Based on the translation by Thomas Common, Boni and Liveright Publishers, New York. 1921. Original published 1885.
When Zarathustra was thirty years old, he left his home and the lake of his home, and went into the mountains. There he enjoyed his spirit and his solitude, and for ten years did not weary of it. But at last his heart changed, – and rising one morning with the rosy dawn, he went before the sun, and spoke thus to it:
You great star! What would be your happiness if you had not those for whom you shine!
For ten years have you climbed here to my cave: you would have wearied of your light and of the journey, had it not been for me, mine eagle, and my serpent.
But we awaited you every morning, took from you your overflow, and blessed you for it.
Lo! I am weary of my wisdom, like the bee that has gathered too much honey; I need hands outstretched to take it.
I would gladly bestow and distribute, until the wise have once more become joyous in their folly, and the poor happy in their riches.
Therefore must I descend into the deep: as you do in the evening, when you go behind the sea, and give light also to the nether-world, you exuberant star!
Like you must I go down, as people say, to whom I shall descend.
Bless me, then, you tranquil eye, that can behold even the greatest happiness without envy!
Bless the cup that is about to overflow, that the water may flow golden out of it, and carry everywhere the reflection of your bliss!
Lo! This cup is again going to empty itself, and Zarathustra is again going to be a person.
Thus began Zarathustra's down-going.
Zarathustra went down the mountain alone, no one meeting him. When he entered the forest, however, there suddenly stood before him an old man, who had left his holy cot to seek roots. And thus spoke the old man to Zarathustra:
"No stranger to me is this wanderer: many years ago passed him by. Zarathustra he was called; but he has altered.
Then you carried your ashes into the mountains: will you now carry your fire into the valleys? Fear you not the incendiary's doom?
Yes, I recognise Zarathustra. Pure is his eye, and no loathing lurks about his mouth. Goes he not along like a dancer?
Altered is Zarathustra; a child has Zarathustra become; an awakened one is Zarathustra: what will you do in the land of the sleepers?
As in the sea have you lived in solitude, and it has carried you up. Alas, will you now go ashore? Alas, will you again drag your body yourself?"
Zarathustra answered: "I love mankind."
"Why," said the saint, "did I go into the forest and the desert? Was it not because I loved people far too well?
Now I love God: people, I do not love. Humanity is a thing too imperfect for me. Love to humanity would be fatal to me."
Zarathustra answered: "What spoke I of love! I am bringing gifts to people."
"Give them nothing," said the saint. "Take rather part of their load, and carry it along with them – that will be most agreeable to them: if only it be agreeable to you!
If, however, you will give to them, give them no more than alms, and let them also beg for it!"
"No," replied Zarathustra, "I give no alms. I am not poor enough for that."
The saint laughed at Zarathustra, and spoke thus: "Then see to it that they accept your treasures! They are distrustful of anchorites, and do not believe that we come with gifts.
The fall of our footsteps rings too hollow through their streets. And just as at night, when they are in bed and hear a person abroad long before sunrise, so they ask themselves concerning us: Where goes the thief?
Go not to people, but stay in the forest! Go rather to the animals! Why not be like me – a bear amongst bears, a bird amongst birds?"
"And what does the saint in the forest?" asked Zarathustra.
The saint answered: "I make hymns and sing them; and in making hymns I laugh and weep and mumble: thus do I praise God.
With singing, weeping, laughing, and mumbling do I praise the God who is my God. But what do you bring us as a gift?"
When Zarathustra had heard these words, he bowed to the saint and said: "What should I have to give you! Let me rather hurry hence lest I take aught away from you!" – And thus they parted from one another, the old man and Zarathustra, laughing like schoolboys.
When Zarathustra was alone, however, he said to his heart: "Could it be possible! This old saint in the forest has not yet heard of it, that God is dead!"
When Zarathustra arrived at the nearest town which adjoined the forest, he found many people assembled in the market-place; for it had been announced that a rope-dancer would give a performance. And Zarathustra spoke thus to the people:
I teach you the overman. Humanity is something that is to be surpassed. What have you done to surpass humanity?
All beings hereto have created something beyond themselves: and you want to be the ebb of that great tide, and would rather go back to the beast than surpass humanity?
What is the ape to humanity? A laughing-stock, a thing of shame. And just the same shall humanity be to the overman: a laughing-stock, a thing of shame.
