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Title: The Case Of Wagner, Nietzsche Contra Wagner, and Selected Aphorisms.
Author: Nietzsche, Friedrich Wilhelm, 1844-1900
Language: English
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                          *Friedrich Nietzsche*

                         *I: The Case Of Wagner*

                    *II: Nietzsche *_Contra_* Wagner*

                        *III: Selected Aphorisms*

                              Translated By

                           Anthony M. Ludovici

                              Third Edition

                               T. N. Foulis

                         13 & 15 Frederick Street

                           Edinburgh and London



Translator’s Preface.
Preface To The Third Edition
The Case Of Wagner: A Musician’s Problem
Nietzsche _contra_ Wagner
Selected Aphorisms from Nietzsche’s Retrospect of his Years of Friendship
with Wagner.


Nietzsche wrote the rough draft of “The Case of Wagner” in Turin, during
the month of May 1888; he completed it in Sils Maria towards the end of
June of the same year, and it was published in the following autumn.
“Nietzsche _contra_ Wagner” was written about the middle of December 1888;
but, although it was printed and corrected before the New Year, it was not
published until long afterwards owing to Nietzsche’s complete breakdown in
the first days of 1889.

In reading these two essays we are apt to be deceived, by their virulent
and forcible tone, into believing that the whole matter is a mere cover
for hidden fire,—a mere blind of æsthetic discussion concealing a deep and
implacable personal feud which demands and will have vengeance. In spite
of all that has been said to the contrary, many people still hold this
view of the two little works before us; and, as the actual facts are not
accessible to every one, and rumours are more easily believed than
verified, the error of supposing that these pamphlets were dictated by
personal animosity, and even by Nietzsche’s envy of Wagner in his glory,
seems to be a pretty common one. Another very general error is to suppose
that the point at issue here is not one concerning music at all, but
concerning religion. It is taken for granted that the aspirations, the
particular quality, the influence, and the method of an art like music,
are matters quite distinct from the values and the conditions prevailing
in the culture with which it is in harmony, and that however many
Christian elements may be discovered in Wagnerian texts, Nietzsche had no
right to raise æsthetic objections because he happened to entertain the
extraordinary view that these Christian elements had also found their way
into Wagnerian music.

To both of these views there is but one reply:—they are absolutely false.

In the “Ecce Homo,” Nietzsche’s autobiography,—a book which from cover to
cover and line for line is sincerity itself—we learn what Wagner actually
meant to Nietzsche. On pages 41, 44, 84, 122, 129, &c, we cannot doubt
that Nietzsche is speaking from his heart,—and what does he say?—In
impassioned tones he admits his profound indebtedness to the great
musician, his love for him, his gratitude to him,—how Wagner was the only
German who had ever been anything to him—how his friendship with Wagner
constituted the happiest and most valuable experience of his life,—how his
breach with Wagner almost killed him. And, when we remember, too, that
Wagner on his part also declared that he was “alone” after he had lost
“that man” (Nietzsche), we begin to perceive that personal bitterness and
animosity are out of the question here. We feel we are on a higher plane,
and that we must not judge these two men as if they were a couple of
little business people who had had a suburban squabble.

Nietzsche declares (“Ecce Homo,” p. 24) that he never attacked persons as
persons. If he used a name at all, it was merely as a means to an end,
just as one might use a magnifying glass in order to make a general, but
elusive and intricate fact more clear and more apparent, and if he used
the name of David Strauss, without bitterness or spite (for he did not
even know the man), when he wished to personify Culture-Philistinism, so,
in the same spirit, did he use the name of Wagner, when he wished to
personify the general decadence of modern ideas, values, aspirations and

Nietzsche’s ambition, throughout his life, was to regenerate European
culture. In the first period of his relationship with Wagner, he thought
that he had found the man who was prepared to lead in this direction. For
a long while he regarded his master as the Saviour of Germany, as the
innovator and renovator who was going to arrest the decadent current of
his time and lead men to a greatness which had died with antiquity. And so
thoroughly did he understand his duties as a disciple, so wholly was he
devoted to this cause, that, in spite of all his unquestioned gifts and
the excellence of his original achievements, he was for a long while
regarded as a mere “literary lackey” in Wagner’s service, in all those
circles where the rising musician was most disliked.

Gradually, however, as the young Nietzsche developed and began to gain an
independent view of life and humanity, it seemed to him extremely doubtful
whether Wagner actually was pulling the same way with him. Whereas,
theretofore, he had identified Wagner’s ideals with his own, it now dawned
upon him slowly that the regeneration of German culture, of European
culture, and the transvaluation of values which would be necessary for
this regeneration, really lay off the track of Wagnerism. He saw that he
had endowed Wagner with a good deal that was more his own than Wagner’s.
In his love he had transfigured the friend, and the composer of “Parsifal”
and the man of his imagination were not one. The fact was realised step by
step; disappointment upon disappointment, revelation after revelation,
ultimately brought it home to him, and though his best instincts at first
opposed it, the revulsion of feeling at last became too strong to be
scouted, and Nietzsche was plunged into the blackest despair. Had he
followed his own human inclinations, he would probably have remained
Wagner’s friend until the end. As it was, however, he remained loyal to
his cause, and this meant denouncing his former idol.

“Joyful Wisdom,” “Thus Spake Zarathustra,” “Beyond Good and Evil,” “The
Genealogy of Morals,” “The Twilight of the Idols,” “The Antichrist”—all
these books were but so many exhortations to mankind to step aside from
the general track now trodden by Europeans. And what happened? Wagner
began to write some hard things about Nietzsche; the world assumed that
Nietzsche and Wagner had engaged in a paltry personal quarrel in the
press, and the whole importance of the real issue was buried beneath the
human, all-too-human interpretations which were heaped upon it.

Nietzsche was a musician of no mean attainments. For a long while, in his
youth, his superiors had been doubtful whether he should not be educated
for a musical career, so great were his gifts in this art; and if his
mother had not been offered a six-years’ scholarship for her son at the
famous school of Pforta, Nietzsche, the scholar and philologist, would
probably have been an able composer. When he speaks about music,
therefore, he knows what he is talking about, and when he refers to
Wagner’s music in particular, the simple fact of his long intimacy with
Wagner during the years at Tribschen, is a sufficient guarantee of his
deep knowledge of the subject. Now Nietzsche was one of the first to
recognise that the principles of art are inextricably bound up with the
laws of life, that an æsthetic dogma may therefore promote or depress all
vital force, and that a picture, a symphony, a poem or a statue, is just
as capable of being pessimistic, anarchic, Christian or revolutionary, as
a philosophy or a science is. To speak of a certain class of music as
being compatible with the decline of culture, therefore, was to Nietzsche
a perfectly warrantable association of ideas, and that is why, throughout
his philosophy, so much stress is laid upon æsthetic considerations.

But if in England and America Nietzsche’s attack on Wagner’s art may still
seem a little incomprehensible, let it be remembered that the Continent
has long known that Nietzsche was actually in the right. Every year
thousands are now added to the large party abroad who have ceased from
believing in the great musical revolutionary of the seventies; that he was
one with the French Romanticists and rebels has long since been
acknowledged a fact in select circles, both in France and Germany, and if
we still have Wagner with us in England, if we still consider Nietzsche as
a heretic, when he declares that “Wagner was a musician for unmusical
people,” it is only because we are more removed than we imagine, from all
the great movements, intellectual and otherwise, which take place on the

In Wagner’s music, in his doctrine, in his whole concept of art, Nietzsche
saw the confirmation, the promotion—aye, even the encouragement, of that
decadence and degeneration which is now rampant in Europe; and it is for
this reason, although to the end of his life he still loved Wagner, the
man and the friend, that we find him, on the very eve of his spiritual
death, exhorting us to abjure Wagner the musician and the artist.

Anthony M. Ludovici.


In spite of the adverse criticism with which the above preface has met at
the hands of many reviewers since the summer of last year, I cannot say
that I should feel justified, even after mature consideration, in altering
a single word or sentence it contains. If I felt inclined to make any
changes at all, these would take the form of extensive additions, tending
to confirm rather than to modify the general argument it advances; but,
any omissions of which I may have been guilty in the first place, have
been so fully rectified since, thanks to the publication of the English
translations of Daniel Halévy’s and Henri Lichtenberger’s works, “The Life
of Friedrich Nietzsche,”(2) and “The Gospel of Superman,”(3) respectively,
that, were it not for the fact that the truth about this matter cannot be
repeated too often, I should have refrained altogether from including any
fresh remarks of my own in this Third Edition.

In the works just referred to (pp. 129 _et seq._ in Halévy’s book, and pp.
78 _et seq._ in Lichtenberger’s book), the statement I made in my preface
to “Thoughts out of Season,” vol. i., and which I did not think it
necessary to repeat in my first preface to these pamphlets, will be found
to receive the fullest confirmation.

The statement in question was to the effect that many long years before
these pamphlets were even projected, Nietzsche’s apparent _volte-face_ in
regard to his hero Wagner had been not only foreshadowed but actually
stated in plain words, in two works written during his friendship with
Wagner,—the works referred to being “The Birth of Tragedy” (1872), and
“Wagner in Bayreuth” (1875) of which Houston Stuart Chamberlain declares
not only that it possesses “undying classical worth” but that “a perusal
of it is indispensable to all who wish to follow the question [of Wagner]
to its roots.”(4)

The idea that runs through the present work like a leitmotif—the idea that
Wagner was at bottom more of a mime than a musician—was so far an ever
present thought with Nietzsche that it is ever impossible to ascertain the
period when it was first formulated.

In Nietzsche’s wonderful autobiography (_Ecce Homo_, p. 88), in the
section dealing with the early works just mentioned, we find the following
passage—“In the second of the two essays [Wagner in Bayreuth] with a
profound certainty of instinct, I already characterised the elementary
factor in Wagner’s nature as a theatrical talent which, in all his means
and aspirations, draws its final conclusions.” And as early as 1874,
Nietzsche wrote in his diary—“Wagner is a born actor. Just as Goethe was
an abortive painter, and Schiller an abortive orator, so Wagner was an
abortive theatrical genius. His attitude to music is that of the actor;
for he knows how to sing and speak, as it were out of different souls and
from absolutely different worlds (_Tristan_ and the _Meistersinger_).”

There is, however, no need to multiply examples, seeing, as I have said,
that in the translations of Halévy’s and Lichtenberger’s books the reader
will find all the independent evidence he could possibly desire,
disproving the popular, and even the learned belief that, in the two
pamphlets before us we have a complete, apparently unaccountable, and
therefore “demented” _volte-face_ on Nietzsche’s part. Nevertheless, for
fear lest some doubt should still linger in certain minds concerning this
point, and with the view of adding interest to these essays, the Editor
considered it advisable, in the Second Edition, to add a number of
extracts from Nietzsche’s diary of the year 1878 (ten years before “The
Case of Wagner,” and “Nietzsche _contra_ Wagner” were written) in order to
show to what extent those learned critics who complain of Nietzsche’s
“morbid and uncontrollable recantations and revulsions of feeling,” have
overlooked even the plain facts of the case when forming their
all-too-hasty conclusions. These extracts will be found at the end of
“Nietzsche _contra_ Wagner.” While reading them, however, it should not be
forgotten that they were never intended for publication by Nietzsche
himself—a fact which accounts for their unpolished and sketchy form—and
that they were first published in vol. xi. of the first German Library
Edition (pp. 99-129) only when he was a helpless invalid, in 1897. Since
then, in 1901 and 1906 respectively, they have been reprinted, once in the
large German Library Edition (vol. xi. pp. 181-202), and once in the
German Pocket Edition, as an appendix to “Human-All-too-Human,” Part II.

An altogether special interest now attaches to these pamphlets; for, in
the first place we are at last in possession of Wagner’s own account of
his development, his art, his aspirations and his struggles, in the
amazing self-revelation entitled _My Life_;(5) and secondly, we now have
_Ecce Homo_, Nietzsche’s autobiography, in which we learn for the first
time from Nietzsche’s own pen to what extent his history was that of a
double devotion—to Wagner on the one hand, and to his own life task, the
Transvaluation of all Values, on the other.

Readers interested in the Nietzsche-Wagner controversy will naturally look
to these books for a final solution of all the difficulties which the
problem presents. But let them not be too sanguine. From first to last
this problem is not to be settled by “facts.” A good deal of instinctive
choice, instinctive aversion, and instinctive suspicion are necessary
here. A little more suspicion, for instance, ought to be applied to
Wagner’s _My Life_, especially in England, where critics are not half
suspicious enough about a continental artist’s self-revelations, and are
too prone, if they have suspicions at all, to apply them in the wrong

An example of this want of _finesse_ in judging foreign writers is to be
found in Lord Morley’s work on Rousseau,—a book which ingenuously takes
for granted everything that a writer like Rousseau cares to say about
himself, without considering for an instant the possibility that Rousseau
might have practised some hypocrisy. In regard to Wagner’s life we might
easily fall into the same error—that is to say, we might take seriously
all he says concerning himself and his family affairs.

We should beware of this, and should not even believe Wagner when he
speaks badly about himself. No one speaks badly about himself without a
reason, and the question in this case is to find out the reason. Did
Wagner—in the belief that genius was always immoral—wish to pose as an
immoral Egotist, in order to make us believe in his genius, of which he
himself was none too sure in his innermost heart? Did Wagner wish to
appear “sincere” in his biography, in order to awaken in us a belief in
the sincerity of his music, which he likewise doubted, but wished to
impress upon the world as “true”? Or did he wish to be thought badly of in
connection with things that were not true, and that consequently did not
affect him, in order to lead us off the scent of true things, things he
was ashamed of and which he wished the world to ignore—just like Rousseau
(the similarity between the two is more than a superficial one) who
barbarously pretended to have sent his children to the foundling hospital,
in order not to be thought incapable of having had any children at all? In
short, where is the bluff in Wagner’s biography? Let us therefore be
careful about it, and all the more so because Wagner himself guarantees
the truth of it in the prefatory note. If we were to be credulous here, we
should moreover be acting in direct opposition to Nietzsche’s own counsel
as given in the following aphorisms (Nos. 19 and 20, p. 89):—

“It is very difficult to trace the course of Wagner’s development,—no
trust must be placed in his own description of his soul’s experiences. He
writes party-pamphlets for his followers.

“It is extremely doubtful whether Wagner is able to bear witness about

While on p. 37 (the note), we read:—“He [Wagner] was not proud enough to
be able to suffer the truth about himself. Nobody had less pride than he.
Like Victor Hugo he remained true to himself even in his biography,—he
remained an actor.”

However, as a famous English judge has said—“Truth will come out, even in
the witness box,” and, as we may add in this case, even in an
autobiography. There is one statement in Wagner’s _My Life_ which sounds
true to my ears at least—a statement which, in my opinion, has some
importance, and to which Wagner himself seems to grant a mysterious
significance. I refer to the passage on p. 93 of vol i., in which Wagner
says:—“Owing to the exceptional vivacity and innate susceptibility of my
nature … I gradually became conscious of a certain power of transporting
or bewildering my more indolent companions.”

This seems innocent enough. When, however, it is read in conjunction with
Nietzsche’s trenchant criticism, particularly on pp. 14, 15, 16, 17 and 18
of this work, and also with a knowledge of Wagner’s music, it becomes one
of the most striking passages in Wagner’s autobiography, for it records
how soon he became conscious of his dominant instinct and faculty.

I know perfectly well that the Wagnerites will not be influenced by these
remarks. Their gratitude to Wagner is too great for this. He has supplied
the precious varnish wherewith to hide the dull ugliness of our
civilisation. He has given to souls despairing over the materialism of
this world, to souls despairing of themselves, and longing to be rid of
themselves, the indispensable hashish and morphia wherewith to deaden
their inner discords. These discords are everywhere apparent nowadays.
Wagner is therefore a common need, a common benefactor. As such he is
bound to be worshipped and adored in spite of all egotistical and
theatrical autobiographies.

Albeit, signs are not wanting—at least among his Anglo-Saxon worshippers
who stand even more in need of romanticism than their continental
brethren,—which show that, in order to uphold Wagner, people are now
beginning to draw distinctions between the man and the artist. They
dismiss the man as “human-all-too-human,” but they still maintain that
there are divine qualities in his music. However distasteful the task of
disillusioning these psychological tyros may be, they should be informed
that no such division of a man into two parts is permissible, save in
Christianity (the body and the soul), but that outside purely religious
spheres it is utterly unwarrantable. There can be no such strange divorce
between a bloom and the plant on which it blows, and has a black woman
ever been known to give birth to a white child?

Wagner, as Nietzsche tells us on p. 19, “was something complete, he was a
typical _decadent_ in whom every sign of ‘free will’ was lacking, in whom
every feature was necessary.” Wagner, allow me to add, was a typical
representative of the nineteenth century, which was the century of
contradictory values, of opposed instincts, and of every kind of inner
disharmony. The genuine, the classical artists of that period, such men as
Heine, Goethe, Stendhal, and Gobineau, overcame their inner strife, and
each succeeded in making a harmonious whole out of himself—not indeed
without a severe struggle; for everyone of them suffered from being the
child of his age, _i.e._, a decadent. The only difference between them and
the romanticists lies in the fact that they (the former) were conscious of
what was wrong with them, and possessed the will and the strength to
overcome their illness; whereas the romanticists chose the easier
alternative—namely, that of shutting their eyes on themselves.

