THE Easter Day excursion which Faust makes with Wagner outside the city
gate forms a means of continuing the delineation of his character. It is
essential for us to grasp fully the sort of man he is before Mephistopheles
arrives on the scene, in order that we may better understand the latter’s
effect upon him. We have seen him face to face with the vanity of academic
learning and the uselessness of magic, and above all face to face with
the limitations of his own existence in particular and human existence
in general. We now observe him among his fellow men.
There is nothing idealized or idyllic about the scene which follows. The pictorial power of Goethe is at its very best in his treatment of the types of common humanity which he chooses to present. The scene ‘Vor dem Tor’ -- reminiscent of Frankfurt in its allusions, as may be learned from a close analysis -- is one of the few instances in the poem when ordinary human specimens are introduced in any numbers. The image is not a gratifying one. There is little elevation to be found in the materialistic types which Goethe depicts. Wagner’s comment is not unenlightening:
|Doch würd’ ich nicht allein mich her
Weil ich ein Feind von allem Rohen bin.
Das Fiedeln, Schreien, Kegelschieben
Ist mir ein gar verhaßter Klang;
Sie toben wie vom bösen Geist getrieben
Und nennen’s Freude, nennen’s Gesang.
It is, to be sure, a sharp descent for Faust, who has just been saved from the death which he desired because of his awareness of the restrictions of human life, to find himself in the very atmosphere he had always sought to avoid. The people have little to say that is not concerned with sex, beer, brawling and political discontent. Easter and the festive air of springtime regeneration make no fundamental difference to these creatures. All are united in the pursuit of selfish and immediate pleasures and interests. Apprentices, students, servantgirls, flappers, citizens, soldiers and peasants, all are quite unaware of problems such as Faust had revolved in his mind concerning the duality of human nature. Their little folksong tells a story of common seduction -- little better, ironically enough, is the Great Man’s treatment of Gretchen, despite the gulf between him and them. They cannot rise above their common level and presumably do not therefore earn the right to enter Paradise after death.
Yet Faust feels some relief on mixing with them. Only among his fellow creatures can he feel himself to be a human being-certainly his supernatural associations had merely served to make him realize that he was either ‘mehr als Cherub’ or ‘ein furchtsam weggekrümmter Wurm’ -- and this is a truth that he discovers again at the very end of his life when he brushes aside magic and Mephistopheles. He possesses a latent sense of responsibility towards others (unlike the human types who surround him in this scene), and this comes to his rescue at the final climax. He has also a keen appreciation of the physical beauty of landscape. He is revivified by the sight of the springtime and the feeling of its symbolical value and by the colour and vitality of the human throng, as it sings and dances.
The public’s high regard for Faust’s knowledge and its recollection
of his and his father’s efforts during a pestilence pose the same problem
which he had faced in his study a little earlier. The attentions of others
bring home to him the great abyss existing between himself and them, which
has been caused directly by his learning. At the time of the plague he
had no problems about himself; his thought processes were not complicated;
he believed in his learning implicitly and had no doubts concerning religion;
thus without hesitation he could dispense medicines which later knowledge
told him were poisonous. He was at the stage that Wagner has now reached
of punctiliously carrying out the teachings of his scientific training
without even pausing to question their validity. Faust did not wittingly
commit any crime; he acted from the best of motives, with full confidence
in his art, and from the most powerful social sense. Yet he poisoned his
patients’ bodies just as he poisoned his pupils’ minds. He now knows that
he knows nothing. This reminder brings him back to where he was at the
beginning of the drama, with the difference that his moral doubts about
his own conduct are now more strongly expressed than before.
|Hier saß ich oft gedankenvoll allein
Und quälte mich mit Beten und mit Fasten.
An Hoffnung reich, im Glauben fest,
Mit Tränen, Seufzen, Händeringen
Dacht’ ich das Ende jener Pest
Vom Herrn des Himmels zu erzwingen.
Der Menge Beifall tönt mir nun wie Hohn.
[[ Here, pensive, I have often sat alone,
And searched my heart in fasting and in prayer.
So rich in hope, of lofty faith possessed,
With sighs and tears and wringing of my hands,
I thought to force from heaven’s high commands
The termination of the raging pest.
