Dionysian Logos By Rainer J. Hanshe

      In opposition to this type is the visionary poet who devotes his or her poetic power to “signposting the future” (AOM §99). Also first described in Human, All Too Human, this poet is one who has the imaginative capacity to create “fair images of man” [schönen Menschenbilde fortdichten] and does not withdraw from this world, but envisions the possibility of “great and beautiful souls,”[10] makes them visible, sustains them, and forges new models which, through exciting our envy and desire to emulate them,[11] compel us to create or engineer the future. Conceptually, this is reminiscent of Zarathustra and the Übermensch and is quite possibly an early instance of the burgeoning of those figures. Importantly, the poems of this type of poet are “secluded and secured against the fire and breath of the passions,” free of delusions, decadence, “mocking laughter and gnashing of teeth, and everything tragic and comic in the old customary sense” (AOM §99), all negative qualities that Nietzsche would later employ to characterize the figure of the Sorcerer in Also sprach Zarathustra. In contrast, the future minded poet is capable of overcoming the spirit of heaviness and of blending knowledge and art into a new unity, clearly a further continuation of the optics of art and science Nietzsche espouses in the Birth of Tragedy. Such a poet is capable of creating the “golden ground” out of which “the actual painting—that of the ever increasing elevation of man,” is constituted, and it is fitting here to think of the Mole Antonelliana and the intimate relation between architecture and style. The conceptual parallel with the Übermensch and Nietzsche’s task of continual self-overcoming is readily apparent, too. As a poet of the future, such a type depicts only “reality” (a more scientific versus idealistic—i.e., artistic in what would be a negative sense for Nietzsche—view of the world) and completely ignores “all those fantastic, superstitious, half-mendacious, faded subjects upon which earlier poets demonstrated their powers. Only reality,” Nietzsche emphasizes, “but by no means every reality!—he will depict a select reality!” (AOM §114) With this concluding remark, the philosopher-poet illustrates that the artistic type as he configures it is not concerned with a solely factual or historical, let alone totalizing Hegelian record of reality, but with its transfiguration. Thus, although he demands art be informed by science, and mindfully embody Enlightenment principles, its role is not exclusively scientific, let alone ruled by rationality or logic. It is also strongly guided by the faculty of the imagination.

      If many pathways to the “poetry of the future” begin with Goethe as Nietzsche pronounces (AOM §99), the poet of Faust is also the recipient of an incisive critique. In contradistinction to Herr Goethe, the muse of the visionary poet is not “the Eternal Feminine,” but reality itself. In not recognizing that Dionysian art evolved out of the orgy, according to Nietzsche, Goethe and his dutiful acolyte Winckelmann did not understand the Greeks (TI: Ancients §4). In celebrating the Eternal Feminine, Goethe idealizes woman as such, thereby establishing a prototype that is illusory and romantic. And “when a poet is not in love with reality,” then, Nietzsche believes, the muse only bears him “him hollow-eyed and fragile-limbed children” (AOM §135), which is perhaps to say, works of art that are indicative of a blindness toward the world (refusing for instance to recognize the role of death in life, if not in the actual creation of life,[12] to countenance the role cruelty plays in life, etc.) and completely lacking in power or mobility. In Daybreak, Nietzsche envisions the new poet as one who, as an arbiter of the future, must be a seer of the possible who lets “us feel in advance something of the virtues of the future!” And if this poet envisages virtues that will never exist on earth, they are not otherworldly virtues for “they could exist somewhere in the universe — of purple-glowing galaxies and whole Milky Ways of beauty!” Nietzsche exults. “Astronomers of the ideal, where are you?” (D §551) As Zarathustra proclaims, “But let will to truth mean this to you, that everything be transformed into what is—humanly thinkable—humanly visible—perceptible!” (Z: II.2) And that Zarathustra is precisely this kind of future minded poet is evident not only when he declares that, while he is “of today and former times,” he contains something “that is of tomorrow and the day after tomorrow and times to come” (Z: II.17). His being such a poet is also apparent in his self-critical way of poetizing, for he understands the role of rhetoric and the ways in which language can be deceptive. It is apparent too in his signposting the future and transfiguring existence as well as in his willingness to sacrifice himself as opposed to longing to eternally preserve himself. His teaching is not prescriptive but suggestive, marked for instance in his announcement, “May your will say: Let the Overhuman be the sense of the earth!” (Z: P §3) He does not proclaim that the Overhuman is the sense of the earth, but proposes that we assign such a sense to the earth. Nietzsche always speaks of created senses or meanings,[13] not ontological or metaphysical ones, such as those poets and prophets believe they hear, hence the total lack of necessity for proving the eternal return true.[14] Fundamentally, what is distinct about this type is that it creates truth and is a world-governing spirit and a destiny, all things that, Nietzsche claims, even a poet as superior as Dante fails to accomplish (EH: “Zarathustra” §6).

      Importantly, it is not the world that Nietzsche ever seeks to redeem, for that would be to Christianize it and to suffer from the ideals of the first type of poet. It is only the past that he struggles to redeem, yet it is not from sin that it is to be redeemed; instead, one is released from the binds of temporality.[15] “I taught them all my composing and striving: to compose and carry into one whatever about the human is fragment and riddle and cruel-coincidence——as poet, unriddler, and redeemer of coincidence I taught them to work creatively on the future, and creatively to redeem—all that was” (Z: III.12 §4). And the culmination of the latter type of poet is elaborated on when in the final section of Twilight of the Idols Nietzsche speaks of the tragic poet as one who does not seek to purge himself of terror and ruth [Schrecken und Mitleiden],[16] but beyond such, “to realize in oneself the eternal joy of becoming — that joy which also encompasses joy in destruction” (TI: Ancients §5). To be a tragic poet is to sanctify pain as opposed to seeking temporary comforts through evading one’s suffering with linguistic ruses; it is also to recognize that not only are joy and suffering inextricably interwoven, but that joy is deeper—more profound—even than suffering.[17] This is the tragic vision par excellence, and it is tragic poetry that Nietzsche seeks to cultivate. As Grundlehner points out in one of the very few studies of Nietzsche’s poetry, for the philosopher, “poetry was not merely occasional verse but it was defined by a critical passion for self-justification in terms of some higher meaning, some vital substance beyond the capabilities of expository or prosaic expression.”[18] In opposition to the poet that is the main subject of Nietzsche’s critique, it is precisely the visionary, future-minded type that I propose he writes as, or certainly strives to, and it is such a poet that enables us to bear being human as Zarathustra avows, or to be completely different kinds of human beings: to be overcoming, self-sacrificial ones who know the terrifying power of laughter.

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