Excerpt From Faust In Plain and Simple English
Prologue On Stage
MANAGER, DRAMATIC POET, MERRY-ANDREW
You two, who oft a helping hand
Have lent, in need and tribulation.
Come, let me know your expectation
Of this, our enterprise, in German land!
I wish the crowd to feel itself well treated,
Especially since it lives and lets me live;
The posts are set, the booth of boards completed.
And each awaits the banquet I shall give.
Already there, with curious eyebrows raised,
They sit sedate, and hope to be amazed.
I know how one the People's taste may flatter,
Yet here a huge embarrassment I feel:
What they're accustomed to, is no great matter,
But then, alas! they've read an awful deal.
How shall we plan, that all be fresh and new,--
Important matter, yet attractive too?
For 'tis my pleasure-to behold them surging,
When to our booth the current sets apace,
And with tremendous, oft-repeated urging,
Squeeze onward through the narrow gate of grace:
By daylight even, they push and cram in
To reach the seller's box, a fighting host,
And as for bread, around a baker's door, in famine,
To get a ticket break their necks almost.
This miracle alone can work the Poet
On men so various: now, my friend, pray show it.
Both of you have often helped me out
When I’ve needed it or been in trouble.
Now, let me know how you think we’ll do
With our new enterprise here in Germany!
I want the crowd to feel they’ve had their money’s worth,
After all, by being here they give me my living;
The theatre’s all set up,
And everyone’s waiting to see what I have to offer them.
They’re out there already, looking on curiously,
Sitting quietly and hoping for something stunning.
I know how to give them what they want,
But I haven’t got it just at the moment:
They’re not used to getting anything good,
But unfortunately they have read a lot.
What shall we give them that’s fresh and new,
That deals with issues but amuses them as well?
I love to see them rushing up
To our theatre when they’re driven here,
And they’re pushed on, shouting to each other to hurry,
Squeezing through our turnstiles:
Even in the daytime they crowd and shove
To get to the box office, fighting like a crowd
Outside a baker’s when they’re starving,
They’d nearly die to get a ticket.
Only a Poet can have this effect on so many different men:
Come on my friend, work your magic!
Speak not to me of yonder motley masses,
Whom but to see, puts out the fire of Song!
Hide from my view the surging crowd that passes,
And in its whirlpool forces us along!
No, lead me where some heavenly silence glasses
The purer joys that round the Poet throng,--
Where Love and Friendship still divinely fashion
The bonds that bless, the wreaths that crown his passion!
Ah, every utterance from the depths of feeling
The timid lips have stammeringly expressed,--
Now failing, now, perchance, success revealing,--
Gulps the wild Moment in its greedy breast;
Or oft, reluctant years its warrant sealing,
Its perfect stature stands at last confessed!
What dazzles, for the Moment spends its spirit:
What's genuine, shall Posterity inherit.
Don’t tell me about the rough crowd out there,
Just seeing them takes away all inspiration!
Don’t let me see the crowd rushing by
That drags us along with it!
No, take me where it’s beautifully quiet
And I can enjoy the purer things a Poet needs.
Take me where Love and Friendship still give
Blessings and rewards for the Poet’s passion!
I’ve tried expressing my feelings in every way
My lips have tried to say them all:
Sometimes I’ve failed, sometimes succeeded
Sometimes inspiration comes right away;
Other times it hides away for years
And comes out perfectly in the end!
Something might look good and amaze for a moment
But if it has genuine worth it will last down the years.
Posterity! Don't name the word to me!
If I should choose to preach Posterity,
Where would you get contemporary fun?
That men will have it, there's no blinking:
A fine young fellow's presence, to my thinking,
Is something worth, to every one.
Who genially his nature can outpour,
Takes from the People's moods no irritation;
The wider circle he acquires, the more
Securely works his inspiration.
Then pluck up heart, and give us sterling coin!
Let Fancy be with her attendants fitted,--
Sense, Reason, Sentiment, and Passion join,--
But have a care, lest Folly be omitted!
Don’t talk to me about things lasting!
If I spent my energy thinking about that
How would anyone have fun in the here and now?
You can’t deny that men want to have fun:
I think a fine young man, on the spot,
Has something to offer to one and all.
He can spill out his joyful personality
Without getting annoyed by other people’s moods;
The more people listen to him, the more
He gets inspired by his audience.
Take courage and give us the best you’ve got!
Let your works have all the right elements:
Sense, Reason, Sentiment and Passion all together,
But make sure you don’t leave out a bit of fun!
Chiefly, enough of incident prepare!
