Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Faust Part II

Act IV

Translated by A. S. Kline © Copyright 2003 All Rights Reserved

This work may be freely reproduced, stored, and transmitted, electronically or otherwise, for any non-commercial purpose.

 


Contents


Act IV

Scene I: High Mountains

(Fierce, jagged rocky peaks. A cloud approaches, pauses and settles on a projecting ledge. It parts.)

Faust (Steps out.)

Gazing at those deep solitudes beneath my feet,

I tread the mountain brink with deliberation, 10040

Leaving the cloud-vehicle that carried me,

Softly, through bright day, over land and ocean.

Slowly, not dispersing, now, it moves away.

With a rolling movement, travelling eastward,

And the eye follows in wondering admiration. 10045

Moving it divides, wave-like and changeable.

Yet it shapes itself – My eyes can’t deceive me! –

I see, reclining there, nobly, on sunlit pillows,

A godlike female form, though it’s immense!

An image of Juno, Leda, or Helen herself, 10050

Royally lovely, floating before my eyes.

Ah! It’s already melting! Formlessly huge

And towering it hangs in far icy eastern hills,

Reflecting deep meaning from fine fleeting days.

Yet a soft, delicate band of mist still clings 10055

To head and body, coolly caressing: and cheers me.

Now it lifts lightly, soars higher and higher, there,

Condensing. Does its enticing shape deceive me,

Like some long-forgotten joy of earliest youth?

The first riches of the heart’s depths flow again: 10060

I’d liken it to Aurora’s Love, light-winged:

The first, swiftly felt, scarcely understood glance,

That outshines every treasure when it’s held fast.

The lovely form rises, now, like spiritual beauty,

Not melting further, but lifting through the air, 10065

And carries, far-off, the best of what I am.

(A seven-league boot strides forward: another follows immediately. Mephistopheles steps out of them. The boots stride off quickly.)

Now that I call real onward striding!

But tell me why you’re all alone,

Climbing here among the horrors,

In these horrendous gulfs of stone? 10070

I know them well, but with another face,

In truth, the floor of Hell’s a similar place.

Faust You’re never short of a foolish fantasy:

You’ve dusted that one off again I see.

Mephistopheles (Seriously)

When the Lord God – and I know why as well – 10075

Banished us from the air to deepest deeps,

There, where round and round the glow of Hell,

An eternal inward self-fuelled fire leaps,

We found we were too brightly illuminated,

Quite crowded, and uncomfortably situated. 10080

All the devils fell to fits of coughing,

The vents above them and beneath them puffing,

Hell swollen with the sulphur’s stench and acid,

Gave out its gas! The bubble was so massive,

That soon the level surface of the earth, 10085

Thick as it was, was forced to crack and burst.

So we all gained another mountain from it,

And what was ground, before, now is summit.

From this they deduced the truest law,

Turn lowest into highest, to be sure, 10090

Since we escaped from fiery prison there,

To excessive power in the freer air:

An open mystery, yet well concealed,

And only lately publicly revealed. (Ephesians 6:12)

Faust To me the mountain masses are nobly dumb, 10095

I don’t ask why they are, or where they’re from.

When Nature in herself was grounded

The ball of Earth she neatly rounded,

Delighting in the mountains and the deep,

Setting rock on rock, and peak on peak, 10100

Sloping the hills conveniently downward,

Softening them to vales, gently bounded.

They grow green, and joyfully she ranges,

Without the need for any violent changes.

Mephistopheles Yes, so you say! It’s clear as day to you: 10105

But he knows otherwise who saw it too.

I was there, while the void seethed below,

Enduring all that swollen, fiery tide:

When Moloch’s hammer forged cliffs, at a blow,

And flung the ruined mountains, far and wide. 10110

Those foreign boulders scattered through the land:

Who knows what forces left them high and dry?

Philosophers all have failed to understand,

The rocks are there, and we must let them stand,

We’ve damaged them, already, where they lie. 10115

Only the true believers, the people, know,

And nothing will shake their fond opinion,

They, since their wisdom ripened long ago,

Say it’s due to Satan’s wonderful dominion.

The traveller climbs, with faith’s crutch, over ridges, 10120

Across the Devil’s rocks, and Devil’s bridges.

Faust Yet it’s still worth noting, since every feature,

Reveals what it is the Devil sees in Nature.

Mephistopheles What’s that to me! Let Nature be what she is!

The Devil was there: that’s what I’d have you notice! 10125

We’re the folk, you see, who achieve great things:

The signs are tumult, force, and what nonsense brings! –

But shall I make myself understood at last: it’s best:

Did nothing at all of ours please you in the slightest?

You’ve looked down, from immeasurable heights, 10130

On the riches of the world, and its splendid sights. (Matthew 4)

Yet, hard as you may be to fire,

Didn’t you feel some deep desire?

Faust I did! I saw a mighty plan.

Guess!

Mephistopheles Oh, that’s easily done. 10135

I’d find myself some capital city,

It’s core the citizens’ greedy plenty,

Crooked alleys and pointed gables,

Cabbage, turnips, onions, market tables:

Butcher’s stalls where flies all cluster: 10140

Round the fattened joints, pass muster:

Wherever you move, there you’ll find

Stench and activity, intertwined.

Then wide streets, and wider squares,

Measured, elegant thoroughfares: 10145

And, at their end, no gates to bar you:

Just boundless far-flung suburbs too.

There I love to see all the carriages go by,

The noisy rushing about from side to side,

The endless running to and fro, 10150

Of scattered ants in ceaseless flow.

And when I walk, and when I ride,

I’d be the central point implied,

A hundred thousand honouring me.

