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
The joy austere of contemplative thought.        3000
Oh, that naught perfect is assign’d to man,
I feel, alas! With this exalted joy,
Which lifts me near and nearer to the gods,
Thou gav’st me this companion, unto whom
I needs must cling, though cold and insolent,        3005
He still degrades me to myself, and turns
Thy glorious gifts to nothing, with a breath.
He in my bosom with malicious zeal
For that fair image fans a raging fire;
From craving to enjoyment thus I reel        3010
And in enjoyment languish for desire.  (MEPHISTOPHELES enters.)

Of this lone life have you not your fill?
How for so long can it have charms for you?
’Tis well enough to try it if you will;
But then away again to something new!        3015

Would you could better occupy your leisure,
Than in disturbing thus my hours of joy.

Well! Well! I’ll leave you to yourself with pleasure,
A serious tone you hardly dare employ.
To part from one so crazy, harsh, and cross,        3020
Were not in truth a grievous loss.
The live-long day, for you I toil and fret;
Ne’er from his worship’s face a hint I get,
What pleases him, or what to let alone.

Ay truly! that is just the proper tone!
He wearies me, and would with thanks be paid!

Poor Son of Earth, without my aid,
How would thy weary days have flown?
Thee of thy foolish whims I’ve cured,
Thy vain imaginations banished,        3030
And but for me, be well assured,
Thou from this sphere must soon have vanished.
In rocky hollows and in caverns drear,
Why like an owl sit moping here?
Wherefore from dripping stones and moss with ooze embued,        3035
Dost suck, like any toad, thy food?
A rare, sweet pastime. Verily!
The doctor cleaveth still to thee.

Dost comprehend what bliss without alloy
From this wild wand’ring in the desert springs?—        3040
Couldst thou but guess the new life-power it brings,
Thou wouldst be fiend enough to envy me my joy.

What super-earthly ecstasy! at night,
To lie in darkness on the dewy height,
Embracing heaven and earth in rapture high,        3045
The soul dilating to a deity;
With prescient yearnings pierce the core of earth,
Feel in your labouring breast the six-days’ birth,
Enjoy, in proud delight what no one knows,
While your love-rapture o’er creation flows,—        3050
The earthly lost in beatific vision,
And then the lofty intuition—  (With a gesture.)
I need not tell you how—to close!

Fie on you!

            This displeases you? “For shame!”
You are forsooth entitled to exclaim;
We to chaste ears it seems must not pronounce
What, nathless, the chaste heart cannot renounce.
Well, to be brief, the joy as fit occasions rise,
I grudge you not, of specious lies.        3060
But long this mood thou’lt not retain.
Already thou’rt again outworn,
And should this last, thou wilt be torn
By frenzy or remorse and pain.
Enough of this! Thy true love dwells apart,        3065
And all to her seems flat and tame;
Alone thine image fills her heart,
She loves thee with an all-devouring flame.
First came thy passion with o’erpowering rush,
Like mountain torrent, swollen by the melted snow;        3070
Full in her heart didst pour the sudden gush,
Now has thy brooklet ceased to flow.
Instead of sitting throned midst forests wild,
It would become so great a lord
To comfort the enamour’d child,        3075
And the young monkey for her love reward.
To her the hours seem miserably long;
She from the window sees the clouds float by
As o’er the lofty city-walls they fly,
“If I a birdie were!” so runs her song,        3080
Half through the night and all day long.
Cheerful sometimes, more oft at heart full sore;
Fairly outwept seem now her tears,
Anon she tranquil is, or so appears,
And love-sick evermore.        3085

Snake! Serpent vile!

Good! If I catch thee with my guile!

Vile reprobate! go get thee hence;
Forbear the lovely girl to name!
Nor in my half-distracted sense,        3090
Kindle anew the smouldering flame!

What wouldest thou! She thinks you’ve taken flight;
It seems, she’s partly in the right.

I’m near her still—and should I distant rove,
Her I can ne’er forget, ne’er lose her love;        3095
And all things touch’d by those sweet lips of hers,
Even the very Host, my envy stirs.

’Tis well! I oft have envied you indeed,
The twin-pair that among the roses feed.

Pander, avaunt!

                Go to! I laugh, the while you rail,
The power which fashion’d youth and maid,
Well understood the noble trade;
So neither shall occasion fail.
But hence!—A mighty grief I trow!        3105
Unto thy lov’d one’s chamber thou
And not to death shouldst go.