They come to look, and they prefer to stare.
Reel off a host of threads before their faces,
So that they gape in stupid wonder: then
By sheer diffuseness you have won their graces,
And are, at once, most popular of men.
Only by mass you touch the mass; for any
Will finally, himself, his bit select:
Who offers much, brings something unto many,
And each goes home content with the effect,
If you've a piece, why, just in pieces give it:
A hash, a stew, will bring success, believe it!
'Tis easily displayed, and easy to invent.
What use, a Whole compactly to present?
Your hearers pick and pluck, as soon as they receive it!
The main thing we need is plenty of action!
They come to see things happening.
Give them lots of different plots
So they’re amazed even when they don’t understand: then
You’ve got their approval through sheer volume of entertainment,
And you’ll be popular with them at once.
By giving plenty you’ll appeal to plenty, for each one
Will choose the bit he likes:
If you offer a lot everyone will get something from it,
And everyone goes home happy with what they’ve seen.
Whatever you’ve got give it some variety,
A mixture is the key to success, believe you me!
It’s easy to stage and easy to make up.
What’s the point in giving them a neat performance?
They’ll tear it into bits as soon as you give it to them anyway!
You do not feel, how such a trade debases;
How ill it suits the Artist, proud and true!
The botching work each fine pretender traces
Is, I perceive, a principle with you.
Don’t you have any feeling for how cheap your attitude is?
This isn’t right for the noble Artist!
This stiched together method which every new sensation copies
Is, I can see, your way of working.
Such a reproach not in the least offends;
A man who some result intends
Must use the tools that best are fitting.
Reflect, soft wood is given to you for splitting,
And then, observe for whom you write!
If one comes bored, exhausted quite,
Another, satiate, leaves the banquet's tapers,
And, worst of all, full many a wight
Is fresh from reading of the daily papers.
Idly to us they come, as to a masquerade,
Mere curiosity their spirits warming:
The ladies with themselves, and with their finery, aid,
Without a salary their parts performing.
What dreams are yours in high poetic places?
You're pleased, forsooth, full houses to behold?
Draw near, and view your patrons' faces!
The half are coarse, the half are cold.
One, when the play is out, goes home to cards;
A wild night on a wench's breast another chooses:
Why should you rack, poor, foolish bards,
For ends like these, the gracious Muses?
I tell you, give but more--more, ever more, they ask:
Thus shall you hit the mark of gain and glory.
Seek to confound your auditory!
To satisfy them is a task.--
What ails you now? Is't suffering, or pleasure?
Your telling off doesn’t bother me at all;
When you want to achieve a particular thing
You must do it in the way most suitable for your aims.
Think about the material you have to work with
And think about the sort of people you’re writing for!
Some will turn up bored and shattered,
Some will come stuffed from a big dinner,
And worst of all, many of them
Will come in having just read the newspapers.
They drift in here as if they were going to a dance,
They’ve got no passion, just idle curiosity;
The ladies are only interested in themselves and their clothes,
They’re like unpaid actresses playing a part.
You like to have your lofty poetic dream eh?
But you like having a packed theatre as well, don’t you?
Have a good look at the people who’ve come to see your work!
Half are rough and uncultured, half are passionless.
One goes straight from the play home to a game of cards
While another chooses to have a night of passion with some tart:
To amuse people like these, why do you foolish poets
Torture the goddesses of inspiration?
I’m telling you, just give them plenty and they’ll want plenty more:
That’s the way to get yourself fame and wealth.
Get your listeners confused!
Keeping them satisfied’s your job -
Now what’s wrong? Pleasure or pain?
Go, find yourself a more obedient slave!
What! shall the Poet that which Nature gave,
The highest right, supreme Humanity,
Forfeit so wantonly, to swell your treasure?
Whence o'er the heart his empire free?
The elements of Life how conquers he?
Is't not his heart's accord, urged outward far and dim,
To wind the world in unison with him?
When on the spindle, spun to endless distance,
By Nature's listless hand the thread is twirled,
And the discordant tones of all existence
In sullen jangle are together hurled,
Who, then, the changeless orders of creation
Divides, and kindles into rhythmic dance?
Who brings the One to join the general ordination,
Where it may throb in grandest consonance?
Who bids the storm to passion stir the bosom?
In brooding souls the sunset burn above?
Who scatters every fairest April blossom
Along the shining path of Love?
Who braids the noteless leaves to crowns, requiting
Desert with fame, in Action's every field?
Who makes Olympus sure, the Gods uniting?
The might of Man, as in the Bard revealed.
