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do not tremble with the according tones of the accompaniment."
But it must not be supposed that the poet, in the production of a work of a deep undersuggestiveness of meaning, first defined this meaning to his understanding before his imagination imparted to it a sensuous embodiment. It is true that the intellectual, or philosophical, or moral facts involved may have been in his mind long before the composition of his work; but they are only the nuclei around which gather, with a greater or less degree of unconsciousness, the sensuous elements employed by his imagination. It is these sensuous elements and their organization into a beautiful whole which constitute a true æsthetic effect. But when this has been received by the reader, it may be deepened and enriched by descending to the underlying ideas, which, though indefinite, become more vitalized by passing through an emotional medium than if they had been addressed to the
pure reason. Thus much by way of a short preface to the following attempt at evolving some of the esoteric significance of the Faust of Goethe.
The story of Faust, in which the alchemy of the middle ages, and the arch-enemy of mankind, play so important a part, had long been a favorite theme with poets; but no one can be said to have raised his subject above the common place. It became in the hands of many a mere show of Marionnettes-Faust, the Punchinello, beaten by the Devil.
Goethe's great soul breathed into it his own philosophy, tuned it to the melody of true poesy, harmonized it with the reality of life, and transported it into the domain of high art, where it will stand forever as a master piece.
In Faust, as handled by Goethe, we see man ;--man striving upwards in spite of the manifold fetters that chain him to the earth. Vanity, ambition, the innumerable errors through which he must wade to arrive at truth, necessarily mislead him in the labyrinths of this life. His whole existence is spent in searching for the right path, and he reaches old age, to die in sight of the cherished object of his life-long pursuit.
Faust is a scholar; he has spent his early youth in acquiring knowledge; he has become a Doctor, and we are led to surmise that he stands in high repute for his learning and wisdom; but, in his own eyes, all his knowledge only serves to convince him that he knows nothing.
In the opening scene we find the Doctor alone in his study, recapitulating, with sombre discontent, the many and various branches of learning which he had pursued—and he asks himself to what purpose ?
His knowledge is not that of the true Sage; he does not sound the sea in order to prove its depths and learn the limits of the knowable; his efforts call for results, such as his feverish fancy represents to him—the impossible—the invisiblethe spirit and source of existence. Yet, although we pity so uncontrolled an imagination, we cannot refuse our sympathy to that immortal desire in man, of grasping his future; nay, it even raises Faust in our estimation, for we contemplate in him the native and conscious force of the human soul, and it is by these very
traits that the author saves his hero and secures to him our sympathy.
But upon Faust himself this venturous scaling of light tells differently. By it he has shut himself out of the real world, he has fed his soul with unnatural food, and "green and yellow melancholy” is the result.
During the sad monologue of the opening scene, his eye runs over the dusty volumes and parchments, phials and instruments of his laboratory, with the mournful consciousness that they were lifeless, useless tools. He had felt long ago that there were higher aims in life than the unsatisfactory experiments of alchemy, and he turns now to the unknown forces of the Universe. He evokes the spirit of the air, and subsequently that of the earth, but alas ! to his dismay only; for they reveal to him his littleness, and leave him more despond. ing than before. Wagner, his servant and disciple, breaks upon his melancholy reflections. In the interview which follows, we obtain by contrast a clearer insight into the real character of the hero, and find him to be an eminently great soul, impatient of its fetters, scorning the earth and thirsting for freedom. Wagner, on the other hand, represents a different specimen of humanity-an inferior quality of soul. He is the hopeful student of the real; he has no misgivings and bitter doubts like his master; and confesses with the proud assurance of the modern savant that he knows much, but had yet to learn a trifle more.
Faust's melancholy is only increased by this renewed proof of the world's superficiality, and, left alone once more, he gives himself up to all the bitterness of discontent and finally to despair. His eyes glide over the volumes and instruments from which, in former days, he had hoped to receive light, and his thoughts follow them. They dwell a moment upon the grinning skull, that seems to mock him, and finally stop over a phial containing poison.
Self-destruction presents itself to his mind.
The reflections of the deluded man upon suicide are grand to sublimity, and the poet carries us along with him in breathless expectation. We see Faust bring the fatal cup to his lips, and tremble lest the saving agencies, which are to avert it, may come too late.