“I am just as much a child of my age as Wagner—_i.e._, I am a _decadent_,”
says Nietzsche. “The only difference is that I recognised the fact, that I
struggled against it”(6)

What Wagner did was characteristic of all romanticists and contemporary
artists: he drowned and overshouted his inner discord by means of
exuberant pathos and wild exaltation. Far be it from me to value Wagner’s
music _in extenso_ here—this is scarcely a fitting opportunity to do
so;—but I think it might well be possible to show, on purely psychological
grounds, how impossible it was for a man like Wagner to produce real art.
For how can harmony, order, symmetry, mastery, proceed from uncontrolled
discord, disorder, disintegration, and chaos? The fact that an art which
springs from such a marshy soil may, like certain paludal plants, be
“wonderful,” “gorgeous,” and “overwhelming,” cannot be denied; but true
art it is not. It is so just as little as Gothic architecture is,—that
style which, in its efforts to escape beyond the tragic contradiction in
its mediæval heart, yelled its hysterical cry heavenwards and even melted
the stones of its structures into a quivering and fluid jet, in order to
give adequate expression to the painful and wretched conflict then raging
between the body and the soul.

That Wagner, too, was a great sufferer, there can be no doubt; not,
however, a sufferer from strength, like a true artist, but from
weakness—the weakness of his age, which he never overcame. It is for this
reason that he should be rather pitied than judged as he is now being
judged by his German and English critics, who, with thoroughly neurotic
suddenness, have acknowledged their revulsion of feeling a little too

“I have carefully endeavoured not to deride, or deplore, or detest…” says
Spinoza, “but to understand”; and these words ought to be our guide, not
only in the case of Wagner, but in all things.

Inner discord is a terrible affliction, and nothing is so certain to
produce that nervous irritability which is so trying to the patient as
well as to the outer world, as this so-called spiritual disease. Nietzsche
was probably quite right when he said the only real and true music that
Wagner ever composed did not consist of his elaborate arias and overtures,
but of ten or fifteen bars which, dispersed here and there, gave
expression to the composer’s profound and genuine melancholy. But this
melancholy had to be overcome, and Wagner with the blood of a _cabotin_ in
his veins, resorted to the remedy that was nearest to hand—that is to say,
the art of bewildering others and himself. Thus he remained ignorant about
himself all his life; for there was, as Nietzsche rightly points out (p.
37, _note_), not sufficient pride in the man for him to desire to know or
to suffer gladly the truth concerning his real nature. As an actor his
ruling passion was vanity, but in his case it was correlated with a
semi-conscious knowledge of the fact that all was not right with him and
his art. It was this that caused him to suffer. His egomaniacal behaviour
and his almost Rousseauesque fear and suspicion of others were only the
external manifestations of his inner discrepancies. But, to repeat what I
have already said, these abnormal symptoms are not in the least
incompatible with Wagner’s music, they are rather its very cause, the root
from which it springs.

In reality, therefore, Wagner the man and Wagner the artist were
undoubtedly one, and constituted a splendid romanticist. His music as well
as his autobiography are proofs of his wonderful gifts in this direction.
His success in his time, as in ours, is due to the craving of the modern
world for actors, sorcerers, bewilderers and idealists who are able to
conceal the ill-health and the weakness that prevail, and who please by
intoxicating and exalting. But this being so, the world must not be
disappointed to find the hero of a preceding age explode in the next. It
must not be astonished to find a disparity between the hero’s private life
and his “elevating” art or romantic and idealistic gospel. As long as
people will admire heroic attitudes more than heroism, such
disillusionment is bound to be the price of their error. In a truly great
man, life-theory and life-practice, if seen from a sufficiently lofty
point of view, must and do always agree, in an actor, in a romanticist, in
an idealist, and in a Christian, there is always a yawning chasm between
the two, which, whatever well-meaning critics may do, cannot be bridged
posthumously by acrobatic feats _in psychologicis_.

Let anyone apply this point of view to Nietzsche’s life and theory. Let
anyone turn his life inside out, not only as he gives it to us in his
_Ecce Homo_, but as we find it related by all his biographers, friends and
foes alike, and what will be the result? Even if we ignore his works—the
blooms which blowed from time to time from his life—we absolutely cannot
deny the greatness of the man’s _private practice_, and if we fully
understand and appreciate the latter, we must be singularly deficient in
instinct and in _flair_ if we do not suspect that some of this greatness
is reflected in his life-task.


London, _July 1911_.





I am writing this to relieve my mind. It is not malice alone which makes
me praise Bizet at the expense of Wagner in this essay. Amid a good deal
of jesting I wish to make one point clear which does not admit of levity.
To turn my back on Wagner was for me a piece of fate, to get to like
anything else whatever afterwards was for me a triumph. Nobody, perhaps,
had ever been more dangerously involved in Wagnerism, nobody had defended
himself more obstinately against it, nobody had ever been so overjoyed at
ridding himself of it. A long history!—Shall I give it a name?—If I were a
moralist, who knows what I might not call it! Perhaps a piece of
_self-mastery_.—But the philosopher does not like the moralist, neither
does he like high-falutin’ words.…

What is the first and last thing that a philosopher demands of himself? To
overcome his age in himself, to become “timeless.” With what then does the
philosopher have the greatest fight? With all that in him which makes him
the child of his time. Very well then! I am just as much a child of my age
as Wagner—_i.e._, I am a decadent. The only difference is that I
recognised the fact, that I struggled against it. The philosopher in me
struggled against it.

My greatest preoccupation hitherto has been the problem of _decadence_,
and I had reasons for this. “Good and evil” form only a playful
subdivision of this problem. If one has trained one’s eye to detect the
symptoms of decline, one also understands morality,—one understands what
lies concealed beneath its holiest names and tables of values: _e.g._,
_impoverished_ life, the will to nonentity, great exhaustion. Morality
_denies_ life.… In order to undertake such a mission I was obliged to
exercise self-discipline:—I had to side against all that was morbid in
myself including Wagner, including Schopenhauer, including the whole of
modern _humanity_.—A profound estrangement, coldness and soberness towards
all that belongs to my age, all that was contemporary: and as the highest
wish, Zarathustra’s eye, an eye which surveys the whole
phenomenon—mankind—from an enormous distance,—which looks down upon
it.—For such a goal—what sacrifice would not have been worth while? What
“self-mastery”! What “self-denial”!

The greatest event of my life took the form of a _recovery_. Wagner
belongs only to my diseases.

Not that I wish to appear ungrateful to this disease. If in this essay I
support the proposition that Wagner is _harmful_, I none the less wish to
point out unto whom, in spite of all, he is indispensable—to the
philosopher. Anyone else may perhaps be able to get on without Wagner: but
the philosopher is not free to pass him by. The philosopher must be the
evil conscience of his age,—but to this end he must be possessed of its
best knowledge. And what better guide, or more thoroughly efficient
revealer of the soul, could be found for the labyrinth of the modern
spirit than Wagner? Through Wagner modernity speaks her most intimate
language: it conceals neither its good nor its evil: it has thrown off all
shame. And, conversely, one has almost calculated the whole of the value
of modernity once one is clear concerning what is good and evil in Wagner.
I can perfectly well understand a musician of to-day who says: “I hate
Wagner but I can endure no other music.” But I should also understand a
philosopher who said, “Wagner is modernity in concentrated form.” There is
no help for it, we must first be Wagnerites.…


Yesterday—would you believe it?—I heard _Bizet’s_ masterpiece for the
twentieth time. Once more I attended with the same gentle reverence; once
again I did not run away. This triumph over my impatience surprises me.
How such a work completes one! Through it one almost becomes a
“masterpiece” oneself—And, as a matter of fact, each time I heard _Carmen_
it seemed to me that I was more of a philosopher, a better philosopher
than at other times: I became so forbearing, so happy, so Indian, so
_settled_.… To sit for five hours: the first step to holiness!—May I be
allowed to say that Bizet’s orchestration is the only one that I can
endure now? That other orchestration which is all the rage at present—the
Wagnerian—is brutal, artificial and “unsophisticated” withal, hence its
appeal to all the three senses of the modern soul at once. How terribly
Wagnerian orchestration affects me! I call it the _Sirocco_. A
disagreeable sweat breaks out all over me. All my fine weather vanishes.

Bizet’s music seems to me perfect. It comes forward lightly, gracefully,
stylishly. It is lovable, it does not sweat. “All that is good is easy,
everything divine runs with light feet”: this is the first principle of my
æsthetics. This music is wicked, refined, fatalistic, and withal remains
popular,—it possesses the refinement of a race, not of an individual. It
is rich. It is definite. It builds, organises, completes, and in this
sense it stands as a contrast to the polypus in music, to “endless
melody”. Have more painful, more tragic accents ever been heard on the
stage before? And how are they obtained? Without grimaces! Without
counterfeiting of any kind! Free from the _lie_ of the grand style!—In
short: this music assumes that the listener is intelligent even as a
musician,—thereby it is the opposite of Wagner, who, apart from everything
else, was in any case the most _ill-mannered_ genius on earth (Wagner
takes us as if … , he repeats a thing so often that we become
desperate,—that we ultimately believe it).

And once more: I become a better man when Bizet speaks to me. Also a
better musician, a better _listener_. Is it in any way possible to listen
better?—I even burrow behind this music with my ears. I hear its very
cause. I seem to assist at its birth. I tremble before the dangers which
this daring music runs, I am enraptured over those happy accidents for
which even Bizet himself may not be responsible.—And, strange to say, at
bottom I do not give it a thought, or am not aware how much thought I
really do give it. For quite other ideas are running through my head the
while.… Has any one ever observed that music _emancipates_ the spirit?
gives wings to thought? and that the more one becomes a musician the more
one is also a philosopher? The grey sky of abstraction seems thrilled by
flashes of lightning; the light is strong enough to reveal all the details
of things; to enable one to grapple with problems; and the world is
surveyed as if from a mountain top—With this I have defined philosophical
pathos—And unexpectedly _answers_ drop into my lap, a small hailstorm of
ice and wisdom, of problems _solved_. Where am I? Bizet makes me
productive. Everything that is good makes me productive. I have gratitude
for nothing else, nor have I any other touchstone for testing what is


Bizet’s work also saves; Wagner is not the only “Saviour.” With it one
bids farewell to the _damp_ north and to all the fog of the Wagnerian
ideal. Even the action in itself delivers us from these things. From
Merimée it has this logic even in passion, from him it has the direct
line, _inexorable_ necessity, but what it has above all else is that which
belongs to sub-tropical zones—that dryness of atmosphere, that
_limpidezza_ of the air. Here in every respect the climate is altered.
Here another kind of sensuality, another kind of sensitiveness and another
kind of cheerfulness make their appeal. This music is gay, but not in a
French or German way. Its gaiety is African; fate hangs over it, its
happiness is short, sudden, without reprieve. I envy Bizet for having had
the courage of this sensitiveness, which hitherto in the cultured music of
Europe has found no means of expression,—of this southern, tawny, sunburnt
sensitiveness.… What a joy the golden afternoon of its happiness is to us!
When we look out, with this music in our minds, we wonder whether we have
ever seen the sea so _calm_. And how soothing is this Moorish dancing!
How, for once, even our insatiability gets sated by its lascivious
melancholy!—And finally love, love translated back into _Nature_! Not the
love of a “cultured girl!”—no Senta-sentimentality.(7) But love as fate,
as a fatality, cynical, innocent, cruel,—and precisely in this way
_Nature_! The love whose means is war, whose very essence is the _mortal
hatred_ between the sexes!—I know no case in which the tragic irony, which
constitutes the kernel of love, is expressed with such severity, or in so
terrible a formula, as in the last cry of Don José with which the work

“Yes, it is I who have killed her,
I—my adored Carmen!”

—Such a conception of love (the only one worthy of a philosopher) is rare:
it distinguishes one work of art from among a thousand others. For, as a
rule, artists are no better than the rest of the world, they are even
worse—they _misunderstand_ love. Even Wagner misunderstood it. They
imagine that they are selfless in it because they appear to be seeking the
advantage of another creature often to their own disadvantage. But in
return they want to _possess_ the other creature.… Even God is no
exception to this rule, he is very far from thinking “What does it matter
to thee whether I love thee or not?”—He becomes terrible if he is not
loved in return “_L’amour_—and with this principle one carries one’s point
against Gods and men—_est de tous les sentiments le plus égoiste, et par
conséquent, lorsqu’il est blessé, le moins généreux_” (B. Constant).


Perhaps you are beginning to perceive how very much this music _improves_
me?—_Il faut méditerraniser la musique._ and I have my reasons for this
principle (“Beyond Good and Evil,” pp. 216 _et seq._) The return to
Nature, health, good spirits, youth, _virtue_!—And yet I was one of the
most corrupted Wagnerites.… I was able to take Wagner seriously. Oh, this
old magician! what tricks has he not played upon us! The first thing his
art places in our hands is a magnifying glass: we look through it, and we
no longer trust our own eyes—Everything grows bigger, _even Wagner grows
bigger_.… What a clever rattlesnake. Throughout his life he rattled
“resignation,” “loyalty,” and “purity” about our ears, and he retired from
the _corrupt_ world with a song of praise to chastity!—And we believed it

—But you will not listen to me? You _prefer_ even the _problem_ of Wagner
to that of Bizet? But neither do I underrate it; it has its charm. The
problem of salvation is even a venerable problem. Wagner pondered over
nothing so deeply as over salvation: his opera is the opera of salvation.
Someone always wants to be saved in his operas,—now it is a youth; anon it
is a maid,—this is _his problem_—And how lavishly he varies his
_leitmotif_! What rare and melancholy modulations! If it were not for
Wagner, who would teach us that innocence has a preference for saving
interesting sinners? (the case in “Tannhauser”). Or that even the eternal
Jew gets saved and _settled down_ when he marries? (the case in the
“Flying Dutchman”). Or that corrupted old females prefer to be saved by
chaste young men? (the case of Kundry). Or that young hysterics like to be
saved by their doctor? (the case in “Lohengrin”). Or that beautiful girls
most love to be saved by a knight who also happens to be a Wagnerite? (the
case in the “Mastersingers”). Or that even married women also like to be
saved by a knight? (the case of Isolde). Or that the venerable Almighty,
after having compromised himself morally in all manner of ways, is at last
delivered by a free spirit and an immoralist? (the case in the “Ring”).
Admire, more especially this last piece of wisdom! Do you understand it?
I—take good care not to understand it.… That it is possible to draw yet
other lessons from the works above mentioned,—I am much more ready to
prove than to dispute. That one may be driven by a Wagnerian ballet to
desperation—_and_ to virtue! (once again the case in “Tannhauser”). That
not going to bed at the right time may be followed by the worst
consequences (once again the case of “Lohengrin”).—That one can never be
too sure of the spouse one actually marries (for the third time, the case
of “Lohengrin”). “Tristan and Isolde” glorifies the perfect husband who,
in a certain case, can ask only one question: “But why have ye not told me
this before? Nothing could be simpler than that!” Reply:

“That I cannot tell thee.
And what thou askest,
That wilt thou never learn.”

“Lohengrin” contains a solemn ban upon all investigation and questioning.
In this way Wagner stood for the Christian concept, “Thou must and shalt
_believe_”. It is a crime against the highest and the holiest to be
scientific.… The “Flying Dutchman” preaches the sublime doctrine that
woman can moor the most erratic soul, or to put it into Wagnerian terms
“save” him. Here we venture to ask a question. Supposing that this were
actually true, would it therefore be desirable?—What becomes of the
“eternal Jew” whom a woman adores and _enchains_? He simply ceases from
being eternal, he marries,—that is to say, he concerns us no
longer.—Transferred into the realm of reality, the danger for the artist
and for the genius—and these are of course the “eternal Jews”—resides in
woman: _adoring_ women are their ruin. Scarcely any one has sufficient
character not to be corrupted—“saved” when he finds himself treated as a
God—he then immediately condescends to woman.—Man is a coward in the face
of all that is eternally feminine, and this the girls know.—In many cases
of woman’s love, and perhaps precisely in the most famous ones, the love
is no more than a refined form of _parasitism_, a making one’s nest in
another’s soul and sometimes even in another’s flesh—Ah! and how
constantly at the cost of the host!

We know the fate of Goethe in old-maidish moralin-corroded Germany. He was
always offensive to Germans, he found honest admirers only among Jewesses.
Schiller, “noble” Schiller, who cried flowery words into their ears,—he
was a man after their own heart. What did they reproach Goethe with?—with
the Mount of Venus, and with having composed certain Venetian epigrams.
Even Klopstock preached him a moral sermon; there was a time when Herder
was fond of using the word “Priapus” when he spoke of Goethe. Even
“Wilhelm Meister” seemed to be only a symptom of decline, of a moral
“going to the dogs”. The “Menagerie of tame cattle,” the worthlessness of
the hero in this book, revolted Niebuhr, who finally bursts out in a
plaint which _Biterolf_(8) might well have sung: “nothing so easily makes
a painful impression as _when a great mind despoils itself of its wings
and strives for virtuosity in something greatly inferior, while it
renounces more lofty aims_.” But the most indignant of all was the
cultured woman—all smaller courts in Germany, every kind of “Puritanism”
made the sign of the cross at the sight of Goethe, at the thought of the
“unclean spirit” in Goethe.—This history was what Wagner set to music. He
_saves_ Goethe, that goes without saying; but he does so in such a clever
way that he also takes the side of the cultured woman. Goethe gets saved:
a prayer saves him, a cultured woman _draws him out of the mire_.

