Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Faust Part II
Translated by A. S. Kline © Copyright 2003 All Rights Reserved
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- Act III Scene I: Before the Palace of Menelaus in Sparta
- Act III Scene II: The Inner Court of The Castle
Scene I: Before the Palace of Menelaus in Sparta
(Helen enters with the Chorus of Captive Trojan Women. Panthalis is leader of the Chorus.)
Helen I, Helen the much admired yet much reviled,
Come from the shore, where recently we landed,
Still drunk with the violent rocking of those waves 8490
That from Phrygian heights on high-arched backs,
By Poseidon’s favour, and the East Wind’s power,
Carried us here to the coast of my native land.
There, below us, beside his bravest soldiers
King Menelaus, now, celebrates his return. 8495
But you, bid me welcome, you, the lofty house
Tyndareus my father built when he returned,
Close by the slope of Pallas Athene’s hill:
Here, where with Clytemnestra, in sisterhood, I
And Castor and Pollux, grew and happily played: 8500
You, more nobly adorned than all Sparta’s houses.
Be greeted by me, you honoured double doors!
Once, Menelaus the shining bridegroom came
To me, through your friendly inviting portals,
I, the one singled out from among so many. 8505
Open to me once more, so that I might fulfil,
The King’s command, truly, as a wife should.
Let me pass! And let everything be left behind,
That raged round me, till now, so full of doom.
For since, light in heart, I left this place behind, 8510
Seeking out Venus’ temple, in sacred duty,
Where instead a Trojan robber abducted me,
Many things have happened, men, far and wide,
Gladly tell of, though she’s not so glad to hear them,
Round whom the story grew, and myth was spun. 8515
Chorus O marvellous woman, don’t disdain
Inheritance of the noblest estate!
For the highest fate’s granted to you alone,
The glory of beauty that towers above all.
The Hero’s name sounds his advance, 8520
And proudly he strides:
But he bows down, most stubborn of men,
Before conquering Beauty, in mind and sense.
Helen Enough of that! I’m brought here by my husband,
I’ve been sent ahead by him, now, to his city: 8525
But what the meaning of it is I can hardly guess.
Do I come as his wife? Do I come as the Queen?
Or a sacrifice, for a Prince’s bitter pain,
And the ill fortune long endured by the Greeks?
I’m conquered: but am I a prisoner? I can’t tell! 8530
True, the Immortals appointed Fame, and Fate,
As the two ambiguous, doubtful companions
Of Beauty, to stand here at this threshold with me,
The gloomy, threatening presences by my side.
Even in the hollow ship my husband seldom 8535
Gazed at me, or spoke an encouraging word.
He sat in front of me, as if in evil thought.
But scarcely had the foremost ship’s prow greeted
Land, in that deep bay Eurotas’ mouth has made,
Than he spoke to us, as the gods had urged him: 8540
‘Here my soldiers will disembark in ordered ranks,
I’ll muster them, ranged along the ocean’s-shore:
But you’ll go on, ever on along the banks
Of sacred Eurotas, shining with bright orchards,
Guide the horses through gleaming water meadows, 8545
Till of your lovely journey you make an end,
Where Lacedemon, once a rich spreading field,
Surrounded by austere mountains, was created.
Walk through the high-towered house of princes,
And summon the capable old Stewardess 8550
Along with the maidservants I left behind,
Let her display the store of rich treasure to you,
That which your father left, and that I myself
Have added to, amassing it in war and peace.
You’ll find it all still in the most perfect order: 8555
It is a prince’s privilege that he should find
That all is loyalty, on returning to his house,
All that he’s left behind still in its proper place.
Since no slave has the power to effect a change.’
Chorus Let this treasure, so steadily massed, 8560
Bring you delight, now, in eye and breast!
For the necklace bright, and the crown of gold,
Were resting, and darkening, in proud repose:
But enter now, and claim them all,
They’ll quickly respond. 8565
I love to see Beauty itself compete
Against gold and pearls and glittering gems.
Helen So again there came my lord’s imperious speech:
‘When you’ve examined all of it in due order,
Take as many tripods as you think you’ll need, 8570
And as many vessels as sacrifice requires,
To fulfil the customs of the sacred rites.
Take cauldrons, and basins, and circular bowls:
The purest of water from the holy fountains,
In deep urns: take care that you’ve dry wood too, 8575
Such as will quickly catch fire, and hold all ready:
And finally don’t forget a well-honed knife:
Everything else I’ll leave for your decision.’
So he spoke, at the same time urging my going:
But he who commanded marked out nothing living 8580
To be slain: to honour the Olympian gods.
Essential, but I’ll think no more about it,
And leave all things in the hands of the gods:
They fulfil whatever is in their mind to do,
Whether or not we think it good or evil: 8585
In either case we mortals must endure it.
Often the priest’s heavy axe has been lifted,
From the bowed neck of the sacrificial victim,
So he could not slaughter it, being hindered,
By enemies near, or the gods’ intervention. 8590
Chorus What might happen, think not of that:
Queen, go on, now, step inside,
And be brave!
Good and evil come
Unannounced, to Mankind: 8595
Though it’s proclaimed, we’ll not believe.
Troy still burned: did we not see
Death in our faces, shameful death:
And are we not here,
Your friends, happily serving, 8600
Seeing the blinding sun in the sky
Seeing the Loveliest on Earth,
You, the kind: we the joyous?
Helen Let it be, as it will! Whatever awaits me,
I must go, swiftly, up to that royal house, 8605
Long forsaken, often longed for, almost lost,
That’s before my eyes once more: I know not how.
My feet don’t carry me onwards so bravely, now,
Up those high steps, I skipped over as a child.
Chorus Sorrowful prisoners, 8610
Oh, cast away, Sisters,
All your pain, to the winds:
Share in your mistress’ joy
Share now in Helen’s joy,
Who returns, truly late indeed,
To her father’s hearth and home, 8615
But with all the more firm a step,
Praise the sacred gods,
Creating happiness, 8620
Bringing the wanderer home!
See the freed prisoner
Soar on uplifted wings,
Over harshness, while, all in vain,
The captives, so full of longing, 8625
Pine away, arms still outstretched,
To the walls of their prison.
But a god snatched her up, then,
And from Ilium’s fall, 8630
Carried her back once more, home
To the old, to the newly adorned, her
Rapture and torment, 8635
Now, reborn, to remember
The days of her childhood.
Panthalis (As leader of the Chorus.)
Now leave behind the joyful path of your singing,
And turn your eyes towards the open doorway!
Sisters, what do I see! Surely the Queen returns 8640
Waking towards us, again, with anxious steps?
What is it, great Queen? What can you have met with,
Within the halls of your house, instead of greetings,
To cause you such trembling? You can hide nothing,
Since I see your reluctance written on your brow, 8645
And amazement competes there with noble anger.
Helen (Who has left the doors open, in her turmoil.)
A daughter of Zeus is stirred by no common fear,
No lightly passing hand of Terror can touch her:
Only the Horror that the womb of ancient Night,
Raised from chaos, and shaped in its many forms, 8650
In glowing clouds that shoot, upwards and outwards,
From the peak’s fiery throat, to shake the hero’s breast.
So here today the Stygian gods have marked
The entrance to my house with terror: and gladly
I’d take myself far away, like a guest let go, 8655
Far from this often trodden, long yearned for threshold.
But no! I’ve retreated here now, into the light,
And you Powers will drive me no further, whoever
You are. Rather, I’ll think of some consecration,
So the hearth-fire, cleansed, greets the wife, as the lord. 8660
The Leader of the Chorus Noble lady, reveal to your maidservants here,
Who help you reverently, what has happened.
Helen You’ll see what I saw yourselves, with your own eyes,
If ancient Night has not, straight away, swallowed it,
That shape of hers: withdrawn it to her heart’s depths. 8665
But I’ll picture it to you in words, so you’ll know:
As, with those recent orders in mind, I trod,
Gravely, through the palace’s innermost room,
Awed by the silence of the gloomy corridors,
No sound of busy labour greeting my ears, 8670
No sound of prompt, diligent effort meeting my eye,
No Stewardess appeared, and no maidservants,
No courtesy such as usually greets the stranger.
But as I approached closer to the hearth stone
Beside the glowing ashes that remained, I saw 8675
A veiled woman, vast shape, seated on the floor,
Not like one who’s asleep, but one deep in thought.