Faust That could never content me though. 10155

A swelling crowd is fine to see,

All well-fed in their way, agreed,

Well-bred, well-taught, all the three –

Yet you’ve only made more rebels grow.

Mephistopheles For myself, I’d deliberately create 10160

A pleasure house in a pleasant place.

Woods, hills, fields, meadows, open ground,

With splendid gardens all around.

Between green walls of velvet leaves,

Straight walks, where artful shadows please, 10165

Waterfalls, spanning the rocks, in pairs,

And all those kinds of water-jet affairs:

Rising nobly, while all round the dish,

A thousand little fountains hiss and piss.

Then I’d have a hut, snug and convenient, 10170

Where beautiful women might be content:

And pass the boundless time away

In the sweetest solitude, and play.

Women, I say: since, one and all,

I think of their loveliness in the plural. 10175

Faust Sardanapalus! Modern and rural!

Mephistopheles Then might one ask to know your yearning?

It’s something daring: I’ve no doubt.

Since the moon was near you in your journeying,

Might it be moon-madness you’re about? 10180

Faust Not at all! This earthly round

Grants space for some mighty thing.

We’ll attempt what’s astonishing,

New strength for daring work I’ve found.

Mephistopheles And shall you earn more glory by it too? 10185

One sees the heroines have been with you.

Faust I’ll win power, and property!

The deed is all, and not the glory.

Mephistopheles Yet future poets’ verse will stress

The splendour of your bright success, 10190

And inspire fools to foolishness.

Faust All that’s far from you, indeed.

What do you know of what Men need?

Your contrary being, bitter, dire,

What does it know of Man’s desire? 10195

Mephistopheles Let it all be as you wish it then!

Trust fancy’s flight to me again.

Faust My eyes were drawn towards the deepest ocean:

It swelled, and heaped itself, upon itself,

Then ebbed, and shook its waves again in motion, 10200

Storming towards the wide shore’s level shelf.

And that annoyed me: as the exuberance

Of a free spirit, that values all its rights,

Will transmit uneasy feelings to the dance

Of the passionate blood that it excites. 10205

I thought it chance: I gazed more intensely:

The waves paused, rolled away from me,

Far from what they’d reached in their pride:

Time passes, and then once more comes the tide.

Mephistopheles (To the audience.)

There’s nothing new in that to greet my ears, 10210

I’ve known it for a hundred thousand years.

Faust (Continuing passionately.)

It sweeps along, to whatever thousand ends:

Fruitless itself, it fruitlessly extends:

It swells and rolls and breaks and overwhelms

The empty stretches of its barren realms. 10215

There wave rules power-inspired wave, again

Draws back – and yet still there’s nothing gained.

If anything makes me despair, of my intent,

It’s the aimless force of that wild element!

Then my spirit dared to soar high above: 10220

Here I must fight, and this I must remove.

And it’s possible! – However tides may flow,

At last they nestle round the hills below:

So they are tamed in their exuberance,

A modest height tops their proud advance, 10225

A modest depth draws them forcefully on.

Quick, through my mind, leapt plan after plan:

Let rich enjoyment be mine for evermore,

To keep the noble ocean from the shore,

To channel all the wide and watery waste, 10230

And urge it backwards to its own deep place.

Step by step I know how to design it:

That’s my desire, so be brave and promote it!

(On the right, from the distance, behind the audience, the sound of drums and military music.)

Mephistopheles That’s trivial! Can you hear the distant drums?

Faust War again! The wise man hates it when it comes. 10235

Mephistopheles War or peace, it’s wise to seize the chance,

And gain advantage from the circumstance.

One waits, one notes each favourable moment.

Opportunity’s about, so Faust, be ardent!

Faust Spare me all your riddles, if you please! 10240

Once and for all, say, what am I to seize?

Mephistopheles Nothing was hidden from me on my journey:

The noble Emperor’s consumed by worry.

You know him. While we both supplied him,

Those illusory riches in his hand, beside him, 10245

The whole world then was open to him.

Young, the throne was granted to him,

And it pleased him to assume, wrongly,

That he could easily combine the two,

Enjoy the essential and the lovely too: 10250

Both government and pleasure, jointly.

Faust A fatal error! He who wishes to command

Must make command his joy, and though

His mind is full of all the noblest plans,

What he intends, must let no other know. 10255

What he whispers then in some faithful ear,

Is done, and the world will be amazed to hear.

So he’ll remain supreme, above them all,

And noblest: pleasure comes before a fall.

Mephistopheles That’s not the man! He enjoyed himself, and how! 10260

Meanwhile anarchy brought the empire down,

While great fought little, and orders crossed,

And brothers fought with brothers, and were lost,

Castle with castle, city against city,

The guilds at war with the nobility: 10265

The bishops with their congregation:

No friends, and only a hostile nation.

In churches death and slaughter: through the gate

Every merchant and trader swift to his fate.

Now, everywhere, man’s audacity shows: 10270

The word is ‘defend your life’. And so it goes.

Faust So it goes – it stumbles, falls, and stands again,

Then tumbles headlong, and lies there in pain.

Mephistopheles None dared to criticise the situation,

Each could, and would improve his station. 10275

Even the smallest wished to be great enough.

But for the best it proved a step too much.

The capable declared, with energy:

‘He who brings peace can have the mastery.

The Emperor can’t, and will not – let us choose 10280

A new Emperor, who’ll inspire the realm anew.

While each man achieves security,

In a world that’s re-created freshly,

Let peace and justice there be wedded, too.’

