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FAUST, A DRAMA, BY GOETHE.
TRANSLATED BY LORD FRANCIS LEVESON GOWER.
We had hoped when we saw a translation of Faust announced, and announced too from the pen of a nobleman, that the English reader would at length have that highly-interesting and singular production laid open to his view, and be enabled to form a more correct notion of the original than the numerous selections and analyses of the work have hitherto helped him to. There are many reasons why ordinary authors could not undertake the translation of the whole of the drama: in the first place, it is exceedingly difficult; and, in the next, it is doubtful whether it would so well suit the public taste as to repay, in fame or in any other sort of reward, the man who should choose to attempt it, while the envy of some critics would be loosened upon him without ceremony or forbearance. But none of these reasons apply at all forcibly to the noble person who now appears as the author of the present translation. He has most satisfactorily shown, by what he has done, that, if he had chosen, he could have mastered all the difficulties in his way; he does not care, we will be sworn, two straws for all the critics in Christendom; and he cannot wish to make money, because, if he did, a tithe of the pains he has taken with Goethe might have procured him a place or a pension. For these reasons we can neither account for nor excuse his not having done more than he has done; and we think his apology—that he could not in some instances, and would not in others, give the whole of his author-savours more of laziness than of reason.
For the mere critic, this translation offers the most glorious field for exertion that could be presented. Here is at once an opportunity of cutting up almost all the living authors of England, many of those of France, and still more of Germany. Now might we point out how Goethe stole from our own ill-starred Marlowe, and then was unjustly accused of robbing Lessing; how Mad. de Stael knew nothing about the matter; how Sir Walter Scott stole pinches, and Lord Byron whole handfuls, from Goethe; how Coleridge, and Wordsworth, and Southey, owe him more than they ever intend to pay; how an anonymous author in Blackwood's Magazine translated selections from Faust beautifully and powerfully; and how the late Mr. Shelley tried to do the same, but, missing both, plunged into a cloudy obscurity, which he had always the knack of mistaking for sublimity: but none of this will we do; we leave it for those of our brethren who rather desire to show their learning than to contribute to their friends' amusement. Wonder, reader, at our forbearance-lift up your hands and your eyes at our moderation; and, having composed your minds into a properly reverent notion of our importance, listen as if you had three cars, while we tell you that Lord Leveson Gower's translation is the best that has hitherto been seen in English, and probably the best that you or we are ever likely to see.
The drama opens with a scene in Faust's study. The following soliloquy will explain the favorable state of mind in which he is for temptation:
• With medicine and philosophy
At length have waded through
As wise as when I went to school.
'Tis true, with years of science ten,
And yet the fruit of Learning's tree
To better or instruct mankind.
Then have I neither gold nor treasures,
The world's advancements, goods, nor pleasures.
No dog might such a life endure.
In magic then I seek my cure;
every mental power I turn
The secrets of the world to learn,
To wander in thy azure glare,
And bathe me in thy dewy deeps,
Where pain is hush'd and conscience sleeps.
I rave! Within this dungeon's gloom
Hemm'd round with Learning's musty scrolls,
Her ponderous volumes, dusty rolls,
Which to the ceiling's vault arise,
Above the reach of studious eyes,
Where revelling worms peruse the store
Of wisdom's antiquated lore,
With glasses, tools of alchemy,
Cases and bottles, whole and crack'd,
Hereditary lumber, pack'd.
This is the world, the world, for me!
And ask I why my heaving heart
Has dried the spring of life and gladness?
Round me, in grinning ranks, arise
[He looks at the microcosm.
The bony forms of beast and man.
A wond'rous show, and yet 'tis nothing more:
Follow thy windings still, yet sigh for more.
[He shuts the volume unwillingly, and inspects the sign of the Spirit of the Earth.
The signs are at their work again, and now
The Spirit of the Earth is hovering nearer;
Now I tremble, faint, and glow,
Vision of affright!
Spirit. With a spell of might and fear
Thou hast drawn me from my sphere,
Away! I loath the sight.
O where is the manly might of soul,
That could the aerial world control?
Art thou the man, thou trembling thing,
Yet shuns my form to see?
Faust. Yes, I am Faust, a powerful name,
Through existence's change,
Through the tide and the flow,
I shoot and I sparkle, and never am still.
Faust. Say, thou ever-roving spirit,
What relation can I bear to thee?
Spirit. To some other form, in another station,
Not to me.'
Faust goes out to walk; and the inspiring effect of the air, and the honest mirth of the people, who are celebrating the festival of Easter, compose his disturbed thoughts:
'Faust. The smile of spring on stream and plain
Has freed them from their icy chain.
I hail, in yonder rout and coil,
The short-lived heaven of those who toil;
And am the man I seem to be.'
A black poodle, which is no other than the devil, crosses the path,
and, having attracted Faust's attention by his gambols, returns with him, and takes up his place in his study:
While gloomy night o'erspreads the plain,
I leave the shadowy waste behind,
Stop thy whining, and still thy breath.
Poor dog, thou hast merrily cheer'd my way
Ah! when again within our cell
We bid the lamp of midnight glow,
In hearts that learn themselves to know:
And hope blooms brighter than at first,
Disturb the bosom's celestial tone,
They will murmur at all that is fair and good,
Joy's brief star has quench'd its fickle ray.
Ere my thirst be satisfied?
How oft such fortune has been mine:
And yet by each blessing the world denies
We are taught the things of heaven to prize,
And for revelation's light to pine.
And nowhere brighter it was sent
Than in our Saviour's Testament.
And, with a Christian's good design,
To make it German line by line."
This occupation is, as may be conceived, not very palatable to the devil. Faust at length conjures him, so that he is obliged to quit his beastly shape, and put on that of humanity: he then appears like a travelling student, and the following dialogue ensues :
Faust. Is this the kernel of this goodly fruit?
It makes me smile to see the termination.
Faust. Thy name?