Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Faust Part I: Scenes I to III
Translated by A. S. Kline © Copyright 2003 All Rights Reserved
This work may be freely reproduced, stored, and transmitted, electronically or otherwise, for any non-commercial purpose.
Scene I: Night
(In a high-vaulted Gothic chamber, Faust, in a chair at his desk, restless.)
Faust Ah! Now I’ve done Philosophy,
I’ve finished Law and Medicine, 355
And sadly even Theology:
Taken fierce pains, from end to end.
Now here I am, a fool for sure!
No wiser than I was before:
Master, Doctor’s what they call me, 360
And I’ve been ten years, already,
Crosswise, arcing, to and fro,
Leading my students by the nose,
And see that we can know - nothing!
It almost sets my heart burning. 365
I’m cleverer than all these teachers,
Doctors, Masters, scribes, preachers:
I’m not plagued by doubt or scruple,
Scared by neither Hell nor Devil –
Instead all Joy is snatched away, 370
What’s worth knowing, I can’t say,
I can’t say what I should teach
To make men better or convert each.
And then I’ve neither goods nor gold,
No worldly honour, or splendour hold: 375
Not even a dog would play this part!
So I’ve given myself to Magic art,
To see if, through Spirit powers and lips,
I might have all secrets at my fingertips.
And no longer, with rancid sweat, so, 380
Still have to speak what I cannot know:
That I may understand whatever
Binds the world’s innermost core together,
See all its workings, and its seeds,
Deal no more in words’ empty reeds. 385
O, may you look, full moon that shines,
On my pain for this last time:
So many midnights from my desk,
I have seen you, keeping watch:
When over my books and paper, 390
Saddest friend, you appear!
Ah! If on the mountain height
I might stand in your sweet light,
Float with spirits in mountain caves,
Swim the meadows in twilight’ waves, 395
Free from the smoke of knowledge too,
Bathe in your health-giving dew!
Alas! In this prison must I stick?
This hollow darkened hole of brick,
Where even the lovely heavenly light 400
Shines through stained glass, dull not bright.
Hemmed in, by heaps of books,
Piled to the highest vault, and higher,
Worm eaten, decked with dust,
Surrounded by smoke-blackened paper, 405
Glass vials, boxes round me, hurled,
Stuffed with Instruments thrown together,
Packed with ancestral lumber –
This is my world! And what a world!
And need you ask why my heart 410
Makes such tremors in my breast?
Why all my life-energies are
Choked by some unknown distress?
Smoke and mildew hem me in,
Instead of living Nature, then, 415
Where God once created Men,
Bones of creatures, and dead limbs!
Fly! Upwards! Into Space, flung wide!
Isn’t this book, with secrets crammed,
From Nostradamus’ very hand, 420
Enough to be my guide?
When I know the starry road,
And Nature, you instruct me,
My soul’s power, you shall flow,
As spirits can with spirits be. 425
Useless, this dusty pondering here
To read the sacred characters:
Soar round me, Spirits, and be near:
If you hear me, then answer!
(He opens the Book, and sees the Symbol of the Macrocosm.)
Ah! In a moment, what bliss flows 430
Through my senses from this Sign!
I feel life’s youthful, holy joy: it glows,
Fresh in every nerve and vein of mine.
This symbol now that calms my inward raging,
Perhaps a god deigned to write, 435
Filling my poor heart with delight,
And with its mysterious urging
Revealing, round me, Nature’s might?
Am I a god? All seems so clear to me!
It seems the deepest works of Nature 440
Lie open to my soul, with purest feature.
Now I understand what wise men see:
“The world of spirits is not closed:
Your senses are: your heart is dead!
Rise, unwearied, disciple: bathe instead 445
Your earthly breast in the morning’s glow!”
(He gazes at the Symbol.)
How each to the Whole its selfhood gives,
One in another works and lives!
How Heavenly forces fall and rise,
Golden vessels pass each other by! 450
Blessings from their wings disperse:
They penetrate from Heaven to Earth,
Sounding a harmony through the Universe!
Such a picture! Ah, alas! Merely a picture!
How then can I grasp you endless Nature? 455
Where are your breasts that pour out Life entire,
To which the Earth and Heavens cling so,
Where withered hearts would drink? You flow
You nourish, yet I languish so, in vain desire.
(He strikes the book indignantly, and catches sight of the Symbol of the Earth-Spirit.)
How differently it works on me, this Sign! 460
You, the Spirit of Earth, are nearer:
Already, I feel my power is greater,
Already, I glow, as with fresh wine.
I feel the courage to engage the world,
Into the pain and joy of Earth be hurled, 465
And though the storm wind is unfurled,
Fearless, in the shipwreck’s teeth, be whirled.
There’s cloud above me –
The Moon hides its light –
The lamp flickers!
Now it dies! Crimson rays dart 470
Round my head – Horror
Flickers from the vault above,
And grips me tight!
I feel you float around me, 475
Spirit, I summon to appear, speak to me!
Ah! What tears now at the core of me!
All my senses reeling
With fresh feeling!
I feel you draw my whole heart towards you! 480
You must! You must! Though my Life’s lost, too!
(He grips the book and speaks the mysterious name of the Spirit. A crimson flame flashes, the Spirit appears in the flame.)
Spirit Who calls me?
Faust (Looking away.)
Terrible to gaze at!