And now this praise means mockery and blame. ]]
These moral doubts recur at various times in his later career, with decisive results.
Knowledge is illusory because it is either fragmentary or useless. Faust
|O! Glücklich, wer noch hoffen kann,
Aus diesem Meer des Irrtums aufzutauchen!
Was man nicht weiß, das eben brauchte man,
Und was man weiß, kann man nicht brauchen.
[[ Ah, happy he who still can hope to rise,
Emerging from this sea of fear and doubt!
What no man knows, alone could make us wise;
And what we know, we well could do without. ]]
And -- as in the earlier scene -- the awareness of nature makes him
long to burst the bonds of earthly existence and merge with universal life
|Ach! zu des Geistes Flügeln wird so leicht
Kein körperlicher Flügel sich gesellen.
Doch ist es jedem eingeboren,
Daß sein Gefühl hinauf und vorwärts dringt,
Wenn über uns, im blauen Raum verloren,
Ihr schmetternd Lied die Lerche singt;
Wenn über schroffen Fichtenhöhen
Der Adler ausgebreitet schwebt,
Und über Flächen, über Seen
Der Kranich nach der Heimat strebt.
[[ Ah me, the pinions by the spirit won
Bring us no flight that mortal clay can know.
And yet an inborn impulse bids us rise,
As with an aspiration, constant, strong,
When, lost from sight in blue and dazzling skies,
The skylark scatters thrilling shafts of song,
Or when, above the pines and mountain trees,
The eagles wide of pinion veer and sway,
And far across the open plains and seas
The stately cranes will wing their homeward way. ]]
A Mephistophelian reply by Wagner, politely implying that his master
is mentally defective:
|Ich hatte selbst oft grillenhafte Stunden,
Doch solchen Trieb hab’ ich noch nie empfunden.
Man sieht sich leicht an Wald und Feldern satt,
Des Vogels Fittich werd’ ich nie beneiden,
[[ I’ve times myself when fancies fill my mind,
But not with any longing of that kind.
We soon grow sick of seeing woods and fields.
I never envy birds their wings. ]]
leads to Faust’s famous assertion that mankind possesses a dual nature,
an earthly, physical or material side and a heavenly, spiritual or immaterial
|Du bist dir nur des einen Triebs bewußt;
O lerne nie den andern kennen!
Zwei Seelen wohnen, ach! in meiner Brust,
Die eine will sich von der andern trennen;
Die eine hält in derber Liebeslust
Sich an die Welt mit klammernden Organen --
Die andre hebt gewaltsam sich vom Dust
Zu den Gefilden hoher Ahnen.
[[ By this one passion you are quite possessed -
You’d best admit no other to a share.
Two souls, alas, are housed within my breast,
And each will wrestle for the mastery there.
The one has passion’s craving crude for love,
And hugs a world where sweet the senses rage;
The other longs for pastures fair above,
Leaving the murk for lofty heritage. ]]
He does not mean that Wagner is without both attributes, merely that
he is not aware of the fact and is accordingly unconscious of any conflict
within himself. Faust, as the Lord and Mephistopheles had described him
in Heaven, is conscious of both and of their antagonism, and is therefore
in confusion, though he is not without some signs of grace in the shape
of his social and moral feelings; only in his perplexity he is unable to
see the way out of the impasse in which he finds himself. He is tormented
by a titanic desire to force for himself a passage towards clarity, just
as he hoped to wrest a cure from Heaven in the pestilence. But he cannot.
At this very moment, when he is most keenly aware of the disharmony of
his being, and, longing to be rid of it, appeals to the spirits of the
air to bear him into another life, Mephistopheles arrives in the traditional
form of a black dog, after a pedestrian lecture on spirits and their dangers
by Wagner. Faust encourages the dog to come to him:
|Geselle dich zu uns! Komm hier!
