Fiction > Harvard Classics > J. W. von Goethe > Faust. Part I
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Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832).  Faust. Part I.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
 
Faust. Part I
 
1500–1999
 
 
Do I not own their strength and speed?        1500
A proper man I dash away,
As their two dozen legs were mine indeed.
Up then, from idle pondering free,
And forth into the world with me!
I tell you what;—your speculative churl        1505
Is like a beast which some ill spirit leads,
On barren wilderness, in ceaseless whirl,
While all around lie fair and verdant meads.
 
FAUST

But how shall we begin?
 
MEPHISTOPHELES

                We will go hence with speed,
        1510
A place of torment this indeed!
A precious life, thyself to bore,
And some few youngster evermore!
Leave that to neighbour Paunch!—withdraw,
Why wilt thou plague thyself with thrashing straw?        1515
The very best that thou dost know
Thou dar’st not to the striplings show.
One in the passage now doth wait!
 
FAUST

I’m in no mood to see him now.
 
MEPHISTOPHELES

Poor lad! He must be tired, I trow;
        1520
He must not go disconsolate.
Hand me thy cap and gown; the mask
Is for my purpose quite first rate.  (He changes his dress.)
Now leave it to my wit! I ask
But quarter of an hour; meanwhile equip,        1525
And make all ready for our pleasant trip!  (Exit FAUST.)
 
MEPHISTOPHELES  (in FAUST’S long gown)

Mortal! the loftiest attributes of men,
Reason and Knowledge, only thus contemn,
Still let the Prince of lies, without control,
With shows, and mocking charms delude thy soul,        1530
I have thee unconditionally then!
Fate hath endow’d him with an ardent mind,
Which unrestrain’d still presses on for ever,
And whose precipitate endeavour
Earth’s joys o’erleaping, leaveth them behind.        1535
Him will I drag through life’s wild waste,
Through scenes of vapid dulness, where at last
Bewilder’d, he shall falter, and stick fast;
And, still to mock his greedy haste,
Viands and drink shall float his craving lips beyond—        1540
Vainly he’ll seek refreshment, anguish-tost,
And were he not the devil’s by his bond,
Yet must his soul infallibly be lost!
 
A STUDENT enters
  1
 
STUDENT

But recently I’ve quitted home,
        1545
Full of devotion am I come
A man to know and hear, whose name
With reverence is known to fame.
 
MEPHISTOPHELES

Your courtesy much flatters me!
A man like other men you see;        1550
Pray have you yet applied elsewhere?
 
STUDENT

I would entreat your friendly care!
I’ve youthful blood and courage high;
Of gold I bring a fair supply;
To let me go my mother was not fain;        1555
But here I longed true knowledge to attain.
 
MEPHISTOPHELES

You’ve hit upon the very place.
 
STUDENT

And yet my steps I would retrace.
These walls, this melancholy room,
O’erpower me with a sense of gloom;        1560
The space is narrow, nothing green,
No friendly tree is to be seen:
And in these halls, with benches filled, distraught,
Sight, hearing fail me, and the power of thought.
 
MEPHISTOPHELES

It all depends on habit. Thus at first
        1565
The infant takes not kindly to the breast,
But before long, its eager thirst
Is fain to slake with hearty zest:
Thus at the breasts of wisdom day by day
With keener relish you’ll your thirst allay.        1570
 
STUDENT

Upon her neck I fain would hang with joy;
To reach it, say, what means must I employ?
 
MEPHISTOPHELES

Explain, ere further time we lose,
What special faculty you choose?
 
STUDENT

Profoundly learned I would grow,
        1575
What heaven contains would comprehend,
O’er earth’s wide realm my gaze extend,
Nature and science I desire to know.
 
MEPHISTOPHELES

Your are upon the proper track, I find;
Take heed, let nothing dissipate your mind.        1580
 
STUDENT

My heart and soul are in the chase!
Though to be sure I fain would seize,
On pleasant summer holidays,
A little liberty and careless ease.
 
