• Part I Scene IV: The Study


    (Faust, Mephistopheles)

    Faust       

    A knock? Enter! Who’s plaguing me again?

    Mephistopheles

    I am

    Faust

    Enter!

    Mephistopheles

    Three times you must say it, then.

    Faust   

    So! Enter!   

    Mephistopheles

        Ah, now, you please me.
    I hope we’ll get along together:
    To drive away the gloomy weather,
    I’m dressed like young nobility,
    In a scarlet gold-trimmed coat,
    In a little silk-lined cloak,
    A cockerel feather in my hat,
    With a long, pointed sword,
    And I advise you, at that,
    To do as I do, in a word:
    So that, footloose, fancy free,
    You can experience Life, with me.

    Faust

    This life of earth, its narrowness,
    Pains me, however I’m turned out,
    I’m too old to play about,
    Too young, still, to be passionless.
    What can the world bring me again?
    Abstain! You shall! You must! Abstain!
    That’s the eternal song
    That in our ears, forever, rings
    The one, that, our whole life long,
    Every hour, hoarsely, sings.
    I wake in terror with the dawn,
    I cry, the bitterest tears, to see
    Day grant no wish of mine, not one
    As it passes by on its journey.
    Even presentiments of joy
    Ebb, in wilful depreciation:
    A thousand grimaces life employs
    To hinder me in creation.
    Then when night descends I must
    Stretch out, worried, on my bed:
    What comes to me is never rest,
    But some wild dream instead.
    The God that lives inside my heart,
    Can rouse my innermost seeing:
    The one enthroned beyond my art,
    Can’t stir external being:
    And so existence is a burden: sated,
    Death’s desired, and Life is hated.

    Mephistopheles

    Yet Death’s a guest who’s visit’s never wholly celebrated.

    Faust

    Happy the man whom victory enhances,
    Whose brow the bloodstained laurel warms,
    Who, after the swift whirling dances,
    Finds himself in some girl’s arms!
    If only, in my joy, then, I’d sunk down
    Before that enrapturing Spirit power!

    Mephistopheles

    Yet someone, from a certain brown
    Liquid, drank not a drop, at midnight hour.

    Faust

    It seems that you delight in spying.

    Mephistopheles

    I know a lot: and yet I’m not all-knowing.

    Faust

    When sweet familiar tones drew me,
    Away from the tormenting crowd,
    Then my other childhood feelings
    Better times echoed, and allowed.
    So I curse whatever snares the soul,
    In its magical, enticing arms,
    Banishes it to this mournful hole,
    With dazzling, seductive charms!
    Cursed be those high Opinions first,
    With which the mind entraps itself!
    Then glittering Appearance curse,
    In which the senses lose themselves!
    Curse what deceives us in our dreaming,
    With thoughts of everlasting fame!
    Curse the flattery of ‘possessing’
    Wife and child, lands and name!
    Curse Mammon, when he drives us
    To bold acts to win our treasure:
    Or straightens out our pillows
    For us to idle at our leisure!
    Curse the sweet juice of the grape!
    Curse the highest favours Love lets fall!
    Cursed be Hope! Cursed be Faith,
    And cursed be Patience most of all!

    Choir of Spirits (Unseen)

    Sorrow! Sorrow!
    You’ve destroyed it,
    The beautiful world,
    With a powerful fist:
    It tumbles, it’s hurled
    To ruin! A demigod crushed it!
    We carry
    Fragments into the void,
    And sadly
    Lament the Beauty that’s gone.
    Stronger
    For all of Earth’s sons,
    Brighter,
    Build it again,
    Build, in your heart!
    Life’s new start,
    Begin again,
    With senses washed clean,
    And sound, then,
    A newer art!

    Mephistopheles

    They’re little, but fine,
    These attendants of mine.
    Precocious advice they give, listen,
    Regarding both action, and passion!
    Into the World outside,
    From Solitude, that’s dried
    Your sap and senses,
    They tempt us.
    Stop playing with grief,
    That feeds, a vulture, on your breast,
    The worst society, you’ll find, will prompt belief,   
    That you’re a Man among the rest.
    Not that I mean
    To shove you into the mass.
    Among ‘the greats’, I’m second-class:
    But if you, in my company,
    Your path through life would wend,
    I’ll willingly condescend
    To serve you, as we go.
    I’m your man, and so,
    If it suits you of course,
    I’m your slave: I’m yours!

