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Faust, Part 1 (1808)

Men's wretchedness in soothe I so deplore,
Not even I would plague the sorry creatures more.
Now I have studied philosophy,
medicine and the law,
and unfortunately, theology,
wearily sweating, yet I stand now,
poor fool, no wiser than I was before;
I am called Master, even Doctor,
and for these last ten years have led
my students by the nose--up, down,
crosswise and crooked. Now I see
that we know nothing finally.
Dear friend, all theory is gray,
And green the golden tree of life.
Youth, my good friend, you certainly require
When foes in battle round you press,
When a fair maid, her heart on fire,
Hangs on your neck with fond caress,
When from afar, the victor's crown,
Allures you in the race to run;
Or when in revelry you drown
Your sense, the whirling dance being done.
Now spring's reviving glance has freed
the ice from stream and river.
The valley turns green with joy of hope.
Old winter, growing impotent, crawls back
to the rough mountains; as he flees, he hurls
fitful gusts of icy-kerneled sleet
in streaks on the green meadows.
But the sun allows no whiteness;
growth and creation stir and strive
to cover everything with color.
O full-orb'd moon, did but thy rays
Their last upon mine anguish gaze!
Beside this desk, at dead of night,
Oft have I watched to hail thy light:
Then, pensive friend! o'er book and scroll,
With soothing power, thy radiance stole!
In thy dear light, ah, might I climb,
Freely, some mountain height sublime,
Round mountain caves with spirits ride,
In thy mild haze o'er meadows glide,
And, purged from knowledge-fumes, renew
My spirit, in thy healing dew!
When in his study pent the whole year through,
Man views the world, as through an optic glass,
On a chance holiday, and scarcely then,
How by persuasion can he govern men?
That which issues from the heart alone,
Will bend the hearts of others to your own.
Ay! what 'mong men as knowledge doth obtain!
Who on the child its true name dares bestow?
The few who somewhat of these things have known,
Who their full hearts unguardedly reveal'd,
Nor thoughts, nor feelings, from the mob conceal'd,
Have died on crosses, or in flames been thrown!
What a man knows not, he to use requires,
And what he knows, he cannot use for good.
E'en hell hath its peculiar laws.
Methinks, by most, 'twill be confess'd
That Death is never quite a welcome guest.
Forbear to trifle longer with thy grief,
Which, vulture-like, consumes thee in this den.
What lies beyond doesn't worry me.
Suppose you break this world to bits, another may arise.
My joy springs from this earth,
this sun shines on my sorrows.
When I leave here, let come what must.
What do I care about it now, if hereafter
men hate or love, or if in those other spheres
there be an Above or a Below?
Happy is he who has the pure truth in him.
He will regret no sacrifice that keeps it.
In the end, you are exactly--what you are.
Put on a wig with a million curls,
put the highest heeled boots on your feet,
yet you remain in the end just what you are.


Iphigenia in Tauris (1787)

I feel myself a stranger. For the sea
Doth sever me, alas! from those I love,
And day by day upon the shore I stand,
My soul still seeking for the land of Greece.
Alas for him! who friendless and alone,
Remote from parents and from brethren dwells;
From him grief snatches every coming joy
Ere it doth reach his lip. His restless thoughts
Revert for ever to his father's halls,
Where first to him the radiant sun unclos'd
The gates of heav'n; where closer, day by day,
Brothers and sisters, leagu'd in pastime sweet,
Around each other twin'd the bonds of love.
A useless life is but an early death.
We blame alike, who proudly disregard
Their genuine merit, and who vainly prize
Their spurious worth too highly.
He who is used
To act and to command, knows not the art,
From far, with subtle tact, to guide discourse
Through many windings to its destin'd goal.
A noble man by woman's gentle word
May oft be led.
Oh! be he king or subject, he's most blest,
Who in his home finds happiness and peace.
The kindness shown the wicked is not blest.
How blest is he who his progenitors
With pride remembers, to the list'ner tells
The story of their greatness, of their deeds,
And, silently rejoicing, sees himself
Link'd to this goodly chain! For the same stock
Bears not the monster and the demigod:
A line, or good or evil, ushers in
The glory or the terror of the world.
Many a dreadful fate of mortal doom,
And many a deed of the bewilder'd brain,
Dark night doth cover with her sable wing,
Or shroud in gloomy twilight.
The words of Heaven are not equivocal,
As in despair the poor oppress'd one thinks.
The gods require
On this wide earth the service of the good,
To work their pleasure.
This is the sharpest sorrow of my lot,
That, like a plague-infected wretch, I bear
Death and destruction hid within my breast;
That, where I tread, e'en on the healthiest spot,
Ere long the blooming faces round betray
The writhing features of a ling'ring death.
Love and courage are the spirit's wings
Wafting to noble actions.
Thus we pursue what always flies before;
We disregard the path in which we tread.
The gods avenge not on the son the deeds
Done by the father. Each, or good or bad,
Of his own actions reaps the due reward.
The parents' blessing, not their curse, descends.
Of what avail is prudence, if it fail
Heedful to mark the purposes of Heaven?
When the Powers on high decree
For a feeble child of earth
Dire perplexity and woe,
And his spirit doom to pass
With tumult wild from joy to grief,
And back again from grief to joy,
In fearful alternation;
They in mercy then provide,
In the precincts of his home,
Or upon the distant shore,
That to him may never fail
Ready help in hours of need,
A tranquil, faithful friend.


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