The scene changes completely. Arbours, grottoes and a shady grove replace the medieval castle-yard. It is fabled and timeless Arcady, where beauty is life and life beauty. Faust has obtained his desire. He has destroyed his enemies and possesses Helen. Unfortunately he cannot retain her. His character is transmitted to his and Helen’s son, Euphorion, whose self-destruction puts an end to this new existence. Faust does not achieve happiness, even momentarily. At the very start he is conscious of the insecurity and impermanence of the new state of affairs. He who had had to fight to achieve it realizes all too poignantly that it may slip from his grasp. There can be no question of Mephistopheles’ being able to win his wager; not because Faust has gained Helen against his wishes but because this new life with her, this communion with an ancient Greece that has bent itself to his needs, is bound to be illusory in its very nature, since it is a life lived in the sphere of the imagination only. Faust has a long journey to make yet before he can participate positively in the endless progress of actuality.
Faust lives in a reality of his own. To him Helen is actual, and so is Euphorion, but it is notable that the longer we and the poem stay with Helen, the more of an unsubstantial, fanciful, symbolical, dreamlike creature does she become. The farther away she gets from Sparta, the less real she grows and she becomes herself again only when she leaves her new incarnation and returns to Orcus.
The ration with Helen turns out to be an illusion for Faust. This world cannot be ignored for another. He who had declared and was to declare again that obsession with the after-life must not impair the living of our life on earth has to learn that obsession with a dream, with an ideal or with the past, must not detach us from actuality and can only be of value if it assists fruitfully the pursuit of our real existence. A dream-life cannot satisfy unless we live in dreams, and Faust was too much a part of the earth and too anxious to enjoy all the experiences of which earthly life is capable to do that.
When the scene opens, Faust and Helen are not visible. The chorus lies
asleep on the stage. The Phorkyad awakens it and announces wonderful news.
The lovers have lived in the echoing grottoes away from all contact with
the outer world with only her to serve them; for evil is ubiquitous. A
son has been born to them to the endless delight of both. His name is Euphorion
which, like Faust, means ‘the favoured one’. He was conceived when Helen was learning to rhyme and now
miraculously is already a youth. A genius without wings, a faun but with
nothing bestial, he restlessly leaps from one parent to the other, from
the solid earth to the cavern’s vault.
|Schau’ ich hin, da springt ein Knabe von der Frauen Schoß zum Manne,
Von dem Vater zu der Mutter; das Gekose, das Getändel,
Töriger Liebe Neckereien, Scherzgeschrei und Lustgejauchze
Wechselnd übertäuben mich.
Nackt, ein Genius ohne Flügel, faunenartig ohne Tierheit,
Springt er auf den festen Boden; doch der Boden, gegenwirkend,
Schnellt ihn zu der luft’ gen Höhe, und im zweiten, dritten Sprunge
Rührt er an das Hochgewölb’.
[[ As I gaze a boy leaps lightly from his mother to his father,
From his sire to lap of mother; now is banter and caressing
Which with sound of love’s fond teasing, merry shouts, and jubilant laughter,
Mingling, almost deafen me.
Naked leaps the wingless genius, like a faun with no brute-nature,
Springs on firm-set earth, which straightway counters with a strange resilience,
Speeds his Flight in airy arches, till at second bound or third he
Soars to touch the vaulted roof. ]]
His restlessness -- which, as we shall see, causes his parents continued
anxiety -- is inherited from his father. The apprehensive mother exclaims
that he must not attempt to fly, for to do so is not in his nature, and
his father warns him that the force that gives him power to spring aloft
comes from the earth with which he must always retain contact.
|Ängstlich ruft die Mutter: ‘Springe wiederholt und nach Belieben,
Aber hüte dich, zu fliegen, freier Flug ist dir versagt’.
Und so mahnt der treue Vater: ‘In der Erde liegt die Schnellkraft,
Die dich aufwàrts treibt, berühre mit der Zehe nur den Boden,
Wie der Erdensohn Antäus bist du alsobald gestärkt’.
