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Faust by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

translated by George Madison Priest
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[A great cauldron stands over the fire on a low hearth. In the
steam which rises from it, various figures become visible. A
Female Ape sits by the cauldron and skims the foam off it,
taking care that it does not run over. The Male Ape, with the
Young Apes sits beside it and warms himself. Walls and
ceiling are decked out with the strangest articles of
Witches' furniture.]


Faust. I am repelled by this mad sorcery.
I shall get well, you promise me,
In this chaotic craziness?
Shall I demand an old crone's remedy?
And will the dirty, boiling mess
Divest my body of some thirty years?
Woe's me, if there's naught better you can find!
For now my hope already disappears.
Has nature not, has not a noble mind,
Discovered somewhere any balm?
Mephistopheles. My friend, you talk once more as if you're calm.
By natural means you can acquire a youthful look,
But it is in another book
And is a chapter strange to see.
Faust. Still I will know it.
Mephistopheles. Good! To have a remedy
Without physician, money, sorcery:
Betake yourself into the fields without delay,
Begin to dig and hack away,
Maintain yourself, your thought and feeling,
Within a circle quite confined and fixed;
Take nourishment of food that is not mixed;
Live with the beasts as beast, nor deem it base
To spread the field you reap with your own dung.
Be sure, this method's best in any case,
Though eighty years of age, still to be young.
Faust. I am not used to that; I can't submit
To take the spade in hand and dig and ditch.
For me a narrow life is quite unfit.
Mephistopheles. So then there is no help save from the witch.
Faust. But why the old beldame? What is your notion?
Can you yourself not brew the potion?
Mephistopheles. That were a lovely pastime on my part!
Meanwhile a thousand bridges I could rear.
We can't depend alone on science or on art,
The work demands a deal of patience too.
A quiet spirit's busy many a year,
For time alone produces potent brew.
And all that is a part of it
Is wondrous as one must admit!
It's true, the Devil taught her how to do it,
And yet the Devil can not brew it.

[Catching sight of THE BEASTS.]

How delicate the breed! Just see!
That is the maid! The man is he!


It seems the dame is not at home with you.
The Beasts.
To a rollicking crew
Out she flew
By the chimney-flue!
Mephistopheles. How long is it her wont to roam from here?
The Beasts.As long as it takes to warm a paw.
Mephistopheles [to FAUST]. How do you think the dainty beasts appear?
Faust. Absurd as anyone I ever saw.
Mephistopheles. I say, this kind of conversation
I carry on with greatest delectation.


Accursed puppets! Come and tell,
What are you querling in that stuff?
The Beasts. A beggars' soup that's watered well.
Mephistopheles. Then you've a public large enough.
The Male Ape [sidles up to MEPHISTOPHELES and fawns on him].
Oh, do throw the dice,
Make me rich in a trice,
And do let it win me!
It all is so bad,
If money I had,
Good sense would be in me.
Mephistopheles. How fortunate the ape would think himself, could he
But also risk some money in a lottery!

[Meanwhile THE YOUNG APES have been playing with a great globe
which they now roll forward.]

The Male Ape.
That is the world!
It mounts, now whirled,
Its fall will follow,
Like glass it rings.
Soon break such things!
Within it's hollow.
Here bright it gleams,
Here brighter beams.
I am alive!
My dear son, strive
To keep away!
For you must die!
'Tis made of clay,
In bits 'twill fly.
What means the sieve?
The Male Ape [takes it down].
Came you to thieve,
I would know you directly.

[He runs to THE FEMALE APE and makes her look through it.]

Look through the sieve!
Know you the thief?
Dare not name him exactly?
Mephistopheles [going nearer to the fire].
And then this pot?
Male Ape and Female Ape.
The half-witted sot!
He knows not the pot,
He knows not the kettle!
Unmannerly beast!
The Male Ape.
Take the brush at least
And sit on the settle!

[He makes MEPHISTOPHELES Sit down.]

