• Part I Scene I: Night

    (In a high-vaulted Gothic chamber, Faust, in a chair at his desk, restless.)

    Ah! Now I’ve done Philosophy,
    I’ve finished Law and Medicine,
    And sadly even Theology:
    Taken fierce pains, from end to end.
    Now here I am, a fool for sure!
    No wiser than I was before:
    Master, Doctor’s what they call me,
    And I’ve been ten years, already,
    Crosswise, arcing, to and fro,
    Leading my students by the nose,
    And see that we can know - nothing!
    It almost sets my heart burning.
    I’m cleverer than all these teachers,
    Doctors, Masters, scribes, preachers:
    I’m not plagued by doubt or scruple,
    Scared by neither Hell nor Devil –
    Instead all Joy is snatched away,
    What’s worth knowing, I can’t say,
    I can’t say what I should teach
    To make men better or convert each.
    And then I’ve neither goods nor gold,
    No worldly honour, or splendour hold:
    Not even a dog would play this part!
    So I’ve given myself to Magic art,
    To see if, through Spirit powers and lips,
    I might have all secrets at my fingertips.
    And no longer, with rancid sweat, so,
    Still have to speak what I cannot know:
    That I may understand whatever
    Binds the world’s innermost core together,
    See all its workings, and its seeds,
    Deal no more in words’ empty reeds.
    O, may you look, full moon that shines,
    On my pain for this last time:
    So many midnights from my desk,
    I have seen you, keeping watch:
    When over my books and paper,
    Saddest friend, you appear!
    Ah! If on the mountain height
    I might stand in your sweet light,
    Float with spirits in mountain caves,
    Swim the meadows in twilight’ waves,
    Free from the smoke of knowledge too,
    Bathe in your health-giving dew!
    Alas! In this prison must I stick?
    This hollow darkened hole of brick,
    Where even the lovely heavenly light
    Shines through stained glass, dull not bright.
    Hemmed in, by heaps of books,
    Piled to the highest vault, and higher,
    Worm eaten, decked with dust,
    Surrounded by smoke-blackened paper,
    Glass vials, boxes round me, hurled,
    Stuffed with Instruments thrown together,
    Packed with ancestral lumber –
    This is my world! And what a world!
    And need you ask why my heart
    Makes such tremors in my breast?
    Why all my life-energies are
    Choked by some unknown distress?
    Smoke and mildew hem me in,
    Instead of living Nature, then,
    Where God once created Men,
    Bones of creatures, and dead limbs!
    Fly! Upwards! Into Space, flung wide!
    Isn’t this book, with secrets crammed,
    From Nostradamus’ very hand,
    Enough to be my guide?
    When I know the starry road,
    And Nature, you instruct me,
    My soul’s power, you shall flow,
    As spirits can with spirits be.
    Useless, this dusty pondering here
    To read the sacred characters:
    Soar round me, Spirits, and be near:
    If you hear me, then answer!

    (He opens the Book, and sees the Symbol of the Macrocosm)

    Ah! In a moment, what bliss flows
    Through my senses from this Sign!
    I feel life’s youthful, holy joy: it glows,
    Fresh in every nerve and vein of mine.
    This symbol now that calms my inward raging,
    Perhaps a god deigned to write,
    Filling my poor heart with delight,
    And with its mysterious urging
    Revealing, round me, Nature’s might?
    Am I a god? All seems so clear to me!
    It seems the deepest works of Nature
    Lie open to my soul, with purest feature.
    Now I understand what wise men see:
    “The world of spirits is not closed:
    Your senses are: your heart is dead!
    Rise, unwearied, disciple: bathe instead
    Your earthly breast in the morning’s glow!”

    (He gazes at the Symbol.)

    How each to the Whole its selfhood gives,
    One in another works and lives!
    How Heavenly forces fall and rise,
    Golden vessels pass each other by!
    Blessings from their wings disperse:
    They penetrate from Heaven to Earth,
    Sounding a harmony through the Universe!
    Such a picture! Ah, alas! Merely a picture!
    How then can I grasp you endless Nature?
    Where are your breasts that pour out Life entire,
    To which the Earth and Heavens cling so,
    Where withered hearts would drink? You flow
    You nourish, yet I languish so, in vain desire.

    (He strikes the book indignantly, and catches sight of the Symbol
    of the Earth-Spirit.)