Spirit Mightily you have drawn me to you,
Long, from my sphere, snatched your food,
And now –
Faust Ah! Endure you, I cannot! 485
Spirit You beg me to show myself, you implore,
You wish to hear my voice, and see my face:
The mighty prayer of your soul weighs
With me, I am here! – What wretched terror
Grips you, the Superhuman! Where is your soul’s calling? 490
Where is the heart that made a world inside, enthralling:
Carried it, nourished it, swollen with joy, so tremulous,
That you too might be a Spirit, one of us?
Where are you, Faust, whose ringing voice
Drew towards me with all your force? 495
Are you he, who, breathing my breath,
Trembles in all your life’s depths,
A fearful, writhing worm?
Faust Shall I fear you: you form of fire?
I am, I am Faust: I am your peer! 500
Spirit In Life’s wave, in action’s storm,
I float, up and down,
I blow, to and fro!
Birth and the tomb,
An eternal flow, 505
A woven changing,
A glow of Being.
Over Time’s quivering loom intent,
Working the Godhead’s living garment.
Faust You who wander the world, on every hand, 510
Active Spirit, how close to you I feel!
Spirit You’re like the Spirit that you understand
Who then? 515
I, the image of the Godhead!
Not even like you?
Oh, fate! I know that sound – it’s my attendant –
My greatest fortune’s ruined!
In all the fullness of my doing, 520
He must intrude, that arid pedant!
(Wagner enters, in gown and nightcap, lamp in hand. Faust turns to him impatiently.)
Wagner Forgive me! But I heard you declaim:
Reading, I’m sure, from some Greek tragedy?
To profit from that art is my aim,
Nowadays it goes down splendidly. 525
I’ve often heard it claimed, you see
A priest could learn from the Old Comedy.
Faust Yes, when the priest’s a comedian already:
Which might well seem to be the case.
Wagner Ah! When a man’s so penned in his study, 530
And scarcely sees the world on holidays,
And barely through the glass, and far off then,
How can he lead men, through persuading them?
Faust You can’t, if you can’t feel it, if it never
Rises from the soul, and sways 535
The heart of every single hearer,
With deepest power, in simple ways.
You’ll sit forever, gluing things together,
Cooking up a stew from other’s scraps,
Blowing on a miserable fire, 540
Made from your heap of dying ash.
Let apes and children praise your art,
If their admiration’s to your taste,
But you’ll never speak from heart to heart,
Unless it rises up from your heart’s space. 545
Wagner Still, lecturing brings orators success:
I feel that I am far behind the rest.
Faust Seek to profit honestly!
Don’t be an empty tinkling fool!
Understanding, and true clarity, 550
Express themselves without art’s rule!
And if you mean what you say,
Why hunt for words, anyway?
Yes, your speech, that glitters so,
Where you gather scraps for Man, 555
Is dead as the mist-filled winds that blow
Through the dried-up leaves of autumn!
Wagner Oh, God! Art is long
And life is short.
Often the studies that I’m working on 560
Make me anxious, in my head and heart.
How hard it is to command the means
By which a man attains the very source!
Before a man has travelled half his course,
The wretched devil has to die it seems. 565
Faust Parchment then, is that your holy well,
From which drink always slakes your thirst?
You’ll never truly be refreshed until
It pours itself from your own soul, first.
Wagner Pardon me, but it’s a great delight 570
When, moved by the spirit of the ages, we have sight
Of how a wiser man has thought, and how
Widely at last we’ve spread his word about.
Faust Oh yes, as widely as the constellations!
My friend, all of the ages that are gone 575
Now make up a book with seven seals.
The spirit of the ages, that you find,
In the end, is the spirit of Humankind:
A mirror where all the ages are revealed.
And so often it’s all a mere misery 580
Something we run away from at first sight.
A pile of sweepings, a lumber room, maybe
At best, a puppet show, that’s bright
With maxims, excellent, pragmatic,
Suitable when dolls’ mouths wax dramatic! 585
Wagner But, the world! Men’s hearts and minds!
Something of those, at least, I’d like to know.
Faust Yes, what men choose to understand!
Who dares to name the child’s real name, though?
The few who knew what might be learned, 590
Foolish enough to put their whole heart on show,
And reveal their feelings to the crowd below,
Mankind has always crucified and burned.
I beg you, friend, it’s now the dead of night,
We must break up this conversation. 595
Wagner I would have watched with you, if I might
Speak with you still, so learned in oration.
But tomorrow, on Easter’s first holy day,
I’ll ask my several questions, if I may.
I’ve pursued my work, zealously studying: 600
There’s much I know: yet I’d know everything.
That mind alone never loses hope,
That keeps to the shallows eternally,
Grabs, with eager hand, the wealth it sees,
And rejoices at the worms for which it gropes! 605
Dare such a human voice echo, too,
Where this depth of Spirit surrounds me?
Ah yet! For just this once, my thanks to you,
You sorriest of all earth’s progeny!
You’ve torn me away from that despair, 610
That would have soon overwhelmed my senses.
Ah! The apparition was so hugely there,
It might have truly dwarfed my defences.
I, image of the Godhead, already one,
Who thought the spirit of eternal truth so near, 615
Enjoying the light, both heavenly and clear,
Setting to one side the earthbound man:
I, more than Angel, a free force,
Ready to flow through Nature’s veins,
And, in creating, enjoy the life divine, 620
Pulsing with ideas: must atone again!