I summoned her to work, with words of command,
Thinking she was the Stewardess whom my husband,
Had placed there perhaps, with foresight, when he left. 8680
But she still sat there, crouched and immoveable:
At last, stirred by my threats, she raised her arm,
As if she gestured me away from hearth and hall.
I turned aside from her, angrily, and sped,
To the steps where the Thalamos is adorned 8685
On high, and close beside it the treasure house:
Suddenly that strange shape sprang up from the floor,
Barring my way, imperiously, showing herself,
Tall and haggard, with hollow, blood-coloured gaze:
A shape so weird that mind and eye were troubled. 8690
But I talk to the wind: for words weary themselves
Trying to conjure forms, vainly, like some creator.
See for yourselves! She even dares the daylight!
Here am I mistress, till the King, my lord, shall come.
Phoebus, beauty’s friend, drives the horrid spawn of Night 8695
To caverns underground, or he binds them fast.
(Phorkyas appears on the threshold, between the doorposts.)
Chorus Much have I learned, although the locks
Curl youthfully still across my temples!
Many the terrible things I’ve seen,
The soldiers’ misery, Ilium’s night, 8700
When it fell.
Through the clouded, and dust-filled turmoil,
The press of warriors, I heard the gods
Calling terribly, heard the ringing
Iron voice of Discord through the field, 8705
Ah! They still stood there, Ilium’s
Walls, but the glow of the flames
Soon ran from neighbour to neighbour,
Ever spreading, hither and thither, 8710
With the breath of their storm,
Over the darkening city.
Fleeing, through smoke and heat, I saw
Amid the tongues of soaring fire,
The fearful angry presence of gods, 8715
Marvellous, those striding figures,
Like giants, they were, through the gloom,
The fire-illumined vapour.
Did I see that Confusion,
Or did the fear-consumed Spirit 8720
Create it? Never will I be able,
To say, but I’m truly certain
Of this, that here I see, Her,
Monstrous shape to my eyes:
My hand could even touch Her, 8725
If terror did not restrain me,
Saving me from danger.
Which of the daughters
Of Phorkyas are you?
Since I liken you 8730
To that family.
Are you perhaps one of the Graeae,
A single eye and a single tooth,
Owned alternately between you,
One born of greyness? 8735
Monster, do you dare
Here, next to Beauty,
Show yourself to Phoebus,
And his knowing gaze?
Then step out before him regardless: 8740
Since he’ll not look at what’s ugly,
Just as his holy eye,
Has never seen shadow.
Yet we mortals are compelled, ah,
By unfortunate gloomy fate, 8745
To the unspeakably painful sight
She, reprehensible, ever ill fated,
Provokes in the lover of Beauty.
Yet hear me then, if you boldly
Encounter us: hear the curse, 8750
Hear the threat of every abuse,
From the condemnatory mouth of the fortunate,
Whom the gods themselves have created.
Phorkyas (The transformed Mephistopheles.)
The saying is old, with meaning noble and true,
That Beauty and Shame, together, hand in hand, 8755
Never pursue the same path, over green Earth.
Such ancient, deep-rooted hatred lives in both,
That whenever they meet, by chance, on the way,
The one will always turn her back on her rival.
Then quickly and fiercely each goes on, again, 8760
Shame downcast, but Beauty mocking in spirit,
Till in the end Orcus’ dark void shall take her,
If age hasn’t, long before then, tamed her pride.
So now I find you, impudent, come from abroad,
With overflowing arrogance, like the cranes, 8765
Their noisily croaking ranks, high overhead,
Their long cloud, sending its creaking tones, down here,
Tempting the quiet traveller to look upwards:
Yet they pursue their way, while he follows his:
And that’s the way it will be with us as well. 8770
What then are you, wild Maenads or Bacchantes,
That dare to rage round the great royal palace?
Who are you, then, who howl at this high house’s
Stewardess, like a pack of bitches, at the moon?
Do you think it’s hidden from me what race you are? 8775
You brood, begotten in battle, raised on slaughter,
Lusting for men, the seducers and the seduced,
Draining the soldiers’ and the citizens’ powers!
To see your crowd’s like watching a vast swarm
Of locusts settle here, darkening the fields. 8780
You the wasters of others labour! Nibbling,
Destroying, the ripening crops of prosperity!
Defeated, bartered, sold in the market, you!
Helen Who abuses the servants before the mistress,
Presumptuously usurping a wife’s true rights? 8785
Only to her is it given to praise whatever’s
Praiseworthy: and to punish what is at fault.
I’m well content, as well, with all the services
They provided to me, when Ilium’s great might,
Stood beleaguered, and fell in ruins: none the less 8790
Just as we’ve endured the wretched wandering
Journey, where often one thinks only of oneself,
So here I expect it now from a happier crew:
A lord asks how slaves serve, not what they are.
So be silent, then, and no longer jeer at them. 8795
If you’ve guarded the king’s house well until now,
In place of the mistress, such is to your credit:
But now that she comes herself, you should draw back,
Lest you find punishment instead of fair reward.
Phorkyas Disciplining servants is a prerogative 8800
That the noble wife of a king, loved by the gods,
Has duly earned by years of wise discretion.
Since you, acknowledged, take up your former place
Once more, as Queen, and mistress of the house,
Resume the slackened reins again, and rule here, 8805
Hold the treasure in your keeping, and us with it.
But first of all defend me, who am the elder,
Against this crowd, who if they are compared
To your swanlike beauty, are only cackling geese.
The Leader of the Chorus How ugly ugliness looks, next to beauty. 8810
Phorkyas How stupid the lack of reason, next to sense.
(From here on the Chorus answer in turn, stepping forward one by one.)
First Member of the Chorus Tell us of Father Erebus: tell us of Mother Night.
Phorkyas Speak about Scylla, sweet sister of your race.
Second Member of the Chorus There are plenty of monsters in your family tree.
Phorkyas Go down to Orcus, look for your tribe down there! 8815
Third Member of the Chorus Those who are down there are far too young for you.
Phorkyas Try your arts of seduction on old Tiresias.
Fourth Member of the Chorus Orion’s nurse was your great great-grandchild.
Phorkyas I suspect that the Harpies raised you all, on filth.
Fifth Member of the Chorus What do you feed your perfect leanness on? 8820
Phorkyas Not on the blood that you all lust so much for.
Sixth Member of the Chorus You hunger for corpses, you, foul corpse yourself!
Phorkyas Vampire’s teeth gleam there, in your shameless muzzle.
The Leader of the Chorus It would shut yours tight, if I called out who you are.
Phorkyas Well say your own name first: that’ll solve the riddle. 8825
Helen I intervene, not in anger but in sorrow,
To forbid this alternating discord!
A ruler meets with nothing that’s more harmful
Than private disputes of his quarrelling servants.
Then his firm orders are no longer answered 8830
With swiftly answering and harmonious action,
Instead, wilful commotion roars around him:
Self-composure lost, he abuses them in vain.
Not only that. Unacceptably, in anger,
You’ve summoned the wretched shapes of dreadful forms, 8835
They surround me, so I feel I’m being whirled
To Orcus, from these familiar paternal fields.
Am I remembering? Did delusion grip me?
Was I all of that? Am I, now? And shall be still,
Symbol of dream and fear, to those who waste cities? 8840
The maidservants shudder, but you, the eldest,
Stand there calmly: speak words of reason to me!
Phorkyas The favour of the gods seems only a dream
To one who recalls the troubles of long ages.
But you, blessed, beyond all aim and measure, 8845
Quickly inflamed to every sort of daring risk,
Only found fires of love, in the realm of life,
Theseus, driven by lust, abducted you, a child,
He strong as Hercules: a man nobly formed.
Helen He carried me off, a slender ten-year old fawn, 8850
And caged me in Aphidnus’ tower in Attica.
Phorkyas But soon freed, by the hands of Castor and Pollux,
A crowd of suitors, the heroes, swarmed round you.
Helen Yet, I freely confess, above all, Patroclus
The image of Achilles, had my secret favour, 8855
Phorkyas But your father’s will bound you to Menelaus,
The brave sea rover, the defender of his house.
Helen He gave him his daughter, and command of the state.
Hermione came from our married existence.