[[ With misgiving calls the mother: ‘Leap and leap, to heart’s contentment,
Only have a care of Flying; not for you free scope of Right.’
Warning speaks the trusty father: ‘In the earth the vital spring is,
Which is yours in upward leaping; touch the earth but with your toe-tips,
Like the son of Earth, Antaeus, you will straight have strength renewed.’ ]]
Parenthood, it appears, is teaching Faust in his dream-life some glimmerings of responsibility.
Euphorion disappears and when he comes back he is clad in flowing robes, holds a golden lyre in his hand and has a strange indescribable glow, which is of gold or of the fire of genius, encircling his head. He is the future master of all beauty, the source of everlasting melody. He is the offspring of Faust and his ideal, of modem man and Ancient Greece as seen by modem man. His human qualities are those of Faust, his spiritual ones those of Helen. He combines the titanism of the one with the beauty of the other. His beauty is thus not the reposeful beauty of Grecian Helen; it is beauty with the Faustian taint of discontent and desire. Just as Faustianism is doomed to instability and tragedy, so is its issue. Euphorion is the spirit of modern poetry that has sprung from the union of Classic and Romantic. Goethe tells us that he once meant him to represent the same thing as the boy-charioteer -- poetry which spends itself without reserve. The poetry which Euphorion symbolizes is not harmonious within itself but is for ever in pursuit of something -- love, freedom, danger, heroism. It leaps heavenwards away from the earth from which it draws its strength and ultimately comes to grief because of its inherent disequilibrium. It attempts what is beyond its powers. It can touch but cannot rest upon the highest pinnacle. Its note is yearning and imperfection.
Faustianism is doomed to instability and tragedy, so is its issue. Euphorion
is the spirit of modern poetry that has sprung from the union of Classic
and Romantic. Goethe tells us that he once meant him to represent the same
thing as the boy-charioteer -- poetry which spends itself without reserve.
The poetry which Euphorion symbolizes is not harmonious within itself but
is for ever in pursuit of something -- love, freedom, danger, heroism.
It leaps heavenwards away from the earth from which it draws its strength
and ultimately comes to grief because of its inherent disequilibrium. It
attempts what is beyond its powers. It can touch but cannot rest upon the
highest pinnacle. Its note is yearning and imperfection.
The members of the chorus protest that Euphorion’s growth is as nothing compared with the wonderful babyhood of Hermes. They are dissatisfied with their own lives in a new age and filled with nostalgic memories of their native Greece. At that moment, however, exquisite music is heard emerging from the grotto which profoundly moves all who hear it. It is made by Euphorion, and from this point onwards music accompanies the whole of his earthly life. Goethe, indeed, intended this section of his poem to be in the style of a cantata or opera, with duets, tercets and choruses, in order the better to emphasize its symbolic character.
The Phorkyad, before she leaves the stage, gloatingly rebukes the chorus,
declaring that what it hears is preferable to the fabled lore of antiquity
which is incomprehensible in modern times. The new poetry, which springs,
as Faust had told Helen, from the spontaneous outpouring of emotion, accords
with modern needs.
|Höret allerliebste Klänge,
Macht euch schnell von Fabeln frei,
Eurer Götter alt Gemenge
Laßt es hin, es ist vorbei.
Niemand will euch mehr verstehebn,
Fordern wir doch höhern Zoll:
Denn es muß von Herzen gehen,
Was auf Herzen wirken soll.
[[ Hear the music, sweetly sounding.
Break from musty tales at last!
Gods in hierarchy abounding,
Let them go, their day is past.
Yours, an age none grasps, is going,
Nobler themes we must impart:
Only from a heart o’erflowing
Comes the power upon the heart. ]]
The chorus is surprised and filled with melancholy. The new melodies
with their sentimental appeal cause it to realize that outward things are
of less importance than inward feeling. Modern poetry is that of tears
and private yearning rather than of exterior actuality. Both the chorus
and the Phorkyad are so affected, however, that they abandon their Greek
metre for the rhymed stanza, in this way going further even than Helen
herself had gone hitherto, for, though she now also uses the rhymed stanza,
she had previously not progressed beyond the rhyming couplet.
