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No poet ever understood this question more thoroughly than Goethe himself, or expressed a more positive opinion in regard to it.
The alternative modes of translation which he presents reported by Riemer, quoted by Mrs. Austin, in her "Characteristics of Goethe," and accepted by Mr.
Hayward , [A] are quite independent of his views concerning the value of form, which we find given elsewhere, in the clearest and most emphatic manner.
Poetry, indeed, may be distinguished from Prose by the single circumstance, that it is the utterance of whatever in man cannot be perfectly uttered in any other than a rhythmical form: it is useless to say that the naked meaning is independent of the form: on the contrary, the form contributes essentially to the fullness of the meaning.
In Poetry which endures through its own inherent vitality, there is no forced union of these two elements. They are as intimately blended, and with the same mysterious beauty, as the sexes in the ancient Hermaphroditus.
To attempt to represent Poetry in Prose, is very much like attempting to translate music into speech. The advantages of both are sufficiently known to all instructed persons, from masterly examples.
Where the languages are kindred, and equally capable of all varieties of metrical expression, may not both these "maxims" be observed in the same translation?
Goethe, it is true, was of the opinion that Faust ought to be given, in French, in the manner of Clement Marot; but this was undoubtedly because he felt the inadequacy of modern French to express the naive, simple realism of many passages.
The same objection does not apply to English. There are a few archaic expressions in Faust , but no more than are still allowed—nay, frequently encouraged—in the English of our day.
If the substance of my 'Roman Elegies' were to be expressed in the tone and measure of Byron's 'Don Juan,' it would really have an atrocious effect.
If one should stop to consider it mechanically, when about to write a poem, one would become bewildered and accomplish nothing of real poetical value.
Such is my conviction; and if even a sort of poetic prose should be gradually introduced, it would only show that the distinction between prose and poetry had been completely lost sight of.
Tycho Mommsen, in his excellent essay, Die Kunst des Deutschen Uebersetzers aus neueren Sprachen , goes so far as to say: "The metrical or rhymed modelling of a poetical work is so essentially the germ of its being, that, rather than by giving it up, we might hope to construct a similar work of art before the eyes of our countrymen, by giving up or changing the substance.
The immeasurable result which has followed works wherein the form has been retained—such as the Homer of Voss, and the Shakespeare of Tieck and Schlegel—is an incontrovertible evidence of the vitality of the endeavor.
It is a language which stimulates me to composition. The various theories of translation from the Greek and Latin poets have been admirably stated by Dryden in his Preface to the "Translations from Ovid's Epistles," and I do not wish to continue the endless discussion,—especially as our literature needs examples, not opinions.
A recent expression, however, carries with it so much authority, that I feel bound to present some considerations which the accomplished scholar seems to have overlooked.
Lewes [D] justly says: "The effect of poetry is a compound of music and suggestion; this music and this suggestion are intermingled in words, which to alter is to alter the effect.
For words in poetry are not, as in prose, simple representatives of objects and ideas: they are parts of an organic whole,—they are tones in the harmony.
I cannot accept this illustration as valid, because Mr. Lewes purposely omits the very quality which an honest translator should exhaust his skill in endeavoring to reproduce.
He turns away from the one best word or phrase in the English lines he quotes, whereas the translator seeks precisely that one best word or phrase having all the resources of his language at command , to represent what is said in another language.
More than this, his task is not simply mechanical: he must feel, and be guided by, a secondary inspiration.
Surrendering himself to the full possession of the spirit which shall speak through him, he receives, also, a portion of the same creative power.
Lewes reaches this conclusion: "If, therefore, we reflect what a poem Faust is, and that it contains almost every variety of style and metre, it will be tolerably evident that no one unacquainted with the original can form an adequate idea of it from translation," [E] which is certainly correct of any translation wherein something of the rhythmical variety and beauty of the original is not retained.
That very much of the rhythmical character may be retained in English, was long ago shown by Mr. Carlyle, [F] in the passages which he translated, both literally and rhythmically, from the Helena Part Second.
In fact, we have so many instances of the possibility of reciprocally transferring the finest qualities of English and German poetry, that there is no sufficient excuse for an unmetrical translation of Faust.
Hedge; Heine's "Two Grenadiers," by Dr. Lewes gives the following advice: "The English reader would perhaps best succeed who should first read Dr.
Anster's brilliant paraphrase, and then carefully go through Hayward's prose translation. Anster's version is an almost incredible dilution of the original, written in other metres; while Hayward's entirely omits the element of poetry.
Schnell heran, schnell herab, Schneller kommt Al'e! Blas, Hüfthorn, blas, in Wiederhall erschallend: Blas, Horn—antwortet, Echos, hallend, hallend, hallend!
I have a more serious objection, however, to urge against Mr. Hayward's prose translation. Where all the restraints of verse are flung aside, we should expect, at least, as accurate a reproduction of the sense, spirit, and tone of the original, as the genius of our language will permit.
So far from having given us such a reproduction, Mr. Hayward not only occasionally mistakes the exact meaning of the German text, [H] but, wherever two phrases may be used to express the meaning with equal fidelity, he very frequently selects that which has the less grace, strength, or beauty.
