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
    His eyes meanwhile were sinking,        2500
    And never again drank he.  (She opens the press to put away her clothes, and perceives the casket.)
How comes this lovely casket here? The press
I locked, of that I’m confident.
’Tis very wonderful! What’s in it I can’t guess;
Perhaps ’twas brought by some one in distress,        2505
And left in pledge for loan my mother lent.
Here by a ribbon hangs a little key!
I have a mind to open it and see!
Heavens! only look! what have we here!
In all my days ne’er saw I such a sight!        2510
Jewels! which any noble dame might wear,
For some high pageant richly dight!
This chain—how would it look on me!
These splendid gems, whose may they be?  (She puts them on and steps before the glass.)
Were but the ear-rings only mine!        2515
Thus one has quite another air.
What boots it to be young and fair?
It doubtless may be very fine;
But then, alas, none cares for you,
And praise sounds half like pity too.        2520
Gold all doth lure,
Gold doth secure
All things. Alas, we poor!
FAUST walking thoughtfully up and down. To him MEPHISTOPHELES


By all rejected love! By hellish fire I curse,
Would I knew aught to make my imprecation worse!        2525

What aileth thee? what chafes thee now so sore?
A face like that I never saw before!

I’d yield me to the devil instantly,
Did it not happen that myself am he!

There must be some disorder in thy wit!
To rave thus like a madman, is it fit?

Think! only think! The gems for Gretchen brought,
Them hath a priest now made his own!—
A glimpse of them the mother caught,
And ’gan with secret fear to groan.        2535
The woman’s scent is keen enough;
Doth ever in the prayer-book snuff;
Smells every article to ascertain
Whether the thing is holy or profane,
And scented in the jewels rare,        2540
That there was not much blessing there.
“My child,” she cries, “ill-gotten good
Ensnares the soul, consumes the blood;
With them we’ll deck our Lady’s shrine,
She’ll cheer our souls with bread divine!”        2545
At this poor Gretchen ’gan to pout;
’Tis a gift-horse, at least, she thought,
And sure, he godless cannot be,
Who brought them here so cleverly.
Straight for a priest the mother sent,        2550
Who, when he understood the jest,
With what he saw was well content.
“This shows a pious mind!” Quoth he:
“Self-conquest is true victory.
The Church hath a good stomach, she, with zest,        2555
Whole countries hath swallow’d down,
And never yet a surfeit known.
The Church alone, be it confessed,
Daughters, can ill-got wealth digest.”

It is a general custom, too.
Practised alike by king and jew.

With that, clasp, chain, and ring, he swept
As they were mushrooms; and the casket,
Without one word of thanks, he kept,
As if of nuts it were a basket.        2565
Promised reward in heaven, then forth he hied—
And greatly they were edified.

And Gretchen!

              In unquiet mood
Knows neither what she would or should;        2570
The trinkets night and day thinks o’er,
On him who brought them, dwells still more.

The darling’s sorrow grieves me, bring
Another set without delay!
The first, methinks, was no great thing.        2575

All’s to my gentleman child’s play!

Plan all things to achieve my end!
Engage the attention of her friend!
No milk-and-water devil be,
And bring fresh jewels instantly!        2580

Ay, sir! Most gladly I’ll obey. (FAUST exit.)

Your doting love-sick fool, with ease,
Merely his lady-love to please,
Sun, moon, and stars in sport would puff away.  (Exit.)

MARTHA  (alone)

God pardon my dear husband, he
Doth not in truth act well by me!
Forth in the world abroad to roam,
And leave me on the straw at home.
And yet his will I ne’er did thwart,
God knows, I lov’d him from my heart.  (She weeps.)        2590
Perchance he’s dead!—oh wretched state!—
Had I but a certificate!  (MARGARET comes)
Dame Martha!


                Only think!
My knees beneath me well-nigh sink!
Within my press I’ve found to-day,
Another case, of ebony.
And things—magnificent they are,
More costly than the first, by far.        2600

You must not name it to your mother!
It would to shrift, just like the other.

