
The Third Sloughing
My skin bursts, breaks for fresh rebirth,
And new desires come thronging:
Much I've devoured, yet for more earth
The serpent in me's longing.
'Twixt stone and grass I crawl once more,
Hungry, by crooked ways,
To eat the food I ate before,
Earth-fare all serpents praise!
My Roses
My luck's good – I'd make yours fairer,
(Good luck ever needs a sharer),
Will you stop and pluck my roses?
Oft mid rocks and thorns you'll linger,
Hide and stoop, suck bleeding finger —
Will you stop and pluck my roses?
For my good luck's a trifle vicious,
Fond of teasing, tricks malicious —
Will you stop and pluck my roses?
The Scorner
Many drops I waste and spill,
So my scornful mood you curse:
Who to brim his cup doth fill,
Many drops must waste and spill —
Yet he thinks the wine no worse.
The Proverb Speaks
Harsh and gentle, fine and mean,
Quite rare and common, dirty and clean,
The fools' and the sages' go-between:
All this I will be, this have been,
Dove and serpent and swine, I ween!
To a Lover of Light
That eye and sense be not fordone
E'en in the shade pursue the sun!
For Dancers
Smoothest ice,
A paradise
To him who is a dancer nice.
The Brave Man
A feud that knows not flaw nor break,
Rather then patched-up friendship, take.
Rust's needed: keenness will not satisfy!
"He is too young!" the rabble loves to cry.
"How shall I reach the top?" No time
For thus reflecting! Start to climb!
The Man of Power Speaks
Ask never! Cease that whining, pray!
Take without asking, take alway!
Narrow Souls
Narrow souls hate I like the devil,
Souls wherein grows nor good nor evil.
Accidentally a Seducer 3
He shot an empty word
Into the empty blue;
But on the way it met
A woman whom it slew.
For Consideration
A twofold pain is easier far to bear
Than one: so now to suffer wilt thou dare?
Against Pride
Brother, to puff thyself up ne'er be quick:
For burst thou shalt be by a tiny prick!
Man and Woman
"The woman seize, who to thy heart appeals!"
Man's motto: woman seizes not, but steals.
If I explain my wisdom, surely
'Tis but entangled more securely,
I can't expound myself aright:
But he that's boldly up and doing,
His own unaided course pursuing,
Upon my image casts more light!
A Cure for Pessimism
Those old capricious fancies, friend!
You say your palate naught can please,
I hear you bluster, spit and wheeze,
My love, my patience soon will end!
Pluck up your courage, follow me —
Here's a fat toad! Now then, don't blink,
Swallow it whole, nor pause to think!
From your dyspepsia you'll be free!
A Request
Many men's minds I know full well,
Yet what mine own is, cannot tell.
I cannot see – my eye's too near —
And falsely to myself appear.
'Twould be to me a benefit
Far from myself if I could sit,
Less distant than my enemy,
And yet my nearest friend's too nigh —
'Twixt him and me, just in the middle!
What do I ask for? Guess my riddle.
My Cruelty
I must ascend an hundred stairs,
I must ascend: the herd declares
I'm cruel: "Are we made of stone?"
I must ascend an hundred stairs:
All men the part of stair disown.
The Wanderer
"No longer path! Abyss and silence chilling!"
Thy fault! To leave the path thou wast too willing!
Now comes the test! Keep cool – eyes bright and clear!
Thou'rt lost for sure, if thou permittest – fear.
Encouragement for Beginners
See the infant, helpless creeping —
Swine around it grunt swine-talk —
Weeping always, naught but weeping,
Will it ever learn to walk?
Never fear! Just wait, I swear it
Soon to dance will be inclined,
And this babe, when two legs bear it,
Standing on its head you'll find.
Planet Egoism
Did I not turn, a rolling cask,
Ever about myself, I ask,
How could I without burning run
Close on the track of the hot sun?
The Neighbour
Too nigh, my friend my joy doth mar,
I'd have him high above and far,
Or how can he become my star?
The Disguised Saint
Lest we for thy bliss should slay thee,
In devil's wiles thou dost array thee,
Devil's wit and devil's dress.
But in vain! Thy looks betray thee
And proclaim thy holiness.
The Slave
A. He stands and listens: whence his pain?
What smote his ears? Some far refrain?
Why is his heart with anguish torn?
B. Like all that fetters once have worn,
He always hears the clinking – chain!
The Lone One
I hate to follow and I hate to lead.
Obedience? no! and ruling? no, indeed!
Wouldst fearful be in others' sight?
Then e'en thyself thou must affright:
The people but the Terror's guidance heed.
I hate to guide myself, I hate the fray.
Like the wild beasts I'll wander far afield.
In Error's pleasing toils I'll roam
Awhile, then lure myself back home,
Back home, and – to my self-seduction yield.
Seneca et hoc Genus omne
They write and write (quite maddening me)
Their "sapient" twaddle airy,
As if 'twere primum scribere,
Deinde philosophari.
Yes! I manufacture ice:
Ice may help you to digest:
If you had much to digest,
How you would enjoy my ice!
Youthful Writings
My wisdom's A and final O
Was then the sound that smote mine ear.
Yet now it rings no longer so,
My youth's eternal Ah! and Oh!
Is now the only sound I hear.4
In yonder region travelling, take good care!
An hast thou wit, then be thou doubly ware!
They'll smile and lure thee; then thy limbs they'll tear:
Fanatics' country this where wits are rare!
The Pious One Speaks
God loves us, for he made us, sent us here! —
"Man hath made God!" ye subtle ones reply.
