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Faust by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

translated by George Madison Priest
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Region of Schierke and Elend]


Mephistopheles. If you'd a broomstick, wouldn't that be fine?
I wish the sturdiest he-goat were mine.
Our goal's still far off and this way is rough.
Faust. As long as I feel fresh afoot, I say
For me this knotted staff's enough.
What good is it when one cuts short the way?
To loiter through the labyrinth of valleys
And then to mount these cliffs, whence sallies
The ever bubbling, leaping spring,
That is the spice that makes such paths worth wandering!
Already springtime in the birches stirs,
It's even felt already by the firs;
Should not our members also feel effect?
Mephistopheles. Forsooth, no trace of that can I detect!
I'm feeling wintry in my every limb;
Upon my path I should like frost and snow.
How sadly rises, red and incomplete, the dim
Moon's disc with its belated glow
Lighting so ill that at each step or so
One runs against a rock, against a tree!
Let's ask a will-o'-the-wisp to lend his flicker!
I see one there just flaming merrily.
Hey, friend! May I bid you to help us get on quicker?
Why will you blaze away so uselessly?
Do be so good and light us up the hill!
Will-o'-the-Wisp. Out of respect for you I hope I'll find
A way to curb my nature's flighty will;
Our course, as heretofore, is zigzag still.
Mephistopheles. Ho! Ho! You think you'll imitate mankind.
Go on and in the Devil's name, but straight! Now mind!
Or else I'll blow your flickering light clean out.
Will-o'-the-Wisp. You are the master of the house, I have no doubt,
And I'll accommodate myself to you with glee.
But do reflect! The mountain's magic-mad today,
And if a will-o'-the-wisp must show the way,
You must not take things all too seriously.
Faust, Mephistopheles, Will-o'-the-Wisp[in alternating song].
Spheres of dream and necromancy,
We have entered them, we fancy.
Lead us well, for credit striving,
That we soon may be arriving
In the wide and desert spaces.
I see trees there running races.
How each, quickly moving, passes,
And the cliffs that low are bowing,
And the rocks, long nose-like masses,
How they're snoring, how they're blowing!
Over stones and grass are flowing
Brook and brooklet downward fleeting.
Hear I murmuring? Hear I singing?
Hear sweets plaints of love entreating,
Voices of those blest days ringing?
What we're loving, hopeful yearning!
And the echo, like returning
Tales of olden times, rousondeth!
Hoo-hoo! Shoo-hoo! Nearer soundeth
Cry of owlet, jay, and plover!
Are they all awake remaining?
Salamanders, through the cover,
Long-limbed, fat-paunched, are they straining?
And the roots, like serpents, winding
Out of rock and sand, unbinding,
Stretch out fetters strange to scare us,
To affright us and ensnare us.
Living, sturdy gnarls uncanny
Stretch out polypus-antennae
Toward the wanderer. Mice are teeming
In a thousand colours, streaming
Through the moss and through the heather!
And the glow-worms fly, in swarming
Columns, ever forming
A bewildering escort hither.
Tell me, do we stay or whether
We are going onward thither?
All , all seems to be gyrating,
Rocks and trees that make grimaces,
Lights that wander, changing places,
Multiplying, self-inflating.

