Dionysian Logos By Rainer J. Hanshe

      Now, in the “closing melodies” to the Gay Science and Beyond Good and Evil, when Nietzsche questions the value of words, of their ability to communicate thought, he seems to be thinking specifically of prose. Before his thoughts were reduced to words, he exults that they were “so colorful” and “full of thorns and secret spices,” all of which caused him to sneeze and laugh. But when he mutates or de-forms such thoughts into prose, not only do they lose their fragrance or sensorial as well as musical dimension, they also begin to attack him:   “‘We can no longer stand it,’ they shout at me; ‘away, away with this raven-black music! Are we not surrounded by bright morning? And by soft green grass and grounds, the kingdom of the dance? Has there ever been a better hour for gaiety? Who will sing a song for us, a morning song, so sunny, so light […]’” (GS §383). Perhaps more anxiously, he fears that, when transcribing them into prose, his thoughts are in danger of becoming truths. Immediately following these critiques, he offers us “songs,” the “Songs of Prince Vogelfrei,” and “From High Mountains: Aftersong.”[34] There is also a similar critique of language in the finale of the third book of Thus Spoke Zarathustra, ending with Zarathustra’s animals commanding him, “Speak no further, […] fashion yourself a lyre, a new lyre! […] Sing and foam over, O Zarathustra. With new songs you must heal your soul […]” (Z: III.13 §2). After receiving this instruction, Zarathustra ceases speaking and enters into a conversation with his soul, which is clearly an inaudible inner dialogue or mode of external silence, and then sings his final ecstatic paeans to Life and Eternity. Thus, just as following a critique of language, The Gay Science and Beyond Good and Evil both end with songs, so too does Zarathustra,[35] therefore, there is a structural parallel to the three books.——[36] Poems are different of course from prose, fragments, and aphorisms and are more akin to music which, unlike the former, can be given a greater multitude of interpretations — translate an aphorism and it is essentially the same from language to language, whereas Bach’s Goldberg Variations as performed by Wanda Landowska versus Glen Gould offer exceedingly unique reconfigurations that show how transformable and free from “truth” music is. In this way then, I propose that with the songs that follow the “closing melodies” or final aphorisms of those books, the sloping into the sea in proud and calm harmony, Nietzsche attempts to surpass or overcome with them the very limits of prose, which, as he proclaims, steals the color, prickliness, and fragrance of his thoughts. Since we know that poets are “liars” for Nietzsche, that is, one specific type of poet, whatever possible truths they may produce are never in danger of becoming true, but since Nietzsche is a poet of a different order, or strives to be, that is not as much of a danger for him. Poetry for him is in part a form of power. When discussing the aftermath of the death of God, Nietzsche asks, “What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?” (GS §125) To this last daunting question, I believe there is a clue or ‘answer’—perhaps response is the best word—in the aphorism on the origin of poetry in the Gay Science. There, Nietzsche proposes that it is specifically through rhythm that we can almost become gods, thus, poetry, or Nietzsche’s very distinct type of tragic poetry, offers us a means for appearing worthy of such a sacrifice, and it perhaps enables him to say in verse what he could not say in prose, or to say it differently, to say it more deeply, for if joy is deeper even than woe, to end his books with songs which are in part parodic is to offer as a Provençal knight a closing melody that is more ecstatic than an aphorism, maxim, or arrow. If tragedy is born of the dithyramb as Nietzsche argues, it is perhaps out of poetry, out of a new dithyrambic poetry, that a tragic vision can be created or forged. And this may be precisely what Nietzsche implies with his peculiar if not perplexing claim that he is the inventor of the dithyramb——as a poet who is a signpost to the future, he is precisely the inventor of the new dithyramb, the dithyramb of the future that we must create, just as we must create new myths for ourselves as did Nietzsche with Also sprach Zarathustra. And if, as Claudia Crawford observes, “the original function of the old dithyramb for Nietzsche was to bring real life into a sharper focus,”[37] his positive poetic type would then be the figure that stands in strict opposition to the idealistic poetic type, of which he is incisively critical. What is necessary, even in art, is bringing “real life” into as sharp a focus as possible, which is to say, shattering anthropomorphic perceptions of the world and coming as close as one can to the mode of objectivity that Nietzsche characterizes as multi-perspectival, the view of a thousand and one attentive eyes, and these it must be remembered are synesthetic eyes that hear. “Nietzsche’s preferred style, once his grand agonal style had succeeded in propelling us into a new tragic worldview of Dionysian possibility,” Crawford continues, “was to be the dithyramb, the language that Dionysian people speak when they speak to themselves” (280), or, to invoke the title of this essay, Dionysian logos, the logos of a poet informed by both art and science, by an optics that pierces through the fog of the human, all too human and perceives instead from cosmic perspectives, but that also includes an act of transfiguration.

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