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     Literature Goethe: Faust IV.4 Nacht (Night)

Goethe: Faust

  IV.4 Nacht (Night)

This scene starts with the very famous monologue of Faust in which he tells actually his misery. He has studied many things, is a well known person and respected for his knowledge. But in the bottom of his heart he knows that he knows nothing, that his work as a professor is a fraud. He feels he does not teach anything of importance to his students. His knowledge serves only to see that others only know less than he does. He is afraid of nothing, not hell, not devil. But as disillusioned as he is, he can't even enjoy life.

In his desperation he uses magic to call for a spirit and he even achieves to call one. But Faust can't stand this apparition and starts to fear it. The spirit disappears again. Not only that the spirit allowed Faust to pass his limits, but it made him feel his limits again. In this state of agitation Wagner appears. Wagner is the type of little bourgeois, stupid enough to be happy.

From the sociological point of view it is an interesting person and really there are a lot of scientific studies about this type of person. These people are interested in everything, because actually they are interested in nothing. They are happy of anything, because are ignorant of any real passion. They believe to be happy, because they don't know what happiness is. They don't do anything extraordinary, because they lack the fantasy to have any idea for something extraordinary. They are never disturbed, because they do not have the sensitivity to feel the existing contradiction. This is the type of person we call here the cattle-type-person, because equal to a cow this type does not know depression nor joy. The world in which he lives in is very different from the world Faust lives in. The discussion Faust and Wagner have makes it quite clear. Let's have an example.

