5 – Four Good Europeans

(SHAKESPEARE, GOETHE, BYRON AND HEINE)

With Nietzsche’s lifelong expertise in Greek poetry, he mentions in passing poets like Dante, Shelley, Poe, Baudelaire and Kleist and there remains his enduring involvement with Holderlin. But in his middle works he responds more vitally to Shakespeare, Goethe, Byron and Heine. For Nietzsche, these latter poets each became a European event, each created a sensibility, a style and values which culturally unite Europe and so each inevitably flouted provincial or national self-interest by providing an European (a modern) reply to antiquity. Each creates something more than an “aesthetic” response to their own times, promulgating while inventing cultural values which imply a self-overcoming (while struggling with their own ressentiments) — and a future for Europe. As poets, they are Good Europeans.
Nietzsche writes in Beyond Good and Evil:

Europe wants to become one. In all the more profound and comprehensive men of this century, the overall direction of the mysterious workings of their soul was to prepare the way for this new synthesis and to anticipate experimentally the European of the future .. it is Europe, the one Europe, whose soul surges and longs to go further and higher through their manifold and impetuous art — where? into a new light? a new sun? but who could express precisely what all these masters of a new means of language could not express precisely? 1.