    How differently it works on me, this Sign!
    You, the Spirit of Earth, are nearer:
    Already, I feel my power is greater,
    Already, I glow, as with fresh wine.
    I feel the courage to engage the world,
    Into the pain and joy of Earth be hurled,
    And though the storm wind is unfurled,
    Fearless, in the shipwreck’s teeth, be whirled.
    There’s cloud above me –
    The Moon hides its light –
    The lamp flickers!
    Now it dies! Crimson rays dart
    Round my head – Horror
    Flickers from the vault above,
    And grips me tight!
    I feel you float around me,
    Spirit, I summon to appear, speak to me!
    Ah! What tears now at the core of me!
    All my senses reeling
    With fresh feeling!
    I feel you draw my whole heart towards you!
    You must! You must! Though my Life’s lost, too!

    (He grips the book and speaks the mysterious name of the Spirit. A crimson flame flashes, the Spirit appears in the flame.)


    Who calls me?

    Faust (Looking away)

    Terrible to gaze at!


    Mightily you have drawn me to you,
    Long, from my sphere, snatched your food,
    And now –


    Ah! Endure you, I cannot!


    You beg me to show myself, you implore,
    You wish to hear my voice, and see my face:
    The mighty prayer of your soul weighs
    With me, I am here! – What wretched terror
    Grips you, the Superhuman! Where is your soul’s calling?
    Where is the heart that made a world inside, enthralling:
    Carried it, nourished it, swollen with joy, so tremulous,
    That you too might be a Spirit, one of us?
    Where are you, Faust, whose ringing voice
    Drew towards me with all your force?
    Are you he, who, breathing my breath,
    Trembles in all your life’s depths,
    A fearful, writhing worm?


    Shall I fear you: you form of fire?
    I am, I am Faust: I am your peer!


    In Life’s wave, in action’s storm,
    I float, up and down,
    I blow, to and fro!
    Birth and the tomb,
    An eternal flow,
    A woven changing,
    A glow of Being.
    Over Time’s quivering loom intent,
    Working the Godhead’s living garment.


    You who wander the world, on every hand,
    Active Spirit, how close to you I feel!


    You’re like the Spirit that you understand
    Not me!

    (It vanishes.)

    Faust (Overwhelmed)

    Not you?
    Who then?
    I, the image of the Godhead!
    Not even like you?

    (A knock.)

    Oh, fate! I know that sound – it’s my attendant –
    My greatest fortune’s ruined!
    In all the fullness of my doing,
    He must intrude, that arid pedant!

    (Wagner enters, in gown and nightcap, lamp in hand. Faust turns to him impatiently.)


    Forgive me! But I heard you declaim:
    Reading, I’m sure, from some Greek tragedy?
    To profit from that art is my aim,
    Nowadays it goes down splendidly.
    I’ve often heard it claimed, you see
    A priest could learn from the Old Comedy.


    Yes, when the priest’s a comedian already:
    Which might well seem to be the case.


    Ah! When a man’s so penned in his study,
    And scarcely sees the world on holidays,
    And barely through the glass, and far off then,
    How can he lead men, through persuading them?


    You can’t, if you can’t feel it, if it never
    Rises from the soul, and sways
    The heart of every single hearer,
    With deepest power, in simple ways.
    You’ll sit forever, gluing things together,
    Cooking up a stew from other’s scraps,
    Blowing on a miserable fire,
    Made from your heap of dying ash.
    Let apes and children praise your art,
    If their admiration’s to your taste,
    But you’ll never speak from heart to heart,
    Unless it rises up from your heart’s space.


    Still, lecturing brings orators success:
    I feel that I am far behind the rest.


    Seek to profit honestly!
    Don’t be an empty tinkling fool!
    Understanding, and true clarity,
    Express themselves without art’s rule!
    And if you mean what you say,
    Why hunt for words, anyway?
    Yes, your speech, that glitters so,
    Where you gather scraps for Man,
    Is dead as the mist-filled winds that blow
    Through the dried-up leaves of autumn!


    Oh, God! Art is long
    And life is short.
    Often the studies that I’m working on
    Make me anxious, in my head and heart.
    How hard it is to command the means
    By which a man attains the very source!
    Before a man has travelled half his course,
    The wretched devil has to die it seems.


    Parchment then, is that your holy well,
    From which drink always slakes your thirst?
    You’ll never truly be refreshed until
    It pours itself from your own soul, first.


    Pardon me, but it’s a great delight
    When, moved by the spirit of the ages, we have sight
    Of how a wiser man has thought, and how
    Widely at last we’ve spread his word about.