You have made your way from the worm to humanity, and much within you is still worm. Once were you apes, and even yet humanity is more of an ape than any of the apes.
Even the wisest among you is only a disharmony and hybrid of plant and phantom. But do I bid you become phantoms or plants?
Lo, I teach you the overman!
The overman is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: The overman shall be the meaning of the earth!
I conjure you, my brethren, remain true to the earth, and believe not those who speak to you of superearthly hopes! Poisoners are they, whether they know it or not.
Despisers of life are they, decaying ones and poisoned ones themselves, of whom the earth is weary: so away with them!
Once blasphemy against God was the greatest blasphemy; but God died, and therewith also those blasphemers. To blaspheme the earth is now the most dreadful sin, and to rate the heart of the unknowable higher than the meaning of the earth!
Once the soul looked contemptuously on the body, and then that contempt was the supreme thing: – the soul wished the body meagre, ghastly, and famished. Thus it thought to escape from the body and the earth.
Oh, that soul was itself meagre, ghastly, and famished; and cruelty was the delight of that soul!
But you, also, my brethren, tell me: What does your body say about your soul? Is your soul not poverty and pollution and wretched self-complacency?
Verily, a polluted stream is humanity. One must be a sea, to receive a polluted stream without becoming impure.
Lo, I teach you the overman: he is that sea; in him can your great contempt be submerged.
What is the greatest thing you can experience? It is the hour of great contempt. The hour in which even your happiness becomes loathsome to you, and so also your reason and virtue.
The hour when you say: "What good is my happiness? It is poverty and pollution and wretched self-complacency. But my happiness should justify existence itself!"
The hour when you say: "What good is my reason? Doth it long for knowledge as the lion for his food? It is poverty and pollution and wretched self-complacency!"
The hour when you say: "What good is my virtue? As yet it has not made me passionate. How weary I am of my good and my bad! It is all poverty and pollution and wretched self-complacency!"
The hour when you say: "What good is my justice? I do not see that I am fervour and fuel. The just, however, are fervour and fuel!"
The hour when you say: "What good is my pity! Is not pity the cross on which he is nailed who loves humanity? But my pity is not a crucifixion."
Have you ever spoken thus? Have you ever cried thus? Ah! would that I had heard you crying thus!
It is not your sin – it is your self-satisfaction that cries to heaven; your very sparingness in sin cries to heaven!
Where is the lightning to lick you with its tongue? Where is the frenzy with which you should be inoculated?
Lo, I teach you the overman: he is that lightning, he is that frenzy! –
When Zarathustra had thus spoken, one of the people called out: "We have now heard enough of the rope-dancer; it is time now for us to see him!" And all the people laughed at Zarathustra. But the rope-dancer, who thought the words applied to him, began his performance.
Zarathustra, however, looked at the people and wondered. Then he spoke thus:
Humanity is a rope stretched between the animal and the overman – a rope over an abyss.
A dangerous crossing, a dangerous wayfaring, a dangerous looking-back, a dangerous trembling and halting.
What is great in humanity is that it is a bridge and not a goal: what is lovable in humanity is that it is an over-going and a down-going.
I love those that know not how to live except as down-goers, for they are the over-goers.
I love the great despisers, because they are the great adorers, and arrows of longing for the other shore.
I love those who do not first seek a reason beyond the stars for going down and being sacrifices, but sacrifice themselves to the earth that the earth of the overman may hereafter arrive.
I love him who lives in order to know, and seeks to know in order that the overman may hereafter live. Thus seeks he his own down-going.
I love him who labours and invents, that he may build the house for the overman, and prepare for him earth, animal, and plant: for thus seeks he his own down-going.
I love him who loves his virtue: for virtue is the will to down-going, and an arrow of longing.
I love him who reserves no share of spirit for himself, but wants to be wholly the spirit of his virtue: thus walks he as spirit over the bridge.
I love him who makes his virtue his inclination and destiny: thus, for the sake of his virtue, he is willing to live on, or live no more.
I love him who desires not too many virtues. One virtue is more of a virtue than two, because it is more of a knot for one's destiny to cling to.
I love him whose soul is lavish, who wants no thanks and does not give back: for he always bestows, and desires not to keep for himself.
I love him who is ashamed when the dice fall in his favour and who then asks: "Am I a dishonest player?" For he is willing to succumb.
I love him who scatters golden words in advance of his deeds, and always does more than he promises: for he seeks his own down-going.