Hayward in mistaking Lied for Leid. The close of the Soldier's Song Part I. Scene II. Und die Soldaten Ziehen davon. Bold is the endeavor, Splendid the pay!
And the soldiers March away. Bold the adventure, Noble the reward— And the soldiers Are off. For there are few things which may not be said, in English, in a twofold manner,—one poetic, and the other prosaic.
In German, equally, a word which in ordinary use has a bare prosaic character may receive a fairer and finer quality from its place in verse.
The prose translator should certainly be able to feel the manifestation of this law in both languages, and should so choose his words as to meet their reciprocal requirements.
A man, however, who is not keenly sensible to the power and beauty and value of rhythm, is likely to overlook these delicate yet most necessary distinctions.
The author's thought is stripped of a last grace in passing through his mind, and frequently presents very much the same resemblance to the original as an unhewn shaft to the fluted column.
Hayward unconsciously illustrates his lack of a refined appreciation of verse, "in giving," as he says, " a sort of rhythmical arrangement to the lyrical parts," his object being "to convey some notion of the variety of versification which forms one great charm of the poem.
Hayward's ear did not dictate to him the necessity of preserving the original rhythm. While, therefore, I heartily recognize his lofty appreciation of Faust ,—while I honor him for the patient and conscientious labor he has bestowed upon his translation,—I cannot but feel that he has himself illustrated the unsoundness of his argument.
Nevertheless, the circumstance that his prose translation of Faust has received so much acceptance proves those qualities of the original work which cannot be destroyed by a test so violent.
From the cold bare outline thus produced, the reader unacquainted with the German language would scarcely guess what glow of color, what richness of changeful life, what fluent grace and energy of movement have been lost in the process.
We must, of course, gratefully receive such an outline, where a nearer approach to the form of the original is impossible, but, until the latter has been demonstrated, we are wrong to remain content with the cheaper substitute.
It seems to me that in all discussions upon this subject the capacities of the English language have received but scanty justice.
The intellectual tendencies of our race have always been somewhat conservative, and its standards of literary taste or belief, once set up, are not varied without a struggle.
The English ear is suspicious of new metres and unaccustomed forms of expression: there are critical detectives on the track of every author, and a violation of the accepted canons is followed by a summons to judgment.
Thus the tendency is to contract rather than to expand the acknowledged excellences of the language. The unteachable nevertheless learnable profusion of its middle-tones has conferred upon it an intrinsic power of expression, such as no other human tongue ever possessed.
Its entire, thoroughly intellectual and wonderfully successful foundation and perfected development issued from a marvelous union of the two noblest tongues of Europe, the Germanic and the Romanic.
Their mutual relation in the English language is well known, since the former furnished chiefly the material basis, while the latter added the intellectual conceptions.
The English language, by and through which the greatest and most eminent poet of modern times—as contrasted with ancient classical poetry— of course I can refer only to Shakespeare was begotten and nourished, has a just claim to be called a language of the world; and it appears to be destined, like the English race, to a higher and broader sway in all quarters of the earth.
For in richness, in compact adjustment of parts, and in pure intelligence, none of the living languages can be compared with it,—not even our German, which is divided even as we are divided, and which must cast off many imperfections before it can boldly enter on its career.
The difficulties in the way of a nearly literal translation of Faust in the original metres have been exaggerated, because certain affinities between the two languages have not been properly considered.
With all the splendor of versification in the work, it contains but few metres of which the English tongue is not equally capable. Hood has familiarized us with dactylic triple rhymes, and they are remarkably abundant and skillful in Mr.
Lowell's "Fable for the Critics": even the unrhymed iambic hexameter of the Helena occurs now and then in Milton's Samson Agonistes.
It is true that the metrical foot into which the German language most naturally falls is the trochaic , while in English it is the iambic : it is true that German is rich, involved, and tolerant of new combinations, while English is simple, direct, and rather shy of compounds; but precisely these differences are so modified in the German of Faust that there is a mutual approach of the two languages.
In Faust , the iambic measure predominates; the style is compact; the many licenses which the author allows himself are all directed towards a shorter mode of construction.
On the other hand, English metre compels the use of inversions, admits many verbal liberties prohibited to prose, and so inclines towards various flexible features of its sister-tongue that many lines of Faust may be repeated in English without the slightest change of meaning, measure, or rhyme.
There are words, it is true, with so delicate a bloom upon them that it can in no wise be preserved; but even such words will always lose less when they carry with them their rhythmical atmosphere.
The flow of Goethe's verse is sometimes so similar to that of the corresponding English metre, that not only its harmonies and caesural pauses, but even its punctuation, may be easily retained.
I am satisfied that the difference between a translation of Faust in prose or metre is chiefly one of labor,—and of that labor which is successful in proportion as it is joyously performed.
My own task has been cheered by the discovery, that the more closely I reproduced the language of the original, the more of its rhythmical character was transferred at the same time.
If, now and then, there was an inevitable alternative of meaning or music, I gave the preference to the former.
By the term "original metres" I do not mean a rigid, unyielding adherence to every foot, line, and rhyme of the German original, although this has very nearly been accomplished.
