Faust, by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Before the City-Gate

II

Before the City–Gate

(Pedestrians of all kinds come forth.)

Several Apprentices

Why do you go that way?

Others

We’re for the Hunters’ lodge, to-day.

The First

We’ll saunter to the Mill, in yonder hollow.

An Apprentice

Go to the River Tavern, I should say.

Second Apprentice

But then, it’s not a pleasant way.

The Others

And what will you?

A Third

      As goes the crowd, I follow.

A Fourth

Come up to Burgdorf? There you’ll find good cheer,
The finest lasses and the best of beer,
And jolly rows and squabbles, trust me!

A Fifth

You swaggering fellow, is your hide
A third time itching to be tried?
I won’t go there, your jolly rows disgust me!

Servant–Girl

No — no! I’ll turn and go to town again.

Another

We’ll surely find him by those poplars yonder.

The First

That’s no great luck for me, ’tis plain.
You’ll have him, when and where you wander:
His partner in the dance you’ll be —
But what is all your fun to me?

The Other

He’s surely not alone to-day:
He’ll be with Curly-head, I heard him say.

A Student

Deuce! how they step, the buxom wenches!
Come, Brother! we must see them to the benches.
A strong, old beer, a pipe that stings and bites,
A girl in Sunday clothes — these three are my delights.

Citizen’s Daughter

Just see those handsome fellows, there!
It’s really shameful, I declare; —
To follow servant-girls, when they
Might have the most genteel society to-day!

Second Student (to the First)

Not quite so fast! Two others come behind —
Those, dressed so prettily and neatly.
My neighbor’s one of them, I find,
A girl that takes my heart, completely.
They go their way with looks demure,
But they’ll accept us, after all, I’m sure.

The First

No, Brother! not for me their formal ways.
Quick! lest our game escape us in the press:
The hand that wields the broom on Saturdays
Will best, on Sundays, fondle and caress.

Citizen

He suits me not at all, our new-made Burgomaster!
Since he’s installed, his arrogance grows faster.
How has he helped the town, I say?
Things worsen — what improvement names he?
Obedience, more than ever, claims he,
And more than ever we must pay!

Beggar (sings)

Good gentlemen and lovely ladies,

So red of cheek and fine of dress,

Behold, how needful here your aid is,

And see and lighten my distress!

Let me not vainly sing my ditty;

He’s only glad who gives away:

A holiday, that shows your pity,

Shall be for me a harvest-day!

Another Citizen

On Sundays, holidays, there’s naught I take delight in,
Like gossiping of war, and war’s array,
When down in Turkey, far away,
The foreign people are a-fighting.
One at the window sits, with glass and friends,
And sees all sorts of ships go down the river gliding:
And blesses then, as home he wends
At night, our times of peace abiding.

Third Citizen

Yes, Neighbor! that’s my notion, too:
Why, let them break their heads, let loose their passions,
And mix things madly through and through,
So, here, we keep our good old fashions!

Old Woman (to the Citizen’s Daughter)

Dear me, how fine! So handsome, and so young!
Who wouldn’t lose his heart, that met you?
Don’t be so proud! I’ll hold my tongue,
And what you’d like I’ll undertake to get you.

Citizen’s Daughter

Come, Agatha! I shun the witch’s sight
Before folks, lest there be misgiving:
’Tis true, she showed me, on Saint Andrew’s Night,
My future sweetheart, just as he were living.

The Other

She showed me mine, in crystal clear,
With several wild young blades, a soldier-lover:
I seek him everywhere, I pry and peer,
And yet, somehow, his face I can’t discover.

Soldiers

Castles, with lofty

Ramparts and towers,

Maidens disdainful

In Beauty’s array,

Both shall be ours!

Bold is the venture,

Splendid the pay!

Lads, let the trumpets

For us be suing —

Calling to pleasure,

Calling to ruin.

Stormy our life is;

Such is its boon!

Maidens and castles

Capitulate soon.

Bold is the venture,

Splendid the pay!

And the soldiers go marching,

Marching away!

Faust and Wagner

Faust

Released from ice are brook and river
By the quickening glance of the gracious Spring;
The colors of hope to the valley cling,
And weak old Winter himself must shiver,
Withdrawn to the mountains, a crownless king:
Whence, ever retreating, he sends again
Impotent showers of sleet that darkle
In belts across the green o’ the plain.
But the sun will permit no white to sparkle;
Everywhere form in development moveth;
He will brighten the world with the tints he loveth,
And, lacking blossoms, blue, yellow, and red,
He takes these gaudy people instead.
Turn thee about, and from this height
Back on the town direct thy sight.
Out of the hollow, gloomy gate,
The motley throngs come forth elate:
Each will the joy of the sunshine hoard,
To honor the Day of the Risen Lord!
They feel, themselves, their resurrection:
From the low, dark rooms, scarce habitable;
From the bonds of Work, from Trade’s restriction;
From the pressing weight of roof and gable;
From the narrow, crushing streets and alleys;
From the churches’ solemn and reverend night,
All come forth to the cheerful light.
How lively, see! the multitude sallies,
Scattering through gardens and fields remote,
While over the river, that broadly dallies,
Dances so many a festive boat;
And overladen, nigh to sinking,
The last full wherry takes the stream.
Yonder afar, from the hill-paths blinking,
Their clothes are colors that softly gleam.
I hear the noise of the village, even;
Here is the People’s proper Heaven;
Here high and low contented see!
Here I am Man — dare man to be!