Faust That smacks of priesthood. 10285

Mephistopheles The priests were there, yes,

Defending their well-fed stomachs with the rest,

And they were more involved than all the others.

The rebels swarmed: and were blessed as brothers:

Then the Emperor, whom we had made happy,

Advanced, for his last battle, that’s as maybe. 10290

Faust I’m sorry for him: He was so frank and open.

Mephistopheles We’ll watch! While there’s life there’s hope again.

Let’s set him free, from this narrow valley!

He’s a thousand times saved, if they would rally.

Who knows how the dice might fall, if so: 10295

Good luck, and he’ll have treasures to bestow.

(They cross over the middle range of hills, and view the army in the valley. Drums and military music sound from below.)

The position they’ve taken, there, looks fine:

We’ll join them: victory – in the nick of time.

Faust And what should I expect to see?

A hollow show! Blind magic! Trickery! 10300

Mephistopheles Strategy, and how to win a battle!

Think hard, and be on your mettle,

Keep dreaming of your mighty aim.

If we return the Emperor his land,

You can kneel, and make a claim, 10305

In payment, for the boundless strand.

Faust You’ve managed all the other things,

So win the battle, and what it brings!

Mephistopheles No, you’ll win it! There, beneath,

You’ll be their commander-in-chief. 10310

Faust That’s a somewhat glorified position:

Knowing nothing, to command the mission!

Mephistopheles Leave it to the General Staff to care,

And see a Field-Marshall newborn there.

I know all about Un-Councils of War 10315

Form your War Council, quickly, therefore,

From ancient hills’ ancient human power:

Bless those who can pile peaks in a tower.

Faust What do I see, what warriors approach?

Have you truly roused the mountain folk? 10320

Mephistopheles No! But like Shakespeare’s Peter Quince,

I’ve picked the very best of what there is.

(The Three Mighty Warriors appear.)

Here are my lads arriving now!

You see they’re all of different ages,

And clothes and armour too: allow 10325

That you’ll be fine when battle rages.

(To the audience.)

Every child today loves to see

Knights in armour take the floor:

Allegorical though they may be,

They’ll delight them all the more. 10330

Bullyboy (Young, lightly armed, plainly clothed.)

If someone meets me face to face,

I’ll shake a fist right there in his ugly mug,

And when the yellow-belly runs away,

I’ll grasp his hair, and give a nasty tug.

Grab-quick (Mature, well-armed, richly dressed.)

Such idle brawling’s foolishness, 10335

That’s how to ruin the day:

Don’t be slow first to possess,

Then afterwards you’ll get your way.

Hold-tight (Older, heavily armed, without a cloak.)

But that’s the path where little’s won!

Great possession’s quickly gone, 10340

Vanishing in the stream of life.

It’s fine to take, but best to hold:

Let grey hairs command the bold,

And you’ll lose nothing in the strife.


Scene II: On the Headland

(Drums and military music from below. The Emperor’s tent is pitched.)

(The Emperor, Commander-in-Chief, Guardsmen.)

The Commander-in-Chief It still seems the most likely strategy, 10345

To have made our whole army wait,

Here below, in this convenient valley:

I hope the choice is truly fortunate.

The Emperor Whatever will happen now, we’ll soon see:

But I don’t like this half-retreat, it’s weak. 10350

The Commander-in-Chief Look here, my Prince, on our right flank!

This terrain is one that Generals like to thank:

The hills aren’t steep, but there’s no ready access,

So it protects us, while denying them success:

We’re half-concealed, on undulating ground: 10355

Their cavalry won’t dare to circle round.

The Emperor There’s nothing left for me to do, but praise:

Here strength and bravery may have their day.

The Commander-in-Chief There, in the centre of the level space,

See the phalanx, eagerly in place. 10360

The lances shine and glitter in the air,

Through the sunlit mist of morning, there.

And all the mighty square is swaying darkly!

Thousands inspired to fierce activity.

There you can see our power en masse, 10365

I trust it to split the enemy in half.

The Emperor This is the first time I’ve ever gazed on such a sight.

Forces like these are worth double when they fight.

The Commander-in-Chief I’ve nothing to report about our left,

Valiant heroes hold the rocky cleft, 10370

Weapons gleam across the rocky dale,

A vital pass protects the narrow vale.

Here the enemy power, I think, will shatter,

Taken unawares in this bloody matter.

The Emperor There they advance, my faithless kith and kin, 10375

Even as they call me brother, uncle, cousin,

Ever more widely, allowing men’s respect

For throne and sceptre to fall into neglect:

Ruining the empire with their fighting,

And now, against me, rebelliously uniting. 10380

The mob is swayed, uncertain in its mind,

Then, wherever the stream flows, flows behind.

The Commander-in-Chief A faithful soldier hastens towards us, look,

One sent for news, perhaps he’s had some luck!

First Scout Luckily we met success, 10385

Brave and cunning in our skill,

Probing, out to east and west,

Yet bring you bad news, still.

Many swear their loyalty,

Many a faithful company: 10390

Yet all idly apologetic:

Quailing inwardly, apathetic.

The Emperor From selfishness they learn self-preservation,

Not honour, affection, gratitude, dedication.

No one thinks that when time brings the reckoning, 10395

The neighbour’s house ignites theirs while it’s burning.

The Commander-in-Chief The second scout’s approaching, slowly,

On stumbling legs: a man full weary.

Second Scout At first we easily detected

The nature of their wild plan: 10400

Then, suddenly, and unexpected,

A second Emperor was at hand.

And in a calm, and orderly manner

Withdrew the army from the deep:

Unfurling his deceitful banner: 10405

They all followed him, like sheep!