A word like thunder swept me away.
I dare not measure myself against you.
I possessed the power to summon you,
But not the power to make you stay. 625
In that blissful moment, then
I felt myself so small, so great:
Cruelly you hurled me back again,
Into Man’s uncertain state.
What shall I learn from? Or leave? 630
Shall I obey that yearning?
Ah! Our actions, and not just our grief,
Impede us on life’s journey.
Some more and more alien substance presses
On the splendour that the Mind conceives: 635
And when we gain what this world possesses,
We say the better world’s dream deceives.
The splendid feelings that give us life,
Fade among the crowd’s earthly strife.
If imagination flew with courage, once, 640
And, full of hope, stretched out to eternity,
Now a little room is quite enough,
When joy on joy has gone, in time’s whirling sea.
Care has nested in the heart’s depths,
Restless, she rocks there, spoiling joy and rest, 645
There she works her secret pain,
And wears new masks, ever and again,
Appears as wife and child, fields and houses,
As water, fire, or knife or poison:
Still we tremble for what never strikes us, 650
And must still cry for what has not yet gone.
I am no god: I feel it all too deeply.
I am the worm that writhes in dust: see,
As in the dust it lives, and seeks to eat,
It’s crushed and buried by the passing feet. 655
Is this not dust, what these vaults hold,
These hundred shelves that cramp me:
This junk, and all the thousand-fold
Shapes, of a moth-ridden world, around me?
Will I find here what I’m lacking else, 660
Shall I read, perhaps, as a thousand books insist,
That Mankind everywhere torments itself,
So, here and there, some happy man exists?
What do you say to me, bare grinning skull?
Except that once your brain whirled like mine, 665
Sought the clear day, and in the twilight dull,
With a breath of truth, went wretchedly awry.
For sure, you instruments mock at me,
With cylinders and arms, wheels and cogs:
I stand at the door: and you should be the key: 670
You’re deftly cut, but you undo no locks.
Mysterious, even in broad daylight,
Nature won’t let her veil be raised:
What your spirit can’t bring to sight,
Won’t by screws and levers be displayed. 675
You, ancient tools, I’ve never used
You’re here because my father used you,
Ancient scroll, you’ve darkened too,
From smoking candles burned above you.
Better the little I had was squandered, 680
Than sweat here under its puny weight!
What from your father you’ve inherited,
You must earn again, to own it straight.
What’s never used, leaves us overburdened,
But we can use what the Moment may create! 685
Yet why does that place so draw my sight,
Is that flask a magnet for my gaze?
Why is there suddenly so sweet a light,
As moonlight in a midnight woodland plays?
I salute you, phial of rare potion, 690
I lift you down, with devotion!
In you I worship man’s art and mind,
Embodiment of sweet sleeping draughts:
Extract, with deadly power, refined,
Show your master all his craft! 695
I see you, and my pain diminishes,
I grasp you, and my struggles grow less,
My spirit’s flood tide ebbs, more and more,
I seem to be where ocean waters meet,
A glassy flood gleams around my feet, 700
New day invites me to a newer shore.
A fiery chariot sweeps nearer
On light wings! I feel ready, free
To cut a new path through the ether
And reach new spheres of pure activity. 705
This greater life, this godlike bliss!
You, but a worm, have you earned this?
Choosing to turn your back, ah yes,
On all Earth’s lovely Sun might promise!
Let me dare to throw those gates open, 710
That other men go creeping by!
Now’s the time, to prove through action
Man’s dignity may rise divinely high,
Never trembling at that void where,
Imagination damns itself to pain, 715
Striving towards the passage there,
Round whose mouth all Hell’s fires flame:
Choose to take that step, happy to go
Where danger lies, where Nothingness may flow.
Come here to me, cup of crystal, clear! 720
Free of your ancient cover now appear,
You whom I’ve never, for many a year,
Considered! You shone at ancestral feasts,
Cheering the over-serious guests:
One man passing you to another here. 725
It was the drinker’s duty to explain in rhyme
The splendour of your many carved designs
Or drain it at a draught, and breathe, in time:
You remind me of those youthful nights of mine.
Now I will never pass you to a friend, 730
Or test my wits on your art again.
Here’s a juice will stun any man born:
It fills your hollow with a browner liquid.
I prepared it, now I choose the fluid,
At last I drink, and with my soul I bid 735
A high and festive greeting to the Dawn!
(He puts the cup to his mouth.)
(Bells chime and a choir sings.)
Choir of Angels Christ has arisen!
Joy to the One, of us,
Who the pernicious,
Ancestral, insidious, 740
Fault has unwoven.
Faust What deep humming, what shining sound
Strikes the glass from my hand with power?
Already, do the hollow bells resound,
Proclaiming Easter’s festive course? Our 745
Choirs, do you already sing the hymn of consolation,
Which once rang out, in deathly night, in Angels’ oration,
That certainty of a new testament’s hour?
Chorus of Women With pure spices
We embalmed him, 750
We his faithful
We entombed him:
Linen and bindings,
We unwound there,
Ah! Now we find 755
Christ is not here.
Choir of Angels Christ has arisen!
Out of what grieved,
Tested, and healed: 760
His trial is won.
Faust You heavenly sounds, powerful and mild,
Why, in the dust, here, do you seek me?