MEPHISTOPHELES

Use well your time, so rapidly it flies;
        1585
Method will teach you time to win;
Hence, my young friend, I would advise,
With college logic to begin!
Then will your mind be so well braced,
In Spanish boots so tightly laced,        1590
That on ’twill circumspectly creep,
Thought’s beaten track securely keep,
Nor will it, ignis-fatuus like,
Into the path of error strike.
Then many a day they’ll teach you how        1595
The mind’s spontaneous acts, till now
As eating and as drinking free,
Require a process;—one! two! three!
In truth the subtle web of thought
Is like the weaver’s fabric wrought:        1600
One treadle moves a thousand lines,
Swift dart the shuttles to and fro,
Unseen the threads together flow,
A thousand knots one stroke combines.
Then forward steps your sage to show,        1605
And prove to you, it must be so;
The first being so, and so the second,
The third and fourth deduc’d we see;
And if there were no first and second,
Nor third nor fourth would ever be.        1610
This, scholars of all countries prize,—
Yet ’mong themselves no weavers rise.—
He who would know and treat of aught alive,
Seeks first the living spirit thence to drive:
Then are the lifeless fragments in his hand,        1615
There only fails, alas! the spirit-band.
This process, chemists name, in learned thesis,
Mocking themselves, Naturæ encheiresis.
 
STUDENT

Your words I cannot full comprehend.
 
MEPHISTOPHELES

In a short time you will improve, my friend,
        1620
When of scholastic forms you learn the use;
And how by method all things to reduce.
 
STUDENT

So doth all this my brain confound,
As if a mill-wheel there were turning round.
 
MEPHISTOPHELES

And next, before aught else you learn,
        1625
You must with zeal to metaphysics turn!
There see that you profoundly comprehend,
What doth the limit of man’s brain transcend;
For that which is or is not in the head
A sounding phrase will serve you in good stead.        1630
But before all strive this half year
From one fix’d order ne’er to swerve!
Five lectures daily you must hear;
The hour still punctually observe!
Yourself with studious zeal prepare,        1635
And closely in your manual look,
Hereby may you be quite aware
That all he utters standeth in the book;
Yet write away without cessation,
As at the Holy Ghost’s dictation!        1640
 
STUDENT

This, Sir, a second time you need not say!
Your counsel I appreciate quite;
What we possess in black and white,
We can in peace and comfort bear away.
 
MEPHISTOPHELES

A faculty I pray you name.
        1645
 
STUDENT

For jurisprudence, some distaste I own.
 
MEPHISTOPHELES

To me this branch of science is well known,
And hence I cannot your repugnance blame.
Customs and laws in every place,
Like a disease, an heir-loom dread,        1650
Still trail their curse from race to race,
And furtively abroad they spread.
To nonsense, reason’s self they turn;
Beneficence becomes a pest;
Woe unto thee, that thou’rt a grandson born!        1655
As for the law born with us, unexpressed;—
That law, alas, none careth to discern.
 
STUDENT

You deepen my dislike. The youth
Whom you instruct, is blest in sooth!
To try theology I feel inclined.        1660
 
MEPHISTOPHELES

I would not lead you willingly astray,
But as regards this science, you will find
So hard it is to shun the erring way,
And so much hidden poison lies therein,
Which scarce can you discern from medicine.        1665
Here too it is the best, to listen but to one,
And by the master’s words to swear alone.
To sum up all—To words hold fast!
Then the safe gate securely pass’d,
You’ll reach the fane of certainty at last.        1670
 
STUDENT

But then some meaning must the words convey.
 
MEPHISTOPHELES

Right! But o’er-anxious thought, you’ll find of no avail,
For there precisely where ideas fail,
A word comes opportunely into play
Most admirable weapons words are found,        1675
On words a system we securely ground,
In words we can conveniently believe,
Nor of a single jot can we a word bereave.
 
