Faust, by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

The Study

III

The Study

Faust

(Entering, with the poodle.)

Behind me, field and meadow sleeping,

I leave in deep, prophetic night,

Within whose dread and holy keeping

The better soul awakes to light.

The wild desires no longer win us,

The deeds of passion cease to chain;

The love of Man revives within us,

The love of God revives again.

Be still, thou poodle; make not such racket and riot!
Why at the threshold wilt snuffing be?
Behind the stove repose thee in quiet!
My softest cushion I give to thee.
As thou, up yonder, with running and leaping
Amused us hast, on the mountain’s crest,

So now I take thee into my keeping,
A welcome, but also a silent, guest.

Ah, when, within our narrow chamber

The lamp with friendly lustre glows,

Flames in the breast each faded ember,

And in the heart, itself that knows.

Then Hope again lends sweet assistance,

And Reason then resumes her speech:

One yearns, the rivers of existence,

The very founts of Life, to reach.

Snarl not, poodle! To the sound that rises,
The sacred tones that my soul embrace,
This bestial noise is out of place.
We are used to see, that Man despises
What he never comprehends,
And the Good and the Beautiful vilipends,
Finding them often hard to measure:
Will the dog, like man, snarl his displeasure?

But ah! I feel, though will thereto be stronger,
Contentment flows from out my breast no longer.
Why must the stream so soon run dry and fail us,
And burning thirst again assail us?
Therein I’ve borne so much probation!
And yet, this want may be supplied us;
We call the Supernatural to guide us;
We pine and thirst for Revelation,
Which nowhere worthier is, more nobly sent,
Than here, in our New Testament.
I feel impelled, its meaning to determine —
With honest purpose, once for all,
The hallowed Original
To change to my beloved German.

(He opens a volume, and commences.)

’Tis written: “In the Beginning was the Word.”
Here am I balked: who, now can help afford?
The Word? — impossible so high to rate it;
And otherwise must I translate it.
If by the Spirit I am truly taught.
Then thus: “In the Beginning was the Thought
This first line let me weigh completely,
Lest my impatient pen proceed too fleetly.
Is it the Thought which works, creates, indeed?
“In the Beginning was the Power,” I read.
Yet, as I write, a warning is suggested,
That I the sense may not have fairly tested.
The Spirit aids me: now I see the light!
“In the Beginning was the Act,” I write.

If I must share my chamber with thee,
Poodle, stop that howling, prithee!
Cease to bark and bellow!
Such a noisy, disturbing fellow
I’ll no longer suffer near me.
One of us, dost hear me!
Must leave, I fear me.
No longer guest-right I bestow;
The door is open, art free to go.
But what do I see in the creature?
Is that in the course of nature?
Is’t actual fact? or Fancy’s shows?
How long and broad my poodle grows!
He rises mightily:
A canine form that cannot be!
What a spectre I’ve harbored thus!
He resembles a hippopotamus,
With fiery eyes, teeth terrible to see:
O, now am I sure of thee!
For all of thy half-hellish brood
The Key of Solomon is good.

Spirits (in the corridor)

Some one, within, is caught!

Stay without, follow him not!

Like the fox in a snare,

Quakes the old hell-lynx there.

Take heed — look about!

Back and forth hover,

Under and over,

And he’ll work himself out.

If your aid avail him,

Let it not fail him;

For he, without measure,

Has wrought for our pleasure.

Faust

First, to encounter the beast,
The Words of the Four be addressed:

Salamander, shine glorious!
Wave, Undine, as bidden!
Sylph, be thou hidden!
Gnome, be laborious!

Who knows not their sense
(These elements) —
Their properties
And power not sees —
No mastery he inherits
Over the Spirits.

Vanish in flaming ether,

Salamander!

Flow foamingly together,

Undine!

Shine in meteor-sheen,

Sylph!

Bring help to hearth and shelf.

Incubus! Incubus!

Step forward, and finish thus!

Of the Four, no feature
Lurks in the creature.
Quiet he lies, and grins disdain:
Not yet, it seems, have I given him pain.
Now, to undisguise thee,
Hear me exorcise thee!
Art thou, my gay one,
Hell’s fugitive stray-one?
The sign witness now,
Before which they bow,
The cohorts of Hell!

