“Among Nietzsche’s works there is a strange book which bears the title Thus Spoke Zarathustra. It consists of 4 parts, written during the years 1883-85, each part in about 10 days, and conceived chapter by chapter on long walks – “with a feeling of inspiration, as though each sentence had been shouted in my ear”, as Nietzsche wrote in a private letter. (…) Zarathustra is a book of edification for free spirits. Nietzsche himself gave this book the highest place among his writings. The book contains all his fundamental ideas in the form of poetic recital. Its merit is a style that from the first word to the last is full-toned, sonorous and powerful… always expressive of self-joy, nay, self-intoxication, but rich in subtleties as in audacities.
Behind his style lies a mood as of calm mountain air, so light, so ethereally pure, that no infection, no bacteria can live in it – no noise, no stench, no dust assails it, nor does any path lead up. Clear sky above, open sea at the mountain’s foot, and over all a heaven of light, an abyss of light, an azure bell, a vaulted silence above roaring waters and mighty mountain-chains. On the heights Zarathustra is alone with himself, drawing in the pure air in full, deep breaths, alone with the rising sun, alone with the heat of noon, which does not impair the freshness, alone with the voices of the gleaming stars at night. A good, deep book it is. A book that is bright in its joy of life, dark in its riddles, a book for spiritual mountain-climbers and dare-devils…
“Upon the mountains one should live”, says Zarathustra. And with blessed nostrils he breathes again the freedom of the mountains. His nose is now released from the smell of all that is human. There sits Zarathustra with old broken tables of law around him and new half-written tables, awaiting his hour; Zarathustra teaches that exiles shall you be from your fatherlands and forefatherlands. Not the land of your fathers shall you love, but your children’s land. This love is the new nobility – love of that new land, the undiscovered, far-off country in the remotest sea. To your children shall you make amends for the misfortune of being your fathers’ children. Thus shall you redeem all the past.
No doctrine revolts Zarathustra more than that of the vanity and senselessness of life. This is in his eyes ancient babbling, old wives’ babbling. And the pessimists who sum up life with a balance of aversion, and assert the badness of existence, are the objects of his positive loathing. He prefers pain to annihilation. The same extravagant love of life is expressed in the Hymn to Life, written by his friend, Lou von Salomé, which Nietzsche set for chorus and orchestra:
“Hymn To Life” by Lou Andreas-Salomé
Surely, a friend loves a friend the way
That I love you, enigmatic life —
Whether I rejoiced or wept with you,
Whether you gave me joy or pain.
I love you with all your harms;
And if you must destroy me,
I wrest myself from your arms,
As a friend tears himself away from a friend’s breast.
I embrace you with all my strength!
Let all your flames ignite me,
Let me in the ardor of the struggle
Probe your enigma ever deeper.
To live and think millennia!
Enclose me now in both your arms:
If you have no more joy to give me —
Well then—there still remains your pain.
In the video above, hear Nietzsche’s “Hymn To Life” for chorus and orchestra. Lyrics by Lou Salomé.
BRANDES, Georges (1842-1927). Nietzsche. Haskell House Publishers, New York, 1972.