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Source global Wall Street Journal     time 2022-12-17 15:03:15
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"'Through love I have caused the greatest sorrow; now I yield to the sorrow which I have caused.'

We have named the authors who were Nietzsche's favourites at this time: Schiller, Byron, H?lderlin—of[Pg 33] these he preferred H?lderlin, then so little known. He had discovered him, as one discovers, at a glance, a friend in a crowd. It was a singular encounter. The life of this child, now scarcely begun, was to resemble the life of the poet who had just died. H?lderlin, the son of a clergyman, had wished to follow his father's vocation. In 1780 he is studying theology at the University of Tübingen with comrades whose names are Hegel, Sendling. He ceases to believe. He comes to know Rousseau, Goethe, Schiller, and the intoxication of romanticism. He loves the mystery of nature, and the lucid mind of Greece; he loves them together, and dreams of uniting their beauties in a German work. He is poor, and has to live the hard life of a needy poet. As a teacher, he endures the ennui of wealthy houses in which he is despised generally, and once is loved too much—a brief rapture that ends in distress. He returns to his native village, for its air and its people are pleasant to him. He works, writes at his leisure, but as it pains him to live at the expense of his own family, he goes away again. He has some of his verses published; but the public shows no taste for those fine poems in which the genius of an unknown German calls up the Gods of Olympus to people the deep forests of Suabia and the Rhineland. The unhappy H?lderlin dreams of vaster creations, but goes no farther than a dream: Germany is a world in itself, and Greece is another; the inspiration of a Goethe is needed to unite them, and to fix in eternal words the triumph of Faust, the ravisher of Helen. H?lderlin writes fragments of a poem in prose: his hero is a young Greek, who laments over the ruin of his race and, frail forerunner of Zarathustra, calls for the rebirth of a valorous humanity. He composes three scenes of a tragedy, taking for his hero Empedocles, tyrant of Agrigentum, poet, philosopher, haughty inspirer of the multitude, a Greek isolated among the Greeks by reason[Pg 34] of his very greatness, a magician, who, possessing all nature, wearies of the satisfactions which one life can offer, retires to the summit of Etna, sends away his family, his friends, his appealing people, and flings himself, one evening, at sunset, into the crater.

"The noble one is always in danger of becoming an

"The German Empire," he had written, "is extirpating the German spirit." He had wounded the pride of a conquering people. In return, he suffered many an insult, many an accusation of scurviness and treachery. He rejoiced over it. "I enter society with a duel," he said; "Stendhal gave that advice." Complete Stendhalian that he was (or at least he flattered himself that he was), Nietzsche was, notwithstanding, accessible to pity. David Strauss died but a few weeks after the publication of the pamphlet, and Nietzsche, imagining that his work had killed the old man, was sorely grieved. His sister and his friends tried in vain to reassure him; he did not wish to abandon a remorse which was, moreover, so glorious.

[3] "I am very happy," wrote Taine, "that my articles on Napoleon have struck you as true, and nothing can more exactly sum up my impression than the two German words which you use: Unmensch und Uebermensch."—Letter of July 12, 1887.


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