Nietzsche and Rilke Author(s): Walter Kaufman Source: The Kenyon Review, Vol. 17, No. 1 (Winter, 1955), pp.

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No. I

Walter Kaufman

THIS STUDYof Nietzscheand Rilke,and particularly of
what they have in common,is meant to throw light on both and also on the relationof philosophy and poetry.To those who are used to comparisons of Nietzsche with Nero and of Rilke with St. Francisany insistenceon common elementswill come as a surprise; but it may also disabusethem of some misapprehensions. There are, of course,obviousdifferences between the two men; and it is unlikelythat an extendedcontrast would prove illuminating.Some reflection on what they have in common, on the other hand, may help us more to understand the relationof poetryto philosophy than the customary juxtaposition of Dante and St. Thomas-as atypicala pair as one is likely to find: Thomas,with his dogmaticcommitments, is utterlyunlike any Greekor modernphilosopher; the Divine Comedyis unlike any other poem; and Dante'srelationto Thomas is unlike that of any othermajorpoetandphilosopher. Shakespeare and Seneca, whom T. S. Eliot juxtaposes not without sarcasm, could hardly be more disparate-in time, stature,or sensibility. Nietzscheand Rilke, on the other hand, furnish a nearly ideal pair. Probably the greatestGermanphilosopher they are, respectively, and poet of the last hundredyears:they wrote in the same languageand belong roughlyto the same age. Two furtherfactsmake it strangethat comparisons have not become a commonplacelong ago, especially in view of the

and the same is true of the two-volume and six-volume editions of the letters. No single German edition contains all the original texts: the two volumes of Ausgewadhlte Werke contain important items not included in the earlier six-volume edition of Gesammclte Werke. My Rilke translations are published here for the first time. moreover. With the only previous extended juxtaposition-Erich Heller's chapter on "Rilke and Nietzsche"I deal in detail in another essay.2 NIETZSCHE AND RILKE vast literaturethat has accumulatedaround both men. First.And secondly. My approachdiffers almost equally from the distinctive criticalmethodsof the igth and the 20th Century. in some of Rilke'sjuvenilia. Nietzsche'sinfluenceis very apparent. Nietzsche loved Lou Salomein I882 when she was barelyover twenty. All the Nietzsche quotations are from The Portable Nietzsche. is to be found only in Briefwechsel mit Erika Mitterer. Nietzschewas slowly dying.If igth Century literarycriticismhas concerneditself too much with his1.' Nietzschewill be introduced Rilke'spoems expresshappensto be very close to the spirit of Nietzsche'swork. Their relation was short-livedbut intense. he was known the world over. in Partisan Review. by Walter Kaufmann. except for the poem in section VI which is taken from my Nietzsche. are available only in small separatevolumes. . at twenty-two. Andreasbut becameRilke'smistress. All of these books are published by the Insel-Verlag. Princeton University Press 1950. for example. The last poem in the present essay. his Zarathustra. The questionof influenceshall not detainus.and she his listened to his innermostideas without quite reciprocating feelings.both men loved the same woman-probably more than any other. only insofaras that which lation. and she was was not. Professor and their love was complete. selected and translated. Quitc a number of poems. attemptto develophis whole philosophy When Rilke met her fifteenyearslater. traveled with him. with an introduction. and notes. She was marriedto maturewhile Rilke. however. for making a juxtaposition biographical: the only data requiredwill be found in the work of the two men. There is no I897. like all other quotations. and their his first break and Nietzsche'ssubsequentsolitudeprecipitated in a single majorwork. and the emphasiswill fall on Rilke's poems in my own transwhich will be cited. The Viking Press 1954. if as yet very ill digested. prefaces.Lou herself had recentlypublisheda book about him.

Whether it comes when we call . (How good. The blood is a chore. but without trivializingthem biographically. They let me go. around a certainghost (you know)how good. Everything revolvesengrossed always around the Holy Ghost. Nothing can happen. I proposeto focus attentionon the contents of Rilke's poems.KAUFMANN WALTER 3 considerations torical and biographical which lead beyond the the "new" of which has studiedworks withwork art. one should really not suppose that there is any danger in those. II Rilke's earlier poems are often underestimated by those who admirehis Duino Elegies and Sonnetsto Orpheus. especially by those intent on finding a philosophyin these often obscurelater works. But much can be said in favor of beginningwith three pre-Duinopoems which are short enough to be quoted without omissionand simple enough to requireno commentary. How good.has rarelygot beyond formal considerations. They say. criticism. nothing could happeneven so.) Look at that ball. out externalreference. isn't it fairred and round as an everywhere. they are among Rilke'sbest. The blood is the hardestthing. sometimesI think I can't any more. No. The Song of the Idiot They do not hinder me. on the experiences which they communicate. Moreover. Good you createdthe ball. There's of course the blood.

