Faust, by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Forest and Cavern

XIV

Forest and Cavern

Faust (solus)

Spirit sublime, thou gav’st me, gav’st me all
For which I prayed. Not unto me in vain
Hast thou thy countenance revealed in fire.
Thou gav’st me Nature as a kingdom grand,
With power to feel and to enjoy it. Thou
Not only cold, amazed acquaintance yield’st,
But grantest, that in her profoundest breast
I gaze, as in the bosom of a friend.
The ranks of living creatures thou dost lead
Before me, teaching me to know my brothers
In air and water and the silent wood.
And when the storm in forests roars and grinds,
The giant firs, in falling, neighbor boughs
And neighbor trunks with crushing weight bear down,
And falling, fill the hills with hollow thunders —
Then to the cave secure thou leadest me,
Then show’st me mine own self, and in my breast
The deep, mysterious miracles unfold.
And when the perfect moon before my gaze
Comes up with soothing light, around me float
From every precipice and thicket damp
The silvery phantoms of the ages past,
And temper the austere delight of thought.

That nothing can be perfect unto Man
I now am conscious. With this ecstasy,
Which brings me near and nearer to the Gods,
Thou gav’st the comrade, whom I now no more
Can do without, though, cold and scornful, he
Demeans me to myself, and with a breath,
A word, transforms thy gifts to nothingness.
Within my breast he fans a lawless fire,
Unwearied, for that fair and lovely form:
Thus in desire I hasten to enjoyment,
And in enjoyment pine to feel desire.

Have you not led this life quite long enough?

(Mephistopheles enters.)

Mephistopheles

Have you not led this life quite long enough?
How can a further test delight you?
’Tis very well, that once one tries the stuff,
But something new must then requite you.

Faust

Would there were other work for thee!
To plague my day auspicious thou returnest.

Mephistopheles

Well! I’ll engage to let thee be:
Thou darest not tell me so in earnest.
The loss of thee were truly very slight —
comrade crazy, rude, repelling:

Faust

One has one’s hands full all the day and night;
If what one does, or leaves undone, is right,
From such a face as thine there is no telling.

Faust

There is, again, thy proper tone! —
That thou hast bored me, I must thankful be!

Mephistopheles

Poor Son of Earth, how couldst thou thus alone
Have led thy life, bereft of me?
I, for a time, at least, have worked thy cure;
Thy fancy’s rickets plague thee not at all:
Had I not been, so hadst thou, sure,
Walked thyself off this earthly ball
Why here to caverns, rocky hollows slinking,
Sit’st thou, as ’twere an owl a-blinking?
Why suck’st, from sodden moss and dripping stone,
Toad-like, thy nourishment alone?
A fine way, this, thy time to fill!
The Doctor’s in thy body still.

Faust

What fresh and vital forces, canst thou guess,
Spring from my commerce with the wilderness?
But, if thou hadst the power of guessing,
Thou wouldst be devil enough to grudge my soul the blessing.

Mephistopheles

A blessing drawn from supernatural fountains!
In night and dew to lie upon the mountains;
All Heaven and Earth in rapture penetrating;
Thyself to Godhood haughtily inflating;
To grub with yearning force through Earth’s dark marrow,
Compress the six days’ work within thy bosom narrow —
To taste, I know not what, in haughty power,
Thine own ecstatic life on all things shower,
Thine earthly self behind thee cast,
And then the lofty instinct, thus —

      (With a gesture:)

         at last —

I daren’t say how — to pluck the final flower!

Faust

Shame on thee!

Mephistopheles

            Yes, thou findest that unpleasant!
Thou hast the moral right to cry me “shame!” at present.
One dares not that before chaste ears declare,
Which chaste hearts, notwithstanding, cannot spare;
And, once for all, I grudge thee not the pleasure
Of lying to thyself in moderate measure.
But such a course thou wilt not long endure;
Already art thou o’er-excited,
And, if it last, wilt soon be plighted
To madness and to horror, sure.
Enough of that! Thy love sits lonely yonder,
By all things saddened and oppressed;
Her thoughts and yearnings seek thee, tenderer, fonder —
mighty love is in her breast.
First came thy passion’s flood and poured around her
As when from melted snow a streamlet overflows;
Thou hast therewith so filled and drowned her,
That now thy stream all shallow shows.
Methinks, instead of in the forests lording,
The noble Sir should find it good,
The love of this young silly blood
At once to set about rewarding.
Her time is miserably long;
She haunts her window, watching clouds that stray
O’er the old city-wall, and far away.
“Were I a little bird!” so runs her song,
Day long, and half night long.
Now she is lively, mostly sad,
Now, wept beyond her tears;
Then again quiet she appears —
Always love-mad.

Faust

Serpent! Serpent!

Mephistopheles (aside)

Ha! do I trap thee!

Faust

Get thee away with thine offences,
Reprobate! Name not that fairest thing,
Nor the desire for her sweet body bring
Again before my half-distracted senses!

Mephistopheles

What wouldst thou, then?
She thinks that thou art flown;
And half and half thou art, I own.

Faust

Yet am I near, and love keeps watch and ward;
Though I were ne’er so far, it cannot falter:
I envy even the Body of the Lord
The touching of her lips, before the altar.

Mephistopheles

’Tis very well! My envy oft reposes
On your twin-pair, that feed among the roses.

Faust

Away, thou pimp!

Mephistopheles

You rail, and it is fun to me.
The God, who fashioned youth and maid,
Perceived the noblest purpose of His trade,
And also made their opportunity.
Go on! It is a woe profound!
’Tis for your sweetheart’s room you’re bound,
And not for death, indeed.

Faust

What are, within her arms, the heavenly blisses?
Though I be glowing with her kisses,
Do I not always share her need?
I am the fugitive, all houseless roaming,
The monster without air or rest,
That like a cataract, down rocks and gorges foaming,
Leaps, maddened, into the abyss’s breast!
And side-wards she, with young unwakened senses,
Within her cabin on the Alpine field
Her simple, homely life commences,
Her little world therein concealed.
And I, God’s hate flung o’er me,
Had not enough, to thrust
The stubborn rocks before me
And strike them into dust!
She and her peace I yet must undermine:
Thou, Hell, hast claimed this sacrifice as thine!
Help, Devil! through the coming pangs to push me;
What must be, let it quickly be!
Let fall on me her fate, and also crush me —
One ruin whelm both her and me!

Mephistopheles

Again it seethes, again it glows!
Thou fool, go in and comfort her!
When such a head as thine no outlet knows,
It thinks the end must soon occur.
Hail him, who keeps a steadfast mind!
Thou, else, dost well the devil-nature wear:
Naught so insipid in the world I find
As is a devil in despair.

Faust

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Last updated Friday, March 7, 2014 at 19:14