Go and find yourself someone else!
Should a Poet take his natural gifts,
The highest things a man can have,
And throw them away to increase your bank balance?
How would he be able to move hearts again?
How could he rule over the elements?
Isn’t it his mission to throw his heart out
And then draw the world back to him?
On the spinning wheel flung out endlessly
Are the threads which Nature twists together,
And all the tuneless parts of existence
Are hurled together discordantly.
Who draws all these parts together
And makes sweet music from them?
Who brings the Eternal into the everyday
To let it show its greatest harmony?
Who makes the storm thrill us with passion?
Who makes the sunset light up men’s souls?
Who makes the flowers’ petals
Part of the way which takes us to love?
Who makes crowns out of the leaves
To reward every good action of man?
What gives even heaven strength and unites the gods?
The spirit of Man, as shown through the Poet.
So, these fine forces, in conjunction,
Propel the high poetic function,
As in a love-adventure they might play!
You meet by accident; you feel, you stay,
And by degrees your heart is tangled;
Bliss grows apace, and then its course is jangled;
You're ravished quite, then comes a touch of woe,
And there's a neat romance, completed ere you know!
Let us, then, such a drama give!
Grasp the exhaustless life that all men live!
Each shares therein, though few may comprehend:
Where'er you touch, there's interest without end.
In motley pictures little light,
Much error, and of truth a glimmering mite,
Thus the best beverage is supplied,
Whence all the world is cheered and edified.
Then, at your play, behold the fairest flower
Of youth collect, to hear the revelation!
Each tender soul, with sentimental power,
Sucks melancholy food from your creation;
And now in this, now that, the leaven works.
For each beholds what in his bosom lurks.
They still are moved at once to weeping or to laughter,
Still wonder at your flights, enjoy the show they see:
A mind, once formed, is never suited after;
One yet in growth will ever grateful be.
So, all these wonderful energies
Fuel your poetry
As if it was a love affair!
You meet by accident and stay because you feel something
And bit by bit your heart gets caught up.
Happiness swells up but then is let down again;
You’re enchanted, then there’s a little sadness,
And there you have a good story, easy as anything!
Let’s put on a play like that!
Grab hold of the life that men live!
Everyone’s part of it, even if not many understand it:
There’s endless interest in every part of life.
A varied picture can be made with a little light,
Loads of error and a tiny spark of truth;
That way we can brew the best potion,
Which will cheer and interest the whole world.
Your play will draw in the cream
Of youth, to hear what you have to say!
Each sensitive soul will use their emotional power,
And take sad inspiration from what you’ve made;
Here and there you’ll touch them
So that each will know how he feels inside.
They’re of an age when they will weep or laugh at the drop of a hat,
And be amazed by language, and enjoy the play.
Once the mind is set in its ways it is never satisfied,
But one that’s still growing will always be grateful for what’s offered.
Then give me back that time of pleasures,
While yet in joyous growth I sang,--
When, like a fount, the crowding measures
Uninterrupted gushed and sprang!
Then bright mist veiled the world before me,
In opening buds a marvel woke,
As I the thousand blossoms broke,
Which every valley richly bore me!
I nothing had, and yet enough for youth--
Joy in Illusion, ardent thirst for Truth.
Give, unrestrained, the old emotion,
The bliss that touched the verge of pain,
The strength of Hate, Love's deep devotion,--
O, give me back my youth again!
Then take me back to that time of pleasure,
When I sang with joy as I grew,
When I was like a fountain
Spraying out poetry without interruption!
The world was veiled in a bright mist back then,
I could see miracles in a budding bloom
And I picked the flowers of inspiration from them
Which I found in every valley I walked through!
I had nothing, and that was enough for a young man:
I took pleasure in mirages and my panting thirst for Truth.
Give me those old feelings back without limits,
Give me the happiness so strong it was almost painful,
The great force of Hate, the deep power of Love,
Oh, make me young again!
Youth, good my friend, you certainly require
When foes in combat sorely press you;
When lovely maids, in fond desire,
Hang on your bosom and caress you;
When from the hard-won goal the wreath
Beckons afar, the race awaiting;
When, after dancing out your breath,
You pass the night in dissipating:--
But that familiar harp with soul
To play,--with grace and bold expression,
And towards a self-erected goal
To walk with many a sweet digression,--
This, aged Sirs, belongs to you,
And we no less revere you for that reason:
Age childish makes, they say, but 'tis not true;
We're only genuine children still, in Age's season!