Nay look at them! now only see!
MARTHA  (dresses her up)

Thou happy creature!

                Woe is me!
Them in the street I cannot wear,
Or in the church, or any where.

Come often over here to me,
The gems put on quite privately;
And then before the mirror walk an hour or so,        2610
Thus we shall have our pleasure too.
Then suitable occasions we must seize,
As at a feast, to show them by degrees:
A chain at first, pearl ear-drops then,—your mother
Won’t see them, or we’ll coin some tale or other.        2615

But, who, I wonder, could the caskets bring?
I fear there’s something wrong about the thing!  (A knock.)
Good heavens! can that my mother be?
MARTHA  (peering through the blind)

’Tis a strange gentleman, I see.
Come in!  (MEPHISTOPHELES enters)        2620

          I’ve ventur’d to intrude to-day.
Ladies, excuse the liberty, I pray.  (He steps back respectfully before MARGARET.)
After dame Martha Schwerdtlein I inquire!

’Tis I. Pray what have you to say to me?
MEPHISTOPHELES  (aside to her)

I know you now,—and therefore will retire;
At present you’ve distinguished company.
Pardon the freedom, Madam, with your leave,
I will make free to call again at eve.
MARTHA  (aloud)

Why, child, of all strange notions, he
For some grand lady taketh thee!        2630

I am, in truth, of humble blood—
The gentleman is far too good—
Nor gems nor trinkets are my own.

Oh ’tis not the mere ornaments alone;
Her glance and mien far more betray.        2635
Rejoiced I am that I may stay.

Your business, Sir? I long to know—

Would I could happier tidings show!
I trust mine errand you’ll not let me rue;
Your husband’s dead, and greeteth you.        2640

Is dead? True heart! Oh misery!
My husband dead! Oh, I shall die!

Alas! good Martha! don’t despair!

Now listen to the sad affair!

I for this cause should fear to love.
The loss my certain death would prove.

Joy still must sorrow, sorrow joy attend.

Proceed, and tell the story of his end!

At Padua, in St. Anthony’s,
In holy ground his body lies;        2650
Quiet and cool his place of rest,
With pious ceremonials blest.

And had you naught besides to bring?

Oh yes! one grave and solemn prayer;
Let them for him three hundred masses sing!        2655
But in my pockets, I have nothing there.

No trinket! no love-token did he send!
What every journeyman safe in his pouch will hoard
There for remembrance fondly stored,
And rather hungers, rather begs than spend!        2660

Madam, in truth, it grieves me sore,
But he his gold not lavishly hath spent.
His failings too he deeply did repent,
Ay! and his evil plight bewail’d still more.

Alas! That men should thus be doomed to woe!
I for his soul will many a requiem pray.

A husband you deserve this very day;
A child so worthy to be loved.

                Ah no,
That time hath not yet come for me.        2670

If not a spouse, a gallant let it be.
Among heaven’s choicest gifts, I place,
So sweet a darling to embrace.

Our land doth no such usage know.

Usage or not, it happens so.

Go on, I pray!

                I stood by his bedside.
Something less foul it was than dung;
’Twas straw half rotten; yet, he as a Christian died.
And sorely hath remorse his conscience wrung.        2680
“Wretch that I was,” quoth he, with parting breath,
“So to forsake my business and my wife!
Ah! the remembrance is my death,
Could I but have her pardon in this life!”—
MARTHA  (weeping)

Dear soul! I’ve long forgiven him, indeed!

“Though she, God knows, was more to blame than I.”

He lied! What, on the brink of death to lie!

If I am skill’d the countenance to read,
He doubtless fabled as he parted hence.—
“No time had I to gape, or take my ease,” he said,        2690
“First to get children, and then get them bread;
And bread, too, in the very widest sense;
Nor could I eat in peace even my proper share.”

What, all my truth, my love forgotten quite?
My weary drudgery by day and night!        2695

Not so! He thought of you with tender care.
Quoth he: “Heaven knows how fervently I prayed,
For wife and children when from Malta bound;—
The prayer hath heaven with favour crowned;
We took a Turkish vessel which conveyed        2700
Rich store of treasure for the Sultan’s court;
It’s own reward our gallant action brought;
The captur’d prize was shared among the crew
And of the treasure I received my due.”