    Faust

    And what must I do in exchange?

    Mephistopheles

    There’s lots of time: you’ve got the gist.

    Faust

    No, no! The Devil is an egotist,
    Does nothing lightly, or in God’s name,
    To help another, so I insist,
    Speak your demands out loud,
    Such servants are risks, in a house.

    Mephistopheles

    I’ll be your servant here, and I’ll
    Not stop or rest, at your decree:
    When we’re together, on the other side,
    You’ll do the same for me.


    Faust

    The ‘other side’ concerns me less:
    Shatter this world, in pieces,
    The other one can take its place,
    The root of my joy’s on this Earth,
    And this Sun lights my sorrow:
    If I must part from them tomorrow,
    What can or will be, that I’ll face.
    I’ll hear no more of it, of whether
    In that future, men both hate and love,
    Or whether in those spheres, forever,
    We’re given a below and an above.

    Mephistopheles

    In that case, you can venture all.
    Commit yourself: today, you shall
    View my arts with joy: I mean
    To show you what no man has seen.

    Faust

    Poor devil what can you give? When has ever
    A human spirit, in its highest endeavour,
    Been understood by such a one as you?
    You have a never-satiating food,
    You have your restless gold, a slew
    Of quicksilver, melting in the hand,
    Games whose prize no man can land,
    A girl, who while she’s on my arm,
    Snares a neighbour, with her eyes:
    And Honour’s fine and godlike charm,
    That, like a meteor, dies?
    Show me fruits then that rot, before they’re ready.
    And trees grown green again, each day, too!


    Mephistopheles

    Such commands don’t frighten me:
    With such treasures I can truly serve you.
    Still, my good friend, a time may come,
    When one prefers to eat what’s good in peace.

    Faust

    When I lie quiet in bed, at ease.
    Then let my time be done!
    If you fool me, with flatteries,
    Till my own self’s a joy to me,
    If you snare me with luxury –
    Let that be the last day I see!
    That bet I’ll make!

    Mephistopheles
    Done!

    Faust
                  And quickly!
    When, to the Moment then, I say:
    ‘Ah, stay a while! You are so lovely!’
    Then you can grasp me: then you may,
    Then, to my ruin, I’ll go gladly!
    Then they can ring the passing bell,
    Then from your service you are free,
    The clocks may halt, the hands be still,
    And time be past and done, for me!

    Mephistopheles

    Consider well, we’ll not forget.


    Faust

    You have your rights, complete:
    I never over-estimate my powers.
    I’ll be a slave, in defeat:
    Why ask whose slave or yours?

    Mephistopheles

    Today, likewise, at the Doctors’ Feast
    I’ll do my duty as your servant.
    One thing, though! – Re: life and death, I want
    A few lines from you, at the least.


    Faust

    You pedant, you demand it now in writing?
    You still won’t take Man’s word for anything?
    It’s not enough that the things I say,
    Will always accord with my future?
    The world never ceases to wear away,
    And shall a promise bind me, then, forever?
    Yet that’s the illusion in our minds,
    And who then would be free of it?
    Happy the man, who pure truth finds,
    And who’ll never deign to sacrifice it!
    Still a document, written and signed,
    That’s a ghost makes all men fear it.
    The word is already dying in the pen,
    And wax and leather hold the power then.
    What do you want from me base spirit?
    Will iron: marble: parchment: paper do it?
    Shall I write with stylus, pen or chisel?
    I’ll leave the whole decision up to you.


    Mephistopheles

    Why launch into oratory too?
    Hot-tempered: you exaggerate as well.
    Any bit of paper’s just as good.
    And you can sign it with a drop of blood.

    Faust

    If it will satisfy you, and it should,
    Then let’s complete the farce in full.

    Mephistopheles

    Blood is a quite special fluid.

    Faust

    Have no fear I’ll break this pact!
    The extreme I can promise you: it is
    All the power my efforts can extract.
    I’ve puffed myself up so highly
    I belong in your ranks now.
    The mighty Spirit scorns me
    And Nature shuts me out.
    The thread of thought has turned to dust,
    Knowledge fills me with disgust.
    Let the depths of sensuality
    Satisfy my burning passion!
    And, its impenetrable mask on,
    Let every marvel be prepared for me!
    Let’s plunge into time’s torrent,
    Into the whirlpools of event!
    Then let joy, and distress,
    Frustration, and success,
    Follow each other, as well they can:
    Restless activity proves the man!


