Faust by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Faust

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subjects: Poetry: Classic & Pre-20th Century

Description

Based on the fable of the man who traded his soul for superhuman powers and knowledge, it became the life’s work of Germany’s greatest poet, Goethe. Beginning with an intriguing wager between God and Satan, it charts the life of a deeply flawed individual, his struggle against the nihilism of his diabolical companion Mephistopheles. Part One presents Faust’s pact with the Devil and the harrowing tragedy of his love affair with the young Gretchen. Part Two shows Faust’s experience in the world of public affairs, including his encounter with Helen of Troy, the emblem of classical beauty and culture. The whole is a symbolic and panoramic commentary on the human condition and on modern European history and civilisation.


144 pages, with a reading time of ~2.25 hours (36,101 words), and first published in 1832. This DRM-Free edition published by epubBooks, .

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Excerpt

I’ve studied now Philosophy And Jurisprudence, Medicine,– And even, alas! Theology,– From end to end, with labor keen; And here, poor fool! with all my lore I stand, no wiser than before: I’m Magister–yea, Doctor–hight, And straight or cross-wise, wrong or right, These ten years long, with many woes, I’ve led my scholars by the nose,– And see, that nothing can be known! That knowledge cuts me to the bone. I’m cleverer, true, than those fops of teachers, Doctors and Magisters, Scribes and Preachers; Neither scruples nor doubts come now to smite me, Nor Hell nor Devil can longer affright me.

For this, all pleasure am I foregoing; I do not pretend to aught worth knowing, I do not pretend I could be a teacher To help or convert a fellow-creature. Then, too, I’ve neither lands nor gold, Nor the world’s least pomp or honor hold– No dog would endure such a curst existence! Wherefore, from Magic I seek assistance, That many a secret perchance I reach Through spirit-power and spirit-speech, And thus the bitter task forego Of saying the things I do not know,– That I may detect the inmost force Which binds the world, and guides its course; Its germs, productive powers explore, And rummage in empty words no more!

O full and splendid Moon, whom I Have, from this desk, seen climb the sky So many a midnight,–would thy glow For the last time beheld my woe! Ever thine eye, most mournful friend, O’er books and papers saw me bend; But would that I, on mountains grand, Amid thy blessed light could stand, With spirits through mountain-caverns hover, Float in thy twilight the meadows over, And, freed from the fumes of lore that swathe me, To health in thy dewy fountains bathe me!

Ah, me! this dungeon still I see. This drear, accursed masonry, Where even the welcome daylight strains But duskly through the painted panes. Hemmed in by many a toppling heap Of books worm-eaten, gray with dust, Which to the vaulted ceiling creep, Against the smoky paper thrust,– With glasses, boxes, round me stacked, And instruments together hurled, Ancestral lumber, stuffed and packed– Such is my world: and what a world!

And do I ask, wherefore my heart Falters, oppressed with unknown needs? Why some inexplicable smart All movement of my life impedes? Alas! in living Nature’s stead, Where God His human creature set, In smoke and mould the fleshless dead And bones of beasts surround me yet!

Fly! Up, and seek the broad, free land! And this one Book of Mystery From Nostradamus’ very hand, Is’t not sufficient company? When I the starry courses know, And Nature’s wise instruction seek, With light of power my soul shall glow, As when to spirits spirits speak. Tis vain, this empty brooding here, Though guessed the holy symbols be: Ye, Spirits, come–ye hover near– Oh, if you hear me, answer me!

(He opens the Book, and perceives the sign of the Macrocosm.)

Ha! what a sudden rapture leaps from this I view, through all my senses swiftly flowing! I feel a youthful, holy, vital bliss In every vein and fibre newly glowing. Was it a God, who traced this sign, With calm across my tumult stealing, My troubled heart to joy unsealing, With impulse, mystic and divine, The powers of Nature here, around my path, revealing? Am I a God?–so clear mine eyes! In these pure features I behold Creative Nature to my soul unfold. What says the sage, now first I recognize: “The spirit-world no closures fasten; Thy sense is shut, thy heart is dead: Disciple, up! untiring, hasten To bathe thy breast in morning-red!”

(He contemplates the sign.)

How each the Whole its substance gives, Each in the other works and lives! Like heavenly forces rising and descending, Their golden urns reciprocally lending, With wings that winnow blessing From Heaven through Earth I see them pressing, Filling the All with harmony unceasing! How grand a show! but, ah! a show alone. Thee, boundless Nature, how make thee my own? Where you, ye beasts? Founts of all Being, shining, Whereon hang Heaven’s and Earth’s desire, Whereto our withered hearts aspire,– Ye flow, ye feed: and am I vainly pining?

(He turns the leaves impatiently, and perceives the sign of the Earth-Spirit.)