The Emperor A second Emperor’s fortunate for me:

Since I’m the Emperor, plain as plain can be.

Now as a soldier I’ll dress myself, again,

In armour, dedicated to this higher aim. 10410

My entertainments, fine as they all were,

Lacking in nothing, never brought me danger.

While you suggested something innocent,

My heart longed to fight the tournament:

And had you not dissuaded me from war, 10415

I’d have shone in glorious deeds before.

But when I was mirrored in that realm of fire,

I felt my heart was mine, and made entire:

The fierce element entered in my fate,

Only a dream, and yet the dream was great. 10420

I’ve thought confusedly of fame and glory:

Yet all was my own neglect, an evil story.

(The heralds are sent to challenge the rival Emperor to single combat.)

(Faust enters, in armour, with half-closed visor. The Three Mighty Warriors appear armed and dressed as previously described.)

Faust We’re here, and hope our presence is accepted:

Though needless, caution’s often well respected.

You know how hill-folk consider and explore: 10425

They study nature and the mountains’ lore.

The spirits drawn from out the level valley,

Are happier than ever in the wide hill-country.

They still work the labyrinthine masses,

Among metallic fumes of noble gases. 10430

Intent on separating, proving, blending,

Their only aim some innovative finding.

With gentle touch and spiritual power,

They build transparent forms, by the hour:

Then in eternal silence, in the crystal, 10435

They watch the destiny of all things mortal.

The Emperor I’ve heard it said: and I believe it’s true:

But, gallant soldier, what’s all that to you?

Faust Your true and honourable servant there,

Is that Sabine, the Norcian Necromancer. 10440

What fearful fate once hung above his head!

Crackling wood, the stinging fire ahead:

Dry timber packed already round his feet,

With rolls of pitch and brimstone all complete:

No warrior, god, or devil to the rescue, 10445

The Emperor saved his life: and that was you,

In Rome: he was obliged, and none the less

Anxiously, he contemplates your progress.

Wholly forgotten: every hour, just for you,

He studies the stars and the abyss too. 10450

He sent us on, by the swiftest path,

To help you. Great is the mountain craft:

There Nature works omnipotent, and free,

Though foolish clerics call it wizardry.

The Emperor On joyful days, when we greet our guests, 10455

Who gather pleasantly, with happy jests,

It gives us pleasure, when they pull and push,

And fill the halls and chambers with their crush.

Yet the brave man meets with noblest welcome,

When in fierce support he deigns to come, 10460

At the dawning of some perilous day,

When fate’s balance holds us in its sway.

Yet while some time this moment can afford,

Hold back your strong hand from the eager sword,

Honour the instant, when thousands march, 10465

For or against me, taking up the torch.

Self’s the Man! Who claims the crown and throne,

Must be worthy of the honour, on his own.

May the phantom now that stands against me,

Who calls himself the Emperor of my country, 10470

The army’s leader, and the lords’ crowned head,

Be hurled by my own fist among the dead.

Faust Whatever the need to finish what you’ve started,

It would go ill if you and your head were parted.

Isn’t your helmet decked with plume and crest? 10475

It shields the head that fills our hearts with zest.

Without a head what can the members do?

If it should sleep, they sink in silence too:

If it’s injured, they’re all hurt alike,

And if it’s healed they quickly stir to life. 10480

Swiftly the arm will assert its right:

And shield the head then from the fight:

The sword at once perceives its duty,

Strikes again, and parries strongly:

The brave foot, owning its luck again, 10485

Plants itself on the necks of the slain.

The Emperor Such is my wrath, that’s how I’d use the fool,

And set his head in front of me, for a stool.

Heralds (Returning.)

Our advances they reject,

With little honour, or respect. 10490

Our strong, and noble ultimatum,

They treated as an empty statement:

‘Your Emperor is wholly lost,

An echo of some ancient rhyme:

When we think about the past, 10495

His tale will be: Once upon a time.’

Faust It’s come to pass as the best of men demand,

Those firm and true, at your right hand:

There is the foe: your men stand by us:

Order the advance, the time’s propitious. 10500

The Emperor I hereby relinquish the command.

(To the Commander-In-Chief)

Prince, I entrust the duty to your hand.

The Commander-in-Chief Then let the right wing start its assault!

The enemy left’s ascending, even now,

And in a moment will be forced to halt. 10505

To our young faithfuls they will have to bow.

Faust Let this brave hero, straight away,

Join your ranks, without delay,

So that in your ranks he might,

Make a brave show in the fight. 10510

(He points to the Mighty Warrior on the right.)

BullyBoy (Coming forward.)

He who shows his face to me, won’t turn

Before his front and back teeth shatter:

He who shows his back to me will earn

A blow to make his head much flatter.

And if your soldiers then advance 10515

With sword and mace, together,

Man after man, the foe will dance,

And in their own blood quickly smother.

(He exits.)

The Commander-in-Chief Let the central phalanx follow slowly,

Engage the enemy with force and cunning: 10520

There on the right they’re almost ready

To surrender, you can see them running.

Faust (Pointing to the central Warrior)

Let this man follow at your command!

He’s quick, and grabs with either hand.

Grab-quick (Comes forward.)

The thirst for plunder now will greet 10525

The Emperor’s troops’ advancing feet,

And all will gather, with intent,

At the rival Emperor’s tent.

He won’t linger on his throne:

I’ll lead the phalanx on my own. 10530

Swift-plunder (A camp follower, fawning on him.)

Although he and I aren’t wed,

He’s my sweetheart. Here instead

Autumn ripens for the bold!

