Faust by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

translated by George Madison Priest
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LABORATORY


[In the style of the Middle Ages; scattered, clumsy apparatus
for fantastic purposes.]

Wagner [at the furnace]. The bell resounds with fearful clangour,
The sooty walls thrill its vibration.
No longer can remain uncertain
My great, most earnest expectation.
Darkness is lifting like a curtain.
Within the phial's inmost chamber
It's glowing like a living ember,
Yea, like a glorious carbuncle, gleaming
And flashing, through the darkness streaming.
A clear white light comes into view!
Oh, may it not escape once more!-
Ah, God! what's rattling at the door?
Mephistopheles [entering]. Welcome! I mean it well with you.
Wagner [anxiously]. Welcome in this auspicious hour!

[Softly.]

Don't speak or even breathe, though, I implore!
Achieved is soon a glorious undertaking.
Mephistopheles [more softly]. What is it, then?
Wagner [more softly]. A man is in the making!
Mephistopheles. A man? And, pray, what lovesick pair
Have you shut in the chimney-flue?
Wagner. May God forbid! Begetting, as men used to do,
Both vain and senseless we declare.
The tender point whence life used to begin,
The gracious outward urgence from within,
To take and give, to have its likeness known,
Near and remote alike to make its own-
All that has lost its former dignity.
Whereas delighted with it still the beast may be,
A man with his great gifts must henceforth win
A higher, even higher origin.

[Turning toward the furnace.]

It flashes, see! Now truly we may hold
That if from substances a hundredfold,
Through mixture - for on mixture all depends-
Man's substance gently be consolidated,
In an alembic sealed and segregated,
And properly be cohobated,
In quiet and success the labour ends.

[Turning toward the furnace again.]

'Twill be! The mass is working clearer,
Conviction gathers, truer, nearer.
What men as Nature's mysteries would hold,
All that to test by reason we make bold,
And what she once was wont to organize,
That we bid now to crystallize.
Mephistopheles. Whoever lives long learns full many things;
By naught in this world can he ever be surprised.
I've seen already in my wanderings
Many a mortal who was crystallized.
Wagner [hitherto constantly attentive to the phial].
It rises, flashes, gathers on;
A moment, and the deed is done.
A great design at first seems mad; but we
Henceforth will laugh at chance in procreation,
And such a brain that is to think transcendently
Will be a thinker's own creation.

[Looking at the phial rapturously.]

The glass resounds with lovely might;
It dims, it clears; life must begin to be.
A dainty figure greets my sight;
A pretty manikin I see.
What more do we or does the world want now?
The mystery's within our reach.
Come, hearken to this sound, and listen how
It turns to voice, it turns to speech.
Homunculus [in the phial, to WAGNER].
Well, Daddy! how are you? It was no jest.
Come, press me tenderly upon your breast,
But not too hard, for fear the glass might shatter.
That is the property of matter:
For what is natural the All has place;
What's artificial needs restricted space.

[To MEPHISTOPHELES.]

How now, Sir Cousin, rogue, are you here too?
And at the proper moment? Many thanks to you!
You've been led here by some good destiny.
The while I'm living, active must I be.
Fain would I gird me for the work straightway;
You are adroit and can curtail my way.
Wagner. But one word more! I'm shamed that answers fail me,
When with their problems young and old assail me.
For instance: no one's grasped how, each with either,
Body and soul can fit so well together,
Hold fast as if not to be separated,
Yet each by other daily vexed and hated.
And then-
Mephistopheles. Stop? I would rather ask if he
Can say why man and wife so ill agree?
This point, my friend, will nevermore be clear.
The little chap wants work to do and it is here.
Homunculus. What's to be done?
Mephistopheles [pointing to a side door].
Your talents here you're to employ!
Wagner [looking steadfastly into the phial].
In truth you are the very loveliest boy!

[The side door opens and FAUST is seen stretched outon the couch.]

Homunculus [astonished]. Significant!

[The phial slips out of WAGNER'S hands, hovers above FAUST and illumines him.]

