The Joyful Wisdom, by Friedrich Nietzsche


Songs of Prince Free-As-A-Bird


“The Undecaying”

Is but thy label,

God the betraying

Is poets fable.

Our aims all are thwarted

By the World-wheel’s blind roll:

“Doom,” says the downhearted,

“Sport,” says the fool.

The World-sport, all-ruling,

Mingles false with true:

The Eternally Fooling

Makes us play, too!

* This poem is a parody of the “Chorus Mysticus” which concludes the second part of Goethe’s “Faust.” Bayard Taylor’s translation of the passage in “Faust” runs as follows:

“All things transitory

But as symbols are sent,

Earth’s insufficiency

Here grows to Event:

The Indescribable

Here it is done:

The Woman–Soul leadeth us

Upward and on!”


As neath a shady tree I sat

After long toil to take my pleasure,

I heard a tapping “pit-a-pat”

Beat prettily in rhythmic measure.

Tho first I scowled, my face set hard,

The sound at length my sense entrapping

Forced me to speak like any bard,

And keep true time unto the tapping.

As I made verses, never stopping,

Each syllable the bird went after,

Keeping in time with dainty hopping!

I burst into unmeasured laughter!

What, you a poet? You a poet?

Can your brains truly so addled be?

“Yes, yes, good sir, you are a poet,”

Chirped out the pecker, mocking me.

What doth me to these woods entice?

The chance to give some thief a trouncing?

A saw, an image? Ha, in a trice

My rhyme is on it, swiftly pouncing!

All things that creep or crawl the poet

Weaves in his word-loom cunningly.

“Yes, yes, good sir, you are a poet,”

Chirped out the pecker, mocking me.

Like to an arrow, methinks, a verse is,

See how it quivers, pricks and smarts

When shot full straight (no tender mercies!)

Into the reptile’s nobler parts!

Wretches, you die at the hand of the poet,

Or stagger like men that have drunk too free.

“Yes, yes, good sir, you are a poet,”

Chirped out the pecker, mocking me.

So they go hurrying, stanzas malign,

Drunken words what a clattering, banging!

Till the whole company, line on line,

All on the rhythmic chain are hanging.

Has he really a cruel heart, your poet?

Are there fiends who rejoice, the slaughter to see?

“Yes, yes, good sir, you are a poet,”

Chirped out the pecker, mocking me.

So you jest at me, bird, with your scornful graces?

So sore indeed is the plight of my head?

And my heart, you say, in yet sorrier case is?

Beware! for my wrath is a thing to dread!

Yet e’en in the hour of his wrath the poet

Rhymes you and sings with the selfsame glee.

“Yes, yes, good sir, you are a poet,”

Chirped out the pecker, mocking me.


Translated by Miss M. D. Petre. Inserted by permission of the editor of the Nation, in which it appeared on April 17, 1909.

I swing on a bough, and rest

My tired limbs in a nest,

In the rocking home of a bird,

Wherein I perch as his guest,

In the South!

I gaze on the ocean asleep,

On the purple sail of a boat;

On the harbour and tower steep,

On the rocks that stand out of the deep,

In the South!

For I could no longer stay,

To crawl in slow German way;

So I called to the birds, bade the wind

Lift me up and bear me away

To the South!

No reasons for me, if you please;

Their end is too dull and too plain;

But a pair of wings and a breeze,

With courage and health and ease,

And games that chase disease

From the South!

Wise thoughts can move without sound,

But I’ve songs that I can’t sing alone;

So birdies, pray gather around,

And listen to what I have found

In the South!

. . . . .

“You are merry lovers and false and gay,

“In frolics and sport you pass the day;

“Whilst in the North, I shudder to say,

I worshipped a woman, hideous and gray,

1 Her name was Truth, so I heard them say,

“But I left her there and I flew away

“To the South!”


While beauty in my face is,

Be piety my care,

For God, you know, loves lasses,

And, more than all, the fair.

And if yon hapless monkling

Is fain with me to live,

Like many another monkling,

God surely will forgive.

No grey old priestly devil,

But, young, with cheeks aflame —

Who e’en when sick with revel,

Can jealous be and blame.

To greybeards I’m a stranger,

And he, too, hates the old:

Of God, the world-arranger,

The wisdom here behold!

The Church has ken of living,

And tests by heart and face.