Ring out where tender hearts are reconciled.
I hear your message, but faith fails me: 765
The marvellous is faith’s dearest child.
I don’t attempt to rise to that sphere,
From which the message rings:
Yet I know from childhood what it sings,
And I’m recalled to life once more. 770
In other times a Heavenly kiss would fall
On me, in the deep Sabbath silence:
The bell notes filled with presentiments,
And a prayer was pleasure’s call:
A sweet yearning, beyond my understanding, 775
Set me wandering through woods and fields,
And while a thousand tears were burning
I felt a world around me come to be.
Love called out the lively games of youth,
The joy of spring’s idle holiday: 780
Memory’s childish feelings, in truth,
Hold me back from the last sombre way.
O, sing on you sweet songs of Heaven!
My tears flow, Earth claims me again!
Chorus of Disciples Has the buried one 785
Raised himself, alone,
Is he, in teeming air,
Near to creative bliss: 790
Ah! In sorrow, we’re
Here on Earth’s breast.
Lacking Him, we
Languish, and sigh.
Ah! Master we 795
Cry for your joy!
Choir of Angels Christ has arisen
Out of corruption’s sea.
Tear off your bindings
Joyfully free! 800
Actively praising him,
Lovingly claiming him,
Fraternally aiding him,
Joyfully promising, 805
So is the Master near,
So is he here!
Scene II: In Front Of The City-Gate
(Passers-by of all kinds appear.)
Several Apprentices So, then, where are you away to?
Others We’re away to the Hunting Lodge.
The Former We’re off to saunter by the Mill. 810
An Apprentice Off to the Riverside Inn, I’d guess.
A Second Apprentice The way there’s not of the best.
The Others What about you?
A Third I’m with the others, still.
A Fourth Come to the Castle, you’ll find there
The prettiest girls, the finest beer, 815
And the best place for a fight.
A Fifth You quarrelsome fool, are you looking
For a third good hiding?
Not for me, that place, I hate its very sight.
A Maidservant No, No! I’m going back to town. 820
Another We’ll find him by those poplar trees for sure.
The First Well that’s no joy for me, now:
He’ll walk by your side, of course,
He’ll dance with you on the green.
Where’s the fun in that for me, then! 825
The Other I’m sure he’s not alone, he said
He’d bring along that Curly-head.
A Student My how they strut those bold women!
Brother, come on! We’ll follow them.
Fierce tobacco, strong beer, 830
And a girl in her finery, I prefer.
A Citizen’s Daughter They are handsome boys there, I see!
But it’s truly a disgrace:
They could have the best of company,
And run after a painted face! 835
Second Student (To the first.)
Not so fast! Those two behind,
They walk about so sweetly,
One must be that neighbour of mine:
I could fall for her completely.
They pass by with demure paces, 840
But in the end they’ll go with us.
The First Brother, no! I shouldn’t bother, anyway.
Quick! Before our quarry gets away.
The hand that wields a broom on Saturday,
Gives the best caress, on Sunday too, I say. 845
Citizen No, the new mayor doesn’t suit me!
Now he’s there he’s getting cocky.
And what’s he done to help the town?
Isn’t it getting worse each day?
As always it’s us who must obey, 850
And pay more money down.
A Beggar (Sings.)
Fine gentlemen, and lovely ladies,
Rosy-cheeked and finely dressed,
You could help me, for your aid is
Needed: see, ease my distress! 855
Don’t let me throw my song away,
Only he who gives is happy.
A day when all men celebrate,
Will be a harvest day for me!
Another Citizen On holidays there’s nothing I like better 860
Than talking about war and war’s display,
When in Turkey far away,
People one another batter.
You sit by the window: have a glass:
See the bright boats glide down the river, 865
Then you walk back home and bless
Its peacefulness, and peace, forever.
Third Citizen Neighbour, yes! I like that too:
Let them go and break their heads,
Make the mess they often do: 870
So long as we’re safe in our beds.
An Old Woman (To the citizen’s daughter.)
Ah! So pretty! Sweet young blood!
Who wouldn’t gaze at you?
Don’t be so proud! I’m very good!
And what you want, I’ll bring you. 875
The Citizen’s Daughter Agatha, come away! I must go carefully:
No walking freely with such a witch as her:
For on Saint Andrew’s Night she really
Showed me who’ll be my future Lover.
The Other She showed me mine in a crystal ball, 880
A soldier, with lots of other brave men:
I look around: among them all,
Yet I can never find him.
The Soldiers Castles with towering
Ramparts and wall, 885
Proud girls showing
Disdain for us all,
We want them to fall!
The action is brave,
And splendid the pay! 890
So let the trumpet,
Do our recruiting,
Calling to joy
Calling to ruin.
It’s a storm, blowing! 895
But it’s the life too!
Girls and castles
We must win you.
The action is brave,
Splendid the pay! 900
And the soldiers
Go marching away.
(Faust and Wagner)
Faust Rivers and streams are freed from ice
By Spring’s sweet enlivening glance.
Valleys, green with Hope’s happiness, dance: 905
Old Winter, in his weakness, sighs,
Withdrawing to the harsh mountains.
From there, retreating, he sends down
Impotent showers of hail that show
In stripes across the quickening ground. 910
But the sun allows nothing white below,
Change and growth are everywhere,
He enlivens all with his colours there,
And lacking flowers of the fields outspread,
He takes these gaudy people instead. 915
Turn round, and from this mountain height,
Look down, where the town’s in sight.
