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

With gentlemen like you indeed
The inward essence from the name we read,
As all too plainly it doth appear,
When Beelzebub, Destroyer, Liar, meets the ear.
Who then art thou?

                Part of that power which still
Produceth good, whilst ever scheming ill.

What hidden mystery in this riddle lies?

The spirit I, which evermore denies!
And justly; for whate’er to light is brought
Deserves again to be reduced to naught;        1010
Then better ’twere that naught should be.
Thus all the elements which ye
Destruction, Sin, or briefly, Evil, name,
As my peculiar element I claim.

Thou nam’st thyself a part, and yet a whole I see.

The modest truth I speak to thee.
Though folly’s microcosm, man, it seems,
Himself to be a perfect whole esteems:
Part of the part am I, which at the first was all,
A part of darkness, which gave birth to light,        1020
Proud light, who now his mother would enthrall,
Contesting space and ancient rank with night.
Yet he succeedeth not, for struggle as he will,
To forms material he adhereth still;
From them he streameth, them he maketh fair,        1025
And still the progress of his beams they check;
And so, I trust, when comes the final wreck,
Light will, ere long, the doom of matter share.

Thy worthy avocation now I guess!
Wholesale annihilation won’t prevail,        1030
So thou’rt beginning on a smaller scale.

And, to say truth, as yet with small success.
Oppos’d to naught, this clumsy world,
The something—it subsisteth still;
Not yet is it to ruin hurl’d,        1035
Despite the efforts of my will.
Tempests and earthquakes, fire and flood, I’ve tried;
Yet land and ocean still unchang’d abide!
And then of humankind and beasts, the accursed brood,—
Neither o’er them can I extend my sway.        1040
What countless myriads have I swept away!
Yet ever circulates the fresh young blood.
It is enough to drive me to despair!
As in the earth, in water, and in air,
A thousand germs burst forth spontaneously;        1045
In moisture, drought, heat, cold, they still appear!
Had I not flame selected as my sphere
Nothing apart had been reversed for me.

So thou with thy cold devil’s fist
Still clench’d in malice impotent        1050
Dost the creative power resist,
The active, the beneficent!
Henceforth some other task essay,
Of Chaos thou the wondrous son!

We will consider what you say,
And talk about it more anon!
For this time have I leave to go?

Why thou shouldst ask, I cannot see.
Since thee I now have learned to know,
At thy good pleasure, visit me.        1060
Here is the window, here the door,
The chimney, too, may serve thy need.

I must confess, my stepping o’er
Thy threshold a slight hindrance doth impede;
The wizard-foot doth me retain.        1065

The pentagram thy peace doth mar?
To me, thou son of hell, explain,
How camest thou in, if this thine exit bar?
Could such a spirit aught ensnare?

Observe it well, it is not drawn with care,
One of the angles, that which points without,
Is, as thou seest, not quite closed.

Chance hath the matter happily dispos’d!
So thou my captive art? No doubt!
By accident thou thus art caught!        1075

In sprang the dog, indeed, observing naught;
Things now assume another shape,
The devil’s in the house and can’t escape.

Why through the window not withdraw?

For ghosts and for the devil ’tis a law.
Where they stole in, there they must forth. We’re free
The first to choose; as to the second, slaves are we.

E’en hell hath its peculiar laws, I see!
I’m glad of that! a pact may then be made,
The which you gentlemen will surely keep?        1085

What e’er therein is promised thou shalt reap,
No tittle shall remain unpaid.
But such arrangements time require;
We’ll speak of them when next we meet;
Most earnestly I now entreat,        1090
This once permission to retire.

Another moment prithee here remain,
Me with some happy word to pleasure.

Now let me go! ere long I’ll come again,
Then thou may’st question at thy leisure.        1095

’Twas not my purpose thee to lime;
The snare hast entered of thine own free will:
Let him who holds the devil, hold him still!
So soon he’ll catch him not a second time.

If it so please thee, I’m at thy command;
Only on this condition, understand;
That worthily thy leisure to beguile,
I here may exercise my arts awhile.

Thou’rt free to do so! Gladly I’ll attend;
But be thine art a pleasant one!        1105

                My friend,
This hour enjoyment more intense,
Shall captivate each ravish’d sense,
Than thou could’st compass in the bound
Of the whole year’s unvarying round;        1110
And what the dainty spirits sing,
The lovely images they bring.
Are no fantastic sorcery.
Rich odours shall regale your smell,
On choicest sweets your palate dwell,        1115
Your feelings thrill with ecstasy.
No preparation do we need,
Here we together are. Proceed.

