ERE Zarathustra had been an hour on his way in the mountains and forests, he saw all at once a strange procession. Right on the path which he was about to descend came two kings walking, bedecked with crowns and purple girdles, and variegated like flamingoes: they drove before them a laden ass. "What do these kings want in my domain?" said Zarathustra in astonishment to his heart, and hid himself hastily behind a thicket. When however the kings approached to him, he said half-aloud, like one speaking only to himself: "Strange! Strange! How does this harmonize? Two kings do I see- and only one ass!"
Then the two kings made a halt; they smiled and looked towards the spot whence the voice proceeded, and afterwards looked into each other's faces. "Such things do we also think among ourselves," said the king on the right, "but we do not utter them."
The king on the left, however, shrugged his shoulders and answered: "That may perhaps be a goat-herd. Or an hermit who has lived too long among rocks and trees. For no society at all spoils also good manners."
"Good manners?" replied angrily and bitterly the other king: "what then do we run out of the way of? Is it not 'good manners'? Our 'good society'?
Better, verily, to live among hermits and goat-herds, than with our gilded, false, over-rouged rabble- though it call itself 'good society.'
-Though it call itself 'nobility.' But there all is false and foul, above all the blood- thanks to old evil diseases and worse curers.
The best and dearest to me at present is still a sound peasant, coarse, artful, obstinate and enduring: that is at present the noblest type.
The peasant is at present the best; and the peasant type should be master! But it is the kingdom of the rabble- I no longer allow anything to be imposed upon me. The rabble, however- that means, hodgepodge.
Rabble-hodgepodge: therein is everything mixed with everything, saint and swindler, gentleman and Jew, and every beast out of Noah's ark.
Good manners! Everything is false and foul with us. No one knows any longer how to reverence: it is that precisely that we run away from. They are fulsome obtrusive dogs; they gild palm-leaves.
This loathing chokes me, that we kings ourselves have become false, draped and disguised with the old faded pomp of our ancestors, show-pieces for the stupidest, the craftiest, and whosoever at present trafficks for power.
We are not the first men- and have nevertheless to stand for them: of this imposture have we at last become weary and disgusted.
From the rabble have we gone out of the way, from all those bawlers and scribe-blowflies, from the trader-stench, the ambition-fidgeting, the bad breath-: fie, to live among the rabble;
-Fie, to stand for the first men among the rabble! Ah, loathing! Loathing! Loathing! What does it now matter about us kings!"-
"Thine old sickness seizes you," said here the king on the left, "thy loathing seizes you, my poor brother. You know, however, that some one hears us."
Immediately then, Zarathustra, who had opened ears and eyes to this talk, rose from his hiding-place, advanced towards the kings, and thus began:
"He who hearkens to you, he who gladly hearkens to you, is called Zarathustra.
I am Zarathustra who once said: 'What does it now matter about kings!' Forgive me; I rejoiced when you said to each other: 'What does it matter about us kings!'
Here, however, is my domain and jurisdiction: what may you be seeking in my domain? Perhaps, however, you have found on your way what I seek: namely, the higher man."
When the kings heard this, they beat upon their breasts and said with one voice: "We are recognized!
With the sword of your utterance severest you the thickest darkness of our hearts. You have discovered our distress; for behold, we are on our way to find the higher man-
-The man that is higher than we, although we are kings. To him do we convey this ass. For the highest man shall also be the highest lord on earth.
There is no sorer misfortune in all human destiny, than when the mighty of the earth are not also the first men. Then everything becomes false and distorted and monstrous.
And when they are even the last men, and more beast than man, then rises and rises the rabble in honor, and at last says even the rabble-virtue: 'Lo, I alone am virtue!'"-
What have I just heard? answered Zarathustra. What wisdom in kings! I am enchanted, and verily, I have already promptings to make a rhyme thereon:-
-Even if it should happen to be a rhyme not suited for every one's ears. I unlearned long ago to have consideration for long ears. Well then! Well now!
(Here, however, it happened that the ass also found utterance: it said distinctly and with malevolence, Y-E-A.)
'Twas once- methinks year one of our blessed Lord,-
Drunk without wine, the Sybil thus deplored:-
"How ill things go!
Decline! Decline! Ne'er sank the world so low!
Rome now has turned harlot and harlot-stew,
Rome's Caesar a beast, and God- has turned Jew!