Friday, 8 July 2011

Saaleck Castle (Friedrich Nietzsche)

Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) is one of the most maligned philosophers of all time. Few who have but heard his name realise that he was staunchly opposed to the anti-Semitism of his time in Germany, even falling out with both his publisher and sister because of it, but both survived him and misappropriated his work. His final act before descending into madness was to come to the rescue of a horse who was being beaten by its owner. It may be that the Nietzschean ideal of the superman is also a man of great compassion, harnessing this to creative ends, but it would require a very careful reading to cut through the irony and know for sure what he meant, if he meant anything at all. His purpose was rather to make one think, and in this regard many of the great philosophers of the 20th century cite him as an inspiration. It is said that his writing in German is akin to poetry, and it turns out he was a poet also. A complete literal translation of all his poems was released only in 2010 called "The Peacock & The Buffalo".  I would like to share here my verse translations of some snippets of his work and of his poem "Saaleck Castle". These were all mostly written in his younger years.


Standing naked on a hill,
Night’s dark garment draws about.
From this great height, behold still
Blooming meadows stretching out.
There an eagle floats down – look!
With such youthful zest to throw
Itself into the golden brook
Rising in eternal glow.

Old Coin

I am like an old coin, turned green with moss.
Once it sparkled like a jewel, now its face
Doubt-furrowed, deep and hard, there creeps across
Life’s grey dirt, frozen, seeking its embrace.

The Ladder (an allusion to Plato's "Symposium")

I must climb up a mighty stair,
But every step I hear despair,
“How cruel you are, are we mere stones,
That you should climb over our bones?”

For Dancers

Smooth ice
Is paradise
For those with figures nice
Whose dancing skills suffice.

Saaleck Castle

Tranquil evening peace sways
Over mountain and dell.
The sun with its last rays,
Smiles down in sweet farewell.

The heights around glow red
Shimmering splendid glory
And knights rise from the dead
Hark! One feels their story.

The castle comes alive
With merry to and fro,
And the trees laugh and jive
With a joyous echo.

Within resound the songs
Of hunting, war and wine
Clear horns and booming gongs
And drumming as men dine.

The sun has sunk away
No more the merry ball,
Stillness and deathly grey
Embrace the anxious hall.

Saaleck lies so sad
Upon a barren knoll
When I see it, deep within,
I shudder in my soul.


  1. I am fond of much of Nietzsche but am reminded of his off-handedness when dealing with the subject of women.

    Woman's love involves injustice and blindness against everything that she does not love... Woman is not yet capable of friendship: women are still cats and birds. Or at best cows... (Thus Spoke Zarathustra - On the Friend)
    (Nietzsche says similar of love in general in Gay Science.)
    [E]verything about woman has one solution: pregnancy... Man should be educated for war, and woman for the recreation of the warrior; all else is folly... Let woman be a plaything... The happiness of man is: I will. The happiness of woman is: he wills... You are going to woman? Do not forget the whip! (Thus Spoke Zarathustra - On Little Old and Young Women)
    Finally: woman! One-half of mankind is weak, typically sick, changeable, inconstant... she needs a religion of weakness that glorifies being weak, loving, and being humble as divine: or better, she makes the strong weak--she rules when she succeeds in overcoming the strong... Woman has always conspired with the types of decadence, the priests, against the "powerful", the "strong", the men-- (The Will to Power - 864)

  2. The first two quotes are the character, not himself. Maybe he was jilted and never got over it. Elsewhere, he also says woman is more beautiful, but man more interesting, and he's full of these ridiculous but amusing stereotypes. His dig though is very clearly not against woman per se, but against the irrational which he thought women of his time were still subject to...and perhaps in the future might not be. He quotes Socrates in Phaedo who does not want his dying to be disturbed by the laments of the women, so asks them to be taken away. It is not because they are women, but because they are not enlightened women. This is all from "Human all too Human", which is full of nonsense about women, but all prefaced by the following which highlights again his prejudice is sweeping but not absolute, "The perfect woman is a higher type of human being than the perfect man: also something much rarer." Talk about a back-handed compliment, lol.

  3. His great error was in not recognizing that the act of emancipation actually heals that which he saw as lacking in women of his time. In other words, his opinions were based on stereotypes which themselves were the result of women not being emancipated. He should have known better for sure.

  4. My Happiness

    Since I was tired of searching
    I learned to find.
    Since a wind resisted me,
    I sailed with all the winds.

  5. The final poem in the book...sounds a lot like what some call "shunyata" or emptiness. And curiosity it is said was Buddha's final key to enlightenment.

