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 halfaloud, 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, showpieces 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!
With those rhymes of Zarathustra the kings were delighted; the king on the right, however, said: “O Zarathustra, how well it was that we set out to see you!
For your enemies showed us your likeness in their mirror: there looked you with the grimace of a devil, and sneeringly: so that we were afraid of you.
But what good did it do! Always did you prick us anew in heart and ear with your sayings. Then did we say at last: What does it matter how he look!
We must hear him; him who teaches: ‘You shall love peace as a means to new wars, and the short peace more than the long!’
No one ever spoke such warlike words: ‘What is good? To be brave is good. It is the good war that hallows every cause.’
O Zarathustra, our fathers’ blood stirred in our veins at such words: it was like the voice of spring to old wine-casks.
When the swords ran among one another like red-spotted serpents, then did our fathers become fond of life; the sun of every peace seemed to them languid and lukewarm, the long peace, however, made them ashamed.
How they sighed, our fathers, when they saw on the wall brightly furbished, dried-up swords! Like those they thirsted for war. For a sword thirsts to drink blood, and sparkles with desire.”- -
-When the kings thus discoursed and talked eagerly of the happiness of their fathers, there came upon Zarathustra no little desire to mock at their eagerness: for evidently they were very peaceable kings whom he saw before him, kings with old and refined features. But he restrained himself. “Well!” said he, “there leads the way, there lies the cave of Zarathustra; and this day is to have a long evening! At present, however, a cry of distress calls me hastily away from you.
It will honor my cave if kings want to sit and wait in it: but, to be sure, you will have to wait long!
Well! What of that! Where does one at present learn better to wait than at courts? And the whole virtue of kings that has remained to them- is it not called to-day: Ability to wait?”
Thus spoke Zarathustra.