That cavernous, dark gate,
The colourful crowd penetrate,
All will take the sun today, 920
The Risen Lord they’ll celebrate,
And feel they are resurrected,
From low houses, dully made,
From work, where they’re constricted,
From the roofs’ and gables’ weight, 925
From the crush of narrow streets,
From the churches’ solemn night
They’re all brought to the light.
Look now: see! The crowds, their feet
Crushing the gardens and meadows, 930
While on the river a cheerful fleet
Of little boats everywhere it flows.
And over-laden, ready to sink,
The last barge takes to the stream.
From far off on the mountain’s brink, 935
All the bright clothing gleams.
I hear the noise from the village risen,
Here is the people’s true Heaven,
High and low shout happily:
Here I am Man: here, dare to be! 940
Wagner Doctor, to take a walk with you,
Is an honour and a prize:
Alone I’d have no business here, true,
Since everything that’s coarse I despise.
Shrieking, fiddlers, skittles flying, 945
To me it’s all a hateful noise:
They rush about possessed, crying,
And call it singing: and call it joy.
(Farm-workers under the lime tree. Dance and Song.)
The shepherd for the dance, had on
His gaudy jacket, wreath, and ribbon, 950
Making a fine show,
Under the linden-tree, already,
Everyone was dancing madly.
Hurrah! Hurray! 955
So goes the fiddle-bow.
In his haste, in a whirl,
He stumbled against a girl,
With his elbow flailing:
Lively, she turned, and said: 960
Mind out, you wooden-head!
Just watch where you’re sailing!
Fast around the circle bright, 965
They danced to left and right,
Skirts and jackets flying.
They grew red: they grew warm,
They rested, panting, arm on arm
Hey! Hey! 970
And hip, and elbow, lying.
Don’t be so familiar then!
That’s how many a lying man,
Cheated his wife so! 975
But he soon tempted her aside,
And from the linden echoed wide:
So goes the fiddle-bow. 980
An Old Farmer Doctor, it’s good of you today
Not to shun the crowd,
So that among the folk, at play,
The learned man walks about.
Then have some from the finest jug 985
That we’ve filled with fresh ale first,
I offer it now and wish it would,
Not only quench your thirst:
But the count of drops it holds
May it exceed your hours, all told. 990
Faust I’ll take some of your foaming drink,
And offer you all, health and thanks.
(The people gather round him in a circle.)
The Old Farmer Truly, it’s a thing well done:
You’re here on our day of happiness, 995
Since in evil times now gone,
You’ve eased our distress!
Many a man stands here alive,
Whom your father, at the last,
Snatched from the fever’s rage,
While the plague went past. 1000
And you, only a young man, went,
Into every house of sickness, then,
Though many a corpse was carried forth,
You walked safely out again.
Many a hard trial you withstood, 1005
A Helper helped by the Helper above.
All Health to the man who’s proven true,
Long may he help me and you!
Faust To Him above bow down instead,
Who teaches help, and sends his aid. 1010
(He walks off, with Wagner.)
Wagner How it must feel, O man of genius,
To be respected by the crowd!
O happy he whose gifts endow
Him with such advantages!
The father shows you to his son, now 1015
Each one asks and pushes near,
The fiddle halts, and the dancers there:
You pass: in ranks they stop to see,
And throw their caps high in the air:
A little more and they’d bend the knee, 1020
As if what they worshipped was holy.
Faust Climb these few steps to that stone,
Here we’ll rest from our wandering.
Here I’ve sat often, thoughtful and alone,
Tormenting myself with prayer and fasting. 1025
Rich in hope, and firm of faith,
Wringing my hands, with sighs even,
Tears, to force the end of plague
From the very God of Heaven.
The crowd’s approval now’s like scorn. 1030
O if you could read within me
How little the father and the son
Deserve a fraction of their glory.
My father was a gloomy, honourable man,
Who pondered Nature and the heavenly spheres, 1035
Honestly, in his own fashion,
With eccentric studies it appears:
He, in his adepts’ company,
Locked in his dark workshop, forever
Tried with endless recipes, 1040
To make things opposite flow together.
The fiery Lion, a daring suitor,
Wed the Lily, in a lukewarm bath, there
In a fiery flame, both of them were
Strained from one bride-bed into another, 1045
Until the young Queen was descried,
In a mix of colours, in the glass:
There was the medicine: the patient died.
And who recovered? No one asked.
So we roamed, with our hellish pills, 1050
Among the valleys and the hills,
Worse than the pestilence itself we were.
I’ve poisoned a thousand: that’s quite clear:
And now from the withered old must hear
How men praise a shameless murderer. 1055
Wagner How can you grieve at that!
Isn’t it enough for an honest man
To exercise the skill he has,
Carefully, precisely, as given?
Honour your father as a youth, 1060
And receive his teaching in your soul,
As a man, then, add to scientific truth,
So your son can achieve a higher goal.
‘Faust and Wagner’
Faust O happy the man who still can hope
Though drowned in a sea of error! 1065
Man needs the things he doesn’t know,
What he knows is useless, forever.
But don’t let such despondency
Spoil the deep goodness of the hour!
In the evening glow, we see 1070
The houses gleaming, green-embowered.