Phorkyas But while he disputed his right to far off Crete, 8860
To you, the lonely, came all too handsome a guest.
Helen Why do you recall that semi-widowhood,
And all the terrible ruin it caused around me?
Phorkyas To me, a free-born Cretan, his same journey
Brought captivity and years of slavery. 8865
Helen He ordered you here at once, as Stewardess,
Entrusting the fortress and his treasure to you.
Phorkyas Which you abandoned, for Ilium’s high city,
And the inexhaustible delights of love.
Helen Not delights, be sure! All too bitter a sorrow 8870
Was poured endlessly over my head and breast.
Phorkyas Yet they say that you appeared in dual form,
Seen in Troy and, at the same time, in Egypt.
Helen Don’t confuse my clouded, wandering mind completely.
To this moment, I don’t know which of them I am. 8875
Phorkyas Then they say: Achilles became your companion,
Came, burning, from the empty realm of shadows!
He’d loved you before, opposing fate’s command.
Helen As phantom, I bound myself to a phantom.
It was a dream, as the tales themselves tell. 8880
I fade, now, become a phantom to myself.
(She sinks into the arms of the Chorus.)
False-seeing one, false-speaking one, you!
Out of the terrible single-toothed
Mouth, what might be breathed, so, 8885
Out of so frightful a throat of horror!
Now the malevolent, seemingly benevolent,
Wolf’s anger under the woolly fleece,
Is more terrible to me than the jaws
Of the three-headed dog. 8890
We stand here anxiously listening:
When? How? Where, will such malice
Break out now
From this predatory monster?
Now rather than friendly words, richly laced 8895
With trust, waters of Lethe, sweet and mild,
You stir up all from the past,
The evil more than the good,
And instantly darken
The gleam of the present 8900
And also the future’s
Sweetly glimmering, hopeful dawn.
So the Queen’s spirit, now,
Almost ready to leave her, 8905
Can still hold, and uphold
This, the form of all forms
On which the sun ever lighted.
(Helen has recovered, and stands in the centre again.)
Phorkyas Shining out from fleeting vapours, comes the sunlight of our day, here,
That when veiled could so delight us, but in splendour only blinds us. 8910
As the world is open to you, when you show your lovely face, now,
Though they scorn me so as ugly, still I know the beautiful.
Helen I step, trembling, from the abyss that, in fainting, closed around me,
And would gladly rest my body, tired and weary are my limbs:
But it’s proper for a Queen, then, as it is for all about her, 8915
To be calm, and courageous, whatever harm shall threaten.
Phorkyas In your Majesty, and Beauty, standing here, now, before us,
Your look says it commands us. What do you command? Speak out.
Helen Prepare yourselves to atone for what your quarrel has neglected:
Hurry with your sacrifice, now, as the king himself commanded. 8920
Phorkyas All is ready in the palace, bowls, and tripods, sharpened axe-blade,
For the sprinkling, incense burning: show me now the ready victim!
Helen That the king has failed to tell me.
Phorkyas He said nothing? Words of woe!
Helen What’s this woe that overcomes you?
Phorkyas Queen, it means you must be slaughtered!
Phorkyas And them.
Chorus Oh, pain and suffering!
Phorkyas You will fall beneath the axe. 8925
Helen Presaged, though still dreadful: I, alas!
Phorkyas There’s no escaping.
Chorus Oh! And us? What happens to us?
Phorkyas She will die a noble death, then:
But you’ll hang in rows together, struggling, all along the rafters
Holding up the gabled roof there, as bird-catchers dangle thrushes.
(Helena and the Chorus stand stunned and alarmed, in striking composed groups.)
Phantoms! – Frozen images, you stand, parted 8930
From that light you can’t belong to, in your terror.
Men, and the tribe of phantoms you resemble,
Will never willingly forgo the sunlight:
But none are saved from their fate, or can defer it.
All know it’s true, but only a few accept it. 8935
Enough, you’re lost! Now, quickly: start the work.
(She claps her hands: muffled dwarfish forms appear in the doorway, and quickly carry out her orders.)
This way, you spheres, shadowy rounded forms!
Roll over here: and do what harm you wish.
Set up the gold-horned altar that you carry,
Let the gleaming axe lie there on the silver rim, 8940
Fill the urns with water to wash away
All the hideous stains of darkened blood.
Spread the rich carpets out, here, over the dust,
So the sacrifice can kneel in royal manner,
And be wrapped around, once the head is severed, 8945
And buried decently there, and with due honour.
The Leader of the Chorus The Queen stands here beside us deep in thought,
The maidservants wither away like mown grass:
I think that I, as the eldest, am bound, in sacred duty,
To barter words with you, the eldest of all by far. 8950
You’re wise, experienced, and seem well-disposed,
And though this foolish crowd baited you in error,
Speak of a way to escape this fate, if you know it.
Phorkyas That’s easily done: it depends on the Queen alone,
To save herself, and you her followers with her. 8955
But decision is required, and of the swiftest.
Chorus Most honoured of Fates, wisest of Sibyls, you,
Hold the gold shears apart: bring both aid and light:
Already, we feel ourselves swinging, struggling,
Fearful, for our limbs would rather be dancing, 8960
And afterwards rest, soft, on our lovers’ breast.
Helen Let them be afraid! I feel pain but no terror:
Yet if rescue’s possible, I gladly accept.
To the wise, far-seeing mind, the impossible
Is often revealed as possible. Speak: say on! 8965
Chorus Speak, and tell us, tell us quickly: how we might escape the terror,
Dreadful nooses that still threaten, like some kind of evil necklace
Wound around our tender necks? Already we, oh, wretched creatures,
Feel the choking, suffocating, if you, Rhea, the great mother
Of the gods, won’t show us mercy. 8970
Phorkyas Have you the patience to listen, to long winded
Speeches, in silence? The history’s endless.
Chorus Patience enough! While we’re listening, we’re alive.
Phorkyas He who stays at home to guard his noble wealth
And secures the high walls of his lofty dwelling, 8975
And maintains his roof against the driving rain,
Will prosper in all the days of his long life:
But whoever, in guilt, crosses the square-cut stones
Of the sacred threshold, swiftly, with fleeing steps,
Will, indeed find the ancient place, on their return, 8980
But altered in every way, if not overthrown.
Helen Why recount these familiar sayings here?
If you’d relate things: don’t provoke annoyance.
Phorkyas It’s simple fact, in no way a criticism.
Menelaus sailed from bay to bay, looting, 8985
Skirted the coast and islands, aggressively,
Returned with the spoils that are rusting there.
Then he spent ten long years there in front of Troy:
And I don’t know how many more, on the way home.
And how are things now with this place where we stand, 8990
Tyndareus’ noble house, and the region round?
Helen Do you embrace all scorn so completely
You can only open your mouth to criticise?
Phorkyas The vales were neglected for so many years,
Those that rise behind Sparta, to the northward, 8995
Beyond Taygetus, from where, a living stream,
Eurotas, pours downward, then along our valley,
Flows by our broad reed-beds, to feed your swans.
Up there, in the mountain vales, a bold race settled,
Pushing southward from Cimmerian darkness, 9000
And then built an inaccessible fortress there,
From which, at will, they harass land and people.
Helen Have they achieved all that? It seems unlikely.
Phorkyas They’ve had time, perhaps twenty years in all.
Helena Is there a leader? Are they a band of robbers? 9005
Phorkyas Not robbers, but one of them acts as leader.
I don’t curse him, though he attacked me too.
He might have taken all, but was satisfied
With gifts, not tribute, as he called them.
Helen How did he look?
Phorkyas Less than evil! He pleased me well. 9010
He’s vigorous, daring, and sophisticated,
An intelligent man: as few among the Greeks.
They call his race Barbarians, but I’m doubtful
If they are any crueller than those heroes
Who proved such devourers of men, before Troy. 9015
I respected his greatness, and confided in him.
His fortress! You should see with your own eyes!
It’s a great deal more than the clumsy masonry
Your father rolled together, higgledy-piggledy,
Cyclopean as a Cyclops, piling raw stone, 9020
Over raw stone: there, instead there, it’s all
Plumb line and balance: it’s laid out by rule.
Look from outside! It rises straight to the sky,
So firm, tightly jointed – smooth as a steel mirror
To climb – that even your thoughts slide off! 9025
And, inside, great courts with plenty of room,
Ringed by buildings, of every use and nature.
