The World is Deep

Acrylic on card, 42 x 29.7 cm. 2021. SOLD

Inspired by 'Zarathustra's Roundelay' from Friedrich Nietzsche's Also sprach Zarathustra. For Nietzsche, joy is woven into the mad complexity or 'depth' of the universe, and thus always muddled up with suffering, so anyone who truly desires and values joy must therefore desire and value all the rest, including suffering. The distinction between joy and suffering seems to break down, the former becoming so 'deep' as to encompass the latter. This poem was set to music by Gustav Mahler in his third symphony, and my pictorial setting also owes something to Mahler's ambivalence towards Nietzsche's philosophy: in the face of human weakness, he seems to think, Nietzsche's Dionysian 'affirmation' of the world is unbearably cold, hard-hearted and inhuman. I have translated the poem as follows:


  Mortal, stand to!
  What does deep midnight say to you?
  “I slept, did sleep—,
  Now waken from deep dreams anew:—
  The world is deep,
  Much deeper than day ever knew.
  Deep is her woe—,
  Joy – deeper far than misery: 
  Woe says: no!
  But joy wants deep eternity—,
  —wants endless, deep eternity!”