and the poem is partof a sequence sad. This. It seems to him. position:merelythe claim that the world reallyis a philosophic as it appearsto the idiot. of course.Rilke neithersays nor of similarprojections implies. friendly and just a little dim. they flock together. and then behind a thousandbars no world. there are a thousandbars.It does not develop municateany philosophy which are but proceedslargelyby free associations any argument are frequentlysuggestedby rhymes. The next poem comesfrom the first part of Neuc Gedichte and is one of Rilke'smost perfect. if invariably Even so the inclusionof this themeand Rilke'ssuccesswith it invite the reflectionthat perhapshe does not feel too sure of of the world. how good. and that a pOetwith a firm belief the rationality in a purposiveworld-orderwould have been very much less likely to write such a poem.and unrhymedtranslations into himself projects poet The inadequate. Paris His glance. has grown so weary it has lost its hold. doesnot comThis poemfromDas Buch der Bildercertainly nor even any belief. into sane. particularly therefore an irrationalstreamof conthe mind of an idiot and recreates And yet little is needed to transformthis poem into sciousness. .4 NIETZSCHE AND RILKE How oddly all things seem to humor somc whim. But what is true of the novelistwho forcesus to see the world from the point of view to a lyric poet who idiot is perhapsless applicable of a castrated dependson differentmoods almostas much as a dramatist. worn by the passingof the bars. statesof mind.apart they swim. Surely. The Panther In the Jardindes Plantes.the same might be said of Faulkner'sThe Sound and the Fury.

is raised-and then an image enters him. nothing is asserted:no belief. Why should not the poet who projectshimself into an orphan. and he may be quite unawareof the fact that others have converted such experiences into philosophies. from the secondpart of Neuc Gedichte. as in most of his later work.namely: this is a portraitof the humancondition. The third poem. goes through the silent tension of the limbsand in his heart ceases to be. Orpheus. a woman'sfate. he may enter into it as a virtuosoor be trappedin it.but this is exceedingly doubtful. seems to speakfor himself. no philosophy. 5 Again. is like a dance of power that embraces a core containing. he may illustratethe same philosophyover and over again or bring to life many. And again it takes only a single additionalline to transforma perfectpoem into a doubtfulphilosophy.Eurydice. projecthimself also into the mood of those who feel more or less perpetually like Kafka? A poem can illustrate a philosophy insofaras the philosophy itself is a metaphysical projection of an experience. soundlessly. Rarely the pupil's curtain. dazed. . no truth. a mighty will.the Buddha. and countlessothers. Leda. the birth of more direct than the other two.and Hermes (all three in turn). The poet no longer projects himself into an idiot or an animal but. an attitude.WALTER KAUFMANN The soft gait of the supple. forceful paces revolving in a circle almost nil. whether as a tourde forceor as an unwittingrecordof his own rangeof experience. a mood.Rilke'shistorical and geographical proximity to Kafka may suggest that this addition would be entirelyin his spirit.The poet may know this mood as one among many or as the dominantexperience of his own life. a prisoner.

The neverthelessin a characteristically . is Torso of Apollo" this early aestheticism In the "Archaic of the Greeks is expericnced but the achievement transcended.too. only turned low. qualiby "The Panther" The nihilismillustrated fied by the suggestionthat life is justifiedonly as an aesthetic of Nietzsche's phenomenon-and this is one of the key sentences first book.bright as a great star: there is no spot that does not see you. stand mute under the shoulders'lucid fall and not gleam like a great cat's skin. Nietzschean manner. and not burst out of all its contours. afterall.6 Archaic Torso of Apollo AND RILKE NIETZSCHE We did not know his high. can be found in the work of Nietzsche. nor could we still discern the smile that wandersin the loins' faint turn to that core which once carriedmanhood'screst.but enough that all of Rilke'searlypoemsillustrate the claimthat the feelingabout of the bestof them do to warrant the world which Nietzsche formulatedin this way was one without any specialfeat of which Rilke longer nihilism but a call for a decision. too. of a philosophy. imagination. For else the breast could not blind you.however. not yet dead. disfiguredand too small. You must change your life. Both philosophies. Yet his torso has retainedtheir glowing as a candelabrumwhere his vision. this sonnetas an illustration If one considers it must be a very differentphilosophyfrom that of the two earlierpoems: no longer Kafka but Sartre. is. The Birth of Tragedy. still shines. unheardof head where his eyes' apples ripened. and in the same sequence as in Rilke.It would surelybe false to say this attitude. Else would this stone. first-hand.

