Goethe's Faust

Scene IV




A knock? Come in! Again my quiet broken?


'Tis I!


Come in!


Thrice must the words be spoken.


Come in, then!


Thus thou pleasest me.

I hope we'll suit each other well;

For now, thy vapors to dispel,

I come, a squire of high degree,

In scarlet coat, with golden trimming,

A cloak in silken lustre swimming,

A tall cock's-feather in my hat,

A long, sharp sword for show or quarrel,—

And I advise thee, brief and flat,

To don the self-same gay apparel,

That, from this den released, and free,

Life be at last revealed to thee!


This life of earth, whatever my attire,

Would pain me in its wonted fashion.

Too old am I to play with passion;

Too young, to be without desire.

What from the world have I to gain?

Thou shalt abstain—renounce—refrain!

Such is the everlasting song

That in the ears of all men rings,—

That unrelieved, our whole life long,

Each hour, in passing, hoarsely sings.

In very terror I at morn awake,

Upon the verge of bitter weeping,

To see the day of disappointment break,

To no one hope of mine—not one—its promise keeping:—

That even each joy's presentiment

With wilful cavil would diminish,

With grinning masks of life prevent

My mind its fairest work to finish!

Then, too, when night descends, how anxiously

Upon my couch of sleep I lay me:

There, also, comes no rest to me,

But some wild dream is sent to fray me.

The God that in my breast is owned

Can deeply stir the inner sources;

The God, above my powers enthroned,

He cannot change external forces.

So, by the burden of my days oppressed,

Death is desired, and Life a thing unblest!


And yet is never Death a wholly welcome guest.


O fortunate, for whom, when victory glances,

The bloody laurels on the brow he bindeth!

Whom, after rapid, maddening dances,

In clasping maiden-arms he findeth!

O would that I, before that spirit-power,

Ravished and rapt from life, had sunken!


And yet, by some one, in that nightly hour,

A certain liquid was not drunken.


Eavesdropping, ha! thy pleasure seems to be.


Omniscient am I not; yet much is known to me.


Though some familiar tone, retrieving

My thoughts from torment, led me on,

And sweet, clear echoes came, deceiving

A faith bequeathed from Childhood's dawn,

Yet now I curse whate'er entices

And snares the soul with visions vain;

With dazzling cheats and dear devices

Confines it in this cave of pain!

Cursed be, at once, the high ambition

Wherewith the mind itself deludes!

Cursed be the glare of apparition

That on the finer sense intrudes!

Cursed be the lying dream's impression

Of name, and fame, and laurelled brow!

Cursed, all that flatters as possession,

As wife and child, as knave and plow!

Cursed Mammon be, when he with treasures

To restless action spurs our fate!

Cursed when, for soft, indulgent leisures,

He lays for us the pillows straight!

Cursed be the vine's transcendent nectar,—

The highest favor Love lets fall!

Cursed, also, Hope!—cursed Faith, the spectre!

And cursed be Patience most of all!


Woe! woe!

Thou hast it destroyed,

The beautiful world,

With powerful fist:

In ruin 'tis hurled,

By the blow of a demigod shattered!

The scattered

Fragments into the Void we carry,


The beauty perished beyond restoring.


For the children of men,


Build it again,

In thine own bosom build it anew!

Bid the new career


With clearer sense,

And the new songs of cheer

Be sung thereto!


These are the small dependants

Who give me attendance.

Hear them, to deeds and passion

Counsel in shrewd old-fashion!

Into the world of strife,

Out of this lonely life

That of senses and sap has betrayed thee,

They would persuade thee.

This nursing of the pain forego thee,

That, like a vulture, feeds upon thy breast!

The worst society thou find'st will show thee

Thou art a man among the rest.

But 'tis not meant to thrust

Thee into the mob thou hatest!

I am not one of the greatest,

Yet, wilt thou to me entrust

Thy steps through life, I'll guide thee,—

Will willingly walk beside thee,—

Will serve thee at once and forever

With best endeavor,

And, if thou art satisfied,

Will as servant, slave, with thee abide.


