Thoughts on 'A Supple Wreath Of Myrtle' by Bob Hass

Bob Hass is one of the poets who encouraged me when I started reading contemporary poetry. He introduced me to the poetry of Jane Hirshfield.  Today I read the poem "A Supple Wreath Of Myrtle" From "Time and Materials" written by Bob Hass. First the poem, and then some of my thoughts. 

A Supple Wreath Of Myrtle
Robert Hass

Poor Nietzsche in Turin, eating sausage his mother
Mails to him from Basel. A rented room,
A small square window framing August clouds
Above the mountain. Brooding on the form
Of things: the dangling spur
Of an Alpine columbine, winter-tortured trunks
Of cedar in the summer sun, the warp in the aspen's trunk
Where it torqued up through the snowpack.

"Everywhere the wasteland grows; woe
To him whose wasteland is within."

Dying of syphilis. Trimming a luxuriant mustache.
In love with the opera of Biznet.

This is a 12 line poem that introduced me to Nietzsche, a German philosopher whose most often quoted line is the following:
The wasteland grows. Woe to him who hides the wasteland within.
I am wondering what the context was. Nietzsche was probably thinking about the destruction from the war. That we are creating a bigger and bigger wasteland. The second Nietzsche line is more mysterious. To me it reads that there is so much waste outside, but that is not the cause of much woe. Much of human woe is caused from the wasteland that is within. There is the potential for the human soul to emerge from the surrounding wasteland. There is the hope for a pristine lotus from within.

The poem lays a contrast between this man -- who apparently enjoys sausage, his loving mother, beautiful trees (which he seems to find faults in), the luxury of an exaggerated mustache (seen on most pics of his I found), and the opera of Bizet -- and his philosophy which states "woe to the one who hides the wasteland within".  Is it possible that onside and out Nietzsche is part of the wasteland, and his actions may imply that he doesn't care? 

He is thinking of lofty things among the mundane.  Observing the kinks in nature.  At the same time, he is not in great shape. He is dependent on his mother for food. He is poor; he is dying in a room that he has rented. 

Wreaths are obviously used in memory of someone who is loved that has departed. Myrtle is a plant that was sacred to the Greek goddess Aphrodite. It was also a symbol of love. Hass indicates through the title, that he loves both the aspects of this hero: the lofty external observations and the wasteland within. 

Interestingly, I found a nice article by Brenda Hillman, Bob Hass' wife, picking this poem as one of her favorites of his poems. She says, "The poem suggests that the daily and the heroic are always intertwined."

Also found an interesting cartoon that goes well with the poem: 

The Nietzsche Family Circus

"I think I am too sarcastic to believe in myself."
Philosophical poetry