Mephistopheles. Grab my mantle's hem, hold tightly!
Here's a midway peak where nightly
Man, astounded, sees and knows
How in the mountain Mammon glows.
Faust. How strangely glimmers through the gorges,
Like morning's red, a turbid glow!
Down the abyss itself it forges,
Cleaving its way through gulfs far, far below.
Vapour floats yonder, there is steam up-leaping,
Here shines a glow through mist and haze,
Then like a slender thread it's creeping,
Then forth it breaks like fountain-sprays.
Here for a long way it goes winding
Along the vale in a hundred veins
And here - a corner crowding, binding-
In sudden isolation wanes.
There sparks are sprinkling like a shower
Of widely scattered golden sand.
And see the rocky walls! They tower,
They kindle and like ramparts stand.
Mephistopheles. Does not Sir Mammon splendidly
Light up the palace for his revelry?
You see all this! What luck you've had!
But hark! Now come the guests in tumult mad.
Faust. How through the air the tempest raves!
It smites my neck, shock after shock!
Mephistopheles. You must lay hold on these old ribs of rock;
Else it will hurl you down to these abysses' graves.
A mist is making night more dark.
How through the woods it crashes! Hark!
Scared away, the owls are flying.
Hearken! Columns split and quiver
In palaces of green undying.
The branches sigh and breaking shiver!
The tree-trunks' mighty groaning!
The roots are creaking and moaning!
In frightfully entangled fall
They crash together, one and all,
And through the wreck-over-strewn abysses
The tempest howls and hisses.
Voices over us! Do you hear?
Now far off and now more near?
All the mountain-side along
Streams a furious magic song!
Witches [in Chorus].
The Witches to the Brocken go;
The grain is green, the stubble aglow.
There gathers all the mighty host;
Sir Urian' sits uppermost.
So goes it over stone and stock;
The Witch breaks wind, and stinks the buck.
A Voice. Alone old Baubo's coming now;
She's riding upon a farrow sow.
So honour to whom honour is due!
In front, Dame Baubo! Lead the crew!
A sturdy sow with mother astride,
All witches follow in a tide.
A Voice. Which way did you come here?
A Voice. The Ilsenstein way.
I peeped in the owl's nest there today.
She made great eyes at me!
A Voice. Oh, fare on to Hell!
Why ride so pell-mell?
A Voice. Just see how she's flayed me!
The wounds she has made me!
Witches [Chorus].
The way is broad, the way is long;
What is that mad and crazy throng?
The broomstick pokes, the pitchfork thrusts,
The infant chokes, the mother busts.
Wizards [Half Chorus].
We steal along, like snails' our pace;
All women beat us in the race.
If toward Hell we set our pace,
By a thousand steps they win the race.
Other Half.
Not so precisely do we take it,
In a thousand steps may woman make it;
Yet though she hastes as ever she can,
In a single leap it's done by man.
A Voice [from above]. Come with us from the cliff-bound mere!
A Voice [from below]. We'd like to go with you up there.
We wash and we're scoured all bright and clean,
But sterile still as we've always been.
Both Choruses.
The wind is stilled, the stars take flight,
The dismal moon fain hides its light;
In whiz and whirr the magic choir
By thousands sputters out sparks of fire.
A Voice [from below]. Halt there! Ho, there! Ho!
A Voice [from above]. Who calls out from the cleft below?
A Voice [below]. Take me too! Take me too!
I'm climbing now three hundred years
And I can never reach the summit.
I want to be among my peers.
Both Choruses.
The broomstick bears, and bears the stock,
The pitchfork bears, and bears the buck.
Who cannot lift himself today,
Is a lost man for aye and aye.
Half-Witch [below]. I've tripped behind so many a day,
And now the others are far away!
I've no repose at home, and yet
Here too there's none for me to get.
Chorus of Witches.
Salve puts a heart in every hag,
Good as a sail is any rag;
A good ship every trough is too.
You'll fly not 'less today you flew.
Both Choruses.
And when we glide the peak around,
Then sweep along upon the ground;
Bedeck both far and wide the heather
With all your witchdom's swarm together.

[They settle down.]

Mephistopheles. They crowd and shove, they rush and clatter,
They hiss and whirl, they pull and chatter,
They sputter, stink and burn and flare!
A real witch-element, I swear!
Keep close or soon we'll be a parted pair.
Where are you?
Faust [at a distance]. Here!
Mephistopheles. Already snatched up there?
Then I must exercise my rightful sway.
Make way! Squire Voland comes! Make way, sweet folk, make way!
Here, Doctor, hold to me! and now in one quick rush
Let us get out of all this crush;
It is too crazy even for the likes of me.
Hard by there something gleams with a quite peculiar glare;
A something draws me to that shrubbery.
Come, come! We'll go and slip in there.
Faust. Spirit of Contradiction! On! and lead the way!
It was a very clever notion, I must say;
We seek the Brocken on Walpurgis Night,
Yet choose to isolate ourselves when near the height!
Mephistopheles. What motley flames! Just look along the heather!
There is a jolly club together.
In little circles one is not alone.
Faust. I'd rather be up yonder, I must own.
Already whirling smoke and glow come into view.
A host is streaming to the Devil! See them ride!
Full many a riddle there must be untied.
Mephistopheles. Yet many a riddle will be tied anew.
Just let the great world whiz and riot;
We'll house us meanwhile here in quiet.
We've known it as a fact of ancient date
That men make little worlds within the great.
I see young witches stripped and naked over there
And old ones wisely veiled, they don't go bare.
For my sake be a friend to all;
The fun is great, the trouble small.
I hear the sound of instruments arise!
Accursed din! One must get used to that ado.
Come! Come with me! It can't be otherwise.
I'll step up here; I'll introduce you too,
And thus in debt to me bind you anew.
That is no little space. What say you, friend?
Just look out there! You scarce can see the end.
A hundred fires are burning, tier on tier.
They dance, they cook, they drink, make love, and chat.
Now say, where's something better than all that?
Faust. In introducing us, will you appear
As devil or magician here?
Mephistopheles. True, I'm much used to go incognito,
But on a gala day one lets one's orders show.
No garter have I to distinguish me,
But here the horse's foot is honoured and in place.
You see that snail there? See her groping face!
Already, creeping hither steadily,
She's scented something out in me.
Though I should wish it, I cannot belie me here.
But come! From fire to fire we'll make a tour,
I'll be the go-between and you the wooer.

