Nietzsche's Letters | 1866© The Nietzsche Channel

Nietzsche's Letters

1866

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Ralph Waldo Emerson, Versuche. (Essays.)
Aus dem Englischen von G. Fabricius.
Hannover: Carl Meyer, 1858, 391.

Naumburg, April 7, 1866:
Letter to Carl von Gersdorff.

Dear friend,

Occasionally come those hours of quiet contemplation, where one stands above one's life with a mixture of joy and sorrow, like those lovely summer days that comfortably sprawl across the hills, as Emerson describes them so well.1 Then nature becomes perfect, as he says, and we: then we are free from the spell of the ever watchful will; then we are pure, contemplative, impartial eye.2 In this mood, for which I yearn above all others, I take up my pen in order to reply to your kind and thoughtful letter. Our common concerns3 are fused into a small residue: we have seen once more how by a few strokes of the pen, ultimately perhaps even by random whims of individuals, the fates of countless people are determined, and we are glad to leave it to the pious to thank their god for these whims. It may be that this reflection will make us laugh when we meet again in Leipzig.

From the most personal point of view, I had already familiarized myself with the military idea. I often wished to be pulled away from my monotonous work, was eager for the opposites, for excitement, for the tempestuous urge for a life, for enthusiasm. For, as much as I have exerted myself, it has really become clear to me day by day that one cannot come up with work4 just like that. During vacation I have learned — relatively — a good deal, and after vacation my Theognis finds itself at least one semester ahead. What is more, I have found many illuminating things, which should enrich my quaestiones Theogn[ideae]. I am walled in by books — thanks to Corssen's uncommon kindness.5 I must also say something about Volckmann [sic], who has really helped me, especially with the whole Suidas literature, on which he is the chief expert.6 I have immersed myself in this field so well that I have independently enlarged it by recently finding the evidence why the Violarum of Eudocia does not go back to Suidas, but to the main source of Suidas, an epitome of Hesychius Milesius (lost, of course): this gives an unexpected outcome for my Theognis, which I will explain to you later.7 By the way, every day I expect a letter from Dr. Dilthey8 in Berlin, a student of Ritschl's,9 who is more versed in matters of Theognis than anyone else. I was completely frank with him and concealed neither my results nor my scholastic status. In Leipzig I hope that I can actively return to putting things down on paper; I have collected just about all of my material. By the way, it's undeniable that I hardly understand this trouble I have imposed on myself, which takes me away from myself (from Schopenhauer as well — it is often the same thing), as a result, exposing myself to the judgment of people and perhaps even forcing me to put on a mask of an erudition that I do not possess. At any rate, one loses something by printing it. Some delays and frustrations did not fail to materialize. The Berlin Library did not want to hand over the 16th- and 17th-century editions of Theognis. I asked for a number of very necessary books from the Leipzig Library through Roscher's10 mediation. But Roscher wrote to me that his conscience would not allow him to hand over books that were signed out in his name. It would never occur to me to reproach that conscience, but it felt inconvenient enough.

Three things are my recreations, but infrequent recreations: my Schopenhauer, Schumann's music,11 and lastly, solitary walks. Yesterday an impressive thunderstorm was in the sky. I hastened up a neighboring hill called "Leusch" (perhaps you can tell me what this word means),12 found a hut up there, a man (who was slaughtering two yeanlings) and his young son. The thunderstorm broke quite violently with wind and hail. I felt an incomparable surge, and I soon realized how we rightly understand nature only when we have to flee to her from our own trials and tribulations. What was man to me with his restless willing! What was the eternal "Thou shalt" "Thou shalt not'' to me! How different the lightning, the wind, the hail, free powers without ethics! How fortunate, how strong they are, pure will, without being clouded by the intellect!

However, I have found examples enough how cloudy the intellect of man often is. The other day I spoke to someone who in the near future wanted to go out as a missionary — to India. I asked him a few questions; he had not read any Indian books, had not heard of the Oupnekhat, and had decided not to get involved with the Brahmins — because they were well trained in philosophy. Holy Ganges!13

Today I heard an intellectually stimulating sermon by Wenkel14 on Christianity, "the faith that has overcome the world," intolerably arrogant towards all peoples who are not Christians, and yet very clever. You see, every so often he replaced the word Christianity with something else, which always gave a right sense, even for our view of the subject. If the phrase "Christianity has overcome the world" is replaced with the phrase "the sense of sin — briefly, a metaphysical need — has overcome the world," so that we find it inoffensive, you just have to be consistent and say, "The true Indians are Christians," and also: "The true Christians are Indians." Basically, however, the interchange of such established words and concepts is not quite honest; you see, it utterly confuses weak minds. If Christianity means "belief in an historical event or in an historical person," then I will have nothing to do with this Christianity. But if it just means [the] need for redemption, then I can value it highly, and not even be offended that it tries to discipline philosophers: when these are too few in comparison with the tremendous mass of those in need of redemption, besides being made of the same stuff. Indeed, even if all who practice philosophy were to be adherents of Schopenhauer! But only too often, behind the mask of the philosopher lies the lofty majesty of the "will," which seeks to develop its own self-glorification. If the philosophers ruled, then to plhJoV15 would be lost, if the mass rules, as it does now, then it would still suit the philosophers, raro in gurgite vasto,16 like Aeschylus, Jica allwn froneein.17

