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Faust by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

translated by George Madison Priest
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[GRETCHEN and LISBETH with jugs.]

Lisbeth. Of our friend Babbie you've not heard?
Gretchen. I seldom go where people are - no, not a word.
Lisbeth. It's true, Sibylla told me so today!
So after all she's played the fool, I say.
That comes of all her airs!
Gretchen. How so?
Lisbeth. It stinks.
She's feeding two now when she eats and drinks.
Gretchen. Ah!
Lisbeth. So now it's served her right, in truth.
How long she's hung upon that youth!
That was a promenading,
To village and to dance parading!
Had ever as the first to shine,
He always courted her with tarts and wine;
She fancied her beauty was something fine,
Was yet so lost to honour she had no shame
To take his presents as they came.
'Twas cuddling and kissing, on and on;
And now, you see, the floweret's gone!
Gretchen. The poor thing!
Lisbeth. What! You pity her? I don't!
When girls like us were spinning, mother's wont
At night was never to let us out,
But she! With her sweet love she'd stand about.
On the door-bench, in the hallway dim,
No hour became too long for her or for him.
Now she can knuckle under in full view
And in a sinner's shift do penance too.
Gretchen. He'll take her of course to be his wife.
Lisbeth. He'd be a fool! A lively lad
Has plenty elbow-room elsewhere.
Besides, he' gone.
Gretchen. That is not fair!
Lisbeth. If she gets him, she'll find her luck is bad.
The boys will dash her wreath on the floor,
And we will strew chaff before her door.


Gretchen [going home]. How could once so stoutly flay
When some poor maiden went astray!
How I could find no words enough
At others' sins to rail and scoff!
Black as it seemed, I made it blacker still,
But never black enough to suit my will;
I blessed myself! So proud I've been!
Now I'm myself laid bare to sin!
Yet - all that drove me, all I would,
God! was so dear! ah, was so good!


[In a niche of the wall a devotional image of the
Mater Dolorosa with jugs for flowers in front of it.]

Gretchen [is putting fresh flowers in the jugs].
Oh, bend Thou,
Mother of Sorrows; send Thou
A look of pity on my pain.

Thine heart's blood welling
With pangs past telling,
Thou gazest where Thy Son hangs slain.

Thou, heavenward gazing,
Art deep sighs raising
On high for His and for Thy pain.

Who feeleth
How reeleth
This pain in every bone?
All that makes my poor heart shiver,
Why it yearneth and doth quiver,
Thou dost know and Thou alone!

Wherever I am going,
How woe, woe, woe is growing,
Ah, how my bosom aches!
When lonely watch I'm keeping,
I'm weeping, weeping, weeping,
My heart within me breaks.

The plants before my window
I wet with tears - ah, me-
As in the early morning
I plucked these flowers for Thee.

Ah, let my room but borrow
The early sunlight red,
I sit in all my sorrow
Already on my bed.

Help! rescue me from death and stain!
Oh, bend Thou,
Mother of Sorrows; send Thou
A look of pity on my pain!

NIGHT. The street before GRETCHEN'S door.

Lisbeth [a soldier, Gretchen's brother].
When I've sat with a jovial crowd
Where many a man has boasted loud
And fellows then have praised to me
The beauty of maidens noisily
And drowned the praises with full cup,
Upon my elbow well propped up
Secure in my repose I've sat and so
Heard all the braggadocio.
I've stroked my whiskers, smiling, bland,
And grasped the full cup in my hand
And said: "Let each man have his way!
But is there one in all the land
Like my dear Gretchen, who can hold
A candle to my sister? Say!"
Hear! hear! clink-clink! about it went;
Some cried: "He's right! She is of all
Her sex the pride and ornament!"
Then dumb sat all the boasters bold.
And now! - I could tear out my hair
And try to run straight up a wall!
With stinging speeches, nose in air,
Each scurvy knave may taunt and sneer!
I'll sit like one accursed by debt
And at each casual word I'll sweat!
Though I would like to smash and maul them,
Still, liars I could never call them.
What's coming here? What sneaks in view?
If I mistake not, there are two.
If he is one, swift at his hide I'll drive!
He shall not leave this spot alive!