—As to what Goethe would have thought of Wagner?—Goethe once set himself
the question, “what danger hangs over all romanticists—the fate of
romanticists?”—His answer was: “To choke over the rumination of moral and
religious absurdities.” In short: _Parsifal_.… The philosopher writes
thereto an epilogue: _Holiness_—the only remaining higher value still seen
by the mob or by woman, the horizon of the ideal for all those who are
naturally short-sighted. To philosophers, however, this horizon, like
every other, is a mere misunderstanding, a sort of slamming of the door in
the face of the real beginning of their world,—their danger, their ideal,
their desideratum.… In more polite language: _La philosophie ne suffit pas
au grand nombre. Il lui faut la sainteté.…_


I shall once more relate the history of the “Ring”. This is its proper
place. It is also the history of a salvation except that in this case it
is Wagner himself who is saved—Half his lifetime Wagner believed in the
_Revolution_ as only a Frenchman could have believed in it. He sought it
in the runic inscriptions of myths, he thought he had found a typical
revolutionary in Siegfried.—“Whence arises all the evil in this world?”
Wagner asked himself. From “old contracts”: he replied, as all
revolutionary ideologists have done. In plain English: from customs, laws,
morals, institutions, from all those things upon which the ancient world
and ancient society rests. “How can one get rid of the evil in this world?
How can one get rid of ancient society?” Only by declaring war against
“contracts” (traditions, morality). _This Siegfried does._ He starts early
at the game, very early—his origin itself is already a declaration of war
against morality—he is the result of adultery, of incest.… Not the saga,
but Wagner himself is the inventor of this radical feature, in this matter
he _corrected_ the saga.… Siegfried continues as he began: he follows only
his first impulse, he flings all tradition, all respect, all _fear_ to the
winds. Whatever displeases him he strikes down. He tilts irreverently at
old god-heads. His principal undertaking, however, is to emancipate
woman,—“to deliver Brunnhilda.”… Siegfried and Brunnhilda, the sacrament
of free love, the dawn of the golden age, the twilight of the Gods of old
morality—_evil is got rid of_.… For a long while Wagner’s ship sailed
happily along this course. There can be no doubt that along it Wagner
sought his highest goal.—What happened? A misfortune. The ship dashed on
to a reef; Wagner had run aground. The reef was Schopenhauer’s philosophy;
Wagner had stuck fast on a _contrary_ view of the world. What had he set
to music? Optimism? Wagner was ashamed. It was moreover an optimism for
which Schopenhauer had devised an evil expression,—_unscrupulous_
optimism. He was more than ever ashamed. He reflected for some time; his
position seemed desperate.… At last a path of escape seemed gradually to
open before him—what if the reef on which he had been wrecked could be
interpreted as a goal, as the ulterior motive, as the actual purpose of
his journey? To be wrecked here, this was also a goal:—_Bene navigavi cum
naufragium feci_ … and he translated the “Ring” into Schopenhauerian
language. Everything goes wrong, everything goes to wrack and ruin, the
new world is just as bad as the old one:—Nonentity, the Indian Circe
beckons … Brunnhilda, who according to the old plan had to retire with a
song in honour of free love, consoling the world with the hope of a
socialistic Utopia in which “all will be well”; now gets something else to
do. She must first study Schopenhauer. She must first versify the fourth
book of “The World as Will and Idea.” _Wagner was saved.…_ Joking apart,
this _was_ a salvation. The service which Wagner owes to Schopenhauer is
incalculable. It was the _philosopher of decadence_ who allowed the
_artist of decadence_ to find himself.—


_The artist of decadence._ That is the word. And here I begin to be
serious. I could not think of looking on approvingly while this _décadent_
spoils our health—and music into the bargain. Is Wagner a man at all? Is
he not rather a disease? Everything he touches he contaminates. _He has
made music sick._

A typical _décadent_ who thinks himself necessary with his corrupted
taste, who arrogates to himself a higher taste, who tries to establish his
depravity as a law, as progress, as a fulfilment.

And no one guards against it. His powers of seduction attain monstrous
proportions, holy incense hangs around him, the misunderstanding
concerning him is called the Gospel,—and he has certainly not converted
only the _poor in spirit_ to his cause!

I should like to open the window a little:—Air! More air!—

The fact that people in Germany deceive themselves concerning Wagner does
not surprise me. The reverse would surprise me. The Germans have modelled
a Wagner for themselves, whom they can honour: never yet have they been
psychologists; they are thankful that they misunderstand. But that people
should also deceive themselves concerning Wagner in Paris! Where people
are scarcely anything else than psychologists. And in Saint Petersburg!
Where things are divined, which even Paris has no idea of. How intimately
related must Wagner be to the entire decadence of Europe for her not to
have felt that he was decadent! He belongs to it, he is its protagonist,
its greatest name.… We bring honour on ourselves by elevating him to the
clouds—For the mere fact that no one guards against him is in itself
already a sign of decadence. Instinct is weakened, what ought to be
eschewed now attracts. People actually kiss that which plunges them more
quickly into the abyss.—Is there any need for an example? One has only to
think of the régime which anæmic, or gouty, or diabetic people prescribe
for themselves. The definition of a vegetarian: a creature who has need of
a corroborating diet. To recognise what is harmful as harmful, to be able
to deny oneself what is harmful, is a sign of youth, of vitality. That
which is harmful lures the exhausted: cabbage lures the vegetarian.
Illness itself can be a stimulus to life but one must be healthy enough
for such a stimulus!—Wagner increases exhaustion—_therefore_ he attracts
the weak and exhausted to him. Oh, the rattlesnake joy of the old Master
precisely because he always saw “the little children” coming unto him!

I place this point of view first and foremost: Wagner’s art is diseased.
The problems he sets on the stage are all concerned with hysteria; the
convulsiveness of his emotions, his over-excited sensitiveness, his taste
which demands ever sharper condimentation, his erraticness which he togged
out to look like principles, and, last but not least, his choice of heroes
and heroines, considered as physiological types (—a hospital ward!—): the
whole represents a morbid picture; of this there can be no doubt. _Wagner
est une névrose_. Maybe, that nothing is better known to-day, or in any
case the subject of greater study, than the Protean character of
degeneration which has disguised itself here, both as an art and as an
artist. In Wagner our medical men and physiologists have a most
interesting case, or at least a very complete one. Owing to the very fact
that nothing is more modern than this thorough morbidness, this
dilatoriness and excessive irritability of the nervous machinery, Wagner
is the _modern artist par excellence_, the Cagliostro of modernity. All
that the world most needs to-day, is combined in the most seductive manner
in his art,—the three great stimulants of exhausted people: _brutality_,
_artificiality_ and _innocence_ (idiocy).

Wagner is a great corrupter of music. With it, he found the means of
stimulating tired nerves,—and in this way he made music ill. In the art of
spurring exhausted creatures back into activity, and of recalling
half-corpses to life, the inventiveness he shows is of no mean order. He
is the master of hypnotic trickery, and he fells the strongest like
bullocks. Wagner’s _success_—his success with nerves, and therefore with
women—converted the whole world of ambitious musicians into disciples of
his secret art. And not only the ambitious, but also the _shrewd_.… Only
with morbid music can money be made to-day; our big theatres live on


—Once more I will venture to indulge in a little levity. Let us suppose
that Wagner’s _success_ could become flesh and blood and assume a human
form; that, dressed up as a good-natured musical savant, it could move
among budding artists. How do you think it would then be likely to express

My friends, it would say, let us exchange a word or two in private. It is
easier to compose bad music than good music. But what, if apart from this
it were also more profitable, more effective, more convincing, more
exalting, more secure, more _Wagnerian_?… _Pulchrum est paucorum hominum._
Bad enough in all conscience! We understand Latin, and perhaps we also
understand which side our bread is buttered. Beauty has its drawbacks: we
know that. Wherefore beauty then? Why not rather aim at size, at the
sublime, the gigantic, that which moves the _masses_?—And to repeat, it is
easier to be titanic than to be beautiful; we know that.…

We know the masses, we know the theatre. The best of those who assemble
there,—German youths, horned Siegfrieds and other Wagnerites, require the
sublime, the profound, and the overwhelming. This much still lies within
our power. And as for the others who assemble there,—the cultured
_crétins_, the _blasé_ pigmies, the eternally feminine, the gastrically
happy, in short the people—they also require the sublime, the profound,
the overwhelming. All these people argue in the same way. “He who
overthrows us is strong; he who elevates us is godly; he who makes us
wonder vaguely is profound.”—Let us make up our mind then, my friends in
music: we do want to overthrow them, we do want to elevate them, we do
want to make them wonder vaguely. This much still lies within our powers.

In regard to the process of making them wonder: it is here that our notion
of “style” finds its starting-point. Above all, no thoughts! Nothing is
more compromising than a thought! But the state of mind which _precedes_
thought, the labour of the thought still unborn, the promise of future
thought, the world as it was before God created it—a recrudescence of
chaos.… Chaos makes people wonder.…

In the words of the master: infinity but without melody.

In the second place, with regard to the overthrowing,—this belongs at
least in part, to physiology. Let us, in the first place, examine the
instruments. A few of them would convince even our intestines (—they
_throw open_ doors, as Handel would say), others becharm our very marrow.
The _colour of the melody is_ all-important here, _the melody itself_ is
of no importance. Let us be precise about _this_ point. To what other
purpose should we spend our strength? Let us be characteristic in tone
even to the point of foolishness! If by means of tones we allow plenty of
scope for guessing, this will be put to the credit of our intellects. Let
us irritate nerves, let us strike them dead: let us handle thunder and
lightning,—that is what overthrows.…

But what overthrows best, is _passion_.—We must try and be clear
concerning this question of passion. Nothing is cheaper than passion! All
the virtues of counterpoint may be dispensed with, there is no need to
have learnt anything,—but passion is always within our reach! Beauty is
difficult: let us beware of beauty!… And also of _melody!_ However much in
earnest we may otherwise be about the ideal, let us slander, my friends,
let us slander,—let us slander melody! Nothing is more dangerous than a
beautiful melody! Nothing is more certain to ruin taste! My friends, if
people again set about loving beautiful melodies, we are lost!…

_First principle_: melody is immoral. _Proof_: “Palestrina”.
_Application_: “Parsifal.” The absence of melody is in itself

And this is the definition of passion. Passion—or the acrobatic feats of
ugliness on the tight-rope of enharmonic—My friends, let us dare to be
ugly! Wagner dared it! Let us heave the mud of the most repulsive
harmonies undauntedly before us. We must not even spare our hands! Only
thus, shall we become _natural_.…

And now a last word of advice. Perhaps it covers everything—_Let us be
idealists!_—If not the cleverest, it is at least the wisest thing we can
do. In order to elevate men we ourselves must be exalted. Let us wander in
the clouds, let us harangue eternity, let us be careful to group great
symbols all around us! _Sursum! Bumbum!_—there is no better advice. The
“heaving breast” shall be our argument, “beautiful feelings” our
advocates. Virtue still carries its point against counterpoint. “How could
he who improves us, help being better than we?” man has ever thought thus.
Let us therefore improve mankind!—in this way we shall become good (in
this way we shall even become “classics”—Schiller became a “classic”). The
straining after the base excitement of the senses, after so-called beauty,
shattered the nerves of the Italians: let us remain German! Even Mozart’s
relation to music—Wagner spoke this word of comfort to us—was at bottom

Never let us acknowledge that music “may be a recreation,” that it may
“enliven,” that it may “give pleasure.” _Never let us give pleasure!_—we
shall be lost if people once again think of music hedonistically.… That
belongs to the bad eighteenth century.… On the other hand, nothing would
be more advisable (between ourselves) than a dose of—_cant, sit venia
verbo_. This imparts dignity.—And let us take care to select the precise
moment when it would be fitting to have black looks, to sigh openly, to
sigh devoutly, to flaunt grand Christian sympathy before their eyes. “Man
is corrupt who will save him? _what will save him?_” Do not let us reply.
We must be on our guard. We must control our ambition, which would bid us
found new religions. But no one must doubt that it is _we_ who save him,
that in _our_ music alone salvation is to be found.… (See Wagner’s essay,
“Religion and Art.”)


Enough! Enough! I fear that, beneath all my merry jests, you are beginning
to recognise the sinister truth only too clearly—the picture of the
decline of art, of the decline of the artist. The latter, which is a
decline of character, might perhaps be defined provisionally in the
following manner: the musician is now becoming an actor, his art is
developing ever more and more into a talent for _telling lies_. In a
certain chapter of my principal work which bears the title “Concerning the
Physiology of Art,”(9) I shall have an opportunity of showing more
thoroughly how this transformation of art as a whole into histrionics is
just as much a sign of physiological degeneration (or more precisely a
form of hysteria), as any other individual corruption, and infirmity
peculiar to the art which Wagner inaugurated: for instance the
restlessness of its optics, which makes it necessary to change one’s
attitude to it every second. They understand nothing of Wagner who see in
him but a sport of nature, an arbitrary mood, a chapter of accidents. He
was not the “defective,” “ill-fated,” “contradictory” genius that people
have declared him to be. Wagner was something _complete_, he was a typical
_décadent_, in whom every sign of “free will” was lacking, in whom every
feature was necessary. If there is anything at all of interest in Wagner,
it is the consistency with which a critical physiological condition may
convert itself, step by step, conclusion after conclusion, into a method,
a form of procedure, a reform of all principles, a crisis in taste.

At this point I shall only stop to consider the question of _style_. How
is _decadence_ in _literature_ characterised? By the fact that in it life
no longer animates the whole. Words become predominant and leap right out
of the sentence to which they belong, the sentences themselves trespass
beyond their bounds, and obscure the sense of the whole page, and the page
in its turn gains in vigour at the cost of the whole,—the whole is no
longer a whole. But this is the formula for every decadent style: there is
always anarchy among the atoms, disaggregation of the will,—in moral
terms: “freedom of the individual,”—extended into a political theory
“_equal_ rights for all.” Life, equal vitality, all the vibration and
exuberance of life, driven back into the smallest structure, and the
remainder left almost lifeless. Everywhere paralysis, distress, and
numbness, or hostility and chaos both striking one with ever increasing
force the higher the forms of organisation are into which one ascends. The
whole no longer lives at all: it is composed, reckoned up, artificial, a
fictitious thing.

In Wagner’s case the first thing we notice is an hallucination, not of
tones, but of attitudes. Only after he has the latter does he begin to
seek the semiotics of tone for them. If we wish to admire him, we should
observe him at work here: how he separates and distinguishes, how he
arrives at small unities, and how he galvanises them, accentuates them,
and brings them into pre-eminence. But in this way he exhausts his
strength the rest is worthless. How paltry, awkward, and amateurish is his
manner of “developing,” his attempt at combining incompatible parts. His
manner in this respect reminds one of two people who even in other ways
are not unlike him in style—the brothers Goncourt; one almost feels
compassion for so much impotence. That Wagner disguised his inability to
create organic forms, under the cloak of a principle, that he should have
constructed a “dramatic style” out of what we should call the total
inability to create any style whatsoever, is quite in keeping with that
daring habit, which stuck to him throughout his life, of setting up a
principle wherever capacity failed him. (In this respect he was very
different from old Kant, who rejoiced in another form of daring, _i.e._:
whenever a principle failed him, he endowed man with a “capacity” which
took its place…) Once more let it be said that Wagner is really only
worthy of admiration and love by virtue of his inventiveness in small
things, in his elaboration of details,—here one is quite justified in
proclaiming him a master of the first rank, as our greatest musical
_miniaturist_ who compresses an infinity of meaning and sweetness into the
smallest space. His wealth of colour, of chiaroscuro, of the mystery of a
dying light, so pampers our senses that afterwards almost every other
musician strikes us as being too robust. If people would believe me, they
would not form the highest idea of Wagner from that which pleases them in
him to-day. All that was only devised for convincing the masses, and
people like ourselves recoil from it just as one would recoil from too
garish a fresco. What concern have we with the irritating brutality of the
overture to the “Tannhauser”? Or with the Walkyrie Circus? Whatever has
become popular in Wagner’s art, including that which has become so outside
the theatre, is in bad taste and spoils taste. The “Tannhauser” March
seems to me to savour of the Philistine; the overture to the “Flying
Dutchman” is much ado about nothing; the prelude to “Lohengrin” was the
first, only too insidious, only too successful example of how one can
hypnotise with music (—I dislike all music which aspires to nothing higher
than to convince the nerves). But apart from the Wagner who paints
frescoes and practises magnetism, there is yet another Wagner who hoards
small treasures: our greatest melancholic in music, full of side glances,
loving speeches, and words of comfort, in which no one ever forestalled
him,—the tone-master of melancholy and drowsy happiness.… A lexicon of
Wagner’s most intimate phrases—a host of short fragments of from five to
fifteen bars each, of music which _nobody knows_.… Wagner had the virtue
of _décadents_,—pity.…


—“Very good! But how can this _décadent_ spoil one’s taste if perchance
one is not a musician, if perchance one is not oneself a
_décadent_?”—Conversely! How can one _help_ it! _Just_ you try it!—You
know not what Wagner is: quite a great actor! Does a more profound, a more
_ponderous_ influence exist on the stage? Just look at these
youthlets,—all benumbed, pale, breathless! They are Wagnerites: they know
nothing about music,—and yet Wagner gets the mastery of them. Wagner’s art
presses with the weight of a hundred atmospheres: do but submit, there is
nothing else to do.… Wagner the actor is a tyrant, his pathos flings all
taste, all resistance, to the winds.

