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     Literature Goethe: Faust V. Some verses

Exercise: Goethe, Faust

  V. Some verses

4) ... greift nur hinein ins volle Menschenleben ...

Greift nur hinein ins volle Menschenleben!
Ein jeder lebt's, nicht vielen ist's bekannt,
Und wo ihr's packt, da ist's interessant.
In bunten Bildern wenig Klarheit,
Viel Irrtum und ein Fünkchen Wahrheit,
So wird der beste Trank gebraut,
Der alle Welt erquickt und auferbaut.
Dann sammelt sich der Jugend schönste Blüte
Vor eurem Spiel und lauscht der Offenbarung,
Dann sauget jedes zärtliche Gemüte
Aus eurem Werk sich melanchol'sche Nahrung,
Dann wird bald dies, bald jenes aufgeregt
Ein jeder sieht, was er im Herzen trägt.
Noch sind sie gleich bereit, zu weinen und zu lachen,
Sie ehren noch den Schwung, erfreuen sich am Schein;
Wer fertig ist, dem ist nichts recht zu machen;
Ein Werdender wird immer dankbar sein.
Just seize upon the full life people live!
Each lives it though it's known to few,
And grasp it where you will, there's interest for you.
In motley pictures with a little clarity,
Much error and a spark of verity,
Thus can the best of drinks be brewed
To cheer and edify the multitude.
Youth's fairest bloom collects in expectation
Before your play and harks the revelation.
Then from your work each tender soul, intent,
Absorbs a melancholy nourishment.
Then now one thought and now another thought you start;
Each sees what he has carried in his heart.
As yet they are prepared for weeping and for laughter;
They still revere the flight, illusion they adore.
A mind once formed finds naught made right thereafter;
A growing mind will thank you evermore.

Even though these verses of the Jester are meant in an ironic sense, because comical figures often have something true in themselves, but also often they have an artificial fire. In the beginning we are told that the poet makes visible, what everyone is living. This little phrase seems insignificant, and if we would not analyse it here, little people would notice. This little phrase means basically that our way of seeing the world depends on our interpretation of the world. Depending on our interpretation the same thing can be insignificant or important, ugly or beautiful. There is another dramatic figure by Goethe, who says something similar. Torquato Tasso is quite like the poet we have here, but he is even more radical. He interprets a woman in the following way.

  Sein Auge weilt auf dieser Erde kaum;
Sein Ohr vernimmt den Einklang der Natur;
Was die Geschichte reicht, das Leben gibt,
Sein Busen nimmt es gleich und willig auf
Das weit zerstreute sammelt sein Gemüth,
Und sein Gefühl belebt das Unbelebte.
Oft adelt er was uns gemein erschien,
Und das Geschätzte wird vor ihm zu nichts.
His eye hardly finds the ground,
his ear listens to the harmony of the nature,
Whatever the history present, the life offers,
his open heart takes it in quite willingly
And the spread finds itself united.
Often his feelings give life to this what does not have it.
He values that, what we found mean
and the valued he reduces down to nothing.

In Torquato Tasso Goethe describes the whole complexity of this poet, while in Faust he only inclines to the problematic. These two images do contain little clarity, but nevertheless a little bit of truth. We might not understand it fully, but it seems that the Jester just amuses himself. The next verses point out an even more profound function of the literature. They point to the function of art to be able to recognise itself. If wanted, we can see the Jester between the manager of the theatre and the poet. To the manager the theatre is a business. For the poet his piece is an original creation. To understand it takes some effort. Most people are just not willing to have this effort; they just want something spectacular, something easy to have the beautiful shine. For the Jester art can have a revealing function. He is more diplomatic than the poet. He does not see literary work as something hermetic, but neither as pure business.