With hair all bristling, it begins to swell.

Base Being, hearest thou?

Knowest and fearest thou

The One, unoriginate,

Named inexpressibly,

Through all Heaven impermeate,

Pierced irredressibly!

Behind the stove still banned,
See it, an elephant, expand!
It fills the space entire,
Mist-like melting, ever faster.
’Tis enough: ascend no higher —
Lay thyself at the feet of the Master!
Thou seest, not vain the threats I bring thee:
With holy fire I’ll scorch and sting thee!
Wait not to know
The threefold dazzling glow!
Wait not to know
The strongest art within my hands!

Mephistopheles

(while the vapor is dissipating, steps forth from behind the stove, in the costume of a Travelling Scholar.)

Why such a noise? What are my lord’s commands?

Faust

This was the poodle’s real core,
A travelling scholar, then? The casus is diverting.

Mephistopheles

The learned gentleman I bow before:
You’ve made me roundly sweat, that’s certain!

Faust

What is thy name?

Mephistopheles

A question small, it seems,
For one whose mind the Word so much despises;
Who, scorning all external gleams,
The depths of being only prizes.

Faust

With all you gentlemen, the name’s a test,
Whereby the nature usually is expressed.
Clearly the latter it implies
In names like Beelzebub, Destroyer, Father of Lies.
Who art thou, then?

Mephistopheles

Part of that Power, not understood,
Which always wills the Bad, and always works the Good.

Faust

What hidden sense in this enigma lies?

Mephistopheles

I am the Spirit that Denies!
And justly so: for all things, from the Void
Called forth, deserve to be destroyed:
’Twere better, then, were naught created.
Thus, all which you as Sin have rated —
Destruction — aught with Evil blent —
That is my proper element.

Faust

Thou nam’st thyself a part, yet show’st complete to me?

Mephistopheles

The modest truth I speak to thee.
If Man, that microcosmic fool, can see
Himself a whole so frequently,
Part of the Part am I, once All, in primal Night —
Part of the Darkness which brought forth the Light,
The haughty Light, which now disputes the space,
And claims of Mother Night her ancient place.
And yet, the struggle fails; since Light, howe’er it weaves,
Still, fettered, unto bodies cleaves:
It flows from bodies, bodies beautifies;
By bodies is its course impeded;
And so, but little time is needed,
I hope, ere, as the bodies die, it dies!

Faust

I see the plan thou art pursuing:
Thou canst not compass general ruin,
And hast on smaller scale begun.

Mephistopheles

And truly ’tis not much, when all is done.
That which to Naught is in resistance set —
The Something of this clumsy world — has yet,
With all that I have undertaken,
Not been by me disturbed or shaken:
From earthquake, tempest, wave, volcano’s brand,
Back into quiet settle sea and land!
And that damned stuff, the bestial, human brood —
What use, in having that to play with?
How many have I made away with!
And ever circulates a newer, fresher blood.
It makes me furious, such things beholding:
From Water, Earth, and Air unfolding,
A thousand germs break forth and grow,
In dry, and wet, and warm, and chilly;
And had I not the Flame reserved, why, really,
There’s nothing special of my own to show!

Faust

So, to the actively eternal
Creative force, in cold disdain
You now oppose the fist infernal,
Whose wicked clench is all in vain!
Some other labor seek thou rather,
Queer Son of Chaos, to begin!

Mephistopheles

Well, we’ll consider: thou canst gather
My views, when next I venture in.
Might I, perhaps, depart at present?

Faust

Why thou shouldst ask, I don’t perceive.
Though our acquaintance is so recent,
For further visits thou hast leave.
The window’s here, the door is yonder;
A chimney, also, you behold.

Mephistopheles

I must confess that forth I may not wander,
My steps by one slight obstacle controlled —
The wizard’s-foot, that on your threshold made is.

Faust

The pentagram prohibits thee?
Why, tell me now, thou Son of Hades,
If that prevents, how cam’st thou in to me?
Could such a spirit be so cheated?

Mephistopheles

Inspect the thing: the drawing’s not completed.
The outer angle, you may see,
Is open left — the lines don’t fit it.

