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Faust by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

translated by George Madison Priest
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All sorts of people are walking out.

Some Young Workmen. Why are you going off that way?
Others. We're going to the Hunters' Lodge today.
The Former. But toward the Mill we'd like to wander.
Workman. Go to the River Inn, that's my advice.
A Second. The road that way is far from nice.
The Others. What will you do?
A Third. Go with them yonder.
A Fourth. Come up to Burgdorf! There you'll surely find
The prettiest girls and beer, the finest kind,
Besides a first-rate sort of scrap.
A Fifth. How you do swagger! What a chap!
Does your skin itch a third time for a row?
I will not go, I fear that place somehow.
Servant-Girl. No, no, I'll go back toward the town.
Another. We'll find him by those poplars certainly.
The First. But that is no great luck for me!
At your side he'll go walking up and down;
He never dances but with you.
With your fun what have I to do?
The Second. Today he's surely not alone; he said
His friend would be with him, the curly-head.
Student. By thunder! how the whacking wenches stride!
We must go with them, brother, come along.
Strong beer, tobacco with a bite, and, on the side,
A servant-maid decked out, for these I long.
Citizen's Daughter. I say, just see those fine young blades!
It really is an insult. See!
They could have had the best of company
And run here after serving-maids!
Second Student [to the first].
Not quite so fast! There come two others, there behind,
Quite neatly dressed and rather striking.
One of them is my neighbour too, I find,
And she is greatly to my liking.
They go their way now quite demurely,
Yet in the end, they'll take us with them surely.
The First. No friend! To feel constrained is too depressing.
Quick then! lest we should lose the wilder prey.
The hand that wields the broom on Saturday
Will Sunday treat you with the best caressing.
Citizen. No, that new burgomaster I don't like a bit.
Now since he's in, he's daily bolder every way,
And for the town, what does he do for it?
Are things not growing worse each day?
Now more than ever we must all submit,
And more than ever must we pay.
Beggar [sings].
Good gentlemen and ladies pretty,
So flushed of cheek and fine of dress,
May it please you, look on me with pity,
And see and soften my distress!
Let me not vainly grind here waiting!
Who likes to give, alone is gay.
A day all men are celebrating,
Be it for me a harvest day.
Another Citizen. I know naught better on a Sunday or a holiday
Than chat of wars and warlike pother,
When off in Turkey, far away,
The people clash and fight with one another.
We stand beside the window, drain our glasses,
And see how each gay vessel down the river passes,
Then in the evening homeward wend our ways,
Blessing with joy sweet peace and peaceful days.
Third Citizen. Yes, neighbour! I would leave things so;
Each other's skulls they well may crack,
And everything may topsyturvy go,
If only things at home stay in the old, old track.
Old Woman [to two CITIZENS' DAUGHTERS].
My! How dressed up! You beautiful young dears!
Who would not gape now if he met you?
But not so haughty! Have no fears!
What you desire I know well how to get you.
Citizen's Daughter. Come, Agatha, away! I take great heed
That with such witches no one sees me go;
Yet to me on St. Andrew's night, indeed,
My future lover she did really show.
The Other. She showed me mine too in the crystal ball,
So soldier-like, with others swift to dare;
I look about, I seek him everywhere,
But I can't find him, not at all.
Castles with lofty
Ramparts retaining,
Maids who are haughty,
Scornful, disdaining,
Fain I'd be gaining!
Bold is the venture,
Grand is the pay!
We let the trumpet
Summon us, wooing,
Calling to pleasure,
Oft to undoing.
That is a storming!
Life in its splendour!
Maidens and castles
Both must surrender.
Bold is the venture,
Grand is the pay!
Then are the soldiers
Off and away.