notablyNietzsche. of course. Rilke'spoemmay be takenas an illustration of this attitudewhich. takenby itself. like Nietzsche. But what I shall try to show next is that Rilke communicated in his poetry quite a number of experienceswhich are far from common and rarelyencountered in the work of other poets or philosophers-exceptNietzsche.neither he nor Nietzsche ever relinquished. thirdly. the work of both men. and central i.In his seventhelegy he formulatesit in terms no less applicableto Nietzsche than to himself: . to be sure. III What Rilke has in common with Nietzsche is.too common to establishany strong parallel: to mention a single outstandingexample. achievement ratherthan a symbol of an irretrievable past. leave alone romantic To him the archaictorsois a work of art and a human nostalgia. and thereforehe experiences it not only as a reproach but also as a challengeand a promise. first of all. as it happens.WALTER KAUFMANN 7 mere contrast betweenclassical antiquityand our own paltriness is. What the sonnet. But Rilke. too. whereit is urgedthatbesidesthe outlookof the antiquarian and that of the critic of the past there is.His attitudeis that of Nietzschein his thirdbook. or humor. And I shall begin with four interrelated motifswhich areequallycharacteristic of. We have no right. does not react with is one of the central motifs of Joyce'sUlysses. the "monumentalistic" attitude. to be transmuted by each in accordance with his infer from "Archaic Torso of Apollo"that Rilke maintained a particular positionor identified himself permanently with certainideas.have had. his experienceof his own historicalsituation.irony. Here are certainfundamental experienceswhich inspiredboth a philosopher and a poet.showsis only thatRilkeknew a certainexperience which some other people.On the Advantageand Disadvantage of Historyfor Life.

to whomthe pastno longerbelongs. For most men their historicalsituationposes no problem. but.was a man of faith. though his psychological Rilke'stwo lines apply to Nietzscheas to no other equallyoutstandingfigure before him.and his refusalto specufelt securein his possession late about the future went hand in hand with the feeling that for him. for all his profoundlycriticalattitudetoward Kierkegaard. denied the escapeinto the past.he fled into an equallyimaginary romantics' futurewhich he thoughthe could foreseeand which he believed and even belongedto him.Marx is an outstandingexample.He of the past. and so was Dostoevski. posiwith any keen senseof his historical firstgreatphilosopher tion. . It did not occur to Aristotlethat the foreverunder world of the Greek city states was disappearing for all eternity. and he saw himselfas the heir of threethousandyears.they are not even aware of it. insight was uncloudedby any illusion. He still had a faith in a world-order a kind of moral providence. In the courseof the i9th Centurysome writersfound their relation to the past almost as troubled as their situation in the present. past and present. Thomasbuilt confidently hoped that his Critiqueof Pure Reasonwould enable men at Hegel was the long last to find the realtruthwithin two decades. Exactlythe same is true of the following four lines from which suggestthe secondgreatcommonmotif and Stundenbuch could be inscribedover Nietzsche'swork no less than Rilke's: I believe in everythingunsaid still. Goethe'sattitudc the pastand the presentwere sufficient was simllar. What no man has yet dared to will shall one day be instinctivewith me. St. My most pious feelings I want to set free.8 AND RILKE NIETZSCHE of the worldknowsthe disinherited Everybrutcinversion and not yet the futurc.Kant his very eyes.

are. What Nietzsche and Rilke want is a new honesty. too.What is old cannot be altointo traditional gether adequatenow.but rather in a rejectionof all and in the resolveto be open that has hardenedinto stereotypes.and the sin againstthe spiritis for them the essentiallyinsincereescape values and cliches. What is involvedin this disdainfor securityis statedbeautifully in one of Rilke's letters (April 12."piety cannot mean what it once meant."Most men. in an unprecedented situation. The peculiar piety of Nietzsche and Rilke does not consist in any reverent acceptanceof some tradition. is ruled out for Nietzsche and Rilke preciselyby their piety: their new honesty does not permit any such security.It is honestythat demandswhat is still unsaid.a duty. they feel that if only they will be entirelyreceptive they will be addressed personallyand experiencea necessity. But what is for Jamesa legitimateapproachto piety.but no less their duty than any categorical imperative. They refuse to reducean experienceor insight to fit it into a preconceived schemeof things. does not affirmat some time or other with a definite resolve-yes. when he says in his first elegy "thatwe are not very reliablyat home in the interpreted world. nevertakespossession of the unutterable powersof our existence. i923). and ready for their own individualcall.Honestyis the new piety. for me. jubilateat-the terribleness of life.their new piety involvesan opennessfor experiences which explodeour customary interpretations. a destinywhich will be just theirsand nobodyelse's. he merely walks at the edge.WALTER KAUFMANN 9 For those "to whom the past no longerbelongs. Rilke speaksfor Nietzsche. of course. and what he as the centralinspiration of his elegiesand sonnets here describes may be consideredthe third great common motif of his work "Whoever and Nietzsche's.and not yet the future. and when the decision is made . Without believing in any god. and William Jamesfrankly insistedon the importanceof feeling at home im the universe.

