Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Faust Part II
Act II: Scenes I to IV
Translated by A. S. Kline © Copyright 2003 All Rights Reserved
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- Act II Scene I: A High-Arched, Narrow, Gothic Chamber
- Act II Scene II: A Laboratory
- Act II Scene III: Classical Walpurgis Night
- Act II Scene IV: On The Upper Peneus Again
Scene I: A High-Arched, Narrow, Gothic Chamber
(Formerly Faust’s, Unchanged.)
Mephistopheles (Entering from behind a curtain. As he holds it up and looks behind him, Faust is seen lying stretched out on an antiquated bed.)
Lie there, unlucky man! One tempted by
The bonds of a love not readily undone!
The man whom Helena shall paralyse
Won’t find it easy to regain his reason.
(Looking around him.)
I look upwards, here, around me, 6570
All’s unaltered, and undamaged:
Stained glass, there, shows darkly,
Spiders have added to their webs:
The ink is dry: the paper’s yellow,
But everything’s still in its place: 6575
Even the quill-pen’s here, on show,
With which Faust and the Devil embraced.
Yes! Deeper in the nib there’s still
A drop of blood, I tempted him to spill.
It’s a unique piece, in my book, 6580
So I’ll wish the great collectors luck.
The old fur-robe, on the hook, too,
Reminds me of a joke or two,
That time when I taught the student,
What, perhaps, in youth, he’s glad he learnt. 6585
Truly the same desire is on me, for
You, smoke-singed gown: you and I,
To flaunt ourselves once more as a professor,
And speak as one who’s always in the right.
How to achieve that all the learned know: 6590
It’s something the Devil lost long ago.
(He shakes the fur as he takes it down, and moths, crickets and beetles fly out.)
Chorus of Insects Greetings! We’re greeting
Our Patron of old,
We’re floating and buzzing,
To us you’re well known. 6595
Singly, in silence,
You sowed us like plants.
Father, in thousands
We’ve come to the dance.
The jester is snugly 6600
Contained in the breast,
The lice in the fur they
Are sooner expressed.
Mephistopheles What a nice surprise, this young brood of mine!
One merely sows, and harvests in due time. 6605
I’ll shake this ancient fleece about,
Here and there, one flutters out. –
Away! Around! In a hundred leavings,
Hurry and hide yourself, you darlings.
There, where the ancient boxes lie, 6610
Here, in the smoky parchment try,
In that broken dusty old pottery,
Or the skull, its eye-sockets empty.
All this jumbled mildewed existence,
Always gives one whims and fancies. 6615
Again let’s dress up as a lecturer!
Today I’ll be the Principal, once more.
But it’s no use naming myself, you see:
Where are the people, to welcome me?
Famulus (A College Servant, tottering here, down the long gallery)
What a noise! What a quake! 6620
The stairs sway, the walls shake:
Through the windows’ trembling colours
I see the lightning gleam above us.
The floor leaps, and, on high,
Plaster, rubble from the sky. 6625
And the door, once tightly locked,
By wondrous force is thrown back. –
There! How fearful! A giant
Look, in Faust’s old garment!
At his gazing, and his pleas, 6630
I want to sink to my knees.
Shall I go? Shall I remain?
Oh, what will happen to me, then!
Mephistopheles Here, my friend! – You’re called Nicodemus.
Famulus Honoured Sir! That’s my name – Oremus. 6635
Mephistopheles Enough of that!
Famulus How pleased I am you knew me!
Mephistopheles I know you well: a student still, I see,
Mossy Sir! After all, a learned man
Studies hard, and does the best he can.
So one builds a respectable house of cards, 6640
That greater minds can’t finish afterwards.
But he’s a witty fellow, is your master,
Who doesn’t know the noble Doctor Wagner?
He’s the first in all the world of learning!
He’s unique: wisdom, each day increasing,
And all of it he still holds together, 6645
Crowds, around him, panting, gather
Listeners, eaves’-droppers, welcome.
Alone, he shines there at the rostrum.
He holds a key, just like Saint Peter, 6650
That unlocks the lower, and the higher.
He glows and sparkles above the rest,
No name and fame has wider standing:
Even that of Faust has dimmed, at best:
He’s the one who’s always inventing. 6655
Famulus Forgive me, honoured Sir, if I dare
To speak, and contradict you, there:
There’s no question of that, I must declare:
Since modesty’s his role, as all discern.
Discovering nothing of the circumstances, 6660
Baffled by the great man’s disappearance:
He seeks all health and comfort in his return.
The room waits for its old master
While Doctor Faustus is away,
Untouched, still, as in his day. 6665
And I scarcely dare to enter.
What can the stars be doing? –
The walls themselves are frightening me:
The doorframes quiver, bolts work free,
Or you yourself couldn’t have got in. 6670
Mephistopheles And your great man where is he?
Lead me there: or bring him here to me!
Famulus Oh! His warnings are quite clear,
I’m not allowed to interfere.
For months I’ve left him in utter peace, 6675
Till his great work is complete.
He, the most delicate of scholars,
His face looks like a charcoal burner’s,
Blackened now from nose to ears,
Eyes crimson, blowing up the fires, 6680
All the while, so enthusiastic:
Clinking of tongs, that’s his music.
Mephistopheles Why would he deny an entrance to me?
I’m one who’d speed his luck, you see.
(The Famulus exits: Mephistopheles sits down, gravely.)
I’ve hardly taken my seat here, 6685
And I see a guest behind my chair.
But he’s one of the new school’s persuasion:
He’ll be arrogant, I think, on this occasion.
Baccalaureus (Storming along the corridor.)
I find the gates and doors are open!
Now there’s room at last for hope then, 6690
That it won’t be merely as before,
A live man, acting as a corpse,
Wasting away, and rotting,
Till he merely dies of living.
These walls and these partitions, 6695
Bow and sink towards perdition,
And if we don’t look about us,
Their decline and fall will rout us.
I’m audacious, no one more so,
But no further in do I go. 6700
What will I find here today?
It’s years since I’ve been this way,
Where timid and innocent
As a freshman I was sent!
Where I trusted in my elders, 6705
Edified by all their blather.
From the dry old books, they knew
They lied to me: what they knew,
Not believing in it truly,
Stealing life itself, from me. 6710
What? – There, in his cell,
Sits a darkly bright one still!
With astonishment now, nearer,
See him sitting in his dark fur,
Truly, as I left him sitting 6715
Still in all his coarse wrapping!
Then he seemed a fount of wisdom,
Since I didn’t understand him.
He won’t find me so today,
Fresh and new, I’m on my way! 6720
Sir, if in Lethe’s melancholy stream
That bald nodding head’s not swum,
See your grateful scholar come,
Outgrown, his academic dream.
I find you now, as I saw you: 6725
I was another though: that’s true.
Mephistopheles I’m glad the ringing brought you.
I rated you once before as high:
The caterpillar, the chrysalis too,
Showed the bright future butterfly. 6730
Your curly hair and pointed collar,
Made you a childishly pleasing scholar.
You never wore pigtails I believe? –
And today you’re cropped like a Swede.
I see you’re bold and resolute: 6735
But don’t go home too absolute!
Baccalaureus My old master! We’re in our old places:
But don’t think to renew time’s journey,
And spare me words with dual-faces:
I treat them now quite differently. 6740
You teased the true, and honest youth.
It wasn’t difficult for you to do
It’s what no one dares to do today.