—Who else has this persuasive power in his attitudes, who else sees
attitudes so clearly before anything else! This holding-of-its-breath in
Wagnerian pathos, this disinclination to have done with an intense
feeling, this terrifying habit of dwelling on a situation in which every
instant almost chokes one.——

Was Wagner a musician at all? In any case he was something else to _a much
greater degree_—that is to say, an incomparable _histrio_, the greatest
mime, the most astounding theatrical genius that the Germans have ever
had, our _scenic artist par excellence_. He belongs to some other sphere
than the history of music, with whose really great and genuine figure he
must not be confounded. Wagner _and_ Beethoven—this is blasphemy—and above
all it does not do justice even to Wagner.… As a musician he was no more
than what he was as a man, he _became_ a musician, he _became_ a poet,
because the tyrant in him, his actor’s genius, drove him to be both.
Nothing is known concerning Wagner, so long as his dominating instinct has
not been divined.

Wagner was _not_ instinctively a musician. And this he proved by the way
in which he abandoned all laws and rules, or, in more precise terms, all
style in music, in order to make what he wanted with it, _i.e._, a
rhetorical medium for the stage, a medium of expression, a means of
accentuating an attitude, a vehicle of suggestion and of the
psychologically picturesque. In this department Wagner may well stand as
an inventor and an innovator of the first order—_he increased the powers
of speech __ of music to an incalculable degree_—he is the Victor Hugo of
music as language, provided always we allow that under certain
circumstances music may be something which is not music, but
speech—instrument—_ancilla dramaturgica_. Wagner’s music, _not_ in the
tender care of theatrical taste, which is very tolerant, is simply bad
music, perhaps the worst that has ever been composed. When a musician can
no longer count up to three, he becomes “dramatic,” he becomes

Wagner almost discovered the magic which can be wrought even now by means
of music which is both incoherent and _elementary_. His consciousness of
this attains to huge proportions, as does also his instinct to dispense
entirely with higher law and _style_. The elementary factors—sound,
movement, colour, in short, the whole sensuousness of music—suffice.
Wagner never calculates as a musician with a musician’s conscience, all he
strains after is effect, nothing more than effect. And he knows what he
has to make an effect upon!—In this he is as unhesitating as Schiller was,
as any theatrical man must be; he has also the latter’s contempt for the
world which he brings to its knees before him. A man is an actor when he
is ahead of mankind in his possession of this one view, that everything
which has to strike people as true, must not be true. This rule was
formulated by Talma: it contains the whole psychology of the actor, it
also contains—and this we need not doubt—all his morality. Wagner’s music
is never true.

—But it is supposed to be so: and thus everything is as it should be. As
long as we are young, and Wagnerites into the bargain, we regard Wagner as
rich, even as the model of a prodigal giver, even as a great landlord in
the realm of sound. We admire him in very much the same way as young
Frenchmen admire Victor Hugo—that is to say, for his “royal liberality.”
Later on we admire the one as well as the other for the opposite reason:
as masters and paragons in economy, as _prudent_ amphitryons. Nobody can
equal them in the art of providing a princely board with such a modest
outlay.—The Wagnerite, with his credulous stomach, is even sated with the
fare which his master conjures up before him. But we others who, in books
as in music, desire above all to find _substance_, and who are scarcely
satisfied with the mere representation of a banquet, are much worse off.
In plain English, Wagner does not give us enough to masticate. His
recitative—very little meat, more bones, and plenty of broth—I christened
“_alla genovese_”: I had no intention of flattering the Genoese with this
remark, but rather the _older recitativo_, the _recitativo secco_. And as
to Wagnerian _leitmotif_, I fear I lack the necessary culinary
understanding for it. If hard pressed, I might say that I regard it
perhaps as an ideal toothpick, as an opportunity of ridding one’s self of
what remains of one’s meal. Wagner’s “arias” are still left over. But now
I shall hold my tongue.


Even in his general sketch of the action, Wagner is above all an actor.
The first thing that occurs to him is a scene which is certain to produce
a strong effect, a real _actio_,(10) with a basso-relievo of attitudes; an
_overwhelming_ scene, this he now proceeds to elaborate more deeply, and
out of it he draws his characters. The whole of what remains to be done
follows of itself, fully in keeping with a technical economy which has no
reason to be subtle. It is not Corneille’s public that Wagner has to
consider, it is merely the nineteenth century. Concerning the “actual
requirements of the stage” Wagner would have about the same opinion as any
other actor of to-day, a series of powerful scenes, each stronger than the
one that preceded it,—and, in between, all kinds of _clever_ nonsense. His
first concern is to guarantee the effect of his work; he begins with the
third act, he _approves_ his work according to the quality of its final
effect. Guided by this sort of understanding of the stage, there is not
much danger of one’s creating a drama unawares. Drama demands _inexorable_
logic: but what did Wagner care about logic? Again I say, it was not
Corneille’s public that he had to consider; but merely Germans! Everybody
knows the technical difficulties before which the dramatist often has to
summon all his strength and frequently to sweat his blood: the difficulty
of making the _plot_ seem necessary and the unravelment as well, so that
both are conceivable only in a certain way, and so that each may give the
impression of freedom (the principle of the smallest expenditure of
energy). Now the very last thing that Wagner does is to sweat blood over
the plot; and on this and the unravelment he certainly spends the smallest
possible amount of energy. Let anybody put one of Wagner’s “plots” under
the microscope, and I wager that he will be forced to laugh. Nothing is
more enlivening than the dilemma in “Tristan,” unless it be that in the
“Mastersingers.” Wagner is _no_ dramatist; let nobody be deceived on this
point. All he did was to love the word “drama”—he always loved fine words.
Nevertheless, in his writings the word “drama” is merely a
misunderstanding (—_and_ a piece of shrewdness: Wagner always affected
superiority in regard to the word “opera”—), just as the word “spirit” is
a misunderstanding in the New Testament.—He was not enough of a
psychologist for drama; he instinctively avoided a psychological plot—but
how?—by always putting idiosyncrasy in its place.… Very modern—eh? Very
Parisian! very decadent!… Incidentally, the _plots_ that Wagner knows how
to unravel with the help of dramatic inventions, are of quite another
kind. For example, let us suppose that Wagner requires a female voice. A
whole act without a woman’s voice would be impossible! But in this
particular instance not one of the heroines happens to be free. What does
Wagner do? He emancipates the oldest woman on earth, Erda. “Step up, aged
grandmamma! You have got to sing!” And Erda sings. Wagner’s end has been
achieved. Thereupon he immediately dismisses the old lady. “Why on earth
did you come? Off with you! Kindly go to sleep again!” In short, a scene
full of mythological awe, before which the Wagnerite _wonders_ all kinds
of things.…

—“But the substance of Wagner’s texts! their mythical substance, their
eternal substance”—Question: how is this substance, this eternal substance
tested? The chemical analyst replies: Translate Wagner into the real, into
the modern,—let us be even more cruel, and say into the bourgeois! And
what will then become of him?—Between ourselves, I have tried the
experiment. Nothing is more entertaining, nothing more worthy of being
recommended to a picnic-party, than to discuss Wagner dressed in a more
modern garb: for instance Parsifal, as a candidate in divinity, with a
public-school education (—the latter, quite indispensable _for pure_
foolishness). What _surprises_ await one! Would you believe it, that
Wagner’s heroines one and all, once they have been divested of the heroic
husks, are almost indistinguishable from Mdme. Bovary!—just as one can
conceive conversely, of Flaubert’s being _well able_ to transform all his
heroines into Scandinavian or Carthaginian women, and then to offer them
to Wagner in this mythologised form as a libretto. Indeed, generally
speaking, Wagner does not seem to have become interested in any other
problems than those which engross the little Parisian decadents of to-day.
Always five paces away from the hospital! All very modern problems, all
problems which are at home _in big cities!_ do not doubt it!… Have you
noticed (it is in keeping with this association of ideas) that Wagner’s
heroines never have any children?—They _cannot_ have them.… The despair
with which Wagner tackled the problem of arranging in some way for
Siegfried’s birth, betrays how modern his feelings on this point actually
were.—Siegfried “emancipated woman”—but not with any hope of
offspring.—And now here is a fact which leaves us speechless: Parsifal is
Lohengrin’s father! How ever did he do it?—Ought one at this juncture to
remember that “chastity works miracles”?…

_Wagnerus dixit princeps in castitate auctoritas._


And now just a word _en passant_ concerning Wagner’s writings: they are
among other things a school of _shrewdness_. The system of procedures of
which Wagner disposes, might be applied to a hundred other cases,—he that
hath ears to hear let him hear. Perhaps I may lay claim to some public
acknowledgment, if I put three of the most valuable of these procedures
into a precise form.

Everything that Wagner _cannot_ do is bad.

Wagner could do much more than he does; but his strong principles prevent

Everything that Wagner _can_ do, no one will ever be able to do after him,
no one has ever done before him, and no one must ever do after him. Wagner
is godly.

These three propositions are the quintessence of Wagner’s writings;—the
rest is merely—“literature”.

—Not every kind of music hitherto has been in need of literature; and it
were well, to try and discover the actual reason of this. Is it perhaps
that Wagner’s music is too difficult to understand? Or did he fear
precisely the reverse—that it was too easy,—that people might _not
understand it with sufficient difficulty_?—As a matter of fact, his whole
life long, he did nothing but repeat one proposition: that his music did
not mean music alone! But something more! Something immeasurably more!…
“_Not music alone_”—_no_ musician would speak in this way. I repeat,
Wagner could not create things as a whole; he had no choice, he was
obliged to create things in bits, with “motives,” attitudes, formulæ,
duplications, and hundreds of repetitions, he remained a rhetorician in
music,—and that is why he was at bottom _forced_ to press “this means”
into the foreground. “Music can never be anything else than a means”: this
was his theory, but above all it was the only _practice_ that lay open to
him. No musician however thinks in this way.—Wagner was in need of
literature, in order to persuade the whole world to take his music
seriously, profoundly, “because it _meant_ an infinity of things”, all his
life he was the commentator of the “Idea.”—What does Elsa stand for? But
without a doubt, Elsa is “the unconscious _mind of the people_” (—“when I
realised this, I naturally became a thorough revolutionist”—).

Do not let us forget that, when Hegel and Schelling were misleading the
minds of Germany, Wagner was still young: that he guessed, or rather fully
grasped, that the only thing which Germans take seriously is—“the
idea,”—that is to say, something obscure, uncertain, wonderful; that among
Germans lucidity is an objection, logic a refutation. Schopenhauer
rigorously pointed out the dishonesty of Hegel’s and Schelling’s
age,—rigorously, but also unjustly, for he himself, the pessimistic old
counterfeiter, was in no way more “honest” than his more famous
contemporaries. But let us leave morality out of the question, Hegel is a
_matter of taste_.… And not only of German but of European taste!… A taste
which Wagner understood!—which he felt equal to! which he has
immortalised!—All he did was to apply it to music—he invented a style for
himself, which might mean an “infinity of things,”—he was _Hegel’s_ heir.…
Music as “Idea.”—

And how well Wagner was understood!—The same kind of man who used to gush
over Hegel, now gushes over Wagner, in his school they even _write_
Hegelian.(11) But he who understood Wagner best, was the German youthlet.
The two words “infinity” and “meaning” were sufficient for this: at their
sound the youthlet immediately began to feel exceptionally happy. Wagner
did _not_ conquer these boys with music, but with the “idea”:—it is the
enigmatical vagueness of his art, its game of hide-and-seek amid a hundred
symbols, its polychromy in ideals, which leads and lures the lads. It is
Wagner’s genius for forming clouds, his sweeps and swoops through the air,
his ubiquity and nullibiety—precisely the same qualities with which Hegel
led and lured in his time!—Moreover in the presence of Wagner’s
multifariousness, plenitude and arbitrariness, they seem to themselves
justified—“saved”. Tremulously they listen while the _great symbols_ in
his art seem to make themselves heard from out the misty distance, with a
gentle roll of thunder, and they are not at all displeased if at times it
gets a little grey, gruesome and cold. Are they not one and all, like
Wagner himself, on _quite intimate terms_ with bad weather, with German
weather! Wotan is their God, but Wotan is the God of bad weather.… They
are right, how could these German youths—in their present condition,—miss
what we others, we _halcyonians_, miss in Wagner? _i.e._: _la gaya
scienza_; light feet, wit, fire, grave, grand logic, stellar dancing,
wanton intellectuality, the vibrating light of the South, the calm


—I have mentioned the sphere to which Wagner belongs—certainly not to the
history of music. What, however, does he mean historically?—_The rise of
the actor in music_: a momentous event which not only leads me to think
but also to fear.

In a word: “Wagner and Liszt.” Never yet have the “uprightness” and
“genuineness” of musicians been put to such a dangerous test. It is
glaringly obvious: great success, mob success is no longer the achievement
of the genuine,—in order to get it a man must be an actor!—Victor Hugo and
Richard Wagner—they both prove one and the same thing: that in declining
civilisations, wherever the mob is allowed to decide, genuineness becomes
superfluous, prejudicial, unfavourable. The actor, alone, can still kindle
_great_ enthusiasm.—And thus it is his _golden age_ which is now
dawning,—his and that of all those who are in any way related to him. With
drums and fifes, Wagner marches at the head of all artists in declamation,
in display and virtuosity. He began by convincing the conductors of
orchestras, the scene-shifters and stage-singers, not to forget the
orchestra:—he “delivered” them from monotony.… The movement that Wagner
created has spread even to the land of knowledge: whole sciences
pertaining to music are rising slowly, out of centuries of scholasticism.
As an example of what I mean, let me point more particularly to
_Riemann’s_ services to rhythmics; he was the first who called attention
to the leading idea in punctuation—even for music (unfortunately he did so
with a bad word; he called it “phrasing”).—All these people, and I say it
with gratitude, are the best, the most respectable among Wagner’s
admirers—they have a perfect right to honour Wagner. The same instinct
unites them with one another; in him they recognise their highest type,
and since he has inflamed them with his own ardour they feel themselves
transformed into power, even into great power. In this quarter, if
anywhere, Wagner’s influence has really been _beneficent_. Never before
has there been so much thinking, willing, and industry in this sphere.
Wagner endowed all these artists with a new conscience: what they now
exact and _obtain_ from themselves, they had never exacted before Wagner’s
time—before then they had been too modest. Another spirit prevails on the
stage since Wagner rules there the most difficult things are expected,
blame is severe, praise very scarce,—the good and the excellent have
become the rule. Taste is no longer necessary, nor even is a good voice.
Wagner is sung only with ruined voices: this has a more “dramatic” effect.
Even talent is out of the question. Expressiveness at all costs, which is
what the Wagnerian ideal—the ideal of decadence—demands, is hardly
compatible with talent. All that is required for this is virtue—that is to
say, training, automatism, “self-denial”. Neither taste, voices, nor
gifts, Wagner’s stage requires but one thing: _Germans!_… The definition
of a German: an obedient man with long legs.… There is a deep significance
in the fact that the rise of Wagner should have coincided with the rise of
the “Empire”: both phenomena are a proof of one and the same
thing—obedience and long legs.—Never have people been more obedient, never
have they been so well ordered about. The conductors of Wagnerian
orchestras, more particularly, are worthy of an age, which posterity will
one day call, with timid awe, the _classical age of war_.

Wagner understood how to command; in this respect, too, he was a great
teacher. He commanded as a man who had exercised an inexorable will over
himself—as one who had practised lifelong discipline: Wagner was, perhaps,
the greatest example of self-violence in the whole of the history of art
(—even Alfieri, who in other respects is his next-of-kin, is outdone by
him. The note of a Torinese).


This view, that our actors have become more worthy of respect than
heretofore, does not imply that I believe them to have become less
dangerous.… But who is in any doubt as to what I want,—as to what the
_three requisitions_ are concerning which my wrath and my care and love of
art, have made me open my mouth on this occasion?

_That the stage should not become master of the arts._

_That the actor should not become the corrupter of the genuine._

_That music should not become an art of lying._

_Friedrich Nietzsche._


The gravity of these last words allows me at this point to introduce a few
sentences out of an unprinted essay which will at least leave no doubt as
to my earnestness in regard to this question. The title of this essay is:
“What Wagner has cost us.”