[[ Come here then, sirrah, come with us! ]]
The diabolical element now enters Faust’s life. It does so at his invitation, arising from curiosity, it is true. It enters precisely because of his unbearable dissatisfaction and desire to escape from his hopeless struggle. Had he been able to adopt a positive, instead of a negative attitude to life, the temptation would not have assailed him in the same way. But it was just for that reason that the Lord had selected him. He had been exposed to error hitherto; he is now exposed to active assault by evil. He would doubtless, we must assume, in any case ultimately have managed to find an issue from his dilemma, being really too much of the earth to discard earthly life altogether, as Werther did. We are now to see the manner in which he finds it, and finds it notwithstanding Mephistopheles’ efforts. Indeed, the latter’s attempt to ensnare him in earthly things fails to break his higher impulses and causes him in the end to give up his yearning for escape and to attain that positive attitude which he had so far lacked. The people around him have avoided the problem of human existence by giving themselves over to their animal nature; Faust has tried to solve it by escaping from his animal side. Both are wrong. Avoidance is not the answer.
The concept of the duality of human nature, which is fundamental in the whole outlook of German Classical literature, was clarified for Goethe largely by the philosophical writings of Schiller, although it was one which he had himself grasped in an indistinctly defined manner in his own Sturm und Drang days. The problem of personality occupied him from the beginning to the end of his life. He was deeply troubled concerning the ways and means of achieving a harmonious individual development. The eruptive and expansive urge of the Sturm und Drang to be one with nature was logically bound to mean the negation of individuality in the last resort, as he saw in the case of his creation Werther. Yet it was an urge that manifested itself in him in many guises and caused him to run into and to run away from many problems. To possess and to cultivate individuality and to transcend its limits - and both were his desire -- were incompatible processes. The impulse to exist as an individual caused him instinctively to withdraw from anything that would impair his individuality; for example, in his love affairs. At the same time he was assailed by the longing to allow nature to speak through him without hindrance. He had not then comprehended as systematically as he did later on that, being more than nature, we cannot be completely natural, and that at the same time only by contact with what is exterior to ourselves are we able to grow into fully developed personalities. That is what Faust has not yet learned either. He seeks to merge and yearns to withdraw, longs for what would involve self-obliteration and at the same time shuns the critical step, desires to break down the limitations of life and yet to retain life and with it its limitations, wishes to escape from himself and yet to remain himself, and thus persists in that state of ‘confusion’, which has rightly been alluded to by the Lord in the ‘Prologue in Heaven’.
Faust sees no issue. He has invited Mephistopheles, in the form of the
dog, to join him and returns to the only place he knows, his home that
is no home, his refuge that is a prison, his study. The scene changes at once to Faust’s study. The scholar has acquired momentary consolation and tranquillity of mind
in consequence of his experience outdoors. His titanic despair has receded.
Feeling for his fellow human beings has replaced it, and as a result --
much as Spinoza and Herder’s observations upon that thinker contained in
his Gott ( 1787) had taught -- the love of God (of which Faust speaks,
significantly in the metre used by the archangels in the ‘Prologue in Heaven’)
is now uppermost in his heart.
|Entschlafen sind nun wilde Triebe
Mit jedem ungestümen Tun;
Es reget sich die Menschenliebe,
Die Liebe Gottes regt sich nun.
[[ From wild desire she rises free,
And sweetness dwells where passion trod.
Now to the heart speaks charity,
And in the heart the love of God. ]]
It is an intellectual love of God, which does not claim, as Spinoza declared, that God should necessarily return it. This is logical in view of Faust’s rejection of orthodox religion.
Faust’s spiritual progression is clear. Upon the recession of his violent
anguish when the thought of suicide had arisen there had followed the effect
of memory, of the peasants’ reverent words of gratitude and of the vision
of nature. He has now become keenly aware of his oneness with life around
him. At this moment he is in no need of Mephistopheles, who, however, in
his canine form, now begins to undermine his calm. Faust does not, of course,
know the dog’s identity and resents his interrupting growls. In the blissful
consciousness of the strength that is now afforded to him, he feels comfortable
in the candlelit room, against which he had only recently railed; he feels
very much, we imagine, as Wagner must have felt, though he never had any
of the latter’s complacency.
|Ach, wenn in unsrer engen Zelle
Die Lampe freundlich wieder brennt,
Dann wird’s in unserm Busen helle,
Im Herzen, das sich selber kennt.