There you’ll see pillars, columns, arches, quoins,
Balconies, galleries, facing inwards and outwards,
And coats of arms.
Chorus What arms are those?
Phorkyas Ajax carried 9030
A writhing snake on his shield: you yourself saw it.
The Seven against Thebes also bore their symbols
On each of their shields, replete with meaning.
There you saw moons, and stars in the night sky,
Heroes and Goddesses, torches, ladders, swords, 9035
And whatever fierce weapons threaten fine cities.
Our heroic band carries such images too,
In bright colours, bestowed by our ancestors.
There you see lions, eagles with beaks and claws,
Horns of oxen, wings, roses, and peacocks’ tails, 9040
Bands too made of gold, black, silver, blue and red.
The like of these hang in their halls, row on row.
In spacious halls, as wide as the whole wide world:
You could dance there!
Chorus Say then, are there dancers, there?
Phorkyas The best! A lively crowd of golden-haired youths. 9045
The fragrance of youth! Paris was fragrant, thus,
When he grew close to the Queen.
Helen You mistake your role
Completely: now speak your closing lines to me!
Phorkyas No, you speak the last! Grave, and distinct say: Yes!
And I’ll surround you with that fortress.
Chorus O, speak 9050
That one short word, and save both yourself, and us!
Helen What? Do I fear King Menelaus would commit
Such a cruel offence as to make me kill myself?
Phorkyas Have you forgotten how he wreaked mutilation,
Unheard-of, on Deiphobus, dead Paris’ brother, 9055
Because he stubbornly claimed you, the widow,
And prized you? He cropped both nose and ears,
And disfigured him, there: It was terrible to see.
Helen Yes he did that, and he did it for my sake.
Phorkyas Because of it, now, he’ll do the same to you. 9060
Beauty is indivisible: he who owns it
Destroys it, rather than share a part of it.
(Trumpets sound in the distance: the Chorus starts in terror.)
As a trumpet call pierces the ear to grip
And tear the innards: Jealousy drives her claws
Into the breast of him who can never forget 9065
What once he had, and lost, and no longer has.
Chorus Don’t you hear the trumpets calling? Don’t you see the flash of swords?
Phorkyas King and master, now be welcome, gladly I’ll offer my account.
Chorus But, what of us?
Phorkyas In truth, you know that her death’s before your eyes,
Find your own death there within them: there’s no hope left for you. 9070
Helen I ponder this simple thing that I might try.
You are a hostile daemon: I feel it deeply,
I’m fearful you’ll still make evil out of good.
But then, I’ll follow you to that fortress, there:
I know the rest: but what the Queen might conceal 9075
Concerning it, mysteriously, in her heart,
Be unknown to all. Now, old one, lead the way!
Chorus O, how gladly we’re going,
On hurrying feet:
Death is behind: 9080
Before us again,
Though they guard us as well
As Ilium’s citadel, 9085
Still in the end, it
Fell, through the basest of ruses.
(Mists rise and spread, obscuring the background, and the nearer part of the scene, at will.)
What is this? How?
Sisters, look round!
Wasn’t it loveliest day? 9090
Strips of vapour hover about,
Rise from Eurotas’ holy stream:
Already the loveliest
Reed-wreathed shore has vanished from sight:
And the proud, free, graceful 9095
Gentle glide of the swans
Swimming in sociable joy,
I alas see, no more!
Yet still, still
I hear them calling, 9100
In hoarse tones, calling afar!
Proclaiming death, they are speaking.
Ah, that to us they may not,
Instead of salvation promised,
Proclaim our ruin, at last: 9105
To us, the swanlike, long,
Lovely, white-throated, and ah!
Our Queen born of the swan.
Woe to us, woe!
All’s hidden already 9110
Vapour’s swirling around.
Now we can’t see one another!
What’s happening? Are we moving?
We’re hovering with
Straggling steps along the ground? 9115
Can’t you see? Isn’t that Hermes
Soaring ahead? Doesn’t his gold wand gleam,
Beckoning us, ordering us back again
To the wholly joyless, and greyly-twilit,
Intangible, phantom-filled, 9120
Overcrowded, ever-empty Hades?
Yes, at once, now, all is darkening, dully all the vapours vanish,
Grey with gloom, and brown as walls. Walls appearing to our vision,
Blank now to our clearer vision. A court now is it? Or a deep pit?
Fearful, though, in either case, now! Sisters, oh! We are imprisoned, 9125
Captives, as we’ve never been.
Act III Scene II: The Inner Court of The Castle
(Surrounded with richly ornamented buildings of the Middle Ages.)
The Leader of the Chorus Hasty and foolish, and typical of womankind!
They hang on the moment, sport of every breeze,
Of every chance and mischance, never knowing
How to suffer either calmly! One’s always certain, 9130
Fiercely, to contradict the others, others her:
Only, they laugh or cry alike, in joy or pain.
Now, hush! And listen to what our high-minded
Mistress may decide, here, for herself and us.
Helen Pythoness, where are you? However you’re named: 9135
Come out from the arches of this dark fortress.
If you come from the wondrous lord and hero
To announce me, and ready a fit reception,
Accept my thanks, and lead me there quickly:
I wish my wanderings ended. I want to rest. 9140
The Leader of the Chorus Queen, in vain, you look about in all directions:
That wretched shape has vanished, stayed perhaps
There in the vapour, out of whose depths we came,
I cannot tell how, so swiftly, without a footfall.
Perhaps she wanders lost in the vast labyrinth 9145
Of these many castles wondrously merged in one.
Seeking high and princely greeting from her lord.
But see! There a crowd moves about in readiness.
Along galleries, at windows, through the doors
Come a crowd of servants, scurrying to and fro: 9150
It proclaims a noblest welcome for the guest.
Chorus My heart is eased! O, see over there,
How a company of handsome youths approach
With lingering step, in dignified order,
Marching in ranks. Who gave out the command 9155
To marshal them, and so quickly arranged
All this youthful team of so handsome a race?
What shall I admire most? Is it the graceful step,
Or the curls of hair on the palest of brows,
Or the rounded cheeks with a peach’s blushes, 9160
And like it also, in their silkiest down?
I’d gladly bite, yet I’m frightened to try it:
Since in a similar case, and I shudder to say it,
The mouth was as suddenly filled, with ashes!
But the handsomest 9165
Come to us now:
What do they carry?
Steps for the throne,
Carpets and seat,
Curtain, canopy, 9170
Waving above us,
Forming a garland,
Over the head of our Queen:
For she, already, invited 9175
Ascends, to the noble seat.
Step by step,
Worthy, O worthy, triply worthy, 9180
Let such a reception be blessed!
(What the Chorus has described takes place. After the boys and squires have descended in long procession, Faust appears above, at the top of the staircase, in the costume of a knight of the Middle Ages, and then descends slowly and with dignity.)
The Leader of the Chorus (Observing him closely.)
If indeed the gods have not, as they often do,
Only lent this man brave form, for an instant,
Exalted his dignity, and charming presence,
As a temporary act, then whatever he does 9185
He’ll succeed, whether it’s warring with men,
Or in the lesser struggles with lovely ladies.
Truly I prefer him to hosts of others,
Whom my eyes have seen, the highly praised.
I see the Prince approach, with slow solemn step, 9190
Restrained by reverence: Queen, turn towards him!
Faust (Approaching: a man in chains at his side.)
Instead of the usual calm greeting
Instead of a reverential welcome,
Here I bring a wretch bound fast with chains,
Who failed so in his duty, I failed mine. 9195
Kneel here, so this noble lady
May hear a prompt confession of your guilt.
This, royal Mistress, is the man selected
Because of his keen vision to gaze about
From the high tower, and to look keenly
At heaven’s spaces, and the breadth of earth, 9200
To report whatever moves here or there,
From the encircling hills, to the castle,
Whether a transit of the woolly flocks,
Or soldiers: so we can protect the first,
Attack the others. Today, negligence! 9205
You came here: he had nothing to report:
We failed in the reception you deserved,
In honour of the guest. Now he forfeits
His guilty life, and would have shed his blood 9210
In a merited death: but only you alone
Shall pardon him or punish, as you wish.
