« ZurückWeiter »
tone of melancholy appeal, as affecting as it is simple. This is precisely that style of writing which loses most in translation, but the task, however hopeless, must be attempted.
« Oh, thou full moon, whose waxing light,
Bathe in thy dews to health again.” By degrees his melancholy, from the very depth of its feeling, is again excited into bitterness; he evokes the spirit, who appears in a quivering red flame, and whose terrific figure shakes even his courage.
Spir, Who calls me ? Faust. (Turning away.) Horrible sight! Spir. Thou hast powerfully evoked me,-long drawn at my sphere; Faust. Woe! I cannot endure thee. Spir. Thou hast earnestly adjured me, that thou mightest hear my. voice, mightest look upon my brow. The anxious prayer of thy soul has moved me; here I am! What piteous terror unmans thee? Where is the soul-sprung call? Where is the breast that in itself created, and bore, and enclosed, a world? that swelled with transport to raise itself to us, the spirits ? Where art thou, Faustus! thou whose voice penetrated to me, who forced thyself upon me with all thy might ?' Art thou he? thou, who art stunned by my breath, who tremblest in all the depths of life, a fearful shrinking worm ?
Faust. Shall I yield to thee, thing of fire ? I am he! I am Faust! I am thine equal !
Spir. In the flood of life, in the storm of deeds, I whirl up and down, float here and there, a birth and a grave, an eternal sea, a restless motion, a glowing life. So am I employed at the rustling wheel of time, and work the living garment of the deity.
Faust. Restless spirit, that wanderest about the world, how near I feel myself to thee! Spir. You are equal to the spirit you comprehend, not to me.
With this the Spirit vanishes, leaving Faustus overwhelmed and indignant. He has at last attained the conviction that a deep gulph is open between human nature and the world of spirits, only to feel that no effort of mortal industry can overleap it. In this critical moment a knocking at the door calls off his attention; his pupil Wagner enters, whose inferiority restores his master to that high station which he had lost in his interview with the Dæmon. Mind is here brought into contrast with learning, with the mere knowledge of books, the recollection of what other men have thought and said. With Wagner learning is an end and not a means, the goal itself and not the road by which the goal is to be attained. With his master it is the reverse; he looks that study should produce some fruit, and when he finds it a barren tree, or at best that its fruit is rotten, he grows weary of its cultivation. In thus raising the mind and objects of Faustus above those of the general world, the author has exalted the Spirit into a gigantic being; what must the power be that could quell such energies of understanding? Indeed Goëthe has lavished all the riches and vigour of his mind upon these two characters, all its subtlety, its proneness to satire, its disdain of life and its usual objects. Each of these qualities is eminently brought forward in this scene; the subtle sophistry and dry pungent satire of his master quite overwhelm poor Wagner; they pull down every thing, but build up nothing on the ruins, and the pupil retreats confounded, not instructed.
Faustus, left by himself, again declines fast into his former tone of feeling, till in the end he is worked up to despair; he takes a bottle of poison from the shelf; the untasted liquor is at his lips; in this very crisis, when only a moment stands between him and death, the church-bells are heard to ring, and the voices of a near choir, chaunting the service of the Easter festival, penetrate to his cell; “ Christ is risen !"He drops the glass from his hand; all the dormant recollections of childhood awake at these sounds to which they have been so firmly linked, and he exclaims in a tone of noble, heartfelt pathos, “the tear flows; earth has me again!" This is altogether one of those strong situations which only genius can create, and which are apt to give any thing rather than pleasure to common apprehensions. Yet it is in the highest and purest tone of poetic feeling; there is a life, a reality about the whole scene, which make the cheeks glow and the ears tingle, though it certainly does not possess any of the lighter graces of poetry, its similes, its metaphors, and its personifications. At the same time, in addition to the general merits of the scene, the verse has a peculiar, wild harmony, the value of which the English reader will be en
abled to estimate by calling to mind the “ Alexander's Feast" of Dryden. In either of these there is little poetic ornament, but both have the force and flow of a torrent, and carry all before them.