Wagner

To stroll with you, Sir Doctor, flatters;
’Tis honor, profit, unto me.
But I, alone, would shun these shallow matters,
Since all that’s coarse provokes my enmity.
This fiddling, shouting, ten-pin rolling
I hate — these noises of the throng:
They rave, as Satan were their sports controlling.
And call it mirth, and call it song!

Peasants, under the Linden-Tree (Dance and Song.)

All for the dance the shepherd dressed,

In ribbons, wreath, and gayest vest

   Himself with care arraying:

Around the linden lass and lad

Already footed it like mad:

   Hurrah! hurrah!

   Hurrah — tarara-la!

The fiddle-bow was playing.

He broke the ranks, no whit afraid,

And with his elbow punched a maid,

   Who stood, the dance surveying:

The buxom wench, she turned and said:

“Now, you I call a stupid-head!”

   Hurrah! hurrah!

   Hurrah — tarara-la!

“Be decent while you’re staying!”

Then round the circle went their flight,

They danced to left, they danced to right:

Their kirtles all were playing.

They first grew red, and then grew warm,

And rested, panting, arm in arm —

   Hurrah! hurrah!

   Hurrah — tarara-la!

And hips and elbows straying.

Now, don’t be so familiar here!

How many a one has fooled his dear,

Waylaying and betraying!

And yet, he coaxed her soon aside,

And round the linden sounded wide.

   Hurrah! hurrah!

   Hurrah — tarara-la!

And the fiddle-bow was playing.

Old Peasant

Sir Doctor, it is good of you,
That thus you condescend, to-day,
Among this crowd of merry folk,
A highly-learned man, to stray.
Then also take the finest can,
We fill with fresh wine, for your sake:
I offer it, and humbly wish
That not alone your thirst is slake —
That, as the drops below its brink,
So many days of life you drink!

Faust

I take the cup you kindly reach,
With thanks and health to all and each.

(The People gather in a circle about him.)

Old Peasant

In truth, ’tis well and fitly timed,
That now our day of joy you share,
Who heretofore, in evil days,
Gave us so much of helping care.
Still many a man stands living here,
Saved by your father’s skillful hand,
That snatched him from the fever’s rage
And stayed the plague in all the land.
Then also you, though but a youth,
Went into every house of pain:
Many the corpses carried forth,
But you in health came out again.

Faust

No test or trial you evaded:
A Helping God the helper aided.

All

Health to the man, so skilled and tried.
That for our help he long may abide!

Faust

To Him above bow down, my friends,
Who teaches help, and succor sends!

(He goes on with Wagner.)

Wagner

With what a feeling, thou great man, must thou
Receive the people’s honest veneration!
How lucky he, whose gifts his station
With such advantages endow!
Thou’rt shown to all the younger generation:
Each asks, and presses near to gaze;
The fiddle stops, the dance delays.
Thou goest, they stand in rows to see,
And all the caps are lifted high;
A little more, and they would bend the knee
As if the Holy Host came by.

Faust

A few more steps ascend, as far as yonder stone! —
Here from our wandering will we rest contented.
Here, lost in thought, I’ve lingered oft alone,
When foolish fasts and prayers my life tormented.
Here, rich in hope and firm in faith,
With tears, wrung hands and sighs, I’ve striven,
The end of that far-spreading death
Entreating from the Lord of Heaven!
Now like contempt the crowd’s applauses seem:
Couldst thou but read, within mine inmost spirit,
How little now I deem,
That sire or son such praises merit!
My father’s was a sombre, brooding brain,
Which through the holy spheres of Nature groped and wandered,
And honestly, in his own fashion, pondered
With labor whimsical, and pain:
Who, in his dusky work-shop bending,
With proved adepts in company,
Made, from his recipes unending,
Opposing substances agree.
There was a Lion red, a wooer daring,
Within the Lily’s tepid bath espoused,
And both, tormented then by flame unsparing,
By turns in either bridal chamber housed.
If then appeared, with colors splendid,
The young Queen in her crystal shell,
This was the medicine — the patients’ woes soon ended,
And none demanded: who got well?
Thus we, our hellish boluses compounding,
Among these vales and hills surrounding,
Worse than the pestilence, have passed.
Thousands were done to death from poison of my giving;
And I must hear, by all the living,
The shameless murderers praised at last!

Wagner

Why, therefore, yield to such depression?
A good man does his honest share
In exercising, with the strictest care,
The art bequeathed to his possession!
Dost thou thy father honor, as a youth?
Then may his teaching cheerfully impel thee:
Dost thou, as man, increase the stores of truth?
Then may thine own son afterwards excel thee.