Mephistopheles Pure truth on the young is thrown away,
The little beaks don’t like it, any way, 6745
But afterwards when years have passed,
And they’ve learnt it for themselves at last,
And think it came from them, not school:
Then we hear: ‘The Master was a fool.’
Baccalaureus A rascal, maybe! – What teacher ever shows us 6750
The Truth directly, underneath our noses?
They know the way to make it seem more, or less,
Now serious, now playful, as suits the children best.
Mephistopheles There’s a moment given us for learning, truly:
But you’re ready now to teach, yourself, I see. 6755
For many moons, united with their suns,
You the riches of experience have won.
Baccalaureus Experience! Mist and Foam!
And not the Spirit’s equal.
Confess! What one has known, 6760
Is not worth knowing at all.
Mephistopheles (After a pause.)
I’ve thought so for ages. I was a Fool,
But I think that shallow now I’m sensible.
Baccalaureus That pleases me! I hear pure Reason’s sound:
The first old man of sense I’ve ever found. 6765
Mephistopheles I sought for treasure, buried gold,
And brought to light frightful coals.
Baccalaureus Confess now, your skull, bald and old,
Is worth no more than that empty poll.
Do you know, my friend, how rude you seem to me? 6770
Baccalaureus In German, one’s lying if one speaks politely.
Mephistopheles (Wheeling his chair nearer to the proscenium and the audience.)
Up here I’m dazed by light and air:
Shall I take shelter with you down there?
Baccalaureus I find it arrogant that in times like these,
A man wants to be what he no longer is. 6775
Man’s life is in his arteries, and when
Are they so vibrant as in younger men?
There the fresh blood full of strength
Creates new life from its own life again.
There all works, and things get done, 6780
The waverers fall, the capable get on.
While we’ve conquered half the world,
What have you done? Nodded, curled
In the sun, dreamed, weighed, plan on plan.
For sure, age is a chilling fever: 6785
The frost of whims and need ahead.
When your thirtieth year is over,
A man’s as good as dead.
It would be best to seek an early grave.
Mephistopheles That leaves the Devil nothing more to say. 6790
Baccalaureus Unless I will it, no Devil can exist.
The Devil will still trip you, in a bit.
Baccalaureus This is youth’s noblest profession!
The world was nothing before my creation:
I drew the Sun out of the sea: 6795
The Moon began her changeful course with me:
The daylight decked my path to greet me,
The Earth flowered, grew green, to meet me.
At my command, in primal night,
The stars in splendour swam to sight. 6800
Who, but I, loosed from its prison
Cramped thought’s philistinism?
I, quite free, as my spirit cites,
Happily following my inner light,
And speeding on, in delight, 6805
Darkness behind: and all before me, bright.
Mephistopheles Go forth in splendour, you primal man! –
How could insight harm you, ever:
Who can think of stupid things or clever,
That past ages didn’t, long ago, understand. 6810
Yet there’s no danger from him, you see,
He’ll think about it differently in time:
Even if the grape-juice acts absurdly,
In the end it changes into wine.
(To the younger members of the audience, who do not applaud.)
My words have left you cold, I gather,
May it be so for you, sweet children:
But think: the Devil’s a lot older,
So you need to be old to understand him!
Scene II: A Laboratory
(In the fashion of the Middle Ages: lots of heavy apparatus for strange purposes.)
Wagner (At the furnace.)
The fearful bell is sounding,
The soot-black walls shudder. 6820
My deepest expectation
Will be unsure no longer.
Soon the dark itself will lighten:
Soon in the innermost phial,
It will glow like living fire, 6825
Yes, like the noblest ruby’s glow,
Lightning flashing in the shadow.
A clearest white light shines now!
Ah, not to lose it once more! –
Oh, God! Who’s rattling at the door? 6830
Greetings! And kindly meant now.
Welcome, to the planet of the hour!
But stifle your breath, and words’ power,
A noble work is likewise being weighed.
What might it be?
A Man is being made. 6835
Mephistopheles A Man? And what loving couple
Have you got hidden, up the chimney?
Wagner God Forbid! How unfashionable!
We’re free of all that idle foolery.
The tender moment from which life emerged, 6840
The charming power with which its inner urge,
Took and gave, and clearly stamped its seal,
First in a near, and then a further field,
We now divest of all that dignity:
Though the creatures still enjoy it, we, 6845
As Men, with all our greater gifts, begin,
To have, as we should, a nobler origin.
(He turns towards the furnace.)
It brightens! See! – Now there’s a real chance,
That, if from the hundred-fold substance,
By mixing – since mixing makes it happen – 6850
The stuff of human life’s compounded,
And distilled in a flask, well-founded,
And in proper combination, grounded,
Then the silent work is done.
(He turns again to the furnace.)
It will be! The mass is clearer! 6855
The proof comes nearer, nearer:
What man praises in deepest Nature,
Through Reason we dare to probe it,
And what she organises, here,
We’re now able to crystallise it. 6860
Mephistopheles Who lives a while, gains much experience,
And nothing new can happen on his journey.
In years of travelling, and in my presence,
I’ve seen, already, crystallised humanity.
Wagner (Up till now attending to the phial.)
It rises: flashes, there’s expansion 6865
In a moment more it will be done.
Great aims seem foolish at the outset:
But we’ll laugh at Chance itself, yet,
And brains, with thoughts to celebrate,
In the future, a Thinker will create. 6870
(He inspects the phial, rapturously.)
The glass rings with sweet power,
It darkens, clears: it must have being!
In a delicate form I see appear
A well-behaved little Man behaving.
What can the world ask more, what can we? 6875
Now that this mystery’s visible to each.
Give ear to what these sounds may be,
They make a voice: they’re forming speech.
Homunculus (From the phial, to Wagner.)
Now, father! That was no joke. How are you?
Come: press me tenderly to your heart, too! 6880
But not too hard, the glass may be too thin.
It’s in the very nature of the thing:
For the natural the world has barely space:
What’s artificial commands a narrow place.
But you, Rascal, my dear Cousin, are you 6885
Here at the right moment? I thank you, too.
Good fortune’s led you here to me:
Since I exist, I must be doing, you see.
I’d like to begin my work today:
You’re skilful at shortening the way. 6890
Wagner But first, a word! Till now I’ve had no direction,
When old or young teased me with a question.
For example: no one’s found out, ever,
What makes body and soul fit together:
Stick tight, as if there’ll be no separation, 6895
Yet always cause each other irritation.
So then, -
Mephistopheles Stop! I’d rather he told me,
Why married people get by so wretchedly?
You’ll never discover that, my friend.
There’s work to do the little Man can tend. 6900
Homunculus What work’s to do?
Mephistopheles (Pointing to a side door.)
Employ your gifts on this!
Wagner (Still gazing at the phial.)
Truly, you’re the loveliest boy there is!
(The side-door opens: Faust is seen stretched out on a couch.)
(The phial slips out of Wagner’s hands, hovers over Faust, and shines on him.)
Lovely surroundings! – Clear water
In thick forest! Women there: undressing.
The loveliest of all! – It’s getting clearer. 6905
One’s left, different from the rest, gleaming:
Of highest race, for sure, a heavenly name.
She places her foot in the transparent glow,
Her noble body’s sweetly living flame
Cools itself in the yielding crystal flow. – 6910
But what’s that rush of beating wings for:
That thrashing, splashing, in the mirror?
