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
How strangely doth a single crimson line        4000
Around that lovely neck its coil entwine,
It shows no broader than a knife’s blunt edge!

Quite right. I see it also, and allege
That she beneath her arm her head can bear,
Since Perseus cut it off.—But you I swear        4005
Are craving for illusion still!
Come then, ascend yon little hill!
As on the Prater all is gay,
And if my senses are not gone,
I see a theatre,—what’s going on?        4010

They are about to recommence;—the play
Will be the last of seven, and spick-span new—
’Tis usual here that number to present.
A dilettante did the piece invent,
And dilettanti will enact it too.        4015
Excuse me, gentlemen; to me’s assign’d
As dilettante to uplift the curtain.

You on the Blocksberg I’m rejoiced to find,
That ’tis your most appropriate sphere is certain.


Vales, where mists still shift and play,
  To ancient hills succeeding,—
These our scenes;—so we, to-day,
  May rest, brave sons of Mieding.

That the marriage golden be,
  Must fifty years be ended;        4025
More dear this feast of gold to me,
  Contention now suspended.

Spirits, if present, grace the scene.
  And if with me united,
Then gratulate the king and queen,        4030
  Their troth thus newly plighted!

Puck draws near and wheels about,
  In mazy circles dancing!
Hundreds swell his joyous shout,
  Behind him still advancing.        4035

Ariel wakes his dainty air,
  His lyre celestial stringing.—
Fools he lureth, and the fair,
  With his celestial singing.

Wedded ones, would ye agree,
  We court your imitation:
Would ye fondly love as we,
  We counsel separation.

If husband scold and wife retort,
  Then bear them far asunder;        4045
Her to the burning south transport,
  And him the North Pole under.

Flies and midges all unite
  With frog and chirping cricket,
Our orchestra throughout the night,        4050
  Resounding in the thicket!

Yonder doth the bagpipe come!
  Its sack an airy bubble.
Schnick, schnick, schnack, with nasal hum,
  Its notes it doth redouble.        4055

Spider’s foot and midge’s wing,
  A toad in form and feature;
Together verses it can string,
  Though scarce a living creature.

Tiny step and lofty bound,
  Through dew and exhalation;
Ye trip it deftly on the ground,
  But gain no elevation.

Can I indeed believe my eyes?
  Is’t not mere masquerading?        4065
What! Oberon in beauteous guise,
  Among the groups parading!

No claws, no tail to whisk about,
  To fright us at our revel;—
Yet like the gods of Greece, no doubt,        4070
  He too’s a genuine devil.

These that I’m hitting off to-day
  Are sketches unpretending;
Towards Italy without delay,
  My steps I think of bending.        4075

Alas! ill-fortune leads me here,
  Where riot still grows louder;
And ’mong the witches gather’d here
  But two alone wear powder!

Your powder and your petticoat,
  Suit hags, there’s no gainsaying;
Hence I sit fearless on my goat,
  My naked charms displaying.

We’re too well-bred to squabble here,
  Or insult back to render;        4085
But may you wither soon, my dear,
  Although so young and tender.

Nose of fly and gnat’s proboscis,
  Throng not the naked beauty!
Frogs and crickets in the mosses,        4090
  Keep time and do your duty!
WEATHERCOCK  (towards one side)

What charming company I view
  Together here collected!
Gay bachelors, a hopeful crew.
  And brides so unaffected!        4095
WEATHERCOCK  (towards the other side)

Unless indeed the yawning ground
  Should open to receive them,
From this vile crew, with sudden bound,
  To Hell I’d jump and leave them.

With small sharp shears, in insect guise
  Behold us at your revel!
That we may tender, filial-wise,
  Our homage to the devil.

Look now at yonder eager crew,
  How naively they’re jesting!        4105
That they have tender hearts and true,
  They stoutly keep protesting!

Oneself amid this witchery
  How pleasantly one loses;
For witches easier are to me        4110
  To govern than the Muses!

With proper folks when we appear,
  No one can then surpass us!
Keep close, wide is the Blocksberg here
  As Germany’s Parnassus.        4115

How name ye that stiff formal man,
  Who strides with lofty paces?
He tracks the game where’er he can,
  “He scents the Jesuits’ traces.”

Where waters troubled are or clear,
  To fish I am delighted;
Thus pious gentlemen appear
  With devils here united.

By pious people, it is true,
  No medium is rejected;        4125
Conventicles, and not a few,
  On Blocksberg are erected.

Another chorus now succeeds,
  Far off the drums are beating.
Be still! The bitterns ’mong the reeds        4130
  Their one note are repeating.