How? Where? The treasure hath he buried, pray?

Where the four winds have blown it, who can say?
In Naples as he stroll’d, a stranger there,—
A comely maid took pity on my friend;
And gave such tokens of her love and care,
That he retained them to his blessed end.        2710

Scoundrel! to rob his children of their bread!
And all this misery, this bitter need,
Could not his course of recklessness impede!

Well, he hath paid the forfeit, and is dead.
Now were I in your place, my counsel hear;        2715
My weeds I’d wear for one chaste year,
And for another lover meanwhile would look out.

Alas, I might search far and near,
Not quickly should I find another like my first!
There could not be a fonder fool than mine,        2720
Only he loved too well abroad to roam;
Loved foreign women too, and foreign wine,
And loved besides the dice accurs’d.

All had gone swimmingly, no doubt,
Had he but given you at home,        2725
On his side, just as wide a range.
Upon such terms, to you I swear,
Myself with you would gladly rings exchange!

The gentleman is surely pleas’d to jest!

Now to be off in time, were best!
She’d make the very devil marry her.  (To MARGARET.)
How fares it with your heart?

                How mean you, Sir?

The sweet young innocent!  (aloud)
                Ladies, farewell!        2735


          But ere you leave us, quickly tell!
I from a witness fain had heard,
Where, how, and when my husband died and was interr’d.
To forms I’ve always been attached indeed,        2740
His death I fain would in the journals read.

Ay, madam, what two witnesses declare
Is held as valid everywhere;
A gallant friend I have, not far from here,
Who will for you before the judge appear.        2745
I’ll bring him straight.

                I pray you do!

And this young lady, we shall find her too?
A noble youth, far travelled, he
Shows to the sex all courtesy.        2750

I in his presence needs must blush for shame.

Not in the presence of a crowned king!

The garden, then, behind my house, we’ll name,
There we’ll await you both this evening.


How is it now? How speeds it? Is’t in train?

Bravo! I find you all aflame!
Gretchen full soon your own you’ll name.
This eve, at neighbour Martha’s, her you’ll meet again;
The woman seems expressly made
To drive the pimp and gipsy’s trade.        2760


      But from us she something would request.

A favour claims return as this world goes.

We have on oath but duly to attest,
That her dead husband’s limbs, outstretch’d repose        2765
In holy ground at Padua.

                Sage indeed!
So I suppose we straight must journey there!

Sancta simplicitas! For that no need!
Without much knowledge we have but to swear.        2770

If you have nothing better to suggest,
Against you plan I must at once protest.

Oh, holy man! methinks I have you there!
In all your life say, have you ne’er
False witness borne, until this hour?        2775
Have you of God, the world, and all it doth contain,
Of man, and that which worketh in his heart and brain,
Not definitions given, in words of weight and power,
With front unblushing, and a dauntless breast?
Yet, if into the depth of things you go,        2780
Touching these matters, it must be confess’d,
As much as of Herr Schwerdtlein’s death you know!

Thou art and dost remain liar and sophist too.

Ay, if one did not take a somewhat deeper view!
To-morrow, in all honour, thou        2785
Poor Gretchen wilt befool, and vow
Thy soul’s deep love, in lover’s fashion.

And from my heart.

                All good and fair!
Then deathless constancy thou’lt swear;        2790
Speak of one all o’ermastering passion,—
Will that too issue from the heart?

When passion sways me, and I seek to frame
Fir utterance for feeling, deep, intense,        2795
And for my frenzy finding no fit name,
Sweep round the ample world with every sense,
Grasp at the loftiest words to speak my flame,
And call the glow, wherewith I burn,
Quenchless, eternal, yea, eterne—        2800
Is that of sophistry a devilish play?

Yet am I right!