[To some who are sitting around dying embers.]

You aged sirs, what are you doing in the rear?
I'd praise you if right nicely in the midst I found you,
With riot, youthful revelry around you.
At home there's solitude enough for everyone.
General. What trust in nations can one place?
However much for them one may have done.
In peoples' as in women's grace
Youth stands supreme over everyone.
Minister. Now all too far away from right are men,
I praise the good and old, and duly;
When we were all-in-all, ah, truly,
The real, real golden age was then.
Parvenu. We too weren't stupid, I'll be bound.
Oft what we did, we shouldn't rightly;
But now the world turns round and round,
And just when we would hold things tightly.
Author. Who now in any case will read
A book with contents middling clever?
And as for dear young folks, indeed,
They're pert and saucy now as never.
Mephistopheles [who all at once appears very old].
I feel that men are ripe for Judgment Day,
Since no more up the witches' mount I'll climb;
And since my cask drains turbidly away,
So too the world declines in dregs and slime.
Huckster-Witch. You gentlemen, don't pass by so!
Let such an opportunity not go!
Look at my wares attentively;
Here are all sorts of things to see.
Yet in my shop, sirs, there is naught-
Its like on earth you will not find-
That at some time or other has not wrought
Dire harm both to the world and to mankind.
No dagger's here which has not streamed with blood,
No cup which has not poured a hot, consuming flood
Of poison into some quite healthy frame,
No gem that has not brought some lovely maid to shame,
Nor sword that has not made a truce miscarry
Or, from behind maybe, has stabbed no adversary.
Mephistopheles. Dear Coz, you understand but badly times like these:
What's done is past! What's past is done!
Provide yourself with novelties!
By novelties alone can we be won.
Faust. If I'm not to forget myself, I must watch out!
That's what I call a fair beyond all doubt.
Mephistopheles. Upward strives the whirling throng;
You think you shove, and you are shoved along.
Faust. Who can that be?
Mephistopheles. Observe her with great care!
That's Lilith.
Faust. Who?
Mephistopheles. Adam's first wife. Beware
That lovely hair of hers, those tresses
Which she incomparably delights to wear!
The young man whom she lures into their snare
She will not soon release from her caresses.
Faust. Yonder sit two, one old and one young thing.
They have already done some right good capering.
Mephistopheles. There is no rest today for young or old.
A new dance starts; come now let us take hold!
Faust [dancing with THE YOUNG WITCH].
Once came a lovely dream to me.
I saw therein an apple tree;
Two lovely apples on it shone,
They charmed me so, I climbed thereon.
The Beauty.
The little apples man entice
Since first they were in Paradise.
I feel myself with pleasure glow
That such within my garden grow.
Mephistopheles [with THE OLD WITCH].
Once came a wanton dream to me.
I saw therein a riven tree;
It had a monstrous hole;
'Twas huge, yet I was pleased with it.
The Old Witch.
I proffer now my best salute
To you, the knight with horse's foot!
Let me a proper cork prepare,
If him a big hole does not scare.
Proctophantasmist. Accursed folk! how dare you then?
Have you not long had proof complete,
A spirit never stands on ordinary feet?
And now you're dancing like us other men!
The Beauty [dancing]. Why is he at our ball? that fellow there?
Faust [dancing]. Ha! He is simply everywhere.
He must appraise what others dance.
If over each step he can't make a din,
The step's as good as if it had not been.
It irks him most the moment we advance.
If you'd but turn around in endless repetition
As he is wont to do in his old mill,
That, to be sure, he'd call not ill,
Especially if you asked his permission.
Proctophantasmist. You are still here! This is unheard-of, on my word!
Vanish! We brought enlightenment as you have heard!
This devilish crew cares not for rules or books.
We are so wise, and yet in Tegel there are spooks!
How long I've swept and swept at this conceit absurd
And can't sweep clean - this is unheard-of, on my word!
The Beauty. Then do stop boring us in such a place!
Proctophantasmist. I say it, Spirits, to your face,
This spirit despotism I will not endure;
My spirit can not act that way.