Each twirls about and never stops,
  And as he can he fareth.
The crooked leaps, the clumsy hops,
  Nor for appearance careth.        4135

To take each other’s life, I trow,
  Would cordially delight them!
As Orpheus’ lyre the beasts, so now
  The bagpipe doth unite them.

My views, in spite of doubt and sneer,
  I hold with stout persistence,
Inferring from the devils here,
  The evil one’s existence.

My every sense rules Phantasy
  With sway quite too potential;        4145
Sure I’m demented if the I
  Alone is the essential.

This entity’s a dreadful bore,
  And cannot choose but vex me;
The ground beneath me ne’er before        4150
  Thus totter’d to perplex me.

Well pleased assembled here I view
  Of spirits this profusion;
From devils, touching angels too,
  I gather some conclusion.        4155

The ignis fatuus they track out,
  And think they’re near the treasure.
Devil alliterates with doubt,
  Here I abide with pleasure.

Frog and cricket in the mosses,—
  Confound your gasconading!
Nose of fly and gnat’s proboscis;—
  Most tuneful serenading!

Sans-souci, so this host we greet,
  Their jovial humour showing;        4165
There’s now no walking on our feet,
  So on our heads we’re going.

In seasons past we snatch’d, ’tis true,
  Some tit-bits by our cunning;
Our shoes, alas, are now danced through,        4170
  On our bare soles we’re running.

From marshy bogs we sprang to light,
  Yet here behold us dancing;
The gayest gallants of the night,
  In glitt’ring rows advancing.        4175

With rapid motion from on high,
  I shot in starry splendour;
Now prostrate on the grass I lie;—
  Who aid will kindly render?

Room! wheel round! They’re coming lo!
  Down sink the bending grasses.
Though spirits, yet their limbs, we know,
  Are huge substantial masses.

Don’t stamp so heavily, I pray;
  Like elephants you’re treading!        4185
And ’mong the elves be Puck to-day,
  The stoutest at the wedding!

If nature boon, or subtle sprite,
  Endow your soul with pinions;—
Then follow to yon rosy height,        4190
  Through ether’s calm dominions!
ORCHESTRA  (pianissimo)

Drifting cloud and misty wreathes
  Are fill’d with light elysian;
O’er reed and leaf the zephyr breathes—
  So fades the fairy vision!        4195


  In misery! despairing! long wandering pitifully on the face of the earth and now imprisoned! This gentle hapless creature, immured in the dungeon as a malefactor and reserved for horrid tortures! That it should come to this! To this!—Perfidious, worthless spirit, and this thou hast concealed from me!—Stand! ay, stand! roll in malicious rage thy fiendish eyes! Stand and brave me with thine insupportable presence! Imprisoned! In hopeless misery! Delivered over to the power of evil spirits and the judgment of unpitying humanity!—And me, the while, thou wert lulling with tasteless dissipations, concealing from me her growing anguish, and leaving her to perish without help!

She is not the first.

Hound! Execrable monster!—Back with him, oh thou infinite spirit! back with the reptile into his dog’s shape, in which it was his wont to scamper before me at eventide, to roll before the feet of the harmless wanderer, and to fasten on his shoulders when he fell! Change him again into his favourite shape, that he may crouch on his belly before me in the dust, whilst I spurn him with my foot, the reprobate!—Not the first!—Woe! Woe! By no human soul is it conceivable, that more than one human creature has ever sunk into a depth of wretchedness like this, or that the first in her writhing death-agony should not have atoned in the sight of all-pardoning Heaven for the guilt of all the rest! The misery of this one pierces me to the very marrow, and harrows up my soul; thou art grinning calmly over the doom of thousands!

Now we are once again at our wit’s end, just where the reason of you mortals snaps! Why dost thou seek our fellowship, if thou canst not go through with it? Wilt fly, and art not proof against dizziness? Did we force ourselves on thee, or thou on us?

Cease thus to gnash thy ravenous fangs at me! I loathe thee!—Great and glorious spirit, thou who didst vouchsafe to reveal thyself unto me, thou who dost know my very heart and soul, why hast thou linked me with this base associate, who feeds on mischief and revels in destruction?

Hast done?

Save her!—or woe to thee! The direst of curses on thee for thousands of years!

I cannot loose the bands of the avenger, nor withdraw his bolts.—Save her!—Who was it plunged her into perdition? I or thou?  (FAUST looks wildly around.)

Would’st grasp the thunder? Well for you, poor mortals, that ’tis not yours to wield! To smite to atoms the being however innocent, who obstructs his path, such is the tyrant’s fashion of relieving himself in difficulties!

Convey me thither! She shall be free!

And the danger to which thou dost expose thyself? Know, the guilt of blood, shed by thy hand, lies yet upon the town. Over the place where fell the murdered one, avenging spirits hover and watch for the returning murderer.