    Hence overshadowing gloom,
    Vanish from sight!        1120
    O’er us thine azure dome,
    Bend, beauteous light!
    Dark clouds that o’er us spread,
    Melt in thin air!
    Stars, your soft radiance shed,        1125
    Tender and fair.
    Girt with celestial might,
    Winging their airy flight,
    Spirits are thronging.
    Follows their forms of light        1130
    Infinite longing!
    Flutter their vestures bright
    O’er field and grove!
    Where in their leafy bower
    Lovers the livelong hour        1135
    Vow deathless love.
    Soft bloometh bud and bower!
    Bloometh the grove!
    Grapes from the spreading vine
    Crown the full measure;        1140
    Fountains of foaming wine
    Gush from the pressure.
    Still where the currents wind,
    Gems brightly gleam.
    Leaving the hills behind        1145
    On rolls the stream;
    Now into ample seas,
    Spreadeth the flood;
    Laving the sunny leas,
    Mantled with wood.        1150
    Rapture the feather’d throng,
    Gaily careering,
    Sip as they float along;
    Sunward they’re steering;
    On towards the isles of light        1155
    Winging their way,
    That on the waters bright
    Dancingly play.
    Hark to the choral strain,
    Joyfully ringing!        1160
    While on the grassy plain
    Dancers are springing;
    Climbing the steep hill’s side,
    Skimming the glassy tide,
    Wander they there;        1165
    Others on pinions wide
    Wing the blue air;
    All lifeward tending, upward still wending,
    Towards yonder stars that gleam,
    Far, far above;        1170
    Stars from whose tender beam
    Rains blissful love.

Well done, my dainty spirits! now he slumbers!
Ye have entranc’d him fairly with your numbers!
This minstrelsy of yours I must repay,—        1175
Thou art not yet the man to hold the devil fast!—
With fairest shapes your spells around him cast,
And plunge him in a sea of dreams!
But that this charm be rent, the threshold passed,
Tooth of rat the way must clear.        1180
I need not conjure long it seems,
One rustles hitherward, and soon my voice will hear.
The master of the rats and mice,
Of flies and frogs, of bugs and lice,
Commands thy presence; without fear        1185
Come forth and gnaw the threshold here,
Where he with oil has smear’d it.—Thou
Com’st hopping forth already! Now
To work! The point that holds me bound
Is in the outer angle found.        1190
Another bite—so-now ’tis done—
Now, Faustus, till we meet again, dream on.
FAUST  (awaking)

Am I once more deluded! must I deem
That thus the throng of spirits disappear?
The devil’s presence, was it but a dream?        1195
Hath but a poodle scap’d and left me here?

A knock? Come in! Who now would break my rest?

’Tis I!

        Come in!

                Thrice be the words express’d.

Then I repeat, Come in!

                ’Tis well,
I hope that we shall soon agree!        1205
For now your fancies to expel,
Here, as a youth of high degree,
I come in gold-lac’d scarlet vest,
And stiff-silk mantle richly dress’d,
A cock’s gay feather for a plume,        1210
A long and pointed rapier, too;
And briefly I would counsel you
To don at once the same costume,
And, free from trammels, speed away,
That what life is you may essay.        1215

In every garb I needs must feel oppress’d,
My heart to earth’s low cares a prey.
Too old the trifler’s part to play,
Too young to live by no desire possess’d.
What can the world to me afford?        1220
Renounce! renouce! is still the word;
This is the everlasting song
In every ear that ceaseless rings,
And which, alas, our whole life long,
Hoarsely each passing moment sings.        1225
But to new horror I awake each morn,
And I could weep hot tears, to see the sun
Dawn on another day, whose round forlorn
Accomplishes no wish of mine—not one.
Which still, with froward captiousness, impains        1230
E’en the presentiment of every joy,
While low realities and paltry cares
The spirit’s fond imaginings destroy.
Then must I too, when falls the veil of night,
Stretch’d on my pallet languish in despair,        1235
Appalling dreams my soul affright;
No rest vouchsafed me even there.
The god, who throned within my breast resides,
Deep in my soul can stir the springs;
With sovereign sway my energies he guides,        1240
He cannot move external things;
And so existence is to me a weight.
Death fondly I desire, and life I hate.

And yet, methinks, by most ’twill be confess’d
That Death is never quite a welcome guest.        1245

Happy the man around whose brow he binds
The bloodstain’d wreath in conquest’s dazzling hour;
Or whom, excited by the dance, he finds
Dissolv’d in bliss, in love’s delicious bower!
O that before the lofty spirit’s might,        1250
Enraptured, I had rendered up my soul!

Yet did a certain man refrain one night,
Of its brown juice to drain the crystal bowl.

To play the spy diverts you then?

                I own,
Though not omniscient, much to me is known.