STUDENT

Your pardon for my importunity;
Yet once more must I trouble you:        1680
On medicine, I’ll thank you to supply
A pregnant utterance or two!
Three years! how brief the appointed tide!
The field, heaven knows, is all too wide!
If but a friendly hint be thrown,        1685
’Tis easier then to feel one’s way.
 
MEPHISTOPHELES  (aside)

I’m weary of the dry pedantic tone,
And must again the genuine devil play.
 
(Aloud)

Of medicine the spirit’s caught with ease,
The great and little world you study through,        1690
That things may then their course pursue,
As heaven may please.
In vain abroad you range through science’ ample space,
Each man learns only that which learn he can;
Who knows the moment to embrace,        1695
He is your proper man.
In person you are tolerably made,
Nor in assurance will you be deficient:
Self-confidence acquire, be not afraid,
Others will then esteem you a proficient.        1700
Learn chiefly with the sex to deal!
Their thousands ahs and ohs,
These the sage doctor knows,
He only from one point can heal.
Assume a decent tone of courteous ease,        1705
You have them then to humour as you please.
First a diploma must belief infuse,
That you in your profession take the lead:
You then at once those easy freedoms use
For which another many a year must plead;        1710
Learn how to feel with nice address
The dainty wrist;—and how to press,
With ardent furtive glance, the slender waist,
To feel how tightly it is laced.
 
STUDENT

There is some sense in that! one sees the how and why.
        1715
 
MEPHISTOPHELES

Grey is, young friend, all theory:
And green of life the golden tree.
 
STUDENT

I swear it seemeth like a dream to me.
May I some future time repeat my visit,
To hear on what your wisdom grounds your views?        1720
 
MEPHISTOPHELES

Command my humble service when you choose.
 
STUDENT

Ere I retire, one boon I must solicit:
Here is my album, do not, Sir, deny
This token of your favour!
 
MEPHISTOPHELES

                Willingly!  (He writes and returns the book.)
        1725
 
STUDENT  (reads)

ERITIS SICUT DEUS, SCIENTES BONUM ET MALUM  (He reverently closes the book and retires.)
 
MEPHISTOPHELES

Let but this ancient proverb be your rule,
My cousin follow still, the wily snake,
And with your likeness to the gods, poor fool,
Ere long be sure your poor sick heart will quake!        1730
 
FAUST  (enters)

Whither away?
 
MEPHISTOPHELES

’Tis thine our course to steer.
The little world, and then the great we’ll view.
With what delight, what profit too,
Thou’lt revel through thy gay career!        1735
 
FAUST

Despite my length of beard I need
The easy manners that insure success;
Th’ attempt I fear can ne’er succeed;
To mingle in the world I want address;
I still have an embarrass’d air, and then        1740
I feel myself so small with other men.
 
MEPHISTOPHELES

Time, my good friend, will all that’s needful give;
Be only self-possessed, and thou hast learn’d to live.
 
FAUST

But how are we to start, I pray?
Steeds, servants, carriage, where are they?        1745
 
MEPHISTOPHELES

We’ve but to spread this mantle wide,
’Twill serve whereon through air to ride,
No heavy baggage need you take,
When we our bold excursion make,
A little gas, which I will soon prepare,        1750
Lifts us from earth; aloft through air,
Light laden we shall swiftly steer;—
I wish you joy of your new life-career.
 
AUERBACH’S CELLAR IN LEIPZIG
A Drinking Party
FROSCH

No drinking? Naught a laugh to raise?
None of your gloomy looks, I pray!        1755
You, who so bright were wont to blaze,
Are dull as wetted straw to-day.
 
BRANDER

’Tis all your fault; your part you do not bear,
No beastliness, no folly.
 
FROSCH  (pours a glass of wine over his head)

                There,
        1760
You have them both!
 
BRANDER

                You double beast!
 
FROSCH

’Tis what you ask’d me for, at least!
 
SIEBEL

Whoever quarrels, turn him out!
With open throat drink, roar, and shout.        1765
Hollo! Hollo! Ho!
 
ALTMAYER

Zounds, fellow, cease your deaf’ning cheers!
Bring cotton-wool! He splits my ears.
 
