Tuesday, 16 April 2013

A Poem by Carlo Michelstaedter

Carlo Michelstaedter may be a name known to some. Author of Persuasion and Rhetoric, a work that places itself in the genealogy wherin reside Ecclesiastes, Sophocles, Leopardi, Schopenahuer and other great pessimists, Michelstaedter mercilessly exposed the delusions through which humans convince themselves life is worth living. One day after mailing the manuscript of the work to his university in submission for his doctorate, Michelstaedter shot himself. In addition to his great work, he also wrote occasional poetry, an example of which (addressed to his sister Paula) I present here.

Even as swallows year by year return
Back to the nests that held them featherless,
So man goes back in the course of his days,
Time after time to the thought of his cradle.
And as every year he keeps that day,
That to hunger and thirst, to sorrow and grief,
That to this mortal life did him awaken,
Every year he persuades himself again
To love his life.

And the parents who in the newly-born,
In the fragile and helpless little being,
Saw the fruit of their hopes;
And holding out to him with timorous love
All that life gives to him who asks to live,
Made of his tears a veil for their own eyes;

Trusting that clothes and food
Could make him live his life;
Year after year revive their ancient hope,
Their ancient grief,
And with a veil still cover their tired eyes,
Offering thanks to him for being born,
That he may thank them for his life,
and that The dumb grief be forgotten,
and the vain Promise be ever present.

But may the wish, that, what he never had,
Even for an instant,
Should come to him through long luminous years,
Lend the light that it borrows from the future
To the day of his birth,
and multiplying Illusions,
may it persuade him
That his hunger is good,
and life sufficient
Is this our daily death.
May gifts and kisses and the table spread,
Sweet words in plenty, plenty of sweet things,
Blithe promises and glances full of trust,
Make the familiar room joyous and bright,
And shield it from the terrors of the night.

Paula, I cannot say sweet words to thee,
And things that might be dear I do not know,
Because dumb grief has spoken unto me,
And told me that which every heart suffers
Unknowingly, unconfessed to itself.
Beyond the window-panes of the bright room,
Which the accustomed images reflect,
The darkness I can see, still threatening,
And stay and rest I cannot in the desert.
O, let me go, Paula, through the night,
There to create my own light by myself,
Let me go through the desert, to the sea,
That I may bring thee back the gift of light. _
more than thou thinkest, thou art dear to me.


  1. Great poem, Karl. Thanks for posting it.

  2. Is anybody here being tortured 24/7? Little pains and problems are not a reason to claim that life is not worth living. Most of us have good and happy lives. Procreation is justified.

    1. Many people are enduring mental torture in silence, like the commenter below. And AN can come from a global perspective of the world's misery, but perhaps for you that's just 'collateral damage', a phrase that tells us all we need to know about the world.

    2. Yes I can say that I have been tortured 24/7 since I was born. Reason being that I was born profoundly disabled and -worse- severe facial deformity. I am one among many people in this world that live in such horrific circumstances.

  3. "Every year he persuades himself again
    To love his life."

    I used to lie to myself like that. Pretend that I wanted to exist in a world like this because it's not socially acceptable to come out and say that you are angry that you were ever born, that you are angry at your creators for violating you like that. I have always felt like a robot that other people created in order to serve them. That's the twisted gift of life, a gift only to those who create the life, a curse to the one who is created.

  4. Hey is debate still shut down on your blog? Just checking

    1. Debate was never shut down.

    2. Whatever dude, all I know is you started shouting about free speech before shutting down unmoderated commenting.

  5. Does anyone know what happened to Derived Energy? I've been unable to contact him in months.

    1. Yeah, I noticed he's gone silent. Will drop him an email myself.

    2. Anon and Karl,I hate antinatalists and I would like to say that your dear friend Derived Energy aka Kirk Eliott Neville, was arrested for marijuana possession in Jakarta and could face up to 12 years in prision. Look here: http://www.thejakartaglobe.com/home/british-teacher-arrested-in-jakarta-over-drugs/572588

    3. Thanks for the heads-up!

    4. You hate antinatalists? Why oh why do you hate me, what oh what did I do to deserve your hate? I am a law-abiding, tax paying citizen. What more do you want? What more do you want?

    5. https://www.change.org/petitions/government-east-jakarta-indonesia-free-kirk-elliot-neville There's a petition here, if anyone wants to sign it.

  6. I've read this blog for a while, and felt a very deep understanding and acceptance of what Karl preaches, but...

    what's been happening to me lately has led me to scream YES to life.

    This is anonymous so... I will lay a few details on you. I am a male with very deep-rooted submissive sexual tendencies and before you say "ew" I'd like to say fuck you. It is NOT easy living with this. It is less conventional than homosexuality, and although there are worse sexual hangups, it is VERY VERY difficult to find any sort of success romantically that is truly fulfilling.

    Well, I'm sorry, but I have recently met someone who I can only describe as totally unprecedented, to me. She literally ticks EVERY. SINGLE. BOX. for what I desire from another human being. EVERY ONE. She is like the part of me that has been creating fake accounts and pretending to be the thing I desire, it is like that part actually created it, only she's better than anything I could have imagined, even.

    She is inspiring me to achieve my goals. Although, obviously from what I've said already you can imagine she is a very dominant personality, she respects me for my writing, which I do for whenever she wants something written. I have written her both prose and poetry, and will continue to do so as she helps me stay creative. She is such an incredible positive force in my life.

    And BELIEVE ME i have felt the implications of what Karl talks about here. Absolutely I have. I have seen through this world and seen the bleakest thing, seen through my own self and how hollow it is, all of that stuff.

    But my god... the feeling of finding something that is so perfect, after so many years... y'know if I can rise to the challenge and actually gain her full companionship then fuck it, it will have been worth it. A lot of people would find her an arrogant and cruel person, but she makes sense of the suffering of the world, for me. She is young, privileged, strong, intelligent, and proud of it all.

    And yes, I know the old refrain "even if you married her, it would have to end at some point" Well, most likely I, being older than her by a fair bit and considerably less blessed in the genetics department, will probably die before her, and I know she will be just fine in the aftermath of that. But if by some twist of fate she were to die before me, I would kill myself the following day and be fine about it.

    So yeah, just going to throw that all out here for your blog comment section. Cheerio!

    1. Best of luck with it all! Keep us posted on how it goes!

  7. DerivedEnergy has been arrested for allegedly smoking a joint and faces 12 years in jail

    "We need governments, we need some structure, some protection"--Shadow

    "I, for one, would not like to wake up to hear there was no more government, police"-- Karl

    1. Yes, we need GOOD governments, laws and protections.