SCHOPENHAUER AT THE ENGLISCHER HOF A Monologue I have been called a pessimist. I am. What man who calls himself a thoughtful man, a feeling man, can be ought else? The wine? The wine is good, but I prefer the beer. I took no wife because I wanted none. I live alone because I wish to live alone. The passions must be overcome. I recommend the veal. It’s excellent. The monarchs made a mockery of hope. My father was a businessman. He killed himself when I was seventeen. I left my mother’s house soon afterward because she chose a life I could not tolerate to look upon. She was a novelist, you know, received the intellectuals of Weimar in her parlor. And her bed. She let old Goethe bring his Christiane with him, but when he told her I, her son, would be a very famous man, she pushed me down the stairs. Her name is only known through me, the bitch. Who reads her novels now? I come to dine here almost every day. Before I start I place a coin – this one – beside the plate, and when I’m done, I put the coin back in my pocket once again. It is a wager that I’ve made myself to drop it in the poor box of the church the day the English officers who dine at this establishment should talk of else than horses, women , or dogs. Here, I have one. His name is Atma. It means World- Soul. Why was my masterpiece unrecognized? Because just those who could have given it publicity – the university philosophers – I have attacked in it. Ah, yes, good man, the veal for both of us. The rule, I sing the song of him whose bread I eat, has always held. It now, too, holds. I make no living from philosophy. I have inherited an interest in my father’s firm, and that has been enough. The life of every individual, when we survey it as a whole and stress its most important parts, is tragedy. But in the details, always comedy. The world is bankrupt in the end, and life’s a business which does not recoup expense. All happiness requires ignorance or youth, for youth and ignorance are one. The fear of death is the beginning of philosophy, religion’s final cause. Diogenes refused to breathe – and died. A brilliant victory! Alas, how vain. The more things change, the more they stay the same. This is the essence of philosophy. The true philosophy of history lies in perceiving this eternal truth. In general, the wise have always said the same. The fools have acted all alike as well and done the opposite. And thus reality is suffering and pain. And thus the genius suffers most of all. You hear? You hear the English gentlemen? The coin is in my pocket yet again.
J.R. Solonche has been publishing in magazines, journals, and anthologies since the 70s. He is the author of twenty books of poetry and coauthor of another. He lives in the Hudson Valley.