To me she’ll be forgiving!

Who will not show me grace?

I lisp with pretty halting,

I curtsey, bid “good day,”

And with the fresh defaulting

I wash the old away!

Praise be this man — God’s guerdon,

Who loves all maidens fair,

And his own heart can pardon

The sin he planted there.

While beauty in my face is,

With piety I’ll stand,

When age has killed my graces,

Let Satan claim my hand!


Yester-eve, when all things slept

Scarce a breeze to stir the lane

I a restless vigil kept,

Nor from pillows sleep could gain,

Nor from poppies nor most sure

Of opiates a conscience pure.

Thoughts of rest I gan forswear,

Rose and walked along the strand,

Found, in warm and moonlit air,

Man and boat upon the sand,

Drowsy both, and drowsily

Did the boat put out to sea.

Passed an hour or two perchance,

Or a year? then thought and sense

Vanished in the engulfing trance

Of a vast Indifference.

Fathomless, abysses dread

Opened then the vision fled.

Morning came: becalmed, the boat

Rested on the purple flood:

“What had happened? ” every throat

Shrieked the question: “was there — Blood?”

Naught had happened! On the swell

We had slumbered, oh, so well!


(during which, however, the poet fell into a pit}.

Oh marvel! there he flies

Cleaving the sky with wings unmoved what force

Impels him, bids him rise,

What curb restrains him? Where’s his goal, his course?

Like stars and time eterne

He liveth now in heights that life forswore,

Nor envy’s self doth spurn:

A lofty flight were ’t, e’en to see him soar!

Oh albatross, great bird,

Speeding me upward ever through the blue!

I thought of her, was stirred

To tears unending yea, I love her true!


Here I lie, my bowels sore,

Hosts of bugs advancing,

Yonder lights and romp and roar!

What’s that sound? They re dancing!

At this instant, so she prated,

Stealthily she’d meet me:

Like a faithful dog I’ve waited,

Not a sign to greet me!

She promised, made the cross-sign, too,

Could her vows be hollow?

Or runs she after all that woo,

Like the goats I follow?

Whence your silken gown, my maid?

Ah, you’d fain be haughty,

Yet perchance you’ve proved a jade

With some satyr naughty!

Waiting long, the lovelorn wight

Is filled with rage and poison:

Even so on sultry night

Toadstools grow in foison.

Pinching sore, in devil’s mood,

Love doth plague my crupper:

Truly I can eat no food:

Farewell, onion-supper!

Seaward sinks the moon away,

The stars are wan, and flare not:

Dawn approaches, gloomy, grey,

Let Death come! I care not!


Souls that lack determination

Rouse my wrath to white-hot flame!

All their glory’s but vexation,

All their praise but self-contempt and shame!

Since I baffle their advances,

Will not clutch their leading-string,

They would wither me with glances

Bitter-sweet, with hopeless envy sting.

Let them with fell curses shiver,

Curl their lip the livelong day!

Seek me as they will, forever

Helplessly their eyes shall go astray!


Ah, what I wrote on board and wall

With foolish heart, in foolish scrawl,

I meant but for their decoration!

Yet say you, “Fools abomination!

Both board and wall require purgation,

And let no trace our eyes appal!”

Well, I will help you, as I can,

For sponge and broom are my vocation,

As critic and as waterman.

But when the finished work I scan,

I’m glad to see each learned owl

With “wisdom” board and wall defoul.

(or a Consolation to Sick Poets).

From thy moist lips,

O Time, thou witch, beslavering me,

Hour upon hour too slowly drips

In vain I cry, in frenzy’s fit,

“A curse upon that yawning pit,

A curse upon Eternity!”

The world’s of brass,

A fiery bullock, deaf to wail:

Pain’s dagger pierces my cuirass,

Winged, and writes upon my bone:

“Bowels and heart the world hath none,

Why scourge her sins with anger’s flail?

Pour poppies now,

Pour venom, Fever, on my brain!

Too long you test my hand and brow:

What ask you? “What reward is paid?”

A malediction on you, jade,

And your disdain!

No, I retract,

Tis cold I hear the rain importune

Fever, I’ll soften, show my tact:

Here’s gold a coin see it gleam!

Shall I with blessings on you beam,

Call you “good fortune ”?