[[ Within this little room again
The lamp burns peacefully and kind,
And light has steady, soft domain
Upon my bosom and my mind. ]]
‘Selig, wer sich ohne Haß vor der Welt verschließt’, Goethe
had once put it in An den Mond. These words might momentarily apply here
-- momentarily, for Faust is in reality as variable as a weathercock. The
mood cannot last. Faust desires, as always, contact with the mainspring
of all life; he seeks the feeling of inspiration which can only come from
communion with God’s creativeness.
|Vernunft fängt wieder an zu sprechen,
Und Hoffnung wieder an zu blühn;
Man sehnt sich nach des Lebens Bächen,
Ach! nach des Lebens Quelle hin.
[[ The heart comes to itself, and clear
The voice of hope and reason speaks,
Again the wells of life grow dear,
Whose water-springs our spirit seeks. ]]
The dog’s second interruption is successful; it reminds Faust, as he says bitterly, of the uncomprehending attitude of mankind towards what is good and beautiful. This evocation of a misanthropic point of view is Mephistopheles’ first victory. It is with his tranquillity thus shaken by this new undercurrent of feeling that Faust now turns to the Bible for instruction concerning the divine source of things.
Where knowledge fails, as it has done for Faust, Revelation steps in,
as Hamann and Herder declared. Faust opens the Gospel according to St.
John in the original text. While his desire to translate it into German
may be founded upon an intention of making its meaning accessible to his
fellow men, it is primarily for his own benefit that he now undertakes
the task. It is not the conventional explanations of theology that he is
looking for; he is in search of an interpretation of the Scriptures that
will satisfy him without the mediation of professional scholarship and
aid him in his effort to reach the ‘Lebens Quelle’, of which he has just
spoken. He does not therefore endeavour to return to the methods and aims
of academic learning. His translation of the opening verse of the Gospel
cannot by any stretch of the imagination be judged acceptable by philological
standards, inasmuch as he adapts the text to accord with his own ideas.
There is justice in his reading ‘Sinn’, not ‘Wort’, for logos, but
after that he consciously tries out ‘Kraft’ -- ‘es sollte stehn’, he declares,
finding fault with the inadequacy of scriptural evidence - and ends by
|Geschrieben steht: ‘Im Anfang war das Wort!’
Hier stock’ ich schon! Wer hilft mir weiter fort?
Ich kann das Wort so hoch unmöglich schätzen,
Ich muß es anders übersetzen,
Wenn ich vom Geiste recht erleuchtet bin.
Geschrieben steht: ‘Im Anfang war der Sinn.’
Bedenke wohl die erste Zeile,
Daß deine Feder sich nicht übereile!
Ist es der Sinn, der alles wirkt und schafft?
Es sollte stehn: ‘Im Anfang war die Kraft!’
Doch, auch indem ich dieses niederschreibe,
Schon warnt mich was, daß ich dabei nicht bleibe.
Mir hilft der Geist! Auf einmal seh’ ich Rat
Und schreibe getrost: ‘Im Anfang war die Tat!’
[[ ’Tis writ, ‘In the beginning was the Word.’
I pause, to wonder what is here inferred.
The Word I cannot set supremely high:
A new translation I will try.
I read, if by the spirit I am taught,
This sense: ‘In the beginning was the Thought.’
This opening I need to weigh again,
Or sense may suffer from a hasty pen.
Does Thought create, and work, and rule the hour?
’Twere best: ‘In the beginning was the Power.’
Yet, while the pen is urged with willing fingers,
A sense of doubt and hesitancy lingers.
The spirit comes to guide me in my need,
I write, ‘In the beginning was the Deed.’ ]]
Nothing less can satisfy Faust, keenly aware as he is -- macrocosm sign, Earth Spirit (who is apparently directly referred to here) and Easter promenade have all stressed it -- of the animation existing within all nature. It is as if the resources of language are insufficient to express the fundamental verities of life, as Faust is to discover and to affirm later on concerning his feelings with regard to Gretchen. Here, as so often, the writings of Herder (in this case the Christliche Schriften) contain parallel observations, which may or may not have impressed Goethe. This spirited independence of Faust in face of accepted authority is a foretaste of what is to come. It should indeed be taken as a note of warning by Mephistopheles, who in part for this reason, but mainly no doubt because of the echo which he hears of the divine emphasis laid upon human activity in the Prologue in Heaven, becomes increasingly restless.
