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Faust by Johann Wolfgang von Goethetranslated by George Madison Priest
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Faust. A knock? Come in! Who now will bother me?
Mephistopheles. 'Tis I.
Faust. Come in!
Mephistopheles. Full three times must it be.
Faust. Come in, then?
Mephistopheles. Fine! I like that! All is well!
I hope we'll bear with one another and agree!
For I, your every crotchet to dispel,
Am here all dressed up like a noble squire,
In scarlet, gold-betrimmed attire:
A little cloak of heavy silk brocade,
Here on my hat a tall cock's-feather too,
Here at my side a long and pointed blade;
And now, to make it brief, I counsel you
That you too likewise be arrayed,
That you, emancipated, free,
Experience what life may be.
Faust. I'll feel, whatever my attire,
The pain of life, earth's narrow way
I am too old to be content with play,
Too young to be without desire.
What can the world afford me now?
Thou shalt renounce! Renounce shalt thou!
That is the never-ending song
Which in the ears of all is ringing,
Which always, through our whole life long,
Hour after hour is hoarsely singing.
I but with horror waken with the sun,
I'd fain weep bitter tears, because I see
Another day that, in its course, for me
Will not fulfil one wish - not one,
Yea, that the foretaste of each joy possessed
With carping criticism half erases,
That checks creation in my stirring breast
With thousands of life's grinning faces.
I too, when darkness sinks down o'er me,
Must anxious stretch me on my bed;
There, too, no rest comes nigh my weary head,
For savage dreams will rise before me.
The god that dwells within my soul
Can stir to life my inmost deeps.
Full sway over all my powers he keeps,
But naught external can he ever control.
So Being like a load on me is pressed,
I long for death, existence I detest.
Mephistopheles. And yet Death never is a wholly welcome guest.
Faust. Ah, happy he around whose brow Death binds
The blood-stained wreath mid victory's blaze,
Whom in a maiden's arms Death finds
After a dance's maddening maze.
Oh, would that I, beneath the lofty Spirit's sway,
Enrapt, had rendered up my soul and sunk away!
Mephistopheles. And yet that night, those juices brown
A certain man did not drink down.
Faust. Spying is your delight, is that not so?
Mephistopheles. Omniscient am I not, yet many things I know.
Faust. Though, from the frightful frenzy reeling,
A sweet, familiar tone drew me away,
Though what remained of childlike feeling
Was duped by echoes of a happier day,
I now curse all that, round the soul, enfolds it
With dazzling lures and jugglery,
And, banned within this cave of sorrows, holds it
With blinding spells and flattery.
Cursed, before all, the high adherence
To some opinion that ensnares the mind!
Cursed be the blinding of appearance
That holds our senses thus confined!
Cursed be dissembling dream-obsessions,
The fraud of fame, a name's enduring life!
Cursed all that flatters as possessions,
As slave and plough, as child and wife!
Cursed too be Mammon, when with treasures
He stirs us on to deeds of might,
When he, for lazy, idle pleasures,
Lays down for us the cushions right!
Cursed be the grape's sweet juice deceiving!
Cursed Love's supreme, delicious thrall!
A curse on Hoping! on Believing!
And cursed be Patience most of all!
Chorus of Spirits [invisible].
Thou hast destroyed
The beautiful world,
With powerful fist;
'Tis smashed, downward hurled!
A demigod dashed it to bits!
The ruins on to the Void,
Over the beauty lost and gone!
Midst the sons of earth,
Build it again,
Build it aloft in thy breast!
And life's new quest
With clearer sense,
And songs of cheer
Anew shalt hear!
These are the little folk
Of those whom I evoke.
Hark how they to joy and deed
Sagely bid you to give heed!
Into life they would,
Far from solitude
There stagnate sap and sense,
Persuade and lure you hence.
Cease with your brooding grief to play
That, like a vulture, eats your life away.
The worst of company will let you find
That you're a man among mankind.
But yet I don't mean that I'll thrust
You midst the rabble men don't trust.
I'm not one of the Great;
Still, if through life you'll go with me,
In that case I'll agree
With pleasure to accommodate
You, on the spot belong to you.