Woman’s fierce when she takes hold,

Merciless, in a plundering crowd, 10535

Forward to victory! All’s allowed.

(They exit together.)

The Commander-in-Chief As I anticipated on our left flank,

They hurl their right, in force, at last.

We’ll resist their furious ranks,

And keep them from the narrow pass. 10540

Faust (Beckoning to the Warrior on the left.)

Prince, take note of this man too:

No shame if the strong are stronger than you.

Hold-tight (Coming forward.)

Let the flanks forget their fear!

I seize the ground where I appear:

In me are born the powers of old, 10545

No lightning splits what I shall hold.

Mephistopheles (Descending from above.)

Now see how from the hinterland

Of this rocky jagged land,

An armed host bursts forth

On narrow pathways from the north, 10550

With sword and helmet, shield and spear,

Forming a rampart in our rear:

They wait for the signal to charge on.

(Aside, to the knowing ones.)

You mustn’t ask me where they’re from.

I’ve gathered them from everywhere, 10555

The armouries all around are bare:

They stood on foot, and sat astride,

Like lords of earth on every side:

They were emperors, knights, and kings,

Now they’re the empty shells of things: 10560

I’ve dressed so many spirits for the strife,

It’s like the Middle Ages come to life.

Whichever little devils are inside,

They’ll have enough effect to turn the tide.

(Aloud.)

Listen how they show their anger, 10565

Jostling, in metallic clangour!

The ragged banners flutter free,

That waited restless for the breeze.

Think: here’s an ancient race that’s ready

To mingle in our new dispute, and gladly. 10570

(A tremendous peal of trumpets from above: a perceptible tremor in the hostile army.)

Faust The far horizon darkens swiftly,

Yet, here and there, and meaningfully,

There’s an incipient crimson glow,

Already the battlefield gleams there,

The rocks, the woods, the atmosphere, 10575

The very heavens join the show.

Mephistopheles The right flank holds in strength:

There’s Bullyboy the nimble giant,

Towering over all, defiant,

And charging them at length. 10580

The Emperor First I saw an arm uplifted,

Then at least a dozen shifted:

The thing’s unnatural.

Faust Don’t you know the bands of mist

That drift round the Sicilian cliffs? 10585

There, in the daylight, clear,

In mid-air, hovering about

Mirrored in peculiar cloud,

Marvellous images appear.

Cities wander to and fro, 10590

Gardens rise above, below,

As form on form fills the air.

The Emperor Yet it’s suspicious! All about

The tips of spears are shining out:

On our phalanx’ gleaming lances, 10595

I see a crowd of flame-lets dances.

It looks quite ghostly there, to me.

Faust Forgive me, Lord, those are the traces

Of natural spirits, vanished races,

A glimmer of the Dioscuri, 10600

Sailors invoke in tempest’s fury:

They show their last strength there.

The Emperor But tell me: who then might command

Nature’s assistance for our land,

This gathering of the rare? 10605

Mephistopheles Who else than that noble Master,

Who takes your destiny to heart?

The thought of military disaster

Moves him deeply, stirs his art.

In gratitude, he wants to save you, 10610

Though he himself should suffer too.

The Emperor They cheered me, when I was invested:

So I was keen to see my power tested:

I found it useful, without much thought, as ruler,

To send that wise man where the air was cooler. 10615

I robbed the clergy of a fond desire,

And hardly won their favour from the fire.

Now that so many years have gone

Is this the reward of what I’d done?

Faust Good deeds from the heart reap riches: 10620

Let your glance stray upwards now!

I think he’ll send a sign, a show,

Attend: straight away it’s as he wishes.

The Emperor An eagle soars in the upper air,

A Gryphon attacks him there. 10625

Faust Attend: It’s an auspicious feature.

The Gryphon’s a fabulous creature:

How could he forget who’s regal,

And tangle with a real eagle?

The Emperor And now, they fly in wider gyres, 10630

They wheel together: swiftly now

Then dash against each other’s bow,

So neck and chest are ripped entire.

Faust Now note the miserable Gryphon,

Ripped and rumpled, hurt quite badly, 10635

Now, with his lion’s tail all torn,

He falls, and vanishes in a tree.

The Emperor As it’s prophesied, so let it be!

This whole thing’s astounding me.

Mephistopheles (Towards the right.)

Driven by blows, ten times repeated, 10640

The enemy force has retreated,

And in the uncertain fight

Drifts away towards the right,

So defusing all the force

Of their army’s sinister course. 10645

Our phalanx with its spears tightening

Moves to the right, and like lightening

Strikes them in the weakest place:

Now like the storm-driven waves

They roar, with opposing force, 10650

Wildly on their dual course:

Gloriously all sound dies away,

And victory is ours, I’d say!

The Emperor (On the left, to Faust.)

See! Something looks suspicious,

Our position’s inauspicious, 10655

Not a stone’s hurled in the air,

The cliffs below are taken there,

Bare the narrows, to the pass.

Now! The enemy en masse

Are ever nearer to the sun, 10660

Perhaps we’re already overrun:

An end to this unholy strife!

Your arts won’t save my life.

(Pause.)

Mephistopheles See, my two ravens come winging,

What news might they be bringing? 10665

I fear we’re in trouble here.

The Emperor What do they mean these wretched birds?

Their black wings turn hitherwards,

Out of the heat of battle they steer.

Mephistopheles (To the ravens.)

Both of you sit by my ear, 10670

None are lost if you are near,

Your council’s always good to hear.

Faust (To the Emperor.)

You’ll know about homing pigeons

Ones that return from distant regions,

To their nest, and food, and young. 10675

Here’s a slightly different kind:

Pigeon post in peace is fine,

Raven posts to war belong.