Music is the prelude to the appearance of Helen, Faust and Euphorion. Helen’s manifest joy is countered by Faust’s expression of merely apparent contentment, with which is coupled a note of apprehensive longing:
|Alles ist sodann gefunden:
Ich bin dein und du bist mein;
Und so stehen wir verbunden,
Dürft’ es doch nicht anders sein!
[[ All is now achieved and righted,
I am yours and you are mine,
Each in each fulfilled, united,
If but love for ever shine. ]]
The chorus deprecates his fears, however, and declares that Euphorion’s
youth will give the parents years of pleasure. But that is not to be. The
uncontrollable boy wishes to soar. Faust’s lack of moderation and discipline
is perpetuated in him.
|Nun laßt mich hiüpfen,
Nun laßt mich springen!
Zu allen Lüften
Ist mir Begierde,
Sie faßt mich schon,
[[ Let me be springing,
Let me be leaping,
Pressing on, mounting,
Through the clouds sweeping,
Strong these desires
In my thoughts run. ]]
he cries, and:
|Ich will nicht llänger
Am Boden stocken;
Laßt meine Hände,
Laßt meine Locken,
Laßt meine Kleider!
Sie sind ja mein.
[[ No more as earthbound
Will I be stranded;
Let go my tresses,
Leave me free-handed,
Let go my garments,
All mine alone. ]]
His father bids him exercise self-control. It is somewhat odd to find Faust, who has misled his students, murdered Valentin, seduced Gretchen and ruined the State, preaching the doctrine of measure, even when absorbed in the realm of the imagination. It is true that it is as much for his own and Helen’s happiness as for Euphorion’s safety that he seems to be afraid. Faust’s anxiety is self-regarding, just as it had been in the Gretchen story.
Helen joins in the appeal:
Eltern zu Liebe
[[ Curb now, ah curb,
At parents’ desire,
Projects of fire! ]]
To please his parents, Euphorion pauses but clearly dislikes the idea
that the egotism of youth should be hampered by the egotism of the old.
He mingles with the chorus and draws it into a dance. Faust, however, despite
Euphorion’s momentary self-restraint, is still depressed and anxious. He
cannot see the outcome of his son’s behaviour.
|Wäre das doch vorbei!
Mich kann die Gaukelei
Gar nicht erfreun.
[[ Fearing what fate may bring
Ever such capering
Saddens my heart. ]]
The chorus is captivated by Euphorion, though puzzled by his needless
|Willst du uns fangen,
Sei nicht behende,
Denn wir verlangen
Doch nur am Ende,
Dich zu umarmen,
Du schönes Bild!
[[ If you will catch us,
Gentle the tasking:
When you outmatch us,
All we are asking,
Picture of beauty,
Is your embrace. ]]
His love-making is marked by a disconcerting robustness which reminds
us of his father’s tempestuous conduct in the past. He scores an easy victory
and proceeds to chase the maidens among the rocks and trees.
|Nur durch die Haine!
Zu Stock und Steine!
Das leicht Errungene,
Das widert mir,
Nur das Erzwungene
Ergetzt mich schier.
[[ On through the wood, then!
By field and Rood, then!
Hateful I find the spoil
Taken with ease;
Only when won with toil
Will quarry please. ]]
He overtakes the wildest and swiftest and bears her struggling in his
arms, but she turns into a flame and eludes him. The son has begun to pursue
illusions as his father had done before him, to be the victim of yearnings
without fulfilment, of desires that are doomed to vanity. Like Faust, he
moves restlessly from one experience to another. He seeks, indeed, the
very things that his father had once cursed and none the less had sought
or was still to seek. From love Euphorion turns to nature. He means to
explore her and climbs among the cliffs. He then discovers where he is,
namely, in Greece. As he rejects the material delights and fruits of the
landscape, the sight which he surveys from the summit of the rocks causes
him to forswear material enjoyment and any thought of a harmonious existence.
