Goethe's Faust

Prologue in Heaven




(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.


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!


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.


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.


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.


Hast thou, then, nothing more to mention?

Com'st ever, thus, with ill intention?

Find'st nothing right on earth, eternally?


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.


Know'st Faust?


The Doctor Faust?


My servant, he!


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.


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?


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!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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!

(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!