SIEBEL

’Tis when the roof rings back the tone,
Then first the full power of the bass is known.        1770
 
FROSCH

Right! out with him who takes offence!
A! tara lara da!
 
ALTMAYER

A! tara lara da!
 
FROSCH

Our throats are tuned. Come let’s commence!
 
(Sings)

    The holy Roman empire now,
        1775
    How holds it still together?
 
BRANDER

An ugly song! a song political!
A song offensive! Thank God, every morn
To rule the Roman empire, that you were not born!
I bless my stars at least that mine is not        1780
Either a kaiser’s or a chancellor’s lot.
Yet ’mong ourselves should one still lord it o’er the rest;
That we elect a pope I now suggest.
Ye know, what quality ensures
A man’s success, his rise secures.        1785
 
FROSCH  (sings)

    Bear, lady nightingale above,
    Ten thousand greetings to my love.
 
SIEBEL

No greetings to a sweetheart! No love-songs shall there
be!
 
FROSCH

Love-greetings and love kisses! Thou shalt not hinder me!
        1790
 
(Sings)

    Undo the bolt! in silly night,
    Undo the bolt! the lover wakes.
    Shut to the bolt! when morning breaks.
 
SIEBEL

Ay, sing, sing on, praise her with all thy might!
My turn to laugh will come some day.        1795
Me hath she jilted once, you the same trick she’ll play.
Some gnome her lover be! where cross-roads meet,
With her to play the fool; or old he-goat,
From Blocksberg coming in swift gallop, bleat
A good night to her, from his hairy throat!        1800
A proper lad of genuine flesh and blood,
Is for the damsel far too good;
The greeting she shall have from me,
To smash her window-panes will be!
 
BRANDER  (striking on the table)

Silence! Attend! to me give ear!
        1805
Confess, sirs, I know how to live:
Some love-sick folk are sitting here!
Hence, ’tis but fit, their hearts to cheer,
That I a good-night strain to them should give.
Hark! of the newest fashion is my song!        1810
Strike boldly in the chorus, clear and strong!
 
(He sings)

        Once in a cellar lived a rat,
        He feasted there on butter,
        Until his paunch became as fat
        As that of Doctor Luther.        1815
        The cook laid poison for the guest,
        Then was his heart with pangs oppress’d,
        As if his frame love wasted.
 
Chorus  (shouting)

        As if his frame love wasted.
 
BRANDER

        He ran around, he ran abroad,
        1820
        Of every puddle drinking.
        The house with rage he scratch’d and gnaw’d,
        In vain,—he fast was sinking;
        Full many an anguish’d bound he gave,
        Nothing the hapless brute could save,        1825
        As if his frame love wasted.
 
CHORUS

        As if his frame love wasted.
 
BRANDER

        By torture driven, in open day,
        The kitchen he invaded,
        Convulsed upon the hearth he lay,        1830
        With anguish sorely jaded;
        The poisoner laugh’d, Ha! ha! quoth she,
        His life is ebbing fast, I see,
        As if his frame love wasted.
 
CHORUS

        As if his frame love wasted.
        1835
 
SIEBEL

How the dull boors exulting shout!
Poison for the poor rats to strew
A fine exploit it is no doubt.
 
BRANDER

They, as it seems, stand well with you!
 
ALTMAYER

Old bald-pate! with the paunch profound!
        1840
The rat’s mishap hath tamed his nature;
For he his counterpart hath found
Depicted in the swollen creature.
 
FAUST AND MEPHISTOPHELES
 
MEPHISTOPHELES

I now must introduce to you
        1845
Before aught else, this jovial crew,
To show how lightly life may glide away;
With tse folk here each day’s a holiday.
With little wit and much content,
Each on his own small round intent,        1850
Like sportive kitten with its tail;
While no sick-headache they bewail,
And while their host will credit give,
Joyous and free from care they live.
 
BRANDER

They’re off a journey, that is clear,—
        1855
From their strange manners; they have scarce been here
An hour.
 