                Mark this, my friend,
And spare my lungs; who would the right maintain,
And hath a tongue wherewith his point to gain,        2805
Will gain it in the end.
But come, of gossip I am weary quite;
Because I’ve no resource, thou’rt in the right.
MARGARET on FAUST’S arm. MARTHA with MEPHISTOPHELES walking up and down


I feel it, you but spare my ignorance,
The gentleman to shame me stoops thus low.        2810
A traveller from complaisance,
Still makes the best of things; I know
Too well, my humble prattle never can
Have power to entertain so wise a man.

One glance, one word from thee doth charm me more,
Than the world’s wisdom or the sage’s lore.  (He kisses her hand.)

Nay! trouble not yourself! A hand so coarse,
So rude as mine, how can you kiss!
What constant work at home must I not do perforce!
My mother too exacting is.  (They pass on.)        2820

Thus, sir, unceasing travel is your lot?

Traffic and duty urge us! With what pain
Are we compelled to leave full many a spot,
Where yet we dare not once remain!

In youth’s wild years, with vigour crown’d,
’Tis not amiss thus through the world to sweep;
But ah, the evil days come round!
And to a lonely grave as bachelor to creep,
A pleasant thing has no one found.

The prospect fills me with dismay.

Therefore in time, dear sir, reflect, I pray.  (They pass on.)

Ay, out of sight is out of mind!
Politeness easy is to you;
Friends everywhere, and not a few,
Wiser than I am, you will find.        2835

O dearest, trust me, what doth pass for sense
Full oft is self-conceit and blindness!


Simplicity and holy innocence,—
When will ye learn your hallow’d worth to know!        2840
Ah, when will meekness and humility,
Kind and all-bounteous nature’s loftiest dower—

Only one little moment think of me!
To think of you I shall have many an hour.

You are perhaps much alone?

Yes, small our household is, I own,
Yet must I see to it. No maid we keep,
And I must cook, sew, knit, and sweep,
Still early on my feet and late;
My mother is in all things, great and small,        2850
So accurate!
Not that for thrift there is such pressing need;
Than others we might make more show indeed:
My father left behind a small estate,
A house and garden near the city-wall.        2855
But fairly quiet now my days, I own;
As soldier is my brother gone;
My little sister’s dead; the babe to rear
Occasion’d me some care and fond annoy;
But I would go through all again with joy,        2860
The darling was to me so dear.

An angel, sweet, if it resembled thee!

I reared it up, and it grew fond of me.
After my father’s death it saw the day;
We gave my mother up for lost, she lay        2865
In such a wretched plight, and then at length
So very slowly she regain’d her strength.
Weak as she was, ’twas vain for her to try
Herself to suckle the poor babe, so I
Reared it on milk and water all alone;        2870
And thus the child became as ’twere my own;
Within my arms it stretched itself and grew,
And smiling, nestled in my bosom too.

Doubtless the purest happiness was thine.

But many weary hours, in sooth, were also mine.
At night its little cradle stood
Close to my bed; so was I wide awake
If it but stirred;
One while I was obliged to give it food,
Or to my arms the darling take;        2880
From bed full oft must rise, whene’er its cry I heard,
And, dancing it, must pace the chamber to and fro;
Stand at the wash-tub early; forthwith go
To market, and then mind the cooking too—
To-morrow like to-day, the whole year through.        2885
Ah, sir, thus living, it must be confess’d
One’s spirits are not always of the best;
Yet it a relish gives to food and rest.  (They pass on.)

Poor women! we are badly off, I own;
A bachelor’s conversion’s hard, indeed!        2890

Madam, with one like you it rests alone,
To tutor me a better course to lead.

Speak frankly, sir, none is there you have met?
Has your heart ne’er attach’d itself as yet?

One’s own fire-side and a good wife are gold
And pearls of price, so says the proverb old.

I mean, has passion never stirred your breast?

I’ve everywhere been well received, I own.

Yet hath your heart no earnest preference known?

With ladies one should ne’er presume to jest.

Ah! you mistake!

                I’m sorry I’m so blind
But this I know-that you are very kind.  (They pass on.)

Me, little angel, didst thou recognize,
When in the garden first I came?        2905

Did you not see it? I cast down my eyes.