If o’er my soul the tone familiar, stealing,
Drew me from harrowing thought’s bewild’ring maze,
Touching the ling’ring chords of childlike feeling,
With sweet harmonies of happier days:        1260
So curse I all, around the soul that windeth
Its magic and alluring spell,
And with delusive flattery bindeth
Its victim to this dreary cell!
Curs’d before all things be the high opinion,        1265
Wherewith the spirit girds itself around!
Of shows delusive curs’d be the dominion,
Within whose mocking sphere our sense is bound!
Accurs’d of dreams the treacherous wiles,
The cheat of glory, deathless fame!        1270
Accurs’d what each as property beguiles,
Wife, child, slave, plough, whate’er its name!
Accurs’d be mammon, when with treasure
He doth to daring deeds incite:
Or when to steep the soul in pleasure,        1275
He spreads the couch of soft delight!
Curs’d be the grape’s balsamic juice!
Accurs’d love’s dream, of joys the first!
Accurs’d be hope! accurs’d be faith!
And more than all, be patience curs’d!        1280
CHORUS OF SPIRITS  (invisible)
    Woe! Woe!
    Thou hast destroy’d
    The beautiful world
    With violent blow;        1285
    ’Tis shiver’d! ’tis shatter’d!
    The fragments abroad by a demigod scatter’d!
    Now we sweep
    The wrecks into nothingness!
    Fondly we weep        1290
    The beauty that’s gone!
    Thou, ’mongst the sons of earth,
    Lofty and mighty one,
    Build it once more!
    In thine own bosom the lost world restore!        1295
    Now with unclouded sense
    Enter a new career;
    Songs shall salute thine ear,
    Ne’er heard before!

My little ones these spirits be.
Hark! with shrewd intelligence,
How they recommend to thee
Action, and the joys of sense!
In the busy world to dwell,
Fain they would allure thee hence:        1305
For within this lonely cell,
Stagnate sap of life and sense.
Forbear to trifle longer with thy grief,
Which, vulture-like, consumes thee in this den.
The worst society is some relief,        1310
Making thee feel thyself a man with men.
Nathless, it is not meant, I trow,
To thrust thee ’mid the vulgar throng.
I to the upper ranks do not belong;
Yet if, by me companion’d, thou        1315
Thy steps through life forthwith wilt take,
Upon the spot myself I’ll make
Thy comrade;—
Should it suit thy need,
I am thy servant, am thy slave indeed!        1320

And how must I thy services repay?

Thereto thou lengthen’d repite hast!

                No! No!
The devil is an egoist I know:
And, for Heaven’s sake, ’tis not his way        1325
Kindness to any one to show.
Let the condition plainly be exprest!
Such a domestic is a dangerous guest.

I’ll pledge myself to be thy servant here,
Still at thy back alert and prompt to be;        1330
But when together yonder we appear,
Then shalt thou do the same for me.

But small concern I feel for yonder world;
Hast thou this system into ruin hurl’d,
Another may arise the void to fill.        1335
This earth the fountain whence my pleasures flow,
This sun doth daily shine upon my woe,
And if this world I must forego,
Let happen then,—what can and will.
I to this theme will close mine ears,        1340
If men hereafter hate and love,
And if there be in yonder spheres
A depth below or height above.

In this mood thou mayst venture it. But make
The compact! I at once will undertake        1345
To charm thee with mine arts. I’ll give thee more
Than mortal eye hath e’er beheld before.

What, sorry Devil, hast thou to bestow?
Was ever mortal spirit, in its high endeavour,
Fathom’d by Being such as thou?        1350
Yet food thou hast which satisfieth never,
Hast ruddy gold, that still doth flow
Like restless quicksilver away,
A game thou hast, at which none win who play,
A girl who would, with amorous eyen,        1355
E’en from my breast, a neighbour snare,
Lofty ambition’s joy divine,
That, meteor-like, dissolves in air.
Show me the fruit that, ere ’tis pluck’d, doth rot,
And trees, whose verdure daily buds anew!        1360

Such a commission scares me not,
I can provide such treasures, it is true;
But, my good friend, a season will come round,
When on what’s good we may regale in peace.

If e’er upon my couch, stretched at my ease, I’m found,
Then may my life that instant cease!
Me canst thou cheat with glozing wile
Till self-reproach away I cast,—
Me with joy’s lure canst thou beguile;—
Let that day be for me the last!        1370
Be this our wager!


                Sure and fast!
When to the moment I shall say,
“Linger awhile! so fair thou art!”        1375
Then mayst thou fetter me straightway,
Then to the abyss will I depart!
Then may the solemn death-bell sound,
Then from thy service thou art free,
The index then may cease its round.        1380
And time be never more for me!

