Homer and Classical Philology

By Friedrich Nietzsche

Page 8

hand, wavered between the supposition of
one genius plus a number of minor poets, and another hypothesis which
assumed only a number of superior and even mediocre individual bards,
but also postulated a mysterious discharging, a deep, national, artistic
impulse, which shows itself in individual minstrels as an almost
indifferent medium. It is to this latter school that we must attribute
the representation of the Homeric poems as the expression of that
mysterious impulse.

All these schools of thought start from the assumption that the problem
of the present form of these epics can be solved from the standpoint of
an aesthetic judgment--but we must await the decision as to the
authorised line of demarcation between the man of genius and the
poetical soul of the people. Are there characteristic differences
between the utterances of the _man of genius_ and the _poetical soul of
the people_?

This whole contrast, however, is unjust and misleading. There is no
more dangerous assumption in modern aesthetics than that of _popular
poetry_ and _individual poetry_, or, as it is usually called, _artistic
poetry_. This is the reaction, or, if you will, the superstition, which
followed upon the most momentous discovery of historico-philological
science, the discovery and appreciation of the _soul of the people_. For
this discovery prepared the way for a coming scientific view of history,
which was until then, and in many respects is even now, a mere
collection of materials, with the prospect that new materials would
continue to be added, and that the huge, overflowing pile would never be
systematically arranged. The people now understood for the first time
that the long-felt power of greater individualities and wills was larger
than the pitifully small will of an individual man;[1] they now saw that
everything truly great in the kingdom of the will could not have its
deepest root in the inefficacious and ephemeral individual will; and,
finally, they now discovered the powerful instincts of the masses, and
diagnosed those unconscious impulses to be the foundations and supports
of the so-called universal history. But the newly-lighted flame also
cast its shadow: and this shadow was none other than that superstition
already referred to, which popular poetry set up in opposition to
individual poetry, and thus enlarged the comprehension of the people's
soul to that of the people's mind. By the misapplication of a tempting
analogical inference, people had reached the point of applying in the
domain of the intellect and artistic ideas that principle of greater
individuality which is truly applicable only in the domain of the will.
The masses have never experienced more flattering treatment than in thus
having the laurel of

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