And what shall be my counter-service therefor?


The time is long: thou need'st not now insist.


No—no! The Devil is an egotist,

And is not apt, without a why or wherefore,

"For God's sake," others to assist.

Speak thy conditions plain and clear!

With such a servant danger comes, I fear.


Here, an unwearied slave, I'll wear thy tether,

And to thine every nod obedient be:

When There again we come together,

Then shalt thou do the same for me.


The There my scruples naught increases.

When thou hast dashed this world to pieces,

The other, then, its place may fill.

Here, on this earth, my pleasures have their sources;

Yon sun beholds my sorrows in his courses;

And when from these my life itself divorces,

Let happen all that can or will!

I'll hear no more: 'tis vain to ponder

If there we cherish love or hate,

Or, in the spheres we dream of yonder,

A High and Low our souls await.


In this sense, even, canst thou venture.

Come, bind thyself by prompt indenture,

And thou mine arts with joy shalt see:

What no man ever saw, I'll give to thee.


Canst thou, poor Devil, give me whatsoever?

When was a human soul, in its supreme endeavor,

E'er understood by such as thou?

Yet, hast thou food which never satiates, now,—

The restless, ruddy gold hast thou,

That runs, quicksilver-like, one's fingers through,—

A game whose winnings no man ever knew,—

A maid that, even from my breast,

Beckons my neighbor with her wanton glances,

And Honor's godlike zest,

The meteor that a moment dances,—

Show me the fruits that, ere they're gathered, rot,

And trees that daily with new leafage clothe them!


Such a demand alarms me not:

Such treasures have I, and can show them.

But still the time may reach us, good my friend.

When peace we crave and more luxurious diet.


When on an idler's bed I stretch myself in quiet.

There let, at once, my record end!

Canst thou with lying flattery rule me,

Until, self-pleased, myself I see,—

Canst thou with rich enjoyment fool me,

Let that day be the last for me!

The bet I offer.




And heartily!

When thus I hail the Moment flying:

"Ah, still delay—thou art so fair!"

Then bind me in thy bonds undying,

My final ruin then declare!

Then let the death-bell chime the token.

Then art thou from thy service free!

The clock may stop, the hand be broken,

Then Time be finished unto me!


Consider well: my memory good is rated.


Thou hast a perfect right thereto.

My powers I have not rashly estimated:

A slave am I, whate'er I do—

If thine, or whose? 'tis needless to debate it.


Then at the Doctors'-banquet I, to-day,

Will as a servant wait behind thee.

But one thing more! Beyond all risk to bind thee,

Give me a line or two, I pray.


Demand'st thou, Pedant, too, a document?

Hast never known a man, nor proved his word's intent?

Is't not enough, that what I speak to-day

Shall stand, with all my future days agreeing?

In all its tides sweeps not the world away,

And shall a promise bind my being?

Yet this delusion in our hearts we bear:

Who would himself therefrom deliver?

Blest he, whose bosom Truth makes pure and fair!

No sacrifice shall he repent of ever.

Nathless a parchment, writ and stamped with care,

A spectre is, which all to shun endeavor.

The word, alas! dies even in the pen,

And wax and leather keep the lordship then.

What wilt from me, Base Spirit, say?—

Brass, marble, parchment, paper, clay?

The terms with graver, quill, or chisel, stated?

I freely leave the choice to thee.


Why heat thyself, thus instantly,

With eloquence exaggerated?

Each leaf for such a pact is good;

And to subscribe thy name thou'lt take a drop of blood.


If thou therewith art fully satisfied,

So let us by the farce abide.


Blood is a juice of rarest quality.


Fear not that I this pact shall seek to sever?

The promise that I make to thee

Is just the sum of my endeavor.

I have myself inflated all too high;

My proper place is thy estate:

The Mighty Spirit deigns me no reply,

And Nature shuts on me her gate.

The thread of Thought at last is broken,

And knowledge brings disgust unspoken.