I shall remember: pause, ere ’tis too late.

Thereto a perfect right hast thou.
My strength I do not rashly overrate.
Slave am I here, at any rate,        1385
If thine, or whose, it matters not, I trow.

At thine inaugural feast I will this day
Attend, my duties to commence.—
But one thing!—Accidents may happen, hence
A line or two in writing grant, I pray.        1390

A writing, Pedant! dost demand from me?
Man, and man’s plighted word, are these unknown to thee?
Is’t not enough, that by the word I gave,
My doom for evermore is cast?
Doth not the world in all its currents rave,        1395
And must a promise hold me fast?
Yet fixed is this delusion in our heart;
Who, of his own free will, therefrom would part?
How blest within whose breast truth reigneth pure!
No sacrifice will he repent when made!        1400
A formal deed, with seal and signature,
A spectre this from which all shrink afraid.
The word its life resigneth in the pen,
Leather and wax usurp the mastery then.
Spirits of evil! what dost thou require?        1405
Brass, marble, parchment, paper, dost desire?
Shall I with chisel, pen, or graver write?
Thy choice is free; to me ’tis all the same.

Wherefore thy passion so excite
And thus thine eloquence inflame?        1410
A scrap is for our compact good.
Thou under-signest merely with a drop of blood.

If this will satisfy thy mind,
Thy whim I’ll gratify, howe’er absurd.

Blood is a juice of very special kind.

Be not afraid that I shall break my word!
The scope of all my energy
Is in exact accordance with my vow.
Vainly I have aspired too high;
I’m on a level but with such as thou;        1420
Me the great spirit scorn’d, defied;
Nature from me herself doth hide;
Rent is the web of thought; my mind
Doth knowledge loathe of every kind.
In depths of sensual pleasure drown’d,        1425
Let us our fiery passions still!
Enwrapp’d in magic’s veil profound,
Let wondrous charms our senses thrill!
Plunge we in time’s tempestuous flow,
Stem we the rolling surge of chance!        1430
There may alternate weal and woe,
Success and failure, as they can,
Mingle and shift in changeful dance!
Excitement is the sphere for man.

Nor goal, nor measure is prescrib’d to you,
If you desire to taste of every thing,
To snatch at joy while on the wing,
May your career amuse and profit too!
Only fall to and don’t be over coy!

Hearken! The end I aim at is not joy;
I crave excitement, agonizing bliss,
Enamour’d hatred, quickening vexation.
Purg’d from the love of knowledge, my vocation,
The scope of all my powers henceforth be this,
To bare my breast to every pang,—to know        1445
In my heart’s core all human weal and woe,
To grasp in thought the lofty and the deep,
Men’s various fortunes on my breast to heap,
And thus to theirs dilate my individual mind,
And share at length with them the shipwreck of mankind.        1450

Oh, credit me, who still as ages roll,
Have chew’d this bitter fare from year to year,
No mortal, from the cradle to the bier,
Digests the ancient leaven! Know, this Whole
Doth for the Deity alone subsist!        1455
He in eternal brightness doth exist,
Us unto darkness he hath brought, and here
Where day and night alternate, is your sphere.

But ’tis my will!

                Well spoken, I admit!
But one thing puzzles me, my friend;
Time’s short, art long; methinks ’twere fit
That you to friendly counsel should attend.
A poet choose as your ally!
Let him thought’s wide dominion sweep,        1465
Each good and noble quality,
Upon your honoured brow to heap;
The lion’s magnanimity,
The fleetness of the hind,
The fiery blood of Italy,        1470
The Northern’s steadfast mind.
Let him to you the mystery show
To blend high aims and cunning low;
And while youth’s passions are aflame
To fall in love by rule and plan!        1475
I fain would meet with such a man;
Would him Sir Microcosmus name.

What then am I, if I aspire in vain
The crown of our humanity to gain,
Towards which my every sense doth strain?        1480

Thou’rt after all-just what thou art.
Put on thy head a wig with countless locks,
And to a cubit’s height upraise thy socks,
Still thou remainest ever, what thou art.

I fell it, I have heap’d upon my brain
The gather’d treasure of man’s thought in vain;
And when at length from studious toil I rest,
No power, new-born, springs up within my breast;
A hair’s breadth is not added to my height,
I am no nearer to the infinite.        1490

Good sir, these things you view indeed,
Just as by other men they’re view’d;
We must more cleverly proceed,
Before life’s joys our grasp elude.
The devil! thou hast hands and feet,        1495
And head and heart are also thine;
What I enjoy with relish sweet,
Is it on that account less mine?
If for six stallions I can pay,


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