    Mephistopheles

    No goal or measure’s set for you.
    Do as you wish, nibble at everything,
    Catch at fragments while you’re flying,
    Enjoy it all, whatever you find to do.
    Now grab at it, and don’t be stupid!

    Faust

    It’s not joy we’re about: you heard it.
    I’ll take the frenzy, pain-filled elation,
    Loving hatred, enlivening frustration.
    Cured of its urge to know, my mind
    In future, will not hide from any pain,
    And what is shared by all mankind,
    In my innermost self, I’ll contain:
    My soul will grasp the high and low,
    My heart accumulate its bliss and woe,
    So this self will embrace all theirs,
    That, in the end, their fate it shares.

    Mephistopheles

    Believe me, many a thousand year
    They’ve chewed hard food, and yet
    From the cradle to the bier,
    Not one has ever digested it!
    Trust one of us, this Whole thing
    Was only made for a god’s delight!
    In eternal splendour he is dwelling,
    He placed us in the darkness quite,
    And only gave you day and night.

    Faust

    But, I will!

    Mephistopheles

            That’s good to hear!
    Yet I’ve a fear, just the one:
    Time is short, and art is long.
    I think you need instruction.
    Join forces with a poet: use poetry,
    Let him roam in imagination,
    You’ll gain every noble quality
    From your honorary occupation,
    The lion’s brave attitude
    The wild stag’s swiftness,
    The Italian’s fiery blood,
    The North’s persistence.
    Let him find the mysterious
    Meeting of generous and devious,
    While you, with passions young and hot,
    Fall in love, according to the plot.
    I’d like to see such a gentleman, among us,
    And I’d call him Mister Microcosmus.

    Faust

    What am I then, if it’s a flight too far,
    For me to gain that human crown
    I yearn towards with every sense I own?

    Mephistopheles

    In the end, you are – what you are.
    Set your hair in a thousand curlicues
    Place your feet in yard-high shoes,
    You’ll remain forever, what you are.

    Faust

    All the treasures of the human spirit
    I feel that I’ve expended, uselessly.
    And wherever, at the last, I sit,
    No new power flows, in me.
    I’m not a hair’s breadth taller, as you see,
    And I’m no nearer to Infinity.

    Mephistopheles

    My dear sir, you see the thing
    Exactly as all men see it: why,
    We must re-order everything,
    Before the joys of life slip by.
    Hang it! Hands and feet, belong to you,
    Certainly, a head, and a backside,
    Yet everything I use as new
    Why is my ownership of it denied?
    When I can count on six stallions,
    Isn’t their horsepower mine to use?
    I drive behind, and am a proper man,
    As though I’d twenty-four legs, too.
    Look lively! Leave the senses be,
    And plunge into the world with me!
    I say to you that scholarly fellows
    Are like the cattle on an arid heath:
    Some evil spirit leads them round in circles,
    While sweet green meadows lie beneath.

    Faust

    How shall we begin then?

    Mephistopheles

            From here, we’ll first win free.
    What kind of a martyrs’ hole can this be?
    What kind of a teacher of life is he,
    Who fills young minds with ennui?
    Let your neighbours do it, and go!
    Do you want to thresh straw forever?
    The best things you can ever know,
    You dare not tell the youngsters, ever.
    I hear one of them arriving, too!

    Faust

    I’ve no desire to see him, though.

    Mephistopheles

    The poor lad’s waited hours for you.
    He mustn’t go away un-consoled.
    Come: give me your cap and gown.
    The mask should look delicious. So!

    (He disguises himself.)

    Now I’ve lost what wit’s my own!
    I want fifteen minutes with him, only:
    Meanwhile get ready for our journey!

    (Faust exits.)

    Mephistopheles (In Faust’s long gown.)

    Reason and Science you despise,
    Man’s highest powers: now the lies
    Of the deceiving spirit must bind you
    With those magic arts that blind you,
    And I’ll have you, totally –
    Fate gave him such a spirit
    It urges him ever onwards, wildly,
    And, in his hasty striving, he has leapt
    Beyond all earth’s ecstasies.
    I’ll drag him through raw life,
    Through the meaningless and shallow,
    I’ll freeze him: stick to him: keep him ripe,
    Frustrate his insatiable greed, allow
    Food and drink to drift before his eyes:
    In vain he’ll beg for consummation,
    And if he weren’t the devil’s, why
    He’d still go to his ruination!