The lovely girls, intimidated, flee:
Their queen, alone, looks on, composedly,
To see, with a proud feminine pleasure, 6915
The Swan-Prince press against her knee, there,
Forward yet tame. Familiar, he seems. –
But suddenly a vapour heaves,
And covers, with the veil it weaves,
The loveliest of scenes. 6920
Mephistopheles All the things that you could murmur!
So little: and such a great dreamer.
I see nothing –
Homunculus So I believe. You’re Northern,
In the age of mist you’re born then, 6925
In a jumble of priest-craft and chivalry,
So how could your sight be free!
You’re at home with darkness.
(He gazes around.)
Brown repulsive, mildewed walls,
Low, pointed arches, full of scrolls! –
One wakes, and gives another pain, 6930
On the spot, dead then, he’ll remain.
Wooded founts, swans, naked beauty,
That was his far-sighted dream:
How could this place do duty!
I can scarcely endure the scene. 6935
Carry him off!
Mephistopheles I’d be happy: a last chance.
Homunculus Order the soldier to the fight,
Lead the maiden to the dance,
Then everything’s done right.
Even now, thinks, quick as light, 6940
It’s Classical Walpurgis Night:
That’s the best, if he were sent
To his own true element!
Mephistopheles I’ve never heard that event named, here.
Homunculus How could it come to your ear? 6945
Only Romantic ghosts, for you:
A true ghost must be Classic too.
Mephistopheles Which path do we take there? Already
Your antique colleagues quite repel me.
Homunculus North-westward Satan, is your pleasure ground, 6950
But this time we’re South-eastward bound –
In wider space flows Peneus, the free
By bushes, groves, and damp still bays:
Its levels stretch to mountain ways,
And over it Pharsalus: old, yet contemporary. 6955
Mephistopheles Oh! Enough! And keep all the fight,
Of tyranny and slavery, out of sight.
It bores me: they’re scarce done when
They start the whole thing over again:
And no one sees: they’re being re-aligned, 6960
By Asmodeus, who works them from behind.
They clash, it’s said, for Freedom’s right:
Seen rightly, slave with slave is all the fight.
Homunculus Leave Mankind’s wilfulness to me, then.
Each man defends himself, as best he can, 6965
From childhood, till, at last, he is a man.
Just ask how we can get back there again.
Have you a method, then, let’s see:
If you haven’t, leave it all to me.
Mephistopheles There’s many a Brocken trick I could display, 6970
But I find that Pagan bolts have barred the way.
The whole Greek race was never that much use!
They dazzle with the senses’ freer play: it’s true:
They lure the heart of man to happier sins:
While ours, one always finds, are gloomy things. 6975
And now, what?
Homunculus Once you weren’t so witless:
When I spoke about Thessalian witches.
I can deliver what I said: just think a little.
Thessalian witches! Good! They’re the people
I once enquired about long ago. 6980
I don’t think it would suit me, at all,
To live with them night after night, though,
Still, a visit, and a trial –
Homunculus This mantle here,
Fold it around your knight there! 6985
As before, the cloak can carry another,
One of you, along with the other.
I’ll light the way.
Homunculus Well, now, you
Stay home, there are important things to do.
Unfold all your ancient parchments,
Then, by rote, collect life’s elements, 6990
And place them together with due care,
Consider What, more deeply consider How.
Meanwhile round the world, a bit, I’ll fare,
And find the last dot on the ‘i’, for now.
Then the great work will see its final stage: 6995
Great effort will merit great reward, you’ll see:
Gold, honour, fame, a long and ripe old age,
And science too – and virtue, possibly.
Farewell! It gives me pain.
Already, I fear, I’ll not see you again. 7000
Mephistopheles Now to Peneus, lively, on!
Sir Cousin’s highly rated.
(To the audience.)
In the end we’re dependent on
The creatures we’ve created.
Scene III: Classical Walpurgis Night. The Pharsalian Fields.
Erichtho (The Thessalian Witch, see Lucan’s Pharsalia.)
This night’s awesome feast, as so often in the past, 7005
I enter now, I, Erichtho, the gloomy one:
Not so abominable as the wretched poets
Painted me, with excessive slander…they never
Cease their blame or praise…I see the valley whiten
With waves of tents that gleam greyer in the distance, 7010
The after-image of that anxious, fearful night.
How often it’s repeated! In eternity
Acted out, again, forever…No one gives the realm
To another: to the one whose power won it:
Whose strength rules. Since each, incapable of ruling 7015
His inner self, would gladly rule his neighbour’s will,
In the manner that his proud mind dictates to him…
But here a great instance was fought out, to the end,
Of how force may battle against a greater force,
Freedom’s lovely thousand-blossomed garland be torn, 7020
And stubborn laurel be wound round the ruler’s brow.
Here, Pompey dreams of his youth and former greatness,
There, Caesar, listening, watches the balance tremble!
It settles, and the world knows whom it sinks towards.
The watch fires, glowing, send out their crimson flames: 7025
The field exhales those images of squandered blood,
And lured by the strange wondrous splendour of the night,
A legion of Hellenic legends gather here.
They hover around all the fires uncertainly,
Or sit nearby, the fabled forms of ancient days…. 7030
The Moon, not full it is true, but of clearest light,
Rises, scattering mild radiance everywhere:
The ghostly tents vanish: the fires burn bluish now.
But, over my head, what sudden meteor’s this?
It shines, illuminates the material globe. 7035
I smell Life. It’s not fitting for me to approach
Closer to the living, since I’m harmful to them:
It gives me a bad name, and is no benefit to me.
It sinks down already. I give way, thoughtfully!
(She Exits. The Airy Travellers speak from above.)
Homunculus Once again float round the circle 7040
Over flames and shuddering horror:
On the ground, and in the vale still,
It’s quite ghostly, we discover.
Mephistopheles It’s the same as through my old window
In the grim and tangled north, 7045
Really loathsome ghosts below,
I’m at home here: and there, of course.
Homunculus See! There’s a tall one striding,
With gigantic steps, before us.
Mephistopheles As if she were afraid, now: gliding 7050
Through the air above, she saw us.
Homunculus Let her stride! Right away,
Set the knight down there:
He’ll return to life again,
Once he breathes this mythic air. 7055
Faust (As he touches the ground.)
Where is she?
Homunculus We can’t say, I fear,
But you can probably enquire here.
Hurry now before it’s daylight,
Go and search, from fire to fire:
Who found his way to the Mothers’ side, 7060
Won’t find this harder to survive.
Mephistopheles On my own behalf too, I’m here:
But I don’t know anything better
Than each to seek, among the fires,
The adventure he desires. 7065
Then, so that we can reunite,
Little one, shine your ringing light.
Homunculus It shines like this, and rings.
(The glass shines and rings out powerfully.)
Now off to new and wondrous things!
Where is she? – But no further answer seek… 7070
If this is not the soil she trod,
Nor the wave that bathed her foot,
It is the air that spoke her speech.
Here! By a miracle, on Hellenic land!
I feel, the earth, too, where I stand: 7075
A fresh power glows in me, the Sleeper,
So I am Antaeus-like in nature.
And I find the strangest things lie here,
First let me search this Labyrinth of fire.
(He moves away.)
(On the Upper Peneus.)
Mephistopheles (Looking around.)
And as I wander through these fires, 7080
I feel myself a total stranger: in the event,
They’re mostly naked, a shirt here and there:
The Sphinx shameless, the Gryphon impudent:
And what’s more, curly-haired and winged,
Before, behind, in eyes, reflected things… 7085
Of course, at heart, indecency’s my ideal,
But I find the Antique is a little too real.