Since the greater part of the work is written in an irregular measure, the lines varying from three to six feet, and the rhymes arranged according to the author's will, I do not consider that an occasional change in the number of feet, or order of rhyme, is any violation of the metrical plan.
The single slight liberty I have taken with the lyrical passages is in Margaret's song,—"The King of Thule,"—in which, by omitting the alternate feminine rhymes, yet retaining the metre, I was enabled to make the translation strictly literal.
If, in two or three instances, I have left a line unrhymed, I have balanced the omission by giving rhymes to other lines which stand unrhymed in the original text.
For the same reason, I make no apology for the imperfect rhymes, which are frequently a translation as well as a necessity. With all its supreme qualities, Faust is far from being a technically perfect work.
If I were young and reckless enough, I would purposely offend all such technical caprices: I would use alliteration, assonance, false rhyme, just according to my own will or convenience—but, at the same time, I would attend to the main thing, and endeavor to say so many good things that every one would be attracted to read and remember them.
The feminine and dactylic rhymes, which have been for the most part omitted by all metrical translators except Mr.
Brooks, are indispensable. The characteristic tone of many passages would be nearly lost, without them. They give spirit and grace to the dialogue, point to the aphoristic portions especially in the Second Part , and an ever-changing music to the lyrical passages.
The English language, though not so rich as the German in such rhymes, is less deficient than is generally supposed. The difficulty to be overcome is one of construction rather than of the vocabulary.
The present participle can only be used to a limited extent, on account of its weak termination, and the want of an accusative form to the noun also restricts the arrangement of words in English verse.
I cannot hope to have been always successful; but I have at least labored long and patiently, bearing constantly in mind not only the meaning of the original and the mechanical structure of the lines, but also that subtile and haunting music which seems to govern rhythm instead of being governed by it.
I Erhabener Geist, im Geisterreich verloren! Again ye come, ye hovering Forms! I find ye, As early to my clouded sight ye shone!
Shall I attempt, this once, to seize and bind ye? Still o'er my heart is that illusion thrown? Ye crowd more near! Then, be the reign assigned ye, And sway me from your misty, shadowy zone!
My bosom thrills, with youthful passion shaken, From magic airs that round your march awaken. Of joyous days ye bring the blissful vision; The dear, familiar phantoms rise again, And, like an old and half-extinct tradition, First Love returns, with Friendship in his train.
Renewed is Pain: with mournful repetition Life tracks his devious, labyrinthine chain, And names the Good, whose cheating fortune tore them From happy hours, and left me to deplore them.
They hear no longer these succeeding measures, The souls, to whom my earliest songs I sang: Dispersed the friendly troop, with all its pleasures, And still, alas!
I bring the unknown multitude my treasures; Their very plaudits give my heart a pang, And those beside, whose joy my Song so flattered, If still they live, wide through the world are scattered.
And grasps me now a long-unwonted yearning For that serene and solemn Spirit-Land: My song, to faint Aeolian murmurs turning, Sways like a harp-string by the breezes fanned.
I thrill and tremble; tear on tear is burning, And the stern heart is tenderly unmanned. What I possess, I see far distant lying, And what I lost, grows real and undying.
Come, let me know your expectation Of this, our enterprise, in German land! I wish the crowd to feel itself well treated, Especially since it lives and lets me live; The posts are set, the booth of boards completed.
And each awaits the banquet I shall give. Already there, with curious eyebrows raised, They sit sedate, and hope to be amazed.
I know how one the People's taste may flatter, Yet here a huge embarrassment I feel: What they're accustomed to, is no great matter, But then, alas!
How shall we plan, that all be fresh and new,— Important matter, yet attractive too? For 'tis my pleasure-to behold them surging, When to our booth the current sets apace, And with tremendous, oft-repeated urging, Squeeze onward through the narrow gate of grace: By daylight even, they push and cram in To reach the seller's box, a fighting host, And as for bread, around a baker's door, in famine, To get a ticket break their necks almost.
This miracle alone can work the Poet On men so various: now, my friend, pray show it. Hide from my view the surging crowd that passes, And in its whirlpool forces us along!
No, lead me where some heavenly silence glasses The purer joys that round the Poet throng,— Where Love and Friendship still divinely fashion The bonds that bless, the wreaths that crown his passion!
Ah, every utterance from the depths of feeling The timid lips have stammeringly expressed,— Now failing, now, perchance, success revealing,— Gulps the wild Moment in its greedy breast; Or oft, reluctant years its warrant sealing, Its perfect stature stands at last confessed!
What dazzles, for the Moment spends its spirit: What's genuine, shall Posterity inherit. Don't name the word to me!
If I should choose to preach Posterity, Where would you get contemporary fun? That men will have it, there's no blinking: A fine young fellow's presence, to my thinking, Is something worth, to every one.
Who genially his nature can outpour, Takes from the People's moods no irritation; The wider circle he acquires, the more Securely works his inspiration.
Then pluck up heart, and give us sterling coin! They come to look, and they prefer to stare. Reel off a host of threads before their faces, So that they gape in stupid wonder: then By sheer diffuseness you have won their graces, And are, at once, most popular of men.
