It stands by the parting of the ways where worldly and earthly sufferings have set down their crosses, and calls out: Come hither, all ye poor and wretched ones, ye who in poverty must slave in order to assure yourselves, not of a care-free, but of a toilsome, future; ah, bitter contradiction, to have to slave for—assuring one’s self of that under which one groans, of that which one flees! Ye despised and overlooked ones, about whose existence no one, aye, no one is concerned, not so much even as about some domestic animal which is of greater value! Ye sick, and halt, and blind, and deaf, and crippled, come hither!—Ye bed-ridden, aye, come hither, ye too; for the invitation makes bold to invite even the bed-ridden—to come! Ye lepers; for the invitation breaks down all differences in order to unite all, it wishes to make good the hardship caused by the difference in men, the difference which seats one as a ruler over millions, in possession of all gifts of fortune, and drives another one out into the wilderness—and why? (ah, the cruelty of it!) because (ah, the cruel human inference!) because he is wretched, indescribably wretched. Why then? Because he stands in need of help, or at any rate, of compassion. And why, then? Because human compassion is a wretched thing which is cruel when there is the greatest need of being compassionate, and compassionate only when, at bottom, it is not true compassion!
Ye sick of heart, Ye who only through your anguish learned to know that a man’s heart and an animal’s heart are two different things, and what it means to be sick at heart—what it means when the physician may be right in declaring one sound of heart and yet heart-sick; ye whom faithlessness deceived and whom human sympathy—for the sympathy of man is rarely late in coming—whom human sympathy made a target for mockery; all ye wronged and aggrieved and ill-used; all ye noble ones who, as any and everybody will be able to tell you, deservedly reap the reward of ingratitude (for why were ye simple enough to be noble, why foolish enough to be kindly, and disinterested, and faithful)—all ye victims of cunning, of deceit, of backbiting, of envy, whom baseness chose as its victim and cowardice left in the lurch, whether now ye be sacrificed in remote and lonely places, after having crept away in order to die, or whether ye be trampled underfoot in the thronging crowds where no one asks what rights ye have, and no one, what wrongs ye suffer, and no one, where ye smart or how ye smart, whilst the crowd with brute force tramples you into the dust—come ye hither!
The invitation stands at the parting of the ways, where death parts death and life. Come hither all ye that sorrow and ye that vainly labor! For indeed there is rest in the grave; but to sit by a grave, or to stand by a grave, or to visit a grave, all that is far from lying in the grave; and to read to one’s self again and again one’s own words which he knows by heart, the epitaph which one devised one’s self and understands best, namely, who it is that lies buried h e r e, all that is not the same as to lie buried one’s self. In the grave there is rest, but by the grave there is no rest; for it is said: so far and no farther, and so you may as well go home again. But however often, whether in your thoughts or in fact, you return to t h a t grave—you will never get any farther, you will not get away from the spot, and this is very trying and is by no means rest.