Let us the sensual deeps explore,

To quench the fervors of glowing passion!

Let every marvel take form and fashion

Through the impervious veil it wore!

Plunge we in Time's tumultuous dance,

In the rush and roll of Circumstance!

Then may delight and distress,

And worry and success,

Alternately follow, as best they can:

Restless activity proves the man!


For you no bound, no term is set.

Whether you everywhere be trying,

Or snatch a rapid bliss in flying,

May it agree with you, what you get!

Only fall to, and show no timid balking.


But thou hast heard, 'tis not of joy we're talking.

I take the wildering whirl, enjoyment's keenest pain,

Enamored hate, exhilarant disdain.

My bosom, of its thirst for knowledge sated,

Shall not, henceforth, from any pang be wrested,

And all of life for all mankind created

Shall be within mine inmost being tested:

The highest, lowest forms my soul shall borrow,

Shall heap upon itself their bliss and sorrow,

And thus, my own sole self to all their selves expanded,

I too, at last, shall with them all be stranded!


Believe me, who for many a thousand year

The same tough meat have chewed and tested,

That from the cradle to the bier

No man the ancient leaven has digested!

Trust one of us, this Whole supernal

Is made but for a God's delight!

He dwells in splendor single and eternal,

But us he thrusts in darkness, out of sight,

And you he dowers with Day and Night.


Nay, but I will!


A good reply!

One only fear still needs repeating:

The art is long, the time is fleeting.

Then let thyself be taught, say I!

Go, league thyself with a poet,

Give the rein to his imagination,

Then wear the crown, and show it,

Of the qualities of his creation,—

The courage of the lion's breed,

The wild stag's speed,

The Italian's fiery blood,

The North's firm fortitude!

Let him find for thee the secret tether

That binds the Noble and Mean together.

And teach thy pulses of youth and pleasure

To love by rule, and hate by measure!

I'd like, myself, such a one to see:

Sir Microcosm his name should be.


What am I, then, if 'tis denied my part

The crown of all humanity to win me,

Whereto yearns every sense within me?


Why, on the whole, thou'rt—what thou art.

Set wigs of million curls upon thy head, to raise thee,

Wear shoes an ell in height,—the truth betrays thee,

And thou remainest—what thou art.


I feel, indeed, that I have made the treasure

Of human thought and knowledge mine, in vain;

And if I now sit down in restful leisure,

No fount of newer strength is in my brain:

I am no hair's-breadth more in height,

Nor nearer, to the Infinite,


Good Sir, you see the facts precisely

As they are seen by each and all.

We must arrange them now, more wisely,

Before the joys of life shall pall.

Why, Zounds! Both hands and feet are, truly—

And head and virile forces—thine:

Yet all that I indulge in newly,

Is't thence less wholly mine?

If I've six stallions in my stall,

Are not their forces also lent me?

I speed along, completest man of all,

As though my legs were four-and-twenty.

Take hold, then! let reflection rest,

And plunge into the world with zest!

I say to thee, a speculative wight

Is like a beast on moorlands lean,

That round and round some fiend misleads to evil plight,

While all about lie pastures fresh and green.


Then how shall we begin?


We'll try a wider sphere.

What place of martyrdom is here!

Is't life, I ask, is't even prudence,

To bore thyself and bore the students?

Let Neighbor Paunch to that attend!

Why plague thyself with threshing straw forever?

The best thou learnest, in the end

Thou dar'st not tell the youngsters—never!

I hear one's footsteps, hither steering.


To see him now I have no heart.


So long the poor boy waits a hearing,

He must not unconsoled depart.

Thy cap and mantle straightway lend me!

I'll play the comedy with art.

(He disguises himself.)

My wits, be certain, will befriend me.

But fifteen minutes' time is all I need;

For our fine trip, meanwhile, prepare thyself with speed!

[Exit FAUST.


(In FAUST'S long mantle.)

Reason and Knowledge only thou despise,

The highest strength in man that lies!