Only by mass you touch the mass; for any Will finally, himself, his bit select: Who offers much, brings something unto many, And each goes home content with the effect, If you've a piece, why, just in pieces give it: A hash, a stew, will bring success, believe it!
What use, a Whole compactly to present? Your hearers pick and pluck, as soon as they receive it! The botching work each fine pretender traces Is, I perceive, a principle with you.
Reflect, soft wood is given to you for splitting, And then, observe for whom you write! If one comes bored, exhausted quite, Another, satiate, leaves the banquet's tapers, And, worst of all, full many a wight Is fresh from reading of the daily papers.
Idly to us they come, as to a masquerade, Mere curiosity their spirits warming: The ladies with themselves, and with their finery, aid, Without a salary their parts performing.
What dreams are yours in high poetic places? You're pleased, forsooth, full houses to behold? Draw near, and view your patrons' faces!
The half are coarse, the half are cold. One, when the play is out, goes home to cards; A wild night on a wench's breast another chooses: Why should you rack, poor, foolish bards, For ends like these, the gracious Muses?
I tell you, give but more—more, ever more, they ask: Thus shall you hit the mark of gain and glory. Seek to confound your auditory!
To satisfy them is a task. Is't suffering, or pleasure? POET Go, find yourself a more obedient slave! Whence o'er the heart his empire free?
The elements of Life how conquers he? Is't not his heart's accord, urged outward far and dim, To wind the world in unison with him?
When on the spindle, spun to endless distance, By Nature's listless hand the thread is twirled, And the discordant tones of all existence In sullen jangle are together hurled, Who, then, the changeless orders of creation Divides, and kindles into rhythmic dance?
Who brings the One to join the general ordination, Where it may throb in grandest consonance? Who bids the storm to passion stir the bosom?
In brooding souls the sunset burn above? Who scatters every fairest April blossom Along the shining path of Love?
Who braids the noteless leaves to crowns, requiting Desert with fame, in Action's every field? Who makes Olympus sure, the Gods uniting? The might of Man, as in the Bard revealed.
You meet by accident; you feel, you stay, And by degrees your heart is tangled; Bliss grows apace, and then its course is jangled; You're ravished quite, then comes a touch of woe, And there's a neat romance, completed ere you know!
Let us, then, such a drama give! Grasp the exhaustless life that all men live! Each shares therein, though few may comprehend: Where'er you touch, there's interest without end.
In motley pictures little light, Much error, and of truth a glimmering mite, Thus the best beverage is supplied, Whence all the world is cheered and edified.
Then, at your play, behold the fairest flower Of youth collect, to hear the revelation! Each tender soul, with sentimental power, Sucks melancholy food from your creation; And now in this, now that, the leaven works.
For each beholds what in his bosom lurks. They still are moved at once to weeping or to laughter, Still wonder at your flights, enjoy the show they see: A mind, once formed, is never suited after; One yet in growth will ever grateful be.
POET Then give me back that time of pleasures, While yet in joyous growth I sang,— When, like a fount, the crowding measures Uninterrupted gushed and sprang!
Then bright mist veiled the world before me, In opening buds a marvel woke, As I the thousand blossoms broke, Which every valley richly bore me!
I nothing had, and yet enough for youth— Joy in Illusion, ardent thirst for Truth. Give, unrestrained, the old emotion, The bliss that touched the verge of pain, The strength of Hate, Love's deep devotion,— O, give me back my youth again!
MERRY ANDREW Youth, good my friend, you certainly require When foes in combat sorely press you; When lovely maids, in fond desire, Hang on your bosom and caress you; When from the hard-won goal the wreath Beckons afar, the race awaiting; When, after dancing out your breath, You pass the night in dissipating:— But that familiar harp with soul To play,—with grace and bold expression, And towards a self-erected goal To walk with many a sweet digression,— This, aged Sirs, belongs to you, And we no less revere you for that reason: Age childish makes, they say, but 'tis not true; We're only genuine children still, in Age's season!
What need to talk of Inspiration? If Poetry be your vocation, Let Poetry your will obey! Full well you know what here is wanting; The crowd for strongest drink is panting, And such, forthwith, I'd have you brew.
What's left undone to-day, To-morrow will not do. Waste not a day in vain digression: With resolute, courageous trust Seize every possible impression, And make it firmly your possession; You'll then work on, because you must.
Upon our German stage, you know it, Each tries his hand at what he will; So, take of traps and scenes your fill, And all you find, be sure to show it!
Use both the great and lesser heavenly light,— Squander the stars in any number, Beasts, birds, trees, rocks, and all such lumber, Fire, water, darkness, Day and Night!
Thus, in our booth's contracted sphere, The circle of Creation will appear, And move, as we deliberately impel, From Heaven, across the World, to Hell!
Has He, victoriously, Burst from the vaulted Grave, and all-gloriously Now sits exalted? Is He, in glow of birth, Rapture creative near?
Christ is arisen, Out of Corruption's womb: Burst ye the prison, Break from your gloom! Praising and pleading him, Lovingly needing him, Brotherly feeding him, Preaching and speeding him, Blessing, succeeding Him, Thus is the Master near,— Thus is He here!