What is to me heaven’s joy within her arms?
What though my life her bosom warms!—
Do I not ever feel her woe?        3110
The outcast am I not, unhoused, unblest,
Inhuman monster, without aim or rest,
Who, like the greedy surge, from rock to rock,
Sweeps down the dread abyss with desperate shock?
While she, within her lowly cot, which graced        3115
The Alpine slope, beside the waters wild,
Her homely cares in that small world embraced,
Secluded lived, a simple, artless child.
Was’t not enough, in thy delirious whirl
To blast the steadfast rocks;        3120
Her, and her peace as well,
Must I, God-hated one, to ruin hurl!
Dost claim this holocaust, remorseless Hell!
Fiend, help me to cut short the hours of dread!
Let what must happen, happen speedily!        3125
Her direful doom fall crushing on my head,
And into ruin let her plunge with me!

Why how again it seethes and glows!
Away, thou fool! Her torment ease!
When such a head no issue sees,        3130
It pictures straight the final close.
Long life to him who boldly dares!
A devil’s pluck thou’rt wont to show;
As for a devil who despairs,
Nothing I find so mawkish here below.        3135

MARGARET  (alone at her spinning wheel)

My peace is gone,
  My heart is sore,
I find it never,
  And nevermore!
Where him I have not,        3140
  Is the grave; and all
The world to me
  Is turned to gall.
My wilder’d brain
  Is overwrought;        3145
My feeble senses
  Are distraught.
My peace is gone,
  My heart is sore,
I find it never,        3150
  And nevermore!
For him from the window
  I gaze, at home;
For him and him only
  Abroad I roam.        3155
His lofty step,
  His bearing high,
The smile of his lip,
  The power of his eye,
His witching words,        3160
  Their tones of bliss,
His hand’s fond pressure
  And ah—his kiss!
My peace is gone,
  My heart is sore,        3165
I find it never,
  And nevermore.
My bosom aches
  To feel him near;
Ah, could I clasp        3170
  And fold him here!
Kiss him and kiss him
  Again would I,
And on his kisses
  I fain would die.        3175


Promise me, Henry!

                What I can!

How thy religion fares, I fain would hear.
Thou art a good kind-hearted man,
Only that way not well-disposed, I fear.        3180

Forbear, my child! Thou feelest thee I love;
My heart, my blood I’d give, my love to prove,
And none would of their faith or church bereave.

That’s not enough, we must ourselves believe!

Must we?

          Ah, could I but thy soul inspire!
Thou honourest not the sacraments, alas!

I honour them.

                But yet without desire;
’Tis long since thou hast been either to shrift or mass.        3190
Dost thou believe in God?

                My darling, who dares say,
Yes, I in God believe?
Question or priest or sage, and they
Seem, in the answer you receive,        3195
To mock the questioner.

                Then thou dost not believe?

Sweet one! my meaning do not misconceive!
Him who dare name?
And who proclaim,        3200
Him I believe?
Who that can feel,
His heart can steel,
To say: I believe him not?
The All-embracer,        3205
Holds and sustains he not
Thee, me, himself?
Lifts not the Heaven its dome above?
Doth not the firm-set earth beneath us lie?        3210
And beaming tenderly with looks of love,
Climb not the everlasting stars on high?
Do we not gaze into each other’s eyes?
Nature’s impenetrable agencies,
Are they not thronging on thy heart and brain,        3215
Viewless, or visible to mortal ken,
Around thee weaving their mysterious chain?
Fill thence thy heart, how large soe’er it be;
And in the feeling when thou utterly art blest,
Then call it, what thou wilt,—        3220
Call it Bliss! Heart! Love! God!
I have no name for it!
’Tis feeling all;
Name is but sound and smoke
Shrouding the glow of heaven.        3225

All this is doubtless good and fair;
Almost the same the parson says,
Only in slightly different phrase.

Beneath Heaven’s sunshine, everywhere,
This is the utterance of the human heart;        3230
Each in his language doth the like impart;
Then why not I in mine?

                What thus I hear
Sounds plausible, yet I’m not reconciled;
There’s something wrong about it; much I fear        3235
That thou art not a Christian.

                My sweet child!

Alas! it long hath sorely troubled me,
To see thee in such odious company.

How so?

        The man who comes with thee, I hate,
Yea, in my spirit’s inmost depths abhor;
As his loath’d visage, in my life before,
Naught to my heart e’er gave a pang so great.

Him fear not, my sweet love!

                His presence chills my blood.
Towards all beside I have a kindly mood;
Yet, though I yearn to gaze on thee, I feel
At sight of him strange horror o’er me steal;
That he’s a villain my conviction’s strong.        3250
May Heaven forgive me, if I do him wrong!

