Guest poem submitted by David Wright:
(Poem #953) Parable of the Madman
Have you not heard of that madman who lit a lantern in the bright morning hours, ran to the market place, and cried incessantly: "I seek God! I seek God!" As many of those who did not believe in God were standing around just then, he provoked much laughter. Has he got lost? asked one. Did he lose his way like a child? asked another. Or is he hiding? Is he afraid of us? Has he gone on a voyage? emigrated? Thus they yelled and laughed. The madman jumped into their midst and pierced them with his eyes. "Whither is God?" he cried; "I will tell you. We have killed him---you and I. All of us are his murderers. But how did we do this? How could we drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What were we doing when we unchained this earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now? Whither are we moving? Away from all suns? Are we not plunging continually? Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there still any up or down? Are we not straying, as through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? Has it not become colder? Is not night continually closing in on us? Do we not need to light lanterns in the morning? Do we hear nothing as yet of the noise of the gravediggers who are burying God? Do we smell nothing as yet of the divine decomposition? Gods, too, decompose. God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. "How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred gamesshall 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? There has never been a greater deed; and whoever is born after us - For the sake of this deed he will belong to a higher history than all history hitherto." Here the madman fell silent and looked again at his listeners; and they, too, were silent and stared at him in astonishment. At last he threw his lantern on the ground, and it broke into pieces and went out. "I have come too early," he said then; "my time is not yet. This tremendous event is still on its way, still wandering; it has not yet reached the ears of men. Lightning and thunder require time; the light of the stars requires time; deeds, though done, still require time to be seen and heard. This deed is still more distant from them than most distant stars - and yet they have done it themselves. It has been related further that on the same day the madman forced his way into several churches and there struck up his requiem aeternam deo. Led out and called to account, he is said always to have replied nothing but: "What after all are these churches now if they are not the tombs and sepulchers of God?"
Source: Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science (1882, 1887) para. 125; Walter Kaufmann ed. (New York: Vintage, 1974), pp.181-82.] Not long ago, a poetry group I participate in was looking at Yeats's The Second Coming (Minstrels Poem #289) - an exploration that was deeply tinted with recent tragedies and ongoing world events. I was thinking of that poem as a reflection on man without God, man after God. This led to thoughts of Nietzsche's most notorious statement: God is Dead, which everybody knows, although few people know the full parable that it is taken from. Nietzsche has been much maligned in the popular mind as an atheist, a nihilist, and a proto-fascist. I think the passage is appropriate for the Minstrels because Nietzsche was a true oet philosopher (Plato being the only other example I can call to mind.) I don't read German, but I understand that he is one of the greatest of German stylists, and his background in philology gave him a poet's feel for language. And writing in the form of a parable, he demands interpretation in the same way a lot of poets do. I find it a moving, frightening, telling mythos for our time - it just about defines what is meant by 'postmodernism.' Perhaps it is for all time, or for certain times throughout history when mankind has felt the darkness closing in, the meaning evaporating. But even Ragnarok, the Norse doom of the Gods in which the world was to be plunged into darkness and ice and humankind was to be destroyed while the Gods killed each other, even that dark vision was to be followed by a new Golden Age in which the triumphant Gods returned. For Nietzsche, the death of God is attended merely by decay and worms. And freedom, that dreaded freedom that Sartre addresses in his work. David. [Minstrels Links] The aforementioned Yeats poem: Poem #289, The Second Coming -- William Butler Yeats For something completely different, see: Poem #615, The Philosopher's Drinking Song -- Monty Python