Come up to Burgdorf? There you'll find good cheer, The finest lasses and the best of beer, And jolly rows and squabbles, trust me! You swaggering fellow, is your hide A third time itching to be tried?
I won't go there, your jolly rows disgust me! That's no great luck for me, 'tis plain. You'll have him, when and where you wander: His partner in the dance you'll be,— But what is all your fun to me?
Come, Brother! A strong, old beer, a pipe that stings and bites, A girl in Sunday clothes,—these three are my delights. Just see those handsome fellows, there!
It's really shameful, I declare;— To follow servant-girls, when they Might have the most genteel society to-day!
Not quite so fast! Two others come behind,— Those, dressed so prettily and neatly. My neighbor's one of them, I find, A girl that takes my heart, completely.
They go their way with looks demure, But they'll accept us, after all, I'm sure. No, Brother! He suits me not at all, our new-made Burgomaster!
Since he's installed, his arrogance grows faster. How has he helped the town, I say? Things worsen,—what improvement names he? Obedience, more than ever, claims he, And more than ever we must pay!
On Sundays, holidays, there's naught I take delight in, Like gossiping of war, and war's array, When down in Turkey, far away, The foreign people are a-fighting.
One at the window sits, with glass and friends, And sees all sorts of ships go down the river gliding: And blesses then, as home he wends At night, our times of peace abiding.
Yes, Neighbor! Dear me, how fine! So handsome, and so young! Who wouldn't lose his heart, that met you?
Don't be so proud! I'll hold my tongue, And what you'd like I'll undertake to get you. Come, Agatha! I shun the witch's sight Before folks, lest there be misgiving: 'Tis true, she showed me, on Saint Andrew's Night, My future sweetheart, just as he were living.
She showed me mine, in crystal clear, With several wild young blades, a soldier-lover: I seek him everywhere, I pry and peer, And yet, somehow, his face I can't discover.
Bold is the venture, Splendid the pay! Lads, let the trumpets For us be suing,— Calling to pleasure, Calling to ruin.
Stormy our life is; Such is its boon! Maidens and castles Capitulate soon. And the soldiers go marching, Marching away!
Released from ice are brook and river By the quickening glance of the gracious Spring; The colors of hope to the valley cling, And weak old Winter himself must shiver, Withdrawn to the mountains, a crownless king: Whence, ever retreating, he sends again Impotent showers of sleet that darkle In belts across the green o' the plain.
But the sun will permit no white to sparkle; Everywhere form in development moveth; He will brighten the world with the tints he loveth, And, lacking blossoms, blue, yellow, and red, He takes these gaudy people instead.
Turn thee about, and from this height Back on the town direct thy sight. Out of the hollow, gloomy gate, The motley throngs come forth elate: Each will the joy of the sunshine hoard, To honor the Day of the Risen Lord!
They feel, themselves, their resurrection: From the low, dark rooms, scarce habitable; From the bonds of Work, from Trade's restriction; From the pressing weight of roof and gable; From the narrow, crushing streets and alleys; From the churches' solemn and reverend night, All come forth to the cheerful light.
How lively, see! Yonder afar, from the hill-paths blinking, Their clothes are colors that softly gleam. I hear the noise of the village, even; Here is the People's proper Heaven; Here high and low contented see!
Here I am Man,—dare man to be! To stroll with you, Sir Doctor, flatters; 'Tis honor, profit, unto me. But I, alone, would shun these shallow matters, Since all that's coarse provokes my enmity.
This fiddling, shouting, ten-pin rolling I hate,—these noises of the throng: They rave, as Satan were their sports controlling.
And call it mirth, and call it song! All for the dance the shepherd dressed, In ribbons, wreath, and gayest vest Himself with care arraying: Around the linden lass and lad Already footed it like mad: Hurrah!
The fiddle-bow was playing. He broke the ranks, no whit afraid, And with his elbow punched a maid, Who stood, the dance surveying: The buxom wench, she turned and said: "Now, you I call a stupid-head!
They first grew red, and then grew warm, And rested, panting, arm in arm,— Hurrah! And hips and elbows straying.
Now, don't be so familiar here! How many a one has fooled his dear, Waylaying and betraying! And yet, he coaxed her soon aside, And round the linden sounded wide.
And the fiddle-bow was playing. Sir Doctor, it is good of you, That thus you condescend, to-day, Among this crowd of merry folk, A highly-learned man, to stray.
Then also take the finest can, We fill with fresh wine, for your sake: I offer it, and humbly wish That not alone your thirst is slake,— That, as the drops below its brink, So many days of life you drink!
In truth, 'tis well and fitly timed, That now our day of joy you share, Who heretofore, in evil days, Gave us so much of helping care.
Still many a man stands living here, Saved by your father's skillful hand, That snatched him from the fever's rage And stayed the plague in all the land.
Then also you, though but a youth, Went into every house of pain: Many the corpses carried forth, But you in health came out again.
With what a feeling, thou great man, must thou Receive the people's honest veneration! How lucky he, whose gifts his station With such advantages endow!