His attention is engrossed by the war which he sees being fought below
him and by thoughts of heroism and victory.
|Träumt ihr den Friedenstag?
Träume, wer träumen mag.
Krieg! ist das Losungswort.
Sieg! und so klingt es fort.
[[ Dream you of peaceful day?
That dream let dream who may.
War! Send the password round,
Victory the answering sound. ]]
Greece has been brought from danger to danger by her freedom-loving people and must be preserved for her patriot sons. As he climbs, Euphorion gains in stature. He is now armed. He advocates total war, a levée en masse, including women and children, if freedom is to be gained. His words clearly anticipate what his father is later to state as his ideal of a free people living upon and preserving a free soil. Liberty can only be won and retained by incessant co-operative effort from which none shall be excluded.
Helen and Faust vainly beseech their offspring not to forget them, and
we are reminded at this point of Goethe’s anxiety concerning his son August,
and of how he prevented him from taking part in the War of Liberation against
Napoleon. The responsibility of the old for the development of the young
was a problem which deeply concerned the poet. Euphorion, however, steps
beyond his parents’ influence. He has a vision of something new -- death
in the moment of glory. He cannot look upon things at a distance any more
than his father can do. A mere spectacle is insufficient. He must participate
in the toil and sorrow of the struggle and achieve physical contact with
the realities of life. He attains clarity about the purpose of his being,
which he discovers to be service in the common cause. His titanism is transformed
into heroic self-surrender.
|Sollt’ ich aus der Ferne schauen?
Nein! ich teile Sorg’ und Not.
[[ Shall I view from far disaster?
Nay, their bitter woes I’ll share. ]]
He leaps into the air, is borne aloft momentarily upon his garments,
his head is circled with glory and he falls Icarus-like at his parents’
feet. In death he seems to recall a well-known figure. His body vanishes,
his halo rises upwards like a comet, his robes and lyre remain behind.
Euphorion’s kind is doomed to die. Hellenism may not be made to fit coherently and completely into the modern world. Faust and Helen are incompatible types and their son is an unstable creature. He dashes himself from one experience to another without balance or discipline. It is not life in any real sense that he lives. But at the end he succeeds in turning his death into an act of glory. Only by contact with a timeless ideal can immortality be won, and even Faustianism, in the person of Euphorion, it is clear, is capable of being transmuted by self-sacrifice.
The Helen episode is an illusion, a dream. We can neither escape into Ancient Greece, nor is it satisfactory to attempt to merge it with ourselves to the exclusion of all else. Helen and Faust exclaim:
|Der Freude folgt sogleich
[[ Brief joy must be our lot,
That woes overwhelm. ]]
Euphorion’s voice is heard calling upon his mother to leave the world
and join him:
|Laß mich im düstern Reich,
Mutter, mich nicht allein!
[[ Mother, forsake me not
In the dark realm. ]]
He draws her back into the underworld. She is lost to Faust, lost fundamentally because of his titanic character which first bent her to his will and which then lived on in his son. The venture into Greece, into the realm of ideal beauty, of fancy and imagination, has been inadequate. As a temptation it is a failure. Faust is not made to relax his efforts, because repose is not granted. If repose does not come to him when he is dealing with a changeless myth, how much less probably will it come when he is dealing with the moving forces of the living world around him. Like Euphorion, Faust goes on to new experiences.