I love him who justifies the future ones, and redeems the past ones: for he is willing to succumb through the present ones.
I love him who chastens his God, because he loves his God: for he must succumb through the wrath of his God.
I love him whose soul is deep even in the wounding, and may succumb through a small matter: thus goes he willingly over the bridge.
I love him whose soul is so overfull that he forgets himself, and all things are in him: thus all things become his down-going.
I love him who is of a free spirit and a free heart: thus is his head only the bowels of his heart; his heart, however, causes his down-going.
I love all who are like heavy drops falling one by one out of the dark cloud that lowers over humanity: they herald the coming of the lightning, and succumb as heralds.
Lo, I am a herald of the lightning, and a heavy drop out of the cloud: the lightning, however, is the overman.
When Zarathustra had spoken these words, he again looked at the people, and was silent. "There they stand," said he to his heart; "there they laugh: they understand me not; I am not the mouth for these ears.
Must one first batter their ears that they may learn to hear with their eyes? Must one clatter like kettledrums and penitential preachers? Or do they only believe the stammerer?
They have something whereof they are proud. What do they call it, that which makes them proud? Culture, they call it; it distinguishes them from the goatherds.
They dislike, therefore, to hear of 'contempt' of themselves. So I will appeal to their pride.
I will speak to them of the most contemptible thing: that, however, is THE LAST MAN!"
And thus spoke Zarathustra to the people:
It is time for humanity to fix its goal. It is time for humanity to plant the germ of its highest hope.
Still is his soil rich enough for it. But that soil will one day be poor and exhausted, and no lofty tree will any longer be able to grow thereon.
Alas! there comes the time when humanity will no longer launch the arrow of its longing beyond humanity – and the string of his bow will have unlearned to whizz!
I tell you: one must still have chaos in one, to give birth to a dancing star. I tell you: you have still chaos in you.
Alas! There comes the time when humanity will no longer give birth to any star. Alas! There comes the time of the most despicable human, who can no longer despise himself or herself.
Lo! I show you the last humanity.
"What is love? What is creation? What is longing? What is a star?" – so asks the last human and blinks.
The earth has then become small, and on it there hopes the last human who makes everything small. The human species is ineradicable like that of the ground-flea; the last human lives longest.
"We have discovered happiness" say the last people, and blink thereby.
They have left the regions where it is hard to live; for they need warmth. One still loves one's neighbour and rubs against him; for one needs warmth.
Turning ill and being distrustful, they consider sinful: they walk warily. He is a fool who still stumbles over stones or people!
A little poison now and then: that makes pleasant dreams. And much poison at last for a pleasant death.
One still works, for work is a pastime. But one is careful lest the pastime should hurt one.
One no longer becomes poor or rich; both are too burdensome. Who still wants to rule? Who still wants to obey? Both are too burdensome.
No shepherd, and one herd! Every one wants the same; every one is equal: he who has other sentiments goes voluntarily into the madhouse.
"Formerly all the world was insane," say the subtlest of them, and blink thereby.
They are clever and know all that has happened: so there is no end to their raillery. People still fall out, but are soon reconciled – otherwise it spoils their stomachs.
They have their little pleasures for the day, and their little pleasures for the night, but they have a regard for health.
"We have discovered happiness," – say the last people, and blink thereby. –
And here ended the first discourse of Zarathustra, which is also called "The Prologue" for at this point the shouting and mirth of the multitude interrupted him. "Give us this last human, O Zarathustra," – they called out – "make us into these last people! Then will we make you a present of the overman!" And all the people exulted and smacked their lips. Zarathustra, however, turned sad, and said to his heart:
"They understand me not: I am not the mouth for these ears.
Too long, perhaps, have I lived in the mountains; too much have I hearkened to the brooks and trees: now do I speak to them as to the goatherds.
Calm is my soul, and clear, like the mountains in the morning. But they think me cold, and a mocker with terrible jests.
And now do they look at me and laugh: and while they laugh they hate me too. There is ice in their laughter."