Mephistopheles The birds announce a dreadful fate:

Beware the enemy at the gate, 10680

Near our heroes’ rocky wall!

They’ve attained the narrow height,

If they gain the pass, and fight,

Our position’s critical.

The Emperor So I’m betrayed at last! 10685

Into your net I’ll be cast:

I shudder as it entangles me.

Mephistopheles Courage, now! Not yet, their victory.

Patience and skill unties the knot!

It’s often fiercest at the end. 10690

The pair of messengers, we’ve got:

Command me, I’ll command them!

The Commander-In-Chief (Who has arrived, meanwhile.)

You’ve united with this pair,

Tormenting me while I was there,

No luck comes from wizardry. 10695

I can’t fathom now how to win

Those should finish, that begin:

Take this baton away from me.

The Emperor Keep it for another day, one better

And blessed with better fortune. 10700

I shudder at this messenger,

And his company of ravens.

(To Mephistopheles.)

I’ll not grant the baton to you,

You’re not the proper man:

Give commands: free us too! 10705

Do whatever it is you can.

(He exits into his tent with the Commander-In-Chief.)

Mephistopheles Let that blunt stick protect the man!

It’s of small use in anyone’s hand:

It has a cross, too, painted on.

Faust What can we do?

Mephistopheles It’s already done! 10710

Now dark Cousins, hurry from the scene,

To the mountain lake! Greet the Undines,

And beg from them their gleaming flood.

Their female arts, those difficult of knowing,

Can divorce appearances from being, 10715

And all still swear it’s being that they’re seeing.

(Pause)

Faust With flattery our pair of ravens

Have so charmed those water maidens

That trickling flows at once begin.

And many a bald, dry ridge of mountain 10720

Becomes a swollen, rushing fountain:

The enemy can no longer win.

Mephistopheles It’s not a greeting to which they’re used.

The bravest climbers appear confused.

Faust Now, powerfully, streams pour on streams, 10725

Sweeping from gorges with redoubled gleams,

A river now throws up an arching veil:

Pours over the rocky level in a tide,

Runs foaming down, on every side,

And, stepwise, hurls itself into the dale. 10730

What use their fine, heroic resistance?

The vast wave roars, and fills the distance.

I shudder myself at this wild waterfall.

Mephistopheles I can see nothing of these watery lies,

They only serve for fooling human eyes, 10735

I delight instead in wonders that befall.

In companies, their men plunge down,

The fools imagine that they’ll drown,

While free to breathe, on solid ground,

With swimming strokes, they run around. 10740

It’s bewildering them all.

(The Ravens return.)

I’ll praise you to the noble Master: but see,

If you’d like to display your own mastery,

Hurry to the glowing smithy,

Where the dwarf folk never weary, 10745

Hammering sparks from steel and stone.

Ask for, once you’ve chattered first,

A fire to shine: sparkle, and burst,

The finest that man’s ever known.

It’s true that far off lightning flashes, 10750

And stars that fall in sudden dashes,

Can happen any summer’s night:

But lightning in the tangled bushes,

And stars that fizzle in the rushes,

They’re not such a common sight. 10755

Don’t trouble about my command,

Ask first, then afterwards demand.

(The Ravens fly off. All takes place as ordered.)

Darkness cloaks the enemy!

Their footsteps meet uncertainty!

Everywhere are wandering flares, 10760

And those sudden blinding glares!

It’s all beautiful indeed,

Now some noise is what we need.

Faust The empty armour from each vaulted room,

Feels itself stiffen in the airy gloom: 10765

There it rattles, clatters all around,

A marvellous, and deceptive sound.

Mephistopheles That’s it! They no longer feel constrained:

Already their blows fall unrestrained,

As in the nobility of their former life. 10770

Breastplates and helmets gleam,

As Guelph and Ghibelline,

They quickly renew eternal strife.

Locked in hereditary bile,

They prove themselves, un-reconciled: 10775

Far and wide the noise is rife.

In the end, by all the Devils, yes!

Partisan hatred’s still the best,

Till final ruin ends the tale:

Here rise the sounds of utter panic, 10780

And others bitter and Satanic,

Terrify, along the vale.

(Warlike tumult from the orchestra, finally changing to a lively martial air.)


Scene III: The Rival Emperor’s Tent

(A throne amongst rich trappings. Grab-quick and Swift-plunder.)

Swift-plunder We’re the first ones here, I see!

Grab-quick No Raven flies as fast as me.

Swift-plunder O! Look at the treasure there on top! 10785

What will I grab? How shall I stop?

Grab-quick The whole place is still full of loot,

I don’t know where to start, in truth!

Swift-plunder This fur-rug, this’ll go far,

Often my bed’s far too hard. 10790

Grab-quick Here’s a morning star in steel,

I’ve always longed for one, I feel.

Swift-plunder This red mantle, trimmed with gold,

Is like the one my dream foretold.

Grab-quick (Taking a weapon.)

With this the deed is swiftly done, 10795

You strike him dead and then move on.

You’ve already packed so much stuff,

And yet you’ve nothing good enough.

Leave your plunder in its place,

And put a casket in the space! 10800

The army’s pay is what they hold,

In their fat bellies, purest gold.

Swift-plunder What a murderous weight it is!

I can’t lift: I can’t carry it.

Grab-quick Bend down: quick! You’ll have to bow! 10805

I’ll strap it to your back for now.

Swift-plunder Oh! Ah! Now it’s in front, too!

The weight’s broken my cross in two.

(The chest falls and bursts open.)

