learn german
     Literature Goethe: Faust IV.5 Vor dem Tor (Outside the gate of town)

Goethe: Faust

  IV.5 Vor dem Tor (Outside the gate of town)

Faust and Wagner visit a festivity. Although this scene describes evidently a fest of the times of Goethe, the 18th century, happenings like that did not change too much since then. The guys are looking for girls; the girls want to be seen. Some are looking for a fight; others just want to get drunk. The dialogues of the citizens are quite revealing. They are enchanted by war as long as it is far enough and does not mean any risk for them.

Nichts Bessers weiß ich mir an Sonn- und Feiertagen
Als ein Gespräch von Krieg und Kriegsgeschrei,
Wenn hinten, weit, in der Türkei,
Die Völker aufeinander schlagen.
Man steht am Fenster, trinkt sein Gläschen aus
Und sieht den Fluß hinab die bunten Schiffe gleiten;
Dann kehrt man abends froh nach Haus,
Und segnet Fried und Friedenszeiten.
I know naught better on a Sunday or a holiday
Than chat of wars and warlike pother,
When off in Turkey, far away,
The people clash and fight with one another.
We stand beside the window, drain our glasses,
And see how each gay vessel down the river passes,
Then in the evening homeward wend our ways,
Blessing with joy sweet peace and peaceful days.

The influence that FAUST has is in great parts due to his great sense of reality that is probably forever valid. What is it that is transported via this type of communicatioin? That even the cattle-type-person needs a little excitement to not get bored. Still it does not make him doubt his entire being.

The conversation between Faust and Wagner continues to be of the sorts. The perception of Faust of this festival is very different from the perception of Wagner. This is actually psychologically interesting. Faust feels a total loneliness, that he has spent his life rotten cellar, that he does not know anything of importance and didn't even earn much money. Within his loneliness the fest with Wagner seems to him like life itself. He likes that people go out on this first spring day. He likes the simplicity of that what he sees.

The second FAUST of German literature Adrain Leverkühn, protagonist of the novel Doktor Faustus by Thomas Mann, feels the same attraction towards the simple things in life, after having known the absolute solitude in spirituality.

Wagner on the other side is too superficial to not wish for the simple life. He is far from the disillusion of Faust, he likes to read book after book a, b, c etc. and the only thing he fears is that he might not make it to z.

  Sieh nur, sieh! wie behend sich die Menge
Durch die Gärten und Felder zerschlägt,
Wie der Fluß, in Breit und Länge
So manchen lustigen Nachen bewegt,
Und bis zum Sinken überladen
Entfernt sich dieser letzte Kahn.
Selbst von des Berges fernen Pfaden
Blinken uns farbige Kleider an.
Ich höre schon des Dorfs Getümmel,
Hier ist des Volkes wahrer Himmel,
Zufrieden jauchzet groß und klein:
Hier bin ich Mensch, hier darf ich's sein!
  See, only see, how quickly the masses
Scatter through gardens and fields remote;
How down and across the river passes
So many a merry pleasure-boat.
And over-laden, almost sinking,
The last full wherry moves away.
From yonder hill's far pathways blinking,
Flash to us colours of garments gay.
Hark! Sounds of village joy arise;
Here is the people's paradise,
Contented, great and small shout joyfully:
"Here I am Man, here dare it to be!"
Mit Euch, Herr Doktor, zu spazieren
Ist ehrenvoll und ist Gewinn;
Doch würd ich nicht allein mich her verlieren,
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.
Doctor, to walk with you is ever
An honour and a profit, though
I'd here not care to stray alone - no, never-
Because to all that's vulgar I'm a foe.
This fiddling, shrieking, bowling - all this revel
To me's a sound detested long;
They riot as if driven by the Devil,
And call it a pleasure, call it a song.

Wagner does not understand what Faust is trying to tell him, and does actually not respond. Wagner is the typical academic professor, who is interested in everything and therefore actually in nothing. He is not sensible enough to realise, what he is missing. But what mankind actually is, is not revealed in content persons with their hypocrisy, but in those people who are sensible enough to realise that something is missing. Feeling the insufficiency and the contradictions has more utopic energy than staying content with whatever life brings.