these of the dead. life . dependingon the distance from which. and philosopherthe highest types of humanity and always retained some feeling for the . In his experience It is his vision and impression abstract. ." refusedto do: he Here the poet does what Goethescornfully his greatestpoetic statesthe "idea"of what he himselfconsiders work. we perceiveit-that is the essentialmeaningand conceptof my two books. But if we reflecton Goethe'swords to Eckermann(May "Theycome and ask me 6. . 1827). The young Nictzsche consideredartist. variegated the meagre threadof a single . .he will have been neitherone of the living nor one and bliss. and bliss of life are as a single face that merely the terribleness looks this way or that dependingon his distancefrom it or his mood.To show the identityof terribleness two faces of the same divine head-indeed. . when he plunges into life. .the veryintensityof his slings and arrowsof outrageous sufferingfills him with ecstasy. . that would have been a fine thing. so that others artistically form such visionsand impressions would receive the same impressionswhen hearing or reading what I presented. the Christianmartyrsdeserveadmiration as men who did not walk at the edge.but that meansinevitably On the that no blissis left either. exposinghimself to the fortune.. saint." Rilke's "essentialmeaning and concept"could hardly be called the meagre thread of a single idea. ideal It was altogethernot of something my manneras a poet to strivefor the embodiment round out and but do anything I did have to not abstract. Indeed. From this point of view. . As if I knew . upon had I wantedto stringsuch a rich. that myself! .. or the mood in which. It is only by walking at the edge and seekingshelterthat he can escapethe terrorof existence. . . .. thereis no real disagreement: what idea I sought to embodyin my Faust.only the balanceof mediocrity. other hand. .10 AND RILKE NIETZSCHE cventually. . . nor is it anything of life. of this single face that merely looks this way or that. .

" Although he does not walk at the edge. Let us at long last be redeemed." writtenin February I922.too. They would have to sing better songs for me to have faith in their Redeemer:and his discipleswould have to look more redeemedl" And the famous passageon CesareBorgianear the end of Nietzsche'sAntichrist is certainlythe model for this contrast: "Evenwithin the church. "The Letter of the YoungWorkingman. melancholy.He might well have agreed with Rilke's statement. he throws away life to buy safety beyond. course"On Priests": ". the most terriblepain.after one has weatheredit. "Do not forevercompelus to fall back into the distressand melancholythat it cost him. as you say. to 'redeem' us."Comparethis with Zarathustra's dis. but whetherhe recognized them or the letter alreadycited: "I have often said to myself that this was the urge or (if it is permittedto say so) the holy cunning of the martyrsthat they cravedto put behind themselvespain.WALTER KAUFMANN 11 ascetic. . the martyr. it is interesting that such passagesshould have come to his mind while he wrote the elegies and sonnets. to suffering-to evoke this whole possibility conjure it up so that afterwards. duringthe very days when he also wrote the elegies and sonnets. Far from choosing the precariouslife which Nietzsche and Rilke elect.What separates Nietzsche and Rilke from the martyrs is ultimately-and this is the fourth great common motif-their completerepudiationof otherworldiness. This is not only of the essenceof Rilke'spoetrybut also the main theme of his last major prose work.It is hardto believethat Rilke shouldnot have been conscious of this. .The fourteen pages of this protest against Christianity do not only breathc Nietzsche'sspiritbut echo particular passagesin his books. there might be only bliss. the excessof all pain-that which otherwise distributes itselfunforeseeably over a whole life and mingles with its momentsin smallor largerdosesof physical and spiritual of sufferingat once. seeks security. .