    (A student enters.)

    Student

    I’m only here momentarily,
    I’ve come, filled with humility,
    To speak to, and to stand before,
    One who’s spoken of with awe.

    Mephistopheles

    Your courtesy delights me greatly!
    A man like other men you see.
    Have you studied then, elsewhere?

    Student

    I beg you, please enrol me, here!
    I come to you strong of courage,
    Lined in pocket, healthy for my age:
    My mother didn’t want to lose me: though,
    I’d like to learn what it’s right for me to know.

    Mephistopheles

    Then you’ve come to the right place, exactly.

    Student

    To be honest, I’d like to go already:
    There’s little pleasure for me at all,
    In these walls, and all these halls.
    It’s such a narrow space I find,
    You see no trees, no leaves of any kind,
    And in the lectures, on the benches,
    All thought deserts me, and my senses.


    Mephistopheles

    It will only come to you with habit.
    So the child takes its mother’s breast
    Quite unwillingly at first, and yet it
    Soon sucks away at her with zest.
    So will you at Wisdom’s breast, here,
    Feel every day a little zestier.

    Student

    I’ll cling to her neck with pleasure:
    But only tell me how to find her.

    Mephistopheles

    Explain, before you travel on
    What faculty you’ve settled on.

    Student

    I want to be a true scholar,
    I want to grasp, by the collar,
    What’s on earth, in heaven above,
    In Science, and in Nature too.

    Mephistopheles

    Then here’s the very path for you,
    But don’t allow yourself to wander off.

    Student

    I’ll be present heart and soul:
    Of course I’ll want to play,
    Have some fun and freedom, though,
    On each sweet summer holiday.


    Mephistopheles

    Use your time well: it slips away so fast, yet
    Discipline will teach you how to win it.
    My dear friend, I’d advise, in sum,
    First, the Collegium Logicum.
    There your mind will be trained,
    As if in Spanish boots, constrained,
    So that painfully, as it ought,
    It creeps along the way of thought,
    Not flitting about all over,
    Wandering here and there.
    So you’ll learn, in many days,
    What you used to do, untaught, as in a haze,
    Like eating now, and drinking, you’ll see
    The necessity of One! Two! Three!
    Truly the intricacy of logic
    Is like a master-weaver’s fabric,
    Where the loom holds a thousand threads,
    Here and there the shuttles go
    And the threads, invisibly, flow,
    One pass serves for a thousand instead.
    Then the philosopher steps in: he’ll show
    That it certainly had to be so:
    The first was - so, the second - so,
    And so, the third and fourth were - so:
    If first and second had never been,
    Third and fourth would not be seen.
    All praise the scholars, beyond believing,
    But few of them ever turn to weaving.
    To know and note the living, you’ll find it
    Best to first dispense with the spirit:
    Then with the pieces in your hand,
    Ah! You’ve only lost the spiritual bond.
     ‘Natural treatment’, Chemistry calls it
    Mocks at herself, and doesn’t know it.


    Student

    I’m not sure that I quite understand.

    Mephistopheles

    You’ll soon know it all, as planned,
    When you’ve learnt the science of reduction,
    And everything’s proper classification.

    Student

    After all that, I feel as stupid
    As if I’d a mill wheel in my head.

    Mephistopheles

    Next, before all else, you’ll fix
    Your mind on Metaphysics!
    See that you’re profoundly trained
    In what never stirs in a human brain:
    You’ll learn a splendid word
    For what’s occurred or not occurred.
    But for the present take six months
    To get yourself in order: start at once.
    Five hours every day, lock
    Yourself in, with a ticking clock!
    Make sure you’re well prepared,
    Study each paragraph with care,
    So afterwards you’ll be certain   
    Only what’s in the book, was written:
    Then be as diligent when you pen it,
    As if the Holy Ghost had said it!


    Student

    You won’t need to tell me twice!
    I think, myself, it’s very helpful, too   
    That one can take back home, and use,
    What someone’s penned in black and white.

    Mephistopheles

    But choose a faculty, any one!

    Student

    I wouldn’t be comfortable with Law.