Euphorion, we are told, seems to embody a well-known figure. The allusion,
we know, is to Lord Byron and his death at Missolonghi in 1824 when about
to take part in the Greek War of Independence. The centuries are joined
together; the poem has made the journey from ancient Sparta to the contemporary
scene. Byron was himself profoundly attracted by Goethe’s Faust and his
Sardanapalus was dedicated to its author. Goethe had watched Byron’s career
since 1816 with considerable interest and with special admiration for his
Phil-Hellenism which he felt redeemed the passionate disharmony of his
life. His views were stated to Eckermann on the 5th of July, 1827.
|Ich konnte als Repräsentanten der neuesten poetischen Zeit’, sagte Goethe, ‘niemanden gebrauchen als ihn, der ohne Frage als das größte Talent des Jahrhunderts anzusehen ist. Und dann, Byron ist nicht antik und ist nicht romantisch, sondern er ist wie der gegenwärtige Tag selbst. Einen solchen mußte ich haben. Auch paßte er übrigens ganz wegen seines unbefriedigten Naturells und seiner kriegerischen Tendenz, woran er in Missolunghi zugrunde ging. Eine Abhandlung über Byron zu schreiben, ist nicht bequem und rätlich, aber gelegentlich ihn zu ehren und auf ihn im einzelnen hinzuweisen, werde ich auch in der Folge nicht unterlassen. Da die ‘Helena’ einmal zur Sprache gebracht war, so redete Goethe darüber weiter. ‘Ich hatte den Schluß’, sagte er, ‘früher ganz anders im Siinne, ich hatte ihn mir auf verschiedene Weise ausgebildet, und einmal auch recht gut; aber ich will es euch nicht verraten. Dann brachte mir die Zeit dieses reit Lord Byron und Missolunghi, und ich ließ gern alles übrige fahren.|
There can be little doubt that he regarded the English rebel as a spiritual son of what he himself had once been in his youthful Sturm und Drang days. But he had left that unstable phase of his growth behind him, had curbed his daemon and was now distressed to see it re-embodied in another. At one time he conjectured that, if he had been born an aristocrat, he too might have gone the tempestuous and tragic way of Byron, and he consoled himself with the thought that a middle-class milieu, such as that from which he sprang, provided the most favourable conditions for the development of character and talent. He saw grave perils if Byronic disequilibrium should assail Europe, and he knew that he himself was not without a share of guilt for its origin and growth. The tragedy of his own influence or part of his influence, namely that of his unharmonious youthful works, loomed before his eyes. It was not an accident that it was shortly after Byron’s death that he set to work in real earnest to complete Faust. He realized that the Faustian impulse as shown in the incomplete poem represented a stage which he had left behind. He saw to what ends it might lead, what dangers it might evoke, unless it were rounded off by the wisdom which he had subsequently attained and its titanic energy were directed into socially productive channels. It is a very real question whether he did not, therefore, set out, in Euphorion’s fate and finally in Faust’s, to utter a mighty warning against uncontrolled titanism, which had been associated with his own Sturm und Drang, had lived on in Byronism and could only, he was sure, have disastrous consequences. The poem -- a tragedy -- is certainly not a glorification of unbridled and undirected Faustianism.
After Euphorion’s final appeal to Helen, without whom he fears to exist
even in Orcus, there is silence. Then the chorus, still using rhyme, intones
a celebrated hymn of mourning. His lot is enviable, it declares, his memory
evergreen. His keenness of vision, his human sympathy, his power to evoke
love, his lyrical genius, his rebelliousness and his final idealism, all
are noted in terms which indicate the chorus’ belief that his tragedy lay
in his titanism and glorious pursuit of the unattainable. The destiny of
Greece shows the tragic outcome of straining for the impossible.
|Doch du ranntest unaufhaltsam
Frei ins willenlose Netz,
So entzweitest du gewaltsam
Dich mit Sitte, mit Gesetz;
Doch zuletzt das höhste Sinnen
Gab dem reinen Mut Gewicht,
Wolltest Herrliches gewinnen,
Abet es gelang dir nicht.
Were gelingt es? -- Trübe Frage,
Der das Schicksal sich vermummt,
Wenn am unglückseligsten Tage
Blutend alles Volk verstummt.
[[ Headlong yet your way pursuing
In the mesh that blinds the will,
Moral code and law eschewing,
You would ride a rebel still;
But at last a high aspiring
Gave pure courage worth and weight,
Glorious things all your desiring
Still, alas, denied by fate.