Grab-quick There’s the red gold in a heap –

Quickly now, take and keep! 10810

Swift-plunder (Crouching.)

Quickly then, just fill my lap!

There’ll still be enough perhaps.

Grab-quick That’s enough! Now off you go!

(Swift-plunder rises.)

Oh! Your apron has a hole!

Wherever you walk or stand, 10815

You’re sowing gold on every hand.

Guardsmen of the True Emperor What are you doing here, at leisure,

Rummaging in the Imperial treasure?

Grab-quick We risked our bodies in the ranks,

And take away our share of thanks. 10820

That’s the rule, in enemy tents,

And we’re soldiers too, my friends.

The Guardsmen That won’t wash in our army:

You can’t be soldier and thief equally:

Whoever serves our Emperor, 10825

Is an honest soldier, and no more.

Grab-quick That honesty, we know it, son,

It’s called: a contribution.

You’re all the same: it’s a crime,

‘Give!’ is the password every time, 10830

(To Swift-plunder.)

Take what you’ve got: and leave the rest,

Here one’s hardly a welcome guest.

(They both exit.)

A Guardsman Tell me why you didn’t land

That churl with a good right hand.

A Second Guardsman I don’t know, my strength was gone, 10835

They were a pair of ghostly ones.

A Third Guardsman There was something nasty in my eye,

I couldn’t see: they flickered by.

A Fourth Guardsman I don’t know what to say:

It was sweltering hot today, 10840

So sultry, so close as well,

One man stood, another fell:

You staggered around and struck, in one,

At every blow you killed someone,

There was a mist in front of your eyes, 10845

Then a buzz, and rustle, and hiss went by:

So it went on, and here we are, now,

I don’t know what happened, anyhow.

(The Emperor enters, accompanied by Four Princes. The Guardsmen exit.)

Now, let him do as he may! The battle here is done,

The host is scattered in flight, across the field new won. 10850

Here is the traitor’s treasure, and his empty throne,

Where tapestries hang round, closed in a narrow zone.

Protected by our guard of honour, we’ll wait

Imperially, for the people’s delegate.

Messengers of joy arrive from every side: 10855

The Empire’s calm, and we’re mutually reconciled.

Though some wizardry was involved in our fight,

In the end we fought with only our own true might.

There were of course a few lucky accidents:

Stones from the sky, a shower of blood on their tents, 10860

Strange and mighty sounds from the rocky caves,

That lifted our hearts, and terrified their braves.

The conquered fell, beneath our relentless scorn,

Praising the kind god, our ranks cheer once more.

And all, without coercion, shout together as one: 10865

‘God be praised!’ from a million throats is wrung.

Yet in highest praise I turn my own pious glance

As I seldom do, towards my own circumstance.

A young man may well squander his early days,

But age teaches him all the error of his ways. 10870

Therefore at once without delay I bind you to me,

You noble four, to my House, Court and country.

(To the First.)

Prince, yours was the army’s ordering, wisely planned,

Then, at the height of the battle, its bold command:

Now act, in time of peace, as the hour requires you to, 10875

I name you High-Marshall, and confer the sword on you.

The High-Marshall Your loyal army, deployed, on my orders,

Internally, will now defend your borders,

Let us, too, prepare the table on feast days,

In your spacious castle’s ancestral ways. 10880

Always to be your High Majesty’s defence,

Standing beside you, or marching in advance.

The Emperor (To the Second.)

You, who show yourself as gracious as you’re brave,

Be our High-Chamberlain: the office is grave.

You become the overseer of all our attendants, 10885

Great evil comes from strife among dependants:

So let your example honourably recall

How they may please their prince, the court and all.

The High-Chamberlain Be gracious, that the Lords may further your great aim:

Assist the best and cause no injury to the lame, 10890

Be open without cunning: be calm without deceit!

If you know me, Sire, my ambition is complete.

But on the feast may I now deploy my imagination?

When you’re at table, I shall bear the golden basin,

I’ll hold your rings, that on those joyful days 10895

Your hands may be refreshed, as I am by your gaze.

The Emperor I feel too serious for ready celebration,

But, be it so, as a joyful inauguration!

(To the Third.)

I make you High-Steward! Oversee the chase,

The poultry yard, and such, around the place: 10900

Give me the finest dishes, choice and rare,

In their right month, and carefully prepared.

The High-Steward Strict fast will be my pleasant punishment,

Till I can serve the tastiest refreshment.

Your kitchen staff will join with me to bring 10905

The distant near, and make the year take wing.

Yet early and rare won’t stimulate your fires,

Simple and strong, is what your taste desires.

The Emperor (To the Fourth.)

Since planning feasts is unavoidable here,

Young hero, I’ll give you my cup to bear. 10910

High-Cupbearer, take care those cellars of mine

Are richly filled with casks of vintage wine.

Be temperate yourself: don’t lose your reason

In the wild delight of momentary temptation!

The High-Cupbearer The young, if you trust in them, my Prince, 10915

Grow to manhood, almost before you’d notice.

I’ll take my place too at your noble feast:

And load the imperial table with all that’s best,

With every kind of vessel, in silver and gold,

But the handsomest of all for you I’ll hold: 10920

A clear Venetian glass, where joy is waiting,

That strengthens the taste, without intoxicating.

One often trusts too much in such a treasure:

But your restraint, Lord, will protect your pleasure.

The Emperor What I bestow on you at this grave moment, 10925

You hear, in confidence, has my true intent.

The Emperor’s word is great, his gift is sure,

But to be enacted it needs his signature,

His noble mark. Here’s the right man I see

True to his time, to complete the formality. 10930

(The Archbishop and High-Chancellor enters.)