This too from thee? The death and downfall of a world be on thee, monster! Conduct me thither, I say, and set her free!

I will conduct thee. And what I can do,—hear! Have I all power in heaven and upon earth! I’ll cloud the senses of the warder,—do thou possess thyself of the keys and lead her forth with human hand! I will keep watch! The magic steeds are waiting, I bear thee off. Thus much is in my power.

Up and away!

FAUST. MEPHISTOPHELES  (Rushing along on black horses)

What weave they yonder round the Ravenstone?

I know not what they shape and brew.

They’re soaring, swooping, bending, stooping.

A witches’ pack.

                They charm, they strew.

                On! On!

FAUST  (with a bunch of keys and a lamp before a small iron door)

A fear unwonted o’er my spirit falls;
Man’s concentrated woe o’erwhelms me here!
She dwells immur’d within these dripping walls;
Her only trespass a delusion dear!
Thou lingerest at the fatal door,        4220
Thou dread’st to see her face once more?
On! While thou dalliest, draws her death-hour near.  (He seizes the lock. Singing within.)
        My mother, the harlot,
        She took me and slew!
        My father, the scoundrel,        4225
        Hath eaten me too!
        My sweet little sister
        Hath all my bones laid,
        Where soft breezes whisper
        All in the cool shade!        4230
Then became I a wood-bird, and sang on the spray,
Fly away! little bird, fly away! fly away!
FAUST  (opening the lock)

Ah! she forebodes not that her lover’s near,
The clanking chains, the rustling straw, to hear.  (He enters.)
MARGARET  (hiding her face in the bed of straw)

Woe! woe! they come! on bitter ’tis to die!
FAUST  (softly)

Hush! hush! be still! I come to set thee free!
MARGARET  (throwing herself at his feet)

If thou art human, feel my misery!

Thou wilt awake the jailor with thy cry!  (He grasps the chains to unlock them.)
MARGARET  (on her knees)

Who, headsman, unto thee this power
O’er me could give?        4240
Thou com’st for me at midnight-hour.
Be merciful, and let me live!
Is morrow’s dawn not time enough?  (She stands up.)
I’m still so young, so young—
And must so early die!        4245
Fair was I too, and that was my undoing.
My love is now afar, he then was nigh;
Torn lies the garland, the fair blossoms strew’d.
Nay, seize me not with hand so rude!
Spare me! What harm have I e’er done to thee?        4250
Oh let me not in vain implore!
I ne’er have seen thee in my life before!

Can I endure this bitter agony?

I now am at thy mercy quite.
Let me my babe but suckle once again!        4255
I fondled it the live-long night;
They took it from me but to give me pain,
And now, they say that I my child have slain.
Gladness I ne’er again shall know.
Then they sing songs about me,—’tis wicked of the throng—        4260
An ancient ballad endeth so;
Who bade them thus apply the song?
(throwing himself on the ground)

A lover at thy feet bends low,
To loose the bonds of wretchedness and woe.
MARGARET  (throws herself beside him)

Oh, let us kneel and move the saints by prayer!
Look! look! yon stairs below,
Under the threshold there,
Hell’s flames are all aglow!
Beneath the floor,
With hideous noise,        4270
The devils roar!
FAUST  (aloud)

Gretchen! Gretchen!
MARGARET  (listening)

That was my lov’d one’s voice!  (She springs up, the chains fall off.)
Where is he? I heard him calling me.
Free am I! There’s none shall hinder me.        4275
To his neck will I fly,
On his bosom will lie!
Gretchen, he called!—On yon threshold he stood;
Amidst all the howling of hell’s fiery flood,
The scoff and the scorn of its devilish crew,        4280
The tones of his voice, sweet and loving, I knew.

’Tis I!

        ’Tis thou! O say so once again!  (embracing him.)
’Tis he! ’Tis he! where’s now the torturing pain?
Where are the fetters? where the dungeon’s gloom?        4285
’Tis thou! To save me thou art come!
And I am sav’d!—
Already now the street I see
Where the first time I caught a glimpse of thee.
There too the pleasant garden shade,        4290
Where I and Martha for thy coming stay’d.
FAUST  (endeavouring to lead her away)

Come! come away!

                Oh do not haste!
I love to linger where thou stayest.  (caressing him.)

Ah haste! For if thou still delayest,
Our lingering we shall both deplore.

How, dearest? canst thou kiss no more!
So short a time away from me, and yet,
To kiss thou couldst so soon forget!
Why on thy neck so anxious do I feel—        4300
When formerly a perfect heaven of bliss
From thy dear looks and words would o’er me steal?
As thou wouldst stifle me thou then didst kiss!—
Kiss me!
Or I’ll kiss thee!  (She embraces him.)        4305
Woe! woe! Thy lips are cold,—
Are dumb!
Thy love where hast thou left?
Who hath me of thy love bereft?  (She turns away from him.)

