Søren Kierkegaard : A Fragment of Life

Extracts from:

Søren Kierkegaard

Either/Or, A Fragment of Life


[Either/Or (Danish: Enten – Eller) is the first published work of the Danish philosopher Søren Kierkegaard. Appearing in two volumes in 1843 under the pseudonymous editorship of Victor Eremita (Latin for "victorious hermit"), it outlines a theory of human existence, marked by the distinction between an essentially hedonistic, aesthetic mode of life and the ethical life, which is predicated upon commitment.]

Grandeur, savoir, renommée,

Amitié, plaisir et bien,

Tout n’est que vent, que fumée:

Pour mieux dire, tout n’est rien

[Greatness, knowledge, renown,

Friendship, pleasure and possessions,

All is only wind, only smoke:

To say it better, all is nothing.]

Paul Pellisson

"What is a poet ? An unhappy person who conceals profound anguish in his heart but whose lips are so formed that as sighs and cries pass over them they sound like beautiful music.

It is with him as with the poor wretches in Phalaris’s bronze bull, who were slowly tortured over a slow fire; their screams could not reach the tyrant’s ears to terrify him; to him they sounded like sweet music. And people crowd around the poet and say to him, “Sing again soon”— in other words, may new sufferings torture your soul, and may your lips continue to be formed as before, because your screams would only alarm us, but the music is charming.

And the reviewers step up and say, “That is right; so it must be according to the rules of esthetics.” Now of course a reviewer resembles a poet to a hair, except that he does not have the anguish in his heart, or the music on his lips. Therefore, I would rather be a swineherd out on Amager and be understood by swine than be a poet and be misunderstood by people.


I don’t feel like doing anything. I don’t feel like riding — the motion is too powerful; I don’t feel like walking — it is too tiring; I don’t feel like lying down, for either I would have to stay down, and I don’t feel like doing that, or I would have to get up again, and I don’t feel like doing that, either. Summa Summarum : I don’t feel like doing anything.


I feel as a chessman must feel when the opponent says of it : That piece cannot be moved.


I say of my sorrow what the Englishman says of his house: My sorrow is my castle. Many people look upon having sorrow as one of life’s conveniences.