Wotan Has Put a Hard Heart in My Breast
an extract from Friedrich Nietzsche
introduced and translated by H.L. Mencken
THE CIVILIZATION which existed in Europe before the dawn of Christianity was a culture based upon master-morality, and so we find that the theologians and moralists of those days esteemed a certain action as right only when it plainly subserved the best interests of strong, resourceful men. The ideal man of that time was not a meek and lowly sufferer, bearing his cross uncomplainingly, but an alert, proud and combative being who knew his rights and dared maintain them. In consequence we find that in many ancient languages, the words “good” and “aristocratic” were synonymous. Whatever served to make a man a nobleman — cunning, wealth, physical strength, eagerness to resent and punish injuries — was considered virtuous, praiseworthy and moral, and on the other hand, whatever tended to make a man sink to the level of the great masses — humility, lack of ambition, modest desires, lavish liberality and a spirit of ready forgiveness — was regarded as immoral and wrong.
“Among these master races,” says Nietzsche, “the antithesis ‘good and bad’ signified practically the same as ‘noble and contemptible’! The despised ones were the cowards, the timid, the insignificant, the self-abasing — the dog-species of men who allowed themselves to be misused — the flatterers and, above all, the liars. It is a fundamental belief of all true aristocrats that the common people are deceitful. ‘We true ones,’ the ancient Greek nobles called themselves.
“It is obvious that the designations of moral worth were at first applied to individual men, and not to actions or ideas in the abstract. The master type of man regards himself as a sufficient judge of worth. He does not seek approval: his own feelings determine his conduct. ‘What is injurious to me,’ he reasons, ‘is injurious in itself.’ This type of man honors whatever qualities he recognizes in himself: his morality is self-glorification. He has a feeling of plentitude and power and the happiness of high tension. He helps the unfortunate, perhaps, but it is not out of sympathy. The impulse, when it comes at all, rises out of his superabundance of power — his thirst to function. He honors his own power, and he knows how to keep it in hand. He joyfully exercises strictness and severity over himself and he reverences all that is strict and severe. ‘Wotan has put a hard heart in my breast,’ says an old Scandinavian saga. There could be no better expression of the spirit of a proud Viking.
“The morality of the master class is irritating to the taste of the present day because of its fundamental principle that a man has obligations only to his equals; that he may act to all of lower rank and to all that are foreign as he pleases…. The man of the master class has a capacity for prolonged gratitude and prolonged revenge, but it is only among his equals. He has, too, great resourcefulness in retaliation; great capacity for friendship, and a strong need for enemies, that there may be an outlet for his envy, quarrelsomeness and arrogance, and that by spending these passions in this manner, he may be gentle towards his friends.”
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Source: Friedrich Nietzsche by H.L. Mencken (1913); via Volkish