I'll be your comrade true
And if to your liking I behave,
I'll be your servant, be your slave!
Faust. And what in turn am I to do for you?
Mephistopheles. That is a long way off! Pray don't insist.
Faust. No, no! The Devil is an egoist
And not "for God's sake!" only will he do
What will another's needs assist.
Tell me your terms both plain and clear!
Such servants in the house bring danger near.
Mephistopheles. Here to your service I will bind me;
Beck when you will, I will not pause or rest;
But in return when yonder you will find me,
Then likewise shall you be at my behest.
Faust. The yonder is to me a trifling matter.
Should you this world to ruins shatter,
The other then may rise, its place to fill.
'Tis from this earth my pleasure springs,
And this sun shines upon my sufferings;
When once I separate me from these things,
Let happen then what can and will.
And furthermore I've no desire to hear
Whether in future too men hate and love,
And whether too in yonder sphere
There is an under or above.
Mephistopheles. In this mood you can dare to go my ways.
Commit yourself; you shall in these next days
Behold my arts and with great pleasure too.
What no man yet has seen, I'll give to you.
Faust. Poor devil! What have you to give?
Was any human spirit, struggling to ascend,
Such as your sort could ever comprehend?
Still, have you food on which no man can live?
Have you red gold that runs through, without rest,
Quicksilver-like, the hand it's in?
A game at which men never win?
A maiden who while on my breast
Will with my neighbour ogle and conspire?
The joys divine of honour, once possessed,
Which vanish like a meteor's fire?
Show me the fruit which, ere it's plucked, will rot,
And trees that every day grow green anew!
Mephistopheles. Such a commission frights me not;
Such treasures I can serve to you.
But, my good friend, the time approaches when we could
In peace and quiet feast on something good.
Faust. If ever I lay me on a bed of sloth in peace,
That instant let for me existence cease!
If ever with lying flattery you can rule me
So that contented with myself I stay,
If with enjoyment you can fool me,
Be that for me the final day!
That bet I offer!
Faust. Another hand-clasp! There!
If to the moment I shall ever say:
"Ah, linger on, thou art so fair!"
Then may you fetters on me lay,
Then will I perish, then and there!
Then may the death-bell toll, recalling
Then from your service you are free;
The clock may stop, the pointer falling,
And time itself be past for me!
Mephistopheles. Consider well, we'll not forget it.
Faust. Your perfect right to that I'll not deny.
My action was not rash, I'll not regret it.
As soon as I stagnate, a slave am I,
And whether yours or whose, why should I ask?
Mephistopheles. Then at a Doctor's-feast this very day
I'll act as servant and fulfil my task.
But one thing still: in case of life or death, I pray,
Give me a written line or two.
Faust. What, pedant! Something written do you ask of me?
Was neither man nor word of man yet known to you?
Is it not enough that this my spoken word
Disposes of my days for all eternity?
Does not the world rush on, in all its currents stirred,
And should a promise have a hold on me?
Yet to our hearts we've taken this conceit.
Who gladly would its hold undo?
Blest he whose bosom is with breachless faith replete,
No sacrifice will that man ever rue.
But any stamped and written parchment sheet
Is like a ghost that all men shrink to view.
The spoken word dies forthwith in the quill;
Leather and wax remain our masters still.
What, Evil Spirit, do you want of me?
Brass, marble, parchment, paper? Name it then!
Am I to write with graver, chisel, pen?
I offer you your choice quite free.
Mephistopheles. How can you talk so heatedly,
Exaggerate in such a way?
Just any little sheet will do, it's all the same.
With one wee drop of blood you sign your name.
Faust. If this will satisfy you, then I say:
Let us agree and put the farce to this odd use.
Mephistopheles. Blood is a quite peculiar juice.
Faust. Fear not! This league with you I shall not break!
The aim and goal of all my energy
Is to fulfil the promise I now make.
I've puffed myself too high, I see;
Only within your ranks do I deserve to be.
The Mighty Spirit spurned me with a scoff,
And Nature turns herself away from me.
The thread of thought is broken off,
To me all learning's long been nauseous.