One pays dearly for having been a follower of Wagner. Even to-day a vague
feeling that this is so, still prevails. Even Wagner’s success, his
triumph, did not uproot this feeling thoroughly. But formerly it was
strong, it was terrible, it was a gloomy hate throughout almost
three-quarters of Wagner’s life. The resistance which he met with among us
Germans cannot be too highly valued or too highly honoured. People guarded
themselves against him as against an illness,—not with arguments—it is
impossible to refute an illness,—but with obstruction, with mistrust, with
repugnance, with loathing, with sombre earnestness, as though he were a
great rampant danger. The æsthetes gave themselves away when out of three
schools of German philosophy they waged an absurd war against Wagner’s
principles with “ifs” and “fors”—what did he care about principles, even
his own!—The Germans themselves had enough instinctive good sense to
dispense with every “if” and “for” in this matter. An instinct is weakened
when it becomes conscious: for by becoming conscious it makes itself
feeble. If there were any signs that in spite of the universal character
of European decadence there was still a modicum of health, still an
instinctive premonition of what is harmful and dangerous, residing in the
German soul, then it would be precisely this blunt resistance to Wagner
which I should least like to see underrated. It does us honour, it gives
us some reason to hope: France no longer has such an amount of health at
her disposal. The Germans, these _loiterers par excellence_, as history
shows, are to-day the most backward among the civilised nations of Europe;
this has its advantages,—for they are thus relatively the youngest.

One pays dearly for having been a follower of Wagner. It is only quite
recently that the Germans have overcome a sort of dread of him,—the desire
to be rid of him occurred to them again and again.(12) Does anybody
remember a very curious occurrence in which, quite unexpectedly towards
the end, this old feeling once more manifested itself? It happened at
Wagner’s funeral. The first Wagner Society, the one in Munich, laid a
wreath on his grave with this inscription, which immediately became
famous: “Salvation to the Saviour!” Everybody admired the lofty
inspiration which had dictated this inscription, as also the taste which
seemed to be the privilege of the followers of Wagner. Many also, however
(it was singular enough), made this slight alteration in it: “Salvation
_from_ the Saviour”—People began to breathe again—

One pays dearly for having been a follower of Wagner. Let us try to
estimate the influence of this worship upon culture. Whom did this
movement press to the front? What did it make ever more and more
pre-eminent?—In the first place the layman’s arrogance, the arrogance of
the art-maniac. Now these people are organising societies, they wish to
make their taste prevail, they even wish to pose as judges _in rebus
musicis et musicantibus_. Secondly: an ever increasing indifference
towards severe, noble and conscientious schooling in the service of art,
and in its place the belief in genius, or in plain English, cheeky
dilettantism (—the formula for this is to be found in the
_Mastersingers_). Thirdly, and this is the worst of all: _Theatrocracy_—,
the craziness of a belief in the pre-eminence of the theatre, in the right
of the theatre to rule supreme over the arts, over Art in general.… But
this should be shouted into the face of Wagnerites a hundred times over:
that the theatre is something lower than art, something secondary,
something coarsened, above all something suitably distorted and falsified
for the mob. In this respect Wagner altered nothing: Bayreuth is grand
Opera—and not even good opera.… The stage is a form of Demolatry in the
realm of taste, the stage is an insurrection of the mob, a _plébiscite_
against good taste.… The case of Wagner proves this fact: he captivated
the masses—he depraved taste, he even perverted our taste for opera!—

One pays dearly for having been a follower of Wagner. What has
Wagner-worship made out of spirit? Does Wagner liberate the spirit? To him
belong that ambiguity and equivocation and all other qualities which can
convince the uncertain without making them conscious of why they have been
convinced. In this sense Wagner is a seducer on a grand scale. There is
nothing exhausted, nothing effete, nothing dangerous to life, nothing that
slanders the world in the realm of spirit, which has not secretly found
shelter in his art, he conceals the blackest obscurantism in the luminous
orbs of the ideal. He flatters every nihilistic (Buddhistic) instinct and
togs it out in music; he flatters every form of Christianity, every
religious expression of decadence. He that hath ears to hear let him hear:
everything that has ever grown out of the soil of impoverished life, the
whole counterfeit coinage of the transcendental and of a Beyond found its
most sublime advocate in Wagner’s art, not in formulæ (Wagner is too
clever to use formulæ), but in the persuasion of the senses which in their
turn makes the spirit weary and morbid. Music in the form of Circe … in
this respect his last work is his greatest masterpiece. In the art of
seduction “Parsifal” will for ever maintain its rank as a stroke of
genius.… I admire this work. I would fain have composed it myself. Wagner
was never better inspired than towards the end. The subtlety with which
beauty and disease are united here, reaches such a height, that it casts
so to speak a shadow upon all Wagner’s earlier achievements: it seems too
bright, too healthy. Do ye understand this? Health and brightness acting
like a shadow? Almost like an objection?… To this extent are we already
pure fools.… Never was there a greater Master in heavy hieratic
perfumes—Never on earth has there been such a connoisseur of paltry
infinities, of all that thrills, of extravagant excesses, of all the
feminism from out the vocabulary of happiness! My friends, do but drink
the philtres of this art! Nowhere will ye find a more pleasant method of
enervating your spirit, of forgetting your manliness in the shade of a
rosebush.… Ah, this old magician, mightiest of Klingsors; how he wages war
against us with his art, against us free spirits! How he appeals to every
form of cowardice of the modern soul with his charming girlish notes!
There never was such a _mortal hatred_ of knowledge! One must be a very
cynic in order to resist seduction here. One must be able to bite in order
to resist worshipping at this shrine. Very well, old seducer! The cynic
cautions you—_cave canem_.…

One pays dearly for having been a follower of Wagner. I contemplate the
youthlets who have long been exposed to his infection. The first
relatively innocuous effect of it is the corruption of their taste. Wagner
acts like chronic recourse to the bottle. He stultifies, he befouls the
stomach. His specific effect: degeneration of the feeling for rhythm. What
the Wagnerite calls rhythmical is what I call, to use a Greek metaphor,
“stirring a swamp.” Much more dangerous than all this, however, is the
corruption of ideas. The youthlet becomes a moon-calf, an “idealist”. He
stands above science, and in this respect he has reached the master’s
heights. On the other hand, he assumes the airs of a philosopher, he
writes for the _Bayreuth Journal_; he solves all problems in the name of
the Father, the Son, and the Holy Master. But the most ghastly thing of
all is the deterioration of the nerves. Let any one wander through a large
city at night, in all directions he will hear people doing violence to
instruments with solemn rage and fury, a wild uproar breaks out at
intervals. What is happening? It is the disciples of Wagner in the act of
worshipping him.… Bayreuth is another word for a Hydro. A typical telegram
from Bayreuth would read _bereits bereut_ (I already repent). Wagner is
bad for young men; he is fatal for women. What medically speaking is a
female Wagnerite? It seems to me that a doctor could not be too serious in
putting this alternative of conscience to young women; either one thing or
the other. But they have already made their choice. You cannot serve two
Masters when one of these is Wagner. Wagner redeemed woman; and in return
woman built Bayreuth for him. Every sacrifice, every surrender: there was
nothing that they were not prepared to give him. Woman impoverishes
herself in favour of the Master, she becomes quite touching, she stands
naked before him. The female Wagnerite, the most attractive equivocality
that exists to-day: she is the incarnation of Wagner’s cause: his cause
triumphs with her as its symbol.… Ah, this old robber! He robs our young
men: he even robs our women as well, and drags them to his cell.… Ah, this
old Minotaur! What has he not already cost us? Every year processions of
the finest young men and maidens are led into his labyrinth that he may
swallow them up, every year the whole of Europe cries out “Away to Crete!
Away to Crete!”.…

Second Postscript

It seems to me that my letter is open to some misunderstanding. On certain
faces I see the expression of gratitude; I even hear modest but merry
laughter. I prefer to be understood here as in other things. But since a
certain animal, _the worm_ of Empire, the famous _Rhinoxera_, has become
lodged in the vineyards of the German spirit, nobody any longer
understands a word I say. The _Kreus-Zeitung_ has brought this home to me,
not to speak of the _Litterarisches Centralblatt_. I have given the
Germans the deepest books that they have ever possessed—a sufficient
reason for their not having understood a word of them.… If in this essay I
declare war against Wagner—and incidentally against a certain form of
German taste, if I seem to use strong language about the cretinism of
Bayreuth, it must not be supposed that I am in the least anxious to
glorify any other musician. Other musicians are not to be considered by
the side of Wagner. Things are generally bad. Decay is universal. Disease
lies at the very root of things. If Wagner’s name represents the ruin of
music, just as Bernini’s stands for the ruin of sculpture, he is not on
that account its cause. All he did was to accelerate the fall,—though we
are quite prepared to admit that he did it in a way which makes one recoil
with horror from this almost instantaneous decline and fall to the depths.
He possessed the ingenuousness of decadence: this constituted his
superiority. He believed in it. He did not halt before any of its logical
consequences. The others hesitated—that is their distinction. They have no
other. What is common to both Wagner and “the others” consists in this:
the decline of all organising power, the abuse of traditional means,
without the capacity or the aim that would justify this. The counterfeit
imitation of grand forms, for which nobody nowadays is strong, proud,
self-reliant and healthy enough, excessive vitality in small details;
passion at all costs; refinement as an expression of impoverished life,
ever more nerves in the place of muscle. I know only one musician who
to-day would be able to compose an overture as an organic whole: and
nobody else knows him.(13) He who is famous now, does not write better
music than Wagner, but only less characteristic, less definite music:—less
definite, because half measures, even in decadence, cannot stand by the
side of completeness. But Wagner was complete, Wagner represented thorough
corruption, Wagner has had the courage, the will, and the conviction for
corruption. What does Johannes Brahms matter?… It was his good fortune to
be misunderstood by Germany; he was taken to be an antagonist of
Wagner—people required an antagonist!—But he did not write necessary
music, above all he wrote too much music!—When one is not rich one should
at least have enough pride to be poor!… The sympathy which here and there
was meted out to Brahms, apart from party interests and party
misunderstandings, was for a long time a riddle to me, until one day
through an accident, almost, I discovered that he affected a particular
type of man. He has the melancholy of impotence. His creations are not the
result of plenitude, he thirsts after abundance. Apart from what he
plagiarises, from what he borrows from ancient or exotically modern
styles—he is a master in the art of copying,—there remains as his most
individual quality a _longing_.… And this is what the dissatisfied of all
kinds, and all those who yearn, divine in him. He is much too little of a
personality, too little of a central figure.… The “impersonal,” those who
are not self-centred, love him for this. He is especially the musician of
a species of dissatisfied women. Fifty steps further on, and we find the
female Wagnerite—just as we find Wagner himself fifty paces ahead of
Brahms.—The female Wagnerite is a more definite, a more interesting, and
above all, a more attractive type. Brahms is touching so long as he dreams
or mourns over himself in private—in this respect he is modern;—he becomes
cold, we no longer feel at one with him when he poses as the child of the
classics.… People like to call Brahms Beethoven’s heir: I know of no more
cautious euphemism—All that which to-day makes a claim to being the grand
style in music is on precisely that account either false to us or false to
itself. This alternative is suspicious enough: in itself it contains a
casuistic question concerning the value of the two cases. The instinct of
the majority protests against the alternative; “false to us”—they do not
wish to be cheated;—and I myself would certainly always prefer this type
to the other (“False to itself”). This is _my_ taste.—Expressed more
clearly for the sake of the “poor in spirit” it amounts to this: Brahms
_or_ Wagner.… Brahms is _not_ an actor.—A very great part of other
musicians may be summed up in the concept Brahms—I do not wish to say
anything about the clever apes of Wagner, as for instance Goldmark: when
one has “The Queen of Sheba” to one’s name, one belongs to a
menagerie,—one ought to put oneself on show.—Nowadays all things that can
be done well and even with a master hand are small. In this department
alone is honesty still possible. Nothing, however, can cure music as a
whole of its chief fault, of its fate, which is to be the expression of
general physiological contradiction,—which is, in fact, to be modern.

The best instruction, the most conscientious schooling, the most thorough
familiarity, yea, and even isolation, with the Old Masters,—all this only
acts as a palliative, or, more strictly speaking, has but an illusory
effect, because the first condition of the right thing is no longer in our
bodies; whether this first condition be the strong race of a Handel or the
overflowing animal spirits of a Rossini. Not everyone has the right to
every teacher: and this holds good of whole epochs.—In itself it is not
impossible that there are still remains of stronger natures, typical
unadapted men, somewhere in Europe: from this quarter the advent of a
somewhat belated form of beauty and perfection, even in music, might still
be hoped for. But the most that we can expect to see are exceptional
cases. From the rule, that corruption is paramount, that corruption is a
fatality,—not even a God can save music.


And now let us take breath and withdraw a moment from this narrow world
which necessarily must be narrow, because we have to make enquiries
relative to the value of _persons_. A philosopher feels that he wants to
wash his hands after he has concerned himself so long with the “Case of
Wagner”. I shall now give my notion of what is _modern_. According to the
measure of energy of every age, there is also a standard that determines
which virtues shall be allowed and which forbidden. The age either has the
virtues of _ascending_ life, in which case it resists the virtues of
degeneration with all its deepest instincts. Or it is in itself an age of
degeneration, in which case it requires the virtues of declining life,—in
which case it hates everything that justifies itself, solely as being the
outcome of a plenitude, or a superabundance of strength. Æsthetic is
inextricably bound up with these biological principles: there is decadent
æsthetic, and _classical_ æsthetic,—“beauty in itself” is just as much a
chimera as any other kind of idealism.—Within the narrow sphere of the
so-called moral values, no greater antithesis could be found than that of
_master-morality_ and the morality of _Christian_ valuations: the latter
having grown out of a thoroughly morbid soil. (—The gospels present us
with the same physiological types, as do the novels of Dostoiewsky), the
master-morality (“Roman,” “pagan,” “classical,” “Renaissance”), on the
other hand, being the symbolic speech of well-constitutedness, of
_ascending_ life, and of the Will to Power as a vital principle.
Master-morality _affirms_ just as instinctively as Christian morality
_denies_ (“God,” “Beyond,” “self-denial,”—all of them negations). The
first reflects its plenitude upon things,—it transfigures, it embellishes,
it _rationalises_ the world,—the latter impoverishes, bleaches, mars the
value of things; it _suppresses_ the world. “World” is a Christian term of
abuse. These antithetical forms in the optics of values, are _both_
necessary: they are different points of view which cannot be circumvented
either with arguments or counter-arguments. One cannot refute
Christianity: it is impossible to refute a diseased eyesight. That people
should have combated pessimism as if it had been a philosophy, was the
very acme of learned stupidity. The concepts “true” and “untrue” do not
seem to me to have any sense in optics.—That, alone, which has to be
guarded against is the falsity, the instinctive duplicity which _would
fain_ regard this antithesis as no antithesis at all: just as Wagner
did,—and his mastery in this kind of falseness was of no mean order. To
cast side-long glances at master-morality, at _noble_ morality (—Icelandic
saga is perhaps the greatest documentary evidence of these values), and at
the same time to have the opposite teaching, the “gospel of the lowly,”
the doctrine of the _need_ of salvation, on one’s lips!… Incidentally, I
admire the modesty of Christians who go to Bayreuth. As for myself, I
could _not_ endure to hear the sound of certain words on Wagner’s lips.
There are some concepts which are too good for Bayreuth … What?
Christianity adjusted for female Wagnerites, perhaps _by_ female
Wagnerites—for, in his latter days Wagner was thoroughly _feminini
generis_—? Again I say, the Christians of to-day are too modest for me.…
If Wagner were a Christian, then Liszt was perhaps a Father of the
Church!—The need of _salvation_, the quintessence of all Christian needs,
has nothing in common with such clowns; it is the most straightforward
expression of decadence, it is the most convincing and most painful
affirmation of decadence, in sublime symbols and practices. The Christian
wishes _to be rid_ of himself. _Le moi est toujours haissable._ Noble
morality, master-morality, on the other hand, is rooted in a triumphant
saying of yea to _one’s self_,—it is the self-affirmation and
self-glorification of life; it also requires sublime symbols and
practices; but only “because its heart is too full.” The whole of
beautiful art and of great art belongs here; their common essence is
gratitude. But we must allow it a certain instinctive repugnance _to
décadents_, and a scorn and horror of the latter’s symbolism: such things
almost prove it. The noble Romans considered Christianity as a _fœda
superstitio_: let me call to your minds the feelings which the last German
of noble taste—Goethe—had in regard to the cross. It is idle to look for
more valuable, more _necessary_ contrasts.(14)

But the kind of falsity which is characteristic of the Bayreuthians is not
exceptional to-day. We all know the hybrid concept of the Christian
gentleman. This _innocence_ in contradiction, this “clean conscience” in
falsehood, is rather modern _par excellence_, with it modernity is almost
defined. Biologically, modern man represents a _contradiction of values_,
he sits between two stools, he says yea and nay in one breath. No wonder
that it is precisely in our age that falseness itself became flesh and
blood, and even genius! No wonder _Wagner_ dwelt amongst us! It was not
without reason that I called Wagner the Cagliostro of modernity.… But all
of us, though we do not know it, involuntarily have values, words,
formulæ, and morals in our bodies, which are quite _antagonistic_ in their
origin—regarded from a physiological standpoint, we are _false_.… How
would a _diagnosis of the modern soul_ begin? With a determined incision
into this agglomeration of contradictory instincts, with the total
suppression of its antagonistic values, with vivisection applied to its
most _instructive_ case. To philosophers the “Case of Wagner” is a
_windfall_—this essay, as you observe, was inspired by gratitude.