courtesans. experienced In a letter (February 22.Why is the church not praisedfor having been so sturdythat it did not collapseunder the weight of the vitalityof certainpopes whose throneswere heavy with bastard children." Some other parallelsmay be fully accountedfor by the basically similarattitudes of bothmen. Rilke recallshow he once used to speak of God and adds: "Now you would hardlyever hear are taken away from God. inexorable. for example.12 NIETZSCHE AND RILKE indeed in its very crown. I923)..and his earth. when we are surroundedright here by tasks and expectations and futuresl What fraud. . His attributes and returnto the not that of literary or realismany more than the Victorianor romantic naturalism world or the universeof scienceor religion. It is an ecstatically world alive with all the glory of the mystics'God. the preference for the Old Testamentover the New and the great indictment of the Christian attitudetowardsex. it is high time for the impoverishedearth to claim back all those loans which have been raised on her bliss to furnish some over-future I Rilke acceptsZarathustra's challenge to remain faithful to the earth. me refer to him. What is most significant in on the theme but the any case is not the numberof variations centralmotif of radicaloppositionto otherworldliness." the no longer utterable. and murders?Was there not more Christianityin them thanin the aridrestorers of the Gospels-namely. to purloin images of earthlyraptureto sell them to heavenbehind our backsl Nietzsche's.audaciousthings! And Lutherrestoredthe church:he attackedit. transmuted?" I recall the culmination of Nietzsche'spassage:"But lifel But the triumphof life! But the great Yes to all high. And this is statedin "The Letterof the Young Workingman" not only in "Onthe the spiritbut even in the style of Zarathustra's discourse Afterworldly": What madness. this world exactedits abundance and its native overflow. beautiful. somethingliving. to distract us to a beyond.

Certainly. for all the influenceof the Greekson classicalGermanpoetry. The god on the cross is a curse on life.if there were such a thing. It is not martyrdomthat constitutesthe difference-only here it has two differentsenses.In Faust. preferringthe totalityof experience. . he cannot distinguishit from Philistinesloth. is relatedof Orpheusas the second case. verse that praises sufferingas part of the passionof existence-it is found in the Duino Elegies and the Sonnets to Orpheus. any wish to hold on to could not be found in Goetheor Schiller. The problemis that of the meaning of suffering: whether a Christian meaning or a tragic meaning. it is supposedto be the path to a sacred existence... is preciselywhat Faust cannotunderstand.but any love of the presentmoment. Rilke knew of coursethat the featuresof Orpheusand Dionysus blend ever in Greeklegend. In fact.Goethe portrayeda man who cravesthe agony and bliss of the whole race.. Nietzsche thought that this joyous affirmation of life with all its pain could be found in Greek tragedy.any boundlessaffirmation of it. Dionysus versus "the CrucifiedOne": there you have the contrast. . moreover-and the poet takes pains to underscorethis-utterly at .to be sure. . to the drabdust of a merelyacademicexistence. In the first case.which is crucialfor Nietzsche'sconception. Even in his final speech he tells the moment to abide only becausehe enjoys his anticipation of an imaginaryfuture which is. existenceis consideredsacredenough to justify even a tremendous amount of suffering. and the myth of Dionysus'martyrdom and rebirth. a pointerto seek redemptionfrom it.For that matter. In this passage from The Will to Power we can substitute "Orpheus" for "Dionysus" without the least change in meaning. Dionysus cut to piecesis a promise of life: it is eternallyreborn and comes back from destruction.WALTERKAUFMANN 13 IV If ever there was Dionysian poetry in Nietzsche's sensepoetry that celebrates life with all its agony.

it is overrich. it wants itself. happiness! Abidc. unlike his Faust.for disgrace. hungrier. all entangled. What does joy not want? It is thirstier. Eternalones. begs that one might take would like to be hated.and to woe too. but returnl For all joy wants-eternity. the ring's will strivesin it.more cordial. for hatred. all eternally. love it eternallyand evermore. Goethe. you know it! This feeling is significantlydifferentfrom the romantics' of the lust of sufferingand the voluptuous occasional celebration delight of agony. All things are entangled.more secret than all woe. it bites into itself..Novalis. celebrated Goethe'sattitudeas the incarnation of a "Dionysian" Suffer for the bettcr worldl Up above the firmament A great God will give rewards. for hell. but althoughNietzsche. then you have said Yes too to all woe.for world-this world.enamored.celebrates pain as a fore- . you say: go. It was. the affirmation of Goethe's"It be as it may.14 NIETZSCHE AND RILKE odds with reality.The Dionysian affirmation of "DrunkenSong" strikesa new note: Zarathustra's Have you ever said Yes to a single joy? 0 my friends. oh.enamored-oh. so fair"seemssereneratherthan ecstatic. All anew.Here is resignation rather thanrapture. then you loved the world. thanksthe taker. if ever you wanted one thing twice..for example. Nietzsche fuses Goethe's radical this-worldliness with the genuine joy of Schiller'sfamous hymn which looks forwardto anotherworld: Suffer bravely. peaceratherthanpassion. Schiller's attitudewas not one of otherworldliness but of heroic defiance of suffering. momentl"then you wanted all back. it wants love. if ever you said. oh. "You please me. Generally. it wants hatred.. for the cripple. so rich is joy that it thirsts for woe. knew a completelyun-Philistine appreciationof the moment.near the end of The Twilight of the Idols.ensnared. throws away. even a touchof wearimess. ensnared.more terrible. especially in his old age.