This echo, resting upon a deviation from accepted scriptural learning, may be taken as a criticism of the latter’s shortcomings, as far as Faust and no doubt Goethe were concerned. There are later instances, as will be seen, of the divergence of divine and ecclesiastical opinion on theological matters; for Goethe clearly takes the view that orthodox teaching is an insufficient guide to and explanation of universal truth. Now action, as the Lord had said, implies the risk of error and sin; Faust’s efforts in the field of medicine had taught him that, if nothing else had. Mephistopheles is therefore keenly interested. There is a note of anticipation in his growling.
Faust, disturbed by the interruptions, appears to want to get rid of the dog and opens the door for it to go out. Assuming a gigantic and frightening shape and revealing itself therefore as of a clearly supernatural character, it compels him to have recourse to magic formulas. The conjuration of Mephistopheles begins. It is a process in which Faust is actuated by curiosity concerning the dog’s true nature, as well as by the desire to cause it to do his bidding. As he reaches for his Clavicula Salomonis -- his book of conjurations -- we are taken on to the plane of the supernatural by Mephistopheles’ subsidiary spirits who sing outside the door and bemoan his imprisonment in Faust’s study. Henceforth in Faust’s life the natural and supernatural mingle constantly.
Faust first applies the formulas appropriate to spirits of the four elements; and without success. Magic is futile as a weapon against Mephistopheles. His next step is to use the symbols of Christianity, as if they, too, were instruments of magic. Though not a believer, he is quite prepared to exploit the outward marks of belief and even threatens finally to have recourse to the sign of the Trinity. He has no need to do so, for at this point Mephistopheles steps forward from the vapour that has concealed him, clad in the dress of a wandering scholar. Having the Lord’s permission to approach Faust, he can resist any efforts at exorcism. The moment which he chooses for his first appearance to his intended victim is not one of despair on Faust’s part, but one when he is cured of it and, by a stroke of irony, when he is engaged in the study of the Bible. It does not require any great act of sin to find the devil; he is at man’s elbow everywhere, even in moments of apparent holiness.
The guise tactfully selected by Mephistopheles is bound to commend him
to Faust, the professor. Quite unlike the Earth Spirit, he does not wish
to terrify. Faust has at the start the upper hand and quickly shows it.
His curiosity concerning his visitor is in need of satisfaction, and he
treats the new arrival very much as he would treat a prospective pupil.
On his part, Mephistopheles enters into the spirit of the academic situation
with a pun on ‘schwitzen’ (‘perspire’, and ‘press hard in an examination’).
He evades Faust’s question about his name; indeed, he never gives his name,
although Faust knows it in the ‘Walpurgisnacht’ scene; it is something
about which he is very touchy. He puts his inquirer off with the clever
|Die Frage scheint mir klein
Für einen, der das Wort so sehr verachtet,
Der, weit entfernt von allem Schein,
Nur in der Wesen Tiefe trachtet.
[[ Small, Sir, the question seems
From one who gives the Word its lowest rate,
Who, far removed from semblances and dreams,
Only the depths of life will contemplate. ]]
The ambiguity in the use of ‘Wort’ (word and Word Incarnate) does not
seem to be noted by Faust, whose insistence elicits the famous reply from
Mephistopheles that he is
|ein Teil von jener Kraft,
Die stets das Böse will und stets das Gute schafft,
[[ Part of a power that would
Alone work evil, but engenders good. ]]
a statement which scornfully repeats the Lord’s definition of his function
put forward in the Prologue in Heaven and which arouses Faust’s curiosity
still further because of its paradoxical nature. Faust refuses to be deflected.
Having just been concerning himself with the subject of the Creation, he
is anxious for all the elucidation he can acquire. Mephistopheles tells
him what he had told the Lord, namely, that life is worthless, and implies
that he therefore does good by destroying it.
|Ich bin der Geist, der stets verneint!
Und das mit Recht; denn alles, was entsteht,
Ist wert, daß es zugrunde geht;
Drum besser wär’s, daß nichts entstünde.
So ist denn alles, was ihr Sünde,
Zerstörung, kurz das Böse nennt,
Mein eigentliches Element.
[[ The spirit I, that endlessly denies.