Thou'rt shown to all the younger generation: Each asks, and presses near to gaze; The fiddle stops, the dance delays.
Thou goest, they stand in rows to see, And all the caps are lifted high; A little more, and they would bend the knee As if the Holy Host came by.
A few more steps ascend, as far as yonder stone! Here, lost in thought, I've lingered oft alone, When foolish fasts and prayers my life tormented.
Here, rich in hope and firm in faith, With tears, wrung hands and sighs, I've striven, The end of that far-spreading death Entreating from the Lord of Heaven!
Now like contempt the crowd's applauses seem: Couldst thou but read, within mine inmost spirit, How little now I deem, That sire or son such praises merit!
My father's was a sombre, brooding brain, Which through the holy spheres of Nature groped and wandered, And honestly, in his own fashion, pondered With labor whimsical, and pain: Who, in his dusky work-shop bending, With proved adepts in company, Made, from his recipes unending, Opposing substances agree.
There was a Lion red, a wooer daring, Within the Lily's tepid bath espoused, And both, tormented then by flame unsparing, By turns in either bridal chamber housed.
If then appeared, with colors splendid, The young Queen in her crystal shell, This was the medicine—the patients' woes soon ended, And none demanded: who got well?
Thus we, our hellish boluses compounding, Among these vales and hills surrounding, Worse than the pestilence, have passed. Thousands were done to death from poison of my giving; And I must hear, by all the living, The shameless murderers praised at last!
Why, therefore, yield to such depression? A good man does his honest share In exercising, with the strictest care, The art bequeathed to his possession!
Dost thou thy father honor, as a youth? Then may his teaching cheerfully impel thee: Dost thou, as man, increase the stores of truth? Then may thine own son afterwards excel thee.
O happy he, who still renews The hope, from Error's deeps to rise forever! That which one does not know, one needs to use; And what one knows, one uses never.
But let us not, by such despondence, so The fortune of this hour embitter! Mark how, beneath the evening sunlight's glow, The green-embosomed houses glitter!
The glow retreats, done is the day of toil; It yonder hastes, new fields of life exploring; Ah, that no wing can lift me from the soil, Upon its track to follow, follow soaring!
Then would I see eternal Evening gild The silent world beneath me glowing, On fire each mountain-peak, with peace each valley filled, The silver brook to golden rivers flowing.
The mountain-chain, with all its gorges deep, Would then no more impede my godlike motion; And now before mine eyes expands the ocean With all its bays, in shining sleep!
Yet, finally, the weary god is sinking; The new-born impulse fires my mind,— I hasten on, his beams eternal drinking, The Day before me and the Night behind, Above me heaven unfurled, the floor of waves beneath me,— A glorious dream!
Yet in each soul is born the pleasure Of yearning onward, upward and away, When o'er our heads, lost in the vaulted azure, The lark sends down his flickering lay,— When over crags and piny highlands The poising eagle slowly soars, And over plains and lakes and islands The crane sails by to other shores.
I've had, myself, at times, some odd caprices, But never yet such impulse felt, as this is. One soon fatigues, on woods and fields to look, Nor would I beg the bird his wing to spare us: How otherwise the mental raptures bear us From page to page, from book to book!
Then winter nights take loveliness untold, As warmer life in every limb had crowned you; And when your hands unroll some parchment rare and old, All Heaven descends, and opens bright around you!
One impulse art thou conscious of, at best; O, never seek to know the other! Two souls, alas! One with tenacious organs holds in love And clinging lust the world in its embraces; The other strongly sweeps, this dust above, Into the high ancestral spaces.
If there be airy spirits near, 'Twixt Heaven and Earth on potent errands fleeing, Let them drop down the golden atmosphere, And bear me forth to new and varied being!
Yea, if a magic mantle once were mine, To waft me o'er the world at pleasure, I would not for the costliest stores of treasure— Not for a monarch's robe—the gift resign.
Invoke not thus the well-known throng, Which through the firmament diffused is faring, And danger thousand-fold, our race to wrong.
In every quarter is preparing. They gladly hearken, prompt for injury,— Gladly obey, because they gladly cheat us; From Heaven they represent themselves to be, And lisp like angels, when with lies they meet us.
But, let us go! At night, one learns his house to prize:— Why stand you thus, with such astonished eyes? What, in the twilight, can your mind so trouble?
Seest thou the spiral circles, narrowing faster, Which he, approaching, round us seems to wind? A streaming trail of fire, if I see rightly, Follows his path of mystery.
It may be that your eyes deceive you slightly; Naught but a plain black poodle do I see. It seems to me that with enchanted cunning He snares our feet, some future chain to bind.
I see him timidly, in doubt, around us running, Since, in his master's stead, two strangers doth he find.
A dog thou seest, and not a phantom, here! Behold him stop—upon his belly crawl—His tail set wagging: canine habits, all!
Stand still, and you will see him wait; Address him, and he gambols straight; If something's lost, he'll quickly bring it,— Your cane, if in the stream you fling it.
No doubt you're right: no trace of mind, I own, Is in the beast: I see but drill, alone. The dog, when he's well educated, Is by the wisest tolerated.