this is the veryoppositeof Nietzsche'sdoctrine of the eternalrecurrence of the same events. only once. while it lasts. "to whom the past no longer belongs. "have to be human?" And he answers:"because being here is much"and then explains: Once everything.the romantics' praiseof sufferingis. lifts the poet out of this world. at bottom. And we."we see that the centralexperience of Nietzscheand Rilke is the same."Rilke asks at the beginning of his ninth elegy. if indeedin any literature. In this mood the four motifswhich we have statedseparately are fused into a single experience:Nietzsche and Rilke. once. Once and no more. most typically. praiseof anotherworld or of a briefecstasywhich. and not yet the future. but it is the centralmood of Rilke'selegiesand sonnets.What Rilke'semphatic"once"is meant to rule out . "Why. even though only once: having been on earth does not seem revokable. including even the ancienthope for bliss in anotherlife. Never again. But having been this once. On the face of it. But if we understand this doctrineas the metaphysical projectionof the feeling expressedin the words we have quoted from "The Drunken Song.WALTERKAUFMANN 15 taste of death becausehe hates life. V A glance at one elegy and one sonnet may show how some apparently strikingdifferences betweenNietzsche and Rilke are merely superficial. akin to their escapeinto the past or the future:it is. beforehim. but their radical affirmation of this worldwith all its agonybecomesan experience of ecstaticbliss. a repudiation of the present." develop a new piety which denies them the securityof any traditionas well as any escapefrom the terrorof life. Altogether. Nietzsche'sattitudeis not found in Germanliterature. too.

blissfullyearthly"sense. Interpreters discourse "On insufficientattention to Zarathustra's opening The Three Metamorphoses" in which the highest stage in the of the spiritis represented by the child. And again: By making the mistake of applyingCatholicconceptionsof death. Nietzsche. .16 NIETZSCHE AND RILKE but a beyond.however. The angel of the elegies is of the visible into the invisthe creaturein whom that transformation ible at which we work appearscompleted. NovemberI3. of will sufficeto cite a letter Rilke wrote during the last year of his life. deeply awaymoreand morepassionately) earthly.perfectly Some scrutinyand criticism. explication of a mood to theoretical objections. and of eternity to the elegies or sonnets. A few lines later.One possible development attitudetowardthe eternalrecurrence and particularly important nor speculative but rather of the sameeventsis neithermoralistic a child'swish to like a child'sdelight in a merry-go-round--or have a story it likes repeatedagain and again and again. one moves away completelyfrom their point of departureand becomesinvolved in an ever more thorough misunderstanding. have paid a failure to grasp the centralexperience.He explainshow he wants to be understood:"Not in the Christiansense (from which I move but in a purelyearthly. of the beyond. like is not an eternal recurrence is this world." One on a psychologicalmisunderstanding.InRilke is suggestedby the references steadof examiningall these passagesin an effortto understand what exactlyRilke may have meant. and what he. and plainly intendedby It was written to his Polish translator the poet as a majordocument. I925. affirmsrapturously Rilke exclaims-and this is surelythe epitomeof "The Drunken Song": "Would love to hold on to all forever. The other great apparentdifferencebetweenNietzscheand to angels in the elegies. and it is. pose philosophicalpuzzles about the fair to subject the theoretical eternalrecurrence.The "angel" of the elegies has nothing to do with the angel of the Christian heaven (sooner with the angelic figures of Islam).