The eternal fountain of youth that keeps fresh the soul of man, here again forces its living waters to the surface to cool its parched nature. With the holy chimes of early church bells proclaiming Easter, the memories of childhood crowd
The pious voices of the choir, singing the hymn of the resurrection, sink into his soul and wrap it into a momentary
These sweet tones-he had heard them before in a time of faith and hope—with their silent influence, save him even
At the brink of the precipice into which he was ready to leap, he stops, and sees in the far off distance, sunny lanes and pleasant groves. The drink of death is set by. Alas! he had never trodden those sunny lanes and pleasant groves of the “ Volle Menschenleben;" what may not they have in store for him?
The second picture presents a fine contrast to the moldering atmosphere of the sombre laboratory. Faust and his famulus have left the dismal study and are mixing among the busy throng, which to honor the festal day of the resurrection, is flowing through the city gates and scattering over the fields around. We have now before us life with all its reality-the mechanic, the tradesman, the soldier, the easy burgher, the underling, the simple peasant girl, the city coquette, the gypsy, and the beggar, all following their own bent and showing their own idiosyncracies. But to a man like Faust, such a spectacle can only afford a transitory interest; his sympathies are not with the crowd ; in the fullness of life he is haunted by the spirit-be it demon or angel—of inquiry. Everywhere —wherever he be-his eye looks for a meaning. The outward does not satisfy him. He is forever seeking after the invisible spirit of nature, but surrounded by the obstacles and fetters of finite life he grasps at illusions, and is again and again reminded of impotency. This should teach him humility; but Faust is pride itself, and his audacious claims to supreme knowledge are well nigh equal to those of the rebel angel, who
“ Trusted to have equal'd the Most Iligh,
- and with ambitious aim
To realize his ardent wishes he is ready to join hands with powers accursed, and use evil as a means. Wagner reminds him of the watchfulness of the evil influences that beset man:
“Invoke not, Sir, those well known swarms,
That active spread through ether's space;
For man, from every wind and place.”
But the “adversary," that “like a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour,” is ever ready to answer the slightest call. Faust's mere wish has been already anticipated. A black dog is seen in the distance. With magic circles he winds his way to where the Doctor and his companion stand and accompanies them home.
We have now before us a being noble and good, in imminent danger of Evil. The latter is yet crouching on the floor, but it will soon undergo a strange transformation and impose terrible conditions on the imprudent scholar that sought its malignant aid. By a violent effort he casts off the dog's disguise and stands before the Doctor, as Mephistopheles; not with horn and hoof, at which Faust would only have laughed with contempt, but as a scholar, subtle in answer and query; in short, in the most attractive garb that could arrest the attention of a man like Faust. The compact of friendship is concluded between them. After long years of inquiry, during which he received no satisfactory answer, the Doctor arrives at skepticism and links himself with the “spirit that denies everything.” The scene in which Mephistopheles, attired in the mantle and hat of the scholar, receives the applicant for learning, whom Faust, weary of teaching any longer what he did not himself believe, gives over to him, is wonderful in acute cunning and sophistry; it overthrows all professional knowledge and opens to the mind a desert of doubt.
But we must now follow Faust in his new career. Whether the wily argumentation of Mephistopheles has convinced the morbid scholar, or whether he yields only to the desire of making new experiments, we do not know. Both leave the dusty laboratory for the wide world. We see them alight first in the den of the drunkard and gambler, and subsequently in the witch's cave, where is brewed the poisonous draught that is destined to work upon Faust's senses and bring him into better communion with the world.
In all this, however, the æsthetical nature of Faust is constantly held up to us in strong relief. A fool that would allow himself to be imposed on by gross deception could only excite in us pity, if not contempt; but Faust is well aware of what he is about. He scorns the trickeries of black art and submits to them only because he sees before him a new phase of life. The sombre path which he has followed up so diligently amid midnight studies has led him only to a closed gate. Whither will this new path lead him ? His curiosity, love of experiment, or the higher aim at self-development, makes him brave the dubious means that present themselves, and though the potion looks suspicious and the magic mirror may play false, he will venture. Our hero certainly does not lack courage, and