Yes, he deserves your favor thoroughly,— The clever scholar of the students, he! Behind me, field and meadow sleeping, I leave in deep, prophetic night, Within whose dread and holy keeping The better soul awakes to light.
The wild desires no longer win us, The deeds of passion cease to chain; The love of Man revives within us, The love of God revives again.
Be still, thou poodle; make not such racket and riot! Why at the threshold wilt snuffing be? Behind the stove repose thee in quiet! My softest cushion I give to thee.
As thou, up yonder, with running and leaping Amused us hast, on the mountain's crest,. Ah, when, within our narrow chamber The lamp with friendly lustre glows, Flames in the breast each faded ember, And in the heart, itself that knows.
Then Hope again lends sweet assistance, And Reason then resumes her speech: One yearns, the rivers of existence, The very founts of Life, to reach.
Snarl not, poodle! To the sound that rises, The sacred tones that my soul embrace, This bestial noise is out of place. We are used to see, that Man despises What he never comprehends, And the Good and the Beautiful vilipends, Finding them often hard to measure: Will the dog, like man, snarl his displeasure?
But ah! I feel, though will thereto be stronger, Contentment flows from out my breast no longer. Why must the stream so soon run dry and fail us, And burning thirst again assail us?
Therein I've borne so much probation! And yet, this want may be supplied us; We call the Supernatural to guide us; We pine and thirst for Revelation, Which nowhere worthier is, more nobly sent, Than here, in our New Testament.
I feel impelled, its meaning to determine,— With honest purpose, once for all, The hallowed Original To change to my beloved German.
He opens a volume, and commences. The Word? If by the Spirit I am truly taught. Then thus: "In the Beginning was the Thought " This first line let me weigh completely, Lest my impatient pen proceed too fleetly.
Is it the Thought which works, creates, indeed? Yet, as I write, a warning is suggested, That I the sense may not have fairly tested. The Spirit aids me: now I see the light!
If I must share my chamber with thee, Poodle, stop that howling, prithee! Cease to bark and bellow! Such a noisy, disturbing fellow I'll no longer suffer near me.
One of us, dost hear me! Must leave, I fear me. No longer guest-right I bestow; The door is open, art free to go. But what do I see in the creature?
Is that in the course of nature? Is't actual fact? How long and broad my poodle grows! He rises mightily: A canine form that cannot be!
What a spectre I've harbored thus! He resembles a hippopotamus, With fiery eyes, teeth terrible to see: O, now am I sure of thee!
For all of thy half-hellish brood The Key of Solomon is good. Some one, within, is caught! Stay without, follow him not!
Like the fox in a snare, Quakes the old hell-lynx there. Take heed—look about! Back and forth hover, Under and over, And he'll work himself out.
If your aid avail him, Let it not fail him; For he, without measure, Has wrought for our pleasure. First, to encounter the beast, The Words of the Four be addressed: Salamander, shine glorious!
Wave, Undine, as bidden! Sylph, be thou hidden! Gnome, be laborious! Who knows not their sense These elements ,— Their properties And power not sees,— No mastery he inherits Over the Spirits.
Vanish in flaming ether, Salamander! Flow foamingly together, Undine! Shine in meteor-sheen, Sylph! Bring help to hearth and shelf.
Step forward, and finish thus! Of the Four, no feature Lurks in the creature. Quiet he lies, and grins disdain: Not yet, it seems, have I given him pain.
Now, to undisguise thee, Hear me exorcise thee! Art thou, my gay one, Hell's fugitive stray-one? The sign witness now, Before which they bow, The cohorts of Hell!
Base Being, hearest thou? Knowest and fearest thou The One, unoriginate, Named inexpressibly, Through all Heaven impermeate, Pierced irredressibly!
Behind the stove still banned, See it, an elephant, expand! It fills the space entire, Mist-like melting, ever faster. Thou seest, not vain the threats I bring thee: With holy fire I'll scorch and sting thee!
Wait not to know The threefold dazzling glow! Wait not to know The strongest art within my hands! Why such a noise?
What are my lord's commands? This was the poodle's real core, A travelling scholar, then? The casus is diverting. A question small, it seems, For one whose mind the Word so much despises; Who, scorning all external gleams, The depths of being only prizes.
With all you gentlemen, the name's a test, Whereby the nature usually is expressed. Who art thou, then? Part of that Power, not understood, Which always wills the Bad, and always works the Good.
I am the Spirit that Denies! And justly so: for all things, from the Void Called forth, deserve to be destroyed: 'Twere better, then, were naught created.
Thus, all which you as Sin have rated,— Destruction,—aught with Evil blent,— That is my proper element. The modest truth I speak to thee. And yet, the struggle fails; since Light, howe'er it weaves, Still, fettered, unto bodies cleaves: It flows from bodies, bodies beautifies; By bodies is its course impeded; And so, but little time is needed, I hope, ere, as the bodies die, it dies!
I see the plan thou art pursuing: Thou canst not compass general ruin, And hast on smaller scale begun. And truly 'tis not much, when all is done.