    The Brazen Silence

    Five ears - and no sound therein!
    The world became silent ...

    I listened with the ear of my Curiosity:
    five times I cast my fishing rod,
    five times I did not catch a fish. -
    I asked - no reply swam into my net ...

    I listened with the ear of my Love -

  6. I still read him. I have read many bright minds that were 90 percent right on and 10 percent 'off.' Don't throw the baby out with the wash water, is my motto. I can 'still appreciate' genius, it is a pattern of discouraging the female mind and polluting the male mind, to think of the female species as a hybrid pet.

  7.'s_views_on_women It's difficult enough to be balanced on something, but it seems you just quoted part of this wiki page which at least has some balance to it. The responses there are also somewhat different to my narrower perspective because I've only read a little. That Nietzsche is maligned in the public consciousness is obvious. But we need to look a bit deeper. Another thing which occurred to me is that the things which he disliked the most are also on another level things which he immensely admired: irrational side of women, Spinoza, Plato, ultimately Schopenhauer and of course Christianity which probably started the whole process off. His whole approach it seems is to kill any form of idolatory within him. And he's quite happy to use what amounts to a kind of sexist humour to do that, obviously to the chagrin of some female readers.

  8. I cannot fathom what it would be like, but I feel I could empathically emote my thinking itself, in a neutral zone, where pure thought knows no value of either male or female, but 'consciousness communicating.

    The male species is no less 'aberrant,' in it's constant need for acquisition and territorials rights.

    Speaking dispassionately.

    I understand that most people that I speak to each day will be limited to a range which I will adjust to, that which will help us 'get along.' We all of us 'fuzz in and out of consciousness. Much of 'how we are,' is coasting on the pretty much remote control vehicle, that we can 'daydream,' while we send it, 'to deal.'

  9. Haha. How did you like that one okei?

  10. Catherine/Wistfuleden posted a marvelous video recently about Nietzsche.... which was very illuminating.... Here it is:

    Here is the youtube link if the above doesn't work:

  11. A stupendous Video, thank you very much dear Nancy.

    I can relate.

  12. Has his "misunderstanding" of women something to do with the "betrayal" of his Sister Elizabeth ?

    When he was a Child, his Brother and Father died, and he was left with his Mother and Sister.

  13. It had EVERYTHING to do with it, IMO, Catherine....

    What stood out to me the most in the video, was his insight into "the Will to power," as fundamental to Being....even though his own ego was so emotionally disabled that he manifested insanity to regain his sister's attention.... fascinating....

  14. What 'caused his aberration,' doesn't really matter so much as identifying he had one, but he did not reach the conclusion 'of' his aberration, independently from one act alone, but from the fact that women in general have demoted themselves to the point where they cannot separate themselves from the empathic creature desiring to 'be desired,' beyond desiring good senses. Nor have they been as well educated in the philosophies as patches of history drew us into and then barred our way from.

    However, thus said, I can 'see my own thought process's IN Nietzsche's works, in how his mind processes.

    Now it might have matter 'for Nietzsche to find out what caused his viewpoint to be allowed to go into a stereotypical mode of judgement of the female sex. If I were in another 'sort of chat-room,' I might be doing the same, myself.

  15. To Rose... Well, there is an inherent paradox isn't there... if Nietzsche imagined truth as something personal, then why this urgent need to convey something merely his to his readers? And if what he wanted to convey was universal, then knowing that some of his few early readers were women, why the insulting machismo? Is he trying to undermine the female? I think on the contrary. He imagines Truth as female and wants to seduce her away from all the clumsy "dogmatists". But there's a fear there also: is it that she will become just a mirror image of man or that she will gain power over man because she is naturally a more creative force? I'm not sure...but understanding the female is pretty central to his whole philosophy as that link said. Either he does a terrible job of it, or he's terribly misunderstood. Of all philosophers, he seems one of the most unbalanced and prejudiced in his approach, ironic as he accuses other philosophers of hidden prejudice, and yet more than anyone he is aware of his own prejudices, and it is because of his deep knowledge and admiration, of for example Plato, that he makes it worthy of his stinging prejudice. In doing so, he draws his readers to investigate further into precisely those thinkers he seemingly dislikes most. In other words, you can't read him at face value, and he might be even more hidden than all the ones he criticizes. He admits to hide behind a mask, like Plato. He would accuse those who wish to unmask him as we have been doing here of slave morality. But if his motive is merely greatness, even collective greatness, there's nothing but a great emptiness behind that mask. Only total greatness, as in Buddha's all sentient beings, is the noble cause that would save us from the putrid air of Darwinian ethics. But can we really without hypocrisy will this. Perhaps only if we are like Christ or Buddha. It's an impossible responsibility! (I'd like to think he went mad trying...) Perhaps after all we need a touch of idealistic hypocrisy to keep us sane?