And rightly, too; for all that comes to birth
Is fit for overthrow, as nothing worth;
Wherefore the world were better sterilized;
Thus all that’s here as Evil recognized
Is gain to me, and downfall, ruin, sin
The very element I prosper in. ]]
A cunning and topsy-turvy explanation of his previous answer, these
lines contain a veiled allusion to his aim to drag down Faust to the physical
level of life which is transitory, destructible, illusory, valueless. He
fails to understand that by presenting the physical side of fife to Faust,
he will actually enlarge Faust’s human experience, which we know is gravely
deficient, and thus activate his spirituality still more, instead of, as
he desires, destroying it. The words ‘die stets das Böse will und
stets das Gute schafft’ are thus, unknown to him, charged with a highly
For Faust the answer is unsatisfactory since it does not contain an explanation of ‘Teil’, a word which had especially puzzled him. The professor is no doubt concerned also to clear up imprecisions in the ‘student’s’ statement. Mephistopheles’ third self-definition appeals more to the imagination than hitherto, for it describes a kind of dubious universal myth.
‘Bescheidne Wahrheit sprech’ ich dir’, he begins, more confidentially
using the second person singular, and explains:
|Wenn sich der Mensch, die kleine Narrenwelt,
Gewöhnlich für ein Ganzes hält --
Ich bin ein Teil des Teils, der anfangs alles war,
Ein Teil der Finsternis, die sich das Licht gebar,
Das stolze Licht, das nun der Mutter Nacht
Den alten Rang, den Raum ihr streitig macht,
Und doch gelingt’s ihm nicht, da es, so viel es strebt,
Verhaftet an den Körpern klebt.
Von Körpern strömt’s, die Körper macht es schön,
Ein Körper hemmt’s auf seinem Gange:
So, hoff’ ich, dauert es nicht lange,
Und mit den Körpern wird’s zugrunde gehn.
[[ In modesty
I state the simple truth. Let man’s dim soul
Regard his toy-world as a perfect whole:
Part of a part am I, that once was all,
A part of darkness, mother of the light,
Proud light, that seeks a sway imperial,
Outranking far the ancient realm of night,
Yet strives in vain, doomed to be cleaving still
To forms embodied, struggle as he will.
He streams from matter, that he beautifies,
Yet matter gives him constant stubborn check;
Thus will he run, I trust, where ruin lies,
And so with matter share the general wreck. ]]
Light, he declares, appealing to the scientist in Faust, is attached
to bodies and like them is transitory, and he self-pityingly refers to
the difficulty of his task in view of the perpetual cycle of life. He notes,
as the archangels had done, the disharmony and restlessness of the earth
and complains that that which might seem to be of help to him in his schemes
is in fact the very thing that hinders him most. Materialism and nihilism
are seen to go hand in hand. Mephistopheles is the exact opposite of the
Earth Spirit who had praised the self-perpetuation of life as something
good. It is difficult to consider him as an emissary of that apparition
on the basis of his remarks here:
|Was sich dem Nichts entgegenstellt,
Das Etwas, diese plumpe Welt,
So viel als ich schon unternommen,
Ich wußte nicht ihr beizukommen,
Mit Wellen, Stürmen, Schütteln, Brand --
Geruhig bleibt am Ende Meer und Land!
Und dem verdammten Zeug, der Tier- und Menschenbrut,
Dem ist nun gar nichts anzuhaben.
Wie viele hab’ ich schon begraben!
Und immer zirkuliert ein neues, frisches Blut.
So geht es fort, man möchte rasend werden!
Der Luft, dem Wasser, wie der Erden
Entwinden tausend Keime sich,
Im Trocknen, Feuchten, Warmen, Kalten!
Hätt’ ich mir nicht die Flamme vorbehalten,
Ich hätte nichts Aparts für mich.
[[ Annihilation’s forces meet resistance
From something coarse asserting its existence.
I toil away, endure through thick and thin,
But never really get beneath its skin.
Much earthquake, fire and flood have I applied,
And still the placid sea and land abide.
And then the cursed brood of man and beast,
What myriads have I buried of that spawn,
And yet made no impression, not the least:
Their blood will tingle fresh with every dawn.
Thus on, and on! It drives one to despair!
In elements of water, earth and air,
In moisture or in drought, in warm or cold,
A ceaseless multitude of seeds unfold.
