The Alchemy web site on

Faust by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

translated by George Madison Priest
Previous section .Next section . Back to Faust page


Faust [entering with the poodle].
Meadow and field have I forsaken,
That deeps of night from sight enroll;
A solemn awe the deeps awaken,
Rousing in us the better soul.
No wild desires can longer win me,
No stormy lust to dare and do;
The love of all mankind stirs in me,
The love of God is stirred anew.
Be quiet, poodle! Don't make such a riot!
Why at the threshold do you sniff the air?
Lie down behind the stove in quiet!
My best of cushions I will give you there.
As on the hillside pathway, leaping
And running about, you amused us best,
So take now too from me your keeping,
But as a welcome, silent guest.
Ah, when the friendly lamp is glowing
Again within our narrow cell,
Through heart and bosom light comes flowing
If but the heart knows itself well.
Then Reason once again discourses
And Hope begins to bloom again;
Man yearns to reach life's flowing sources,
Ah! to the Fount of Life attain.
Snarl not, you poodle! To the sacred strain
That now doth all my soul surround,
Is suited not that bestial sound.
We know full well that men deride whate'er
They do not understand
And that before the Good and Fair,
Which of is hard for them, they grumble;
And will the dog, like them too, snarl and bumble?
But ah! I feel already, with a will the best,
Contentment wells no longer from my breast.
But wherefore must the stream so soon run dry
And we again thus thirsting lie?
I have experienced this in ample measure.
And yet this feeling has its compensation;
We learn the supernatural to treasure.
Our spirits yearn toward revelation
That nowhere glows more fair, more excellent,
Than here in the New Testament.
To open the fundamental text I'm moved,
With honest feeling, once for all,
To turn the sacred, blest original
Into my German well-beloved.

[He opens a volume and applies himself to it.]

'Tis written: "In the beginning was the Word!"
Here now I'm balked! Who'll put me in accord?
It is impossible, the Word so high to prize,
I must translate it otherwise
If I am rightly by the Spirit taught.
'Tis written: In the beginning was the Thought!
Consider well that line, the first you see,
That your pen may not write too hastily!
Is it then Thought that works, creative, hour by hour?
Thus should it stand: In the beginning was the Power!
Yet even while I write this word, I falter,
For something warns me, this too I shall alter.
The Spirit's helping me! I see now what I need
And write assured: In the beginning was the Deed!
If I'm to share this room with you,
Poodle, then leave off howling,
Then leave off growling!
Such a distracting fellow I can't view
Or suffer to have near me.
One of us two, or I or you,
Must quit this cell, I fear me.
I'm loath your right as guest thus to undo.
The door is open, you've a passage free.
But what is this I now must see!
Can that happen naturally?
Is it phantom? Is it reality?
How long and broad the poodle grows!
He rises up in mighty pose,
'Tis not a dog's form that he shows!
What spectre have I sheltered thus?
He's like a hippopotamus
With fiery eyes, jaws terrible to see.
Oh, mine you are most certainly.
For such as your half-hellish crew
The Key of Solomon will do.
Spirits [in the corridor].
Captured is someone within!
Stay without, none follow in!
Like a fox in a snare
Quakes an ancient hell-lynx there.
But now give heed!
Hover hence, hither hover,
Under, over,
And he soon himself has freed.
Can ye avail him,
Oh, do not fail him!
For he has already done
Much to profit us, each one.
Faust. First, to deal with this beast's core,
I will use the Spell of Four:
Salamander must be glowing,
Undine self-coiling,
Sylph vanish in going,
Kobold keep toiling.
Who would ignore
The elements four,
Their powers
And dowers,
No master he
Over spirits can be.
Vanish in fiery glow,
Gurgling, together flow,
In meteoric beauty shine,
Bring homely help,
Incubus! Incubus!
Step forth and end the charm for us.
None of the Four
Hides in the beast.
He lies quite calmly, grins evermore;
I've not yet hurt him in the least.
Thou'lt hear me longer
Conjure thee stronger!
Art thou, fellow, one
That out of Hell has run?
Then see this Sign!
Before which incline
Black cohorts e'er!
It swells up now with bristling hair.
Thou reprobated,
Canst rede His token?
The Ne'er-originated,
The Never-spoken,
Who every Heaven has permeated,
He! wantonly immolated!
Behind the stove, held by my spells,
Like an elephant it swells,
And all the space it fills complete.
In vapour it will melt away.
Mount not up to the ceiling! Lay
Thyself down at thy Master's feet!
I threaten not in vain as thou canst see.
With holy fire I'll shrivel thee!
Do not await
The light thrice radiate!
Do not await
The strongest art at my command!

