The revolution in poetry. The severe constraint which the French dramatists imposed upon themselves with respect to unity of action, place, and time, to style, versification and sentence structure, selection of words and of themes, was as important a training as counterpoint and the fugue in the development of modern music, or the Gorgian figures31 in Greek rhetoric. To restrict oneself so may appear absurd; nevertheless there is no way to get beyond realism other than to limit oneself at first most severely (perhaps most arbitrarily). In that way one gradually learns to step with grace, even on the small bridges that span dizzying abysses, and one takes as profit the greatest suppleness of movement, as everyone now alive can attest from the history of music. Here one sees how the shackles become looser with every step until they finally can seem quite thrown off: this seeming is the highest result of a necessary development in art. In modern poetry, there was no such happy gradual development out of the self-imposed shackles. Lessing made French form, the only modern art form, into an object of ridicule in Germany, and pointed instead to Shakespeare;32 so the continuity of the unshackling process was lost and one leapt instead into naturalism, which is to say, back into the beginnings of art. Goethe tried to save himself from naturalism by restricting himself again and again in different ways; but once the thread of development has been broken off, even the most gifted artist can achieve only a continual experimentation. Schiller owes the relative sureness of his form to the model of French tragedy, which he instinctively respected, even though he spurned it, and kept rather independent of Lessing (whose dramatic efforts he rejected, as everyone knows). After Voltaire, the French themselves suddenly lacked great talents who might have led the development of tragedy out of constraint to the illusion of freedom; later they followed the German example, making the leap into a kind of Rousseauistic state of nature in art, and experimented. One should read Voltaire's Mahomet from time to time, in order fully to take to heart what has been lost forever to European culture through that rupture with tradition. Voltaire was the last of the great dramatists to restrict with Greek moderation his polymorphic soul, equal to even the greatest tragic tempests. (He achieved what no German has, because the Frenchman's nature is much more closely related to the Greek's than is the German's.) Also, in the treatment of prose speech, he was the last great writer to have a Greek ear, Greek artistic conscience, and Greek plainness and grace. Indeed, he was one of the last people to unite in himself, without being inconsistent or cowardly, the highest freedom of spirit and a positively unrevolutionary frame of mind.-33
Since then, the modern spirit has come to rule in all areas, with its unrest, its hatred of moderation and limitation, at first unleashed by the fever of revolution, and then, when attacked by fear and dread of itself, applying the reins to itself again-but the reins of logic, no longer of artistic moderation. True, through this unshackling we enjoy for a time the poetry of all peoples,34 everything that has grown up in hidden places, elemental, blooming wildly, strangely beautiful and gigantically irregular, from the folk song right up to the "great barbarian" -35 Shakespeare. We taste the joys of local color and period costume, which were alien to all artistic peoples heretofore; we reap in rich measure the "barbaric advantages" of our time, on which Goethe insisted against Schiller,36 in order to put the formlessness of his Faust in the most favorable light. But for how long can we do it? The oncoming flood of poetry of every people, in every style, must eventually sweep away the ground on which a quiet, hidden growth might still have been possible. All poets must become experimenting imitators, daredevil copyists, however great their strength may be in the beginning. Finally, the public that has forgotten how to see the real artistic act in the restriction of its energy to represent, in the organizing mastery of all artistic means, must learn increasingly to appreciate power for the sake of power, color for the sake of color, thought for the sake of thought, even inspiration for the sake of inspiration; accordingly it will not enjoy the elements and requirements of a work of art unless they are isolated, and lastly, it will make the natural demand that the artist must represent them in isolation. Yes, we have thrown off the "unreasonable" shackles of Franco-Hellenic art, but without knowing it, we have gotten used to finding all shackles, all limitation unreasonable. And so art moves towards its dissolution, and touches in the process (which is to be sure highly instructive) all phases of its beginnings, its childhood, its imperfection, its former risks and extravagances. It interprets its origin,, its evolution, as it is perishing.
Lord Byron, a great man whose instinct we can trust and whose theory lacked nothing but thirty years more of practice, once stated: "As to poetry, in general, the more I think about it, the more I am firm in the conviction that we are all on the wrong path, each and every one. We are all following a revolutionary system that is inherently false. Our generation or the next will come to the same conclusion " 37 This is the same Byron who said, "I look upon Shakespeare to be the worst of models, though the most extraordinary of poets."38 And in the second half of his life, does not Goethe, with his matured artistic insight, basically say exactly the same thing? His insight gained him so great a head start over a succession of generations that by and large one can claim that Goethe's effect has not yet been fully realized, and that his time is yet to come. Precisely because, for a long time, his nature held him in the path of poetic revolution, precisely because he enjoyed thoroughly whatever in the way of new discoveries, prospects, and aids had been found indirectly and dug up, so to speak, from under the ruins of art by that rupture with tradition-for those reasons, his later reversal and conversion carries such weight. It means that he felt the deepest longing to regain the tradition of art, and, if the arm should prove far too weak to build where destruction has already required such enormous powers, to attribute with the eye's imagination at least the old perfection and completeness to the remaining ruins and porticos of the temple. So he lived in art as in the memory of true art: his poetry was an aid to his memory, to his understanding of old, long since vanished art periods. Considering the strength of the new era, his demands, of course, could not be satisfied; but his pain about it was richly balanced by his joy that such demands were fulfilled once, and that we too can still share in that fulfillment. Not individuals, but more or less ideal masks; not reality but an allegorical generality; historical characters and local color made mythical and moderated almost to invisibility; contemporary feeling and the problems of contemporary society compressed to the simplest forms, stripped of their stimulating, suspenseful, pathological qualities, made ineffective in all but the artistic sense; no new subjects and characters, but rather the old long-familiar ones, in ever enduring reanimation and reformation: that is art as Goethe later understood it, as the Greeks and even the French practiced it.

31. Gorgian figures: the figures of the orator-philosopher Gorgias of Leontini (480?-370 B.C.), using parallelisms and antitheses, often rhyming, in a highly ornate form of Attic diction.
32. Cf. Lessing's Briefe, die neueste Literatur betreffend ( 1795-65).
33. The foregoing passage serves to justify Nietzsche's dedicating Human, All Too Human to Voltaire.
34. die Poesien alter Völker: a reference to Herder's anthology Stimmen der Völker in Liedern (1807). (The Voices of Peoples in Songs).
35. Voltaire's judgment about Shakespeare.
36. Cf. Goethe, Anmerkungen über Personen und Gegenstände, and letter to Schiller, June 27, 1797.
37. Byron, Letters and Journals, vol. 4, 1816-1820, ed. Rowland E. Prothero (New York: Scribner, 1903-22), pp. 169-170. Letter of September 15, 1817. The exact quotation reads: "With regard to poetry in general, I am convinced, the more I think of it, that he (Moore) and all of us-Scott, Southey, Wordsworth, Moore, Campbell, I-are all in the wrong, one as much as another; that we are upon a wrong revolutionary poetical system, or systems, not worth a damn in itself, and from which none but Rogers and Crabbe are free; and that the present and next generations will finally be of this opinion."
38. Ibid., 5:323, July 14, 1821: "Shakespeare's the worst model, if a great poet."

Friedrich Nietzsche - Human, All Too Human
Section Four: From the Soul of Artists and Writers - Aphorism # 221

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