Yet such strange fellows in the world must be!

I would not live with such an one as he.
If for a moment he but enter here,
He looks around him with a mocking sneer,        3255
And malice ill-conceal’d;
That he with naught on earth can sympathize is clear
Upon his brow ’tis legibly revealed,
That to his heart no living soul is dear.
So blest I feel, within thine arms,        3260
So warm and happy,—free from all alarms;
And still my heart doth close when he comes near.

Foreboding angel! check thy fear!

It so o’ermasters me, that when,
Or wheresoe’er, his step I hear,        3265
I almost think, no more I love thee then.
Besides, when he is near, I ne’er could pray.
This eats into my heart; with thee
The same, my Henry, it must be.

This is antipathy!

                I must away.

For one brief hour then may I never rest,
And heart to heart, and soul to soul be pressed?

Ah, if I slept alone! To-night
The bolt I fain would leave undrawn for thee;        3275
But then my mother’s sleep is light,
Were we surprised by her, ah me!
Upon the spot I should be dead.

Dear angel! there’s no cause for dread.
Here is a little phial,—if she take        3280
Mixed in her drink three drops, ’twill steep
Her nature in a deep and soothing sleep.

What do I not for thy dear sake!
To her it will not harmful prove?

Should I advise it else, sweet love?

I know not, dearest, when thy face I see,
What doth my spirit to thy will constrain;
Already I have done so much for thee,
That scarcely more to do doth now remain.  (Exit.)


The monkey! Is she gone?

                Again hast played the spy?

Of all that pass’d I’m well apprized,
I heard the doctor catechised,
And trust he’ll profit much thereby!
Fain would the girls inquire indeed        3295
Touching their lover’s faith and creed,
And whether pious in the good old way;
They think, if pliant there, us too he will obey.

Thou monster, does not see that this
Pure soul, possessed by ardent love,        3300
Full of the living faith,
To her of bliss
The only pledge, must holy anguish prove,
Holding the man she loves, fore-doomed to endless death!

Most sensual, supersensualist? The while
A damsel leads thee by the nose!

Of filth and fire abortion vile!

In physiognomy strange skill she shows;
She in my presence feels she knows not how;
My mask it seems a hidden sense reveals;        3310
That I’m a genius she must needs allow,
That I’m the very devil perhaps she feels.
So then to-night—

                What’s that to you?

I’ve my amusement in it too!

MARGARET and BESSY, with pitchers

Of Barbara hast nothing heard?

I rarely go from home,—no, not a word.

’Tis true: Sybilla told me so to-day!
That comes of being proud, methinks;
She played the fool at last.        3320

                How so?

                They say
That two she feedeth when she eats and drinks.


      She’s rightly served, in sooth,
How long she hung upon the youth!
What promenades, what jaunts there were,
To dancing booth and village fair!
The first she everywhere must shine,
He always treating her to pastry and to wine        3330
Of her good looks she was so vain,
So shameless too, that to retain
His presents, she did not disdain;
Sweet words and kisses came anon—
And then the virgin flower was gone.        3335

Poor thing!

            Forsooth dost pity her?
At night, when at our wheels we sat,
Abroad our mothers ne’er would let us stir.
Then with her lover she must chat,        3340
Or on the bench or in the dusky walk,
Thinking the hours too brief for their sweet talk;
Her proud head she will have to bow,
And in white sheet do penance now!

But he will surely marry her?

                Not he!
He won’t be such a fool! a gallant lad
Like him, can roam o’er land and sea,
Besides, he’s off.

                That is not fair!

If she should get him, ’twere almost as bad!
Her myrtle wreath the boys would tear;
And then we girls would plagued her too,
For we chopp’d straw before her door would strew!  (Exit.)
MARGARET  (walking towards home)

How stoutly once I could inveigh,
If a poor maiden went astray;
Not words enough my tongue could find,
’Gainst others’ sin to speak my mind!
Black as it seemed, I blacken’d it still more,
And strove to make it blacker than before.        3360
And did myself securely bless—
Now my own trespass doth appear!
Yet ah!—what urg’d me to transgress,
God knows, it was so sweet, so dear!
Enclosure between the City-wall and the Gate.
(In the niche of the wall a devotional image of the Mater dolorosa, with flower-pots before it.)

