Faust by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

translated by George Madison Priest
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THE EMPEROR'S PALACE

THE THRONE-ROOM

[The State Council awaiting the EMPEROR. Trumpets. Courtiers
of all kinds enter, splendidly dressed. The EMPEROR
ascends the throne, at his right hand the ASTROLOGER.]

Emperor. I greet you, faithful friends and dear,
Assembled here from far and wide.
I see the wise man at my side,
But wherefore is the Fool not here?
A Squire. A pace behind your mantle's sweep
There on the stairs he fell in a heap;
They bore away that load of fat,
But dead or drunk? No one knows that.
A Second Squire. Now at a swift, amazing pace
Another's pushing to his place.
He's quaintly primped, in truth, and smart,
But such a fright that all men start.
The guards there at the doorway hold
Their halberds crosswise and athwart-
But here he is. The Fool is bold!
Mephistopheles [kneeling before the throne].
What is accursed and welcomed ever?
What's longed for, ever chased away?
What's always taken into favour?
What's harshly blamed, accused each day?
Whom don't you dare to summon here?
Whose name hears gladly every man?
What to your throne is drawing near?
What's placed itself beneath your ban?
Emperor. Your words you may present spare!
The place for riddles is not here;
They are these gentlemen's affair.
Solve them yourself! I'd like to hear.
My old fool's gone far, far away, I fear me;
Take you his place and come and stand here near me.

[Mephistopheles mounts the steps and stations himself on the left.]

Murmurs of the Crowd.
A brand-new fool - new pains begin-
Whence did he come? - how came he in?-
The old one fell - he's spent and done-
A barrel he - a lath this one-
Emperor. And so, ye faithful whom I love,
Be welcome here from near and far.
Ye meet beneath a favouring star;
Fortune is written for us there above.
Yet wherefore in these days, oh, say,
When all our cares we'd thrust away
And wear the mummer's mask in play
And gaiety alone enjoy,
Why should we let state councils us annoy?
But since the task seems one we may not shun,
All is arranged, so be it done.
Chancellor. The highest virtue like an aureole
Circles the Emperor's head; alone and sole,
He validly can exercise it:
'Tis justice! - All men love and prize it;
'Tis what all wish, scarce do without, and ask;
To grant it to his people is his task.
But ah! what good to mortal mind is sense,
What good to hearts is kindness, hands benevolence,
When through the state a fever runs and revels,
And evil hatches more and more of evils?
Who views the wide realm from this height supreme,
To him all seems like an oppressive dream,
Where in confusion is confusion reigning
And lawlessness by law itself maintaining,
A world of error evermore obtaining.
This man steals herds, a woman that,
Cross, chalice, candlestick from altar;
For many years his boastings never falter,
His skin intact, his body sound and fat.
Now plaintiffs crowd into the hall,
The judge, encushioned, lords it over all.
Meanwhile in billows, angry, urging,
A growing tumult of revolt is surging.
Great crimes and shame may be the braggart's token,
On worst accomplices he oft depends;
And "Guilty!" is the verdict often spoken
Where Innocence only itself defends.
To pieces is our world now going,
What's fitting loses all its might;
How ever shall that sense be growing
Which, only, leads us to the Right?
At last will men of good intent
To briber, flatterer incline;
A judge who can impose no punishment,
At last with culprits will combine.
I've painted black, and yet a denser screen
I'd rather draw before the scene.

[Pause.]

