Beyond Good and Evil HTML version

Chapter VIII. Peoples And Countries
240. I HEARD, once again for the first time, Richard Wagner's overture to the
Mastersinger: it is a piece of magnificent, gorgeous, heavy, latter-day art, which has the
pride to presuppose two centuries of music as still living, in order that it may be
understood:--it is an honour to Germans that such a pride did not miscalculate! What
flavours and forces, what seasons and climes do we not find mingled in it! It impresses us
at one time as ancient, at another time as foreign, bitter, and too modern, it is as arbitrary
as it is pompously traditional, it is not infrequently roguish, still oftener rough and coarse-
-it has fire and courage, and at the same time the loose, dun- coloured skin of fruits which
ripen too late. It flows broad and full: and suddenly there is a moment of inexplicable
hesitation, like a gap that opens between cause and effect, an oppression that makes us
dream, almost a nightmare; but already it broadens and widens anew, the old stream of
delight--the most manifold delight,--of old and new happiness; including ESPECIALLY
the joy of the artist in himself, which he refuses to conceal, his astonished, happy
cognizance of his mastery of the expedients here employed, the new, newly acquired,
imperfectly tested expedients of art which he apparently betrays to us. All in all,
however, no beauty, no South, nothing of the delicate southern clearness of the sky,
nothing of grace, no dance, hardly a will to logic; a certain clumsiness even, which is also
emphasized, as though the artist wished to say to us: "It is part of my intention"; a
cumbersome drapery, something arbitrarily barbaric and ceremonious, a flirring of
learned and venerable conceits and witticisms; something German in the best and worst
sense of the word, something in the German style, manifold, formless, and inexhaustible;
a certain German potency and super-plenitude of soul, which is not afraid to hide itself
under the RAFFINEMENTS of decadence--which, perhaps, feels itself most at ease
there; a real, genuine token of the German soul, which is at the same time young and
aged, too ripe and yet still too rich in futurity. This kind of music expresses best what I
think of the Germans: they belong to the day before yesterday and the day after
241. We "good Europeans," we also have hours when we allow ourselves a warm-hearted
patriotism, a plunge and relapse into old loves and narrow views--I have just given an
example of it-- hours of national excitement, of patriotic anguish, and all other sorts of
old-fashioned floods of sentiment. Duller spirits may perhaps only get done with what
confines its operations in us to hours and plays itself out in hours--in a considerable time:
some in half a year, others in half a lifetime, according to the speed and strength with
which they digest and "change their material." Indeed, I could think of sluggish,
hesitating races, which even in our rapidly moving Europe, would require half a century
ere they could surmount such atavistic attacks of patriotism and soil-attachment, and
return once more to reason, that is to say, to "good Europeanism." And while digressing
on this possibility, I happen to become an ear-witness of a conversation between two old
patriots--they were evidently both hard of hearing and consequently spoke all the louder.
"HE has as much, and knows as much, philosophy as a peasant or a corps-student," said
the one-- "he is still innocent. But what does that matter nowadays! It is the age of the
masses: they lie on their belly before everything that is massive. And so also in politicis.