Then, however, something happened which made every mouth mute and every eye fixed. In the meantime, of course, the rope-dancer had commenced his performance: he had come out at a little door, and was going along the rope which was stretched between two towers, so that it hung above the market-place and the people. When he was just midway across, the little door opened once more, and a gaudily-dressed fellow like a buffoon sprang out, and went rapidly after the first one. "Go on, halt-foot," cried his frightful voice, "go on, lazy-bones, interloper, sallow-face! Lest I tickle you with my heel! What do you here between the towers? In the tower is the place for you, you should be locked up; to one better than yourself you block the way!" And with every word he came nearer and nearer the first one. When, however, he was but a step behind, there happened the frightful thing which made every mouth mute and every eye fixed – he uttered a yell like a devil, and jumped over the other who was in his way. The latter, however, when he thus saw his rival triumph, lost at the same time his head and his footing on the rope; he threw his pole away, and shot downwards faster than it, like an eddy of arms and legs, into the depth. The market-place and the people were like the sea when the storm comes on: they all flew apart and in disorder, especially where the body was about to fall.
Zarathustra, however, remained standing, and just beside him fell the body, badly injured and disfigured, but not yet dead. After a while consciousness returned to the shattered man, and he saw Zarathustra kneeling beside him. "What art you doing there?" said he at last, "I knew long ago that the devil would trip me up. Now he drags me to hell: will you prevent him?"
"On mine honour, my friend," answered Zarathustra, "there is nothing of all that whereof you speak: there is no devil and no hell. Your soul will be dead even sooner than your body: fear, therefore, nothing any more!"
The man looked up distrustfully. "If you speak the truth," said he, "I lose nothing when I lose my life. I am not much more than an animal which has been taught to dance by blows and scanty fare."
"Not at all," said Zarathustra, "you have made danger your calling; therein there is nothing contemptible. Now you perish by your calling: therefore will I bury you with mine own hands."
When Zarathustra had said this, the dying one did not reply further; but he moved his hand as if he sought the hand of Zarathustra in gratitude.
Meanwhile the evening came on, and the market-place veiled itself in gloom. Then the people dispersed, for even curiosity and terror become fatigued. Zarathustra, however, still sat beside the dead man on the ground, absorbed in thought: so he forgot the time. But at last it became night, and a cold wind blew upon the lonely one. Then arose Zarathustra and said to his heart:
Verily, a fine catch of fish has Zarathustra made to-day! It is not a person he has caught, but a corpse.
Sombre is human life, and as yet without meaning: a buffoon may be fateful to it.
I want to teach people the sense of their existence, which is the overman, the lightning out of the dark cloud – humanity.
But still am I far from them and my sense speaks not to their sense. To people I am still something between a fool and a corpse.
Gloomy is the night, gloomy are the ways of Zarathustra. Come, you cold and stiff companion! I carry you to the place where I shall bury you with mine own hands.
When Zarathustra had said this to his heart, he put the corpse upon his shoulders and set out on his way. Yet had he not gone a hundred steps, when there stole a person up to him and whispered in his ear – and lo! He that spoke was the buffoon from the tower. "Leave this town, O Zarathustra," said he, "there are too many here who hate you. The good and just hate you, and call you their enemy and despiser; the believers in the orthodox belief hate you, and call you a danger to the multitude. It was your good fortune to be laughed at: and verily you spoke like a buffoon. It was your good fortune to associate with the dead dog; by so humiliating yourself you have saved your life to-day. Depart, however, from this town, – or tomorrow I shall jump over you, a living man over a dead one." And when he had said this, the buffoon vanished; Zarathustra, however, went on through the dark streets.
At the gate of the town the grave-diggers met him: they shone their torch on his face, and, recognising Zarathustra, they sorely derided him. "Zarathustra is carrying away the dead dog: a fine thing that Zarathustra has turned a grave-digger! For our hands are too cleanly for that roast. Will Zarathustra steal the bite from the devil? Well then, good luck to the repast! If only the devil is not a better thief than Zarathustra! – he will steal them both, he will eat them both!" And they laughed among themselves, and put their heads together.
Zarathustra made no answer thereto, but went on his way. When he had gone on for two hours, past forests and swamps, he had heard too much of the hungry howling of the wolves, and he himself became a-hungry. So he halted at a lonely house in which a light was burning.
"Hunger attacks me," said Zarathustra, "like a robber. Among forests and swamps my hunger attacks me, and late in the night.
"Strange humours has my hunger. Often it comes to me only after a repast, and all day it has failed to come: where has it been?"
And thereupon Zarathustra knocked at the door of the house. An old man appeared, who carried a light, and asked: "Who comes to me and my bad sleep?"
"A living man and a dead one," said Zarathustra. "Give me something to eat and drink, I forgot it during the day. He that feeds the hungry refreshes his own soul, said wisdom."