The following chapters have been selected from past works of mine, and not
without care. Some of them date back as far as 1877. Here and there, of
course, they will be found to have been made a little more intelligible,
but above all, more brief. Read consecutively, they can leave no one in
any doubt, either concerning myself, or concerning Wagner: we are
antipodes. The reader will come to other conclusions, too, in his perusal
of these pages: for instance, that this is an essay for psychologists and
_not_ for Germans.… I have my readers everywhere, in Vienna, St
Petersburg, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Paris, and New York—but _I have none_
in Europe’s Flat-land—Germany.… And I might even have something to say to
Italians whom I love just as much as I … _Quousque tandem, Crispi_ …
Triple alliance: a people can only conclude a _mésalliance_ with the

Friedrich Nietzsche.

Turin, _Christmas 1888_.

Wherein I Admire Wagner.

I believe that artists very often do not know what they are best able to
do. They are much too vain. Their minds are directed to something prouder
than merely to appear like little plants, which, with freshness, rareness,
and beauty, know how to sprout from their soil with real perfection. The
ultimate goodness of their own garden and vineyard is superciliously
under-estimated by them, and their love and their insight are not of the
same quality. Here is a musician who is a greater master than anyone else
in the discovering of tones, peculiar to suffering, oppressed, and
tormented souls, who can endow even dumb misery with speech. Nobody can
approach him in the colours of late autumn, in the indescribably touching
joy of a last, a very last, and all too short gladness; he knows of a
chord which expresses those secret and weird midnight hours of the soul,
when cause and effect seem to have fallen asunder, and at every moment
something may spring out of nonentity. He is happiest of all when creating
from out the nethermost depths of human happiness, and, so to speak, from
out man’s empty bumper, in which the bitterest and most repulsive drops
have mingled with the sweetest for good or evil at last. He knows that
weary shuffling along of the soul which is no longer able either to spring
or to fly, nay, which is no longer able to walk, he has the modest glance
of concealed suffering, of understanding without comfort, of leave-taking
without word or sign; verily as the Orpheus of all secret misery he is
greater than anyone, and many a thing was introduced into art for the
first time by him, which hitherto had not been given expression, had not
even been thought worthy of art—the cynical revolts, for instance, of
which only the greatest sufferer is capable, also many a small and quite
microscopical feature of the soul, as it were the scales of its amphibious
nature—yes indeed, he is the master of everything very small. But this he
refuses to be! His tastes are much more in love with vast walls and with
daring frescoes!… He does not see that his spirit has another desire and
bent—a totally different outlook—that it prefers to squat peacefully in
the corners of broken-down houses: concealed in this way, and hidden even
from himself, he paints his really great masterpieces, all of which are
very short, often only one bar in length—there, only, does he become quite
good, great and perfect, perhaps there alone.—Wagner is one who has
suffered much—and this elevates him above other musicians.—I admire Wagner
wherever he sets _himself_ to music—

Wherein I Raise Objections.

With all this I do not wish to imply that I regard this music as healthy,
and least of all in those places where it speaks of Wagner himself. My
objections to Wagner’s music are physiological objections. Why should I
therefore begin by clothing them in æsthetic formulæ? Æsthetic is indeed
nothing more than applied physiology—The fact I bring forward, my “_petit
fait vrai_,” is that I can no longer breathe with ease when this music
begins to have its effect upon me; that my foot immediately begins to feel
indignant at it and rebels: for what it needs is time, dance, march; even
the young German Kaiser could not march to Wagner’s Imperial March,—what
my foot demands in the first place from music is that ecstasy which lies
in good walking, stepping and dancing. But do not my stomach, my heart, my
circulation also protest? Are not my intestines also troubled? And do I
not become hoarse unawares? … in order to listen to Wagner I require
Géraudel’s Pastilles.… And then I ask myself, what is it that my whole
body must have from music in general? for there is no such thing as a
soul.… I believe it must have relief: as if all animal functions were
accelerated by means of light, bold, unfettered, self-reliant rhythms, as
if brazen and leaden life could lose its weight by means of delicate and
smooth melodies. My melancholy would fain rest its head in the haunts and
abysses of perfection; for this reason I need music. But Wagner makes one
ill—What do I care about the theatre? What do I care about the spasms of
its moral ecstasies in which the mob—and who is not the mob
to-day?—rejoices? What do I care about the whole pantomimic hocus-pocus of
the actor? You are beginning to see that I am essentially anti-theatrical
at heart. For the stage, this mob art _par excellence_, my soul has that
deepest scorn felt by every artist to-day. With a stage success a man
sinks to such an extent in my esteem as to drop out of sight; failure in
this quarter makes me prick my ears, makes me begin to pay attention. But
this was not so with Wagner, next to the Wagner who created the most
unique music that has ever existed there was the Wagner who was
essentially a man of the stage, an actor, the most enthusiastic mimomaniac
that has perhaps existed on earth, even as a musician. And let it be said
_en passant_ that if Wagner’s theory was “drama is the object, music is
only a means”—his practice was from beginning to end “the attitude is the
end, drama and even music can never be anything else than means.” Music as
the manner of accentuating, of strengthening, and deepening dramatic poses
and all things which please the senses of the actor; and Wagnerian drama
only an opportunity for a host of interesting attitudes!—Alongside of all
other instincts he had the dictatorial instinct of a great actor in
everything and, as I have already said, as a musician also.—On one
occasion, and not without trouble, I made this clear to a Wagnerite _pur
sang_,—clearness and a Wagnerite! I won’t say another word. There were
reasons for adding; “For heaven’s sake, be a little more true unto
yourself! We are not in Bayreuth now. In Bayreuth people are only upright
in the mass; the individual lies, he even lies to himself. One leaves
oneself at home when one goes to Bayreuth, one gives up all right to one’s
own tongue and choice, to one’s own taste and even to one’s own courage,
one knows these things no longer as one is wont to have them and practise
them before God and the world and between one’s own four walls. In the
theatre no one brings the finest senses of his art with him, and least of
all the artist who works for the theatre,—for here loneliness is lacking;
everything perfect does not suffer a witness.… In the theatre one becomes
mob, herd, woman, Pharisee, electing cattle, patron, idiot—Wagnerite:
there, the most personal conscience is bound to submit to the levelling
charm of the great multitude, there the neighbour rules, there one
_becomes_ a neighbour.”

Wagner As A Danger.


The aim after which more modern music is striving, which is now given the
strong but obscure name of “unending melody,” can be clearly understood by
comparing it to one’s feelings on entering the sea. Gradually one loses
one’s footing and one ultimately abandons oneself to the mercy or fury of
the elements: one has to swim. In the solemn, or fiery, swinging movement,
first slow and then quick, of old music—one had to do something quite
different; one had to dance. The measure which was required for this and
the control of certain balanced degrees of time and energy, forced the
soul of the listener to continual sobriety of thought.—Upon the
counterplay of the cooler currents of air which came from this sobriety,
and from the warmer breath of enthusiasm, the charm of all good music
rested—Richard Wagner wanted another kind of movement,—he overthrew the
physiological first principle of all music before his time. It was no
longer a matter of walking or dancing,—we must swim, we must hover.… This
perhaps decides the whole matter. “Unending melody” really wants to break
all the symmetry of time and strength; it actually scorns these things—Its
wealth of invention resides precisely in what to an older ear sounds like
rhythmic paradox and abuse. From the imitation or the prevalence of such a
taste there would arise a danger for music—so great that we can imagine
none greater—the complete degeneration of the feeling for rhythm, _chaos_
in the place of rhythm.… The danger reaches its climax when such music
cleaves ever more closely to naturalistic play-acting and pantomime, which
governed by no laws of form, aim at effect and nothing more.…
Expressiveness at all costs and music a servant, a slave to attitudes—this
is the end.…


What? would it really be the first virtue of a performance (as performing
musical artists now seem to believe), under all circumstances to attain to
a _haut-relief_ which cannot be surpassed? If this were applied to Mozart,
for instance, would it not be a real sin against Mozart’s spirit,—Mozart’s
cheerful, enthusiastic, delightful and loving spirit? He who fortunately
was no German, and whose seriousness is a charming and golden seriousness
and not by any means that of a German clodhopper.… Not to speak of the
earnestness of the “marble statue”.… But you seem to think that all music
is the music of the “marble statue”?—that all music should, so to speak,
spring out of the wall and shake the listener to his very bowels?… Only
thus could music have any effect! But on whom would the effect be made?
Upon something on which a noble artist ought never to deign to act,—upon
the mob, upon the immature! upon the blasés! upon the diseased! upon
idiots! upon _Wagnerites_!…

A Music Without A Future.

Of all the arts which succeed in growing on the soil of a particular
culture, music is the last plant to appear; maybe because it is the one
most dependent upon our innermost feelings, and therefore the last to come
to the surface—at a time when the culture to which it belongs is in its
autumn season and beginning to fade. It was only in the art of the Dutch
masters that the spirit of mediæval Christianity found its expression—,
its architecture of sound is the youngest, but genuine and legitimate,
sister of the Gothic. It was only in Handel’s music that the best in
Luther and in those like him found its voice, the Judeo-heroic trait which
gave the Reformation a touch of greatness-the Old Testament, _not_ the
New, become music. It was left to Mozart, to pour out the epoch of Louis
XIV., and of the art of Racine and Claude Lorrain, in _ringing_ gold; only
in Beethoven’s and Rossini’s music did the Eighteenth Century sing itself
out—the century of enthusiasm, broken ideals, and _fleeting joy_. All real
and original music is a swan song—Even our last form of music, despite its
prevalence and its will to prevail, has perhaps only a short time to live,
for it sprouted from a soil which was in the throes of a rapid
subsidence,—of a culture which will soon be _submerged_. A certain
catholicism of feeling, and a predilection for some ancient indigenous
(so-called national) ideals and eccentricities, was its first condition.
Wagner’s appropriation of old sagas and songs, in which scholarly
prejudice taught us to see something German _par excellence_—now we laugh
at it all, the resurrection of these Scandinavian monsters with a thirst
for ecstatic sensuality and spiritualisation—the whole of this taking and
giving on Wagner’s part, in the matter of subjects, characters, passions,
and nerves, would also give unmistakable expression to the _spirit of his
music_ provided that this music, like any other, did not know how to speak
about itself save ambiguously: for _musica is a woman_.… We must not let
ourselves be misled concerning this state of things, by the fact that at
this very moment we are living in a reaction, _in the heart itself_ of a
reaction. The age of international wars, of ultramontane martyrdom, in
fact, the whole interlude-character which typifies the present condition
of Europe, may indeed help an art like Wagner’s to sudden glory, without,
however, in the least ensuring its _future prosperity_. The Germans
themselves have no future.…

We Antipodes.

Perhaps a few people, or at least my friends, will remember that I made my
first plunge into life armed with some errors and some exaggerations, but
that, in any case, I began with _hope_ in my heart. In the philosophical
pessimism of the nineteenth century, I recognised—who knows by what
by-paths of personal experience—the symptom of a higher power of thought,
a more triumphant plenitude of life, than had manifested itself hitherto
in the philosophies of Hume, Kant and Hegel!—I regarded _tragic_ knowledge
as the most beautiful luxury of our culture, as its most precious, most
noble, most dangerous kind of prodigality; but, nevertheless, in view of
its overflowing wealth, as a justifiable _luxury_. In the same way, I
began by interpreting Wagner’s music as the expression of a Dionysian
powerfulness of soul. In it I thought I heard the earthquake by means of
which a primeval life-force, which had been constrained for ages, was
seeking at last to burst its bonds, quite indifferent to how much of that
which nowadays calls itself culture, would thereby be shaken to ruins. You
see how I misinterpreted, you see also, what I _bestowed_ upon Wagner and
Schopenhauer—myself.… Every art and every philosophy may be regarded
either as a cure or as a stimulant to ascending or declining life: they
always presuppose suffering and sufferers. But there are two kinds of
sufferers:—those that suffer from _overflowing vitality_, who need
Dionysian art and require a tragic insight into, and a tragic outlook
upon, the phenomenon life,—and there are those who suffer from _reduced_
vitality, and who crave for repose, quietness, calm seas, or else the
intoxication, the spasm, the bewilderment which art and philosophy
provide. Revenge upon life itself—this is the most voluptuous form of
intoxication for such indigent souls!… Now Wagner responds quite as well
as Schopenhauer to the twofold cravings of these people,—they both deny
life, they both slander it but precisely on this account they are my
antipodes.—The richest creature, brimming over with vitality,—the
Dionysian God and man, may not only allow himself to gaze upon the
horrible and the questionable; but he can also lend his hand to the
terrible deed, and can indulge in all the luxury of destruction,
disaggregation, and negation,—in him evil, purposelessness and ugliness,
seem just as allowable as they are in nature—because of his bursting
plenitude of creative and rejuvenating powers, which are able to convert
every desert into a luxurious land of plenty. Conversely, it is the
greatest sufferer and pauper in vitality, who is most in need of mildness,
peace and goodness—that which to-day is called humaneness—in thought as
well as in action, and possibly of a God whose speciality is to be a God
of the sick, a Saviour, and also of logic or the abstract intelligibility
of existence even for idiots (—the typical “free-spirits,” like the
idealists, and “beautiful souls,” are _décadents_—); in short, of a warm,
danger-tight, and narrow confinement, between optimistic horizons which
would allow of stultification.… And thus very gradually, I began to
understand Epicurus, the opposite of a Dionysian Greek, and also the
Christian who in fact is only a kind of Epicurean, and who, with his
belief that “faith saves,” carries the principle of Hedonism _as far as
possible_—far beyond all intellectual honesty.… If I am ahead of all other
psychologists in anything, it is in this fact that my eyes are more keen
for tracing those most difficult and most captious of all deductions, in
which the largest number of mistakes have been made,—the deduction which
makes one infer something concerning the author from his work, something
concerning the doer from his deed, something concerning the idealist from
the need which produced this ideal, and something concerning the imperious
_craving_ which stands at the back of all thinking and valuing—In regard
to all artists of what kind soever, I shall now avail myself of this
radical distinction: does the creative power in this case arise from a
loathing of life, or from an excessive _plenitude_ of life? In Goethe, for
instance, an overflow of vitality was creative, in Flaubert—hate:
Flaubert, a new edition of Pascal, but as an artist with this instinctive
belief at heart: “_Flaubert est toujours haissable, l’homme n’est rien,
l’œuvre est tout_”.… He tortured himself when he wrote, just as Pascal
tortured himself when he thought—the feelings of both were inclined to be
“non-egoistic.” … “Disinterestedness”—principle of decadence, the will to
nonentity in art as well as in morality.

Where Wagner Is At Home.

Even at the present day, France is still the refuge of the most
intellectual and refined culture in Europe, it remains the high school of
taste: but one must know where to find this France of taste. The
_North-German Gazette_, for instance, or whoever expresses his sentiments
in that paper, thinks that the French are “barbarians,”—as for me, if I
had to find the _blackest_ spot on earth, where slaves still required to
be liberated, I should turn in the direction of Northern Germany.… But
those who form part of _that select_ France take very good care to
_conceal themselves_; they are a small body of men, and there may be some
among them who do not stand on very firm legs—a few may be fatalists,
hypochondriacs, invalids; others may be enervated, and artificial,—such
are those who would fain be artistic,—but all the loftiness and delicacy
which still remains to this world, is in their possession. In this France
of intellect, which is also the France of pessimism, Schopenhauer is
already much more at home than he ever was in Germany, his principal work
has already been translated twice, and the second time so excellently that
now I prefer to read Schopenhauer in French (—he was an _accident_ among
Germans, just as I am—the Germans have no fingers wherewith to grasp us;
they haven’t any fingers at all,—but only claws). And I do not mention
Heine—_l’adorable Heine_, as they say in Paris—who long since has passed
into the flesh and blood of the more profound and more soulful of French
lyricists. How could the horned cattle of Germany know how to deal with
the _délicatesses_ of such a nature!—And as to Richard Wagner, it is
obvious, it is even glaringly obvious, that Paris is the very _soil_ for
him, the more French music adapts itself to the needs of _l’âme moderne_,
the more Wagnerian it will become,—it is far enough advanced in this
direction already.—In this respect one should not allow one’s self to be
misled by Wagner himself—it was simply disgraceful on Wagner’s part to
scoff at Paris, as he did, in its agony in 1871.… In spite of it all, in
Germany Wagner is only a misapprehension.—who could be more incapable of
understanding anything about Wagner than the Kaiser, for instance?—To
everybody familiar with the movement of European culture, this fact,
however, is certain, that French romanticism and Richard Wagner are most
intimately related. All dominated by literature, up to their very eyes and
ears—the first European artists with a _universal literary_ culture,—most
of them writers, poets, mediators and minglers of the senses and the arts,
all fanatics in _expression_, great discoverers in the realm of the
sublime as also of the ugly and the gruesome, and still greater
discoverers in passion, in working for effect, in the art of dressing
their windows,—all possessing talent far above their genius,—virtuosos to
their backbone, knowing of secret passages to all that seduces, lures,
constrains or overthrows; born enemies of logic and of straight lines,
thirsting after the exotic, the strange and the monstrous, and all opiates
for the senses and the understanding. On the whole, a daring dare-devil,
magnificently violent, soaring and high-springing crew of artists, who
first had to teach their own century—it is the century of the mob—what the
concept “artist” meant. But they were _ill_.…

Wagner As The Apostle Of Chastity.