Decisions cannot be evaded;
When all do harm and none are aided,
Majesty too becomes a prey.
Commander-in-Chief. In these wild days what riots quicken!
Each strikes and he in turn is stricken,
And no command will men obey.
The citizen behind his wall,
The knight upon his rocky nest,
Have sworn to last us out, and all
Maintain their power with stubborn zest.
The mercenaries, restless growing,
Blusteringly demand their pay,
And if to them no more were owing,
They would be quick to run away.
Let one forbid what all men fain expect,
He's put his hand into a hornet's nest;
The empire which they should protect
Lies plundered, desolate, and waste.
This furious riot no one is restraining,
Already half the world's undone;
Outside the realm kings still are reigning,
But no one thinks it his concern - not one.
Treasurer. Who will depend upon allies!
The funds they pledged as subsidies,
Like leaking pipe-borne water, do not flow.
Then, Sire, of these wide states - yours by succession-
Who now has come into possession?
A new lord rules wherever one may go,
Insist on living independently;
How he keeps house, we must look on and see.
Of rights we've given up so many,
We're left without a claim to any.
And as to parties, of whatever name,
There's been no trust in them of late;
They may give praise or they may blame,
Indifferent are their love and hate.
To rest them well from all their labour
Lie hidden Ghibelline and Guelph.
Who is there now who'll help his neighbour?
Each has enough to help himself.
Barred are the gates where gold is stored,
And all men scratch and scrape and hoard,
And empty all our coffers stay.
Steward. What ills I too must learn to bear!
We want each day to save and spare,
And more we're needing every day,
And daily do I see new trouble growing.
The cooks lack nothing, they've no woes;
For boars and stags and hares and roes
And fowls, geese, ducks, and turkeys too,
All owances-in-kind, sure revenue,
They still are not so badly flowing.
The flow of wine? That, to be sure, is slowing.
Where once in cellars cask on cask was nuzzling,
The best of brands and vintages befuzzling,
Our noble lords' eternal guzzling
Is draining every last drop out.
The City Council's store must now be opened up.
A basin, bowl, is seized as drinking-cup
And under the table ends the drinking-bout.
Now I'm to pay, give each his wages.
The Jew will spare me no outrages,
He'll make advances which for ages
Will put our revenues to rout.
The swine are no more fatten fed,
Pawned is the pillow on the bed,
At table we eat bread for which we owe.
Emperor.[after some reflection, to MEPHISTOPHELES].
Say, Fool, can you not add a tale of woe?
Mephistopheles. Indeed, not I! I see this ambient splendour,
Yourself and yours! - Should one his trust surrender
Where Majesty holds undisputed sway
And ready might sweeps hostile force away?
Where honest purpose holds command
And wisdom guides the active hand?
What can the powers of evil do, combining
To make a darkness where such stars are shining?
Murmurs.
That is a rogue - full well he knows-
Sneaks in by lying - while it goes-
I know for sure - what lurks behind-
What then? - he has some scheme in mind-
Mephistopheles. Where in this world does not some lack appear?
Here this, there that, but money's lacking here.
One can not pick it off the floor, that's sure,
But what lies deepest, wisdom can procure.
In veins of mountains, walls far underground,
Gold coined and uncoined can be found;
And do you ask me who'll bring it to light?
A man endowed with Mind's and Nature's might!
Chancellor. Nature and Mind - don't talk to Christians thus!
Men burn up atheists, fittingly,
Because such speeches are most dangerous.
Nature is sin, and Mind is devil,
They nurture doubt, in doubt they revel,
Their hybrid, monstrous progeny.
That's not for us! - Our Emperor's ancient land
Has seen arise two castes alone
Who worthily uphold his throne:
The saints and knights. Firm do they stand,
Defying every tempest day by day
And taking church and state in pay.
In rabble minds that breed confusion
Revolt arises like a tide.
Heretics, wizards! Imps of delusion!
They ruin town and country-side.
Them will you now with brazen juggle
Into this lofty circle smuggle,
While in a heart depraved you snuggle.
Fools, wizards, heretics are near allied.
Mephistopheles. I see the learned man in what you say!
What you don't touch, for you lies miles away;
What you don't grasp, is wholly lost to you;
What you don't reckon, you believe not true;
What you don't weigh, that has for you no weight;
What you don't coin, you're sure is counterfeit.
Emperor. That's not the way to help or aught determine.
What do you mean now with this Lenten sermon?
I'm sated of this endless "If" and "How."
There is no money. Well, then, get it now!
Mephistopheles. I'll furnish what you wish and more. It's true,
It is a light task, yet the light's a burden too.
The gold lies there and yet to win it,
That is the art - who knows how to begin it?
Recall those fearful times when roving bands
Poured like a deluge drowning men and lands,
How many men, so greatly did they fear,
Concealed their dearest treasure there and here.
So it was of old when mighty Rome held sway,
So it was till yesterday, aye, till today.
It all lies buried in the earth, to save it;
The earth's the Emperor's, and he should have it.