'With beauty girt! - Clear waters moving
In a dense grove and women who undress;
Fairest of forms! - The picture is improving.
But one outshines the rest in loveliness,
From noblest heroes, nay, from gods, descended.
In the translucent pool her foot she laves;
The living flame of her sweet form is blended
With th' cooling, clinging crystal of the waves.
But what a noise of pinions swiftly dashing,
And in the pool what swishing, splashing!
The maidens flee abashed, but she, the queen,
With calm composure gazes on the scene.
With pleasure proud and womanly she sees
The swan-prince nestle fondly at her knees,
Importunate, yet tame. He grows more daring.
But swiftly upward floats a vapour pale
And covers with its closely woven veil
A scene most lovely and beyond comparing.
Mephistopheles. How many tales you can relate!
Small as you are, in fancies you are great.
I can see naught-
Homunculus. Of course. You from the North,
In ages dark and drear brought forth,
In all the murk of knighthood and of papistry,
How could your vision, then, be clear and free?
Only in gloom are you at home.

[Looking around.]

Bemouldered stone-work, dingy, horrid,
With pointed arches low and florid!
If this man wakes, there'll be new things to dread;
At once upon the spot he will lie dead.
Prophetic dreams of wood and springs beguile him,
Of swans and naked beauties. Here,
In such a place, how could he reconcile him,
Which I, the most adaptable, scarce bear?
Now off with him!
Mephistopheles. Whither I'll hear with pleasure.
Homunculus. Command the warrior to the fight,
Lead forth the maid to tread a measure;
Then all is fitting, all is right.
Just now - my memory brings to light-
Is Classical Walpurgis Night.
For him could be no happier event
Than to be taken to his element.
Mephistopheles. Of that I've never chanced to hear.
Homunculus. How would it come, pray, to your ear?
Only romantic ghosts are known to you;
A ghost that's genuine must be classic too.
Mephistopheles. But whither, then, are we to travel? Tell me!
Your antique cronies now repel me.
Homunculus. Satan, northwest is where you're wont to play,
But to the southeast we will sail today.
Along a great plain is Peneus flowing free,
Its silent bays shadowed by bush and tree.
To mountain gorges sweeps the level view,
Above it stands Pharsalus old and new.
Mephistopheles. Alack! have done! and call not old dissension
'Twixt tyranny and slavery to my attention.
It wearies me, no sooner is it done.
When once more is the same old fight begun.
And no one notes that he is but the game
Of Asmodeus who still fans the flame.
They're fighters, so they say, for freedom's rights;
More closely scanned, it's slave with slave that fights.
Homunculus. Oh, leave to men their fractious being.
Each must defend himself as best he can,
From boyhood up; thus he becomes a man.
To this man's cure we must be seeing.
Come, prove it here if you've a remedy;
If you have not, then leave the cure to me.
Mephistopheles. Many a Brocken-game I might essay,
But heathen bolts, I'll find, will block my way.
The Greeks were never worth much, it is true,
Yet their free play of senses dazzles you,
The heart of man to happy vices winning.
Gloomy will always seem our ways of sinning.
What now?
Homunculus. I know you're free of squeamish twitches!
And if I touch upon Thessalian witches,
I think I have not talked for naught.
Mephistopheles [lustfully]. Thessalian witches! They are persons- well,
For them I long have asked and sought.
Night after night with them to dwell
Is not, I'd say, a pleasant thought;
Let's spy them, try them, though-
Homunculus. The mantle there!
Come, wrap it straightway round the knight!
As heretofore the rag will bear
You both upon your novel flight.
I'll light the way.
Wagner [anxiously]. And I?
Homunculus. Well, you
Will stay at home, most weighty work to do.
Open the parchment-sheets, collect
Life-elements as the recipes direct,
With caution fitting each to other. Ponder
The What - to solve the How still harder try,
While through a little piece of world I wander
To find the dot to put upon the i.
Accomplished then will the great purpose be.
Striving earns high requital: wealth,
Honour and fame, long life and perfect health,
Knowledge and virtue too - well, possibly.
Farewell!
Wagner [sorrowfully]. Farewell! My heart is wrung with pain.
I fear that I will see you never again.
Mephistopheles. Now to Peneus, quick, descend!
Sir Coz shall not be meanly rated.

[To the spectators.]

It's true, at last we all depend
On creatures we ourselves created.

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