FROSCH

          You’re right! Leipzig’s the place for me!
’Tis quite a little Paris; people there
Acquire a certain easy finish’d air.        1860
 
SIEBEL

What take you now these travellers to be?
 
FROSCH

Let me alone! O’er a full glass you’ll see,
As easily I’ll worm their secret out,
As draw an infant’s tooth. I’ve not a doubt
That my two gentlemen are nobly born,        1865
They look dissatisfied and full of scorn.
 
BRANDER

They are but mountebanks, I’ll lay a bet!
 
ALTMAYER

Most like.
 
FROSCH

            Mark me, I’ll screw it from them yet!
 
MEPHISTOPHELES  (to FAUST)

These fellows would not scent the devil out,
        1870
E’en though he had them by the very throat!
 
FAUST

Good-morrow, gentlemen!
 
SIEBEL

                Thanks for your fair salute.  (Aside, glancing at MEPHISTOPHELES.)
How! goes the fellow on a halting foot?
 
MEPHISTOPHELES

Is it permitted here with you to sit?
        1875
Then though good wine is not forthcoming here,
Good company at least our hearts will cheer.
 
ALTMAYER

A dainty gentleman, no doubt of it.
 
FROSCH

You’re doubtless recently from Rippach? Pray,
Did you with Master Hans there chance to sup?        1880
 
MEPHISTOPHELES

To-day we pass’d him, but we did not stop!
When last we met him he had much to say
Touching his cousins, and to each he sent
Full many a greeting and kind compliment.  (With an inclination towards FROSCH.)
 
Altmayer  (aside to FROSCH)

You have it there!
        1885
 
SIEBEL

                Faith! he’s a knowing one!
 
FROSCH

Have patience! I will show him up anon!
 
MEPHISTOPHELES

We heard erewhile, unless I’m wrong,
Voices well trained in chorus pealing?
Certes, most choicely here must song        1890
Re-echo from this vaulted ceiling!
 
FROSCH

That you’re an amateur one plainly sees!
 
MEPHISTOPHELES

Oh no, though strong the love, I cannot boast much skill.
 
ALTMAYER

Give us a song!
 
MEPHISTOPHELES

                As many as you will.
        1895
 
SIEBEL

But be it a brand new one, if you please!
 
MEPHISTOPHELES

But recently returned from Spain are we,
The pleasant land of wine and minstrelsy.  (Sings)
    A king there was once reigning,
    Who had a goodly flea—        1900
 
FROSCH

Hark! did you rightly catch the words? a flea!
An odd sort of a guest he needs must be.
 
MEPHISTOPHELES  (sings)

    A king there was once reigning,
    Who had a goodly flea,
    Him loved he without feigning,        1905
    As his own son were he!
    His tailor then he summon’d,
    The tailor to him goes:
    Now measure me the youngster
    For jerkin and for hose!        1910
 
BRANDER

Take proper heed, the tailor strictly charge,
The nicest measurement to take,
And as he loves his head, to make
The hose quite smooth and not too large!
 
MEPHISTOPHELES

In satin and in velvet,
        1915
Behold the yonker dressed;
Bedizen’d o’er with ribbons,
A cross upon his breast.
Prime minister they made him,
He wore a star of state;        1920
And all his poor relations
Were courtiers, rich and great.
 
The gentlemen and ladies
At court were sore distressed;
The queen and all her maidens        1925
Were bitten by the pest,
And yet they dared not scratch them,
Or chase the fleas away.
If we are bit, we catch them,
And crack without delay.        1930
 
CHORUS  (shouting)

If we are bit, &c.
 
FROSCH

Bravo! That’s the song for me!
 
SIEBEL

Such be the fate of every flea!
 
BRANDER

With clever finger catch and kill!
 
ALTMAYER

Hurrah for wine and freedom still!
        1935
 
MEPHISTOPHELES

Were but your wine a trifle better, friend,
A glass to freedom I would gladly drain,
 
SIEBEL

You’d better not repeat those words again!
 