[The dancing goes on.]

I see that I have no success today;
But anyway I'll take along "A Tour"
And hope still, ere my last step, to subdue
The devils and the poets too.
Mephistopheles. He'll straightway in a puddle set him.
That's how he gets relief, of solace well assured.
When leeches, feasting on his rump, beset him,
Of spirits and of spirit he is cured.

[To FAUST who has left the dance.]

Why do you let the pretty maiden go
Who sang so sweetly as you danced along?
Faust. Ugh! in the very middle of her song
A mouse sprang from her lips - 'twas small and red.
Mephistopheles. That's quite all right. There's naught in that to dread.
It is enough you did not find the mouse was grey.
Who in a lover's hour will bother anyway?
Faust. I saw then-
Mephistopheles. What?
Faust. Mephisto, see you there-
Far off she stands, alone - a girl so pale and fair?
She drags herself but slowly from that place.
She seems to move with shackled feet.
I must confess, I thought it was the face-
That she looks like my Gretchen sweet.
Mephistopheles. Do let that be! That is of good to none.
It is a magic image, lifeless eidolon.
It is not well to meet that anywhere;
Man's blood grows frigid from that rigid stare;
And he is turned almost to stone.
The story of Medusa you of course have known.
Faust. In truth, the eyes of one who's dead are those,
Which there was no fond, loving hand to close;
That is the breast that Gretchen offered me,
That is the body sweet that I enjoyed.
Mephistopheles. It's sorcery, you fool, you're easily decoyed!
She seems to each as though his love were she.
Faust. What rapture! Ah, what misery!
Yet from this vision I can't turn aside.
How strange that such a lovely neck
A single band of crimson must bedeck!
A knife's edge scarcely seems less wide.
Mephistopheles. Quite right! I see it likewise, it is true!
And she can bear her head twixt side and elbow too,
For Perseus struck it off for her-
I vow, illusion's still bewitching you!
Do come on up the little height!
The Prater is not livelier;
And if someone has not bewitched me quite,
I truly see a theatre.
What's going on?
Servibilis. They're starting now. The play
Will be the last of seven, one that's new;
To give so many is the usual way.
A dilettante wrote the play
And dilettanti will enact it too.
Excuse me, gentlemen, if I must disappear;
With dilettant delight I raise the curtain.
Mephistopheles. I find that all is well, to find you here;
Your proper place is on the Brocken, that is certain.