One should control all with a modern mind,
Overlay it with fashions of assorted kinds….
Repulsive people! Yet still I have to meet them, 7090
And, as a new guest too, correctly greet them…
Luck to you, fair ladies, and men, you wise grey ones!
A Gryphon (Snarling. For the gold-guarding Gryphons see Herodotus’ Histories.)
Not Grey ones! Gryphons! – No one likes the name
Of something grey. Every word rings
With what conditioned it: its origins: 7095
Grey, grievous, grumpy, gruesome, gravely, grimly,
Similarly harmonious etymologically,
Mephistopheles And yet, without deviation,
You like the gryp in your proud name of Gryphon.
The Gryphon (Snarling continuously.)
Naturally! The relationship’s tried and tested: 7100
It was often censured, but more often praised:
One grips maidens, money, gold,
To the gripper, Fortune’s never cold.
Giant Ants You spoke of gold: we’ve collected lots of it,
In rocks and caves, secretly, we’ve crammed it: 7105
The Arimaspi, discovered it all, one day,
They’re laughing now: they took it far away.
The Gryphon We’ll soon make them confess.
The Arimaspi (For the Scythian race of the Arimaspi and their association with gold mining see Herodotus’ Histories)
But not on this night of public festival.
By morning we’ll have spent it all. 7110
This time at least we’ll achieve success.
Mephistopheles (Sitting among the Sphinxes.)
How free, and easy, I feel here,
I understand you, one and all.
Sphinx We breathe out spirit-tones, clear,
That for you become substantial. 7115
Now name yourself, so we can know your fame.
Mephistopheles Men choose to saddle me with a host of names…
Are there Britons here? They travel about so much,
Looking for battlefields, and ruined walls,
The dullest classical places, waterfalls: 7120
Here’s a site that’s worth all their fuss.
They spoke of me too: in their Mysteries:
And portrayed me there as Old Iniquity.
A Sphinx How so?
Mephistopheles I don’t know why that should be.
A Sphinx Perhaps you’ve knowledge of the stars? 7125
What do you think of the present hour?
Mephistopheles (Gazing upwards.)
Star glides by star, the horned moon shines bright,
And I feel happy here, in this mournful site,
I warm myself on a lion skin: your right.
To have to take off, again: that would be hard: 7130
Give us a riddle, or at least charades.
Sphinx To express yourself, that would be a riddle.
Try for once to solve your own inner muddle:
‘Needed by the good man and the sinful,
To the first a breastplate in ascetic swordplay, 7135
A wild friend for the other, to show the way,
And both amusing Zeus with their display.’
The First Gryphon (Snarling.)
I don’t like him!
The Second Gryphon (Snarling more fiercely.)
What’s he after?
Both Gryphons The nasty thing, he’s not been heard of here!
Perhaps you think a guest’s nails can’t claw 7140
Every bit as sharply as those talons of yours?
Just try it, then!
A Sphinx (Gently.)
You’ll only stay until,
You leave our company, yourself, as you will:
In your own land everything worked for you,
But this if I’m not wrong’s too much for you. 7145
Mephistopheles Looked at above, you’re rather appetising,
But lower down the creature’s somewhat frightening.
A Sphinx False one, you’ll do bitter penance,
These claws of ours are sound and good:
You with your withered horse’s hoof, 7150
Aren’t comfortable in our presence.
(The Sirens start to sing, above them.)
What are those birds shaking
The poplar branches by the stream?
A Sphinx Take care! The song they’re making
Conquered the best there’s ever been. 7155
The Sirens Ah, why should you choose to live
Listen, we flock to you, ah yes,
With tuneful sounds, in excess,
That Sirens ought to give. 7160
The Sphinxes (Mocking them.)
Make them fly down here to us!
Their falcon-claws, so hideous,
They’ve hidden in the leaves:
They’ll fall on you, cruelly, you see
If you choose to hear them sigh. 7165
The Sirens Away with hate! Away with envy!
We gather purest ecstasies,
Scattered through the sky!
On the earth, or on the sea,
With the happiest gestures, we 7170
Greet men who wander by.
Mephistopheles This is news of the sweetest,
Here from lyre and chest,
One note twines round another.
But this warbling’s lost on me: 7175
It crawls into my ear, you see,
Yet my heart feels nothing, here.
The Sphinxes Don’t talk of hearts! That’s idle:
A leather bag would do as well,
To match that face you wear. 7180
Marvellous! Gazing’s enough for me,
At grand repulsiveness, and solidity:
I suspect I’ll find good fortune shortly:
Where will this serious gazing take me?
(He points at the Sphinxes.)
Once Oedipus stood in front of them: 7185
(He points at the Sirens.)
Ulysses writhed in ropes for them:
(He points to the Ants.)
They gathered a mighty treasure.
(He points to the Gryphons.)
They guarded it in fullest measure.
I feel new power flowing through me:
Mighty these forms: of mighty memory. 7190
Mephistopheles Once you’d have run from things like these,
But now they look good to you:
When a man seeks his beloved, he’s
Ready to meet monsters too.
Faust (To the Sphinxes.)
You female forms, tell me then, 7195
Have any of you seen Helen?
The Sphinxes None of us lasted till her day,
Hercules the last did slay.
You can ask Chiron, anyway:
He gallops round in this spirit night: 7200
When he stops for you, you might.
The Sirens You will not fail at all!…
How Ulysses lingered with us,
Not hurrying scornfully by us,
He’d many times recall: 7205
All will be shown you,
If you make your journey to
Our fields, in the green sea.
A Sphinx Don’t let yourself be deceived.
Instead of Ulysses self-bonded, 7210
We bind with good advice. On!
When you reach noble Chiron,
You’ll find it’s as I promised.
(Faust wanders off.)
Mephistopheles (In a temper.)
What croaks by me on beating wing,
So quick that one can’t see a thing. 7215
And one behind the other, flying?
Even a hunter would weary of these.
A Sphinx That storm, like the winds of winter, here,
Hercule’s arrows could scarce get near:
They are the swift Stymphalides, 7220
And their croaked greetings are well-meant,
The vulture-beaked, and goose-webbed.
They’d gladly appear in our place,
As a closely-related race.
Mephistopheles (As if intimidated.)
Something else is having a hissing fit. 7225
Sphinx Don’t be worried about those either!
They’re the heads of the Lernaean Hydra,
Lopped from the trunk, but think they’re it.
But, what’s the matter, now then?
Why all the restless movements? 7230
Where are you going? He’s gone!…
I see that Chorus over there, that one,
Has turned your head. You’ll get nowhere,
Go on: greet every sweet face there!
They’re Lamiae, the lustful girls, 7235
With smiling lips, impudent curls,
The race of Satyrs all delight in:
With them a cloven foot’s the very thing.
Mephistopheles Will you stay here? So I can find you again.
Sphinx Yes! Mix with the flighty rabble. 7240
In Egypt, we were accustomed, you know,
To rule for a thousand years or so.
And if you respect our location,
We’ll regulate the days of Moon and Sun.
We’ll sit in front of the Pyramids, 7245
To pass judgement on the nations:
With changeless faces, there, amid
War and peace, and inundations.
(On the Lower Peneus.)
(The river-god, surrounded by nymphs and tributary streams.)
Peneus Stir, you reed-beds, whispering, flowing!
Sigh softly, slender rushes, bowing, 7250
Lightly, willow-bushes, rustling,
Lisp, you poplar-branches trembling,
Through the broken dream!…..