Mild it retreats, the day that’s left,
It slips away to claim new being.
Ah, that no wing from earth can lift
Me, closer and closer to it, striving! 1075
I’d see, in eternal evening’s light,
The silent Earth beneath my feet, forever,
The heights on fire, each valley quiet
While silver streams flow to a golden river.
The wild peaks with their deep clefts, 1080
Would cease to bar my godlike way,
Already the sea with its warm depths,
Opens to my astonished gaze.
At last the weary god sinks down to night:
But in me a newer yearning wakes, 1085
I hasten on, drinking his endless light:
The dark behind me: and ahead the day.
Heaven above me: and the waves below,
A lovely dream, although it vanishes.
Ah! Wings of the mind, so weightless 1090
No bodily wings could ever be so.
Yet it’s natural in every spirit, too,
That feeling drives us, up and on,
When over us, lost in the vault of blue,
The lark sings his piercing song, 1095
When over the steep pine-filled peaks,
The eagle widely soars,
And across the plains and seas,
The cranes seek their home shores.
Wagner I’ve often had strange moments, I know, 1100
But I’ve never felt yearnings quite like those:
The joys of woods and fields soon fade
I wouldn’t ask the birds for wings: indeed,
How differently the mind’s raptures lead
Us on, from book to book, and page to page! 1105
Then winter nights are beautiful, and sweet,
A blissful warmth steals through your limbs, too
When you’ve unrolled some noble text, complete,
Oh, how heaven’s light descends on you!
Faust You only feel the one yearning at best, 1110
Oh, never seek to know the other!
Two souls, alas, exist in my breast,
One separated from another:
One, with its crude love of life, just
Clings to the world, tenaciously, grips tight, 1115
The other soars powerfully above the dust,
Into the far ancestral height.
Oh, let the spirits of the air,
Between the heavens and Earth, weaving,
Descend through the golden atmosphere, 1120
And lead me on to new and varied being!
Yes, if a magic cloak were mine, that
Would carry me off to foreign lands,
Not for the costliest garment in my hands,
For the mantle of a king, would I resign it! 1125
Wagner Don’t call to that familiar crowd,
Streaming in misty circles, spreading,
Preparing a thousand dangers now,
On every side, for human beings.
The North winds’ sharp teeth penetrate, 1130
Down here, and spit you with their fangs:
Then the East’s drying winds are at the gate,
To feed themselves on your lungs.
If, from the South, the desert sends them,
And fire on fire burns on your brow, 1135
The West brings a swarm to quench them,
And you and field and meadow drown.
They hear us, while they’re harming us,
Hear us, while they are betraying:
They make out they’re from heaven above, 1140
And lisp like angels when they’re lying.
Let’s go on! The world has darkened,
The air is cool: the mists descend!
Man values his own house at night.
What is it occupies your sight? 1145
What troubles you so, in the evening?
Faust Through corn and stubble, see that black dog running?
Wagner I saw him long ago: he seems a wretched thing.
Faust Look at him closely! What do you make of him?
Wagner A dog that, in the way they do, 1150
Sniffs around to find his master.
Faust See how he winds in wide spirals too,
Round us here, yet always coming nearer?
And if I’m right, I see a swirl of fire
Twisting about, behind his track. 1155
Wagner Perhaps your eyesight proves a liar,
I only see a dog, that’s black.
Faust It seems to me that with a subtle magic,
He winds a fatal knot around our feet.
Wagner I see his timid and uncertain antics, 1160
It’s strangers, not his master, whom he meets.
Faust The circle narrows: now he’s here!
Wagner You see a dog, there’s no spectre near!
He barks uncertainly, lies down and crawls,
Wags his tail. Dogs’ habits, after all. 1165
Faust Come on! Here, now! Here, to me!
Wagner He’s a dogged hound, I agree.
Stand still and he holds his ground:
Talk to him, he dances round:
What you’ve lost, he’ll bring to you: 1170
Retrieve a stick from the water, too.
Faust You’re right: and I see nothing
Like a Spirit there, it’s only training.
‘Faust, Mephistopheles, and the Water Spaniel’
Wagner A wise man finds agreeable,
A dog that’s learnt its lesson well. 1175
Yes, he deserves all your favour,
Among the students, the true scholar!
(They enter the City gate.)
Scene III: The Study
(Faust enters, with the dog.)
Faust Fields and meadows now I’ve left
Clothed in deepest night,
Full of presentiments, a holy dread 1180
Wakes the better soul in me to light.
Wild desires no longer stir
At every restless act of mine:
Love for Humanity is here,
And here is Love Divine. 1185
Quiet, dog! Stop running to and fro!
Why are you snuffling at the door?
Lie down now, behind the stove,
There’s my best cushion on the floor.
Since you amused us running, leaping, 1190
Out on the mountainside, with zest,
Now I take you into my keeping,
A welcome, and a silent guest.
Ah, when in our narrow room,
The friendly lamp glows on the shelf, 1195
Brightness burns in our inner gloom,
In the Heart, that knows itself.
Reason speaks with insistence,
And Hope once more appears,
We see the River of Existence, 1200
Ah, the founts of Life, are near.
Don’t growl, dog! With this holy sound
Which I, with all my soul, embrace,
Your bestial noise seems out of place.