Thou dost forgive my boldness, dost not blame
The liberty I took that day,
When thou from church didst lately wend thy way?

I was confused. So had it never been;
No one of me could any evil say.
Alas, thought I, he doubtless in thy mien,
Something unmaidenly or bold hath seen?
It seemed as if it struck him suddenly,
Here’s just a girl with whom one may make free!        2915
Yet I must own that then I scarcely knew
What in your favour here began at once to plead;
Yet I was angry with myself indeed,
That I more angry could not feel with you.

Sweet love!

            Just wait awhile!  (She gathers a star-flower and plucks off the leaves one after another.)

                A nosegay may that be?

No! It is but a game.


                Go, you’ll laugh at me!  (She plucks off the leaves and murmurs to herself.)

What murmurest thou?
MARGARET  (half aloud)

                He loves me—loves me not.

Sweet angel, with thy face of heavenly bliss!
MARGARET  (continues)

He loves me—not—he loves me-not—  (Plucking off the last leaf with fond joy.)
                He loves me!        2930

And this flower-language, darling, let it be,
A heavenly oracle! He loveth thee!
Know’st thou the meaning of, He loveth thee?  (He seizes both her hands.)

I tremble so!

              Nay! Do not tremble, love!
Let this hand-pressure, let this glance reveal
Feelings, all power of speech above;
To give oneself up wholly and to feel
A joy that must eternal prove!        2940
Eternal!—Yes, its end would be despair.
No end!—It cannot end!  (MARGARET presses his hand, extricates herself, and runs away. He stands a moment in thought and then follows her.)
MARTHA  (approaching)

Night’s closing.

                Yes, we’ll presently away.

I would entreat you longer yet to stay;
But ’tis a wicked place, just here about;
It is as if the folk had nothing else to do,
Nothing to think of too,
But gaping watch their neighbours, who goes in and out;
And scandal’s busy still, do whatsoe’er one may.        2950
And our young couple?

                They have flown up there.
The wanton butterflies!

                He seems to take to her.

And she to him. ’Tis of the world the way!
(MARGARET runs in, hides behind the door, holds the tip of her finger to her lip, and peeps through the crevice.)

He comes!

          Ah, little rogue, so thou
Think’st to provoke me! I have caught thee now!  (He kisses her.)
MARGARET  (embracing him, and returning the kiss)

Dearest of men! I love thee from my heart!  (MEPHISTOPHELES knocks.)
FAUST  (stamping

Who’s there?

              A friend!

                A brute!

                ’Tis time to part.
MARTHA  (comes)

Ay, it is late, good sir.

                Mayn’t I attend you, then?

Oh no—my mother would—adieu, adieu!

And must I really then take leave of you?


                Ere long to meet again!  (Exeunt FAUST and MEPHISTOPHELES.)

Good heavens! how all things far and near
Must fill his mind,—a man like this!
Abash’d before him I appear,
And say to all things only, yes.        2975
Poor simple child, I cannot see,
What ’tis that he can find in me.  (Exit.)

FAUST  (alone)

Spirit sublime! Thou gav’st me, gav’st me all
For which I prayed! Not vainly hast thou turn’d
To me thy countenance in flaming fire:        2980
Gavest me glorious nature for my realm,
And also power to feel her and enjoy;
Not merely with a cold and wondering glance,
Thou dost permit me in her depths profound,
As in the bosom of a friend to gaze.        2985
Before me thou dost lead her living tribes,
And dost in silent grove, in air and stream
Teach me to know my kindred. And when roars
The howling storm-blast through the groaning wood,
Wrenching the giant pine, which in its fall        2990
Crashing sweeps down its neighbour trunks and boughs,
While hollow thunder from the hill resounds;
Then thou dost lead me to some shelter’d cave,
Dost there reveal me to myself, and show
Of my own bosom the mysterious depths.        2995
And when with soothing beam, the moon’s pale orb
Full in my view climbs up the pathless sky,
From crag and dewy grove, the silvery forms
Of by-gone ages hover, and assuage


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