Faust. From the ice they are freed, the stream and brook,
By the Spring's enlivening, lovely look;
The valley's green with joys of hope;
The Winter old and weak ascends
Back to the rugged mountain slope.
From there, as he flees, he downward sends
An impotent shower of icy hail
Streaking over the verdant vale.
Ah! but the Sun will suffer no white,
Growth and formation stir everywhere,
'Twould fain with colours make all things bright,
Though in the landscape are no blossoms fair.
Instead it takes gay-decked humanity.
Now turn around and from this height,
Looking backward, townward see.
Forth from the cave-like, gloomy gate
Crowds a motley and swarming array.
Everyone suns himself gladly today.
The Risen Lord they celebrate,
For they themselves have now arisen
From lowly houses' mustiness,
From handicraft's and factory's prison,
From the roof and gables that oppress,
From the bystreets' crushing narrowness,
From the churches' venerable night,
They are all brought out into light.
See, only see, how quickly the masses
Scatter through gardens and fields remote;
How down and across the river passes
So many a merry pleasure-boat.
And over-laden, almost sinking,
The last full wherry moves away.
From yonder hill's far pathways blinking,
Flash to us colours of garments gay.
Hark! Sounds of village joy arise;
Here is the people's paradise,
Contented, great and small shout joyfully:
"Here I am Man, here dare it to be!"
Wagner. Doctor, to walk with you is ever
An honour and a profit, though
I'd here not care to stray alone - no, never-
Because to all that's vulgar I'm a foe.
This fiddling, shrieking, bowling - all this revel
To me's a sound detested long;
They riot as if driven by the Devil,
And call it a pleasure, call it a song.
Peasants under the linden tree. [Dance and song].
The shepherd decked him for the dance,
In ribbons, vest, and wreath to prance,
Adorned with fine arraying.
Now round the linden lass and lad
Were thronging, dancing there like mad.
Hurrah! Hurrah!
Thus fiddle-bow was playing.
He crowded and he pushed in haste,
Then bumped into a maiden's waist,
Elbow against her laying.
The lively damsel turned her head:
"I find that stupid, now!" she said.
Hurrah! Hurrah!
"Don't be so rude and swaying!"
Then round and round they winged their flight,
They danced to left, they danced to right,
All petticoats displaying.
They grew so red, they grew so warm,
Then rested panting, arm in arm,
Hurrah! Hurrah!
On hip the elbow staying.
"I say, don't make so free with me!
How many fooled his bride-to-be,
Deceiving and betraying!"
And yet he coaxed her to one side,
And from the linden far and wide:
Hurrah! Hurrah!
Rang shouts and fiddle-playing.
Old Peasant. Good Doctor, this is fine of you,
That you don't scorn us here today,
And now amid this crowding throng,
A highly-learned man, you stray.
Hence take in turn the finest mug
That with a fresh, cool drink we've filled.
I pledge you, sir, and wish aloud
Not only that your thirst be stilled:
For every drop the mug conveys,
A day be added to your days!
Faust. I take the refreshing drink and thus I too
Return the health with thanks to all of you.

[The people gather round in a circle.]

Old Peasant. Forsooth, it is indeed well done
That you on happy days appear.
You have aforetime with us too
Been kind when days were evil here!
Full many a one stands here alive,
Whom your good father still did wrest
From burning fever's deadly rage
When he set limits to the pest.
And you as well, a young man then,
To every sick man's house you went around.
Many a corpse did men bring forth,
But from within you came out sound,
Withstanding many a test severe;
The Helper over us helped our helper here.
All. Health to the man whom we have tried,
Long may he be our help and guide!
Faust. To Him on High with reverence bend,
Who teaches help and help doth send!

[He goes on with WAGNER.]