Dreadful premonitions wake me,
Secret quivering, now, shakes me, 7255
In my peaceful wandering stream.
Faust (Approaching the river.)
If I heard true, as I believe:
From behind the tangled leaves
Of these shrubs and branches,
Came sounds of human voices. 7260
Then the fount seemed to chatter,
And the breeze filled with laughter.
The Nymphs (To Faust.)
Just to lie here, now,
For you would be best,
Reviving your wearied 7265
Body with coolness,
Enjoy here forever
Your fugitive rest:
We’ll whisper, and bless. 7270
Faust I’m awake! O let them linger there
Those images without compare,
As they reached my sight.
I’m moved so marvellously!
Is it dream? Or is it memory? 7275
Once before, I knew this delight.
The waters creep through the freshness,
The softly swaying bushes’ thickness,
Without rushing, barely trickling:
A hundred founts from all sides press, 7280
And gather to the purest brightness,
Fill the pool’s shallow ring.
Glowing limbs of young girls are
Reflected by the liquid mirror,
And added to the eye’s delight! 7285
Companionably, bathing joyfully,
Swimming boldly, wading shyly,
Crying out, at last, in watery fight.
This sight’s enough to renew
My eyes with gazing at the view, 7290
But ever wider vision strains.
My glance cuts sharply through the cover,
Rich foliage, green wealth, around her,
Serves to hide the noble queen.
Marvellous! The swans approaching: 7295
From the bays, come softly swimming,
Majestically pure their movement.
Floating calm, in sweet society,
But how proudly, self-delightedly,
Head and neck are lifted, bent….. 7300
One shines out above all others,
Boasting boldly of his favours,
Sailing swiftly in their race:
His ruffled plumage swelling,
Wave-like, on the wave he’s stirring, 7305
He hastens to the sacred place…
The others swimming here and there,
With their smooth shining feathers,
Soon meet in fine contention,
Drive away the frightened maidens, 7310
Not thinking of their service, then
But only of their own protection.
The Nymphs Sisters, bend and set you ears
To the river-banks’ green turf:
If I hear rightly, coming near, 7315
That’s the sound of hooves on earth.
If I only knew who that message might
Be bringing, swiftly, to the Night!
Faust To me, the ground seems ringing, too
Echoing to some swift stallion’s hoof. 7320
There, gaze, my eyes!
Good luck, is nigh,
Will it come to me as well?
O, wonder without parallel!
A rider trots towards us, now, 7325
Gifted, shines with spirit and power
Grafted to a snow-white horse…
I know him too, I can’t be wrong,
It’s Philyra’s famous son! –
Halt, Chiron! Halt! Hear my discourse… 7330
Chiron (The Centaur.)
What then? What is it?
Faust Delay a moment!
Chiron I never rest.
Faust Well, take me with you, then!
Chiron Mount! And I can question you, at leisure:
Where are you going? You’re by the river,
I’ll carry you through the flood, with pleasure. 7335
Faust (Mounting his back.)
Wherever you wish. My thanks forever…
You, the great man, the noble teacher,
Famed for educating the race of heroes,
That splendid company of the Argonauts,
And all who edified the Poets’ thoughts. 7340
Chiron All that in its proper place!
As Mentor, even Pallas wasn’t rated:
In the end they do things their own way,
As if they’d none of them been educated.
Faust The doctor who can name the plants, 7345
And roots, profoundly, understands:
Who heals the sick, and soothes the wound,
Here, strong in mind and body, have I found!
Chiron When a hero was injured near me.
I gave the right assistance and advice: 7350
But, at last, bequeathed my art, you see,
To priests, and herb-gathering old wives.
Faust You’ve a truly great man’s ways:
He won’t hear a word of praise.
He’ll modestly defer to us 7355
And act as if all were equals.
Chiron You seem artful at those pretences,
Which flatter common folk and princes.
Faust But surely you’d confess today:
You saw the greatest, of your age, 7360
Among the noblest deeds, you trod,
And lived life as a demi-god.
Among those great heroic forms,
Who was the finest of them all?
Chiron Among the Argonauts, in my day, 7365
Each was worthy, in his own way.
And with the powers he inhaled,
Knew enough when others failed.
Castor and Pollux always conquered,
When youth and beauty were honoured. 7370
In determination, and swift help to others,
First was Calais, and Zetes his brother,
Thoughtful, clever, strong, well-advised,
Jason conquered, woman-folk’s delight.
Then Orpheus: gentle, always brooding, 7375
Sounding the lyre, quite over-powering.
Sharp-eyed Lynceus, by night and day,
Steering the sacred ship past reef and bay…
Let such dangers always be faced as brothers:
If one achieves he’s praised by all the others. 7380
Faust Of Hercules, you say nothing?
Chiron Oh! Don’t rouse my yearning….
Never noting how Phoebus
Ares, or Hermes, were defined,
With my own eyes I saw before us 7385
What all men praise as divine.
He was born a king, no other,
A splendid youth to gaze upon:
Yielding to his elder brother,
And the loveliest of women. 7390
Gaea’s never known a second,
Nor Hebe led such on to heaven’s zone:
In vain for him they sing the songs,
In vain for him they carve the stone.
Faust The sculptors never caught his form, 7395
However many images they made.
You’ve spoken of the loveliest man,
Now speak about the loveliest maid!
Chiron What!…I won’t talk of woman’s beauty,
It’s so often a frozen mask to me: 7400
I can only praise that nature, truly,
Flowing freely, and cheerfully.
Beauty’s delighted with itself:
Grace makes it irresistible,
Like Helen, whom I carried. 7405
Faust You carried her?
Chiron Yes on this very back.
Faust Was I not sufficiently aroused?
Such a seat, now, will bring me luck!
Chiron She gripped me by the mane, so,
As you are doing.
Faust I’m vanquished, oh, 7410
Completely! Tell me, why here?
She is my one and only desire!
Carried her from where, to where?
Chiron That’s easy to tell, since you enquire.
At that time, the Dioscuri, Castor and Pollux, 7415
Freed their sister, Helen, from a nest of robbers.
The robbers then, not used to being conquered,
Regained their courage, and chased them onward.
The sister and brothers’ hasty course was halted
By all the swamps that lie below Eleusis: 7420
The brothers waded: I swam over, swiftly:
Then she sprang off, and, stroking gently
My wet mane, caressed me, thanked me,
Confident, sweetly clever were her ways.
She was so charming! Youth, delighting Age! 7425
Faust Only ten years old!…
Chiron The philologists deceive you,
I see, while deceiving themselves too.
It’s strange that with a mythological woman,
Poets use her, at will, to draw our attention,
She can never age, is never old, 7430
Cast in the same enticing mould,
Seduced when young, in age delights:
Enough, no age restricts a poet’s flights.
Faust Then let her be as if no age has bound her!
As Achilles on Pherae once found her, 7435
Beyond all ages. What rare luck:
In spite of every fate, to win her love!
And shall I, by the strength of my yearning,
Not draw that unique form towards me, living,
That eternal being, equal to the divine, 7440
Great yet tender: kind as she’s sublime.
You saw her once: today I too have seen her,
Lovely in her attraction: as lovely as desired.
Now my soul and being is strongly tied:
If I can’t win her, I shan’t survive. 7445
Chiron Ah, stranger! You’re enraptured like Mankind:
Among us Spirits you seem maddened, blind.