In fact. try forgetting that you ever the realm of the clouds: upon these we place our motley bastardsand call them gods and overmen. An aimlessbreath. and this . gods and angels are indeed mere poets' parablesand In the third sonnet.and even if it is granted that god. But how can one follow. this lack of strainmay seem to establish a markeddifference with Nietzsche who is generallyheld to have conceiveda more ferociousideal. however. and Nietzsche the overman: A god can do it.Where ways of the heart are crossing stands no temple for Apollo.he is the imageor incarnation of the accomplishment of our striving. a god appearswhere the elegies would have introducedan angel. overman."But what Rilke exaltshere is precisely the absenceof any storm. although your voice then opens up your lips-oh.for example. tell me. A breeze. it always lifts us higher-specifically. In his discourse"On Poets"Zarathustra says: "all gods are poets' parables. song is existence. angel. In some translations the last word is renderedas "gale. That flees.Orpheus. mere man.For the god. through the narrow art? Man's sense is discord. the earth and sky? It is not this. Singing in truth is breaththat does not flow.and his featuresthus merge with those of Nietzsche'sUebermensch. Verily. that you love.poets' prevarications. nor does it woo what is at last attained. actuallyused interchangeably. oh. Song. to help us to exist. does not reachnor yearn.and Dionysus become indistinguishable at this point.Zarathustra follows up his discourse"On SelfOvercoming" with one "On Those Who are Sublime".WALTER KAUFMANN 17 In otherwords.Flight in the god. But when do we exist? When will he turn." In Rilke. as you teach it. unstrained. youth.

this sublime one. becausea desired spasm of mildness makes your contortionmore tender. the will-less one.18 NIETZSCHE AND RILKE I do not like these tense souls. scaffoldssurrenderas childrenthe toys of their previous birthday. What they receivedthrough the ages. ... Though I love the bull's neck on man's heart.this is the theme of the third sonnetto Orpheus. the rack and the rod.that all are so clearor so good. More than a wind for huge ships that are safe near the land. the undevious. His deed itself still lies on him as a shadow: the hand still darkens the doer. None is enhanced. is the ninth poem from the secondpartof Sonnetsto Orpheus: Jubilatenot when you judge that no rack is required. VI I now propose to consider three more late poems. the . As yet he has not overcomehis deed. is strikinglysimilarin contentto Rilke'ssonnet: Surely..silent vibration conqueringus from within like a still playing child of unlimited copulation. only then would his beauty commence. all short enough to be cited without omission. Here. and illustrate specific parallelsto Nietzsche'sthought. opened-upheart-thus does not enter the god of genuine mildness.He would come with might and expand radiantlyas but the godlike will. This is the heartof Nietzsche'scritiqueof modernman.not merely sublime: the ether itself should elevate him. to begin with. Neither less than the secret.I am not implyingthat all the later poems are so Nietzscheannor. men's necks no longer stretchedin metallic splendor. for that matter.. If he grew tired of his sublimity. He must still discardhis heroic will.. he shall be elevated.Into the pure. the high. I also want to see the eyes of the angel.

A similar experienceis formulatednear the beginning of Rilke'sfirst elegy: The beautifulis nothing but the beginning of the terriblethat we still barely endure. . .exulting in change as it burns."In the sectionof The Twilight of the Idols that bears this title."The "tenderness" of bourgeoismorality seemeda mockeryto Nietzscheand Rilke. When power becomes gracious and descends into the visible. The twelfth sonnet of part two concernsitself with the images of fire and change which are frequentlyencountered in Nietzsche's work. I have often laughed at the weaklings who thought themselvesgood becausethey had no claws.WALTER KAUFMANN 19 point of his insistentquestion. . Oh experiencethe raptureof fire in which a life is concealed. Thank youl In reply. I take the libertyof raisingthe questionwhetherwe have really become more moral. and the poet evidently agreedwith these sentences in the chapter"On Those Who Are Sublime": is part of the graciousness Gracefulness of the great-souled. Choose to be changed. loves the figure's flight less than the point where it turns."whetherwe have becomemore moral.And there is nobodyfrom whom I want beautyas much as from you who are powerful: let your kindness be your final selfconquest. and the projectingspirit who is masterof the entire earth. . Of all evil I deem you capable:thereforeI want the good from you. Nietzsche protestsagainst a reviewerwho "went so far that he 'understood' the meaning of my work-not without his respect for my courage expressing and daring-to be a demand for the abolitionof all decent feelings. Verily. and we admire it so becauseit serenelydisdains to destroy us.but the parallel extendsfar beyondthe imagery.uch descent I call beauty.