You certainly need to be young, my friend,
When you come under attack in battle,
Or when beautiful girls lovingly want
To hug and kiss you;
When you can see the prize far off
Waiting for you at the end of the race;
When, after you’ve exhausted yourself dancing,
You spend the night in wine, women and song.
But to play the old instrument with soul
To journey towards the goal you’ve set yourself,
Walking with many sweet turnings on the way,
This, you older men, is what you can do,
And we admire you for it.
They say getting old makes you childish but it’s a lie;
We’re still children, just mellowed with age!
The words you've bandied are sufficient;
'Tis deeds that I prefer to see:
In compliments you're both proficient,
But might, the while, more useful be.
What need to talk of Inspiration?
'Tis no companion of Delay.
If Poetry be your vocation,
Let Poetry your will obey!
Full well you know what here is wanting;
The crowd for strongest drink is panting,
And such, forthwith, I'd have you brew.
What's left undone to-day, To-morrow will not do.
Waste not a day in vain digression:
With resolute, courageous trust
Seize every possible impression,
And make it firmly your possession;
You'll then work on, because you must.
Upon our German stage, you know it,
Each tries his hand at what he will;
So, take of traps and scenes your fill,
And all you find, be sure to show it!
Use both the great and lesser heavenly light,--
Squander the stars in any number,
Beasts, birds, trees, rocks, and all such lumber,
Fire, water, darkness, Day and Night!
Thus, in our booth's contracted sphere,
The circle of Creation will appear,
And move, as we deliberately impel,
From Heaven, across the World, to Hell!
That’s enough throwing words about,
I want to see some action:
You’re both experts at flattery
But some hard work is what we need at the moment.
Why do we need to talk about Inspiration?
It doesn’t mean you have to hang around waiting.
If you’re going to call yourself a Poet
Then make poetry do some work for you!
You know very well what we want here;
The crowd are eagerly waiting for your best stuff
And I need you to start producing it, right now.
If we don’t get it done today, tomorrow will be too late.
Don’t waste time skirting round the job;
Take all your strength and courage
And grasp every inspiration you see
And claim ownership of it for yourself;
Then you’ll work on it, because it’s your job.
You know that on the stage here in Germany
Everyone has a go at what he fancies;
So, take what scenery and special effects you want,
And make sure you use it in the show!
Use the light of the sun and moon,
Burn up all the stars you want,
Animals, birds, trees, rocks, all that stuff,
Fire, water, darkness, day and night!
Within the little circle of our theatre,
We’ll show the whole universe,
And take our audience across the world
From heaven into hell!
Prologue In Heaven
THE LORD THE HEAVENLY HOST Afterwards
(The THREE ARCHANGELS come forward.)
The sun-orb sings, in emulation,
'Mid brother-spheres, his ancient round:
His path predestined through Creation
He ends with step of thunder-sound.
The angels from his visage splendid
Draw power, whose measure none can say;
The lofty works, uncomprehended,
Are bright as on the earliest day.
The sun is singing in competition
With the other stars as he goes round on his orbit;
His route has been laid down for him since the beginning of time
And he shoots along with a step like thunder.
From the sun’s beauty the angels
Draw a power which no-one can measure;
God’s works in the sky, which none can hope to understand,
Are shining as brightly as the first day of creation.
And swift, and swift beyond conceiving,
The splendor of the world goes round,
Day's Eden-brightness still relieving
The awful Night's intense profound:
The ocean-tides in foam are breaking,
Against the rocks' deep bases hurled,
And both, the spheric race partaking,
Eternal, swift, are onward whirled!
Quickly, with a speed beyond belief,
The magnificent world spins round,
With the bright day like the first morning
Taking over from the terrible darkness of night;
The waves of the oceans are crashing
Against the foot of the cliffs,
And both, being a part of the earth
Rush on with it forever!
And rival storms abroad are surging
From sea to land, from land to sea.
A chain of deepest action forging
Round all, in wrathful energy.
There flames a desolation, blazing
Before the Thunder's crashing way:
Yet, Lord, Thy messengers are praising
The gentle movement of Thy Day.
And clashing storms rush around
From the sea to the land and back again.
They make a necklace of fierce energy
Which wraps around the whole world.
There’s a flash of lightning, shining
Before the thunder explodes:
But, Lord, your angels sing the praises
Of the beauty of the day you’ve made.
Though still by them uncomprehended,
From these the angels draw their power,
And all Thy works, sublime and splendid,
Are bright as in Creation's hour.
Though they cannot understand it
The angels gain their strength from these things,
And everything you have made, beautiful and wonderful,
Is as bright as when you first made it.