    Oh yes, as widely as the constellations!
    My friend, all of the ages that are gone
    Now make up a book with seven seals.
    The spirit of the ages, that you find,
    In the end, is the spirit of Humankind:
    A mirror where all the ages are revealed.
    And so often it’s all a mere misery
    Something we run away from at first sight.
    A pile of sweepings, a lumber room, maybe
    At best, a puppet show, that’s bright
    With maxims, excellent, pragmatic,
    Suitable when dolls’ mouths wax dramatic!


    But, the world! Men’s hearts and minds!
    Something of those, at least, I’d like to know.


    Yes, what men choose to understand!
    Who dares to name the child’s real name, though?
    The few who knew what might be learned,
    Foolish enough to put their whole heart on show,
    And reveal their feelings to the crowd below,
    Mankind has always crucified and burned.
    I beg you, friend, it’s now the dead of night,
    We must break up this conversation.


    I would have watched with you, if I might
    Speak with you still, so learned in oration.
    But tomorrow, on Easter’s first holy day,
    I’ll ask my several questions, if I may.
    I’ve pursued my work, zealously studying:
    There’s much I know: yet I’d know everything.
    (He leaves.)

    Faust (Alone.)

    That mind alone never loses hope,
    That keeps to the shallows eternally,
    Grabs, with eager hand, the wealth it sees,
    And rejoices at the worms for which it gropes
    Dare such a human voice echo, too,
    Where this depth of Spirit surrounds me?
    Ah yet! For just this once, my thanks to you,
    You sorriest of all earth’s progeny!
    You’ve torn me away from that despair,
    That would have soon overwhelmed my senses.
    Ah! The apparition was so hugely there,
    It might have truly dwarfed my defences.
    I, image of the Godhead, already one,
    Who thought the spirit of eternal truth so near,
    Enjoying the light, both heavenly and clear,
    Setting to one side the earthbound man:
    I, more than Angel, a free force,
    Ready to flow through Nature’s veins,
    And, in creating, enjoy the life divine,
    Pulsing with ideas: must atone again!
    A word like thunder swept me away.
    I dare not measure myself against you.
    I possessed the power to summon you,
    But not the power to make you stay.
    In that blissful moment, then
    I felt myself so small, so great:
    Cruelly you hurled me back again,
    Into Man’s uncertain state.
    What shall I learn from? Or leave?
    Shall I obey that yearning?
    Ah! Our actions, and not just our grief,
    Impede us on life’s journey.
    Some more and more alien substance presses
    On the splendour that the Mind conceives:
    And when we gain what this world possesses,
    We say the better world’s dream deceives.
    The splendid feelings that give us life,
    Fade among the crowd’s earthly strife.
    If imagination flew with courage, once,
    And, full of hope, stretched out to eternity,
    Now a little room is quite enough,
    When joy on joy has gone, in time’s whirling sea.
    Care has nested in the heart’s depths,
    Restless, she rocks there, spoiling joy and rest,
    There she works her secret pain,
    And wears new masks, ever and again,
    Appears as wife and child, fields and houses,
    As water, fire, or knife or poison:
    Still we tremble for what never strikes us,
    And must still cry for what has not yet gone.
    I am no god: I feel it all too deeply.
    I am the worm that writhes in dust: see,
    As in the dust it lives, and seeks to eat,
    It’s crushed and buried by the passing feet.
    Is this not dust, what these vaults hold,
    These hundred shelves that cramp me:
    This junk, and all the thousand-fold
    Shapes, of a moth-ridden world, around me?
    Will I find here what I’m lacking else
    Shall I read, perhaps, as a thousand books insist,
    That Mankind everywhere torments itself,
    So, here and there, some happy man exists?
    What do you say to me, bare grinning skull?
    Except that once your brain whirled like mine,
    Sought the clear day, and in the twilight dull,
    With a breath of truth, went wretchedly awry.
    For sure, you instruments mock at me,
    With cylinders and arms, wheels and cogs:
    I stand at the door: and you should be the key:
    You’re deftly cut, but you undo no locks.
    Mysterious, even in broad daylight,
    Nature won’t let her veil be raised:
    What your spirit can’t bring to sight,
    Won’t by screws and levers be displayed.
    You, ancient tools, I’ve never used
    You’re here because my father used you,
    Ancient scroll, you’ve darkened too,
    From smoking candles burned above you.
    Better the little I had was squandered,
    Than sweat here under its puny weight!
    What from your father you’ve inherited,
    You must earn again, to own it straight.
    What’s never used, leaves us overburdened,
    But we can use what the Moment may create!
    Yet why does that place so draw my sight,
    Is that flask a magnet for my gaze?
    Why is there suddenly so sweet a light,
    As moonlight in a midnight woodland plays?
    I salute you, phial of rare potion,
    I lift you down, with devotion!
    In you I worship man’s art and mind,
    Embodiment of sweet sleeping draughts:
    Extract, with deadly power, refined,
    Show your master all his craft!
    I see you, and my pain diminishes,
    I grasp you, and my struggles grow less,
    My spirit’s flood tide ebbs, more and more,
    I seem to be where ocean waters meet,
    A glassy flood gleams around my feet,
    New day invites me to a newer shore.
    A fiery chariot sweeps nearer
    On light wings! I feel ready, free
    To cut a new path through the ether
    And reach new spheres of pure activity.
    This greater life, this godlike bliss!
    You, but a worm, have you earned this?
    Choosing to turn your back, ah yes,
    On all Earth’s lovely Sun might promise!
    Let me dare to throw those gates open,
    That other men go creeping by!
    Now’s the time, to prove through action
    Man’s dignity may rise divinely high,
    Never trembling at that void where,
    Imagination damns itself to pain,
    Striving towards the passage there,
    Round whose mouth all Hell’s fires flame:
    Choose to take that step, happy to go
    Where danger lies, where Nothingness may flow.
    Come here to me, cup of crystal, clear!
    Free of your ancient cover now appear,
    You whom I’ve never, for many a year,
    Considered! You shone at ancestral feasts,
    Cheering the over-serious guests:
    One man passing you to another here.
    It was the drinker’s duty to explain in rhyme
    The splendour of your many carved designs
    Or drain it at a draught, and breathe, in time:
    You remind me of those youthful nights of mine.
    Now I will never pass you to a friend,
    Or test my wits on your art again.
    Here’s a juice will stun any man born:
    It fills your hollow with a browner liquid.
    I prepared it, now I choose the fluid,
    At last I drink, and with my soul I bid
    A high and festive greeting to the Dawn!