Theatre Manager.
Now for once we'll rest today,
Valiant sons of Miedling.
Misty vale and mountain grey
Are all the scene we're needing!
Golden wedding cannot be
Till fifty years have vanished;
And yet golden is't to me
When the strife is banished.
Are ye spirits to be seen,
Come forth and show it duly!
Fairy king and fairy queen,
They are united newly.
Now comes Puck and whirls about
And slides his foot a-dancing;
After come a hundred out,
Themselves and him entrancing.
Ariel awakes the song
With pure and heavenly measure;
Many frights he lures along,
And fair ones too, with pleasure.
Spouses who would live in peace,
Learn from our example!
When a pair would love increase,
To separate them's ample.
Sulks the husband, carps the wife,
Just seize them quickly, harry
Her away far to the south
And him to far north carry.
Orchestra Tutti [fortissimo].
Snout of fly, mosquito-bill,
With kin of all conditions,
Frog in leaves and crickets shrill,
These are the musicians!
See, here comes the bagpipe's sack!
Soapbubble-like, it's blowing.
Hear the snecke-snicke-snack
Through its snub nose flowing!
A Spirit that is just taking form.
Spider's foot and paunch of toad
And wings the wight doth grow him!
True, a beastie 'twill not be
But yet a little poem.
A Little Couple.
Short step here and high leap there
Through honey-dew and sweetness;
Yet you'll soar not through the air,
With all your tripping fleetness.
Inquisitive Traveller.
Is that not mummers' mocking play?
Shall I trust to my vision?
Fair god Oberon today
Is here on exhibition?
Claws or tail I do not see
And yet, beyond a cavil,
Just like "The Gods of Greece" is he
Likewise a very devil.
Northern Artist.
What I may grasp today may be
But sketches of this tourney,
Yet I'm betimes preparing me
For my Italian journey.
Woe! bad luck has led me here.
How decency they're mocking!
Of all the witches' host, dear! dear!
But two are powdered! Shocking!
Young Witch.
Powder is like a petticoat,
For grey hags hoddy-doddy;
So I sit naked on my goat
And show a strapping body.
We are too well-behaved by far,
With you to snarl a lot here;
Yet, young and tender as you are,
I hope that you will rot here.
Leader of the Orchestra.
Snout of fly, mosquito-bill,
Don't swarm around the naked!
Frog in leaves and cricket shrill,
Do mark the time and take it!
Weather-Vane [turning in one direction].
The comp'ny's all one can wish for,
Each one a bride, I swear it!
And man by man a bachelor,
Most prom'sing, I declare it!
Weather-Vane [turning in the other direction].
And will the ground not open out
To swallow all who're dancing,
Then I will swiftly leave this rout
And straight to Hell go prancing.
See us here as insects! Ha!
Each one with sharp shears on her,
That Lord Satan, our papa,
We fittingly may honour.
Just see them all, a crowding throng,
Naively jesting, playing!
That they had kind hearts all along,
They'll in the end be saying.
"Leader of the Muses."
Amid this witches' host, indeed,
One's way one gladly loses;
For, sure, I could these sooner lead
Than I can lead the Muses.
The Quondam "Spirit of the Times."
With proper folk one can all do.
Come, cling close, none can pass us!
The Blocksberg has a broad top too,
Like Germany's Parnassus.
Inquisitive Traveller.
What's the name of that stiff man?
He goes with haughty paces;
He snuffles all he snuffle can.
"He scents the Jesuits' traces."
If water clear or muddy be,
I fish with pleasure, really;
That's why this pious man you see
With devils mixing freely.
By pious people, I speak true,
No vehicle's rejected;
Conventicles, more than a few,
On Blocksberg are erected.
Another chorus now succeeds!
I hear a distant drumming.
"Don't be disturbed! It's, in the reeds,
The herons' changeless booming."
Dancing Master.
How each his legs kicks up and flings!
Somehow gets on, however!
The clumsy hops, the crooked springs,
And how it looks, ask never!
They hate each other well, that crew,
And they would like to rend them.
As Orpheus' lyre the beasts all drew,
The bagpipe here will blend them.
I'll not let screams lead me to war
With doubts and critics-cavils.
The Devil must be something, or
Else how could there be devils?
For once, as I see phantasy,
It is far too despotic.
In truth, if I be all I see,
Today I'm idiotic.
This riot makes my torture sheer
And greatly irks me surely;
For the first time I'm standing here
On my feet insecurely.
With much delight I join this crew
And share with them their revels;
For that there are good spirits too
I argue from these devils.
They go to track the flamelets out
And think they're near the treasure.
Devil alliterates with Doubt,
So I am here with pleasure.
Leader of the Orchestra.
Frog in leaves and cricket shrill,
Cursed dilettants! Perdition!
Fly-snout and mosquito-bill,
You're each a fine musician!
The Adroit.
Sans-souci, we call us so,
Gay creatures free from worry;
We afoot no more can go,
So on our heads we hurry.
The Ne'er-Do-Wells.
We once sponged many a bite, 'tis true,
God help us! That is done now!
We've danced our shoes entirely through,
On naked soles we run now.
From the marshes we come out,
Where we arose from litter;
Yet here in dancing roundabout
We're gallants all a-glitter.
A Falling Star.
From the heights above plunged I,
With star - and fire-light o'er me;
Crooked now in grass I lie,
Who'll to my feet restore me?
The Heavy Ones.
Room! more room! All round us too!
Thus downward go the grasses.
Spirits come and they, it's true,
Are clumsy, heavy masses.
Bloated, enter not the fray,
Like elephant-calves about one!
And the clumsiest today
Be Puck himself, the stout one!
If kind Nature gave you wings,
If them Mind uncloses,
Follow my light wanderings
To yon hill of roses!
Orchestra [pianissimo].
Cloud and mist drift off with speed,
Aloft 'tis brighter growing.
Breeze in leaves and wind in reed,
And all away is blowing.

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