Faust by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

translated by George Madison Priest
Previous section .Next section . Back to Faust page

EVENING - A NEAT LITTLE ROOM

Margaret [plaiting and binding up her braids of hair].
I would give something, could I say
Who was that gentleman today!
Right gallant did he seem to be
And of some noble family.
That from his brow I could have told-
Else he would not have been so bold.

[Exit.]

[MEPHISTOPHELES and FAUST.]

Mephistopheles. Come! come in! and on tiptoe!
Faust [after a silence]. Leave me alone here, I entreat!
Mephistopheles [peering about].
Not every girl keeps things so neat.

[Exit.]

Faust [looking up and around]. Welcome, O thou sweet twilight glow
That through this shrine art stirring to and fro.
Sweet agony of love, possess this heart of mine,
Thou who on dews of hope dost live and yet dost pine.
What sense of quiet breathes around,
Of order, of contentedness!
What riches in this poverty abound!
Within this prison, ah! what blessedness!

[He throws himself on the leather arm-chair by the bed.]

Oh, welcome me, thou who the world now gone
Didst once receive in joy and sorrow, open-armed!
How often, ah! around this fathers'-throne
A flock of children clinging swarmed!
And, thankful for the Christmas gift, maybe
My darling here, her childish cheeks filled out,
Kissed grandsire's withered hand devotedly.
I feel, O maid, thy spirit radiate
Abundance, order, round about,
That, motherly, instructs thee day by day,
Bids thee the cloth upon the table neatly lay,
Even make the sand at thy feet decorate.
O darling hand! So godlike in thy ministry!
The hut becomes a realm of Heaven through thee.
And here!

[He lifts one of the bed curtains.]

What bliss and awe lay hold on me!
Here for whole hours I fain would tarry.
O Nature! Here didst thou in visions airy
Mould her, an angel in nativity.
Here lay the child; with warm life heaving
The tender bosom filled and grew;
And here, with pure and holy weaving,
The image of the gods was wrought anew!
And thou, O Faust, what led thee here? I feel
My very inmost being reel!
What wouldst thou here? What weights thy heart so sore?
O wretched Faust! I know thee now no more.
Does magic play about me, sweet and rare?
Some force impelled me to enjoy without delay,
And now in dreams of love I seem to float away!
Are we the sport of every puff of air?
And if this very moment she might enter here,
For thy rash conduct how wouldst thou atone!
Thou, great big lout, how small wouldst thou appear!
How, melted at her feet, thou wouldst lie prone!
Mephistopheles [enters]. Be quick! I see her coming down the lane.
Faust. Away! I'll never come back here again!
Mephistopheles. Here is a casket, of some weight,
Which I got elsewhere as a bait.
Here, put it in the press, this minute;
She'll lose her senses, I swear it to you.
In fact, I put some trinkets in it,
Enough another nobler maid to woo;
But still a child's a child, and play is play.
Faust. I don't know if I should?
Mephistopheles. Why ask you, pray?
Do you perhaps intend to hoard the treasure?
Then I'd advise you in your lustfulness
To waste no more sweet hours of leisure
And spare me further strain and stress.
I hope that you're not greedy!
I rub my hands, I scratch my head-

[He puts the casket in the press and turns the lock again.]

Away and speedy!-
To turn the sweet young child that she be led
To satisfy your heart's desire and will;
And you look around
As if to a lecture you were bound,
As if before you, living still,
Stood Physics and Metaphysics grey!
But off! away!

[Exeunt.]

Margaret [with a lamp]. Here is such close such sultry air!

[She opens the window.]

And yet it's really not so warm out there.
I feel so strange - I don't know how-
I wish that Mother came home now.
From head to foot I'm shuddering-
I'm but a foolish, fearsome thing!

[She begins to sing while she undresses.]

There was in Thule olden
A king true till the grave,
To whom a beaker golden
His dying mistress gave.
Naught prized he more, this lover,
He drained it at each bout;
His eyes with tears brimmed over,
As oft he drank it out.
And when he came to dying,
His towns and his lands he told,
Naught else his heir denying
Except the beaker of gold.
Around him knight and vassal,
At a royal feast sat he
In his fathers' lofty castle,
The castle by the sea.
There the old pleasure-seeker
Drank, standing, life's last glow,
Then hurled the sacred beaker
Into the waves below.
He saw it plunging, drinking,
And sinking in the sea,
And so his eyes were sinking,
Never one drop more drank he.

[She opens the press to put away her clothes and catches sight of the little jewel-casket.]

How came this lovely casket in my press?
Indeed I turned the lock most certainly.
It's very strange! What's in it I can't guess.
Someone has brought it as a pledge maybe,
And on it Mother loaned a bit.
Here on the ribbon hangs a little key,
I really think I'll open it.
What is that? God in Heaven! See!
I've never seen such things as here!
Jewels! A noble lady might appear
With these on any holiday.
This chain - how would it look on me?
Ah, whose can all this splendour be?

[She adorns herself with it and steps before the mirror.]

Were but the earrings mine! I say
One looks at once quite differently.
What good is beauty? blood of youth?
All that is nice and fine, in truth;
However, people pass and let it be.
They praise you - half with pity, though, be sure.
Toward gold throng all,
To gold cling all,
Yes, all! Alas, we poor!

If you have problems understanding these alchemical texts, Adam McLean now provides a study course entitled How to read alchemical texts : a guide for the perplexed.