Whose the gain then? - Question dreary
Mocked by fate in hooded guise,
When, in days of grief grown weary
Nations bleed, and none replies. ]]
Yet the struggle continues, and the everlasting process of life’s renewal
goes on. The human spirit is not broken by grief or failure. Its efforts
never relax for long. The buoyant note of the poem struck in the Prologue
in Heaven is once again repeated in the words:
|Doch erfrischet neue Lieder,
Steht nicht länger tief gebeugt:
Dean der Boden zeugt sie wieder,
Wie von je er sie gezeugt.
[[ Yet droop not, nor dirges render,
Flow of poesie renew,
For old earth will songs engender,
As she has the ages through. ]]
The chorus itself has been impelled by the sublimity of all that it
has witnessed to adopt, as Goethe observed, a serious and deeply ratiocinative
tone quite out of keeping with its maidenly character and to utter things
of which it has never thought and cannot have thought before.
After the dirge there is complete silence. The musical accompaniment, which had commenced at Euphorion’s first appearance, ceases. Its purpose is finished. Helen speaks a few words of farewell. They are in trimeters. Romantic rhyming has been given up. She is leaving the modern world. She is once again her Greek self. They are words of regret that destiny ordains that beauty and happiness should not for long be combined. She has had one more proof of her own fateful influence.
|Ein altes Wort bewährt sich leider auch an mir:
Daß Glück und Schönheit dauerhaft sich nicht vereint.
(ll. 9939 -- 9940)
[[ An ancient word, alas, is now fulfilled in me,
That happiness and beauty are not mated long. ]]
For Faust she has no word of blame or criticism. She does not dwell
upon the happenings; they are to be added to all those others that are
not willingly heard tell of by one who, as she had said once before, has
herself become a myth,
|Von dem die Sage wachsend sich zum Märchen spann.
[[ (In context:) The people love to tell, unwelcome talk for one
Of whom the story spread has grown to fabulous tale. ]]
Calling upon Persephone to receive her, she embraces Faust and vanishes, leaving her robe and veil in his arms. She is now only a memory. Faust says nothing. He speaks no word at all after his son’s death and Helen’s departure. Has he grasped the real meaning of what has happened in his fancied world? Has he understood that his son had found life’s purpose to lie not in Arcadian seclusion or in living at the expense of the existence of others but in unremitting self-sacrifice? Has it dawned upon him that his own career has borne no relationship to this? Perhaps it has. Horror at the catastrophic destruction of his hopes and at the confirmation of his fears may account for his silence. The tragic experience is indeed as bitter as that caused by the death of Gretchen. But why has he no word of parting for Helen? Is he overcome by a sense of his own inadequacy? Or by the thought that he has really been escaping from reality while in Arcady? Or by a melancholy feeling that his son, in claiming her, has supplanted him and taught him to realize that her place is only in the realm of immortality? Or is it simply that he has no real feeling for her at all and had wooed her with cold egotism? His desire for her had been sufficiently strong for him to enter Hades, but now at the moment of disaster he has no word to say, no word of comfort or farewell. Were those consoling remarks, which the Phorkyad had once reported that he had addressed to her (l. 9615) when Euphorion was beginning to display his dangerous restlessness, merely expressions of sanguine irresponsibility? We do not know. We do know, however, that his whole love for Helen, both before and after Euphorion’s birth, had been marked by considerable egotism.
It may be that, as he reflects in silence, Faust feels something of what he acknowledges at the close of his career, namely, that the individual life has no real existence except as part of the whole pattern of humanity. Helen is inseparable from her Greek surroundings and history. When he gained her and caused her to live in a sphere that was alien to her, Faust deprived her of her reality. His tremendous venture into Hades, in spite of its superhuman courage, was therefore futile. Does he already understand, in some indistinct and imperfect way, that his own life can only achieve reality and permanence if it becomes as integral a part of the context of human growth as Helen’s had been and that he must labour to bring this about? Does it strike him, as mingled thoughts of Helen and Euphorion assail him, that this can only be achieved through service and not through the superman’s detachment in the realm of diabolical magic?