That which to Naught is in resistance set,— The Something of this clumsy world,—has yet, With all that I have undertaken, Not been by me disturbed or shaken: From earthquake, tempest, wave, volcano's brand, Back into quiet settle sea and land!
And that damned stuff, the bestial, human brood,— What use, in having that to play with? How many have I made away with! And ever circulates a newer, fresher blood.
It makes me furious, such things beholding: From Water, Earth, and Air unfolding, A thousand germs break forth and grow, In dry, and wet, and warm, and chilly; And had I not the Flame reserved, why, really, There's nothing special of my own to show!
So, to the actively eternal Creative force, in cold disdain You now oppose the fist infernal, Whose wicked clench is all in vain! Some other labor seek thou rather, Queer Son of Chaos, to begin!
Well, we'll consider: thou canst gather My views, when next I venture in. Might I, perhaps, depart at present? Why thou shouldst ask, I don't perceive.
Though our acquaintance is so recent, For further visits thou hast leave. The window's here, the door is yonder; A chimney, also, you behold.
I must confess that forth I may not wander, My steps by one slight obstacle controlled,— The wizard's-foot, that on your threshold made is.
The pentagram prohibits thee? Why, tell me now, thou Son of Hades, If that prevents, how cam'st thou in to me? Could such a spirit be so cheated?
Inspect the thing: the drawing's not completed. The outer angle, you may see, Is open left—the lines don't fit it.
Well,—Chance, this time, has fairly hit it! And thus, thou'rt prisoner to me? It seems the business has succeeded.
The poodle naught remarked, as after thee he speeded; But other aspects now obtain: The Devil can't get out again. For Devils and for spectres this is law: Where they have entered in, there also they withdraw.
The first is free to us; we're governed by the second. In Hell itself, then, laws are reckoned? That's well! So might a compact be Made with you gentlemen—and binding,—surely?
All that is promised shall delight thee purely; No skinflint bargain shalt thou see. But this is not of swift conclusion; We'll talk about the matter soon.
And now, I do entreat this boon— Leave to withdraw from my intrusion. Release me, now! I soon shall come again; Then thou, at will, mayst question and compel me.
I have not snares around thee cast; Thyself hast led thyself into the meshes. Who traps the Devil, hold him fast! Not soon a second time he'll catch a prey so precious.
An't please thee, also I'm content to stay, And serve thee in a social station; But stipulating, that I may With arts of mine afford thee recreation.
My friend, thou'lt win, past all pretences, More in this hour to soothe thy senses, Than in the year's monotony. That which the dainty spirits sing thee, The lovely pictures they shall bring thee, Are more than magic's empty show.
Thy scent will be to bliss invited; Thy palate then with taste delighted, Thy nerves of touch ecstatic glow! All unprepared, the charm I spin: We're here together, so begin!
Vanish, ye darking Arches above him! Loveliest weather, Born of blue ether, Break from the sky! O that the darkling Clouds had departed!
Starlight is sparkling, Tranquiller-hearted Suns are on high. Heaven's own children In beauty bewildering, Waveringly bending, Pass as they hover; Longing unending Follows them over.
They, with their glowing Garments, out-flowing, Cover, in going, Landscape and bower, Where, in seclusion, Lovers are plighted, Lost in illusion.
Bower on bower! Tendrils unblighted! And the winged races Drink, and fly onward— Fly ever sunward To the enticing Islands, that flatter, Dipping and rising Light on the water!
Hark, the inspiring Sound of their quiring! See, the entrancing Whirl of their dancing! All in the air are Freer and fairer. Some of them scaling Boldly the highlands, Others are sailing, Circling the islands; Others are flying; Life-ward all hieing,— All for the distant Star of existent Rapture and Love!
He sleeps! Enough, ye fays! Yet, for the threshold's magic which controlled him, The Devil needs a rat's quick tooth. I use no lengthened invocation: Here rustles one that soon will work my liberation.
The lord of rats and eke of mice, Of flies and bed-bugs, frogs and lice, Summons thee hither to the door-sill, To gnaw it where, with just a morsel Of oil, he paints the spot for thee:— There com'st thou, hopping on to me!
To work, at once! The point which made me craven Is forward, on the ledge, engraven. Another bite makes free the door: So, dream thy dreams, O Faust, until we meet once more!
Am I again so foully cheated? Remains there naught of lofty spirit-sway, But that a dream the Devil counterfeited, And that a poodle ran away?
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! 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!
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! And cursed be Patience most of all! 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, Deploring The beauty perished beyond restoring. Mightier For the children of men, Brightlier Build it again, In thine own bosom build it anew!
Bid the new career Commence, With clearer sense, And the new songs of cheer Be sung thereto! 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.
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. 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.
Come, bind thyself by prompt indenture, And thou mine arts with joy shalt see: What no man ever saw, I'll give to thee.
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!
But still the time may reach us, good my friend. When peace we crave and more luxurious diet. 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. When thus I hail the Moment flying: "Ah, still delay—thou art so fair! 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! But one thing more! Beyond all risk to bind thee, Give me a line or two, I pray.
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? There, Faust is presented like a dissatisfied student. To increase his knowledge in every domain, Faust makes a deal with the devil.
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