Men usually scorn the things, I’ve found, 1205
That, by them, can’t be understood,
Grumbling at beauty, and the good,
That to them seems wearisome:
Can’t a dog, then, snarl like them?
Oh, yet now I can feel no contentment 1210
Flow through me, despite my best intent.
Why must the stream fail so quickly,
And once again leave us thirsty?
I’ve long experience of it, yet I think
I could supply what’s missing, easily: 1215
We learn to value what’s beyond the earthly,
We yearn to reach revelation’s brink,
That’s nowhere nobler or more excellent
Than where it burns in the New Testament.
I yearn to render the first version, 1220
With true feeling, once and for all,
Translate the sacred original
Into my beloved German.
(He opens the volume, and begins.)
‘Faust in His Study’
It’s written here: ‘In the Beginning was the Word!’
Here I stick already! Who can help me? It’s absurd, 1225
Impossible, for me to rate the word so highly
I must try to say it differently
If I’m truly inspired by the Spirit. I find
I’ve written here: ‘In the Beginning was the Mind’.
Let me consider that first sentence, 1230
So my pen won’t run on in advance!
Is it Mind that works and creates what’s ours?
It should say: ‘In the beginning was the Power!’
Yet even while I write the words down,
I’m warned: I’m no closer with these I’ve found. 1235
The Spirit helps me! I have it now, intact.
And firmly write: ‘In the Beginning was the Act!’
If I’m to share my room with you,
Dog, you can stop howling too:
Stop your yapping! 1240
A fellow who’s always snapping,
I can’t allow too near me.
One of us you see,
Must leave the other free.
I’ve no more hospitality to show, 1245
The door’s open, you can go.
But what’s this I see!
Can this happen naturally?
Is it a phantom or is it real?
The dog’s growing big and tall. 1250
He rises powerfully,
It’s no doglike shape I see!
What a spectre I brought home!
Like a hippo in the room,
With fiery eyes, and fearful jaws. 1255
Oh! Now, what you are, I’m sure!
The Key of Solomon is good
For conjuring your half-hellish brood.
Spirits (In the corridor.)
Something’s trapped inside!
Don’t follow it: stay outside! 1260
Like a fox in a snare
An old lynx from hell trembles there.
Be careful what you’re about!
Float here: float there,
Under and over, 1265
And he’ll work his way out.
If you know how to help him,
Don’t let yourself fail him!
Since it’s all done for sure,
Just for your pleasure. 1270
Faust First speak the Words of the Four
To encounter the creature.
Salamander, be glowing,
Undine, flow near,
Sylph, disappear, 1275
Gnome, be delving.
Who does not know
The Elements so,
Their power sees,
And properties, 1280
Cannot lord it
Over the Spirits.
Vanish in flame,
Rush together in foam, 1285
Shine with meteor-gleam,
Bring help to the home,
Incubus! Incubus! 1290
Go before and end it thus!
None of the Four
Show in the creature.
He lies there quietly grinning at me:
I’ve not stirred him enough it seems. 1295
But you’ll hear how
I’ll press him hard now.
My good fellow, are you
Exiled from Hell’s crew?
Witness the Symbol 1300
Before which they bow,
The dark crowd there!
Now it swells, with its bristling hair.
Can you know what you’re seeing? 1305
The uncreated One
With name unexpressed,
Poured through Heaven,
Pierced without redress?
Spellbound, behind the stove, 1310
An elephant grows.
It fills the room, completely,
It will vanish like mist, I can see.
Don’t rise to the ceiling!
Lie down at your master’s feet! 1315
You see I don’t threaten you lightly.
I’ll sting you with fire that’s holy!
Don’t wait for the bright
Triple glowing Light!
Don’t wait for 1320
My highest art!
(As the mist clears, Mephistopheles steps from behind the stove, dressed as a wandering Scholar.)
Mephistopheles Why such alarms? What command would my lord impart?
Faust This was the dog’s core!
A wandering scholar? The fact makes me smile.
Mephistopheles I bow to the learned lord! 1325
You certainly made me sweat, in style.
Faust How are you named?
Mephistopheles A slight question
For one who so disdains the Word,
Is so distant from appearance: one
Whom only the vital depths have stirred. 1330
‘Mephistopheles Appearing to Faust’
Faust We usually gather from your names
The nature of you gentlemen: it’s plain
What you are, we all too clearly recognise
One who’s called Liar, Ruin, Lord of the Flies.
Well, what are you then? 1335
Mephistopheles Part of the Power that would
Always wish Evil, and always works the Good.
Faust What meaning to these riddling words applies?
Mephistopheles I am the spirit, ever, that denies!
And rightly so: since everything created,
In turn deserves to be annihilated: 1340
Better if nothing came to be.
So all that you call Sin, you see,
Destruction, in short, what you’ve meant
By Evil is my true element.
Faust You call yourself a part, yet seem complete to me? 1345
Mephistopheles I’m speaking the truth to you, and modestly.
Even if Man’s accustomed to take
His small world for the Whole, that’s his mistake:
I’m part of the part, that once was - everything,
Part of the darkness, from which Light, issuing, 1350
Proud Light, emergent, disputed the highest place
With its mother Night, the bounds of Space,
And yet won nothing, however hard it tried,
Still stuck to Bodily Things, and so denied.
It flows from bodies, which it beautifies, 1355
And bodies block its way:
I hope the day’s not far away
When it, along with all these bodies, dies.