Let but the Lying Spirit bind thee

With magic works and shows that blind thee,

And I shall have thee fast and sure!—

Fate such a bold, untrammelled spirit gave him,

As forwards, onwards, ever must endure;

Whose over-hasty impulse drave him

Past earthly joys he might secure.

Dragged through the wildest life, will I enslave him,

Through flat and stale indifference;

With struggling, chilling, checking, so deprave him

That, to his hot, insatiate sense,

The dream of drink shall mock, but never lave him:

Refreshment shall his lips in vain implore—

Had he not made himself the Devil's, naught could save him,

Still were he lost forevermore!

(A STUDENT enters.)


A short time, only, am I here,

And come, devoted and sincere,

To greet and know the man of fame,

Whom men to me with reverence name.


Your courtesy doth flatter me:

You see a man, as others be.

Have you, perchance, elsewhere begun?


Receive me now, I pray, as one

Who comes to you with courage good,

Somewhat of cash, and healthy blood:

My mother was hardly willing to let me;

But knowledge worth having I fain would get me.


Then you have reached the right place now.


I'd like to leave it, I must avow;

I find these walls, these vaulted spaces

Are anything but pleasant places.

Tis all so cramped and close and mean;

One sees no tree, no glimpse of green,

And when the lecture-halls receive me,

Seeing, hearing, and thinking leave me.


All that depends on habitude.

So from its mother's breasts a child

At first, reluctant, takes its food,

But soon to seek them is beguiled.

Thus, at the breasts of Wisdom clinging,

Thou'lt find each day a greater rapture bringing.


I'll hang thereon with joy, and freely drain them;

But tell me, pray, the proper means to gain them.


Explain, before you further speak,

The special faculty you seek.


I crave the highest erudition;

And fain would make my acquisition

All that there is in Earth and Heaven,

In Nature and in Science too.


Here is the genuine path for you;

Yet strict attention must be given.


Body and soul thereon I'll wreak;

Yet, truly, I've some inclination

On summer holidays to seek

A little freedom and recreation.


Use well your time! It flies so swiftly from us;

But time through order may be won, I promise.

So, Friend (my views to briefly sum),

First, the collegium logicum.

There will your mind be drilled and braced,

As if in Spanish boots 'twere laced,

And thus, to graver paces brought,

'Twill plod along the path of thought,

Instead of shooting here and there,

A will-o'-the-wisp in murky air.

Days will be spent to bid you know,

What once you did at a single blow,

Like eating and drinking, free and strong,—

That one, two, three! thereto belong.

Truly the fabric of mental fleece

Resembles a weaver's masterpiece,

Where a thousand threads one treadle throws,

Where fly the shuttles hither and thither.

Unseen the threads are knit together.

And an infinite combination grows.

Then, the philosopher steps in

And shows, no otherwise it could have been:

The first was so, the second so,

Therefore the third and fourth are so;

Were not the first and second, then

The third and fourth had never been.

The scholars are everywhere believers,

But never succeed in being weavers.

He who would study organic existence,

First drives out the soul with rigid persistence;

Then the parts in his hand he may hold and class,

But the spiritual link is lost, alas!

Encheiresin natures, this Chemistry names,

Nor knows how herself she banters and blames!


I cannot understand you quite.


Your mind will shortly be set aright,

When you have learned, all things reducing,

To classify them for your using.


I feel as stupid, from all you've said,

As if a mill-wheel whirled in my head!


And after—first and foremost duty—Of

Metaphysics learn the use and beauty!

See that you most profoundly gain

What does not suit the human brain!

A splendid word to serve, you'll find

For what goes in—or won't go in—your mind.

But first, at least this half a year,

To order rigidly adhere;

Five hours a day, you understand,

And when the clock strikes, be on hand!

Prepare beforehand for your part

With paragraphs all got by heart,

So you can better watch, and look

That naught is said but what is in the book:

Yet in thy writing as unwearied be,

As did the Holy Ghost dictate to thee!


No need to tell me twice to do it!

I think, how useful 'tis to write;

For what one has, in black and white,

One carries home and then goes through it.