Helen Such great power you choose to grant me,
As judge, as Mistress too, though, I suspect
You intend it as a kind of test – 9215
Yet, I’ll employ a judge’s first duty,
To give the accused a hearing. Speak out.
Lynceus, the Warden of the Tower Let me kneel, and let me see her,
Let me live, or let me die,
Already I’m devoted to her 9220
Heavenly lady from on high.
Waiting for the dawn’s advances,
Gazing at her eastern house,
Suddenly the sunlight dances,
Marvellously in the south! 9225
Drawn to see the marvel closer,
Instead of the ravine and height,
Instead of earth and heaven there,
I gazed at her, the sole delight.
I was granted powers of vision 9230
Like the lynx, high in the tree:
But now I peered in indecision
As in a dark and clouded dream.
How think? Even if I’d so wished?
Wall, and tower? Bolted gate? 9235
Mist, it rose, and cleared the mist,
Came the Goddess here in state!
I surrendered heart and eye
Drinking in the gentle light:
How that beauty blinds, and I 9240
Was blinded wholly by the sight.
I forgot the watchman’s duty,
And the promised trumpet call:
Threaten then, now, to destroy me –
Anger lies in Beauty’s thrall. 9245
Helen I cannot punish this evil that I brought here,
With me. Ah me! What a fierce fate it is
Pursues me, so that everywhere I possess
The hearts of men, and that they neither spare
Themselves nor anything else of worth. 9250
They steal, seduce, fight: rushing to and fro,
Demigods, heroes, gods, even daemons
Led me in my wanderings, here and there.
Alone I’ve confused the world, doubly so:
Now I bring threefold, fourfold woe on woe. 9255
Take this innocent away: let him go.
It’s no shame to be deceived by the gods.
Faust O Queen, amazed, I see them both together:
The certain archer, and the stricken prey:
I see the bow, from which the shaft was loosed, 9260
That wounded him. Arrow after arrow,
Now strikes me. Imagining the feathered whirr
Of arrows crossing every court and hall.
What am I now? My walls you make unsafe
My most faithful servants, you make rebels, 9265
Already I fear my army too obeys
A victorious and unconquered lady.
What’s left to do but add myself as well,
And all that I have vainly imagined mine?
Freely and loyally, before your feet, 9270
Let me acknowledge you as Mistress,
Whose presence wins you throne and ownership.
Lynceus (Carrying a chest, with men bringing others.)
Queen, once more I advance!
The rich man begs a glance,
He sees you and at a glimpse, 9275
He’s a beggar, and a prince.
What am I now? What was I once?
What’s to be willed? What’s to be done?
What use the eye’s clearest sight!
It glances from your royal might. 9280
From the Eastwards we pressed on,
And suddenly the West were gone.
So wide and long the people massed,
The first knew nothing of the last.
The first rank fell: the next stood fast, 9285
The third ranks’ lances unsurpassed:
Each man was like a hundredfold,
Thousands died there, all untold.
We pressed forwards: we stormed on,
We were masters, then were gone: 9290
And where I ruled as chief today,
Tomorrow robbed, and stole away.
We looked – and rapid was that look:
The loveliest women there we took,
We took the oxen from the stall, 9295
We took the horses, took them all.
But my delight was to discover
The rarest things I could uncover:
And what other men might grasp,
To me was only withered grass. 9300
I was on the trail of treasure,
Whatever my sharp eye could measure,
In every pocket I could see,
Every chest was glass to me.
Heaps of gold, they were mine, 9305
And the noblest gems I’d find:
Yet now the emeralds alone
Are worthy to adorn your throne.
Sway there now ‘twixt ear and lip,
You pearly spheres from oceans deep: 9310
A place the rubies dare not seek,
So pale beside your rosy cheek.
And so the riches, every prize,
I set down here before your eyes:
Before your feet I gladly yield, 9315
The spoils of many a bloody field.
As many chests as I’ve brought you,
I’ve many iron caskets too:
Let me follow your path still
And your treasure chambers fill. 9320
You’d scarcely mounted to the throne,
When all bowed down, to you alone,
Wisdom, riches, worldly power,
Before your grace, that very hour.
I held it all fast: that is true 9325
But now it’s loosed, and all for you.
I thought its worth was plain to see,
But now it’s nothing much, to me.
Everything I’ve owned will pass
From me like mown and withered grass. 9330
O, give me just one brightening glance,
And all the value’s in its dance!
Faust Quickly, remove the heap that boldness won,
And take no blame for it, but seek no praise.
All is hers already, that the castle 9335
Hides in its lap: you offer these few things
In vain. Go and pile treasure on treasure,
In due order. Present a fine array
Of unseen splendours! Let the vaulted halls
Gleam like the clearest sky, let Paradise 9340
Be created from their dead existence.
Quickly let flowery carpet on carpet
Be unrolled beneath her foot: she’ll step
On softest ground: and let her noble gaze,
Blinding all but the Gods, fall on splendour. 9345
Lynceus What the lord commands is nothing,
For the servants, a mere plaything:
This exalted beauty rules
Over blood and treasure too.
The whole army now is tamed, 9350
All the swords are blunt again,
Near this form of noble gold,
The sun itself is pale and cold,
Near the riches of her face
All is but an empty space. 9355
Helen (To Faust.)
I wish to speak to you, come here then
Beside me! For the empty place invites
Its lord, and so secures this place for me.
Faust First, let my loyal dedication please you,
While I kneel, noble lady: let me kiss 9360
The gracious hand that lifts me to your side.
Confirm me as co-regent of a realm
Of unknown borders, win now for yourself
Protector, slave, worshipper all in one!
Helen So many wonders do I see, and hear 9365
Amazement grips me, there’s much I would know.
But teach me why that man spoke aloud
With curious speech, familiar but strange.
Each sound seeming to give way to the next,
And when a word gave pleasure to the ear, 9370
Another came, as if to caress the first.
Faust If my people’s speech already pleases you,
O, you’ll be delighted with our singing:
It completely satisfies the heart and mind.
But to be sure of it, we’ll practise too: 9375
Alternate speech entices, calls it, forth.
Helen You’ll tell me how to speak with lovely art?
Faust It’s easy, it must pour forth from the heart.
And if the breast then overflows with yearning,
One looks around and asks –
Helen - who else is burning. 9380
Faust Not backwards, forwards is the spirit’s sight,
This moment now, alone, –
Helen - is our delight.
Faust She’s treasure and commitment, wealth and land:
What confirmation does she give –
Helen - my hand.
Chorus Who’s offended that our Princess 9385
Grants the master of the castle
A show of friendliness?
Let’s confess, that we’re as fully
Prisoners, as we’ve been till now
Since the shameful overthrow 9390
Of Ilium, and the anxious,
Sad, and labyrinthine voyage.
Women, used to men’s desires,
Are not particular,
They are proficient. 9395
And they award an equal right
To shepherds with their golden hair,
Dark, fauns perhaps, bristling there,
As opportunity affords,
To bodies in their vigour. 9400
Already they sit closer, closer,
Drawn towards each other,
Shoulder to shoulder, knee to knee,
Hand in hand they sway
Across the thrones’ 9405
Soft cushioned, majesty.
Their private raptures
Revealed so boldly
To the eyes of the people. 9410
Helen I feel so far away and yet so near,
And gladly say now: ‘Here, I am! Here!’
Faust I scarcely breathe, I tremble, speech is dead:
This is a dream: time and place have fled.
Helen I seem exhausted, yet created new, 9415
Enmeshed with you, the unknown and the true.
Faust Don’t seek to analyse so rare a fate!
Our duty is to live: though but a day.
Phorkyas (Entering suddenly.)
Spell the letters in love’s primer,
Only loving, pass your time here, 9420
Passing, let love be sublime here,
But the moment isn’t right.
Don’t you feel it, this dark presage?
Don’t you hear the trumpet’s message?
Your destruction is in sight. 9425
Menelaus with his army
Is advancing on you quickly,
Arm yourself, for bitter fight!
Overwhelmed by the winners,
And defiled, like Deiphobus, 9430
You’ll all pay, for this delight.
First the lighter vessels shatter,
Then, for this one, at the altar,
The newly sharpened axe shines bright.
Faust Rash disturbance! Insistent, she comes pushing in here: 9435
Senseless haste is wrong, even where there’s danger.
Unlucky news makes the fairest messenger ugly:
You, ugliest of all, bring only bad news gladly.
