04 May 2016

Mit der Dummheit Kämpfen Götter Selbst Vergebens

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Death of John Talbot — Charles-Philippe Larivière, La bataille de Castillon, 1838, Galerie des batailles, Château de Versailles.

In Friedrich Schiller’s Die Jungfrau von Orleans, when the enchantress Joan of Arc preaching her visions and prophesies, inspires the French Army to heroic efforts and panics the English into flight, the dying English commander Talbot complains:


„Unsinn, du siegst und ich muß untergehn!
Mit der Dummheit kämpfen Götter selbst vergebens.
Erhabene Vernunft, lichthelle Tochter
Des göttlichen Hauptes, weise Gründerin
Des Weltgebäudes, Führerin der Sterne,
Wer bist du denn, wenn du dem tollen Roß
Des Aberwitzes an den Schweif gebunden,
Ohnmächtig rufend, mit dem Trunkenen
Dich sehend in den Abgrund stürzen mußt!
Verflucht sei, wer sein Leben an das Große
Und Würdge wendet und bedachte Plane
Mit weisem Geist entwirft! Dem Narrenkönig
Gehört die Welt.

Folly, thou conquerest, and I must yield!
Against stupidity the very gods
Themselves contend in vain. Exalted reason,
Resplendent daughter of the head divine,
Wise foundress of the system of the world,
Guide of the stars, who art thou then if thou,
Bound to the tail of folly’s uncurbed steed,
Must, vainly shrieking with the drunken crowd,
Eyes open, plunge down headlong in the abyss.
Accursed, who striveth after noble ends,
And with deliberate wisdom forms his plans!
To the fool-king belongs the world.


Stupidity doesn’t always win, of course. It just wins most of the time.


Via John Brewer:

“Some scientists claim that hydrogen, because it is so plentiful, is the basic building block of the universe. I dispute that. I say there is more stupidity than hydrogen, and that is the basic building block of the universe.” — F. Zappa (a better guitar player than F. Schiller was)

5 Feedbacks on "Mit der Dummheit Kämpfen Götter Selbst Vergebens"


Joan of Arc was a saint who saved her country.


The English had a different point of view.

T. Shaw

Likely the general’s stupidity contributed to the rout.

Homer, et al named Ares’ chariot horses “Panic” and “Terror.” They can be infectious. Armies could break for no reason.

Among the middle ages Christian kingdoms, England likely was the least involved with the Inquisition. Joan’s immolation did not materially slow the French in driving out the English kings. It simply added one more crime to a very long list.

The English inquisition of Joan was politically motivated. French nationalism/politics may have affected her beatification.

Reading the classics reveals that many human frailties afflicted the gods, including to a lesser extent stupidity. St. Augustine raises the issue in The City of God.


Mark Twain said it more concisely in Huckleberry Finn: “Ain’t we got the fools on our side, and ain’t that a majority in any town?”


The English, in this case, were on the wrong side of history.


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