Friedrich Nietzsche, The Wanderer and His Shadow (Der Wanderer und sein Schatten).

The Wanderer and his Shadow, the second supplement to Human, All Too Human, first published in 1880.


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Art in an Age of Work.  We have the conscience of an industrious epoch.  This debars us from devoting our best hours and the best part of our days to art, even though that art be the greatest and worthiest.  Art is for us a matter of leisure, of recreation, and we consecrate to it the residue of our time and strength.  This is the cardinal fact that has altered the relation of art to life.  When art makes its great demands of time and strength upon its recipients, it has to battle against the conscience of the industrious and efficient, it is relegated to the idle and conscienceless, who, by their very nature, are not exactly suited to great art, and consider its claims arrogant.  It might, therefore, be all over with art, since it lacks air and the power to breathe.  But perhaps the great art attempts, by a sort of coarsening and disguising, to make itself at home in that other atmosphere, or at least to put up with it — an atmosphere which is really a natural element only for petty art, the art of recreation, of pleasant distraction.  This happens nowadays almost everywhere.  Even the exponents of great art promise recreation and distraction; even they address themselves to the exhausted; even they demand from him the evening hours of his working day — just like the artists of the entertaining school, who are content to smooth the furrowed brow and brighten the lack lustre eye.  What, then, are the devices of their mightier brethren?  These have in their medicine chests the most powerful excitants, which might give a shock even to a man half dead: they can deafen you, intoxicate you, make you shudder, or bring tears to your eyes.  By this means they overpower the exhausted man and stimulate him for one night to an over lively condition, to an ecstasy of terror and delight.  This great art, as it now lives in opera, tragedy, and music — have we a right to be angry with it, because of its perilous fascination, as we should be angry with a cunning courtesan?  Certainly not.  It would far rather live in the pure element of morning calm, and would far rather make its appeal to the fresh, expectant, vigorous morning soul of the beholder or listener.  Let us be thankful that it prefers living thus to vanishing altogether.  But let us also confess that an era that once more introduces free and complete high days and holidays into life will have no use for our great art.  

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