Is this the German way?
Comes this low bleating forth from German hearts?
Should Teutons, sin repenting, lash themselves,
Or spread their palms with priestly unctuousness,
Exalt their feelings with the censer’s fumes,
And cower and quake and bend the trembling knee,
And with a sickly sweetness plead a prayer?
Then ogle nuns, and ring the Ave-bell,
And thus with morbid fervour out-do heaven?
Is this the German way?
Beware, yet are you free, yet your own Lords.
What yonder lures is Rome, Rome’s faith sung without words.


There is no necessary contrast between sensuality and chastity, every good
marriage, every genuine love affair is above this contrast; but in those
cases where the contrast exists, it is very far from being necessarily a
tragic one. This, at least, ought to hold good of all well-constituted and
good-spirited mortals, who are not in the least inclined to reckon their
unstable equilibrium between angel and _petite bête_, without further ado,
among the objections to existence, the more refined and more intelligent
like Hafis and Goethe, even regarded it as an additional attraction. It is
precisely contradictions of this kind which lure us to life.… On the other
hand, it must be obvious, that when Circe’s unfortunate animals are
induced to worship chastity, all they see and _worship_ therein, is their
opposite—oh! and with what tragic groaning and fervour, may well be
imagined—that same painful and thoroughly superfluous opposition which,
towards the end of his life, Richard Wagner undoubtedly wished to set to
music and to put on the stage, _And to what purpose?_ we may reasonably


And yet this other question can certainly not be circumvented: what
business had he actually with that manly (alas! so unmanly) “bucolic
simplicity,” that poor devil and son of nature—Parsifal, whom he
ultimately makes a catholic by such insidious means—what?—was Wagner in
earnest with Parsifal? For, that he was laughed at, I cannot deny, any
more than Gottfried Keller can.… We should like to believe that “Parsifal”
was meant as a piece of idle gaiety, as the closing act and satyric drama,
with which Wagner the tragedian wished to take leave of us, of himself,
and above all _of tragedy_, in a way which befitted him and his dignity,
that is to say, with an extravagant, lofty and most malicious parody of
tragedy itself, of all the past and terrible earnestness and sorrow of
this world, of the most _ridiculous_ form of the unnaturalness of the
ascetic ideal, at last overcome. For Parsifal is the subject _par
excellence_ for a comic opera.… Is Wagner’s “Parsifal” his secret laugh of
superiority at himself, the triumph of his last and most exalted state of
artistic freedom, of artistic transcendence—is it Wagner able to _laugh_
at himself? Once again we only wish it were so; for what could Parsifal be
if he were _meant seriously_? Is it necessary in his case to say (as I
have heard people say) that “Parsifal” is “the product of the mad hatred
of knowledge, intellect, and sensuality?” a curse upon the senses and the
mind in one breath and in one fit of hatred? an act of apostasy and a
return to Christianly sick and obscurantist ideals? And finally even a
denial of self, a deletion of self, on the part of an artist who
theretofore had worked with all the power of his will in favour of the
opposite cause, the spiritualisation and sensualisation of his art? And
not only of his art, but also of his life? Let us remember how
enthusiastically Wagner at one time walked in the footsteps of the
philosopher Feuerbach. Feuerbach’s words “healthy sensuality” struck
Wagner in the thirties and forties very much as they struck many other
Germans—they called themselves the young Germans—that is to say, as words
of salvation. Did he ultimately _change his mind_ on this point? It would
seem that he had at least had the desire of _changing_ his doctrine
towards the end.… Had the _hatred of life_ become dominant in him as in
Flaubert? For “Parsifal” is a work of rancour, of revenge, of the most
secret concoction of poisons with which to make an end of the first
conditions of life, _it is a bad work_. The preaching of chastity remains
an incitement to unnaturalness: I despise anybody who does not regard
“Parsifal” as an outrage upon morality.—

How I Got Rid Of Wagner.


Already in the summer of 1876, when the first festival at Bayreuth was at
its height, I took leave of Wagner in my soul. I cannot endure anything
double-faced. Since Wagner had returned to Germany, he had condescended
step by step to everything that I despise—even to anti-Semitism.… As a
matter of fact, it was then high time to bid him farewell: but the proof
of this came only too soon. Richard Wagner, ostensibly the most triumphant
creature alive; as a matter of fact, though, a cranky and desperate
_décadent_, suddenly fell helpless and broken on his knees before the
Christian cross.… Was there no German at that time who had the eyes to
see, and the sympathy in his soul to feel, the ghastly nature of this
spectacle? Was I the only one who _suffered_ from it?—Enough, the
unexpected event, like a flash of lightning, made me see only too clearly
what kind of a place it was that I had just left,—and it also made me
shudder as a man shudders who unawares has just escaped a great danger. As
I continued my journey alone, I trembled. Not long after this I was ill,
more than ill—I was _tired_;—tired of the continual disappointments over
everything which remained for us modern men to be enthusiastic about, of
the energy, industry, hope, youth, and love that are _squandered
everywhere_; tired out of loathing for the whole world of idealistic lying
and conscience-softening, which, once again, in the case of Wagner, had
scored a victory over a man who was of the bravest; and last but not
least, tired by the sadness of a ruthless suspicion—that I was now
condemned to be ever more and more suspicious, ever more and more
contemptuous, ever more and more _deeply_ alone than I had been
theretofore. For I had no one save Richard Wagner.… I was always condemned
to the society of Germans.…


Henceforward alone and cruelly distrustful of myself, I then took up
sides—not without anger—_against myself_ and _for_ all that which hurt me
and fell hard upon me; and thus I found the road to that courageous
pessimism which is the opposite of all idealistic falsehood, and which, as
it seems to me, is also the road to _me_—_to my mission_.… That hidden and
dominating thing, for which for long ages we have had no name, until
ultimately it comes forth as our mission,—this tyrant in us wreaks a
terrible revenge upon us for every attempt we make either to evade him or
to escape him, for every one of our experiments in the way of befriending
people to whom we do not belong, for every active occupation, however
estimable, which may make us diverge from our principal object:—aye, and
even for every virtue which would fain protect us from the rigour of our
most intimate sense of responsibility. Illness is always the answer,
whenever we venture to doubt our right to _our_ mission, whenever we begin
to make things too easy for ourselves. Curious and terrible at the same
time! It is for our relaxation that we have to pay most dearly! And should
we wish after all to return to health, we then have no choice: we are
compelled to burden ourselves _more_ heavily than we had been burdened

The Psychologist Speaks.


The oftener a psychologist—a born, an unavoidable psychologist and
soul-diviner—turns his attention to the more select cases and individuals,
the greater becomes his danger of being suffocated by sympathy: he needs
greater hardness and cheerfulness than any other man. For the corruption,
the ruination of higher men, is in fact the rule: it is terrible to have
such a rule always before our eyes. The manifold torments of the
psychologist who has discovered this ruination, who discovers once, and
then discovers almost repeatedly throughout all history, this universal
inner “hopelessness” of higher men, this eternal “too late!” in every
sense—may perhaps one day be the cause of his “going to the dogs” himself.
In almost every psychologist we may see a tell-tale predilection in favour
of intercourse with commonplace and well-ordered men: and this betrays how
constantly he requires healing, that he needs a sort of flight and
forgetfulness, away from what his insight and incisiveness—from what his
“business”—has laid upon his conscience. A horror of his memory is typical
of him. He is easily silenced by the judgment of others, he hears with
unmoved countenance how people honour, admire, love, and glorify, where he
has opened his eyes and _seen_—or he even conceals his silence by
expressly agreeing with some obvious opinion. Perhaps the paradox of his
situation becomes so dreadful that, precisely where he has learnt _great
sympathy_, together with _great contempt_, the educated have on their part
learnt great reverence. And who knows but in all great instances, just
this alone happened: that the multitude worshipped a God, and that the
“God” was only a poor sacrificial animal! _Success_ has always been the
greatest liar—and the “work” itself, the _deed_, is a success too; the
great statesman, the conqueror, the discoverer, are disguised in their
creations until they can no longer be recognised, the “work” of the
artist, of the philosopher, only invents him who has created it, who is
reputed to have created it, the “great men,” as they are reverenced, are
poor little fictions composed afterwards; in the world of historical
values counterfeit coinage _prevails_.


Those great poets, for example, such as Byron, Musset, Poe, Leopardi,
Kleist, Gogol (I do not dare to mention much greater names, but I imply
them), as they now appear, and were perhaps obliged to be: men of the
moment, sensuous, absurd, versatile, light-minded and quick to trust and
to distrust, with souls in which usually some flaw has to be concealed,
often taking revenge with their works for an internal blemish, often
seeking forgetfulness in their soaring from a too accurate memory,
idealists out of proximity to the mud:—what a _torment_ these great
artists are and the so-called higher men in general, to him who has once
found them out! We are all special pleaders in the cause of mediocrity. It
is conceivable that it is just from woman—who is clairvoyant in the world
of suffering, and, alas! also unfortunately eager to help and save to an
extent far beyond her powers—that _they_ have learnt so readily those
outbreaks of boundless _sympathy_ which the multitude, above all the
reverent multitude, overwhelms with prying and self-gratifying
interpretations. This sympathising invariably deceives itself as to its
power; woman would like to believe that love can do _everything_—it is the
_superstition_ peculiar to her. Alas, he who knows the heart finds out how
poor, helpless, pretentious, and blundering even the best and deepest love
is—how much more readily it _destroys_ than saves.…


The intellectual loathing and haughtiness of every man who has suffered
deeply—the extent to which a man can suffer, almost determines the order
of rank—the chilling uncertainty with which he is thoroughly imbued and
coloured, that by virtue of his suffering he _knows more_ than the
shrewdest and wisest can ever know, that he has been familiar with, and
“at home” in many distant terrible worlds of which “_you_ know
nothing!”—this silent intellectual haughtiness, this pride of the elect of
knowledge, of the “initiated,” of the almost sacrificed, finds all forms
of disguise necessary to protect itself from contact with gushing and
sympathising hands, and in general from all that is not its equal in
suffering. Profound suffering makes noble; it separates.—One of the most
refined forms of disguise is Epicurism, along with a certain ostentatious
boldness of taste which takes suffering lightly, and puts itself on the
defensive against all that is sorrowful and profound. There are “cheerful
men” who make use of good spirits, because they are misunderstood on
account of them—they _wish_ to be misunderstood. There are “scientific
minds” who make use of science, because it gives a cheerful appearance,
and because love of science leads people to conclude that a person is
shallow—they _wish_ to mislead to a false conclusion. There are free
insolent spirits which would fain conceal and deny that they are at bottom
broken, incurable hearts—this is Hamlet’s case: and then folly itself can
be the mask of an unfortunate and alas! all too dead-certain knowledge.



I have often asked myself whether I am not much more deeply indebted to
the hardest years of my life than to any others. According to the voice of
my innermost nature, everything necessary, seen from above and in the
light of a _superior_ economy, is also useful in itself—not only should
one bear it, one should _love_ it.… _Amor fati_: this is the very core of
my being—And as to my prolonged illness, do I not owe much more to it than
I owe to my health? To it I owe a _higher_ kind of health, a sort of
health which grows stronger under everything that does not actually kill
it!—_To it, I owe even my philosophy_.… Only great suffering is the
ultimate emancipator of spirit, for it teaches one that _vast
suspiciousness_ which makes an X out of every U, a genuine and proper X,
_i.e._, the antepenultimate letter. Only great suffering; that great
suffering, under which we seem to be over a fire of greenwood, the
suffering that takes its time—forces us philosophers to descend into our
nethermost depths, and to let go of all trustfulness, all good-nature, all
whittling-down, all mildness, all mediocrity,—on which things we had
formerly staked our humanity. I doubt whether such suffering improves a
man; but I know that it makes him _deeper_.… Supposing we learn to set our
pride, our scorn, our strength of will against it, and thus resemble the
Indian who, however cruelly he may be tortured, considers himself revenged
on his tormentor by the bitterness of his own tongue. Supposing we
withdraw from pain into nonentity, into the deaf, dumb, and rigid sphere
of self-surrender, self-forgetfulness, self-effacement: one is another
person when one leaves these protracted and dangerous exercises in the art
of self-mastery, one has one note of interrogation the more, and above all
one has the will henceforward to ask more, deeper, sterner, harder, more
wicked, and more silent questions, than anyone has ever asked on earth
before.… Trust in life has vanished; life itself has become a
_problem_.—But let no one think that one has therefore become a spirit of
gloom or a blind owl! Even love of life is still possible,—but it is a
_different kind_ of love.… It is the love for a woman whom we doubt.…


The rarest of all things is this: to have after all another taste—a
_second_ taste. Out of such abysses, out of the abyss of _great suspicion_
as well, a man returns as though born again, he has a new skin, he is more
susceptible, more full of wickedness; he has a finer taste for joyfulness;
he has a more sensitive tongue for all good things; his senses are more
cheerful; he has acquired a second, more dangerous, innocence in gladness;
he is more childish too, and a hundred times more cunning than ever he had
been before.

Oh, how much more repulsive pleasure now is to him, that coarse, heavy,
buff-coloured pleasure, which is understood by our pleasure-seekers, our
“cultured people,” our wealthy folk and our rulers! With how much more
irony we now listen to the hubbub as of a country fair, with which the
“cultured” man and the man about town allow themselves to be forced
through art, literature, music, and with the help of intoxicating liquor,
to “intellectual enjoyments.” How the stage-cry of passion now stings our
ears; how strange to our taste the whole romantic riot and sensuous
bustle, which the cultured mob are so fond of, together with its
aspirations to the sublime, to the exalted and the distorted, have become.
No: if we convalescents require an art at all, it is _another_ art—-a
mocking, nimble, volatile, divinely undisturbed, divinely artificial art,
which blazes up like pure flame into a cloudless sky! But above all, an
art for artists, _only for artists_! We are, after all, more conversant
with that which is in the highest degree necessary—cheerfulness, _every
kind_ of cheerfulness, my friends!… We men of knowledge, now know
something only too well: oh how well we have learnt by this time, to
forget, _not_ to know, as artists!… As to our future: we shall scarcely be
found on the track of those Egyptian youths who break into temples at
night, who embrace statues, and would fain unveil, strip, and set in broad
daylight, everything which there are excellent reasons to keep
concealed.(15) No, we are disgusted with this bad taste, this will to
truth, this search after truth “at all costs;” this madness of
adolescence, “the love of truth;” we are now too experienced, too serious,
too joyful, too scorched, _too profound_ for that.… We no longer believe
that truth remains truth when it is _unveiled_,—we have lived enough to
understand this.… To-day it seems to us good form not to strip everything
naked, not to be present at all things, not to desire to “know” all.
“_Tout comprendre c’est tout mépriser._”… “Is it true,” a little girl once
asked her mother, “that the beloved Father is everywhere?—I think it quite
improper,”—a hint to philosophers.… The shame with which Nature has
concealed herself behind riddles and enigmas should be held in higher
esteem. Perhaps truth is a woman who has reasons for _not revealing her
reasons?_… Perhaps her name, to use a Greek word is _Baubo_?—Oh these
Greeks, they understood the art of _living!_ For this it is needful to
halt bravely at the surface, at the fold, at the skin, to worship
appearance, and to believe in forms, tones, words, and the whole _Olympus
of appearance_! These Greeks were superficial—from _profundity_.… And are
we not returning to precisely the same thing, we dare-devils of intellect
who have scaled the highest and most dangerous pinnacles of present
thought, in order to look around us from that height, in order to _look
down_ from that height? Are we not precisely in this respect—_Greeks_?
Worshippers of form, of tones, of words? Precisely on that


(_Summer 1878._)


My blunder was this, I travelled to Bayreuth with an ideal in my breast,
and was thus doomed to experience the bitterest disappointment. The
preponderance of ugliness, grotesqueness and strong pepper thoroughly
repelled me.


I utterly disagree with those who were dissatisfied with the decorations,
the scenery and the mechanical contrivances at Bayreuth. Far too much
industry and ingenuity was applied to the task of chaining the imagination
to matters which did not belie their _epic_ origin. But as to the
naturalism of the attitudes, of the singing, compared with the orchestra!!
What affected, artificial and depraved tones, what a distortion of nature,
were we made to hear!


We are witnessing the death agony of the _last Art_: Bayreuth has
convinced me of this.


My picture of Wagner, completely surpassed him; I had depicted an _ideal
monster_—one, however, which is perhaps quite capable of kindling the
enthusiasm of artists. The real Wagner, Bayreuth as it actually is, was
only like a bad, final proof, pulled on inferior paper from the engraving
which was my creation. My longing to see real men and their motives,
received an extraordinary impetus from this humiliating experience.


This, to my sorrow, is what I realised; a good deal even struck me with
sudden fear. At last I felt, however, that if only I could be strong
enough to take sides against myself and what I most loved I would find the
road to truth and get solace and encouragement from it—and in this way I
became filled with a sensation of joy far greater than that upon which I
was now voluntarily turning my back.


I was in love with art, passionately in love, and in the whole of
existence saw nothing else than art—and this at an age when, reasonably
enough, quite different passions usually possess the soul.


_Goethe_ said: “The yearning spirit within me, which in earlier years I
may perhaps have fostered too earnestly, and which as I grew older I tried
my utmost to combat, did not seem becoming in the man, and I therefore had
to strive to attain to more complete freedom.” Conclusion?—I have had to
do the same.