Faust

O happy he, who still renews
The hope, from Error’s deeps to rise forever!
That which one does not know, one needs to use;
And what one knows, one uses never.
But let us not, by such despondence, so
The fortune of this hour embitter!
Mark how, beneath the evening sunlight’s glow,
The green-embosomed houses glitter!
The glow retreats, done is the day of toil;
It yonder hastes, new fields of life exploring;
Ah, that no wing can lift me from the soil,
Upon its track to follow, follow soaring!
Then would I see eternal Evening gild
The silent world beneath me glowing,
On fire each mountain-peak, with peace each valley filled,
The silver brook to golden rivers flowing.
The mountain-chain, with all its gorges deep,
Would then no more impede my godlike motion;
And now before mine eyes expands the ocean
With all its bays, in shining sleep!
Yet, finally, the weary god is sinking;
The new-born impulse fires my mind —
I hasten on, his beams eternal drinking,
The Day before me and the Night behind,
Above me heaven unfurled, the floor of waves beneath me —
A glorious dream! though now the glories fade.
Alas! the wings that lift the mind no aid
Of wings to lift the body can bequeath me.
Yet in each soul is born the pleasure
Of yearning onward, upward and away,
When o’er our heads, lost in the vaulted azure,
The lark sends down his flickering lay —
When over crags and piny highlands
The poising eagle slowly soars,
And over plains and lakes and islands
The crane sails by to other shores.

Wagner

I’ve had, myself, at times, some odd caprices,
But never yet such impulse felt, as this is.
One soon fatigues, on woods and fields to look,
Nor would I beg the bird his wing to spare us:
How otherwise the mental raptures bear us
From page to page, from book to book!
Then winter nights take loveliness untold,
As warmer life in every limb had crowned you;
And when your hands unroll some parchment rare and old,
All Heaven descends, and opens bright around you!

Faust

One impulse art thou conscious of, at best;
O, never seek to know the other!
Two souls, alas! reside within my breast,
And each withdraws from, and repels, its brother.
One with tenacious organs holds in love
And clinging lust the world in its embraces;
The other strongly sweeps, this dust above,
Into the high ancestral spaces.
If there be airy spirits near,
‘Twixt Heaven and Earth on potent errands fleeing,
Let them drop down the golden atmosphere,
And bear me forth to new and varied being!
Yea, if a magic mantle once were mine,
To waft me o’er the world at pleasure,
I would not for the costliest stores of treasure —
Not for a monarch’s robe — the gift resign.

Wagner

Invoke not thus the well-known throng,
Which through the firmament diffused is faring,
And danger thousand-fold, our race to wrong.
In every quarter is preparing.
Swift from the North the spirit-fangs so sharp
Sweep down, and with their barbéd points assail you;
Then from the East they come, to dry and warp
Your lungs, till breath and being fail you:
If from the Desert sendeth them the South,
With fire on fire your throbbing forehead crowning,
The West leads on a host, to cure the drouth
Only when meadow, field, and you are drowning.
They gladly hearken, prompt for injury —
Gladly obey, because they gladly cheat us;
From Heaven they represent themselves to be,
And lisp like angels, when with lies they meet us.
But, let us go! ’Tis gray and dusky all:
The air is cold, the vapors fall.
At night, one learns his house to prize:—
Why stand you thus, with such astonished eyes?
What, in the twilight, can your mind so trouble?

Faust

Seest thou the black dog coursing there, through corn and
stubble?

Wagner

Long since: yet deemed him not important in the least.

Faust

Inspect him close: for what tak’st thou the beast?

Wagner

Why, for a poodle who has lost his master,
And scents about, his track to find.

Faust

Seest thou the spiral circles, narrowing faster,
Which he, approaching, round us seems to wind?
A streaming trail of fire, if I see rightly,
Follows his path of mystery.

Wagner

It may be that your eyes deceive you slightly;
Naught but a plain black poodle do I see.

Faust

It seems to me that with enchanted cunning
He snares our feet, some future chain to bind.

Wagner

I see him timidly, in doubt, around us running,
Since, in his master’s stead, two strangers doth he find.

Faust

The circle narrows: he is near!

Wagner

A dog thou seest, and not a phantom, here!
Behold him stop — upon his belly crawl — His
tail set wagging: canine habits, all!

Faust

Come, follow us! Come here, at least!

Wagner

’Tis the absurdest, drollest beast.
Stand still, and you will see him wait;
Address him, and he gambols straight;
If something’s lost, he’ll quickly bring it —
Your cane, if in the stream you fling it.

Faust

No doubt you’re right: no trace of mind, I own,
Is in the beast: I see but drill, alone.

Wagner

The dog, when he’s well educated,
Is by the wisest tolerated.
Yes, he deserves your favor thoroughly —
The clever scholar of the students, he!

(They pass in the city-gate.)

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