Yet now your fate is to be met with here:
Though only for a moment, every year,
I take the time to call on Manto, there, 7450
Aesculapius’ daughter: in silent prayer
Imploring her father to add to his fame,
Enlighten, at last, each rash doctor’s brain,
And persuade them never to deal death again…
I like her best of all the crowd of Sibyls, 7455
Free of grimaces, kind and generous:
If you stay with her, she’s the power too,
To heal you totally: with herbs and roots.
Faust I don’t need healing: my mind is filled with power:
There I’d become as base as others are. 7460
Chiron Don’t scorn the healing of the noble fount!
We’ve reached the place, so, quick, dismount!
Faust Tell me, where, through pebbly water,
In the gloomy night, you’ve brought us?
Chiron Here Greece and Rome braved the fight, 7465
Olympus to your left, Peneus on the right,
The greatest empire lost here to the sand:
A king flees: and citizens win the land.
Gaze around! Famous Tempe is nearby,
Eternal, there, under the moonlit sky. 7470
Manto (Inside, dreaming.)
Horses’ hooves sound
On sacred ground,
Demi-gods are nigh us.
Chiron Quite right!
Just open your eyes! 7475
Welcome! I see you don’t keep away.
Chiron And your temple’s still here to stay!
Manto You still gallop round, untiringly?
Chiron And you, as ever, sit peacefully,
While I enjoy circling round. 7480
Manto I wait, and Time circles me I’ve found.
Chiron The shadowy night
Has whirled him to our sight.
Helen he wants to win,
Helen’s maddening him. 7485
And he doesn’t know where or how to begin:
Above all he deserves the Aesculapian healing.
Manto I like the ones who want impossible things.
(Chiron is already far off.)
Rash man, advance, here’s joy for you!
This dark path leads to Persephone too. 7490
Under Olympus’ hollow foot, stealing,
She listens for secret, forbidden greeting.
I smuggled Orpheus down here once before:
Use your chance better! Quick! Be sure!
Scene IV: On The Upper Peneus Again
The Sirens Plunge now in Peneus’ flood! 7495
Here you can delight in swimming,
Song on song too, harmonising,
Does unlucky people good.
There’s no healing without water!
With the shining crowd run we 7500
Quick, to the Aegean Sea,
Where every joy’s on offer.
The foaming wave sweeps wider,
Flowing in its bed no longer:
Earth shakes and waters roar, 7505
Stony banks split once more.
We fly on! Come, one and all!
We’ll not profit from this at all.
On! Each noble, happy guest,
To the ocean’s cheerful zest, 7510
Gleaming, where the trembling waves
Lightly heaving, wash the bays:
Where the moon’s reflected light,
Wets with heaven’s dew, at night.
There, a freely flowing life, 7515
Here, an earthquake’s fearful strife:
Every clever one, hasten on!
This place is a hideous one.
Seismos (Growling and jolting in the deep.)
Push again, with power,
With your shoulders, tower! 7520
So the world above is ours,
Where all must yield to us.
The Sphinxes What a horrid shuddering,
Ugly, hideous juddering!
What a quivering and swaying, 7525
Back and forwards,playing!
What an intolerable fuss!
But we’ll not lose our place,
Even if all hell shakes.
Now a dome is lifted, 7530
Wonderful. He’s gifted
It to us, the ancient one,
Delos’ isle was his creation,
Driven from out the wave,
To bring Latona aid. 7535
He with striving, pushing, pressing,
Arms straight, and shoulders bending,
Like an Atlas in his action,
Lifts rock and earth, in motion,
Shingle, gravel, sand: the floors 7540
All along our peaceful shores.
Rips our vale’s quiet surface up,
Crosswise, with a single cut:
Fiercely, and unwearied,
A colossal caryatid, 7545
Bears a fearsome weight of boulders,
Still buried, downwards to his shoulders:
But he’ll come no further, now,
The Sphinxes’ place is here, we vow.
Seismos I myself achieved all this, 7550
Man should admit it, finally:
If I’d not jolted and shaken it,
How could the world be so lovely? –
How could your peaks stand so high,
In the pure and splendid blue, 7555
If I’d not pushed them to the sky,
Picturesque and charming too?
Then, thinking of my high ancestry,
Night and Chaos, I behaved badly,
And, a company of Titans, we 7560
With Pelion and Ossa played madly,
Romping round in youthful glee,
Till, we tired of it, at last,
And set both mountains, wickedly,
On Parnassus, as a double hat…. 7565
There, now, Apollo’s sweet retreat,
With the happy band of Muses.
And Jupiter, thunderbolts complete:
I even raised the high seat he uses.
So now with monstrous striving 7570
I’ve pushed this upwards, from the deep,
And call, aloud, to their new being,
The joyful dwellers of the steep.
The Sphinxes One would think long ago,
This was lifted to the sky, 7575
Had we not seen from down below,
How it wormed its way on high.
A bushy forest covers it,
And rock on rock is piled around:
Sphinxes don’t care about it, 7580
It won’t disturb our sacred ground.
The Gryphons Gold in leaves, and gold in spangles,
Through the cracks, see, it tremble.
Don’t you rob us of our treasure,
Ants, come, gather it together! 7585
Chorus of Ants As this the giant ones
Threw to the sky,
You restless-footed ones,
Quick, climb it on high!
Rapidly in and out! 7590
In cracks like these,
Every crumb about’s
Worth you can seize.
You must uncover
Even the slightest, 7595
In every corner
Quick as the brightest.
You must be everywhere,
Swarming around: then,
Only bring gold here! 7600
Forget the mountain.
The Gryphons Come! Come! Heap the gold!
With our claws, we’ll keep hold:
They are the best locks yet:
Great treasures they protect. 7605
The Pygmies (Classical Dwarves.)
We’ve acquired some room,
How, it isn’t clear.
Don’t ask where we’re from:
The main thing is we’re here!
Life is cheerfully suited 7610
To every sort of land:
Where a rock is lifted,
Dwarves are there, on hand.
Men and maids, quick and busy,
Exemplary, every pair: 7615
In Paradise, once, maybe,
A similar race lived there.
But the best is here we find,
Thankfully our fate is blessed:
Mother Earth is always kind, 7620
In the East as in the West.
The Dactyls (Little Ironworkers.)
If she can bring to light
The Little Ones in a night,
The Littlest Ones, she can make
And each will still find a mate. 7625
The Pygmy-Elders Hurry: make space:
A convenient place!
Quickly, to work!
Strength, never shirk!
While we’re in peace, 7630
Our smithy increase,
To furnish the horde
With armour and sword.
All you ant-forms,
Moving in swarms, 7635
Bring us the ore!
And all you Dactyls,
So many, so little,
You are commanded
To bring us the wood! 7640
Heap it up higher,
Fetch coals as you should.
The Pygmy Generalissimo Look lively, though,
With arrow and bow! 7645
Shoot me the herons
Out in the ponds,
Countless they’re nests,
Proud are their breasts,
Shoot them, together, 7650
All in one blow!
So we can show
Helmets with feathers.
Ants and Dactyls Who now can save us!
We bring the iron 7655
They forge the fetters.
It won’t be soon
This thing will end,
Meanwhile we bend.
The Cranes of Ibycus Cries of murdered, calls of dying! 7660
Fearful fluttering and flying!
Such deep moans, and such groans
Carry to our airy zones!
All already slaughtered,
Blood is reddening the water, 7665
Misshapen dwarfish passions,
Steal the herons’ noblest gems.
Now they’re waving on their helmets:
Those fat-bellied bow-legged serpents.