In depths of sensuality
Let us our glowing passions still!
In magic's veils impervious
Prepared at once be every marvel's thrill!
Come, let us plunge into Time's rushing dance,
Into the roll of Circumstance!
There may then pain and joyance,
Successes and annoyance,
Alternately follow as they can.
Only restlessly active is a man!
Mephistopheles. To you no goal is set, nor measure.
If you should like to nibble everything,
To snatch up something on the wing,
May all agree with you that gives you pleasure!
Fall to, I say, and don't be coy.
Faust. You hear indeed, I do not speak of joy.
Life's wildering whirl be mine, its painfulest enjoyment,
Enamoured hate, and quickening annoyment.
My bosom, of all thirst for knowledge cured,
Shall close itself henceforth against no woe;
Whatever to all mankind is assured,
I, in my inmost being, will enjoy and know,
Seize with my soul the highest and most deep;
Men's weal and woe upon my bosom heap;
And thus this self of mine to all their selves expanded,
Like them I too at last be stranded.
Mephistopheles. Oh, trust me who for many a thousand year
Have chewed this crust, it is so hard at best
That twixt the cradle and the bier
That ancient leaven no man can digest.
Trust one like me: this Whole is wrought
And fashioned only for a God's delight!
He dwells in an eternal light;
Us into darkness He has brought;
To you are suited only day and night.
Faust. Ah, but I will!
Mephistopheles. Well said and right!
And yet I fear there is but one thing wrong;
For life is short and art is long.
I'd think you'd let yourself be taught.
Associate you with a poet; then, in thought,
You leave the gentleman full sweep,
Upon your honoured head to heap
Each good and noble quality:
The lion's mood,
The stag's rapidity,
The fiery blood of Italy,
The Northman's hardihood.
The secret for it? Let him find
How magnanimity and cunning are combined,
How with a youth's hot impulse you may fall
In love according to a plan.
Might I myself know such a gentleman,
Him Mr. Microcosm I would call.
Faust. What am I if I strive in vain
To win the crown of all mankind which, though afar,
All senses struggle to obtain?
Mephistopheles. You at the end are - what you are.
Put on your head perukes with a million locks,
Put on your feet a pair of ell-high socks,
You after all will still be - what you are.
Faust. I feel that I have made each treasure
Of human mind my own in vain,
And when at last I sit me down at leisure,
No new-born power wells up within my brain.
I'm not a hair's-breadth more in height
Nor nearer to the infinite.
Mephistopheles. My good sir, you observe this matter
As men these matters always see;
But we must manage that much better
Before life's pleasures from us flee.
Your hands and feet too - what the devil!-
Your head and seed are yours alone!
Yet all with which I gaily revel,
Is it on that account the less my own?
If for six stallions I can pay,
Aren't all their powers added to my store?
I am a proper man and dash away
As if the legs I had were twenty-four!
Quick, then! Let all reflection be,
And straight into the world with me!
A chap who speculates - let this be said-
Is very like a beast on moorland dry,
That by some evil spirit round and round is led,
While fair, green pastures round about him lie.
Faust. But how shall we begin?
Mephistopheles. We'll just get out, so come!
Bah! what a place of martyrdom!
What kind of life is this you lead?
Boring the youngsters and yourself indeed!
Leave that to Master Paunch, your neighbour!
Why plague yourself by threshing straws?
The best that you can know with all your labour,
You dare not tell the striplings raw.
Right now I hear one in the passageway.
Faust. I cannot possibly see him today.
Mephistopheles. He's waited long the poor young chap;
Uncomforted, he must not go away.
Come, let me have your gown and cap;
I in that costume? What a precious fit!
[He dresses himself up.]
Now you can leave things to my wit!
I only need a quarter of an hour.
And then our lovely tour, meanwhile prepare for it!
Mephistopheles [in FAUST'S long robe].
Humanity's most lofty power,
Reason and knowledge, pray despise!
Let but the Spirit of all Lies
With works of dazzling magic blind you;
Then, absolutely mine, I'll have and bind you!
To him has Fate a spirit given
That, uncurbed, ever onward sweeps,
Whose striving, by too hasty impulse driven,
The joys of this earth overleaps.