But you’ll not succeed for once: disturb the air
With your empty breath. There’s no danger looming here, 9440
Your danger’s only an idle threat to me.
(Calls, and explosions from the towers, trumpets and cornets, martial music. A powerful army marches past.)
No! Now you’ll see the heroes gather,
The whole wide land will here unite:
He deserves the ladies’ favour,
Who, in their defence, shall fight. 9445
(To the leaders, who step forward from the ranks, and advance.)
Rage silently, and do your duty,
Then you’ll achieve the victory,
You, the prime of northern beauty,
You, the flower of the east.
Cased in steel, with steel gleaming, 9450
The army shatters realms at will,
They appear: the earth is shaking,
They advance, it echoes still.
At Pylos, once, we came to shore,
Old Nestor is no longer living, 9455
Our independent army saw
Us shatter all the mighty kings.
From these walls, in an instant,
Send Menelaus back to sea:
There robbing, killing, is his errand, 9460
As is his wish and destiny.
Dukes, I greet you every one,
Commanded by the Spartan Queen:
At her feet lay vale and mountain,
Win the kingdoms in between. 9465
Germans, with your walls and towers,
Defend Corinth and her bays!
Then Achaia’s hundred gorges
I’ll trust to you, the Goths, always.
Let the Franks advance on Elis, 9470
Messene, to the Saxons brave,
Normans, hold the Argolis,
Rule the shore: and rule the wave.
When everyone has his own land,
At foreign foes, let force be aimed, 9475
While Sparta holds the high command
Our Queen’s ancestral domain.
She’ll behold you each, delighting
In lands, possessed of every right:
And at her feet you’ll seek her blessing, 9480
Acknowledgement, and law and light.
(Faust descends from the throne: the Princes form a circle round him to receive individual commands and instructions.)
Chorus Who wants the loveliest for himself,
First, above everything,
Would be wise to have weapons about him:
He might well gain by flattery 9485
Whoever is noblest on Earth:
But he won’t possess her in peace:
The sly, and insidious tempt her from him,
Robbers will boldly steal her from him:
He must prepare to foil them. 9490
So I praise our Prince the while,
And think him nobler than the rest,
Since he combines wisdom and strength,
So that the powerful show obedience,
Waiting his every command. 9495
They follow his orders faithfully,
Each as much for his own profit
As for the ruler’s reward and thanks,
Winning the highest fame for both.
Who now will drag her away 9500
From the powerful possessor?
She belongs to him: let her be his,
Doubly bestowed by us, so she
And he, are surrounded inside by thick walls,
Outside, by the greatest of armies. 9505
Faust The gifts that, on those here, I bestow –
To each of them a prosperous land –
Are great and glorious, let them go!
We in the middle take our stand.
In their rivalry they’ll protect you 9510
Half-island ringed by leaping waves,
While these slender hills connect you
To Europe’s last great mountain range.
This land, that outshines every land,
Be blessed for every race forever, 9515
Delivered to my Queen’s command,
That, long ago now, wondered at her,
There, by Eurotas’ whispering light,
She broke radiant from the shell,
That brightness dazzling the sight 9520
Of siblings: Leda’s eyes, as well.
This land now turns to you alone,
Offering you its noblest flower:
Oh, though the whole world is your own,
Let your country hold you in its power! 9525
And though you may endure the sun’s cold arrow
Up there, on the mountain’s jagged height,
See, how the rocky hillside’s green below, now,
Where the goat may crop its meagre right.
The sources leap, all streams rush down as one, 9530
Gorge, slope, and meadow are already green.
On a hundred hills, rock-folded, steep and broken,
The scattered woolly flocks are clearly seen.
Spread all around, with cautious measured stride,
The horned cattle tread the dizzy edge: 9535
But here there’s shelter that the caves provide,
Hundreds to hide them all, on the rocky ledge.
Pan guards them too: and lively nymphs live there,
In the damp fresh space of bushy clefts,
And, yearning upward to the higher air, 9540
The crowded tree its slender branches lifts.
Primeval woods! The mighty oaks their cap:
Whose stubborn boughs stick out from them, in state:
While kindly maples, pregnant with sweet sap,
Soar cleanly upward, toying with the weight. 9545
Pure mother’s milk, in that still realm of shadows,
Flows rich, in readiness for lamb and child:
Fruit’s not lacking, gift of fertile meadows,
And from the hollow trunk drips honey mild.
Here well-being’s granted all the race, 9550
Cheek and lips both to joy consent,
Each one is immortal, in their place:
And all there are healthy and content.
And thus the lovely child, of purest days,
Grows, and achieves his father’s strength. 9555
We’re amazed, the question’s still, always:
Are these gods, or are they truly men?
When Apollo took a shepherd’s form,
The fairest of them was like the sun:
Since, where pure Nature is the norm, 9560
Then all the worlds must move as one.
(Taking his seat beside her.)
So, this have you, and this have I achieved:
Let the past fade behind us: it is gone!
Oh, know yourself from highest gods conceived,
To the first world, alone then, you belong. 9565
No solid fortresses shall ring you round!
In eternal youth, stands as it stood –
So our stay with all delight be crowned –
Arcadia in Sparta’s neighbourhood.
Lured here to tread this blessed ground, 9570
You fled towards a happy destiny!
Let our thrones as arbours now be found,
Our joy be Arcadian, and free!
(The scene is completely transformed. Bowers are built against a range of rocky caverns. A shadowy grove runs to the foot of the rocks that rise on all sides. Faust and Helen are not visible: the Chorus lie scattered about in sleep.)
Phorkyas I’m not sure how long these women have been sleeping:
Nor do I know whether they allowed themselves 9575
To dream what I saw clearly with my own eyes.
Therefore I’ll wake them. The young will be amazed,
You bearded ones, too, who sit waiting there, below,
To understand the meaning of these wonders.
Wake! Wake, and shake the dew from your hair, 9580
The slumber from your eyes! Don’t blink so, but hear me!
Chorus Tell us, quickly, quickly, all the wonders that have happened!
If we can’t believe them, we’ll enjoy them with more pleasure.
For we’re wholly weary sitting, staring at these empty stones.
Phorkyas You’ve hardly rubbed your eyes, yet you’re already weary, children? 9585
Well, listen: in these caverns, in these grottos, in these arbours,
Shade and shelter have been granted, to the two idyllic lovers,
Our Master and our Mistress.
Chorus What, within there?
Phorkyas Sweetly sundered,
From the world, alone they summoned me to grant them quiet service.
At their side I stood there, honoured, yet still, as one who’s trusted, 9590
Always gazed at something other, turning here and there at random.
Looked for roots and bark and mosses, being skilled in all the potions,
And so they were left alone.
Chorus You speak as if a whole world’s space were hidden there inside, now,
Woods and fields and lakes and rivers: what a fantasy you spin! 9595
Phorkyas It’s true: you’re inexperienced, and its depths are unexplored!
I felt, lost in contemplation, hall on hall there, court on court.
In an instant laughter echoes, through the cavernous recesses:
There I see a boy is springing, from his mother to his father,
From his father to his mother, all is dandling and caressing, 9600
And a foolish, a fond teasing, shouts of play, and cries of joy,
Alternate, there, and I’m deaf.
A naked wingless Spirit, like a faun, and yet no creature,
Leaps across the solid floor, and the ground beneath responding,
Sends him flying through the ether, till the second leap or so, there, 9605
He can touch the cavern roof.
Anxiously his mother’s calling: ‘Leap as often as you like, dear,
But all flying is forbidden, so beware of taking flight.’
And his loyal father warns him: ‘In the earth’s the power of swiftness,
That will quickly send you flying: touch the ground then with your toe, 9610
And like that son of Earth’s, Antaeus, you’ll soon find strength again.’
So he leaps the rocky masses of the cavern, from a cornice,
To another and around then, as a ball does when it’s thrown.
But suddenly he’s vanished in a crevice of the cavern,
And it seems he’s lost. His mother grieves for him, father comforts, 9615
I stand there, wondering anxiously, but there again’s the vision!
Do buried treasures lie there? Robes embroidered all with flowers,
He has fittingly assumed.
Tassels tremble from his shoulders, ribbons flutter round his chest,
In his hand a golden lyre, like a miniature Apollo, 9620
He steps happily to the overhanging brink: amazing.