Since Thou, O Lord, deign'st to approach again
And ask us how we do, in manner kindest,
And heretofore to meet myself wert fain,
Among Thy menials, now, my face Thou findest.
Pardon, this troop I cannot follow after
With lofty speech, though by them scorned and spurned:
My pathos certainly would move Thy laughter,
If Thou hadst not all merriment unlearned.
Of suns and worlds I've nothing to be quoted;
How men torment themselves, is all I've noted.
The little god o' the world sticks to the same old way,
And is as whimsical as on Creation's day.
Life somewhat better might content him,
But for the gleam of heavenly light which Thou hast lent
He calls it Reason--thence his power's increased,
To be far beastlier than any beast.
Saving Thy Gracious Presence, he to me
A long-legged grasshopper appears to be,
That springing flies, and flying springs,
And in the grass the same old ditty sings.
Would he still lay among the grass he grows in!
Each bit of dung he seeks, to stick his nose in.
Since you, Lord, lower yourself to visit us
And ask how we are getting on in the kindest way,
As you used to see me amongst your servants,
You see my face here with them again.
Forgive me, I can’t follow the others,
With fine speeches, though they’ve rejected and mocked me:
My poor situation would certainly amuse you,
If you hadn’t forgotten how to laugh.
I’ve got nothing to say about suns and planets;
All I’ve learned is how men torture themselves.
Man carries on just the same as ever,
And behaves just as oddly as the day he was made.
He might have a better chance of happiness
If it wasn’t for the divine spark You put in him:
He calls it reason, and it gives him the power
To be more beastly than any animal.
Without wanting to offend You, he looks to me
Like a long legged grasshopper,
Leaping about here and there,
And singing the same old song in the grass.
I wish he would stop there in the grass,
But no, he has to stick his nose into everything unpleasant he can find.
Hast thou, then, nothing more to mention?
Com'st ever, thus, with ill intention?
Find'st nothing right on earth, eternally?
Is that all you have to say?
Do you only ever come with evil in your heart?
Can you never see anything good on earth?
No, Lord! I find things, there, still bad as they can be.
Man's misery even to pity moves my nature;
I've scarce the heart to plague the wretched creature.
No I can’t! Everything there is as bad as one can imagine.
The misery of man makes even me feel sorry for him;
I can hardly bring myself to torment the poor thing.
Do you know Faust?
The Doctor Faust?
Faust the Doctor?
My servant, he!
Yes, he’s my servant!
Forsooth! He serves you after strange devices:
No earthly meat or drink the fool suffices:
His spirit's ferment far aspireth;
Half conscious of his frenzied, crazed unrest,
The fairest stars from Heaven he requireth,
From Earth the highest raptures and the best,
And all the Near and Far that he desireth
Fails to subdue the tumult of his breast.
Well! He has a strange way of serving you:
The idiot’s not happy with what’s available on earth:
His desires spread out into the universe;
He’s half awake and half mad,
And he wants the most beautiful stars from the sky,
He wants all the greatest pleasures from earth as well.
If he gets all he wants, from near and far,
It still wouldn’t satisfy his cravings.
Though still confused his service unto Me,
I soon shall lead him to a clearer morning.
Sees not the gardener, even while buds his tree,
Both flower and fruit the future years adorning?
His service to me is still mixed up
But I shall make him see the light soon.
Doesn’t the gardener, when he plants a tree,
Have a vision of the fruits and flowers he’ll get in years to come?
What will you bet? There's still a chance to gain him,
If unto me full leave you give,
Gently upon my road to train him!
What will you bet? I can still trap him,
If you give me full permission,
To take him along my path!
As long as he on earth shall live,
So long I make no prohibition.
While Man's desires and aspirations stir,
He cannot choose but err.
As long as he’s still living on earth,
I don’t make any rules to control you.
Whilst men still have desires and hopes working on them,
They can’t help but make mistakes.
My thanks! I find the dead no acquisition,
And never cared to have them in my keeping.
I much prefer the cheeks where ruddy blood is leaping,
And when a corpse approaches, close my house:
It goes with me, as with the cat the mouse.
Thank you! I’m not interested in getting hold of the dead,
And I don’t like having them in my charge.
I like to play with the living
And close my doors to corpses:
I like to play with live things, like a cat with a mouse.
Enough! What thou hast asked is granted.
Turn off this spirit from his fountain-head;
To trap him, let thy snares be planted,
And him, with thee, be downward led;
Then stand abashed, when thou art forced to say:
A good man, through obscurest aspiration,
Has still an instinct of the one true way.
Alright then! I’ll give you what you want.