Wagner. Oh, what a feeling you must have, great man,
Thus venerated by this multitude!
Oh, happy he who, through his own gifts, can
Draw such a gain, such gratitude!
The father shows you to his brood,
Each asks and hastes and nearer draws;
The fiddle stops, the dancers pause.
You go, they stand in rows to see.
The caps are quickly lifted high;
A little more and they would bend the knee
As if the Holy Sacrament came by.
Faust. Only a few steps farther, up to yonder stone!
Here let us rest a little from our straying.
Here often, wrapped in thought, I sat alone
And tortured me with fasting and with praying.
In hope full rich, firm in the faith possessed,
With tears, sighs, wringing hands, I meant
To force the Lord in Heaven to relent
And end for us the fearful pest.
The crowd's applause now sounds like scorn to me.
Oh, could you but within me read
How little, son and father, we
Were worthy such a fame and meed!
My father was a simple, worthy man,
Who over Nature and her every sacred zone,
Quite honestly, in his odd plan
Mused with a wayward zeal that was his own,
Who, with adepts their presence lending,
Shut him in that black kitchen where he used,
According to receipts unending,
To get the contraries together fused.
There was a lover bold, a lion red,
Who to the lily in a tepid bath was wed.
Both, tortured then with flames, a fiery tide,
From one bride-chamber to another pass.
Thereon appeared, with motley colours pied,
The youthful queen within the glass.
Here was the medicine; the patients died,
And no one questioned: who got well?
Thus we with hellish nostrums, here
Within these mountains, in this dell,
Raged far more fiercely than the pest.
I gave the poison unto thousands, ere
They pined away; and I must live to hear
The shameless murderers praised and blessed.
Wagner. How can you give yourself to such lament?
Does not a good man do his part
In practising transmitted art
Exactly and with good intent?
If you revere your father as a youth,
Gladly from him you will receive;
If as a man you further knowledge and the truth,
Then can your son a higher goal achieve.
Faust. Oh, happy he who still hopes that he can
Emerge from Error's boundless sea!
What man knows not, is needed most by man,
And what man knows, for that no use has he.
But what fair blessing that this hour can show
Let's not with mournful thoughts like these embitter!
Behold how in the evening sunset-glow
The green-encircled hamlets glitter.
The sun retreats - the day, outlived, is o'er-
It hastens hence and lo! a new world is alive!
Oh, that from earth no wing can lift me up to soar
And after, ever after it to strive!
I'd see in that eternal evening beam,
Beneath my feet, the world in stillness glowing,
Each valley hushed and every height agleam,
The silver brook to golden rivers flowing.
The mountain wild with all its gorges
Would hinder not the godlike course for me;
Before astounded eyes already surges,
With bays yet warm, the open sea.
And yet at last the god seems to be sinking;
But new impulse awakes, to light
I hasten on, eternal brightness drinking,
Before me day, behind me night,
Above me heaven, and under me the billow.
A lovely dream, the while the glory fades from sight.
Alas! To wings that lift the spirit light
No earthly wing will ever be a fellow.
Yet 'tis inborn in everyone, each fancies
His feeling presses upward and along,
When over us lost amid the blue expanses
The lark sings down his showering song,
When over rough heights of firs and larches
The outspread eagles soaring roam,
And over lakes and over marshes
The crane strives onward toward his home.
Wagner. I've often had capricious, odd hours of my own,
Yet such an impulse I have never known.
One's sated soon if on the woods and fields he look;
I'll never envy any bird his wing.
How differently the joys of spirit bring
Us on from page to page, from book to book!
Then winter nights become so sweet and fair,
A blessed life warms up our every limb;
And ah! if one unrolls a parchment really rare,
The whole of Heaven descends on him.
Faust. By one impulse alone are you impressed.
Oh, never learn to know the other!
Two souls alas! are dwelling in my breast;
And each is fain to leave its brother.
The one, fast clinging, to the world adheres
With clutching organs, in love's sturdy lust;
The other strongly lifts itself from dust
To yonder high, ancestral spheres.
Oh, are there spirits hovering near,
That ruling weave, twixt earth and heaven are rife,
Descend! come from the golden atmosphere
And lead me hence to new and varied life!
Yea! were a magic mantle only mine,
To bear me to strange lands at pleasure,
I would not barter it for costliest treasure,
Not for the mantle of a king resign.
Wagner. Oh, call them not, the well-known swarms
That streaming spread throughout the murky air;
In every quarter they prepare
A danger for mankind in a thousand forms,
Sharp spirit-fangs press from the north
Upon you here with arrow-pointed tongues;
And from the east, now parching, they come forth
And feast themselves upon your lungs;
And when the south wind from the desert drives
Those that heap glow on glow upon your brain,
The west wind brings the swarm that first revives,
Then drowns you and the field and plain.
They like to hear, on mischief gaily bent,
They like to hearken, for they like to try
To fool us, pose as if from Heaven sent,
And lisp like angels when they lie.
But let us go! The world's already grey,
The air grows chill, the mists of evening fall!
'Tis now we treasure home the most of all-
Why do you stand and stare? What is the trouble?
What in the gloaming seizes you in such a way?
Faust. You see that black dog streaking through the grain and
Wagner. I saw him long since; not important did he seem to me.
Faust. Observe him well! What do you take the beast to be?
Wagner. Why, just a poodle; in his way he's worrying
In his attempt to find his master's traces.
Faust. But do you note how in wide spiral rings he's hurrying
Around us here and ever nearer chases?
And if I err not, there's a trail behind him!
Along his path a fiery eddy flies.
Wagner. Only a plain black poodle do I see. Don't mind him!
I think it's an illusion of your eyes.
Faust. He seems in magic nooses to be sweeping
Around our feet, a future snare to bind.
Wagner. I see he doubts, he's timidly around us leaping,
Two strangers - not his master - does he find.
Faust. The circle narrows; he's already near!
Wagner. You see a dog! It is no spectre here.
He snarls and doubts, now on his belly see him crawl,
He wags his tail, dog-habits all.
Faust. Come here! And be a friend with us!
Wagner. It is a beast and, poodle-like, ridiculous.
Stand quiet and he'll sit up too;
Speak to him and he'll scramble up on you;
Lose something and he'll bring it back again,
Leap into water for your cane.
Faust. You're likely right. I find no trace remaining
Of any spirit; it is all mere training.
Wagner. By any dog, if he but be well trained,
Even a wise man's liking may be gained,
Yes, he deserves your favour thoroughly,
A clever pupil of students, he.

[They go into the gateway of the town.]

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