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
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.

But how shall we begin?

                We will go hence with speed,
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!

I’m in no mood to see him now.

Poor lad! He must be tired, I trow;
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.)

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

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

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

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.

You’ve hit upon the very place.

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.

It all depends on habit. Thus at first
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

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

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

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

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

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.

Use well your time, so rapidly it flies;
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.

Your words I cannot full comprehend.

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

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

And next, before aught else you learn,
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

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.

A faculty I pray you name.

For jurisprudence, some distaste I own.

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.

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

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

But then some meaning must the words convey.

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.

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.

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

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.

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

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

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

Command my humble service when you choose.

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

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

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

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?

’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

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.

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

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

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.
A Drinking Party

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.

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

You have them both!

                You double beast!

’Tis what you ask’d me for, at least!

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

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

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

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

A! tara lara da!

Our throats are tuned. Come let’s commence!

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

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.

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

Love-greetings and love kisses! Thou shalt not hinder me!

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

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!
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.

        He ran around, he ran abroad,
        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.

        As if his frame love wasted.

        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.

        As if his frame love wasted.

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

They, as it seems, stand well with you!

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

I now must introduce to you
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.

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

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

What take you now these travellers to be?

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.

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

Most like.

            Mark me, I’ll screw it from them yet!

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

Good-morrow, gentlemen!

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

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

A dainty gentleman, no doubt of it.

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

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!

                Faith! he’s a knowing one!

Have patience! I will show him up anon!

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!

That you’re an amateur one plainly sees!

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

Give us a song!

                As many as you will.

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

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

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

    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

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!

In satin and in velvet,
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.

Bravo! That’s the song for me!

Such be the fate of every flea!

With clever finger catch and kill!

Hurrah for wine and freedom still!

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

You’d better not repeat those words again!

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

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

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.

Fetch me a gimlet here!

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

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

How mean you that? have you of every sort?

Each may his own selection make.

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

Good, If I have my choice, the Rhenish I propose;
For still the fairest gifts the fatherland bestows.
(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!

Why, this is nothing but a juggler’s trick!

And you?

          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.)

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.
(as MEPHISTOPHELES approaches him)

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

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

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

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

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!

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

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

They’re in their glory, mark their elevation!

Let’s hence, nor here our stay prolong.

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

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

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

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

Such tricks a second time he’d better show!


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