I have a hard time understanding what Nietzsche wanted to express in this aphorism :

  1. The Solitary One

Despised by me are following and leading.
Commanding? Even worse to me than heeding!
Who does not scare himself can frighten no one:
The one who causes fear can lead another.
But just to lead myself is too much bother!
I love, as do the sea and forest creatures,
to lose myself a while in nature's features,
to hide away and brood in secret places
until, lured home at last from distant traces,
my self-seduction lets me see - my features.

At a first glance, of course, he seems to describe the inner attitude of a loner but coming from the part named "Joke, Cunning, and Revenge" I'm not sure if he's talking about his experience or if he's denouncing this attitude as non-virtuous.

Also, same for this part in particular :

Who does not scare himself can frighten no one:
The one who causes fear can lead another.

Is scaring yourself positive or negative ? What could it mean, scaring yourself by how much your Will to Power is strong and exalted ?

How do you understand it ?

Also do you know any existing resource that compiles commentaries about these aphorisms so I can work with it ?

1 Answer 1


Not an expert on Nietzsche but after having read some of these poems from "Die Fröhliche Wissenschaft" (unfortunately just the German as I can't seem to find an English version in a hurry), it seems as if he's pointing out the irony and contradictions of these characteristics.

Like "der Unfreie" ("32. the slave"):

A. Er steht und horcht: was konnt ihn irren?
Was hört er vor den Ohren schwirren?
Was war’s, das ihn darniederschlug?

B. Wie Jeder, der einst Ketten trug, Hört überall er — Kettenklirren.

So essentially Person A asking Person B why a third person is standing around listening intensely as if scared by an inaudible sound. While person B argues that, as anybody once enchained, he hears the rattling of chains wherever he goes.

So the irony is that the reminiscence of his unfreedom is what enchains him/keeps him unfree despite being free.

Or here "der Verächter" ("10. the scorner"):

Vieles lass ich fall’n und rollen,
Und ihr nennt mich drum Verächter.
Wer da trinkt aus allzuvollen
Bechern, lässt viel fall’n und rollen —,
Denkt vom Weine drum nicht schlechter.

Who complains he's called a defier for letting things fall and roll. While arguing it's people who drink the full cup who let things fall and roll and that doesn't imply they don't like the wine. So people who defy things might not do it due to virtue but rather because being obsessed with/can't defy something else.

And similarly "Der Einsame" (33. "The lone one"/"the solitary one"):

Verhasst ist mir das Folgen und das Führen.
Gehorchen? Nein! Und aber nein — Regieren!
Wer sich nicht schrecklich ist, macht Niemand Schrecken:
Und nur wer Schrecken macht, kann Andre führen.
Verhasst ist mir’s schon, selber mich zu führen!
Ich liebe es, gleich Wald- und Meerestieren,
Mich für ein gutes Weilchen zu verlieren,
In holder Irrnis grüblerisch zu hocken,
Von ferne her mich endlich heimzulocken,
Mich selber zu mir selber — zu verführen.

Though I think the translation, though not bad is missing something. The First 2 lines are straight forward rejection of leading and following, obeying and commanding. In lines 3 and 4 he explains that. By asserting that only those who are afraid of themselves can make other people afraid of them and that only those who can instill fear can lead people.

Implying so far that the solitary one is content with himself and in no fear of being with himself.

And then he deconstructs that line by line: At first he argues that he "already hates to lead himself" (not just to much too bother but contempt of it). So one might already assume that he's afraid of himself. Even further implied in the next two lines by his attempts to get away from himself by losing himself in nature. Pretty much verbatim what he says though presented with a more joyous blissful tone then what I imply here.

the next line "hide and brood in secret places" or "sitting in blissful confusions". Slightly different tone but still the notion of enjoying getting away from himself.

The last two lines are again not quite a good translation.

Von ferne her mich endlich heimzulocken,

"from a distance finally luring MYSELF home"

Mich selber zu mir selber — zu verführen.

"to seduce myself to myself".

So to summarize: You can read it as the solitary first defying fear, leading and following. Just to exhibit, fear, leading and following of himself by himself. So he's not actually defying what he contempts but he's just not employing other people in it.

Edit: The version on Project Gutenberg seems to be different from the one in the question, it's not a 1:1 translation and the language is rather old fashioned, but it's really close to the original and the old fashioned language seems to be chosen to preserve the rhyme scheme though the words that rhyme end up being different. Anyway it seems to be much closer.

  • 1
    Thanks for your answer, I wish I also had the ability to read the original text. It didn't cross my mind it could be interpreted that way, that's the beauty of aphorisms I guess.
    – Jos B
    Commented Dec 7, 2022 at 11:34
  • 1
    Gutenberg Project has all Nietzsche texts, fully searchable. So: gutenberg.org/cache/epub/52124/…
    – CriglCragl
    Commented May 5, 2023 at 18:56
  • @CriglCragl Thanks a lot! Before I edit the post accordingly, is there a reason why you ruined the formatting? Like these aphorisms seem to be presented in the form of poems which I tried to preserve by having them line by line.
    – haxor789
    Commented May 5, 2023 at 20:57
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    You have to put line breaks on, which is a pain, is why. I don't like text being obscured off the page. My edit was only a suggestion, you arrange it however you like
    – CriglCragl
    Commented May 6, 2023 at 10:06
  • Yeah, it is. I guess I tried it with code-mode (indentation) but that's not great either and fortunately the lines in each stanza are short enough to avoid obscured text, at least on my device. Anyway thanks for the link, that translation seems to be a lot better than the one in the question.
    – haxor789
    Commented May 6, 2023 at 10:36

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