Take this soul away from his inspiration;
Lay out your traps
And drag him down with you;
Then you’ll be proved wrong and have to admit
That a good man, even if you cloud his vision,
Still knows how to take the right path.
Agreed! But 'tis a short probation.
About my bet I feel no trepidation.
If I fulfill my expectation,
You'll let me triumph with a swelling breast:
Dust shall he eat, and with a zest,
As did a certain snake, my near relation.
Agreed! It won’t take long.
I don’t have worries about my bet.
If everything goes according to plan
You’ll have to let me enjoy my victory:
He’ll eat dust and enjoy it,
Like a certain snake who’s related to me.
Therein thou'rt free, according to thy merits;
The like of thee have never moved My hate.
Of all the bold, denying Spirits,
The waggish knave least trouble doth create.
Man's active nature, flagging, seeks too soon the level;
Unqualified repose he learns to crave;
Whence, willingly, the comrade him I gave,
Who works, excites, and must create, as Devil.
But ye, God's sons in love and duty,
Enjoy the rich, the ever-living Beauty!
Creative Power, that works eternal schemes,
Clasp you in bonds of love, relaxing never,
And what in wavering apparition gleams
Fix in its place with thoughts that stand forever!
Alright, you’re free to try in your own way.
Your type has never inspired my hatred.
Of all those spirits who fight against me,
The joking rogue causes me the least trouble.
When a man gets tired, he quickly sinks down
And wants to have nothing but rest;
Then I’m happy for him to have a Devil as a companion
Who stirs him up and gets him working.
But you, my faithful and loving sons,
Enjoy the rich eternal beauty!
My power, which rules the universe,
Wraps you in ropes of love forever,
And what you see shining for a moment
Make eternal by keeping it in your thoughts eternally!
(Heaven closes: the ARCHANGELS separate)
I like, at times, to hear The Ancient's word,
And have a care to be most civil:
It's really kind of such a noble Lord
So humanly to gossip with the Devil!
I like to hear God speak from time to time
And I make sure I’m very polite to him:
It’s most kind of such a high God
To pass the time of day with the Devil!
(A lofty-arched, narrow, Gothic chamber. FAUST, in a chair at his desk, restless)
I've studied now Philosophy
And Jurisprudence, Medicine,--
And even, alas! Theology,--
From end to end, with labor keen;
And here, poor fool! with all my lore
I stand, no wiser than before:
I'm Magister--yea, Doctor--hight,
And straight or cross-wise, wrong or right,
These ten years long, with many woes,
I've led my scholars by the nose,--
And see, that nothing can be known!
That knowledge cuts me to the bone.
I'm cleverer, true, than those fops of teachers,
Doctors and Magisters, Scribes and Preachers;
Neither scruples nor doubts come now to smite me,
Nor Hell nor Devil can longer affright me.
For this, all pleasure am I foregoing;
I do not pretend to aught worth knowing,
I do not pretend I could be a teacher
To help or convert a fellow-creature.
Then, too, I've neither lands nor gold,
Nor the world's least pomp or honor hold--
No dog would endure such a curst existence!
Wherefore, from Magic I seek assistance,
That many a secret perchance I reach
Through spirit-power and spirit-speech,
And thus the bitter task forego
Of saying the things I do not know,--
That I may detect the inmost force
Which binds the world, and guides its course;
Its germs, productive powers explore,
And rummage in empty words no more!
O full and splendid Moon, whom I
Have, from this desk, seen climb the sky
So many a midnight,--would thy glow
For the last time beheld my woe!
Ever thine eye, most mournful friend,
O'er books and papers saw me bend;
But would that I, on mountains grand,
Amid thy blessed light could stand,
With spirits through mountain-caverns hover,
Float in thy twilight the meadows over,
And, freed from the fumes of lore that swathe me,
To health in thy dewy fountains bathe me!
Ah, me! this dungeon still I see.
This drear, accursed masonry,
Where even the welcome daylight strains
But duskly through the painted panes.
Hemmed in by many a toppling heap
Of books worm-eaten, gray with dust,
Which to the vaulted ceiling creep,
Against the smoky paper thrust,--
With glasses, boxes, round me stacked,
And instruments together hurled,
Ancestral lumber, stuffed and packed--
Such is my world: and what a world!
And do I ask, wherefore my heart
Falters, oppressed with unknown needs?
Why some inexplicable smart
All movement of my life impedes?
Alas! in living Nature's stead,
Where God His human creature set,
In smoke and mould the fleshless dead
And bones of beasts surround me yet!