The door opes wide,

And raindrops on my bed are scattered,

The light’s blown out woes multiplied!

He that hath not an hundred rhymes,

I’ll wager, in these dolorous times

We’d see him shattered!


Once more, St Mark, thy pigeons meet my gaze,

The Square lies still, in slumbering morning mood:

In soft, cool air I fashion idle lays,

Speeding them skyward like a pigeon’s brood:

And then recall my minions

To tie fresh rhymes upon their willing pinions.

My bliss! My bliss!

Calm heavenly roof of azure silkiness,

Guarding with shimmering haze yon house divine!

Thee, house, I love, fear envy, I’ll confess,

And gladly would suck out that soul of thine!

“Should I give back the prize?”

Ask not, great pasture-ground for human eyes!

My bliss! My bliss!

Stern belfry, rising as with lion’s leap

Sheer from the soil in easy victory,

That fill st the Square with peal resounding, deep,

Wert thou in French that Square’s “accent aigu ”?

Were I for ages set

In earth like thee, I know what silk-meshed net . . .

My bliss! My bliss!

Hence, music! First let darker shadows come,

And grow, and merge into brown, mellow night!

Tis early for your pealing, ere the dome

Sparkle in roseate glory, gold-bedight.

While yet tis day, there’s time

For strolling, lonely muttering, forging rhyme

My bliss! My bliss!


Thither I’ll travel, that’s my notion,

I’ll trust myself, my grip,

Where opens wide and blue the ocean

I’ll ply my Genoa ship.

New things on new the world unfolds me,

Time, space with noonday die:

Alone thy monstrous eye beholds me,

Awful Infinity!


Here sat I waiting, waiting, but for naught!

Beyond all good and evil — now by light wrought

To joy, now by dark shadows — all was leisure,

All lake, all noon, all time sans aim, sans measure.

Then one, dear friend, was swiftly changed to twain,

And Zarathustra left my teeming brain. . . .


Translated by Miss M. D. Petre. Inserted by permission of the editor of the Nation, in which it appeared on May 15, 1909.

Wildly rushing, clouds outleaping,

Care-destroying, Heaven sweeping,

Mistral wind, thou art my friend!

Surely twas one womb did bear us,

Surely twas one fate did pair us,

Fellows for a common end.

From the crags I gaily greet you,

Running fast I come to meet you,

Dancing while you pipe and sing.

How you bound across the ocean,

Unimpeded, free in motion,

Swifter than with boat or wing!

Through my dreams your whistle sounded,

Down the rocky stairs I bounded

To the golden ocean wall;

Saw you hasten, swift and glorious,

Like a river, strong, victorious,

Tumbling in a waterfall.

Saw you rushing over Heaven,

With your steeds so wildly driven,

Saw the car in which you flew;

Saw the lash that wheeled and quivered,

While the hand that held it shivered,

Urging on the steeds anew.

Saw you from your chariot swinging,

So that swifter downward springing

Like an arrow you might go

Straight into the deep abysses,

As a sunbeam falls and kisses

Roses in the morning glow.

Dance, oh! dance on all the edges,

Wave-crests, cliffs and mountain ledges,

Ever finding dances new!

Let our knowledge be our gladness,

Let our art be sport and madness,

All that’s joyful shall be true!

Let us snatch from every bower,

As we pass, the fairest flower,

With some leaves to make a crown;

Then, like minstrels gaily dancing,

Saint and witch together prancing,

Let us foot it up and down.

Those who come must move as quickly

As the wind we’ll have no sickly,

Crippled, withered, in our crew;

Off with hypocrites and preachers,

Proper folk and prosy teachers,

Sweep them from our heaven blue.

Sweep away all sad grimaces,

Whirl the dust into the faces

Of the dismal sick and cold!

Hunt them from our breezy places,

Not for them the wind that braces,

But for men of visage bold.

Off with those who spoil earth’s gladness,

Blow away all clouds of sadness,

Till our heaven clear we see;

Let me hold thy hand, best fellow,

Till my joy like tempest bellow!

Freest thou of spirits free!

When thou partest, take a token

Of the joy thou hast awoken,

Take our wreath and fling it far;

Toss it up and catch it never,

Whirl it on before thee ever,

Till it reach the farthest star.

This web edition published by:

The University of Adelaide Library
University of Adelaide
South Australia 5005

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:58