    Mephistopheles

    I couldn’t name you anything more
    Vile, I know how dogmatic it’s become.
    Laws and rights are handed down
    It’s an eternal disgrace:
    They’re moved round from town to town
    Dragged around from place to place.
    Reason is nonsense, kindness a disease,
    If you’re a grandchild it’s a curse!
    The rights we are born with,
    To those, alas, no one refers!

    Student

    That just strengthens my disgust.
    Happy the student that you instruct!
    I’ve nearly settled on Theology.


    Mephistopheles

    I wouldn’t wish to guide you erroneously.
    In what that branch of knowledge concerns
    It’s so difficult to avoid a fallacious route,
    There’s so much poison hidden in what you learn,
    And it’s barely distinguishable from the antidote.
    The best thing here’s to make a single choice,
    Then simply swear by your master’s voice.
    On the whole, to words stick fast!
    Through the safest gate you’ll pass
    To the Temple of Certainty.

    Student

    Yet surely words must have a sense.

    Mephistopheles

    Why, yes! But don’t torment yourself with worry,
    Where sense fails it’s only necessary
    To supply a word, and change the tense.
    With words fine arguments can be weighted,
    With words whole Systems can be created,
    With words, the mind does its conceiving,
    No word suffers a jot from thieving.

    Student

    Forgive me, I delay you with my questions,
    But I must trouble you again,
    On the subject of Medicine,
    Have you no helpful word to say?
    Three years, so little time applied,
    And, God, the field is rather wide!
    If only you had some kind of pointer,
    You would feel so much further on.


    Mephistopheles (Aside.)

    I’m tired of this desiccated banter
    I really must play the devil, at once.

    (Aloud.)

    To grasp the spirit of Medicine’s easily done:
    You study the great and little world, until,
    In the end you let it carry on
    Just as God wills.
    Useless to roam round, scientifically:
    Everyone learns only what he can:
    The one who grasps the Moment fully,
    He’s the proper man.
    You’re quite a well-made fellow,
    You’re not short of courage too,
    And when you’re easy with yourself,
    Others will be easy with you.
    Study, especially, female behaviour:
    Their eternal aches and woes,
    All of the thousand-fold,
    Rise from one point, and have one cure.
    And if you’re half honourable about it
    You shall have them in your pocket.
    A title first: to give them comfort you
    Have skills that far exceed the others,
    Then you’re free to touch the goods, and view
    What someone else has prowled around for years.
    Take the pulse firmly, you understand,
    And then, with sidelong fiery glance,
    Grasp the slender hips, in haste,
    To find out whether she’s tight-laced.

    Student

    That sounds much better! The Where and How, I see.


    Mephistopheles

    Grey, dear friend, is all theory,
    And green the golden tree of life.

    Student

    I swear it’s like a dream to me: may I
    Trouble you, at some further time,
    To expound your wisdom, so sublime?

    Mephistopheles

    As much as I can, I’ll gladly explain.

    Student

    I can’t tear myself away,
    I must just pass you my album, sir,
    Grant me the favour of your signature!

    Mephistopheles

    Very well.

    (He writes and gives the book back.)

    Student (Reading Mephistopheles’ Latin inscription which means: ‘You’ll be like God, acquainted with good and evil’.)

    Eritis sicut Deus, scientes bonum et malum.

    (He makes his bows, and takes his leave.)

    Mephistopheles

    Just follow the ancient text, and my mother the snake, too:
    And then your likeness to God will surely frighten you!


    (Faust enters.)

    Faust

    Where will we go, then?

    Mephistopheles

                      Where you please.
    The little world, and then the great, we’ll see.
    With what profit and delight,
    This term, you’ll be a parasite!

    Faust

    Yet with my long beard, I’ll
    Lack life’s superficial style.
    My attempt will come to nothing:
    I know, in this world, I don’t fit in.
    I feel so small next to other men,
    It only means embarrassment.

    Mephistopheles

    My friend, just give yourself completely to it:
    When you find yourself, you’ll soon know how to live it.

    Faust

    How shall we depart from here, then?
    I see not one servant, coach, or horse.

    Mephistopheles

    We’ll just spread this cloak wide open,
    Then through the air we’ll take our course.
    For a daring trip like this we’re on,
    Better not take much baggage along.
    A little hot air I’ll ready, first,
    To lift us nimbly above the Earth,
    And as we’re light we’ll soon get clear:
    Congratulations on your new career!

    prev: Part I Scene III: The Study
    next: Part I Scene V: Auerbach’s Cellar in Leipzig

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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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