Fly! Up, and seek the broad, free land!
And this one Book of Mystery
From Nostradamus' very hand,
Is't not sufficient company?
When I the starry courses know,
And Nature's wise instruction seek,
With light of power my soul shall glow,
As when to spirits spirits speak.
Tis vain, this empty brooding here,
Though guessed the holy symbols be:
Ye, Spirits, come--ye hover near--
Oh, if you hear me, answer me!
(He opens the Book, and perceives the sign of the Macrocosm.)
Ha! what a sudden rapture leaps from this
I view, through all my senses swiftly flowing!
I feel a youthful, holy, vital bliss
In every vein and fibre newly glowing.
Was it a God, who traced this sign,
With calm across my tumult stealing,
My troubled heart to joy unsealing,
With impulse, mystic and divine,
The powers of Nature here, around my path, revealing?
Am I a God?--so clear mine eyes!
In these pure features I behold
Creative Nature to my soul unfold.
What says the sage, now first I recognize:
"The spirit-world no closures fasten;
Thy sense is shut, thy heart is dead:
Disciple, up! untiring, hasten
To bathe thy breast in morning-red!"
(He contemplates the sign.)
How each the Whole its substance gives,
Each in the other works and lives!
Like heavenly forces rising and descending,
Their golden urns reciprocally lending,
With wings that winnow blessing
From Heaven through Earth I see them pressing,
Filling the All with harmony unceasing!
How grand a show! but, ah! a show alone.
Thee, boundless Nature, how make thee my own?
Where you, ye beasts? Founts of all Being, shining,
Whereon hang Heaven's and Earth's desire,
Whereto our withered hearts aspire,--
Ye flow, ye feed: and am I vainly pining?
(He turns the leaves impatiently, and perceives the sign of the Earth-Spirit)
How otherwise upon me works this sign!
Thou, Spirit of the Earth, art nearer:
Even now my powers are loftier, clearer;
I glow, as drunk with new-made wine:
New strength and heart to meet the world incite me,
The woe of earth, the bliss of earth, invite me,
And though the shock of storms may smite me,
No crash of shipwreck shall have power to fright me!
Clouds gather over me--
The moon conceals her light--
The lamp's extinguished!--
Mists rise,--red, angry rays are darting
Around my head!--There falls
A horror from the vaulted roof,
And seizes me!
I feel thy presence, Spirit I invoke!
Ha! in my heart what rending stroke!
With new impulsion
My senses heave in this convulsion!
I feel thee draw my heart, absorb, exhaust me:
Thou must! thou must! and though my life it cost me!
(He seizes the book, and mysteriously pronounces the sign of the Spirit. A ruddy flame flashes: the Spirit appears in the flame)
Now I’ve studied Philosophy
And Law, Medicine,
And even – unfortunately! – Theology,
From top to bottom, working hard;
And here, like a fool, with all my learning,
Am I, no wiser than when I started.
I’m called a teacher – a Doctor even! -
And one way and another, right or wrong,
For ten years, with much grief,
I’ve dragged my students around -
And now I see that one can understand nothing!
Knowing that pains me right down in my soul.
It’s true I’m cleverer than those ridiculous teachers,
Doctors, Academics, Clerks and Priests;
I can’t be stopped by doubts or scruples,
Nor can Hell or Devils frighten me.
I’ve given up all pleasure to get here;
Still I don’t know anything worthwhile,
Neither could I be a teacher
Who could give anything worthwhile to my fellow man.
As well as that I haven’t got money or property,
Neither do I have any wordly position or title -
A dog wouldn’t put up with this rotten life!
So, I want the help of Magic:
Hopefully I can learn many secrets
Through the power of Spirits and speaking to them,
So I can give up the painful job
Of having to talk about things I know nothing of.
I want to find the inner power
That holds the world together and directs its path;
I want to find how the world’s made and explore its power,
And stop wasting my time with meaningless words!
You wonderful full Moon, whom I
Have often seen climbing into the sky when I’m sitting at my desk,
Sitting here at so many midnights – I’d love it if your light
Was shining on my sadness for the last time!
You’ve always seen me, my sad friend,
Hunched over my books and papers;
But I want to stand on great mountains,
Shining in your beautiful light,
I want to drift through mountain caves with ghosts,
Drift over the meadows at twilight,
And instead of being wrapped up with this choking learning
I want to regain health by bathing in the dew by your light!
Ah no! I’m still in this dungeon of mine,
This prison of dull, cursed bricks,
Where even when it’s bright daylight
It’s dusk inside, thanks to the tinted glass.