MEPHISTOPHELES

I am afraid the landlord to offend;
Else freely I would treat each worthy guest        1940
From our own cellar to the very best.
 
SIEBEL

Out with it then! Your doings I’ll defend.
 
FROSCH

Give a good glass, and straight we’ll praise you, one and all.
Only let not your samples be too small;
For if my judgment you desire,        1945
Certes, an ample mouthful I require.
 
Altmayer  (aside)

I guess they’re from the Rhenish land.
 
MEPHISTOPHELES

Fetch me a gimlet here!
 
BRANDER

                Say, what therewith to bore?
You cannot have the wine-casks at the door?        1950
 
ALTMAYER

Our landlord’s tool-basket behind doth yonder stand.
 
MEPHISTOPHELES  (takes the gimlet)
(To FROSCH)
Now only say! what liquor will you take?
 
FROSCH

How mean you that? have you of every sort?
 
MEPHISTOPHELES

Each may his own selection make.
 
ALTMAYER  (to FROSCH)

Ha! Ha! You lick your lips already at the thought.
        1955
 
FROSCH

Good, If I have my choice, the Rhenish I propose;
For still the fairest gifts the fatherland bestows.
 
MEPHISTOPHELES
(boring a hole in the edge of the table opposite to where Frosch is sitting)

Give me a little wax—and make some stoppers—quick!
 
ALTMAYER

Why, this is nothing but a juggler’s trick!
 
MEPHISTOPHELES  (to BRANDER)

And you?
        1960
 
BRANDER

          Champagne’s the wine for me;
Right brisk, and sparkling let it be!  (MEPHISTOPHELES bores; one of the party has in the meantime prepared the wax-stoppers and stopped the holes.)
 
BRANDER

What foreign is one always can’t decline,
What’s good is often scatter’d far apart.
The French your genuine German hates with all his heart,        1965
Yet has a relish for their wine.
 
SIEBEL
(as MEPHISTOPHELES approaches him)

I like not acid wine, I must allow,
Give ma a glass of genuine sweet!
 
MEPHISTOPHELES  (bores)

                Tokay
Shall, if you wish it, flow without delay.        1970
 
ALTMAYER

Come! look me in the face! no fooling now!
You are but making fun of us, I trow.
 
MEPHISTOPHELES

Ah! ah! that would indeed be making free
With such distinguished guests. Come, no delay;
What liquor can I serve you with, I pray?        1975
 
ALTMAYER

Only be quick, it matters not to me.  (After the holes are bored and stopped.)
 
MEPHISTOPHELES  (with strange gestures)

        Grapes the vine-stock bears,
        Horns the buck-goat wears!
        Wine is sap, the vine is wood,
        The wooden board yields wine as good.        1980
        With a deeper glance and true
        The mysteries of nature view!
        Have faith and here’s a miracle!
        Your stoppers draw and drink your fill!
 
ALL  (as they draw the stoppers and the wine chosen by each runs into his glass)

Oh beauteous spring, which flows so far!
        1985
 
MEPHISTOPHELES

Spill not a single drop, of this beware!  (They drink repeatedly.)
 
ALL  (sing)

        Happy as cannibals are we,
        Or as five hundred swine.
 
MEPHISTOPHELES

They’re in their glory, mark their elevation!
 
FAUST

Let’s hence, nor here our stay prolong.
        1990
 
MEPHISTOPHELES

Attend, of brutishness ere long
You’ll see a glorious revelation.
 
SIEBEL
(drinks carelessly; the wine is spilt upon the ground, and turns to flame)

Help! fire! help! Hell is burning!
 
MEPHISTOPHELES
(addressing the flames)

                Stop,
Kind element, be still, I say!  (To the Company.)        1995
Of purgatorial fire as yet ’tis but a drop.
 
SIEBEL

What means the knave! For this you’ll dearly pay!
Us, it appears, you do not know.
 
FROSCH

Such tricks a second time he’d better show!
 

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