Goethe's Faust

Scene XII


(MARGARET on FAUST'S arm. MARTHA and MEPHISTOPHELES walking up and down.)


I feel, the gentleman allows for me,

Demeans himself, and shames me by it;

A traveller is so used to be

Kindly content with any diet.

I know too well that my poor gossip can

Ne'er entertain such an experienced man.


A look from thee, a word, more entertains

Than all the lore of wisest brains.

(He kisses her hand.)


Don't incommode yourself! How could you ever kiss it!

It is so ugly, rough to see!

What work I do,—how hard and steady is it!

Mother is much too close with me.

[They pass.


And you, Sir, travel always, do you not?


Alas, that trade and duty us so harry!

With what a pang one leaves so many a spot,

And dares not even now and then to tarry!


In young, wild years it suits your ways,

This round and round the world in freedom sweeping;

But then come on the evil days,

And so, as bachelor, into his grave a-creeping,

None ever found a thing to praise.


I dread to see how such a fate advances.


Then, worthy Sir, improve betimes your chances!

[They pass.


Yes, out of sight is out of mind!

Your courtesy an easy grace is;

But you have friends in other places,

And sensibler than I, you'll find.


Trust me, dear heart! what men call sensible

Is oft mere vanity and narrowness.


How so?


Ah, that simplicity and innocence ne'er know

Themselves, their holy value, and their spell!

That meekness, lowliness, the highest graces

Which Nature portions out so lovingly—


So you but think a moment's space on me,

All times I'll have to think on you, all places!


No doubt you're much alone?


Yes, for our household small has grown,

Yet must be cared for, you will own.

We have no maid: I do the knitting, sewing, sweeping,

The cooking, early work and late, in fact;

And mother, in her notions of housekeeping,

Is so exact!

Not that she needs so much to keep expenses down:

We, more than others, might take comfort, rather:

A nice estate was left us by my father,

A house, a little garden near the town.

But now my days have less of noise and hurry;

My brother is a soldier,

My little sister's dead.

True, with the child a troubled life I led,

Yet I would take again, and willing, all the worry,

So very dear was she.


An angel, if like thee!


I brought it up, and it was fond of me.

Father had died before it saw the light,

And mother's case seemed hopeless quite,

So weak and miserable she lay;

And she recovered, then, so slowly, day by day.

She could not think, herself, of giving

The poor wee thing its natural living;

And so I nursed it all alone

With milk and water: 'twas my own.

Lulled in my lap with many a song,

It smiled, and tumbled, and grew strong.


The purest bliss was surely then thy dower.


But surely, also, many a weary hour.

I kept the baby's cradle near

My bed at night: if 't even stirred, I'd guess it,

And waking, hear.

And I must nurse it, warm beside me press it,

And oft, to quiet it, my bed forsake,

And dandling back and forth the restless creature take,

Then at the wash-tub stand, at morning's break;

And then the marketing and kitchen-tending,

Day after day, the same thing, never-ending.

One's spirits, Sir, are thus not always good,

But then one learns to relish rest and food.

[They pass.


Yes, the poor women are bad off, 'tis true:

A stubborn bachelor there's no converting.


It but depends upon the like of you,

And I should turn to better ways than flirting.


Speak plainly, Sir, have you no one detected?

Has not your heart been anywhere subjected?


The proverb says: One's own warm hearth

And a good wife, are gold and jewels worth.


I mean, have you not felt desire, though ne'er so slightly?


I've everywhere, in fact, been entertained politely.


I meant to say, were you not touched in earnest, ever?


One should allow one's self to jest with ladies never.

MARTHA Ah, you don't understand!


I'm sorry I'm so blind: But I am sure—that you are very kind.

[They pass.


And me, thou angel! didst thou recognize,

As through the garden-gate I came?


Did you not see it? I cast down my eyes.


And thou forgiv'st my freedom, and the blame

To my impertinence befitting,

As the Cathedral thou wert quitting?


I was confused, the like ne'er happened me;

No one could ever speak to my discredit.

Ah, thought I, in my conduct has he read it—

Something immodest or unseemly free?

He seemed to have the sudden feeling

That with this wench 'twere very easy dealing.

I will confess, I knew not what appeal

On your behalf, here, in my bosom grew;

But I was angry with myself, to feel

That I could not be angrier with you.


Sweet darling!


Wait a while!

(She plucks a star-flower, and pulls off the leaves, one after

the other.)


Shall that a nosegay be?


No, it is just in play.




Go! you'll laugh at me.

(She pulls off the leaves and murmurs.)


What murmurest thou?

MARGARET (half aloud)

He loves me—loves me not.


Thou sweet, angelic soul!

MARGARET (continues)

Loves me—not—loves me—not—

(plucking the last leaf, she cries with frank delight:)

He loves me!


Yes, child! and let this blossom-word

For thee be speech divine! He loves thee!

Ah, know'st thou what it means? He loves thee!

(He grasps both her hands.)


I'm all a-tremble!


O tremble not! but let this look,

Let this warm clasp of hands declare thee

What is unspeakable!

To yield one wholly, and to feel a rapture

In yielding, that must be eternal!

Eternal!—for the end would be despair.

No, no,—no ending! no ending!

MARTHA (coming forward)

The night is falling.


Ay! we must away.


I'd ask you, longer here to tarry,

But evil tongues in this town have full play.

It's as if nobody had nothing to fetch and carry,

Nor other labor,

But spying all the doings of one's neighbor:

And one becomes the talk, do whatsoe'er one may.

Where is our couple now?


Flown up the alley yonder,

The wilful summer-birds!


He seems of her still fonder.


And she of him. So runs the world away!]]]]