【P4C4】The Leech

And Zarathustra went thoughtfully on, further and lower down, through forests and past moory bottoms; as it happens, however, to every one who meditates upon hard matters, he trod thereby unawares upon a man. And lo, there spurted into his face all at once a cry of pain, and two curses and twenty bad invectives, so that in his fright he raised his stick and also struck the trodden one. Immediately afterwards, however, he regained his composure, and his heart laughed at the folly he had just committed.

“Pardon me,” said he to the trodden one, who had got up enraged, and had seated himself, “pardon me, and hear first of all a parable.

As a wanderer who dreams of remote things on a lonesome highway, runs unawares against a sleeping dog, a dog which lies in the sun:

-As both of them then start up and snap at each other, like deadly enemies, those two beings mortally frightened- so did it happen to us.

And yet! And yet- how little was lacking for them to caress each other, that dog and that lonesome one! Are they not both- lonesome ones!”

-“Whoever you are,” said the trodden one, still enraged, “you tread also too nigh me with your parable, and not only with your foot!

Lo! am I then a dog?”- And then the sitting one got up, and pulled his naked arm out of the swamp. For at first he had lain outstretched on the ground, hidden and indiscernible, like those who lie in wait for swampgame.

“But whatever are you about!” called out Zarathustra in alarm, for he saw a deal of blood streaming over the naked arm,- “what has hurt you? has an evil beast bit you, you unfortunate one?”

The bleeding one laughed, still angry, “What matter is it to you!” said he, and was about to go on. “Here am I at home and in my province. Let him question me whoever will: to a dolt, however, I shall hardly answer.”

“You are mistaken,” said Zarathustra sympathetically, and held him fast; “you are mistaken. Here you are not at home, but in my domain, and therein shall no one receive any hurt.

Call me however what you wilt- I am who I must be. I call myself Zarathustra.

Well! Up there is the way to Zarathustra’s cave: it is not far,- will you not attend to your wounds at my home?

It has gone badly with you, you unfortunate one, in this life: first a beast bit you, and then- a man trod upon you!”- -

When however the trodden one had heard the name of Zarathustra he was transformed. “What happens to me!” he exclaimed, “who preoccupies me so much in this life as this one man, namely Zarathustra, and that one animal that lives on blood, the leech?

For the sake of the leech did I lie here by this swamp, like a fisher, and already had my outstretched arm been bitten ten times, when there bites a still finer leech at my blood, Zarathustra himself!

O happiness! O miracle! Praised be this day which enticed me into the swamp! Praised be the best, the livest cupping-glass, that at present lives; praised be the great conscience-leech Zarathustra!”-

Thus spoke the trodden one, and Zarathustra rejoiced at his words and their refined reverential style. “Who are you?” asked he, and gave him his hand, “there is much to clear up and elucidate between us, but already methinks pure clear day is dawning.”

“I am the spiritually conscientious one,” answered he who was asked, “and in matters of the spirit it is difficult for any one to take it more rigorously, more restrictedly, and more severely than I, except him from whom I learnt it, Zarathustra himself.

Better know nothing than half-know many things! Better be a fool on one’s own account, than a sage on other people’s approbation! I- go to the basis:

-What matter if it be great or small? If it be called swamp or sky? A handbreadth of basis is enough for me, if it be actually basis and ground!

-A handbreadth of basis: there can one stand. In the true knowingknowledge there is nothing great and nothing small.”

“Then you are perhaps an expert on the leech?” asked Zarathustra; “and you investigate the leech to its ultimate basis, you conscientious one?”

“O Zarathustra,” answered the trodden one, “that would be something immense; how could I presume to do so!

That, however, of which I am master and knower, is the brain of the leech:- that is my world!

And it is also a world! Forgive it, however, that my pride here finds expression, for here I have not my equal. Therefore said I: ‘here am I at home.’

How long have I investigated this one thing, the brain of the leech, so that here the slippery truth might no longer slip from me! Here is my domain!

-For the sake of this did I cast everything else aside, for the sake of this did everything else become indifferent to me; and close beside my knowledge lies my black ignorance.

My spiritual conscience requires from me that it should be so- that I should know one thing, and not know all else: they are a loathing to me, all the semi-spiritual, all the hazy, hovering, and visionary.

Where my honesty ceases, there am I blind, and want also to be blind. Where I want to know, however, there want I also to be honest- namely, severe, rigorous, restricted, cruel and inexorable.

Because you once said, O Zarathustra: ‘Spirit is life which itself cuts into life’;- that led and allured me to your doctrine. And verily, with my own blood have I increased my own knowledge!”

-“As the evidence indicates,” broke in Zarathustra; for still was the blood flowing down on the naked arm of the conscientious one. For there had ten leeches bitten into it.

“O you strange fellow, how much does this very evidence teach menamely, you yourself! And not all, perhaps, might I pour into your rigorous ear!

Well then! We part here! But I would rather find you again. Up there is the way to my cave: to-night shall you there by my welcome guest!

Fain would I also make amends to your body for Zarathustra treading upon you with his feet: I think about that. Just now, however, a cry of distress calls me hastily away from you.”

Thus spoke Zarathustra.