20 AND RILKE NIETZSCHE That which would lock itself up-already is frozen. ashes everythingI leave: Flame I am assuredly. From the poem concluding Beyond Good and Evil. 2. . Or: I am the kind who . usually yearsafter that. very While the first threelines of Rilke'ssestetare certainly octave obscure-and. I think.inferiorto the restof the poem-the clear. I know from where I came! Ever hungry like a flame I consume myself and glow. everybody without even realizingthat he choosesit. if one has read some refuge in heredityand environment. This sonnet invites comparisonwith Nietzsche'sdictum: Nur (only thosewho conwer sich wandeltbleibtmit mir verwandt2 tinueto changeremainrelatedto me)-and with his little poem: Yes. Does it feel safe in the shadow of colorlessgrey? Wait. . Or: I have always said that .The meaningof the wordsis so easily is reallydeceptively seen that one is apt to overlookthat what is meant is anything wantsto lock himselfup afterhavingunderbut easy.And Daphne. and says. what is hardest will warn from afar what has chosen hardness:a hammer will shatterits prey. He that squandershimself as a well is cognized by cognition and it leads him rejoicingthrough the serene creation which often ceases to start and begins with the end. Light grows all that I conceive. .Everybody for a few and perhaps in adolescence gone a few transformations choosessome state of being. since her transformation into a baytree. misone blamesoneself on one's parents' of the psychoanalysts. . . Every span of delight is the child or grandchildof division which they traversein wonder.desiresthat you choose to be changed into wind.more or less explicitly:that is the way I am. or happen to be. Or one takes Or.

the secretof the greatest enjoymentof existenceis: to live dangerously!" . back in its sphereand home.blissfullyearthly" feeling is no longeran of the Biblicaldictumthatthereis morejoy in heaven illustration over one repentantsinner than over ninety-ninejust men-for the conceptionof sin is no longermeaningfulhere-but a variation in a minorkey of Aphorism283 in Nietzsche'sGayScience: "Believe and the greatest fruitfulness me. one with the day and night.deeplyearthly.KAUFMANN WALTER 21 takes:It is all their fault. Over the nowhere arches the is an invitationto the life imaginable. it is an implicit denunciationof all thesemythsand of any security that may be found in a tradition or expectedfrom a single conversion.) Dove that remainedoutside. but Rilke is not trying to lend a voice to some ancientwisdom but recordinghis own experience which is free of all otherworldlyor doctrinaireovertones. most precarious The last of the threepoems to be cited here may have been Rilke'slast Germanpoem. does it not fill our hands differentlythan before? By the weight of return it is more. Of all the doves the always most protected. "Chooseto be changed"is not only a call for continualgrowth. the ball that is thrown. The theme of this poem can be traced back beyond the prodigal son. freedom rejoices. (Manyof his last poemswere French -reminding us of Nietzsche'soccasionalwish that he might have been able to write some of his booksin Frenchratherthan in German.And his "purely earthly. it knows the secrecy when the most remote terroris fused into deeply felt flight. that we dare. richest of all hearts is the resurrected: turning back liberates. outside the dovecote. does not know tenderness. never endangeredmost. Oh.

In thatpoem"everything revolvesengrossed/ alwaysaroundthe Holy Ghost. and the human organ of reproduction has becomethe center-the symbolof creativity. and so.a mighty will. But if this will were awakened?In "ArchaicTorso of Apollo" the senseless circularmotion is given up.mergeswith the older image of sphericalrevolution. which never seeks or finds shelter." But how? "A god can do it.Moving in circlesis the epitome of senselessness.the symbol of the utterlyabandoned and exposedlife that is yet unstrained. But how can one follow?"In the sonnetsthe answeris given again and again with the image of the wind. In the ball the imageof the wind. since her transformation into a baytree.desiresthat you chooseto be changedinto wind. "The Song of the Idiot.and that "the secretof the greatestfruitfulness existence live the greatest enjoyment of is: to dangerouslyl" . which endsin death.and viewedfrom the outsidelife. Thereis no senseless. Singing in truth is a wind."In "The Panther" the image of revolvingis maintained.22 NIETZSCHE AND RILKE The image of the ball conjoinedwith the substantival use of the everywhere takes us back to the first poem we cited. is the child'sthrowingof the ball or the aimlessblowing of the wind.that a certainmode of experiencemakes life infinitely and worthwhile. There is nothing that gives our lives meaning. in a way. "And Daphne."which alsofeatures both. of flight. of meaning:"Youmust changeyour Now there is a possibility life. but Rilke and Nietzsche proclaimthat a certainkind of life is its own reward." Still. but in the centerthereis "dazed. life makesno sense." The wind is that which never locks itself up in any form.

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