MARGARET  (putting fresh flowers in the pots)

Ah, rich in sorrow, thou,
Stoop thy maternal brow,
And mark with pitying eye my misery!
The sword in thy pierced heart,
Thou dost with bitter smart,
Gaze upwards on thy Son’s death agony.        3370
To the dear God on high,
Ascends thy piteous sigh,
Pleading for his and thy sore misery.
Ah, who can know
The torturing woe,        3375
The pangs that rack me to the bone?
How my poor heart, without relief,
Trembles and throbs, its yearning grief
Thou knowest, thou alone!
Ah, wheresoe’er I go,        3380
With woe, with woe, with woe,
My anguish’d breast is aching!
When all alone I creep,
I weep, I weep, I weep,
Alas! my heart is breaking!        3385
The flower-pots at my window
Were wet with tears of mine,
The while I pluck’d these blossoms,
At dawn to deck thy shrine!
When early in my chamber        3390
Shone bright the rising morn,
I sat there on my pallet,
My heart with anguish torn.
Help! from disgrace and death deliver me!
Ah! rich in sorrow, thou,        3395
Stoop thy maternal brow,
And mark with pitying eye my misery!

VALENTINE  (a soldier, MARGARET’S brother)

When seated ’mong the jovial crowd,
Where merry comrades boasting loud
Each named with pride his favourite lass,        3400
And in her honour drain’d his glass;
Upon my elbows I would lean,
With easy quiet view the scene,
Nor give my tongue the rein until
Each swaggering blade had talked his fill.        3405
Then smiling I my beard would stroke,
The while, with brimming glass, I spoke;
“Each to his taste!—but to my mind,
Where in the country will you find,
A maid, as my dear Gretchen fair,        3410
Who with my sister can compare?”
Cling! Clang! so rang the jovial sound!
Shouts of assent went circling round;
Pride of her sex is she!—cried some;
Then were the noisy boasters dumb.        3415
And now!—I could tear out my hair,
Or dash my brains out in despair!—
Me every scurvy knave may twit,
With stinging jest and taunting sneer!
Like skulking debtor I must sit,        3420
And sweat each casual word to hear!
And though I smash’d them one and all,—
Yet them I could not liars call.
    Who comes this way? who’s sneaking here?
    If I mistake not, two draw near.        3425
    If he be one, have at him;—well I wot
    Alive he shall not leave this spot!


How from yon sacristy, athwart the night,
Its beams the ever-burning taper throws,
While ever waning, fades the glimmering light,        3430
As gathering darkness doth around it close!
So night-like gloom doth in my bosom reign.

I’m like a tom-cat in a thievish vein,
That up fire-ladders tall and steep,
And round the walls doth slyly creep;        3435
Virtuous withal, I feel, with, I confess,
A touch of thievish joy and wantonness.
Thus through my limbs already burns
The glorious Walpurgis night!
After to-morrow it returns,        3440
Then why one wakes, one knows aright!

Meanwhile, the treasure I see glimmering there,
Will it ascend into the open air?

Ere long thou wilt proceed with pleasure,
To raise the casket with its treasure;        3445
I took a peep, therein are stored,
Of lion-dollars a rich hoard.

And not a trinket? not a ring?
Wherewith my lovely girl to deck?

I saw among them some such thing,
A string of pearls to grace her neck.

’Tis well! I’m always loath to go,
Without some gift my love to show.

Some pleasures gratis to enjoy,
Should surely cause you no annoy.        3455
While bright with stars the heavens appear,
I’ll sing a masterpiece of art:
A moral song shall charm her ear,
More surely to beguile her heart.  (Sings to the guitar.)
Kathrina say,        3460
Why lingering stay
At dawn of day
Before your lover’s door?
Maiden, beware,
Nor enter there,        3465
Lest forth you fare,
A maiden never more.
Maiden take heed!
Reck well my rede!
Is’t done, the deed?        3470
Good night, you poor, poor thing!
The spoiler’s lies,
His arts despise,
Nor yield your prize,
Without the marriage ring!        3475
VALENTINE  (steps forward)

Whom are you luring here? I’ll give it you!
Accursed rat-catchers, your strains I’ll end!
First, to the devil the guitar I’ll send!
Then to the devil with the singer too!

The poor guitar! ’tis done for now.

Your skull shall follow next, I trow!

Doctor, stand fast! your strength collect!
Be prompt, and do as I direct.
Out with your whisk, keep close, I pray,
I’ll parry! do you thrust away!        3485

Then parry that!

                Why not?

                That too!

With ease!

            The devil fights for you!
Why how is this? my hand’s already lamed!

Thrust home!
VALENTINE  (falls)


                There! Now the lubber’s tamed!
But quick, away! We must at once take wing;        3495
A cry of murder strikes upon the ear;
With the police I know my course to steer,
But with the blood-ban ’tis another thing.
MARTHA  (at the window)

Without! without!


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