Transparent water

«Aber auch nicht seine Tugenden verbergen! – Ich liebe die Menschen, welche durchsichtiges Wasser sind und die, mit Pope zu reden, auch “die Unreinlichkeiten auf dem Grunde ihres Stromes sehen lassen.” Selbst für sie giebt es aber noch eine Eitelkeit, freilich von seltener und sublimirter Art: Einige von ihnen wollen, dass man eben nur die Unreinlichkeiten sehe und die Durchsichtigkeit des Wassers, die diess möglich macht, für Nichts achte. (…)».

[But also not concealing one’s virtues – I love those humans who are like transparent water and who, as Pope says, even “let the impurities on the bottom of their stream to be seen”. Even though, for them, there is still a vanity, it is, admittedly, of a rarer and more sublimated kind: some of them wish that one only just sees the impurities and does not regard the transparency of the water which makes this possible. (…)].

– Nietzsche, “Morgenröte“[Dawn], §558.

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«My faults will not be hid from you, and perhaps it is no dispraise to me that they will not: the cleanness and purity of one’s mind is never better proved, than in discovering its own faults at first view; as when a stream shows the dirt at its bottom, it shows also the transparency of the water.»

– Alexander Pope, letter to Mr. Congreve, Jan. 16, 1714-5.

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«Know then thyself, presume not God to scan
The proper study of Mankind is Man.[*]
Placed on this isthmus of a middle state,
A Being darkly wise, and rudely great:
With too much knowledge for the Sceptic side,
With too much weakness for the Stoic’s pride,
He hangs between; in doubt to act, or rest;
In doubt to deem himself a God, or Beast;
In doubt his mind or body to prefer;
Born but to die, and reas’ning but to err;
Alike in ignorance, his reason such,
Whether he thinks too little, or too much;
Chaos of Thought and Passion, all confus’d;
Still by himself, abus’d or disabus’d;
Created half to rise and half to fall;
Great Lord of all things, yet a prey to all,
Sole judge of truth, in endless error hurl’d;
The glory, jest and riddle of the world.

Go, wondrous creature! mount where science guides,
Go, measure earth, weigh air, and state the tides;
Instruct the planets in what orbs to run,
Correct old time, and regulate the sun;
Go, soar with Plato to th’ empyreal sphere,
To the first good, first perfect, and first fair;
Or tread the mazy round his followers trod,
And quitting sense call imitating God;
As Eastern priests in giddy circles run,
And turn their heads to imitate the sun.
Go, teach Eternal Wisdom how to rule—
Then drop into thyself, and be a fool!

– Alexander Pope, “An Essay on Man”, 1733-1734.

(*) This line was “The only Science of Mankind is Man” in the first edition, but it was corrected by the author afterwards. Right: not science.

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