Faust

Well — Chance, this time, has fairly hit it!
And thus, thou’rt prisoner to me?
It seems the business has succeeded.

Mephistopheles

The poodle naught remarked, as after thee he speeded;
But other aspects now obtain:
The Devil can’t get out again.

Faust

Try, then, the open window-pane!

Mephistopheles

For Devils and for spectres this is law:
Where they have entered in, there also they withdraw.
The first is free to us; we’re governed by the second.

Faust

In Hell itself, then, laws are reckoned?
That’s well! So might a compact be
Made with you gentlemen — and binding — surely?

Mephistopheles

All that is promised shall delight thee purely;
No skinflint bargain shalt thou see.
But this is not of swift conclusion;
We’ll talk about the matter soon.
And now, I do entreat this boon —
Leave to withdraw from my intrusion.

Faust

One moment more I ask thee to remain,
Some pleasant news, at least, to tell me.

Mephistopheles

Release me, now! I soon shall come again;
Then thou, at will, mayst question and compel me.

Faust

I have not snares around thee cast;
Thyself hast led thyself into the meshes.
Who traps the Devil, hold him fast!
Not soon a second time he’ll catch a prey so precious.

Mephistopheles

An’t please thee, also I’m content to stay,
And serve thee in a social station;
But stipulating, that I may
With arts of mine afford thee recreation.

Faust

Thereto I willingly agree,
If the diversion pleasant be.

Mephistopheles

My friend, thou’lt win, past all pretences,
More in this hour to soothe thy senses,
Than in the year’s monotony.
That which the dainty spirits sing thee,
The lovely pictures they shall bring thee,
Are more than magic’s empty show.
Thy scent will be to bliss invited;
Thy palate then with taste delighted,
Thy nerves of touch ecstatic glow!
All unprepared, the charm I spin:
We’re here together, so begin!

Spirits

Vanish, ye darking

Arches above him!

Loveliest weather,

Born of blue ether,

Break from the sky!

O that the darkling

Clouds had departed!

Starlight is sparkling,

Tranquiller-hearted

Suns are on high.

Heaven’s own children

In beauty bewildering,

Waveringly bending,

Pass as they hover;

Longing unending

Follows them over.

They, with their glowing

Garments, out-flowing,

Cover, in going,

Landscape and bower,

Where, in seclusion,

Lovers are plighted,

Lost in illusion.

Bower on bower!

Tendrils unblighted!

Lo! in a shower

Grapes that o’ercluster

Gush into must, or

Flow into rivers

Of foaming and flashing

Wine, that is dashing

Gems, as it boundeth

Down the high places,

And spreading, surroundeth

With crystalline spaces,

In happy embraces,

Blossoming forelands,

Emerald shore-lands!

And the winged races

Drink, and fly onward —

Fly ever sunward

To the enticing

Islands, that flatter,

Dipping and rising

Light on the water!

Hark, the inspiring

Sound of their quiring!

See, the entrancing

Whirl of their dancing!

All in the air are

Freer and fairer.

Some of them scaling

Boldly the highlands,

Others are sailing,

Circling the islands;

Others are flying;

Life-ward all hieing —

All for the distant

Star of existent

Rapture and Love!

Mephistopheles

He sleeps! Enough, ye fays! your airy number
Have sung him truly into slumber:
For this performance I your debtor prove. —
Not yet art thou the man, to catch the Fiend and hold him! —
With fairest images of dreams infold him,
Plunge him in seas of sweet untruth!
Yet, for the threshold’s magic which controlled him,
The Devil needs a rat’s quick tooth.
I use no lengthened invocation:
Here rustles one that soon will work my liberation.

The lord of rats and eke of mice,
Of flies and bed-bugs, frogs and lice,
Summons thee hither to the door-sill,
To gnaw it where, with just a morsel
Of oil, he paints the spot for thee:—
There com’st thou, hopping on to me!
To work, at once! The point which made me craven
Is forward, on the ledge, engraven.
Another bite makes free the door:
So, dream thy dreams, O Faust, until we meet once more!

Faust (awaking)

Am I again so foully cheated?
Remains there naught of lofty spirit-sway,
But that a dream the Devil counterfeited,
And that a poodle ran away?

Faust

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