Him will I drag through wild life whirling past,
Through all that is unmeaning, shallow stuff;
I'll see him struggle, weaken, and stick fast!
Before his greedy lips that can not feast enough
Shall hover food and drink as if for some grand revel;
Refreshment will he all in vain implore;
And had he not surrendered to the Devil,
Still were he lost forevermore.
[ A STUDENT enters]
Student. I've been here just a little while or so
And come to pay an humble call,
To talk with you, a man to know,
One who is named with reverence by all.
Mephistopheles. You please me greatly by your courtesy!
A man like many another one you see.
Have you already looked about elsewhere?
Student. I beg you, take me in your kindly care!
I come with every good intention,
Fresh blood, and money, though not much to mention.
My mother scarcely would permit my going.
I'd fain learn here abroad something worth knowing.
Mephistopheles. Well, now you're at the proper place.
Student. Yet, frankly, would I could my steps retrace!
Within these walls the lecture hall,
I do not like it here at all.
It is a space that's so confined;
One sees no green nor any tree,
And in the halls with benches lined,
Sight, hearing, thought, all go from me.
Mephistopheles. That only comes with habit, so
A child takes not its mother's breast
Quite willingly in the beginning, though
Soon nourishes itself with zest.
So at the breasts of Wisdom nursed,
Each day you'll lust for them the more athirst.
Student. I'll cling about her neck with joy,
But say what means thereto I shall employ.
Mephistopheles. Ere you go on, explain your views.
Which is the faculty you choose?
Student. I'd like right learned to become; what is
On earth I'd gladly comprehend,
To heaven itself my range extend,
Know all of nature and the sciences.
Mephistopheles. Then you are on the proper way
But must not let yourself be lured astray.
Student. Body and soul I'm for it bent;
Yet there would please me, I must say,
A little freedom and divertisement
Upon a pleasant summer holiday.
Mephistopheles. Make use of time, its course so soon is run,
Yet system teaches you how time is won.
I counsel you, dear friend, in sum,
That first you take collegium logicum.
Your spirit's then well broken in for you,
In Spanish boots laced tightly to,
That you henceforth may more deliberately keep
The path of thought and straight along it creep,
And not perchance criss-cross may go,
A - will-o'-wisping to and fro.
Then you'll be taught full many a day
What at one stroke you've done alway,
Like eating and like drinking free,
It now must go like: One! Two! Three!
In fact, when men are fabricating thought,
It goes as when a weaver's masterpiece is wrought.
One treadle sets a thousand threads a-going,
And to and fro the shuttle flies;
Quite unperceived the threads are flowing,
One stroke effects a thousand ties.
Then some philosopher steps in, and he
Will demonstrate to you it so must be:
The first was so, the second so,
And thus the third and fourth are so;
And if no first nor second had been there,
The third and fourth one would be never.
All students prize that everywhere,
But are they weavers? No, they're not that clever.
Who'll know aught living and describe it well,
Seeks first the spirit to expel.
He then has the component parts in hand
But lacks, alas! the spirit's band.
Encheirisis naturae, Chemistry names it so,
Mocking herself but all unwitting though.
Student. I can't quite understand you, I confess.
Mephistopheles. Next time, be sure, you will have more success,
When you have learned how to reduce
And classify all by its use.
Student. I feel as stupid after all you've said
As if a miller's wheel were whirling in my head.
Mephistopheles. And next - the first of all worth mention-
To Metaphysics you must give attention,
And see that you profoundly strive to gain
What is not suited for the human brain.
For what goes in or won't go in the head,
A brilliant phrase will serve you in good stead.
Yet, first of all for this half-year,
Observe the best of systems here
You take five lectures daily - understand?
And when the clock strikes, be on hand!
Be well prepared before the start,
With paragraphs well got by heart,
So later you can better look
And see he says naught save what's in the book;
But write away as unabated
As if the Holy Ghost dictated!
Student. You will not need to say that to me twice!
I can foresee how much I'll gain from this advice;
Because what one has down in black and white
It is a comfort to take home at night.
Mephistopheles. But come now, choose a faculty!