From the strong excitement of this scene, the spectator, or reader, rather, is introduced to the bustle of an Easter holyday, in the environs of the city, which pours forth its multitudes from their dark houses and every-day habits to enjoy the freshness of the country. The pencil of Goëthe has seldom been employed more effectively, than in this picture : it is full of life and truth, and though crowded to excess with figures, yet all tend to one general result, without individuals by their closeness jostling the others, or in any way impeding the general effect. Here a party of servant-girls are playing the coquette, pursued by several students, to the sore annoyance of the maidens of better condition, one of whom observes, that the young men might have the best society, and yet run after the wenches.” In another part is an old citizen grumbling to his companion about the times, and denouncing the unworthiness of their new Burgomaster. In a third
group is one of those happy beings, who believe in no evil that does not actually tread upon their own toes; he enjoys prodigiously the war with the Turks, as long as he himself can sit quietly with his jug and pipe, and hear, without feeling, its thunders. Soldiers, beggars, &c, fill up other portions of the canvas, while beneath the shade of a Linden tree is a party of dancers, whose amusements is described most simply and vividly.
“ All is bustle in the ring,
Hip to elbow join'd—Huzza!” Seated on the top of a neighbouring hill, together with his pupil, Faustus for a while gazes, and comments, on the scene. The joy of the people, the warm sun, the freshness of the air, all aid to still the tumult in his breast, till he becomes a part of the nature around him, as mild and as genial; “ here," he exclaims, “ I am a man; here I dare be one.” He descends to the people, who receive him with general applause, leaving the
song and the dance to crowd about the object of their love and veneration. One old man reminds him of the time of the plague, when the father of Faustus by his medical skill saved numbers from death; “ you, too,” the old peasant says, “ then a young man, went into every sick house. Many dead bodies were borne away, but you always came out "safe. You endured many a hard trial; the helper above helped the helper."
Wagner envies and admires the honours thus paid on all sides to his master. To be so made a public wonder, he declares, is the very end and aim of all study, the height of felicity, beyond .which he can imagine nothing. Faustus, however, looks on the whole in a very different light; the Dæmon within him is again busy, and every better feeling of his heart seems to be dried up in the thirst for an indefinite enjoyment, the nature of which is hardly intelligible to himself; to him there is hardly a past or present; his eyes are perpetually and intently fixed on the future, and he treats the medical art as a mere quackery, a disease more destructive than even the plague
"I myself have given the poison to thousands: they withered away, while I must outlive them, that people may praise the impudent assassin.”
This conversation is interrupted by the strange appearance of a black spaniel, who, to the eyes of Faustus, seems to go round and round them, each time drawing the circle more closely, as if he were weaving a magic web about their feet; a stream of fire, too, appears to flame and sparkle upon
his steps. The pupil, however, sees nothing of all this; to his sight the dog is no more than a dog, that, with the common habits of his species, flies about them timidly, because they are strangers to him. As the creature approaches more nearly, and fawns upon them, Faustus allows that he has been deceived; he takes the dog with him, and returns home an altered man; the wild feelings of the day are all gone to sleep; the love of God and man again awakes in his breast; and all is as still within, as it is without him. This calm is disturbed only by the snarling of his new companion, who, by his noise, breaks in upon his studies.“ Be quiet, spaniel, run not up and down :
Ah, when within this narrow cell,
The reason speaks, and not in vain,
While hope begins to bloom again.” “ Howl not, spaniel. Thy cries suit not with the holy tones that possess my entire soul. It is a custom for men to scoff at that they do not understand, to murmur at the good and the beautiful, which is a burthen to them. But, alas! I already feel that with the best inclination, content no more flows from this bosom. Why must the stream so soon dry up, and I again pine in thirst ?”
With heated imagination, he applies to his translation of the Scriptures, but in the very onset, “ The Word” is a stumbling-block. He comments upon it, and distorts, and twists it, while the bellowing of the dig becomes louder and louder, and, at length, the creature swells and spreads upwards, till its gigantic form reaches the roof, while its eyes flash fire. A chorus of unseen spirits is heard from the passage without, all of whom fear entering to the assistance of their master. The courage of Faustus does not desert him in this crisis ; conceiving the monster to be a spirit of one of the four elements, he attacks him as each successively, but his conjuration is ineffectual; none of the four elements is in the beast, who lies quiet and grins at him. Faustus then adjures him by the cross ;
“ Are you companion,
Bow the knee.
Abandon'd being !
(To be resumed in our next.)