And the parents in delight clasp each other to their hearts,
What’s that shining round his temples? It’s hard to see what’s gleaming,
Is it gold and gems, or flames, now, of the spirit’s supreme power?
So he moves as if the stately boy’s proclaimed to us already 9625
The future Lord of Beauty, in whose members the eternal
Melodies are stirring: and so you too will also hear him,
And you too will also see him, with the rarest show of wonder.
Chorus Do you call this a marvel,
Crete has begotten? 9630
Can you never have listened
To what Poetry teaches?
Have you never once heard Ionia’s,
Have you never listened to Hellas’
Most ancient of legends 9635
Of the gods and heroes?
All things that happen
In this present age,
Are mournful echoes
Of our ancestors’ nobler times: 9640
And your story can’t equal
That, loveliest of lies,
Easier to believe than Truth,
That they sang of Maia’s son.
That delicate and strong, yet 9645
Scarcely born, suckling child,
Would you swaddle him in purest down,
Clothe him in costly jewelled bindings,
The crowd of chattering nurses’
Utterly senseless notion. 9650
But strong and yet delicate,
Already the supple rascal,
Draws forth his lithe body,
Leaves behind that royal,
But timid, constraining shell, 9655
Silent, there, in its place:
Like the finished butterfly,
From the chilly chrysalis,
Slipping, with quick unfolding wings,
Boldly into the sunlit air, 9660
And courageously fluttering.
So did he, the liveliest,
And he quickly demonstrated
By the most skilful arts,
That he’d always be the patron 9665
Daemon of thieves and jesters
And all seekers of profit.
From the Sea God he quickly stole
His trident, and from Ares himself,
Slyly, his sword from its scabbard: 9670
Bow and arrows from Phoebus too,
And tongs from Hephaestus:
He even stole Father Zeus’
Lightning bolts, not scared of fire:
Then he tripped poor Eros up, 9675
In the toils of a wrestling match:
As Venus kissed him, too, stole away,
The ribbons from her breasts.
(A pure melodious and exquisite music echoes from the cave. All listen and appear deeply moved. There is a full musical accompaniment from this point to the designated pause.)
Phorkyas Hear the loveliest of music,
Free from old mythology! 9680
All your gods and all their antics,
Let them go, they’re history.
None can understand you more,
We demand a higher art:
From the heart itself must pour, 9685
What will influence the heart.
(She retires towards the rocks.)
Be you stirred, you awesome being,
By the sweet and flattering sound,
We, renewed to life, are feeling,
Moved to tears of joy, around. 9690
Let the sun be lost from heaven
So it’s daylight in the soul,
We’ll discover in the heart, then,
What the Earth fails to hold.
(Helen. Faust. Euphorion, in costume as previously described.)
Euphorion Hear the song of childhood sung now, 9695
Its delight belongs to you,
See me leap about in time, now
Let my parents’ hearts leap too.
Helen It requires two noble hearts
For Love to bless humanity, 9700
But to be a thing apart
They must make a precious three.
Faust All we sought is now discovered:
I am yours, and you are mine:
And we two are bound together, 9705
There’s no better fate to find.
Chorus They’ll delight for many years
In this child’s tender glow,
Ah, this partnership of peers,
How it’s beauty moves me, so! 9710
Euphorion Now let me leap, oh,
Now let me spring!
High in the air, go
Circling all things,
That’s the desire 9715
That’s driving me on.
Faust Yet, gently! Gently!
Not into danger,
Lest a chance downfall,
Awaits the ranger, 9720
Straight away grounds you,
Our darling son!
Euphorion I can’t stick fast to
The ground any more:
Let go my hands and 9725
Let go my hair,
Let go my clothes!
They are all mine.
Helen O think! Please think,
Whom you belong to! 9730
How it would grieve us,
How you’d destroy too,
That sweet achievement,
Yours, his and mine.
Chorus I fear this unity 9735
Soon will unwind!
Helen and Faust Calm yourself! Calm excess,
To please your parents,
Too great a liveliness,
Impulsive violence! 9740
In rural peacefulness,
Brighten the plain.
Euphorion If that’s what you wish, yes,
I’ll stop, I’ll restrain.
(He winds, dancing, through the chorus and draws them along with him.)
I’ll hover here, lightly 9745
Lively the crew.
Is this the melody,
And measure too?
Helen Yes that is neatly done:
Lead all the fairest on, 9750
Faust Would it were over then!
Won’t delight me.
Chorus (With Euphorion, dancing nimbly and singing, in interlinking ranks.)
When your arms equally 9755
Are charmingly lifted,
Your curling hair’s brightly
Loosened and shifted.
When with a foot so light
Over the earth in flight, 9760
Thither and back again,
Step upon step, you rain,
Then your goal is in sight,
All of our hearts, beguiled, 9765
With yours unite.
Euphorion You’re like so many
Now to new games we
Are quickly re-born! 9770
I’ll be the hunter,
You be the prey.
Chorus If you would catch us
Don’t be so eager,
We too are anxious 9775
When all is over,
To clasp the form,
You so sweetly display!
Euphorion Now through the vale!
Up hill and down dale! 9780
What I gain easily
Is tedious to see,
Only what’s forcibly
Won delights me.
Helen and Faust How wild he is now! And how stubborn! 9785
There’s little hope of moderation.
That’s the sound of blowing horns,
Through the woods and valley ringing:
What noise, and what confusion!
Chorus (Entering one by one, in haste.)
He is running from us swiftly: 9790
Scorning us and always mocking,
Now he drags one from the crowd: she,
The wildest of us all.
Euphorion (Dragging along a young girl.)
Here I’ll drag the little quarry,
To enforce my wish entirely: 9795
For my joy, and my desire,
Press her wilful heart, on fire,
Kiss her stubborn mouth at length
And proclaim my will and strength.
The Girl Let me go! Since there’s a strong 9800
Resistant spirit in this body:
My will, like yours, if I’m not wrong,
Says I’m not taken easily.
You think I’m in any danger?
Force of arms is it, you claim! 9805
Hold me fast, you foolish ranger,
And I’ll scotch your little game.
(She turns to flame and flashes into the air.)
Follow me through flowing air,
Follow me through caverns bare,
Catch your fleeing prey again! 9810
Euphorion (Shaking off the flames.)
Rocks all around me here,
Deep in the forest view,
Make me a prisoner,
Though I’m still young and new.
Breezes are blowing fair, 9815
Waves now are breaking there:
I hear both far away,
I’d gladly be there today.
(He leaps further up the rocks.)
Helen, Faust and the Chorus A chamois you’d imitate?
We’re fearful of your fate. 9820
Euphorion Ever higher I must climb.
Ever further I must see.
Now I know where I stand!
Amidst this semi-island,
Amidst Pelop’s country, 9825
Earth – kindred to the sea.
Chorus Why not live here, in peace,
Among hills and groves?
Vines then for you we’ll seek, 9830
Vines in their rows.
Vines on high ridges stand,
Figs, there, and apples gold,
Stay in this lovely land
Stay, and grow old!
Euphorion Do you dream of peaceful days? 9835
Dream, then as dreamers may.
War is the watchword though.
Victory! It rings out so.
Chorus He who in time of peace
Wishes for war, soon 9840
Witness’s the decease,
Of hope, and fortune.
Euphorion Those who made this land,
With danger on every hand,
Free, and courageously, 9845
Gave their blood lavishly:
Bring holy meaning
To that sacrifice –
See us still conquering
All whom we fight! 9850
Chorus Look up there, how high he climbs!
Yet he seems to us no smaller:
In his armour, as in triumph,
How he gleams in steel and silver.
Euphorion Each one’s no longer conscious 9855
Of the high wall, or the rest:
Since the one enduring fortress,
Is the soldier’s iron breast.
If you’d live unconquered,
Quickly arm, and fight the real foe: 9860
Every wife an Amazon bred,
And every child a hero.
Chorus Sacred Poetry
Climbing, and heavenly!
Shines there, the fairest star, 9865
Far there, and still so far!
And yet it reaches here,
Always, and still we hear,
Joy, where we are.
Euphorion No, not as a child do I appear, 9870
This youth comes armed, you see:
In spirit he’s already a peer,
Of the strong, the bold, and free.
Now I go!