He who wakes us always wounds us.


I do not possess the talent of being loyal, and what is still worse, I
have not even the vanity to try to appear as if I did.


He who accomplishes anything that lies beyond the vision and the
experience of his acquaintances,—provokes envy and hatred masked as
pity,—prejudice regards the work as decadence, disease, seduction. Long


I frankly confess that I had hoped that by means of art the Germans would
become thoroughly disgusted with _decaying Christianity_—I regarded German
mythology as a solvent, as a means of accustoming people to polytheism.

What a fright I had over the Catholic revival!!


It is possible neither to suffer sufficiently acutely from life, nor to be
so lifeless and emotionally weak, as to have _need_ of Wagner’s art, as to
require it as a medium. This is the principal reason of one’s _opposition_
to it, and not baser motives; something to which we are not driven by any
personal need, and which we do not _require_, we cannot esteem so highly.


It is a question either of no longer _requiring_ Wagner’s art, or of still
requiring it.

Gigantic forces lie concealed in it: _it drives one beyond its own


_Goethe_ said: “Are not Byron’s audacity, sprightliness and grandeur all
creative? We must beware of always looking for this quality in that which
is perfectly pure and moral. All _greatness_ is creative the moment we
realise it.” This should be applied to Wagner’s art.


We shall always have to credit Wagner with the fact that in the second
half of the nineteenth century he impressed art upon our memory as an
important and magnificent thing. True, he did this in his own fashion, and
this was not the fashion of upright and far-seeing men.


Wagner _versus_ the cautious, the cold and the contented of the world—in
this lies his greatness—he is a stranger to his age—he combats the
frivolous and the super-smart—But he also fights the just, the moderate,
those who delight in the world (like Goethe), and the mild, the people of
charm, the scientific among men—this is the reverse of the medal.


Our youth was up in arms against the _soberness_ of the age. It plunged
into the cult of excess, of passion, of ecstasy, and of the blackest and
most austere conception of the world.


Wagner pursues one form of madness, the age another form. Both carry on
their chase at the same speed, each is as blind and as unjust as the


It is very difficult to trace the course of Wagner’s inner development—no
trust must be placed in his own description of his soul’s experiences. He
writes party-pamphlets for his followers.


It is extremely doubtful whether Wagner is able to bear witness about


There are men who try in vain to make a principle out of _themselves_.
This was the case with Wagner.


Wagner’s obscurity concerning final aims; his non-antique fogginess.


All Wagner’s ideas straightway become manias; he is _tyrannised_ over by
them. How can _such a man allow himself to be tyrannised over in this __
way_! For instance by his hatred of Jews. He _kills_ his themes like his
“ideas,” by means of his violent love of repeating them. The problem of
excessive length and breadth; he bores us with his raptures.


“_C’est la rage de voulour penser et sentir au delà de sa force_”
(Doudan). The Wagnerites.


Wagner whose ambition far exceeds his natural gifts, has tried an
incalculable number of times to achieve what lay beyond his powers—but it
almost makes one shudder to see some one assail with such persistence that
which defies conquest—the fate of his constitution.


He is always thinking of the most _extreme_ expression,—in every word. But
in the end superlatives begin to pall.


There is something which is in the highest degree suspicious in Wagner,
and that is Wagner’s suspicion. It is such a strong trait in him, that on
two occasions I doubted whether he were a musician at all.


The proposition: “in the face of perfection there is no salvation save
love,”(16) is thoroughly Wagnerian. Profound jealousy of everything great
from which he can draw _fresh_ ideas. Hatred of all that which he cannot
approach, the Renaissance, French and Greek art in style.


Wagner is jealous of all periods that have shown _restraint_: he despises
beauty and grace, and finds only his own _virtues_ in the “Germans,” and
even attributes all his failings to them.


Wagner has not the power to unlock and liberate the soul of those he
frequents. Wagner is not sure of himself, but distrustful and arrogant.
His _art_ has this effect upon artists, it is envious of all rivals.


_Plato’s Envy._ He would fain monopolise Socrates. He saturates the latter
with himself, pretends to adorn him (καλὸς Σωκράτης), and tries to
separate all Socratists from him in order himself to appear as the only
true apostle. But his historical presentation of him is false, even to a
parlous degree: just as Wagner’s presentation of Beethoven and Shakespeare
is false.


When a dramatist speaks about himself he plays a part: this is inevitable.
When Wagner speaks about Bach and Beethoven he speaks like one for whom he
would fain be taken. But he impresses only those who are already
convinced, for his dissimulation and his genuine nature are far too
violently at variance.


Wagner struggles against the “frivolity” in his nature, which to him the
ignoble (as opposed to Goethe) constituted the joy of life.


Wagner has the mind of the ordinary man who prefers to trace things to
_one_ cause. The Jews do the same: one _aim_, therefore one Saviour. In
this way he simplifies German and culture; wrongly but strongly.


Wagner admitted all this to himself often enough when in private communion
with his soul. I only wish he had also admitted it publicly. For what
constitutes the greatness of a character if it is not this, that he who
possesses it is able to take sides even against himself in favour of

_Wagner’s Teutonism._


That which is un-German in Wagner. He lacks the German charm and grace of
a Beethoven, a Mozart, a Weber; he also lacks the flowing, cheerful fire
(_Allegro con brio_) of Beethoven and Weber. He cannot be free and easy
without being grotesque. He lacks modesty, indulges in big drums, and
always tends to surcharge his effect. He is not the good official that
Bach was. Neither has he that Goethean calm in regard to his rivals.


Wagner always reaches the high-water mark of his vanity when he speaks of
the German nature (incidentally it is also the height of his imprudence);
for, if Frederick the Great’s justice, Goethe’s nobility and freedom from
envy, Beethoven’s sublime resignation, Bach’s delicately transfigured
spiritual life,—if steady work performed without any thought of glory and
success, and without envy, constitute the true _German_ qualities, would
it not seem as if Wagner almost wished to prove he is no German?


Terrible wildness, abject sorrow, emptiness, the shudder of joy,
unexpectedness,—in short all the qualities peculiar to the Semitic race! I
believe that the Jews approach Wagner’s art with more understanding than
the Aryans do.


A passage concerning the Jews, taken from Taine.—As it happens, I have
misled the reader, the passage does not concern Wagner at all.—But can it
be possible that Wagner is a Jew? In that case we could readily understand
his dislike of Jews.(17)


Wagner’s art is absolutely the _art of the age_: an æsthetic age would
have rejected it. The more subtle people amongst us actually do reject it
even now. The _coarsifying_ of everything æsthetic.—Compared with Goethe’s
ideal it is very far behind. The moral contrast of these self-indulgent
burningly loyal creatures of Wagner, acts like a _spur_, like an irritant
and even this sensation is turned to account in obtaining an _effect_.


What is it in our age that Wagner’s art expresses? That brutality and most
delicate weakness which exist side by side, that running wild of natural
instincts, and nervous hyper-sensitiveness, that thirst for emotion which
arises from fatigue and the love of fatigue.—All this is understood by the


_Stupefaction or intoxication_ constitute all Wagnerian art. On the other
hand I could mention instances in which Wagner stands _higher_, in which
real joy flows from him.


The reason why the figures in Wagner’s art behave so madly, is because he
greatly feared lest people would doubt that they were alive.


Wagner’s art is an appeal to inartistic people; all means are welcomed
which help towards obtaining an effect. It is calculated not to produce an
_artistic effect_ but an effect upon the _nerves in general_.


Apparently in Wagner we have an art _for everybody_, because coarse and
subtle means seem to be united in it. Albeit its pre-requisite may be
musico-æsthetic education, and _particularly_ with _moral_ indifference.


In Wagner we find the most ambitious _combination_ of all means with the
view of obtaining the strongest effect whereas genuine musicians quietly
develop individual _genres_.


Dramatists are _borrowers_—their principal source of wealth—artistic
thoughts drawn from the epos. Wagner borrowed from classical music
besides. Dramatists are constructive geniuses, they are not inventive and
original as the epic poets are. Drama takes a lower rank than the epos: it
presupposes a coarser and more democratic public.


Wagner does not altogether trust _music_. He weaves kindred sensations
into it in order to lend it the character of greatness. He measures
himself on others; he first of all gives his listeners intoxicating drinks
in order to lead them into believing that it _was the music that
intoxicated them_.


The same amount of talent and industry which makes the classic, when it
appears some time _too late_, also makes the baroque artist like Wagner.


Wagner’s art is calculated to appeal to short-sighted people—one has to
get much too close up to it (Miniature): it also appeals to long-sighted
people, but not to those with normal sight.

_Contradictions in the Idea of Musical Drama._


Just listen to the second act of the “Götterdämmerung,” without the drama.
It is chaotic music, as wild as a bad dream, and it is as frightfully
distinct as if it desired to make itself clear even to deaf people. This
volubility _with nothing to say_ is alarming. Compared with it the drama
is a genuine relief.—Is the fact that this music when heard alone, is, as
a whole intolerable (apart from a few intentionally isolated parts) in its
_favour_? Suffice it to say that this music without its accompanying
drama, is a perpetual contradiction of all the highest laws of style
belonging to older music: he who thoroughly accustoms himself to it, loses
all feeling for these laws. But has the drama _been improved_ thanks to
this addition? A _symbolic interpretation_ has been affixed to it, a sort
of philological commentary, which sets fetters upon the inner and free
understanding of the imagination—it is tyrannical. Music is the language
of the commentator, who talks the whole of the time and gives us no
breathing space. Moreover his is a difficult language which also requires
to be explained. He who step by step has mastered, first the libretto
(language!), then converted it into action in his mind’s eye, then sought
out and understood, and became familiar with the musical symbolism
thereto: aye, and has fallen in love with all three things: such a man
then experiences a great joy. But how _exacting_! It is quite impossible
to do this save for a few short moments,—such tenfold attention on the
part of one’s eyes, ears, understanding, and feeling, such acute activity
in apprehending without any productive reaction, is far too
exhausting!—Only the very fewest behave in this way: how is it then that
so many are affected? Because most people are only intermittingly
attentive, and are inattentive for sometimes whole passages at a stretch;
because they bestow their undivided attention now upon the music, later
upon the drama, and anon upon the scenery—that is to say they _take the
work to pieces_.—But in this way the kind of work we are discussing is
condemned: not the drama but a moment of it is the result, an arbitrary
selection. The creator of a new _genre_ should consider this! The arts
should not always be dished up together,—but we should imitate the
moderation of the ancients which is truer to human nature.


Wagner reminds one of lava which blocks its own course by congealing, and
suddenly finds itself checked by dams which it has itself built. There is
no _Allegro con fuoco_ for him.


I compare Wagner’s music, which would fain have the same effect as speech,
with that kind of sculptural relief which would have the same effect as
painting. The highest laws of style are violated, and that which is most
sublime can no longer be achieved.


The general heaving, undulating and rolling of Wagner’s art.


In regard to Wagner’s rejection of form, we are reminded of Goethe’s
remark in conversation with Eckermann: “there is no great art in being
brilliant if one respects nothing.”


Once one theme is over, Wagner is always embarrassed as to how to
continue. Hence the long preparation, the suspense. His peculiar
craftiness consisted in transvaluing his weakness into virtues.—


The _lack_ of melody and the poverty of melody in Wagner. Melody is a
whole consisting of many beautiful proportions, it is the reflection of a
well-ordered soul. He strives after melody; but if he finds one, he almost
suffocates it in his embrace.


The natural nobility of a Bach and a Beethoven, the beautiful soul (even
of a Mendelssohn) are wanting in Wagner. He is one degree lower.


Wagner imitates himself again and again—mannerisms. That is why he was the
quickest among musicians to be imitated. It is so easy.


Mendelssohn who lacked the power of radically staggering one (incidentally
this was the talent of the Jews in the Old Testament), makes up for this
by the things which were his own, that is to say: freedom within the law,
and noble emotions kept within the limits of beauty.


_Liszt_, the first _representative_ of all musicians, but _no musician_.
He was the prince, not the statesman. The conglomerate of a hundred
musicians’ souls, but not enough of a personality to cast his own shadow
upon them.


The most wholesome phenomenon is _Brahms_, in whose music there is more
German blood than in that of Wagner’s. With these words I would say
something complimentary, but by no means wholly so.


In Wagner’s writings there is no greatness or peace, but presumption. Why?


_Wagner’s Style._—The habit he acquired, from his earliest days, of having
his say in the most important matters without a sufficient knowledge of
them, has rendered him the obscure and incomprehensible writer that he is.
In addition to this he aspired to imitating the witty newspaper article,
and finally acquired that presumption which readily joins hands with
carelessness “and, behold, it was very good.”


I am alarmed at the thought of how much pleasure I could find in Wagner’s
style, which is so careless as to be unworthy of such an artist.


In Wagner, as in Brahms, there is a blind denial of the healthy, in his
followers this denial is deliberate and conscious.


Wagner’s art is for those who are conscious of an essential blunder in the
conduct of their lives. They feel either that they have checked a great
nature by a base occupation, or squandered it through idle pursuits, a
conventional marriage, &c. &c.

In this quarter the condemnation of the world is the outcome of the
condemnation of the ego.


Wagnerites do not wish to alter themselves in any way, they live
discontentedly in insipid, conventional and brutal circumstances—only at
intervals does art have to raise them as by magic above these things.
Weakness of will.


Wagner’s art is for scholars who do not dare to become philosophers: they
feel discontented with themselves and are generally in a state of obtuse
stupefaction—from time to time they take a bath in the _opposite


I feel as if I had recovered from an illness: with a feeling of
unutterable joy I think of Mozart’s _Requiem_. I can once more enjoy
simple fare.


I understand Sophocles’ development through and through—it was the
repugnance to pomp and pageantry.


I gained an insight into the injustice of _idealism_, by noticing that I
avenged myself on Wagner for the disappointed hopes I had cherished of


I leave my loftiest duty to the end, and that is to thank Wagner and
Schopenhauer publicly, and to make them as it were take sides against


I counsel everybody not to fight shy of such paths (Wagner and
Schopenhauer). The wholly _unphilosophic_ feeling of remorse, has become
quite strange to me.

_Wagner’s Effects._


We must strive to oppose the false after-effects of Wagner’s art. If he,
in order to create Parsifal, is forced to pump fresh strength from
religious sources, this is not an example but a danger.


I entertain the fear that the effects of Wagner’s art will ultimately pour
into that torrent which takes its rise on the other side of the mountains,
and which knows how to flow even over mountains.(18)


    1 It should be noted that the first and second editions of these
      essays on Wagner appeared in pamphlet form, for which the above
      first preface was written.

    2 Fisher Unwin, 1911.

    3 T. N. Foulis, 1910.

    4 See _Richard Wagner_, by Houston Stuart Chamberlain (translated by
      G. A. Hight), pp. 15, 16.

    5 Constable & Co., 1911.

    6 See Author’s Preface to “The Case of Wagner” in this volume.

    7 Senta is the heroine in the “Flying Dutchman”—_Tr._

    8 A character in “Tannhauser.”—_Tr_.

    9 See “The Will to Power,” vol. ii., authorised English edition.—_Tr._

_   10 Note._—It was a real disaster for æsthetics when the word drama got
      to be translated by “action.” Wagner is not the only culprit here,
      the whole world does the same,—even the philologists who ought to
      know better. What ancient drama had in view was _grand pathetic
      scenes_,—it even excluded action (or placed it _before_ the piece or
      _behind_ the scenes). The word drama is of Doric origin, and
      according to the usage of the Dorian language it meant “event,”
      “history,”—both words in a hieratic sense. The oldest drama
      represented local legends, “sacred history,” upon which the
      foundation of the cult rested (—thus it was not “action,” but
      fatality. δρᾶν in Doric has nothing to do with action).

   11 Hegel and his school wrote notoriously obscure German.—_Tr._

   12 Was Wagner a German at all? There are reasons enough for putting
      this question. It is difficult to find a single German trait in his
      character. Great learner that he was, he naturally imitated a great
      deal that was German—but that is all. His very soul contradicts
      everything which hitherto has been regarded as German, not to
      mention German musicians!—His father was an actor of the name of
      Geyer.… That which has been popularised hitherto as “Wagner’s life”
      is _fable convenue_ if not something worse. I confess my doubts on
      any point which is vouched for by Wagner alone. He was not proud
      enough to be able to suffer the truth about himself. Nobody had less
      pride than he. Like Victor Hugo he remained true to himself even in
      his biography,—he remained an actor.

   13 This undoubtedly refers to Nietzsche’s only disciple and friend,
      Peter Gast—_Tr._

   14 My “Genealogy of Morals” contains the best exposition of the
      antithesis “_noble morality_” and “_Christian morality_”; a more
      decisive turning point in the history of religious and moral science
      does not perhaps exist. This book, which is a touchstone by which I
      can discover who are my peers, rejoices in being accessible only to
      the most elevated and most severe minds: the others have not the
      ears to hear me. One must have one’s passion in things, _wherein_ no
      one has passion nowadays.

   15 An allusion to Schiller’s poem: “Das verschleierte Bild zu

   16 What Schiller said of Goethe.—_Tr._

   17 See note on page 37.

   18 It should be noted that the German Catholic party is called the
      Ultramontane Party. The river which can thus flow over mountains is
      Catholicism, towards which Nietzsche thought Wagner’s art to be

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