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Source global Wall Street Journal     time 2022-12-17 15:04:06
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Here he was at Rome. His old friend immediately introduced him into a brilliant society. Lenbach was there, and also that Countess D?nhoff, to-day Princess von Buelow, an amiable woman and a great musician. Friedrich Nietzsche felt with vexation how different he was from these happy talkers, how he belonged to another world, how they misunderstood him. A curious, a singular man, they think; a very eccentric man. A great mind? No one ventured to pass this rash judgment. And Friedrich Nietzsche, so proud when he was alone, was astonished, disturbed, and humiliated. It seemed that he had not the strength to despise these people who did not hearken to him; he was disquieted and began to fear for his well-beloved son, Zarathustra.

On jumping from his bed, he equipped himself, stuffed into his pouch a bundle of notes, a book, some fruit and bread; and then started out on the road. "As soon as the sun is risen," he wrote, "I go to a solitary rock near the waves and lie out on it beneath my umbrella, motionless as a lizard, with nothing before me but the sea and the pure sky." There he would remain for a long time, till the very last hours of the twilight. For these hours were kindly to those weak eyes of his, that were so often deprived of light and so often blinded by it—those menaced eyes, the least of whose joys was a delight.

He crossed conquered Alsace: he saw the charnel houses of Wissembourg and of W?rth: on August 29th he bivouacked not far from Strassburg, where conflagrations lit up the horizon; then he made his way, by Lunéville and Nancy, towards the country around Metz, now converted into an immense ambulance, where the wounded of Mars-la-Tour, Gravelotte and Saint-Privat, so numerous that it was difficult to nurse them, were dying of their wounds and of infectious illnesses. Some unfortunates were given into his charge: he did his duty with kindness and courage, but experienced a singular emotion, a sacred and almost enthusiastic horror. For the first time he considered without repulsion the labour of the masses. He watched those millions of beings, some struck down and marked by death, others marching the roads or standing under arms: he considered them without contempt, he esteemed their destiny. Under the menaces of war, these men have something momentous about them. They forget their vain thoughts; they march, they sing, they obey their chiefs; they die. Friedrich Nietzsche was recompensed for his pains; a fraternal[Pg 92] impulse uplifted his soul, he no longer felt his solitude, he loved the simple people who surrounded him. "All my military passions awake," he writes, "and I cannot satisfy them! I would have been at Rezonville, at Sedan, actively, passively perhaps. This Swiss neutrality always ties my hands."

"Ah, if you knew how alone I am in the world at present! and how I must play a comedy to prevent myself from spitting, now and again, in some one's face, out of satiety. Happily some of the courteous manners of my son Zarathustra exist also in his rather crazed father.

"Then they shall ask: 'Still lives he, our father Zarathustra? What, can our father Zarathustra be still alive? Does our old father, Zarathustra, still love his children?'

What does this mean? What real augmentation, what real direction of things is indicated us by these[Pg 327] words? Is it an augmentation of intensity? Then every shade of energy, provided it be intense, will be good. But we must not take it in this sense. Nietzsche selected, preferred, excluded. This augmentation is then the sign of an order, of a natural hierarchy. But in every hierarchy there must be a criterion by which the ranks are distributed; what should this criterion be? Nietzsche would formerly have said: It will be my logical affirmation, the beliefs which I shall have given. Does he still think it? Doubtless; his thoughts hardly vary. But his audacity was lessened by his sorrows, his critical mind had been rendered more exacting by long indecisions. He desired, he sought, he seemed to ask science, the "doctor-philosopher," for a real basis which all his habits of thought refused him.


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