As Faust holds what she has left him, the Phorkyad emerges and bids
him cling to what he has:
|Halte fest, was dir von allem übrigblieb.
Das Kleid, laß es nicht los. Da zupfen schon
Dämonen an den Zipfeln, möchten gern
Zur Unterwelt es reißen. Halte fest!
Die Göttin ist’s nicht mehr, die du verlorst,
Doch göttlich ist’s. Bediene dich der hohen,
Unschätzbarn Gunst und hebe dich empor:
Es trägt dich über alles Gemeine rasch
Am Äther hin, solange du dauern kannst.
Wir sehn uns wieder, weit, gar weit von hier.
[[ What things remain from all you had, hold fast.
The robe, release it not! Already demons
Begin to pluck it by the hems, in zeal
To drag it to the shadow-realm. Hold fast!
True, this is not the Goddess you have lost,
Rut god-like is it. Take the priceless gift
To serve the Flight in which you soar aloft;
’Twill bear you swiftly up above all dross,
On through the ether, if you can endure.
We meet again, far, very far from here. ]]
The speech appears at first sight very unmephistophelian in tone. But it is not difficult to detect a note of scorn in it; and even without that it is not unmephistophelian, in view of the mighty tragedy which we have witnessed, to wish the world to retain what shreds of Greek antiquity, especially fancied antiquity, that it can. For to do so may after all be the beginning of further illusion, divine though these shreds may be and capable of lifting those who possess them above the common level. In any case, as Mephistopheles well knows, they will not be grasped for long. In clinging to them, Faust is therefore giving way to yet another vain dream. Accordingly it does not seem necessary to assume that Mephistopheles has suddenly stepped out of character at this point. This is confirmed by the Phorkyad’s next speech, where she says she is not anxious that there should be a shortage of poetry in the world, lest there be a shortage of illusion, unrest and trouble.
In the meantime Helen’s garments have become clouds that have enveloped
Faust and carried him away. The Phorkyad picks up Euphorion’s dress, mantle
and lyre, and, holding them up to the audience, declares that though the
flame of genius has gone, there is enough material left to keep poetry
|Die Flamme freilich ist verschwunden,
Doch ist mir um die Welt nicht leid.
Hier bleibt genug, Poeten einzuweihen,
Zu stiften Gild- und Handwerkmeid;
Und kann ich die Talente nicht verleihen,
Verborg’ ich wenigstens das Kleid.
[[ What if the Flame is done, past mending,
It’s not a world to weep about.
Enough is left for poet’s consecration,
To stir up envy in their guilds devout;
And if I can’t provide the inspiration,
At least I’ll lend the wardrobe out. ]]
She then silently takes her seat at the foot of a pillar in the proscenium in the hope of gloating over the conclusion of the catastrophe.
The remainder of the scene is left to the chorus. Just as the destiny of Homunculus had to be worked out, even if it was of no more direct relevance to the dramatic action, so now must that of Helen’s attendants. Once again what happens, despite its lack of dramatic significance, is of vital importance in expounding the general theme of the poem.
Panthalis, the chorus-leader, now for the first time individualized,
opens the proceedings and orders her companions to return to Hades. She
knows that what has happened is Mephistopheles’ doing and dislikes magic
as much as she dislikes rhyme. Her words must at least prevent our assuming,
if we ever did, that Faust had won Helen by his own devices. She had been
a victim, just as much as Gretchen, of his egotism and Mephistopheles’
stage-management. Greek antiquity had not been recaptured but violated.
|Nun eilig, Mädchen! Sind wir doch den Zauber los,
Der altthessalischen Vettel wüsten Geisteszwang;
So des Geklirnpers vielverworrner Töne Rausch,
Das Ohr verwirrend, schlimmer noch den innern Sinn.
