Friday, February 14, 2014

In Nietzsche’s Footsteps: Rome

Music to accompany article: Tristan und Isolde, Prelude (Wagner)

In May of 1883, Nietzsche was staying in lodgings on the Piazza Barberini in Rome, overlooking the famous Fontana del Tritone (Triton Fountain) sculpted by Lorenzo Bernini.

The Triton Fountain in Rome

   I have visited the piazza several times, both during the day and the night. It is an enchanting place with an air of melancholy about it... This is where Nietzsche composed his ‘Night-Song’, which he later spoke of as the loneliest song that was ever composed. In it, one can almost hear the sounds of the springing water against the backdrop of solitude and silence.

                                                The Night-Song

Night it is: now all It is night: now do all springing fountains speak louder.
 And my soul too is a springing fountain.
    Night it is:  now all songs of lovers at last awaken. And my soul too
is a song of the lover.
    Something unstilled, unstillable is within me that wants to become loud.
A desire for love is within me that itself talks in the language of love.
    Light am I: ah, would that I were night! But this is my solitude that I am
girded round with light.
    Ah, would that I were dark and night-like! How I would suckle at
the breasts of light!
    And you yourselves would I yet bless, you little twinkling stars and fireflies
 up above!—and be blissful from your light-bestowals.
   But I live in my very own light, I drink back the flames that break out
from within me.
    I know none of the happiness of him who takes; and often have I dreamt
that stealing must be more blessed than taking. [...]
    Ah, ice is around me, my hand is burned on what is icy! Ah, thirst is
within me, and it languishes after your thirst!
    Night is: ah that I must be light! And thirst for the night-like!
And solitude!
    Night it is: now like a spring my desire flows forth from me—I am
desirous of speech.
    Night it is: now all springing fountains talk more loudly. And my
soul is a springing fountain.
    Night is now: all songs of lovers at last awaken. And my soul too
 is the song of a lover. —

                                 Thus Spoke Zarathustra, II, The Night Song
                                               Translation by G. Parkes