Now, and lo, 9875
The path to glory shines for me.
Helen and Faust You’ve scarcely been called to being,
Scarcely come to daylight’s gleam,
And from the heights you’re yearning,
For the place of pain, it seems. 9880
Are we two
Naught to you?
Is the sweetest bond a dream?
Euphorion Don’t you hear the thundering wave?
Through vale on vale the echoes call, 9885
Host on host, in sand and spray,
Shock on shock, in anguished fall.
Is death, now and for all. 9890
Helen, Faust and the Chorus What horror! What disaster!
Is then death ordained for you?
Euphorion Should I watch it from afar?
No! I’ll share their trouble too.
Helen, Faust and the Chorus Exuberance, danger, 9895
Euphorion Yes! – I am winged here,
I will not wait!
Onward! I must! I must!
Let me but fly! 9900
(He hurls himself into the air: his clothes bear him a moment, his head is illuminated and a streak of light follows.)
Chorus Icarus! Icarus!
No more! We sigh.
(A beautiful youth falls at the parents’ feet. We imagine we see a well-known form in the dead body, but the physical part vanishes at once, while an aureole rises like a comet to heaven. The clothes, cloak and lyre remain on the ground.)
Helen and Faust At once, joy is followed,
By bitterest pain.
Euphorion (From the depths.)
Mother, don’t leave me alone, 9905
In the shadows’ domain!
Not alone! – No matter where you are,
For we believe in following you:
Oh! Though from the day you part,
Not one heart will part from you. 9910
We scarcely wish to mourn you, even,
We sing in envy of your fate:
To you the clearest light of heaven,
Gave song and courage, true and great.
Ah! You were born for earthly fate, 9915
High descent and supreme power:
Youth, sadly, while you went astray,
Was torn from you in its first hour!
You saw the world, with clearer vision,
You understood the yearning heart, 9920
The glow of lovely woman’s passion,
And all singing’s rarest art.
Yet, irresistibly, you ran free,
In nets of indiscipline: you
Divorced yourself violently, 9925
From custom, and from rule:
Until at last, through thinking deeper,
You gave courage greater weight,
And wished to win to splendour,
But that could not be your fate. 9930
Whose then? – The gloomy question,
That destiny itself conceals,
While in days unblessed by fortune,
Our people’s silent blood congeals.
But new songs will refresh them, 9935
No longer bow them to the floor,
The earth shall see them once again,
As it saw them once before.
(A complete Pause. The music ends.)
Helen (To Faust.)
Alas, the ancient word proves true for me, as well:
That joy and beauty never lastingly unite. 9940
The thread of life, as the thread of love, is torn:
Painfully, lamenting both, I must say: farewell,
And enter your embrace, once, and then no more.
Persephone, receive me, and this child of ours!
(She embraces Faust: her body vanishes, her dress and veil remain in his hands.)
Phorkyas (To Faust.)
Hold tight to what alone remains to you. 9945
Don’t let the garment go. Already, daemons
Pull at its hem, and wish to drag it down
Into the Underworld. Hold tight to it, now!
It no longer veils the divinity you’ve lost,
But it is divine. Employ then the priceless, 9950
Noble gift for yourself, and soar on high:
It will carry you quickly from the lowest
To the highest ether, while you can endure.
We’ll meet once more, far away from here.
(Helen’s garments dissolve in mist, surround Faust, life him into the air, and drift away with him.)
(Phorkyas takes Euphorion’s tunic, cloak and lyre from the ground, steps forward to the proscenium, holds them aloft and speaks.)
As always, I’ve discovered something good! 9955
The flame itself has gone, that’s understood,
Yet, for the world, I can’t be truly sad.
Here’s enough to fuel the poets’ regiment,
Stir their guild to envy, make them mad,
And if I still can’t lend them any talent, 9960
At least I’ll have a costume for the lad.
(She seats herself on a low column in the proscenium.)
Panthalis Quick now, girls! We’re all free of the magic now,
That old Thessalian woman’s enthralling spell,
That jangling dizziness of confusing sound,
Troubling the ear, and more the inner sense. 9965
Down to Hades! Since with solemn step the Queen
Descended swiftly. Let her faithful servants’
Footsteps follow her downward path without delay.
We’ll find her beside the Unfathomable Throne.
Chorus Of course, queens are happy anywhere: 9970
Even in Hades they’re on top,
Associating proudly with their peers,
Persephone’s intimate company.
But for us, then, in the background,
Of the asphodel-meadowed depths, 9975
With their long rows of poplars,
Their fruitless crowds of willows,
What fun is there for us,
Piping like bats at twilight,
In cheerless, ghostly whispers? 9980
Panthalis Who wins no name, and wills no noble work,
Belongs to the elements: so away with you!
My own intense desire’s to be with my Queen,
The individual’s loyalty and not just service.
All We’re returned to the light of day, 9985
No longer individual, it’s true,
We feel it, and we know it,
But we’ll never go back to Hades.
Makes the most valid claim 9990
On our spirits, and we on her.
A Section of the Chorus We in all the thousand branches’ whispering tremors, swaying murmurs,
Sweetly rocked, will lightly draw the root-born founts of being upwards,
To the twigs: and now with leaves, and now with the exuberant blossom,
We’ll adorn their floating tresses, freely thriving in the breezes. 9995
Straight away, now, as the fruit falls, happy crowds and flocks will gather,
For the picking and the tasting, swift-arriving, busy-thronging:
Bending down, now, all around us, as before the early gods.
A Second Section of the Chorus We, against the rocky cliff face, by the smooth far-gleaming mirror,
We will nestle, softly moving, in the gentle waves that flatter: 10000
Listening, hearing every echo, birdsong, now, or reedy fluting,
To the fearful voice of Pan, too, we’ll provide a ready answer:
To the murmuring, send a murmur: to the thunder roll our thunder,
In earth-shaking repetition, in threefold, or tenfold echo.
A Third Section of the Chorus Sisters! We, of nimbler senses, hurry onwards with the waters: 10005
For the richly covered, far-off, mountain ranges each entice us.
Ever deeper, ever downward, in meandering curves we’ll water
First the meadows, then the pastures, then the house and the garden,
Where the slender tips of cypress, over banks and watery mirror,
Over all the landscape, mark it, soaring skywards in the air. 10010
A Fourth Section of the Chorus Wander where you please, you others: we will circle, we will rustle
Round the densely planted hillside, where the vine stock’s growing green:
There, each day, we’ll pay attention to the cultivator’s passion,
Watch his diligence and care, there: watch for its uncertain outcome.
How he hoes, how he digs there, how he heaps, and prunes, and ties, 10015
Prays to all the gods above him, most of all prays to the sun god.
The effeminate one, Bacchus, gives scant thought to faithful servants,
Rests in arbours, lolls in caverns, flirting with the youngest Faun.
Whatsoever he might need there, for his half-befuddled dreaming,
Is left for him in wineskins, stored around in jars and vessels, 10020
Right and left, in cool recesses, gathered through the endless ages.
But when the gods, that’s Helios, we mean before all others,
Cooling, wetting, warming, heating, fill the vineyard’s horn of plenty,
Where the silent grower laboured, suddenly it’s all enlivened,
And in every leaf there’s rustling, rustling now from vine to vine. 10025
Baskets creaking, buckets rattling, the tubs are carried groaning,
All towards enormous vats there, to the lusty treaders’ dance:
So, then, all the sacred bounty, of the pure bred juicy harvest,
Fiercely trodden, spurting, foaming, mingled there, is crudely squashed.
Now the cymbals’ brazen clamour’s ringing boldly in our ears, 10030
As Dionysus from his Mysteries is unveiled, and is revealed:
Here with his goat-foot Satyrs, whirling goat-foot Satyresses,
And Silenus’s, unruly, long-eared ass, that brays amongst them.
Nothing’s spared! The cloven feet now, trample on all decency:
All the senses whirl, bewildered: hideously, ears are stunned, there. 10035
Drunkards fumble for their wine-cups, head and bellies over-full,
Here and there one has misgivings, but can only swell the riot,
Since to hold the latest vintage, one must drain the oldest skin!
(The curtain falls. Phorkyas in the proscenium rises to full height, steps down from her tragic buskins, removes her mask and veil, and reveals herself as Mephistopheles, to point the last lines, by way of epilogue.)