Faust Now I see the plan you follow!
You can’t destroy it all, and so 1360
You’re working on a smaller scale.
Mephistopheles And frankly it’s a sorry tale.
What’s set against the Nothingness,
The Something, World’s clumsiness,
Despite everything I’ve tried, 1365
Won’t become a nothing: though I’d
Storms, quakes, and fires on every hand,
It deigned to stay as sea and land!
And those Men and creatures, all the damned,
It’s no use my owning any of that crew: 1370
How many I’ve already done with too!
Yet new fresh blood is always going round.
So it goes on, men make me furious!
With water, earth and air, of course,
A thousand buds unfurl 1375
In wet and dry, warm and cold!
And if I hadn’t kept back fire of old,
I’d have nothing left at all.
Faust So you set the Devil’s fist
That vainly clenches itself, 1380
Against the eternally active,
Wholesome, creative force!
Strange son of Chaos, start
On something else instead!
Mephistopheles Truly I’ll think about it: more 1385
Next time, on that head!
Might I be allowed to go?
Faust I see no reason for you to ask it.
Since I’ve learnt to know you now,
When you wish: then make a visit. 1390
There’s the door, here’s the window,
And, of course, there’s the chimney.
Mephistopheles I must confess, I’m prevented though
By a little thing that hinders me,
The Druid’s-foot on your doorsill – 1395
Faust The Pentagram gives you pain?
Then tell me, you Son of Hell,
If that’s the case, how did you gain
Entry? Are spirits like you cheated?
Mephistopheles Look carefully! It’s not completed: 1400
One angle, if you inspect it closely
Has, as you see, been left a little open.
Faust Just by chance as it happens!
And left you prisoner to me?
Success created by approximation! 1405
Mephistopheles The dog saw nothing, in his animation,
Now the affair seems inside out,
The Devil can’t get out of the house.
Faust Why not try the window then?
Mephistopheles To devils and ghosts the same laws appertain: 1410
The same way they enter in, they must go out.
In the first we’re free, in the second slaves to the act.
Faust So you still have laws in Hell, in fact?
That’s good, since it allows a pact,
And one with you gentlemen truly binds? 1415
Mephistopheles What’s promised you’ll enjoy, and find,
There’s nothing mean that we enact.
But it can’t be done so fast,
First we’ll have to talk it through,
Yet, urgently, I beg of you 1420
Let me go my way at last.
Faust Wait a moment now,
Tell me some good news first.
Mephistopheles I’ll soon be back, just let me go:
Then you can ask me what you wish. 1425
Faust I didn’t place you here, tonight.
You trapped yourself in the lime.
Who snares the devil, holds him tight!
He won’t be caught like that a second time.
Mephistopheles I’m willing, if you so wish, 1430
To stay here, in your company:
So long as we pass the time, and I insist,
On arts of mine, exclusively.
Faust Gladly, you’re free to present
Them, as long as they’re all pleasant. 1435
Mephistopheles My friend you’ll win more
For your senses, in an hour,
Than in a whole year’s monotony.
What the tender spirits sing,
The lovely pictures that they bring, 1440
Are no empty wizardry.
First your sense of smell’s invited,
Then your palate is delighted,
And then your touch, you see.
Now, I need no preparation, 1445
We’re all here, so let’s begin!
Spirits Vanish, you shadowy
The friendliest blue 1450
Of aether, down here.
Would that shadowy
Clouds had gone!
Milder sun 1455
In lovely confusion,
Swaying and bending,
Drifting past. 1460
Their garments flowing
With fluttering ribbons,
Cover the gardens, 1465
Cover the leaves,
Where with each other
In deep conversation
Lover meets lover.
Leaves on leaves! 1470
Crushed in a stream,
Pressed to extreme,
Crushed to fountain, 1475
Of foaming wine,
Through rocks divine,
Leaving the heights,
Spreading beneath, 1480
Broad as the seas,
Valleys it fills
Round the green hills.
And the wings still,
Blissfully drunk, 1485
Fly to the sun,
Fly to the brightness,
Towards the islands,
Out of the waves
Magically raised: 1490
Now we can hear
The choir of joy near,
Over the meadow,
See how they dance now,
All in the air 1495
Some of them climbing
Over the mountains,
Others are swimming
Over the ocean, 1500
Others take flight:
All towards Life,
All towards distant,
Love of the stars, and
Approval’s bliss. 1505
Mephistopheles He’s asleep! Enough, you delicate children of air!
You’ve sung to him faithfully, I declare!
I’m in your debt for all this.
He’s not yet the man to hold devils fast!
Spellbind him with dream-forms, cast 1510
Him deep into illusions’ sea:
Now, for the magic sill I must pass,
I could use rat’s teeth: no need for me
To conjure up a lengthier spell,
One’s rustling here that will do well. 1515
The Lord of Rats and Mice,
Of Flies, Frogs, Bugs and Lice,
Summons you to venture here,
And gnaw the threshold where
He stains it with a little oil - 1520
You’ve hopped, already, to your toil!
Now set to work! The fatal point,
Is at the edge, it’s on the front.
One more bite, then it’s complete –
Now Faust, dream deeply, till we meet. 1525
Am I cheated then, once again?
Does the Spirit-Realm’s deep yearning fade:
So a mere dream has conjured up the devil,
And only a dog, it was, that ran away?