I’m trapped in here by great tottering heaps
Of dusty, wormy books,
Reaching right up to the ceiling,
Leaning against the smoke blackened wallpaper.
I have magnifiers and boxes stacked around me,
And scientific apparatus all jumbled up,
Old heirlooms stuffed in cases;
This is my world, and what a world it is!
I have to ask, why is my heart so sad,
Crushed by the weight of wanting things unknown to me?
Why does this pain, whose source I don’t know,
Handicap me in everything I do?
Alas! Instead of being in the natural world,
Where God put down his creation, Man,
I’m surrounded by smoke, mould, skeletons
And animal bones.
Fly! Go up to the wide free country!
Isn’t this mystical book
Written by Nostradamus himself,
Enough for you?
When I learn about astrology
And read what’s written in Nature
My soul will throb with power,
As when spirits commune with spirits.
It’s no good, this worthless study in here,
Hoping to guess the signs from God:
Gather round me, Spirits!
If you can hear me then answer me!
(He opens the Book, and perceives the sign of the Macrocosm [a diagram of the cosmos])
Ha! What a thrill seeing this gives me,
Tingling through my bones!
I can feel a deep, holy, youthful joy,
Lighting up my blood and muscles.
Did God, who drew out this plan,
Come to lay calm upon my troubled mind,
To open my troubled heart to happiness,
With a mystic and divine power
Showing me the powers of Nature which surround me?
Am I a God? I can see everything so clearly!
Everything in these pure characters here
Shows the ways of nature to my soul!
I understand the wise man’s words for the first time:
“The spirit world is never locked:
It’s you whose heart and mind are closed.
Learner, wake up! Rush out
And bathe yourself in the sunrise!”
(He contemplates the sign)
See how everything is a part of the whole,
Everything working and living together!
See the planets rising and setting,
Their golden vessels sharing one to another
The blessings of their light;
I can see it flowing from heaven to earth,
Filling everything with eternal harmony!
What a wonderful show! Ah, but it’s just a show,
How can I gain the power of nature for myself?
Where are you? The source of all life,
Which all Heaven and Earth desires,
And our shriveled hearts want to gain,
You flow, you make life grow: am I striving for you in vain?
(He turns the leaves impatiently, and perceives the sign of the Earth-Spirit)
Now this sign has a different effect on me!
You, the Earth, are nearer than the stars,
I feel more powerful, I see things more clearly;
I’m lit up, as if I’ve had too much new wine:
I have a new strength and more heart to take on the world,
The sorrow and the beauty of the Earth are calling to me,
And though storms might crash down upon me,
No shipwreck will be able to frighten me!
The clouds are gathering overhead,
The light of the moon is hidden,
The lamp’s gone out!
There’s a fog rising, red lightning
Flashes around my head! Something terrible
Falls down from the ceiling
And grabs hold of me!
I can feel your presence, Spirit I summoned!
Show yourself to me!
Ha! Something slashes at my heart!
I am tossed around
And my senses are whipped up into a storm!
I feel you pulling out my heart; do, consume me, take all of me:
You must, you must, even if it costs me my life!
(He seizes the book, and mysteriously pronounces the sign of the Spirit. A ruddy flame flashes: the Spirit appears in the flame)
Who calls me?
Who’s summoned me?
FAUST (with averted head)
Terrible to see!
This is a dreadful thing to see!
Me hast thou long with might attracted,
Long from my sphere thy food exacted,
I have felt your presence for a long time,
Drawing your powers from my world,
And now -
Woe! I endure not thee!
No! I can’t face you!
To view me is thine aspiration,
My voice to hear, my countenance to see;
Thy powerful yearning moveth me,
Here am I!--what mean perturbation
Thee, superhuman, shakes? Thy soul's high calling, where?
Where is the breast, which from itself a world did bear,
And shaped and cherished--which with joy expanded,
To be our peer, with us, the Spirits, banded?
Where art thou, Faust, whose voice has pierced to me,
Who towards me pressed with all thine energy?
He art thou, who, my presence breathing, seeing,
Trembles through all the depths of being,
A writhing worm, a terror-stricken form?
You want to see me,
To hear my voice and see my face,
It was your desire which brought me here,
And here I am! What petty fears
Worry you, you superman? Where are those high hopes of the soul?
Where is the heart which made a whole world
For itself, shaped and loved it, and happily
Wanted to become like we Spirits?
Where are you, Faust, who called to me,
With every fibre of your being?
Is this you, who seeing my living presence
Trembles from head to foot,
A wriggling worm, terrified?