Come! Follow me, my dearest love, be bold!
I’ll cherish thee with ardour thousand-fold;
I but entreat thee now to follow me!
MARGARET  (turning towards him)

And art thou he? and art thou really he?

’Tis I! O come!

                Thou wilt strike off my chain,
And thou wilt take me to thine arms again.
How comes it that thou dost not shrink from me?—
And dost thou know, love, whom thou wouldst set free?

Come! come! already night begins to wane.

I sent my mother to her grave,
I drown’d my child beneath the wave.
Was it not given to thee and me—thee too?
’Tis thou thyself! I scarce believe it yet.
Give me thy hand! It is no dream! ’Tis true!
Thine own dear hand!—But how is this? ’Tis wet?        4325
Quick, wipe it off! Meseems that yet
There’s blood thereon.
Ah God! what hast thou done?
Put up thy sword,
I beg of thee!        4330

Oh, dearest, let the past forgotten be!
Death is in every word.

No, thou must linger here in sorrow!
The graves I will describe to thee,
And thou to them must see        4335
The best place give to my mother,
Close at her side my brother,
Me at some distance lay—
But not too far away!        4340
And the little one place on my right breast,
Nobody else will near me lie!
To nestle beside thee so lovingly,
That was a rapture, gracious and sweet!
A rapture I never again shall prove;        4345
Methinks I would force myself on thee, love,
And thou dost spurn me, and back retreat—
Yet ’tis thyself, thy fond kind looks I see.

If thou dost feel ’tis I, then come with me!

What, there? without?

                Yes, forth in the free air.

Ay, if the grave’s without,—If death lurk there!
Hence to the everlasting resting-place,
And not one step beyond!—Thou’rt leaving me?
Oh Henry! would that I could go with thee!        4355

Thou canst! But will it! Open stands the door.

I dare not go! I’ve naught to hope for more.
What boots it to escape? They lurk for me!
’Tis wretched to beg, as I must do,
And with an evil conscience thereto!        4360
’Tis wretched, in foreign lands to stray;
And me they will catch, do what I may!

With thee will I abide.

        Quick! Quick!
        Save thy poor child!        4365
        Keep to the path
        The brook along,
        Over the bridge
        To the wood beyond,
        To the left, where the plank is,        4370
        In the pond.
        Seize it at once!
        It fain would rise,
        It struggles still!
        Save it. Oh save!        4375

Dear Gretchen, more collected be!
One little step, and thou art free!

Were we but only past the hill!
There sits my mother upon a stone—
My brain, alas, is cold with dread!—        4380
There sits my mother upon a stone,
And to and fro she shakes her head;
She winks not, she nods not, her head it droops sore;
She slept so long, she waked no more;
She slept, that we might taste of bliss:        4385
Ah! those were happy times, I wis!

Since here avails nor argument nor prayer,
Thee hence by force I needs must bear.

Loose me! I will not suffer violence!
With murderous hand hold not so fast!        4390
I have done all to please thee in the past!

Day dawns! My love! My love!

                Yes! day draws near.
The day of judgment too will soon appear!
It should have been my bridal! No one tell,        4395
That thy poor Gretchen thou hast known too well.
Woe to my garland!
Its bloom is o’er!
Though not at the dance—
We shall meet once more.        4400
The crowd doth gather, in silence it rolls;
The squares, the streets,
Scarce hold the throng.
The staff is broken,—the death-bell tolls,—
They bind and seize me! I’m hurried along,        4405
To the seat of blood already I’m bound!
Quivers each neck as the naked steel
Quivers on mine the blow to deal—
The silence of the grave now broods around!

Would I had ne’er been born!
MEPHISTOPHELES  (appears without)

Up! or you’re lost.
Vain hesitation! Babbling, quaking!
My steeds are shivering,
Morn is breaking.

What from the floor ascendeth like a ghost?
’Tis he! ’Tis he! Him from my presence chase!
What would he in this holy place?
It is for me he cometh!

                Thou shalt live!

Judgment of God! To thee my soul I give!

Come, come! With her I’ll else abandon thee!

Father, I’m thine! Do thou deliver me!
Ye angels! Ye angelic hosts! descend,
Encamp around to guard me and defend!—
Henry! I shudder now to look on thee!        4425

She now is judged!
VOICES  (from above)

                Is saved!

                Come thou with me!  (Vanishes with FAUST.)
VOICE  (from within, dying away)

Henry! Henry!


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