Faust [who all this time has been standing before a mirror, now
going near it, now going away from it].
What do I see? What form divinely fair
Within this magic mirror is revealed?
Oh lend me, Love, thy swiftest wing and bear
Me hence into her wondrous field!
Alas! If from this spot I dare
But stir, or if I venture to go near,
Then dim as through a mist doth she appear!
The fairest image of a woman! Can it be,
Is it possible? Can woman be so fair?
Must I in that recumbent body there
Behold of all the heavens the epitome?
Can one so fair be found on earth?
Mephistopheles. Well, if a God for six whole days, my friend,
Toils hard and says "Ah, bravo!" at the end,
Then something rather neat must come to birth.
For this time gaze till you are satiate.
I know how I can find you such a treasure
And he who as a bridegroom has the happy fate
To lead her home, is blessed beyond all measure!

[Faust continues to look in the mirror. MEPHISTOPHELES,
stretching himself on the settle and playing with the brush,
continues to speak.]

I sit here like a king upon his throne;
I hold the sceptre here, I lack the crown alone.

[The Beasts who meanwhile have been playing all sorts of odd
confused antics, bring a crown TO MEPHISTOPHELES with a loud outcry].

Oh, please be so good
With sweat and with blood
The crown to belime!

[They handle the crown awkwardly and shatter it into two pieces
with which they jump about.]

It's done for! and we,
We speak and we see,
We hear and we rhyme.
Faust [facing the mirror]. Woe's me! How nearly crazy do I feel!
Mephistopheles [pointing to THE BEASTS].
Now my head too almost begins to reel.
The Beasts.
And if we succeed
And all fits indeed,
Will thoughts in it be!
Faust [as above]. My breast begins to burn in me!
Let's go away immediately!
Mephistopheles [in the same attitude as above].
Well, now at least one has to say,
There are some honest poets anyway.

[The cauldron which THE FEMALE APE has neglected, begins to
boil over; a great flame arises which streams up the chimney.
The Witch comes careering down through the flame with horrible cries.]

The Witch.
Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow!
You damned beast! Accursed sow!
Neglecting kettle, scorching me now!
Accursed beast!


What is that here?
Who are you here?
What will you wreak?
Who is the sneak?
May pangs of hell
Burn your bones well!

[She plunges the skimming-ladle into the cauldron and sprinkles

Mephistopheles [who reverses the brush which he has been holding and strikes among the glasses and pots].
In two! In two!
There lies the brew!
There lies the glass!
Let the joke pass
As beat, you ass,
To melodies from you!

[As THE WITCH steps back full of rage and horror.]

Do you know me? You skeleton! You fright!
Do you know me, your lord and master?
What holds me back that I don't smite
And crush you and your ape-sprites with disaster?
Have you no more respect before the doublet red?
Can you not recognize the tall cock's-feather?
Was this my face hid altogether?
My name forsooth I should have said?
The Witch. My rough salute, sir, pardon me!
But yet no horse's-foot I see.
Your pair of ravens, where are they?
Mephistopheles. This time I'll pardon you that you were rough,
For it's a long time, sure enough,
Since we have crossed each other's way.
Culture that licks and prinks the world anew,
Has reached out to the Devil too.
The northern phantom now is seen nowhere;
Where do you see the horns, the claws, and tail?
And as concerns the foot which I can't spare,
My credit socially it would impair;
So I, as many young men do, avail
Myself of false calves now for many a year.
The Witch [dancing]. I almost lose my senses and my brain - oh, dear!
To see Squire Satan once more here!
Mephistopheles. That title, woman, I forbid it me!
The Witch. Why? Has it done you any injury?
Mephistopheles. That's been known as a fable many a season;
But men have things no better for that reason.
Free are they from the Evil One; the evil are still here.
Just call me Baron, that will satisfy me.
Like other cavaliers I am a cavalier.
My noble blood you don't deny me;
This is the coat of arms I bear, see here!

[He makes an indecent gesture.]