At the same time it is certainly extremely annoying for us to restrain our young and vigorous Schopenhauerian thoughts in such a half-expressed manner, and to have always weighing on our hearts this unfortunate difference between theory and practice. I know no consolation for this; on the contrary, I am in need of consolation. To me, we should judge the crux of the matter more mildly. It is also embedded in this collision.

With that said, farewell, dear friend, my regards to your family, as mine send theirs; and it is agreed, when we meet again, we shall smile — and rightly so.18

Your friend
Friedrich Nietzsche.

1. Cf. Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Nature." In: Essays: Second Series. Boston: Munroe, 1845, 183-185. Nietzsche's copy: Ralph Waldo Emerson, Versuche. (Essays.) Aus dem Englischen von G. Fabricius. Hannover: Carl Meyer, 1858, 391-392.

Emerson: From Nietzsche's copy of Fabricius' translation:
ESSAY VI.
NATURE.

The rounded world is fair to see,
Nine times folded in mystery:
Though baffled seers cannot impart
The secret of its laboring heart,
Throb thine with Nature's throbbing breast,
And all is clear from east to west.
Spirit that lurks each form within
Beckons to spirit of its kin;
Self-kindled every atom glows,
And hints the future which it owes.
VI.
Natur.

The rounded world is fair to see,
Nine times folded in mystery:
Though baffled seers cannot impart
The secret of its laboring heart,
Throb thine with Nature's throbbing breast,
And all is clear from east to west.
Spirit that lurks each form within
Beckons to spirit of its kin;
Self-kindled every atom glows,
And hints the future which it owes.
There are days which occur in this climate, at almost any season of the year, wherein the world reaches its perfection; when the air, the heavenly bodies and the earth, make a harmony, as if nature would indulge her offspring; when, in these bleak upper sides of the planet, nothing is to desire that we have heard of the happiest latitudes, and we bask in the shining hours of Florida and Cuba; when everything that has life gives sign of satisfaction, and the cattle that lie on the ground seem to have great and tranquil thoughts. These halcyons may be looked for with a little more assurance in that pure October weather which we distinguish by the name of the Indian summer. The day, immeasurably long, sleeps over the broad hills and warm wide fields. To have lived through [184] all its sunny hours, seems longevity enough. The solitary places do not seem quite lonely. At the gates of the forest, the surprised man of the world is forced to leave his city estimates of great and small, wise and foolish. The knapsack of custom falls off his back with the first step he makes into these precincts. Here is sanctity which shames our religions, and reality which discredits our heroes. Here we find nature to be the circumstance which dwarfs every other circumstance, and judges like a god all men that come to her. We have crept out of our close and crowded houses into the night and morning, and we see what majestic beauties daily wrap us in their bosom. How willingly we would escape the barriers which render them comparatively impotent, escape the sophistication and second thought, and suffer nature to intrance us. The tempered light of the woods is like a perpetual morning, and is stimulating and heroic. The anciently reported spells of these places creep on us. The stems of pines, hemlocks, and oaks almost gleam like iron on the excited eye. The incommunicable trees begin to persuade us to live with [185] them, and quit our life of solemn trifles. Here no history, or church, or state, is interpolated on the divine sky and the immortal year. How easily we might walk onward into the opening landscape, absorbed by new pictures and by thoughts fast succeeding each other, until by degrees the recollection of home was crowded out of the mind, all memory obliterated by the tyranny of the present, and we were led in triumph by nature. Es giebt Tage, wie sie unter diesem Himmelstrich beinahe zu jeder Jahreszeit vorkommen, an denen die Welt zur Vollendung gelangt, wo die Luft, die Himmelskörper und die Erde in Harmonie mit einander sind, als ob die Natur ihrem Abkömmling schmeicheln wollte; wo in den freudlosen höheren Gegenden unseres Planeten nichts von dem begehrt wird, was die glücklichsten Breitengrade darbieten, und wo wir uns sonnen an den hellen Stunden von Florida und Cuba; wo jedes Ding, welches Leben in sich hat, ein Zeichen der Zufriedenheit von sich giebt, und das Vieh, das hingestreckt liegt, große und ruhige Gedanken zu haben scheint. Nach diesem Halcyon kann man mit ziemlicher Gewißheit bei jenem reinen October-Wetter aussehen, welches wir mit dem Namen des indischen Sommers bezeichnen. Der unendlich lange Tag ruht schlafend auf den breiten Hügeln und den warmen weiten Feldern. Alle seine sonnigen Stunden [392] durchlebt zu haben, scheint langes Leben genug. Die einsamen Orte scheinen nicht ganz einsam. Beim Eintritt in den Wald ist der erstaunte Weltling gewungen, seine großen und kleinen, weisen und thörichten Dinge, auf die er Werth in der Stadt legte, dahinten zu lassen. Der Knappsack der Gewohnheit fällt von seinem Rücken mit dem ersten Schritt, den er in dies Bereich hinein thut. Hier ist ein Gottesfurcht, die unsere Religion beschämt, und Realität, die unsere Helden in Mißcredit setzt. Hier finden wir, daß die Natur der Umstand ist, der jeden andern Umstand klein für uns macht, und daß sie einem Gotte gleich alle Menschen richtet, die zu ihr kommen. Wir haben uns aus ihren engen und vollen Häusern hinausgeschlichen in Nacht und Morgen, und wir sehen, welche majestätischen Schönheiten uns täglich umgehen. Wie gern wollten wir den Hindernissen entfliehen, durch die sie uns gegenüber gleichsam ohne Kraft sind, entfliehen der Sophisterei und den Nebengedanken und uns von der Natur entzücken lassen. Das mildere Licht der Wälder ist wie ein immerwährender Morgen, und ist anspornend und heroisch. Der alte Zauber, der von ehedem auf dieser Stätte ruht, beschleicht uns. Die Stämme der Fichten, Hemlockstannen *) und Eichen schimmern dem erregten Auge wie Eisen entgegen. Die Bäume, die unfähig sind sich mitzutheilen, fangen an uns zu überreden, daß wir mit ihnen leben sollen, und unser Leben voll feierlicher Kleinigkeiten verlassen. Hier liegt keine Geschichte, keine Kirche, kein Staat zwischen dem erhabenen Himmel und dem unsterblichen Jahr. Wie leicht könnten wir weiter hinein schreiten in die Landschaft, die sich vor unsern Blicken aufthut, vertieft in neue Bilder und in Gedanken, die schnell auf einander folgen, bis nach und nach die Erinnerung an das Haus von uns genommen wäre, unser Gedächtniß verwischt durch die Tyrannei des Gegenwärtigen, und wir so im Triumph von der Natur geleiter würden!
______________
*) Pinus americana.