The old man withdrew, but came back immediately and offered Zarathustra bread and wine. "A bad country for the hungry," said he; "that is why I live here. Animal and humanity come to me, the anchorite. But bid your companion eat and drink also, he is wearier than you." Zarathustra answered: "My companion is dead; I shall hardly be able to persuade him to eat." "That does not concern me," said the old man sullenly; "he that knocks at my door must take what I offer him. Eat, and fare you well!"
Thereafter Zarathustra again went on for two hours, trusting to the path and the light of the stars: for he was an experienced night-walker, and liked to look into the face of all that slept. When the morning dawned, however, Zarathustra found himself in a thick forest, and no path was any longer visible. He then put the dead man in a hollow tree at his head – for he wanted to protect him from the wolves – and laid himself down on the ground and moss. And immediately he fell asleep, tired in body, but with a tranquil soul.
Long slept Zarathustra; and not only the rosy dawn passed over his head, but also the morning. At last, however, his eyes opened, and amazedly he gazed into the forest and the stillness, amazedly he gazed into himself. Then he arose quickly, like a seafarer who all at once sees the land; and he shouted for joy: for he saw a new truth. And he spoke thus to his heart:
A light has dawned upon me: I need companions – living ones; not dead companions and corpses, which I carry with me where I will.
But I need living companions, who will follow me because they want to follow themselves – and to the place where I will.
A light has dawned upon me. Not to the people is Zarathustra to speak, but to companions! Zarathustra shall not be the herd's herdsman and hound!
To allure many from the herd – for that purpose have I come. The people and the herd must be angry with me: a robber shall Zarathustra be called by the herdsmen.
Herdsmen, I say, but they call themselves the good and just. Herdsmen, I say, but they call themselves the believers in the orthodox belief.
Behold the good and just! Whom do they hate most? Him who breaks up their tables of values, the breaker, the lawbreaker – he, however, is the creator.
Behold the believers of all beliefs! Whom do they hate most? Him who breaks up their tables of values, the breaker, the law-breaker – he, however, is the creator.
Companions, the creator seeks, not corpses – and not herds or believers either. Fellow-creators the creator seeks – those who grave new values on new tables.
Companions, the creator seeks, and fellow-reapers: for everything is ripe for the harvest with him. But he lacks the hundred sickles: so he plucks the ears of corn and is vexed.
Companions, the creator seeks, and such as know how to whet their sickles. Destroyers, will they be called, and despisers of good and evil. But they are the reapers and rejoicers.
Fellow-creators, Zarathustra seeks; fellow-reapers and fellow-rejoicers, Zarathustra seeks: what has he to do with herds and herdsmen and corpses!
And you, my first companion, rest in peace! Well have I buried you in your hollow tree; well have I hid you from the wolves.
But I part from you; the time has arrived. 'Twixt rosy dawn and rosy dawn there came to me a new truth.
I am not to be a herdsman, I am not to be a grave-digger. Not any more will I discourse to the people; for the last time have I spoken to the dead.
With the creators, the reapers, and the rejoicers will I associate: the rainbow will I show them, and all the stairs to the overman.
To the lone-dwellers will I sing my song, and to the twain-dwellers; and to him who has still ears for the unheard, will I make the heart heavy with my happiness.
I make for my goal, I follow my course; over the loitering and tardy will I leap. Thus let my on-going be their down-going!
This had Zarathustra said to his heart when the sun stood at noon-tide. Then he looked inquiringly aloft, – for he heard above him the sharp call of a bird. And behold! An eagle swept through the air in wide circles, and on it hung a serpent, not like a prey, but like a friend: for it kept itself coiled round the eagle's neck.
"They are my animals," said Zarathustra, and rejoiced in his heart.
"The proudest animal under the sun, and the wisest animal under the sun – they have come out to reconnoitre.
They want to know whether Zarathustra still lives. Verily, do I still live?
More dangerous have I found it among people than among animals; in dangerous paths goes Zarathustra. Let mine animals lead me!
When Zarathustra had said this, he remembered the words of the saint in the forest. Then he sighed and spoke thus to his heart:
"Would that I were wiser! Would that I were wise from the very heart, like my serpent!
But I am asking the impossible. Therefore do I ask my pride to go always with my wisdom!
And if my wisdom should some day forsake me: – alas! it loves to fly away! – may my pride then fly with my folly!"
Thus began Zarathustra's down-going.