The Witch [laughs immoderately].
Ha! Ha! That is your very way!
Just as you ever were, you are a rogue today!
Mephistopheles [to FAUST]. My friend, learn well and understand,
This is the way to take a witch in hand.
The Witch. Now, gentlemen, what say you I shall do?
Mephistopheles. A good glass of the well-known juice,
Yet I must beg the oldest sort of you.
A double strength do years produce.
The Witch. With pleasure! Here I have a bottle
From which I sometimes wet my throttle,
Which has no more the slightest stink;
I'll gladly give a little glass to you.

[In a low tone.]

And yet this man, if unprepared he drink,
He can not live an hour, as you know too.
Mephistopheles. He is a friend of mine whom it will profit well;
I would bestow your kitchen's best on him.
So draw your circle, speak your spell,
Give him a cup full to the brim!

[The Witch with curious gestures draws a circle and places
marvellous things in it; meanwhile the glasses begin to ring, the
cauldron to sound and make music. Lastly, she brings a large book
and places the APES in a circle so as to make them serve as
reading-desk and hold the torch. She beckons FAUST to come near her.]

Faust [to MEPHISTOPHELES]. What is to come of all this? Say!
These frantic gestures and this crazy stuff?
This most insipid, fooling play,
I've known and hated it enough.
Mephistopheles. Nonsense! She only wants to joke us;
I beg you, do not be so stern a man!
Physician-like, she has to play some hocus-pocus
So that the juice will do you all the good it can.

[He obliges FAUST to step into the circle.]

The Witch [begins to declaim, with great emphasis, from the book].
This you must ken!
From one make ten,
And two let be,
Make even three,
Then rich you'll be.
Skip o'er the four!
From five and six,
The Witch's tricks,
Make seven and eight,
'Tis finished straight;
And nine is one,
And ten is none,
That is the witch's one-time-one!
Faust. I think the old hag's talking in delirium.
Mephistopheles. Much more of it is still to come.
I know it well, thus doth the whole book chime;
I've squandered over it much time,
For perfect contradictions, in the end,
Remain mysterious alike for fools and sages.
The art is old and new, my friend.
It was the way in all the ages,
Through Three and One, and One and Three,
Error instead of truth to scatter.
Thus do men prate and teach untroubledly.
With fools who'll bandy wordy chatter?
Men oft believe, if only they hear wordy pother,
That there must surely be in it some thought or other.
The Witch [goes on].
The lofty power
Of Wisdom's dower
From all the world is hidden!
Who takes no thought,
To him it's brought,
Without a care, unbidden.
Faust. What nonsense is she chanting here before us?
My head's near splitting from her shrieking.
I seem to hear a whole, great chorus,
A hundred thousand idiots speaking.
Mephistopheles. Enough, O Sibyl excellent, enough!
Give us your drink, the precious stuff,
And fill the goblet quickly to the brim.
Since he's my friend, the drink will not hurt him.
A man of numerous degrees, he's quaffed
Already many a goodly draught.

[The Witch with many ceremonies pours the drink into a goblet.
As FAUST lifts it to his mouth, a light flame rises.]

Mephistopheles. Quick, down with it! And make an end!
Your heart will be delighted by the drink.
You are the Devil's bosom friend,
And yet, afraid of fire, you shrink?

[The Witch breaks up the circle. FAUST steps out.]

Mephistopheles. Quick, now, away! You must not rest.
The Witch. May you enjoy the small gulp's savour!
Mephistopheles [to THE WITCH]. If I can do you any favour,
Then on Walpurgis Night make your request.
The Witch. Here is a song! If sometimes sung, you'll see
In what a special way it will affect you.
Mephistopheles [to FAUST]. Come quickly and let me direct you;
You must perspire - that needs must be-
So that the potent juice all through you flow.
I'll teach you afterward to value noble leisure,
And soon you'll feel with thrilling pleasure
How Cupid stirs and leaps and trips it to and fro.
Faust. Let me but briefly gaze once more into the glass,
Ah, too fair seemed that woman's form!
Mephistopheles. No, no! A model that no woman can surpass,
You'll see anon alive and warm.

[In a low tone.]

With this drink in your body, soon you'll greet
A Helena in every girl you meet.

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