Treasurer. Now for a fool, his words are noways trite.
That is, in truth, the old Imperial Right.
Chancellor. Satan is laying his golden nooses;
We're dealing with no right and pious uses.
Steward. If he brings welcome gifts to court, I'm sure,
A little wrong with them I can endure.
Commander-in-Chief. Shrewd fool to promise each what will befit;
Whence it may come, no soldier cares a whit.
Mephistopheles. Perhaps you think I'm trying to betray you;
Well, here's the astrologer; ask him, I pray you.
Circle on circle, hour and house he knows.
Tell us then what the heavenly aspect shows.
Murmurs.
Two rogues - each to the other known-
Dreamer and Fool - so near the throne-
An ancient ditty - worn and weak-
The Fool will prompt - the Sage will speak-
Astrologer [MEPHISTOPHELES prompting him].
The Sun himself is gold of purest ray,
The herald Mercury serves for love and pay;
Dame Venus has bewitched you all, for she,
In youth and age, looks on you lovingly.
Chaste Luna has her humours whimsical;
The strength of Mars, though striking not, threats all;
And Jupiter is still the fairest star.
Saturn is great, small to our eyes and far;
Him as a metal we don't venerate,
Little in worth but heavy in his weight.
Ah, when with Sol chaste Luna doth unite,
Silver with gold, the world is glad and bright.
It's easy then to get all that one seeks:
Parks, palaces, and breasts and rosy cheeks.
All these procures the highly learned man
Who can perform what one of us never can.
Emperor. All that he says I hear twice o'er,
And yet I'm not convinced the more.
Murmurs.
What's all this smoke - a worn-out joke-
Astrology - or alchemy-
An oft-heard strain - hope stirred in vain-
If he appear - a rogue is here-
Mephistopheles. They stand around and gape in wonder;
They won't believe that a great prize is found.
Of mandrakes one appears to maunder,
Another of the sable hound.
What though one's wit make others prickle,
Another cry out: "Sorcery!"-
If still he sometimes feels his sole a-tickle
And his stride is not what it used to be!
You feel the secret operation
Of Nature's endless ruling might,
And from earth's undermost foundation
A living trace steals up to light.
When in your limbs you're feeling twitches,
When something lays uncanny hold,
Be swift to delve, dig up the riches,
There lies the fiddler, lies the gold!
Murmurs.
My foot's like lead, can't move about-
Cramp's in my arm - that's only gout-
A tickle's jerking my big toe-
All down my back it hurts me so-
From signs like these it should be clear
The richest gold-preserve is here.
Emperor. Make haste! You shan't escape today.
Prove now your scummy, lying phrases
And show at once those noble spaces.
My sword and sceptre I will put away;
If you're not lying, I will lend
My own exalted hands, this work to end,
But if you're lying, I'll send you to hell!
Mephistopheles. That pathway I could find full well!
But I've not words enough to tell
What, ownerless, is waiting everywhere.
The farmer, ploughing furrows with his share,
Turns with the clods a pot of gold;
He seeks saltpetre in a clay wall, and
He finds a golden, golden roll to hold,
Scared and rejoiced, in his own wretched hand.
Who would explore the earth-hid wonder,
What vaultings must he burst asunder,
What dark ways burrow through and under
Near neighbouring on the world below!
In cellars vast, preserved of old,
Plates, dishes, beakers too, of gold
He sees displayed there, row on row.
There goblets, made of rubies, stand,
And if he'll put them to a use,
Beside them is an ancient juice.
Yet - you'll believe my master-hand-
The wooden staves are long since rotten;
A cask of tartar has the wine begotten.
Not only gold and jewels rare,
Proud wines of noble essences are there,
Enveiled in horror and in gloom.
The wise seek here without dismay.
A fool can recognize a thing by day;
In darkness mysteries are at home.
Emperor. What is the gain of dark? You can have that!
If aught has value, it must come to light.
Who can detect a rogue in dead of night?
All cows are black, and grey is every cat.
The pots down there, heavy with golden freight-
Drive your plough on, unearth them straight.
Mephistopheles. Take hoe and spade yourself, dig on!
You'll grow great, through this peasant-toil.
A herd of golden calves anon
Will wrench their way out of the soil.
Then with delight, without delay,
Yourself you can, you will your love array.
A jewel in which light and colour dance
Both Majesty and Beauty can enhance.
Emperor. Be quick, be quick! How long are we to wait?
Astrologer [as above]. Such urgent longing, Sire, pray moderate!
Let first the motley, joyous play proceed,
To no fair goal can minds distracted lead.
First, penance in a calm mood doth behoove us,
Earn what's beneath us by what is above us.
Who wishes good, should first be good,
Who wishes joy, should mollify his blood,
Who asks for wine, the ripe grape should he press,
Who hopes for miracles, more faith possess.
Emperor. So let the time in merriment be spent!
Ash-Wednesday's coming to our heart's content.
Meanwhile we'll celebrate, whate'er befall,
All the more merrily mad Carnival.

[Trumpets, exeunt.]

Mephistopheles. How closely linked are Luck and Merit,
Is something fools have never known.
Had they the Wise Man's Stone, I swear it,
There'd be no Wise Man for the Stone.

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