Faust. How from the window of yon sacristy
Upward the glow of that eternal taper shimmers,
And weak and weaker sideward glimmers,
And darkness round it presses nigh!
So in my bosom do night shadows gather.
Mephistopheles. I'm like a sentimental tom-cat, rather,
That stealthy sneaks by fire-escapes,
Along the walls quite softly scrapes.
I feel quite like myself in this, I must confess:
A bit of thievish greed, a bit of rammishness.
So even now, I feel, through every vein
Is spooking glorious Walpurgis Night.
Just two days hence it comes again.
Then why one keeps awake, one knows aright!
Faust. Meanwhile does not a treasure rise in air
That I see glimmering back there?
Mephistopheles. Ere long you can proceed with pleasure
To raise the kettle and its treasure.
Not long ago I took a squint,
Saw splendid lion-dollars in't.
Faust. But not a trinket, not a ring,
To ornament my darling girl?
Mephistopheles. I saw among them some such thing,
A kind of necklace made of pearl.
Faust. So it is well! I do not find it pleasant
To go to her without a present.
Mephistopheles. It should not really trouble you
To have some pleasure gratis too.
Now since the sky glows with a starry throng,
A very masterpiece you'll hear.
I'll sing to her a moral song,
More surely to beguile her ear.

[He sings to his guitar.]

What dost before
Thy lover's door,
Katrin, before
The world with light is laden?
Let, let it be!
He lets in thee
As maid, but he
Will let thee out no maiden.
Maids, heed aright!
Is it done quite?
Ah, then good-night!
Poor things, he will not linger!
For your own sake,
No robber take,
When love he'd make,
Save with the ring on finger!
Lisbeth [steps forth]. Whom lure you here? God's-element!
O you rat-catcher, cursed slinger!
To the Devil first the instrument!
To the Devil afterwards the singer!
Mephistopheles. He's broken my guitar! There's no more use in it.
Lisbeth. A skull's now going to be split!
Mephistopheles [to FAUST]. Don't give way, Doctor! Quick! Don't tarry!
Keep close by as I lead the way.
Out with your duster, out, I say!
Thrust hard at him and I will parry.
Lisbeth. Then parry that!
Mephistopheles. And why not, pray?
Lisbeth. That too!
Mephistopheles. Sure!
Lisbeth. I believe the Devil's in the fray!
What's this? My hand's already going lame.
Mephistopheles [to FAUST]. Thrust home!
Lisbeth [falls]. O woe!
Mephistopheles. Now is the lubber tame!
But quick away! We must at once be gone,
For even now a murd'rous cry arises.
With the police quite nicely I get on
But fare but ill with the assizes
Martha [at a window]. Out, neighbours, out!
Gretchen [at a window]. Here, bring a light!
Martha [as above]. They rail and scuffle, yell and fight.
People. Already one is lying there! He's dead!
Martha [coming out]. The murderers! Where have they run?
Gretchen [coming out]. Who's lying here?
People. Your mother's son!
Gretchen. Almighty One! What misery!
Lisbeth. I'm dying! That is quickly said
And quicker still can be.
Why, women, stand and howl and wail?
Come here and listen to my tale!

[They all come around him.]

My Gretchen, see! Young are you still
And shrewd enough by no means quite.
You manage your affairs but ill.
In confidence I tell you, what is more,
Since once for all now you're a whore,
So be one then outright!
Gretchen. My brother! God! What words to me!
Lisbeth. In this game let our Lord God be!
Now what is done is done, alas!
And as things can, so will they come to pass.
With one you started secretly,
And more of them there soon will be.
When a dozen men have had you down,
You're common then to all the town.
When Shame at first is given birth,
She is smuggled in upon this earth,
And then the veil of night is thrown
Around her cars and head;
Yes, one would gladly murder her instead.
But when both proud and great she's grown,
By daylight then she goes forth openly,
And yet has not become more fair to see.
The loathsomer her face, straightway
The more she seeks the light of day.
I see the time already nearing
When townsfolk, honest and God-fearing,
As from an infectious body shrinking,
Past you, you whore, will hurry slinking.
In heart and body you'll despair
If they but look you in the face!
No more a golden chain you'll wear,
No more beside the altar take your place!
In fine lace collar to your pleasure
You'll dance no more a happy measure.
In some dark corner you will hide
Among beggars and cripples, side by side.
Even if God His pardon give,
On earth you shall accursed live!
Martha. Commend your soul to God! Can it then be
You'll cap your other sins with blasphemy?
Lisbeth. Could I but to your withered body limp,
You shameless woman, coupling pimp!
Then I indeed might hope to win
Forgiveness plenty for each sin.
Gretchen. My brother! Oh, what agony!
Lisbeth. I tell you, let the weeping be!
When you from honour went apart,
You stabbed me to the very heart.
Now through the slumber of the grave
I go to God, a soldier brave.


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