Student. I can't adjust myself to Law - not possibly.
Mephistopheles. I can't blame that in you, it's no demerit.
This science as it really is I see.
Statutes and laws that we inherit
Like an eternal malady
Go trailing on from race to race
And furtive shift from place to place.
To nonsense reason turns, and benefit to worry.
Woe unto you that you're a grandchild, woe!
For of the law that was born with us, no!
Of that, alas! there never is a query.
Student. You have increased my own disgust. The youth
Whom you instruct is blessed in sooth!
I'm now almost inclined to try Theology.
Mephistopheles. I would not wish to lead you so astray.
In what this science teaches, it would be
So hard to shun the false, misleading way;
So much of hidden poison lies therein,
You scarce can tell it from its medicine.
'Tis best here too that only one be heard
And that you swear then by the master's word.
Upon the whole - to words stick fast!
Then through a sure gate you'll at last
Enter the templed hall of Certainty.
Student. Yet in each word some concept there must be.
Mephistopheles. Quite true! But don't torment yourself to
For at the point where concepts fail,
At the right time a word is thrust in there.
With words we fitly can our foes assail,
With words a system we prepare,
Words we quite fitly can believe,
Nor from a word a mere iota thieve.
Student. Pardon, I keep you here with many a question,
But I must cause more trouble still.
Concerning Medicine as well you will
Not make some pithy, keen suggestion?
Three years! how quickly they are past!
And, God! the field is far too vast.
If but some sign is indicated,
A man can sooner feel his way.
Mephistopheles [aside]. With this dry tone I am now satiated;
The downright devil I must once more play.
Medicine's spirit one can grasp with ease.
The great and little world you study through,
To let things finally their course pursue
As God may please.
It's vain that you in search of knowledge roam and drift,
Each only learns what learn he can;
Yet he who grasps the moment's gift,
He is your proper man.
You are moreover quite well-built, beside,
Will never lack for boldness too;
And if you only in yourself confide,
All other souls confide in you.
Learn chiefly how to lead the women; be assured
That all their "Ohs" and "Ahs," eternal, old,
Can at a single point be cured;
And if you half-way decorously come,
You have them all beneath your thumb.
A title first must make them comprehend
That your art many arts doth far transcend.
By way of welcome then you touch all matters
For sake of which, long years, another flatters.
Learn how the little pulse to squeeze
And then with sly and fiery glances seize
Her freely round the slender hips to see
How firmly laced up she may be.
Student. Now that looks better! Now one sees the where and how!
Mephistopheles. Dear friend, all theory is grey,
And green the golden tree of life.
Student. I vow,
It's all just like a dream to me.
Another time I'll bore you, if I may,
To hear your wisdom through and through.
Mephistopheles. All that I can I'll gladly do.
Student. It is impossible for me to go away
Before I hand my album here to you.
Will your grace grant this favour to me too?
Mephistopheles. Oh, very well!
[He writes and gives it back.]
Student [reads]. ERITIS SICUT DEUS, SCIENTES BONUM ET MALUM.
[He closes the book reverently and takes his leave.]
Mephistopheles. Follow the ancient text and heed my coz the snake;
With all your likeness to God you'll sometimes tremble and quake.
Faust. Now whither shall we go?
Mephistopheles. Whither it pleases you.
We'll see the little world and then we'll see the great.
With how much joy and how much profit too
You'll sponge the whole course through until you graduate.
Faust. But with my beard so long I may
Quite lack life's free and easy way.
In this attempt no luck will come to me;
I never fitted in society at all.
With other men I feel myself so small;
I'll feel embarrassed constantly.
Mephistopheles. For that, good friend, this is the remedy I give:
Just trust yourself, then you'll know how to live.
Faust. We'll leave the house but how shall we set out?
Have you a horse, a servant, carriage, anywhere?
Mephistopheles. We'll only spread this mantle out
And have it bear us through the air.
You'll take upon this daring flight
No heavy luggage, only light.
A bit of fiery air - I'll have it ready here-
Will lift us from this earth without ado,
And if we're light, we'll go up swiftly too.
I must congratulate you on your new career.
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.
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