Habe nun, ach! Philosophie,
Juristerei und Medizin,
Und leider auch Theologie
Durchaus studiert, mit heißem Bemühn.
Da steh ich nun, ich armer Tor!
Und bin so klug als wie zuvor;
Heiße Magister, heiße Doktor gar
Und ziehe schon an die zehen Jahr
Herauf, herab und quer und krumm
Meine Schüler an der Nase herum-
Und sehe, daß wir nichts wissen können!
Das will mir schier das Herz verbrennen.
Zwar bin ich gescheiter als all die Laffen,
Doktoren, Magister, Schreiber und Pfaffen;
Mich plagen keine Skrupel noch Zweifel,
Fürchte mich weder vor Hölle noch Teufel-
Dafür ist mir auch alle Freud entrissen,
Bilde mir nicht ein, was Rechts zu wissen,
Bilde mir nicht ein, ich könnte was lehren,
Die Menschen zu bessern und zu bekehren.
Auch hab ich weder Gut noch Geld,
Noch Ehr und Herrlichkeit der Welt;
Es möchte kein Hund so länger leben!
Drum hab ich mich der Magie ergeben,
Ob mir durch Geistes Kraft und Mund
Nicht manch Geheimnis würde kund;
Daß ich nicht mehr mit saurem Schweiß
Zu sagen brauche, was ich nicht weiß;
Daß ich erkenne, was die Welt
Im Innersten zusammenhält,
Schau alle Wirkenskraft und Samen,
Und tu nicht mehr in Worten kramen.
O sähst du, voller Mondenschein,
Zum letzenmal auf meine Pein,
Den ich so manche Mitternacht
An diesem Pult herangewacht:
Dann über Büchern und Papier,
Trübsel'ger Freund, erschienst du mir!
Ach! könnt ich doch auf Bergeshöhn
In deinem lieben Lichte gehn,
Um Bergeshöhle mit Geistern schweben,
Auf Wiesen in deinem Dämmer weben,
Von allem Wissensqualm entladen,
In deinem Tau gesund mich baden!
Weh! steck ich in dem Kerker noch?
Verfluchtes dumpfes Mauerloch,
Wo selbst das liebe Himmelslicht
Trüb durch gemalte Scheiben bricht!
Beschränkt mit diesem Bücherhauf,
den Würme nagen, Staub bedeckt,
Den bis ans hohe Gewölb hinauf
Ein angeraucht Papier umsteckt;
Mit Gläsern, Büchsen rings umstellt,
Mit Instrumenten vollgepfropft,
Urväter Hausrat drein gestopft-
Das ist deine Welt! das heißt eine Welt!
Und fragst du noch, warum dein Herz
Sich bang in deinem Busen klemmt?
Warum ein unerklärter Schmerz
Dir alle Lebensregung hemmt?
Statt der lebendigen Natur,
Da Gott die Menschen schuf hinein,
Umgibt in Rauch und Moder nur
Dich Tiergeripp und Totenbein.
Flieh! auf! hinaus ins weite Land!
I've studied now Philosophy
And Jurisprudence, Medicine,
And even, alas! Theology
All through and through with ardour keen!
Here now I stand, poor fool, and see
I'm just as wise as formerly.
Am called a Master, even Doctor too,
And now I've nearly ten years through
Pulled my students by their noses to and fro
And up and down, across, about,
And see there's nothing we can know!
That all but burns my heart right out.
True, I am more clever than all the vain creatures,
The Doctors and Masters, Writers and Preachers;
No doubts plague me, nor scruples as well.
I'm not afraid of devil or hell.
To offset that, all joy is rent from me.
I do not imagine I know aught that's right;
I do not imagine I could teach what might
Convert and improve humanity.
Nor have I gold or things of worth,
Or honours, splendours of the earth.
No dog could live thus any more!
So I have turned to magic lore,
To see if through the spirit's power and speech
Perchance full many a secret I may reach,
So that no more with bitter sweat
I need to talk of what I don't know yet,
So that I may perceive whatever holds
The world together in its inmost folds,
See all its seeds, its working power,
And cease word-threshing from this hour.
Oh, that, full moon, thou didst but glow
Now for the last time on my woe,
Whom I beside this desk so oft
Have watched at midnight climb aloft.
Then over books and paper here
To me, sad friend, thou didst appear!
Ah! could I but on mountain height
Go onward in thy lovely light,
With spirits hover round mountain caves,
Weave over meadows thy twilight laves,
Discharged of all of Learning's fumes, anew
Bathe me to health in thy healing dew.
Woe! am I stuck and forced to dwell
Still in this musty, cursed cell?
Where even heaven's dear light strains
But dimly through the painted panes!
Hemmed in by all this heap of books,
Their gnawing worms, amid their dust,
While to the arches, in all the nooks,
Are smoke-stained papers midst them thrust,
Boxes and glasses round me crammed,
And instruments in cases hurled,
Ancestral stuff around me jammed-
That is your world! That's called a world!
And still you question why your heart
Is cramped and anxious in your breast?
Why each impulse to live has been repressed
In you by some vague, unexplained smart?
Instead of Nature's living sphere
In which God made mankind, you have alone,
In smoke and mould around you here,
Beasts' skeletons and dead men's bone.
Up! Flee! Out into broad and open land!

This dialogue is one of the most complete that one could imagine. Wagner is afraid of not being able to read all the books until he dies. Faust says that books do not contain the truth. To this Wagner does not respond, because he did not even understand, what Faust wanted to say. He only replies that he likes reading about, how people have lived in other époques and that he has thought of other people in the old times. Faust answers that it is impossible to know something about history, because historians present history how they see it. All the dialogues between Wagner and Faust are discussions like this one. The radical scepticism of Faust is so far away from the little, middle class world of Wagner. Wagner does not even understand that Faust doubts actually everything, in what he believes.

After Wagner has left, the crisis of Faust comes to its climax and he tries to commit suicide with poison. This is prevented in the last moment with an choir of angels, that reminds him of his childhood, of tranquil and sweet moments that he has lived.

Dies Lied verkündete der Jugend muntre Spiele,
Der Frühlingsfeier freies Glück;
Erinnrung hält mich nun, mit kindlichem Gefühle,
Vom letzten, ernsten Schritt zurück.
O tönet fort, ihr süßen Himmelslieder!
Die Träne quillt, die Erde hat mich wieder!
Of youth's glad sports this song foretold me,
The festival of spring in happy freedom passed;
Now memories, with childlike feeling, hold me
Back from that solemn step, the last.
Sound on and on, thou sweet, celestial strain!
The tear wells forth, the earth has me again!