His handiwork he must hold dear,
And what he made shall he deny?
There sounds the devil's halting hoof, I fear.
In Summer
In sweat of face, so runs the screed,
We e'er must eat our bread,
Yet wise physicians if we heed
"Eat naught in sweat," 'tis said.
The dog-star's blinking: what's his need?
What tells his blazing sign?
In sweat of face (so runs his screed)
We're meant to drink our wine!
Without Envy
His look betrays no envy: and ye laud him?
He cares not, asks not if your throng applaud him!
He has the eagle's eye for distance far,
He sees you not, he sees but star on star!
Brethren, war's the origin
Of happiness on earth:
Powder-smoke and battle-din
Witness friendship's birth!
Friendship means three things, you know, —
Kinship in luckless plight,
Equality before the foe
Freedom – in death's sight!
Maxim of the Over-refined
"Rather on your toes stand high
Than crawl upon all fours,
Rather through the keyhole spy
Than through the open doors!"
Renown you're quite resolved to earn?
My thought about it
Is this: you need not fame, must learn
To do without it!
I an inquirer? No, that's not my calling
Only I weigh a lot– I'm such a lump! —
And through the waters I keep falling, falling,
Till on the ocean's deepest bed I bump.
The Immortals
"To-day is meet for me, I come to-day,"
Such is the speech of men foredoomed to stay.
"Thou art too soon," they cry, "thou art too late,"
What care the Immortals what the rabble say?
Verdicts of the Weary
The weary shun the glaring sun, afraid,
And only care for trees to gain the shade.
"He sinks, he falls," your scornful looks portend:
The truth is, to your level he'll descend.
His Too Much Joy is turned to weariness,
His Too Much Light will in your darkness end.
Nature Silenced 5
Around my neck, on chain of hair,
The timepiece hangs – a sign of care.
For me the starry course is o'er,
No sun and shadow as before,
No cockcrow summons at the door,
For nature tells the time no more!
Too many clocks her voice have drowned,
And droning law has dulled her sound.
The Sage Speaks
Strange to the crowd, yet useful to the crowd,
I still pursue my path, now sun, now cloud,
But always pass above the crowd!
He lost his Head…
She now has wit – how did it come her way?
A man through her his reason lost, they say.
His head, though wise ere to this pastime lent,
Straight to the devil – no, to woman went!
A Pious Wish
"Oh, might all keys be lost! 'Twere better so
And in all keyholes might the pick-lock go!"
Who thus reflects ye may as – picklock know.
Foot Writing
I write not with the hand alone,
My foot would write, my foot that capers,
Firm, free and bold, it's marching on
Now through the fields, now through the papers.
"Human, All-too-Human." …
Shy, gloomy, when your looks are backward thrust,
Trusting the future where yourself you trust,
Are you an eagle, mid the nobler fowl,
Or are you like Minerva's darling owl?
To my Reader
Good teeth and a digestion good
I wish you – these you need, be sure!
And, certes, if my book you've stood,
Me with good humour you'll endure.
The Realistic Painter
"To nature true, complete!" so he begins.
Who complete Nature to his canvas wins?
Her tiniest fragment's endless, no constraint
Can know: he paints just what his fancy pins:
What does his fancy pin? What he can paint!
Poets' Vanity
Glue, only glue to me dispense,
The wood I'll find myself, don't fear!
To give four senseless verses sense —
That's an achievement I revere!
Taste in Choosing
If to choose my niche precise
Freedom I could win from fate,
I'd be in midst of Paradise —
Or, sooner still – before the gate!
The Crooked Nose
Wide blow your nostrils, and across
The land your nose holds haughty sway:
So you, unhorned rhinoceros,
Proud mannikin, fall forward aye!
The one trait with the other goes:
A straight pride and a crooked nose.
The Pen is Scratching…
The pen is scratching: hang the pen!
To scratching I'm condemned to sink!
I grasp the inkstand fiercely then
And write in floods of flowing ink.
How broad, how full the stream's career!
What luck my labours doth requite!
'Tis true, the writing's none too clear —
What then? Who reads the stuff I write?
Loftier Spirits
This man's climbing up – let us praise him —
But that other we love
From aloft doth eternally move,
So above even praise let us raise him,
He comes from above!
The Sceptic Speaks
Your life is half-way o'er;
The clock-hand moves; your soul is thrilled with fear,
It roamed to distant shore
And sought and found not, yet you – linger here!
Your life is half-way o'er;
That hour by hour was pain and error sheer:
Why stay? What seek you more?
"That's what I'm seeking – reasons why I'm here!"
Ecce Homo
Yes, I know where I'm related,
Like the flame, unquenched, unsated,
I consume myself and glow:
All's turned to light I lay my hand on,
All to coal that I abandon,
Yes, I am a flame, I know!
Star Morality 6
Foredoomed to spaces vast and far,
What matters darkness to the star?
Roll calmly on, let time go by,
Let sorrows pass thee – nations die!
Compassion would but dim the light
That distant worlds will gladly sight.
To thee one law – be pure and bright!
1This means literally to put the numeral X instead of the numeral V (formerly U); hence it means to double a number unfairly, to exaggerate, humbug, cheat. – TR.
2An allusion to Schiller's poem: "The Veiled Image of Sais." – TR.
3Translated by Miss M. D. Petre.
4A and O, suggestive of Ah! and Oh! refer of course to Alpha and Omega, the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. – TR.
5Translated by Miss M. D. Petre.
6Translated by Miss M. D. Petre.
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