Fiction > Harvard Classics > J. W. von Goethe > Faust. Part I
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749–1832).  Faust. Part I.
The Harvard Classics.  1909–14.
Prologue in Heaven

The three Archangels come forward


The Sun, in ancient guise, competing
With brother spheres in rival song,
With thunder-march, his orb completing,
Moves his predestin’d course along;
His aspect to the powers supernal        5
Gives strength, though fathom him none may;
Transcending thought, the works eternal
Are fair as on the primal day.

With speed, thought baffling, unabating,
Earth’s splendour whirls in circling flight;        10
Its Eden-brightness alternating
With solemn, awe-inspiring night;
Ocean’s broad waves in wild commotion,
Against the rocks’ deep base are hurled;
And with the spheres, both rock and ocean        15
Eternally are swiftly whirled.

And tempests roar in emulation
From sea to land, from land to sea,
And raging form, without cessation,
A chain of wondrous agency,        20
Full in the thunder’s path careering,
Flaring the swift destructions play;
But, Lord, Thy servants are revering
The mild procession of thy day.

Thine aspect to the powers supernal
Gives strength, though fathom thee none may;
And all they works, sublime, eternal,
Are fair as on the primal day.

Since thou, O Lord, approachest us once more,
And how it fares with us, to ask art fain,        30
Since thou hast kindly welcom’d me of yore,
Thou see’st me also now among thy train.
Excuse me, fine harangues I cannot make,
Though all the circle look on me with scorn;
My pathos soon thy laughter would awake,        35
Hadst thou the laughing mood not long forsworn.
Of suns and worlds I nothing have to say,
I see alone mankind’s self-torturing pains.
The little world-god still the self-same stamp retains,
And is as wondrous now as on the primal day.        40
Better he might have fared, poor wight,
Hadst thou not given him a gleam of heavenly light;
Reason, he names it, and doth so
Use it, than brutes more brutish still to grow.
With deference to your grace, he seems to me        45
Like any long-legged grasshopper to be,
Which ever flies, and flying springs,
And in the grass its ancient ditty sings.
Would he but always in the grass repose!
In every heap of dung he thrusts his nose.        50

Hast thou naught else to say? Is blame
In coming here, as ever, thy sole aim?
Does nothing on the earth to thee seem right?

No, Lord! I find things there, as ever, in sad plight.
Men, in their evil days, move my compassion;        55
Such sorry things to plague is nothing worth.

Know’st thou my servant, Faust?

                The doctor?


He serves thee truly in a wondrous fashion.
Poor fool! His food and drink are not of earth.
An inward impulse hurries him afar,
Himself half conscious of his frenzied mood;
From heaven claimeth he the fairest star,
And from the earth craves every highest good,        65
And all that’s near, and all that’s far,
Fails to allay the tumult in his blood.

Though in perplexity he serves me now,
I soon will lead him where more light appears;
When buds the sapling, doth the gardener know        70
That flowers and fruit will deck the coming years.

What wilt thou wager? Him thou yet shall lose,
If leave to me thou wilt but give,
Gently to lead him as I choose!

So long as he on earth doth live,
So long ’tis not forbidden thee.
Man still must err, while he doth strive.

I thank you; for not willingly
I traffic with the dead, and still aver
That youth’s plump blooming cheek I very much prefer.        80
I’m not at home to corpses; ’tis my way,
Like cats with captive mice to toy and play.

Enough! ’tis granted thee! Divert
This mortal spirit from his primal source;
Him, canst thou seize, thy power exert        85
And lead him on thy downward course,
Then stand abash’d, when thou perforce must own,
A good man in his darkest aberration,
Of the right path is conscious still.

’Tis done! Full soon thou’lt see my exultation;
As for my bet no fears I entertain.
And if my end I finally should gain,
Excuse my triumphing with all my soul.
Dust he shall eat, ay, and with relish take,
As did my cousin, the renowned snake.        95

Here too thou’rt free to act without control;
I ne’er have cherished hate for such as thee.
Of all the spirits who deny,
The scoffer is least wearisome to me.
Ever too prone is man activity to shirk,        100
In unconditioned rest he fain would live;
Hence this companion purposely I give,
Who stirs, excites, and must, as devil, work.
But ye, the genuine sons of heaven, rejoice!
In the full living beauty still rejoice!        105
May that which works and lives, the ever-growing,
In bonds of love enfold you, mercy-fraught,
And Seeming’s changeful forms, around you flowing,
Do ye arrest, in ever-during thought! (Heaven closes, the Archangels disperse.)

The ancient one I like sometimes to see,
And not to break with him am always civil;
’Tis courteous in so great a lord as he,
To speak so kindly even to the devil.


Shakespeare · Bible · Strunk · Anatomy · Nonfiction · Quotations · Reference · Fiction · Poetry
© 1993–2015 · [Top 150] · Subjects · Titles · Authors · World Lit.