[Mephistopheles steps forth from behind the stove while the
vapour is vanishing. He is dressed as a travelling scholar.]

Mephistopheles. Wherefore this noise? What does my lord command?
Faust. So this, then, was the kernel of the brute!
A travelling scholar it is? The casus makes me smile.
Mephistopheles. To you, O learned sir, I proffer my salute!
You made me sweat in vigorous style.
Faust. What is your name?
Mephistopheles. The question seems but cheap
From one who for the Word has such contempt,
Who from all outward show is quite exempt
And only into beings would delve deep.
Faust. The being of such gentlemen as you, indeed,
In general, from your titles one can read.
It shows itself but all too plainly when men dub
You Liar or Destroyer or Beelzebub.
Well now, who are you then?
Mephistopheles. Part of that Power which would
The Evil ever do, and ever does the Good.
Faust. A riddle! Say what it implies!
Mephistopheles. I am the Spirit that denies!
And rightly too; for all that doth begin
Should rightly to destruction run;
'Twere better then that nothing were begun.
Thus everything that you call Sin,
Destruction - in a word, as Evil represent-
That is my own, real element.
Faust. You call yourself a part, yet whole you're standing there.
Mephistopheles. A modest truth do I declare.
A man, the microcosmic fool, down in his soul
Is wont to think himself a whole,
But I'm part of the Part which at the first was all,
Part of the Darkness that gave birth to Light,
The haughty Light that now with Mother Night
Disputes her ancient rank and space withal,
And yet 'twill not succeed, since, strive as strive it may,
Fettered to bodies will Light stay.
It streams from bodies, it makes bodies fair,
A body hinders it upon its way,
And so, I hope, it has not long to stay
And will with bodies their destruction share.
Faust. Now I perceive your worthy occupation!
You can't achieve wholesale annihilation
And now a retail business you've begun.
Mephistopheles. And truly there by nothing much is done.
What stands out as the opposite of Naught-
This Something, this your clumsy world - for aught
I have already undertaken,
It have I done no harm nor shaken
With waves and storms, with earthquakes, fiery brand.
Calm, after all, remain both sea and land.
And that accursed trash, the brood of beasts and men,
A way to get at them I've never found.
How many now I've buried in the ground!
Yet fresh, new blood forever circulates again.
Thus on and on - one could go mad in sheer despair!
From earth, from water, and from air
A thousand germs evolving start,
In dryness, moisture, warmth, and cold!
Weren't it for fire which I withhold,
I'd have as mine not one thing set apart.
Faust. So to that Power never reposing,
Creative, healing, you're opposing
Your frigid devil's fist with might and main.
It's clenched in spite and clenched in vain!
Seek something else to undertake,
You, Chaos' odd, fantastic son!
Mephistopheles. We'll really ponder on what can be done
When my next visits here I make.
But may I for the present go away?
Faust. Why you should ask, I do not see.
Though we have only met today,
Come as you like and visit me.
Here is a window, here a door, for you,
Besides a certain chimney-flue.
Mephistopheles. Let me own up! I cannot go away;
A little hindrance bids me stay.
The Witch's foot upon your sill I see.
Faust. The pentagram? That's in your way?
You son of Hell explain to me,
If that stays you, how came you in today?
And how was such a spirit so betrayed?
Mephistopheles. Observe it closely! It is not well made;
One angle, on the outer side of it,
Is just a little open, as you see.
Faust. That was by accident a lucky hit!
And are you then my captive? Can that be?
By happy chance the thing's succeeded!
Mephistopheles. As he came leaping in, the poodle did not heed it.
The matter now seems turned about;
The Devil's in the house and can't get out.
Faust. Well, through the window - why not there withdraw?
Mephistopheles. For devils and for ghosts it is a law:
Where they slipped in, there too must they go out.
The first is free, the second's slaves are we.
Faust. Does Hell itself have its laws then?
That's fine! A compact in that case might be