2. An allusion to Arthur Schopenhauer. Cf. Die Welt als Wille und Vorstellung, 1, §34; 2, §30. (The World as Will and Representation, 1, §34; 2, §30.) See the entry for Schopenhauer in Nietzsche's Library.
3. Disputes between Prussia and Austria, and the rise of Bismarck.
4. Nietzsche's work on the Greek poet, Theognis of Megara (6th century BC), was eventually published as "Zur Geschichte der Theognideischen Spruchsammlung." In: Rheinisches Museum für Philologie. 22 (1867): 161-200.
5. Wilhelm Corssen (1820-1875): Nietzsche's teacher at Schulpforta, who let him use the school library for his research.
6. Diederich Volkmann (1838-1903): Nietzsche's teacher at Schulpforta was an expert on "the Suda," a Greek lexicon from the tenth century, on which he wrote his dissertation. Volkmann became the school principal in 1878.
7. Eudocia Makrembolitissa (c.1021-1096), author of the Violarum (a mythographic compilation based on the Suda). Hesychius of Miletus (6th cent.), Greek historian and biographer. See note 17 to Nietzsche's work on Theognis.
8. Carl Dilthey (1839-1907): German philologist.
9. Friedrich Ritschl (1806-1876): Nietzsche's philology professor at the University of Bonn and the University of Leipzig.
10. Wilhelm Heinrich Roscher (1845-1923): Nietzsche's friend and classmate at the University of Leipzig.
11. Robert Schumann (1810-1856): German composer. For Nietzsche's changing opinion of Schumann, and his "treacly" music, see Friedrich Nietzsche in Words and Pictures. Appendix 2. Chronology of Nietzsche's Music: 23-24.
12. Perhaps derived from leuschen, "to wander" in the Viennese dialect.
13. The Oupnekhat is a Latin translation by Anquetil Duperron of a Persian version of fifty Upanishads. It was lauded by Arthur Schopenhauer. Cf. Parerga and Paralipomena, 2: 396. "Holy Ganges!" is another allusion to Schopenhauer. Cf. Parerga and Paralipomena, 2: 370.
14. Friedrich August Wenkel (1832-1894): chief pastor of the St. Wenzel church in Naumburg (1865-1894).
15. "the plíthos" (the masses).
16. Cf. Virgil, Aeneid, 118: "Adparent rari nantes in gurgite vasto (They appear scattered, swimming in the vast seas.)
17. Cf. Aeschylus, Agamemnon, 757f.: "But I hold my own mind and think apart from other men."
18. Cf. William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, v, i: "If we do meet again, why, we shall smile; / If not, why then, this parting was well made."

Nietzsche's Letters | 1866© The Nietzsche Channel

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