    (He puts the cup to his mouth.)

    (Bells chime and a choir sings.)

    Choir of Angels

    Christ has arisen!
    Joy to the One, of us,
    Who the pernicious,
    Ancestral, insidious,
    Fault has unwoven.


    What deep humming, what shining sound
    Strikes the glass from my hand with power?
    Already, do the hollow bells resound,
    Proclaiming Easter’s festive course? Our
    Choirs, do you already sing the hymn of consolation,
    Which once rang out, in deathly night, in Angels’ oration,
    That certainty of a new testament’s hour?

    Chorus of Women

    With pure spices
    We embalmed him,
    We his faithful
    We entombed him:
    Linen and bindings,
    We unwound there,
    Ah! Now we find
    Christ is not here.

    Choir of Angels

    Christ has arisen!
    Blissful Beloved,
    Out of what grieved,
    Tested, and healed:
    His trial is won.


    You heavenly sounds, powerful and mild,
    Why, in the dust, here, do you seek me?
    Ring out where tender hearts are reconciled.
    I hear your message, but faith fails me:
    The marvellous is faith’s dearest child.
    I don’t attempt to rise to that sphere,
    From which the message rings:
    Yet I know from childhood what it sings,
    And I’m recalled to life once more.
    In other times a Heavenly kiss would fall
    On me, in the deep Sabbath silence:
    The bell notes filled with presentiments,
    And a prayer was pleasure’s call:
    A sweet yearning, beyond my understanding,
    Set me wandering through woods and fields,
    And while a thousand tears were burning
    I felt a world around me come to be.
    Love called out the lively games of youth,
    The joy of spring’s idle holiday:
    Memory’s childish feelings, in truth,
    Hold me back from the last sombre way.
    O, sing on you sweet songs of Heaven!
    My tears flow, Earth claims me again!

    Chorus of Disciples

    Has the buried one
    Already, living,
    Raised himself, alone,
    Splendidly soaring:
    Is he, in teeming air,
    Near to creative bliss:
    Ah! In sorrow, we’re
    Here on Earth’s breast.
    Lacking Him, we
    Languish, and sigh.
    Ah! Master we
    Cry for your joy!

    Choir of Angels

    Christ has arisen
    Out of corruption’s sea.
    Tear off your bindings
    Joyfully free!
    Actively praising him,
    Lovingly claiming him,
    Fraternally aiding him,
    Prayerfully journeying,
    Joyfully promising,
    So is the Master near,
    So is he here!

    NEXT: Part I Scene II: In Front Of The City-Gate


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How Big is Infinity? Georg Cantor math's uncertainty absolute certainty belief cling to a certainty Ludwig Eduard Boltzmann faust goethe Kurt Gödel-incompleteness theorem Alan Turing-unprobable uncomputability

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