Concluded safely with you gentlemen?
Mephistopheles. What's promised, you'll enjoy with naught
With naught unduly snipped off or exacted.
But that needs more than such a brief consideration
And we'll discuss it soon in further conversation.
But now, most earnestly I pray,
For this time let me go away.
Faust. One moment longer do remain;
Tell me at last some pleasant news.
Mephistopheles. Let me go now, I'll soon be back again;
Then you may question as you choose.
Faust. I've never set a snare for you;
You walked, yourself, into this net tonight.
Let him who holds the Devil hold him tight!
He'll not so soon catch him anew.
Mephistopheles. If it so please you, I'm prepared, indeed,
To lend you company, but take good heed:
It's on condition that my arts beguile
The time for you in worthy style.
Faust. I'll gladly see your arts, in that you're free,
Though only if you please with artistry!
Mephistopheles. More for your senses, friend, you'll gain
In this one hour than you'd obtain
In a whole year's monotony.
All that the tender spirits sing you,
The lovely images they bring you,
Are not an empty sorcery.
They will delight your sense of smell,
They will refresh your palate well,
And blissful will your feeling swell.
Of preparation there's no need,
We're here together, so proceed!
Vanish, ye darkling
Vaultings above him!
More lovely gleaming,
Blue ether beaming,
Gaze down, benign!
Now are the darkling
Clouds disappearing!
Faint stars are sparkling,
Gentler suns nearing
Hitherward shine.
Graces, adorning
Sons of the morning,
Spirit-like, bending,
Wavering, hover.
Yearning unending
Follows them over;
Ribbons a-trailing,
Fluttering, veiling,
Wide spaces cover,
Cover the bower,
Where, with deep feeling,
Lovers are dreaming,
Life-pledges sealing.
Bower by bower!
Tendrils out-streaming!
Heavy grape's gushing,
In the vats plunging;
Out from the cushing
Winepresses lunging,
Wine-streams are whirling;
Foaming and purling
Onward o'er precious
Pure stones they wind them,
Leave heights behind them,
Broad'ning to spacious
Fair lakes, abounding
Green hills surrounding.
Winged creation,
Sipping elation,
Sunward is fleeting,
Bright islands meeting,
Flying to meet them
On the waves dancing,
Rhythmic, entrancing,
Where we, to greet them,
Hear a glad chorus,
See o'er the meadows
Dancers like shadows,
Flitting before us,
Playing, regaling,
Hills some are scaling;
Others are swimming,
Lakes swiftly skimming;
Playfully trailing,
Other ones flitter,
All for existent,
All for the distant
Stars as they glitter
Rapturous Love.
Mephistopheles. He sleeps! Well done, ye tender, airy throng!
Ye truly lulled him with your song,
And for this concert I am in your debt.
You're not the man to keep the Devil captive yet!
Enchant him with a dream's sweet imagery,
Plunge him into an ocean of untruth!
But now, to break this threshold's sorcery,
I have to get a rat's sharp tooth.
To conjure long I do not need;
Already one is rustling and it soon will heed.
The lord of all the rats and mice,
Of flies and frogs and bugs and lice,
Bids you now venture to appear
And gnaw upon this threshold here
Where he is dabbing it with oil.
Already you come hopping forth. Now to your toil!
Quick to the work! The point that held me bound
There on the outer edge is found.
Just one bite more - 'tis done! Begone!
Now, Faustus, till we meet again, dream on!
Faust [awakening.] Am I again a victim of delusion?
That streaming throng of spirits - gone are they?
Dreamt I the Devil through some mere illusion?
Or did a poodle only leap away?

If you have problems understanding these alchemical texts, Adam McLean now provides a study course entitled How to read alchemical texts : a guide for the perplexed.
Alchemical texts

16th Century
Practical alchemy
Philosophical alchemy

17th Century
Practical alchemy
Philosophical alchemy

18th Century
Practical alchemy
Philosophical alchemy

Alchemical poetry

Alchemical allegories

Works of Nicolas Flamel
Works of George Ripley
Works of Sendivogius
Theatrum Chemicum Britannicum
Emerald tablet of Hermes
Rosicrucian texts
Literary works
Texts from Musaeum Hermeticum

Spanish alchemical texts
German alchemical texts
French alchemical texts
Russian alchemical texts
Italian alchemical texts