Yet choose thyself a faculty!


I cannot reconcile myself to Jurisprudence.


Nor can I therefore greatly blame you students:

I know what science this has come to be.

All rights and laws are still transmitted

Like an eternal sickness of the race,—

From generation unto generation fitted,

And shifted round from place to place.

Reason becomes a sham, Beneficence a worry:

Thou art a grandchild, therefore woe to thee!

The right born with us, ours in verity,

This to consider, there's, alas! no hurry.


My own disgust is strengthened by your speech:

O lucky he, whom you shall teach!

I've almost for Theology decided.


I should not wish to see you here misguided:

For, as regards this science, let me hint

'Tis very hard to shun the false direction;

There's so much secret poison lurking in 't,

So like the medicine, it baffles your detection.

Hear, therefore, one alone, for that is best, in sooth,

And simply take your master's words for truth.

On words let your attention centre!

Then through the safest gate you'll enter

The temple-halls of Certainty.


Yet in the word must some idea be.


Of course! But only shun too over-sharp a tension,

For just where fails the comprehension,

A word steps promptly in as deputy.

With words 'tis excellent disputing;

Systems to words 'tis easy suiting;

On words 'tis excellent believing;

No word can ever lose a jot from thieving.


Pardon! With many questions I detain you.

Yet must I trouble you again.

Of Medicine I still would fain

Hear one strong word that might explain you.

Three years is but a little space.

And, God! who can the field embrace?

If one some index could be shown,

'Twere easier groping forward, truly.


I'm tired enough of this dry tone,—

Must play the Devil again, and fully.


To grasp the spirit of Medicine is easy:

Learn of the great and little world your fill,

To let it go at last, so please ye,

Just as God will!

In vain that through the realms of science you may drift;

Each one learns only—just what learn he can:

Yet he who grasps the Moment's gift,

He is the proper man.

Well-made you are, 'tis not to be denied,

The rest a bold address will win you;

If you but in yourself confide,

At once confide all others in you.

To lead the women, learn the special feeling!

Their everlasting aches and groans,

In thousand tones,

Have all one source, one mode of healing;

And if your acts are half discreet,

You'll always have them at your feet.

A title first must draw and interest them,

And show that yours all other arts exceeds;

Then, as a greeting, you are free to touch and test them,

While, thus to do, for years another pleads.

You press and count the pulse's dances,

And then, with burning sidelong glances,

You clasp the swelling hips, to see

If tightly laced her corsets be.


That's better, now! The How and Where, one sees.


My worthy friend, gray are all theories,

And green alone Life's golden tree.


I swear to you, 'tis like a dream to me.

Might I again presume, with trust unbounded,

To hear your wisdom thoroughly expounded?


Most willingly, to what extent I may.


I cannot really go away:

Allow me that my album first I reach you,—

Grant me this favor, I beseech you!



(He writes, and returns the book.)

STUDENT (reads)

Eritis sicut Deus, scientes bonum et malum.

(Closes the book with reverence, and withdraws)


Follow the ancient text, and the snake thou wast ordered to trample!

With all thy likeness to God, thou'lt yet be a sorry example!

(FAUST enters.)


Now, whither shall we go?


As best it pleases thee.

The little world, and then the great, we'll see.

With what delight, what profit winning,

Shalt thou sponge through the term beginning!


Yet with the flowing beard I wear,

Both ease and grace will fail me there.

The attempt, indeed, were a futile strife;

I never could learn the ways of life.

I feel so small before others, and thence

Should always find embarrassments.


My friend, thou soon shalt lose all such misgiving:

Be thou but self-possessed, thou hast the art of living!


How shall we leave the house, and start?

Where hast thou servant, coach and horses?


We'll spread this cloak with proper art,

Then through the air direct our courses.

But only, on so bold a flight,

Be sure to have thy luggage light.

A little burning air, which I shall soon prepare us,

Above the earth will nimbly bear us,

And, if we're light, we'll travel swift and clear:

I gratulate thee on thy new career!]