Flame is still mine, the power of flame alone,
Else were there nothing I could call my own. ]]
All this serves to give to Faust a degree of heightened self confidence.
Mephistopheles in fact supports his basically affirmative attitude. He
had been impressed by the vision of universal creation afforded by the
macrocosm-symbol and in spite of his profound despondency had never abandoned
the positive conception which it embodied. His reply reveals this:
|So setzest du der ewig regen,
Der heilsam schaffended Gewalt
Die kalte Teufelsfaust entgegen,
Die sich vergebens tückisch ballt!
Was anders suche zu beginnen,
Des Chaos wunderlicher Sohn!
[[ And thus, against the ever-living
Creative power, that heals us from our pain,
You rage in your malevolent misgiving
And clench the fist of treachery in vain.
Strange, sterile son of Chaos, think anew,
And find yourself some better thing to do. ]]
Mephistopheles can make nothing of this affirmer. Their difference of opinion is fundamental. Indeed, Mephistopheles’ continued negation makes Faust’s affirmation all the stronger. That is to be his function throughout, just as the Lord had said. Faust might clearly face a pact with Mephistopheles without any doubt as to the outcome and so superior does he feel that he even proceeds to give him advice as if he were a misguided undergraduate. Mephistopheles, realizing that he can make no further progress as things are, decides to escape; he speaks, however, of other visits -- ‘Die nächsten Male mehr davon’ -- as possibilities, in order to maintain Faust’s interest in himself which he has already succeeded in arousing. If there is to be a pact, he knows that it will have to be with a different Faust, a Faust who is disillusioned and dejected and whom he will have at a disadvantage. The possibility must be raised now, however, and this is done with considerable skill by Mephistopheles, taking advantage of Faust’s determination to know all he can about him. Faust has by now a clear idea with whom he is dealing -- ‘Sohn der Hölle’, he calls him, and Mephistopheles counters directly with ‘der Teufel’. Mephistopheles asks courteously, just as an undergraduate might do, for permission to withdraw, but is then compelled to reveal that he cannot leave in view of difficulties caused by certain matters laid down in the legislation of hell combined with the presence of a pentagram on Faust’s threshold. The pentagram had been badly drawn and had allowed the dog to enter but could not let Mephistopheles out.
These references clinch matters for Faust, who himself alludes to a
|Die Hölle selbst hat ihre Rechte?
Das find’ ich gut, da ließe sich ein Pakt,
Und sicher wohl, mit euch, ihr Herren, schließen?
[[ So hell has regulations to enact?
Good, for with law a man can make a pact,
Then why not with you gentlemen of hell? ]]
The question is thus initiated by Faust, and it appears as if he might be on the way to dictating its terms, were he given the chance to do so. His prisoner is accordingly all the more anxious to get away, and there is only one course open to him, that of deceit. He cunningly promises to stay, provided he may amuse Faust with his arts. The weapons which he will use throughout are indicated at this point, trickery, falsehood, sensuality, superhuman and subhuman aid. At the same time, it is clear that he intends also to provide Faust with an idea of what he may do for him in the future. He calls upon his attendant spirits, who at once lull Faust to sleep with a vision of infinity. This vision has some initial resemblance to that for which Faust has so long been striving. The vault of the study opens and the firmament is revealed. At the same time the vision possesses a markedly sensual appeal. Yearning for the life of Heaven is quickly followed by scenes of earthly love. Wine, natural beauty and eroticism, all are alluded to, in order that the desire for physical pleasure in Faust may be quickened. It is noteworthy that similar erotic visions play an important part at critical times in Faust’s career. His character, his spirituality that leads to sensuality, is appropriately indicated in the one that occurs at this point. Love, which Mephistopheles presents as a lure, in the end turns out to be divine; and yet unless he appeals to Faust through love, he can have little hope of securing his damnation. The intellectual appeal with which he had begun is past.
While Faust sleeps, Mephistopheles calls upon a rat to gnaw away the offending pentagram and escapes, leaving Faust to realize once again, when he awakes, the intangibility of the universe as far as he is concerned. The intoxication is over. Faust doubts the reality of his experience. Disillusioned and in despair, he is now in the right frame of mind for the purpose which Mephistopheles intends.
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