If the arch can trust the keystone’s part,

Then it’s raised securely, with lasting art.

You see four Princes here! And I’ve explained

How my House and Court must be sustained.

Now, what the empire holds within its bounds 10935

Is placed, with weight and power, in your hands.

You’ll outshine all others in your estates:

So I’ve extended your walls and gates,

With the lost possessions of our enemy.

I award you fine lands, for your loyalty. 10940

Together with the right, in due course,

To buy, exchange, or add to them by force:

Then, be it known, I grant you unhindered use –

Of what belongs to you, the landlord’s dues.

When you as judges speak your final thought, 10945

No appeal shall be heard by a higher court.

Then taxes, levies, rents, and tolls and fees,

Are yours: of mines, mints, salt the royalties.

And to display my gratitude completely,

I’ve raised you all to highest majesty. 10950

The Archbishop On behalf of us all I give our deepest thanks to you!

You make us strong and sure: increasing your power too.

The Emperor To you five, still higher favours will I give.

I live for my empire, and I still wish to live:

Yet ancient, noble ties draw the careful thinker 10955

From present things to those that follow after.

I too, in time, must leave all I still hold dear,

It’s your duty then to name a new ruler, here.

At our holy altar, crown and raise him high:

What war begins ends peacefully, by and by. 10960

The High-Chancellor With pride at heart, yet humble in gesture, too,

We, the Earth’s noblest princes bow to you.

So long as blood fills our loyal veins, then still

Are we the body that obeys your every will.

The Emperor Now, to conclude, let everything we’ve enacted 10965

Be set down for the future, as we’ve contracted.

As Lords you hold your possessions, free in fact,

With this condition, that they remain intact.

And what you have from us, whatever else is won,

Shall descend in due measure to the eldest son. 10970

The High-Chancellor I’ll entrust it to parchment straight away,

This weightiest statute to bless us, and the state:

The Chancery will provide fair copy, and reveal

You as confirmed, my Lords, by sign and seal.

The Emperor And so I dismiss you that you may deliberate 10975

Together, concerning this great day for our state.

(The Secular Princes exit.)

The Archbishop The Chancellor leaves, the Bishop remains here,

With this grave warning to offer in your ear.

His paternal heart, anxiously, fears for you.

The Emperor Speak, in this happy hour, what care’s on view? 10980

The Archbishop With what bitter pain I find that even at this hour,

Your hallowed head still toys with Satan’s power!

True, you’ve secured the throne now, yet it seems,

Sadly, scorning God, and the Pope’s great schemes.

When he learns of it, swift punishment he’ll bring, 10985

And destroy your sinful realm with holy lightning.

He’s not forgotten how, at that earlier time,

Of coronation, you freed the wizard: in crime.

With your diadem, you injured Christianity,

Striking a cursed head with the first act of mercy. 10990

Now beat your breast and from your guilty measure,

Give back to the holy shrine a little treasure:

You, taught humility, devote to pious use, and good,

The spacious stretch of hills where your tent stood.

Where evil spirits gathered for your protection, 10995

And the Prince of Liars secured your attention:

Grant mount and forest deep, as far as they extend,

And heights, the green slopes adorn, without end.

Clear lakes rich in fish, countless streams that flow,

Winding swiftly, that rush to the valleys below: 11000

Then the broad vale itself, meadow, lawn and hollow:

Show your remorse: gain the mercy that must follow.

The Emperor I’m deeply fearful of this, my heavy sin:

Yourself, mark out the borders of the scheme.

The Archbishop First then the place profaned by such sinfulness, 11005

Dedicate that to the service of heavenliness.

Thick walls rise quickly, at the mind’s desire,

Already the sun’s dawn glance lights the choir,

The growing building takes the cross’s structure,

The nave long and high, a delight to each believer: 11010

Already as they press eagerly through the doors,

A first peal rings through hills, down valley floors,

From the high tower, that’s striving towards heaven,

The penitent comes, to whom new life is given.

That day of consecration – may it be soon! – 11015

When your presence grants the greatest boon.

The Emperor Let the pious mind proclaim so great an action,

In praising the Lord, I’ll achieve my expiation.

Enough! I already feel my mind’s exaltation.

The Archbishop As Chancellor I require a formal proclamation. 11020

The Emperor A formal document: lay that before me,

I’ll be pleased to sign whatever the Church agrees.

The Archbishop (Has taken leave, but turns back at the door.)

At the same time devote the total income of the land,

As it arises, tithes, taxes, levies, to the work on hand,

Forever. It needs to be maintained, fairly, 11025

And its careful upkeep will cost us dearly.

From all that plunder, grant us a measure of gold,

To build it quickly there, in that desert fold.

Moreover we’ll need, I can’t help mentioning,

Timber from far off, lime, slate, and such things. 11030

Exhorted from the pulpit, the folk will haul it,

The Church will bless the man who learns to serve it.

(He exits.)

The Emperor The sin with which my soul is heavy, is full sore:

Wretched Sorcerers have wounded me, once more.

The Archbishop (Returning, yet again, and bowing deeply.)

Pardon, my Lord! The Imperial shore was given 11035

To that disreputable man, I’ll excommunicate him,

Unless you in penitence grant the Church, there, too,

Its tithes, and gifts, and taxes: the whole of its revenue.

The Emperor (In a bad humour.)

That land doesn’t exist, it lies there under the sea.

The Archbishop Who’s patient, and is right, his time is yet to be. 11040

For us, your word must wait on one man’s desire.

(He exits.)

The Emperor (Alone.)

I might as well sign away the whole wide empire.