THE DANCE SONG

 

(From Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra)

 

 

One evening Zarathustra was walking through the forest with his disciples; and as he was looking for a well, behold, he came upon a green meadow quietly surrounded by trees and bushes: and in the meadow girls were dancing together. As soon as the girls recognized Zarathustra they ceased their dance; Zarathustra, however, approached them with a friendly air and spoke these words:

 

Do not cease your dance, sweet girls! No spoil-sport has come to you with an evil eye, no enemy of girls.

I am God's advocate with the Devil; he, however, is the Spirit of Gravity. How could I be enemy to divine dancing, you nimble creatures? or to girls' feet with fair ankles?

To be sure, I am a forest and a night of dark trees: but he who is not afraid of my darkness will find rosebowers too under my cypresses.

And he will surely find too the little god whom girls love best: he lies beside the fountain, still, with his eyes closed.

Truly, he has fallen asleep in broad daylight, the idler! Has he been chasing butterflies too much?

Do not be angry with me, fair dancers, if I chastise the little god a little! Perhaps he will cry out and weep, but he is laughable even in weeping!

And with tears in his eyes, he shall ask you for a dance; and I myself will sing a song for his dance.

A dance-song and a mocking-song on the Spirit of Gravity, my supreme, most powerful devil, who they say is 'the lord of the earth'.

 

And this is the song Zarathustra sang as cupid and the girls danced together:

 

Lately I looked into your eye, O Life! And I seemed to sink into the unfathomable.

But you pulled me out with a golden rod; you laughed mockingly when I called you unfathomable.

'All fish talk like that,' you said; 'what they cannot fathom is unfathomable.

'But I am merely changeable and untamed and in everything a woman, and no virtuous one.

'Although you men call me "profound" or "faithful", eternal", "mysterious".

'But you men always endow us with your own virtues—ah, you virtuous men!'

Thus she laughed, the incredible woman; but I never believe her and her laughter when she speaks evil of herself.

And when I spoke secretly with my wild Wisdom, she said to me angrily: ' You will, you desire, you love, that is the only reason you praise Life!'

Then I almost answered crossly and told the truth to my angry Wisdom; and one cannot answer more crossly than when one' tells the truth' to one's Wisdom.

This then is the state of affairs between us three. From the heart of me I love only Life—and in truth, I love her most of all when I hate her!

But that I am fond of Wisdom, and often too fond, is because she very much reminds me of Life!

She has her eyes, her laughter, and even her little golden fishing-rod: how can I help it that they both look so alike?

And when Life once asked me: 'Who is she then, this Wisdom?'—then I said eagerly: 'Ah yes! Wisdom!

'One thirsts for her and is not satisfied, one looks at her through veils, one snatches at her through nets.

'Is she fair? I know not! But the cleverest old fish are still lured by her.

'She is changeable and defiant; I have often seen her bite her lip and comb her hair against the grain.

'Perhaps she is wicked and false, and in everything a wench; but when she speaks ill of herself, then precisely is she most seductive.'

When I said this to Life, she laughed maliciously and closed her eyes. 'But whom are you speaking of?' she asked, 'of me, surely?

'And if you are right—should you tell me that to my face?

But now speak of your Wisdom, too! '

Ah, and then you opened your eyes again, O beloved Life! And again I seemed to sink into the unfathomable.

Thus sang Zarathustra. But when the dance had ended and the girls had gone away, he grew sad.

 

The sun has long since set (he said at last); the meadow is damp, coolness is coming from the forests.

Something strange and unknown is about me, looking thoughtfully at me. What! are you still living, Zarathustra?

Why? Wherefore? Whereby? Whither? Where? How? Is it not folly to go on living?

Ah, my friends, it is the evening that questions thus within me. Forgive me my sadness!

Evening has come: forgive me that it has become evening!

 

Thus spoke Zarathustra.