learn german
     Literature Goethe: Faust IV.3 Prolog im Himmel (Prologue in heaven)

Exercise: Goethe, Faust

  IV.3 Prolog im Himmel (Prologue in heaven)

The dedication and the Vorspiel auf dem Theater do not have anything to do with the story of Faust. But to understand the line of narration of the drama the Prolog im Himmel is indispensable. In the Prolog im Himmel the different conceptions of humanity and mankind are presented. The one of Mephistopheles, who does not understand why the Lord has given reason to man. In his mind it does not bring anything positive and the only use man makes of this reason is to behave even worse than any beast. Every effort to advance and overcome his limits is useless for the human beings, because it only makes them unhappy and they never gain only a little bit. The state of mankind is so bad that he does not even feel like torturing people.

The Lord on the other hand wants that mankind the search of people does never end and that it never fades. Faust the role-model of a man that tries to break every kind of limitation has all his sympathies. The Lord permits Mephistopheles to try to break his will. If Mephistopheles achieves that Faust leaves his eternal search, if he achieves to make him into a lazy person, into a cattle-type-person, he will have won the bet. Then Mephistopheles can take him.

Nun gut, es sei dir überlassen
Zieh diesen Geist von seinem Urquell ab,
Und führ ihn, kannst du ihn erfassen
Auf deinem Wege mit herab,
Und steh beschämt, wenn du bekennen mußt:
Ein guter Mensch, in seinem dunklen Drange,
Ist sich des rechten Weges wohl bewußt.
'Tis well! So be it granted you today!
Divert this spirit from its primal source
And if you can lay hold on him, you may
Conduct him downward on your course,
And stand abashed when you are forced to say:
A good man, though his striving be obscure,
Remains aware that there is one right way.
  Schon gut! nur dauert es nicht lange.
Mir ist für meine Wette gar nicht bange.
Wenn ich zu meinem Zweck gelange,
Erlaubt Ihr mir Triumph aus voller Brust.
Staub soll er fressen und mit Lust,
Wie meine Muhme, die berühmte Schlange.
  All right! But long it won't endure!
I have no fear about my bet, be sure!
When I attain my aim, do not protest,
But let me triumph with a swelling breast.
Dust shall he eat, and that with zest,
As did the famous snake, my near relation.

The serpent that eats dust is a reference to the Bible (1st Moses 3, 14). The Lord condemns the serpant to be in the earth and eat dust. Mephistopheles believes that he can reduce Faust a person that eats dust, that resigns and that he will even do it with zest.