You our armies’ members, 7670
Files of ocean-wanderers,
You we call to vengeance,
To kin-related business.
No one spare his strength or blood!
Show hatred always to that brood! 7675
(They disperse, croaking.)
Mephistopheles (On the plain.)
Northern witches were easily controlled,
But over foreign spirits I’ve no hold.
The Blocksberg’s a most convenient locale,
Wherever you are, you’ll find yourself there still.
Dame Ilse watches for us, from her tall stone, 7680
And Heinrich’s still awake on his high throne,
At Elend, the Snorers snore away,
All’s done for a thousand years and a day.
Who knows here if, where he sits, you see,
The Earth won’t swell up beneath his feet?…. 7685
I wander happily through a level valley,
And in a moment there, thrown up behind me,
A mountain, true it’s hardly to be called one,
But high enough to hide the Sphinxes’ home –
Still, the valley breeds many a fire here, 7690
And so illuminates this mad affair….
The magic sparks of that charming chorus.
Still enticing, vanishing, hover near us.
Gently now! All too used to nibbling,
Wherever we are, we find ourselves snatching. 7695
The Lamiae (Drawing Mephistopheles after them.)
Faster, and faster!
And ever further!
Then hover again,
It’s such a pleasure, 7700
To make the old sinner,
Pursue us, at whim,
Doing hard penance.
See, with his lame stance,
He hobbles forwards, 7705
He stumbles onwards:
Trailing his leg, mind:
As we flee from him
He follows behind!
Mephistopheles (Standing still.)
Cursed fate! Cheated every which way! 7710
Since Adam, seduced and led astray!
We grow old, but who grows wise?
Now, I’m tormented to the skies!
We know they’re a wholly useless sex,
With laced-in bodies, and painted looks. 7715
No healthy response at all, at bottom,
Wherever you grip, their limbs are rotten.
We know, we see, we grasp their ways,
But still we dance when woman plays!
The Lamiae (Pausing.)
Stop! He thinks: pauses: stays too: 7720
Return, then, lest he should escape you!
Mephistopheles (Striding forwards.)
On, then! And let no indecision
Grip my flesh, some foolish cavil:
Since if there were no witches given,
Who the devil’d want to be a devil! 7725
The Lamiae (Very graciously.)
We are circling round the hero!
Let love, in his heart, be sure to
Choose one of us for certain though.
Mephistopheles True, in this uncertain shimmer,
You seem pretty girls together, 7730
I’d like not to scorn you so.
Empusa (The demon. Pressing forward.)
Nor me! I’m the very thing,
Let me join your following.
The Lamiae She’s one too many in our crowd,
She’ll spoil our game if she’s allowed. 7735
Empusa (To Mephistopheles.)
Greetings from Empusa, to you,
Your cousin, with the ass’s hoof!
You’ve only a horse’s hoof, it’s true,
Yet, cousin, all the best to you!
Mephistopheles I thought there were only strangers here, 7740
Sadly, now, relatives appear:
It’s the old story: in their dozens,
From Hartz to Hellas, always cousins!
Empusa I act quickly with decision,
I can alter to your vision: 7745
But to honour you today
My ass’s head I display.
Mephistopheles I see great things are signified,
By the relationship implied:
Be that as it may, yet I, 7750
The ass’s head will still deny.
The Lamiae That ugly thing gives the frights,
To all that’s lovely and delights:
The lovely and delightful before,
When she arrives, are so no more! 7755
Mephistopheles These cousins too, so soft and slender,
Are all suspicious, all that gender:
And beneath their cheeks, those roses,
There too, I fear, are metamorphoses.
The Lamiae Try us then! We’re many. 7760
Grasp! And if you’re lucky,
Secure the finest prize.
What was all that lusting for?
You’re a miserable suitor,
Strutting, boasting of your size! – 7765
Now he’s mixing with our crowd:
Drop your masks: you’re allowed:
And bare your being to his eyes.
Mephistopheles I’ve chosen the loveliest one…
Oh! What a skinny broom! 7770
And this one?…Wizened looks!
The Lamiae You’re worth better? Not in our books.
Mephistopheles That little one might suit my plans…
A lizard gliding through my hands!
And snakelike are her slippery tresses. 7775
I try the tall one to compare…
I grip a thyrsus without hair,
A pinecone, for a head, impresses!
What next?….A fat one, see,
Perhaps she’ll enliven me: 7780
Let’s risk it, then! Here she is!
So puffy, flabby, in the East
There they’d prize her looks, at least…
But, oh! The puff-ball’s split!
The Lamiae Scatter widely, swaying, floating, 7785
Surround him in dark flight, like lightning,
The trespassing witch’s son!
Circles, terrifying, winging!
Bat-like in a silent flickering!
He’ll be grateful when we’ve done. 7790
Mephistopheles (Shaking himself.)
I’m no cleverer it seems, at all:
Here’s absurd, and so’s the north,
Here and there, the spirits tricky,
Poetry and people tacky.
Here too it’s masquerade, I find: 7795
As everywhere, the dance of mind.
I grasped a lovely masked procession,
And caught things from a horror show…
I’d gladly settle for a false impression,
If it would last a little longer, though. 7800
(He loses his way among the rocks.)
Where am I now? Where will it wander?
There was a path, now it’s a horror.
I got here by smooth and level ways,
And now the scree prevents escape.
I clamber up and down in vain, 7805
How shall I find the Sphinx again?
I’ve never known anything like it, quite,
A mountain range in a single night!
I call it a lively witches’ ride,
They’ve brought the Blocksberg, beside. 7810
An Oread (A mountain nymph, from the natural rock.)
Climb up here! My range is old,
In primeval forms the peaks unfold.
Respect the steep and rocky stair,
Pindus’ last slopes stretch there!
Unshakeable, once I stood, as now, 7815
When Pompey fled across my brow.
Beside me, illusion’s stones will go,
As soon as ever the cock shall crow.
I often see such fables thrown on high,
And suddenly sink back again and die. 7820
Mephistopheles Honour to you, you noble length,
Garlanded high with oaken strength!
The clearest moonlight never weaves
Through the darkness of your leaves –
I see a light, with parting glow, 7825
Through the silent bushes go.
How all things come together!
Homunculus it is who’s there!
Which way now, little fellow?
Homunculus I flit about from hill to hollow 7830
And, in the truest sense, I’d gladly ‘be’,
I’m so impatient, now, to smash the glass:
Only, so far, given what I can see,
I wouldn’t want to do it in this pass.
But in confidence I confess I was 7835
On the trail of two philosophers,
All I heard them say was: Nature, Nature!
I’ll not part from them for anything,
They must know about earthly being:
And in the end I’ll find out, too, 7840
The cleverest place to travel to.
Mephistopheles Well, do it on your own behalf, here.
Where the spirits all find their place,
The Philosopher can show his face.
To please you with his art and favour, 7845
He’ll make you a dozen, any flavour.
You’ll have no intellect, unless you err.
If you want to ‘be’, make it your own affair!
Homunculus Good advice too is not to be disdained.
Mephistopheles Then off with you! I’ll look around again. 7850
Anaxagoras (To Thales.)
The stubborn mind will never ever bend:
What more do you need to be enlightened?
Thales The waves will gladly bow to every wind,
Yet far from the jagged cliffs they’ll end.
Anaxagoras This cliff came about by fiery vapours. 7855
Thales By moisture living things were created.
Homunculus (Between the two.)
Let me walk beside you, please.
I myself desire to ‘be’!
