Faust by Johann Wolfgang von Goethetranslated by George Madison Priest
Previous section .Next section . Back to Faust page
FOREST AND CAVERN
Faust [alone]. Spirit sublime, thou gav'st me, gav'st me all
For which I prayed. Thou hast not turned in vain
Thy countenance to me in fire and flame.
Thou gav'st me glorious nature as a royal realm,
The power to feel and to enjoy her. Not
Amazed, cold visits only thou allow'st;
Thou grantest me to look in her deep breast
Even as in the bosom of a friend.
Thou leadest past a series of the living
Before me, teaching me to know my brothers
In silent covert and in air and water.
And when the storm roars screeching through the forest,
When giant fir tree plunges, sweeping down
And crushing neighbouring branches, neighbouring trunks,
And at its fall the hills, dull, hollow, thunder:
Then leadest thou me to the cavern safe,
Show'st me myself, and my own heart becomes
Aware of deep mysterious miracles.
And when before my gaze the stainless moon
Soothing ascends on high: from rocky walls
And from damp covert float and soar about me
The silvery forms of a departed world
And temper contemplation's austere joy.
Oh, that for man naught perfect ever is,
I now do feel. Together with this rapture
That brings me near and nearer to the gods,
Thou gav'st the comrade whom I now no more
Can do without, though, cold and insolent,
He lowers me in my own sight, transforms
With but a word, a breath, thy gifts to nothing.
Within my breast he fans with busy zeal
A savage fire for that fair, lovely form.
Thus from desire I reel on to enjoyment
And in enjoyment languish for desire.
Mephistopheles [appears]. Have you now led this life quite long enough?
How can it long have any charm for you?
'Tis well, indeed, for once to try the stuff,
But then, in turn, away to something new!
Faust. I wish that you had something else to do
Than on a happy day to plague me like a pest.
Mephistopheles. Now, now! I'll gladly let you rest!
You do not dare to say this seriously.
A comrade mad, ungracious, cross,
Would truly be a trifling loss.
The livelong day one's hands are full as they can be.
What he would like for one to do or leave alone,
His lordship's face will never let one see.
Faust. So! That is just, the proper tone:
You now want thanks for boring me.
Mephistopheles. Without me how would you, Earth's wretched son,
Have kept on living? What would you have done?
Your hodge-podge of imagination - balderdash!
At least I've cured you now and then of all that trash.
In fact, if I had not been here at all,
You'd long since sauntered off this earthly ball.
Why here within the cavern's rocky rent
Thus sit your life away so owl-like and alone?
Why from the sodden moss and dripping stone
Sip, like a toad, your nourishment?
A fine sweet way to pass the time. I'll bet
The Doctor's in your body yet.
Faust. Can you conceive what new vitality
This walking in the desert works in me?
Yes, could you sense a force like this,
You would be devil enough to grudge my bliss.
Mephistopheles. It's more than earthly, such delight!
To lie in night and dew on mountain height,
Embracing earth and heaven blissfully,
Puffing one's self and deeming one a deity;
To burrow through earth's marrow, onward pressed
By prescient impulse, feel within one's breast
All six days' work, in haughty power enjoy and know
I can't tell what, soon all creation overflow
In rapturous love, lost to all sight the child of clay,
And then the lofty intuition
[With a gesture.]
Ending - I dare not say in what fruition!
Faust. Shame on you!
Mephistopheles. That's not to your liking, eh?
You have the moral right to cry out "Shame!
Before chaste ears one must not name
What chaste hearts can't dispense with, just the same!
In short, I grudge you not the pleasure of evasion,
Of lying to yourself upon occasion;
But you will not stick long to that, it's clear.
Again you are already spent,
And if this goes on longer, you'll be rent
To shreds by madness or by agony and fear.
Enough of this! Your darling sits at home apart
And more and more she's feeling caged and sad.
Your image never leaves her mind and heart,
The all-consuming love she bears you is half mad.
First came your passion like the furious current
Of brooklets swollen high from melted snow.
Into her heart you poured the torrent,
And now again your brooklet's running low.
I think, instead of sitting throned in forests wild
It would become so great a lord
To seek the poor, young, silly child
And give her for her love some due reward.
To her the time grows pitiably long.
She stands beside the window, sees the clouds that stray
Over the old town wall and far away.
"Were I a little bird!" so goes her song,
All day long and half the night long.
She's mostly sad, at times is gay,
At times is quite wept out, and then,
It seems, is calm again,
And is in love always.
Faust. Serpent! Serpent!
Mephistopheles [aside]. Good! I'll bet
That I will get you yet!
Faust. Infamous fiend! Off, get you hence!
And do not name that lovely woman!
Nor yet desire for her sweet body summon
Again before my half-distracted sense!
Mephistopheles. What would you then? She thinks that you have flown,
And half and half you are, as you must own.
Faust. I'm near to her, however far I were,
I never can forget nor yet lose her;
I envy even the Body of the Lord
Whenever her sweet lips touch the Adored.
Mephistopheles. Well said, my friend! Oft have envied you indeed
The twin-pair that among the roses feed.
Faust. Off, pander!
Mephistopheles. Fine! You rail and it's a joke to me.
The God who fashioned youth and maid
At once perceived the noblest trade
Was that He make them opportunity.
Be off! That is a cause of woe!
It's to your darling's chamber you're to go,
Not to your death, indeed!
Faust. How am I, in her arms, by Heaven blessed?
Though I grow warm upon her breast,
Do I not always feel her need?
Am I not still the fugitive? unhoused and roaming?
The monster without goal or rest
That like a cataract from rock to rock roared foaming
To the abyss, by greed and frenzy headlong pressed?
She at one side, still with her childlike senses furled,
Upon the alpine meadow in the cottage small,
With all her homely joys and cares, her all,
Within that little world;
And I, the God-detested,
Not enough had I
That all the rocks I wrested
And into pieces made them fly!
Her did I have to undermine, her peace!
Thou, Hell, didst have to have this sacrifice!
Help, Devil, make it brief, this time of agony!
What must be done, let it at once be so!
Then may her fate plunge crushing down on me,
And she with me to ruin go!
Mephistopheles. How it seethes again and how again it glows!
You fool, go and console your pretty dear!
When such a brain as yours no outlet knows,
It straightway fancies that the end is near.
Long life to him who bravely dares!
At other times you've been of quite a devilish mind.
Naught more absurd in this world can I find
Than is a devil who despairs.
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.