  16. Thanks Nancy for the fantastic video from our very own BBC. Enjoyed it a lot. Thanks also Catherine. Good to see things going interactive:) I think his sister was a very subversive character re-writing his work for her ends. His teacher Schopenhauer was influential also, but most of all his break up from Lou Salome and her other boyfriend when they abandoned him just prior to his Zarathustra. The latter the video said was like his psychotherapy.

  17. By the way ironic that he went mad because his 'god' or archetypal male was Dionysus, who is also the Greek god of madness. So he was ultimately possessed by the idol he forgot to kill.

  18. I don't condemn, I merely cite. As I said earlier, 'not to throw the baby out with the bathwater.' I truly mean it. There are many people who I do not agree with upon a number of issues, but I try to be respectful of what they say I 'can' agree with. The mere mention of a name, does not frighten me into hating everything they said.

    After all, I purely believe a lot of 'very bad things are being done,' under the banner of truth, that IS truth, but surrounded by, lies.

    If you have not seen it, I would recommend When Nietzsche Wept. I am not sure (I am sure of course they took many liberties as they always do) but it is still a provocative movie.

    And there is a larger picture, hmm? Like for instance an parents would have had a coronary over inter-marriage between ourselves with other races they deemed 'inappropriate.' Which 'seems' on the surface, a very prejudiced thing to espouse. However, I saw how they actually 'inter-related' with other races and there was absolutely nothing but friendliness and availability towards themselves.

    Sooooooo, they 'thought that they were prejudiced because of an 'inherited disposition,' upon themselves, not because they were actually hateful to, those not born of their color.

    A lot of times we repeat what we do not actually, believe in.

    Other times, we 'disallow' others to have a separate opinion than their own.

  19. There are many authors whom one takes some, leaves some, but Nietzsche is not one of those. It's all bathwater, so looking for the baby is looking with the wrong perspective. Just saying that from what I've read...and I haven't read Zarathustra or anything about the 'overman'. But it occurred to me that Nietzsche's overman within each individual corresponds to Buddha's primordially pure Buddha nature. Buddha and Nietzsche were both profound seekers of self-knowledge, rebelling against idols of society, and seemingly negative in their descriptions of truth, but to the extent overman and Buddha nature do not correspond, I would obviously hedge that Buddha nature is the more enlightening concept. But perhaps they are like two views, East and West, of the same, and thus each might help to balance the other. Just a any case, all thoughts trace back to that which is beyond the realm of philosophy.

  20. You merely cite. I merely speculate. ;-) We should get back to Plato.

  21. The Buddha nature took the knowledge that he himself was a festering example of all of the characteristics of aberration within his own self and separated himself from the illusion of them, freeing himself. I suppose 'Doctor heal thyself,' would come to mind.

    We may be 'quite moved' to 'reading something and nodding our heads,' to actually conceptualising it and living it.

  22. I do not think we are ever far from Plato.

  23. Yes and yes again! And to your second comment also! Lights...Action!

  24. A quarter of a cup of coffee downed, I've already 'partially' visited said blog. I'll save the 'treat' for later, as I have explained. Of course not having read said piece, you have extended my reading list past infinity now.

  25. What a great blog and comments. I forgave Nietzsche all his chauvinism, he was a man of his age, and who knows how the women were at that age anyway, I know many women today who would inspire chauvinism even from me and I'm a woman! Respect needs some quality to be respected, man or woman, there's too many apathetic, non-curious zombies out there, for a sensitive and genius soul like Nietzsche isolation and loneliness must have brought on some bitterness indeed. But what he wrote has such strong energy its almost magic, his "Thus spoke Zarathustra" made me literally invisible once, I was reading it in a rose garden, engulfed in his writing of non-being and the gardener walked past me so close I could touch him but didnt see me and locked me in. Great man, great power, and I do believe he was rather the kind of misunderstood madman in the end who had become enlightened in the end, just my feeling though. Great translations, you seem to know a lot of languages, respect.

  26. I did German for three years at school, but never went to Germany and forgot it all:( so I only really know French and a bit of Spanish because I go there often on holiday. So these are just translations into rhyme based on the literal translations in "The Peacock and the Buffalo" which I borrowed from the library. Thanks for sharing your lovely story!

  27. Woah !

    This analysis of Nietzsche, really deserves a Diamond.