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Faust by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
translated by George Madison Priest
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CLASSICAL WALPURGIS NIGHT
Erichtho. To this night's awful festival, as oft before,
I stride in view, Erichtho, I the gloomy one,
Not so atrocious as the tiresome poet-crew
Calumniate me to excess... They never end
In praise and censure... Even now the vale appears
Far, over-whitened with the billows of gray tents,
Spectres of that most dire and most appalling night.
How oft it has recurred already! Evermore
It will recur forever... No one grants the realm
Unto another, none to him who through his might
Has won and rules it. For each one who knows not how
To rule his own, his inborn self, is all too fain
To rule his neighbour's will, as prompts his own proud mind...
Here was a great example fought even to the end:
How violence opposes greater violence,
How freedom's lovely, thousand-blossomed wreath is rent,
And the stiff laurel bends around the ruler's head.
Here of an early budding greatness Pompey dreamed,
There Caesar by the wavering balance watchful lay!
Strength will they measure. And the world knows now who won.
The watch-fires glow and flash, diffusing ruddy flames;
The ground where blood was shed exhales reflected light;
And by the night's most rare and wondrous splendour lured,
The legion of Hellenic myths assembles here.
Round all the watch-fires fabled forms of ancient days
Hover uncertain to and fro or sit at ease...
In truth, not fully orbed, yet radiant bright, the moon
Is rising, spreading gentle splendour everywhere;
The tents' illusion vanishes, the lights burn blue.
But lo! above my head what sudden meteor!
It beams and it illumines a corporeal ball.
'Tis life I scent. Becoming is it not for me
That I approach the living, doing harm to them.
That brings me evil fame and benefits me not.
Already it sinks down. Discreetly I withdraw.
The AERONAUTS overhead.]
Once again around I hover,
Flames and horrors dire I follow;
Spectral all that I discover
In the vale and in the hollow.
As through my old window looking
Midst far northern waste and gloom,
Ghosts revolting I see spooking,
Here as there I am at home.
See! a woman tall is stalking
In long strides before us there.
As if scared, it seems, she's walking,
Saw us coming through the air.
Let her stalk! Set down the burden
Of your knight, for near at hand
Are the new life and the guerdon
That he seeks in fable-land.
Faust [touching the soil]. Where is she?
Homunculus. That's a question over-tasking,
But here you'll learn, I think, by asking.
Make ready, go ere it is day;
From flame to flame inquiring wander.
Who to the Mothers dared the way,
Has nothing more to fear or ponder.
Mephistopheles. Here I too claim a part to play,
Yet for our weal naught better can I say
Than that each one amid the fires
Should seek his own adventures and desires.
Then as a sign to reunite us,
Let, little friend, your lantern sound and light us.
Homunculus. Thus shall it ring and light display.
[The glass resounds and emits a powerful light.]
Now to new wonders, quick away!
Faust [alone]. Where is she? - now no further question make...
Though it be not the soil on which she stepped,
Nor this the wave that to her coming leapt,
Yet 'tis the air that speaks the tongue she spake.
Here by a wonder! Here in Grecian land!
I felt at once the earth on which I stand.
As, while I slept, new strength my limbs was steeling,
I rise renewed, Antaeus in my feeling.
And while the strangest things assembled here I find,
I'll search this labyrinth of flames with serious mind.
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