Anaxagoras Have you, O Thales, in a single night
Brought a mount, from mud, to light? 7860
Thales Never has nature in her living flow,
Been bound to day, night, and hours, though.
She creates every form by rule,
At her greatest, force is never her tool.
Anaxagoras Here it was! Furious Plutonic fire, 7865
Monstrous Aeolian vapours thrown higher,
Broke through the ancient earth’s smooth crust,
And raised the new mount with a swift up-thrust.
Thales What more will come of it?
It’s there, that’s fine: let it sit. 7870
One loses time in remonstrance,
And only lead the patient folk a dance.
Anaxagoras The Mount quickly filled with Myrmidons,
Living in the rocky clefts and caverns:
Pygmies, ants and fingerlings, 7875
And other active little things.
You’ve not striven hard for greatness,
Lived hermit-like, in narrowness:
If you can accustom yourself to power,
I’ll crown you their king, in an hour. 7880
Homunculus What does Thales say?
Thales It’s not my recommendation:
With small means, you’ll only do small actions:
With great means, the small achieve great ones.
Look there! A dark cloud, see, the cranes come!
So the excitable crowd will threaten, 7885
And they would threaten the king so.
With sharpened beak, and grasping claw,
They tread the small ones to the floor:
Fate falls like lightning on those below.
It was a crime to kill the herons, 7890
Caught on their quiet and peaceful ponds.
But that rain of arrowed slaughter,
Brings cruel and bloody vengeance after,
Summons the anger of their kin above,
To spill the Pygmies guilty blood. 7895
What need for helmets, shields and spears?
What use the dwarves’ heron-feather?
How Dactyls and Ants hide together!
The army wavers, flies, and disappears.
Anaxagoras (After a moment, solemnly.)
Till now I’ve praised the subterranean powers, 7900
But turn, in this case, to higher ones than ours…
You! Above, always evergreen,
Triple-named, triply to be seen,
I cry to you, by my people’s woe,
Diana, Luna, Hecate, so! 7905
You, in deepest thought, the heartening,
You power profound, calmly shining,
Reveal your dark side’s fearful shower,
Without spells, show your ancient power!
Am I heard so swiftly? 7910
Has my cry
To the deep sky
Stirred Nature’s ranks so quickly?
Already, greater, greater, nearing,
The Goddess’ orbed throne appearing, 7915
Monstrous, fearful to the sight!
With fires that redden in the night…
No closer, threatening disc of power!
You’ll straight destroy us: sea and shore!
So it was true, the Thessalian women, 7920
Trusted with wicked magic runes,
Enchanted you from your circling path,
Wrested evil things from you, in wrath?…
The bright shield now darkens,
Suddenly splits: flashes, sparkles! 7925
What a hissing! What a drumming!
Thunder, wind, and rain are coming! –
Humbled, on the steps of your throne! –
Forgive me! I brought this on, alone.
(He throws himself on his face.)
Thales What has this man not heard and seen! 7930
I’m not sure what it was that’s been,
I’m not sensitive to it like him, I find.
We’d confess, these are crazy times,
The Moon is quivering quite gently,
In her place, though, just as formerly. 7935
Homunculus Look there, at the Pygmies seat!
The mount was round, now it’s a peak.
I felt the monstrous recoil’s thunder,
A rock fell from the Moon up yonder:
All alike, without asking too, 7940
Friend and foe it squashed and slew.
I have to praise powers like those,
All creation in a single night,
Alike up there as down below,
Bringing a mountain-heap to light. 7945
Thales Peace! It was just an imaginary sight.
So farewell to that ugly brood!
You didn’t become king, that’s good.
Off now to the sea-festival, joy-blessed,
Where they’ll honour a marvellous guest. 7950
Mephistopheles (Climbing up the opposite side.)
I’ll have to climb through these steep rocks,
Through the roots of ancient oaks!
In my Hartz range, the smell of resin
Has a hint of pitch, almost as pleasant
As sulphur…but here, among the Greeks, 7955
There’s not a sniff, wherever one seeks:
But I’m still rather curious to know
How they make hellfire and brimstone glow.
A Dryad (A wood nymph.)
In your own land, you’re naturally adept,
Abroad, you don’t know enough as yet. 7960
You shouldn’t think about home, here
With these ancient oak trees to revere.
Mephistopheles One thinks of all one’s left: besides,
What one’s used to is paradise.
But tell me what’s in that cave 7965
Dimly crouching, a triple shape?
The Dryad Daughters of Phorkyas! Enter the place,
And speak to them, if you’re not afraid.
Mephistopheles Why not! – I’ll look, and I’m amazed!
Proud as I am, I must confess, though, 7970
I’ve never seen the likes of those,
They’re as foul as Ugliness any day….
How can one find deadly sin
Ugly at all when one has seen
This triple monstrosity? 7975
We wouldn’t let them cross the sill
Of the worst chamber of our hell.
But here, in the land of beauty, all things Greek,
Are famous now because they’re so antique…
They seem to scent my presence: stirring, 7980
Like vampire bats, squeaking, twittering.
The Phorkyads (The Three Graeae)
Give me the eye, Sisters, so I can find
Who’s wandering so near our shrine.
Mephistopheles Most Revered! Allow me near,
To receive a triple blessing here. 7985
I come, as yet unknown it’s true,
But distantly related, I think, to you.
I’ve already seen the elder gods,
Bowed low before Rhea and Ops:
I even saw the Fates, your sisters, 7990
Yesterday, or the day before:
But I’ve never seen the likes of you.
I’m silenced now, and delighted too.
The Phorkyads This spirit seems to have some sense.
Mephistopheles I’m amazed no poet’s had the intelligence 7995
To sing of you. Tell me, how can that be?
I’ve never seen you properly painted:
The chisel should only try to carve you,
Not the likes of Pallas, Venus, Juno.
The Phorkyads Deep in solitude and stillest night, 8000
No one ever thought to show us three aright.
Mephistopheles How could they? Here, concealed from view.
You can’t see anyone: and they can’t see you.
You need to achieve a suitable place,
Where art and splendour share the space, 8005
Where every day, as walking, living heroes,
With giant steps, each block of marble goes.
The Phorkyads Be silent, and don’t tempt us to roam!
What use would it be to us, to be better known?
Born in the night, and related to the night, 8010
To ourselves, almost: to others quite out of sight.
Mephistopheles In that case, there’s little more to say:
One can oneself to others still betray.
One eye’s enough for three, one tooth as well:
Then it should be mythically possible, 8015
To contain three beings in two,
And leave me the third form, too.
For a little while.
A Phorkyad What do you think? Shall we try?
The Others Let’s! – But without the tooth and eye.
Mephistopheles Now you’ve denied me the best features of all: 8020
How can I show your strict and perfect form?
A Phorkyad Shut one eye, that’s easy to do,
Let one greedy tooth show too,
In profile you’ll at once achieve
A sisterly likeness, to deceive. 8025
Mephistopheles Many thanks! Done!
The Phorkyads Done!
Mephistopheles (As a Phorkyad, in profile.)
Already I’m one,
Of Chaos’s well-beloved sons!
The Phorkyads We’re Chaos’s daughters, of undisputed right.
Mephistopheles O shame, now I’ll be called a hermaphrodite.
The Phorkyads What a beauty in our sisterly trio! 8030
We’ve two eyes, and two teeth now.
Mephistopheles I’ll hide myself from every eye, as well,
And frighten devils in the lakes of Hell.