[[ Come, girls, be swift. At last we shake the magic off
With which the old Thessalian hag would bind the soul,
Freed from the strumming, too, of heady wreathing tones
The ear bewildering, and still worse the inward sense. ]]
Nemesis has required her due, and all that is left is a new vision arising from the manner of Euphorion’s death.
The chorus is rebellious and refuses to obey its leader. The occurrences
in the new world have evidently corrupted it and undermined its loyalty.
There will be nothing but a negative role awaiting it in Hades. Panthalis
replies that only those who have gained immortality, who have made their
mark, who have acquired positive personalities, either by doing or by serving,
have merited a perpetuated individual existence in the hereafter. The rest,
having no personalities to continue or to lose, merely merge with the impersonal
elements of nature and are no more traced.
|Wer keinen Namen sich erwarb, noch Edles will,
Gehört den Elementen an, so fahret hin!
Mit meiner Königin zu sein, verlangt mich heiß;
Nicht nur Verdienst, auch Treue wahrt uns die Person.
[[ Who no fair name has won, nor strives for noble things,
Belongs but to the elements: so get you gone!
My heart longs for my Queen: in merit not alone
But in our loyalties we keep our personal life. ]]
Helen and Panthalis can remain as immortals, the others fade into oblivion.
By not gaining personalities the members of the chorus have renounced immortality.
They prefer continued life upon earth, even without individuality, since
it is part of the eternal life of nature, to insignificance in Hades. Like
Homunculus, they desire to live and are prepared to start at the bottom
of the scale of being in order to do so. Unlike Helen and Panthalis, who
have personalities, they are not bound to return to Hades. Nor are they
bound to remain Greek, and they have become aware of this.
|Zurückgegeben sind wir dem Tageslicht,
Zwar Personen nicht mehr,
Das fühlen, das wissen wir,
Aber zum Hades kehren wir nimmer.
Ewig lebendige Natur Macht auf uns Geister,
Wir auf sie vollgültigen Anspruch.
[[ Restored again are we, back to light of day,
Persons, indeed, no more.
This feel we, and know it true.
Nonetheless never return we to Hades.
Nature eternal asserts
Claim on us spirits,
As on her we call with full warrant. ]]
The underlying philosophy of the poem has caught hold of the chorus. Faust’s consorting with Ancient Greece has caused that part of it permanently to cease to be Greek. Euphorion’s self-sacrifice, unbalanced though it was, has been all example to the chorus. It is prepared to die in order to gain new life. Its ancient attitude to things has gone. It has become infected with pantheistic sentiments. It is sheer existence, existence in unspoilt and useful harmony with nature, that appeals; personality may well come afterwards. Existence in useful harmony with nature is, after all, at the basis of the poem’s teaching. Part of the chorus will mingle with the branches and leaves of trees, draw up life from the roots and, when the fruit falls, give food for men and beasts. Another part will mingle with the rocks and echo nature’s sounds. Another will merge with the brooks, gain experience in their courses and irrigate fields and gardens. A fourth part will enter the hills, become part of the vineyards, watch the care of the vintners and in the wine take part in the worship of Dionysus. All will in some measure find a purposeful perpetuation of life as part of the endless vitality of nature. The message of self-obliteration and service has not been lost upon the chorus. What it has learned and what Gretchen learned and taught is still far off for Faust, however.
The curtain is lowered. The Phorkyad in the proscenium draws herself up to her whole gigantic height, steps down from her cothurni, lays aside her mask and veil and reveals herself as Mephistopheles. She is prepared, ‘in so far as it is necessary’, as the stage direction ironically puts it, to comment upon what has happened. No comment is needed. Mephistopheles has invariably had the last word after previous events. This time it is not necessary for him to speak. The illusion is too obvious. The tragic quest is over. Helen, an ephemeral visitor to real life, has resumed her place as an immortal symbol.
‘Auch ich war in Arkadien!’, wrote Herder, ‘ist die Grabschrift aller Lebendigen in der sich immer verwandelnden, wiedergebährenden Schöpfung.’
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