Page images

this is also one element in his nature that commands our admiration. The witch's draught, and the seductive image revealed to him in the magical mirror, do their work. He enters upon a new course of life, and we foresee already to what direful end it will lead him.

Margaret inspires us with profound pity. We see in her woman wronged-an innocent girl destined to become the prey of Evil. Our sense of justice would revolt at such an idea, had not the great poet thrown out hints that make us feel that Margaret's innocence was merely negative. We are told that she was vain; that in secret she had already murmured over the domestic duties that had made her hands rough and confined her to humble work. Martha was her friend before she met Faust. It is true that her sense of propriety revolted at the audacious insolence of the seducer's first addresses, and she answered him accordingly. But we are told also that she cast a furtive glance at the comely adventurer, and thought him handsome and of good station. Thus does her ill-guarded innocence afford many assailable points to her adversary, and we may almost say that she met him half way. This circumstance is of considerable import when we consider that if it were otherwise, if Margaret was perfectly pure and innocent, and the victim of brute force, much of our sympathy with Faust would be destroyed, and the tragedy as a work of art would be somewhat impaired.

Margaret's despair is sublime. In vain she casts herself at the feet of the Mater Dolorosa, and brings her most cherished flowers for a look of sympathy, encouragement, or pity; the benignant eye of the Holy Mother promises nothing to the stained soul. The wrong which she has done to her purity is irretrievable, and no prayers, no holy water, will ever wash it clean. This she feels, and to this awful consciousness is added the misery which her shame brings upon others-her mother— her brother. The latter dies in avenging her wrong, and dies by the hand of her lover. How could she bear up against such a tide of woe. Moral strength failed her before, and will fail her again. We apprehend already the crime which the frenzy of her grief will lead her to commit. In the meantime, the

[ocr errors]

Chief Criminal is pursuing his journey through the world's high places, and the scenes of a Walpurgis Nacht are brought before our eyes. Mephistopheles is initiating his pupil into the mysteries of the world; he familiarizes him with vice and crime, and shows him how everywhere the philosophy of selfgratification goes before that of abnegation. The fantastic, the grotesque, the vicious, the vulgar of life, are duly represented, and we find the dark side of humanity held up in a shockingly glaring light. The realism of the poet pervades even his supernatural persona, and hobgoblin, witch, and will-o'-the wisp have a real existence. Like Michael Angelo, whose pencil was his avenger, Goethe, with a satiric humor, lets not slip the opportunity here afforded of sending to the Blocksberg all those that trouble him here below.

But to return to our hero. Grief, unfelt before, is awaiting him on his return. Margaret is in prison-condemned to die! His heart is electrified by the shock. It has yet left a force which the fiend has not conquered, and we get a glimpse of his soul from his profound despair and his energetic determination to save his victim at any cost. He sees what Mephistopheles is by what he has done, and overwhelms him with reproaches. We would like to see him cast him off, but his pilgrimage through error is not yet at an end, and he must needs still abide by the fiend's counsels. In the midst of his wrath he asks his aid, nay, he demands it as his due. We follow him to the prison where Margaret is confined and condemned to die for the murder of her unhappy child. Crazed by remorse and despair, she is wandering in her mind and bewails her lot in the most touching complaints. This last scene is a miracle of pathos; it engages to the utmost our most profound sympathy.

All the entreaties of Faust to fly with him avail nothing. Margaret, half conscious, half insane, raves over her crime, but refuses the help of her wretched lover and gives herself up to Divine Mercy. She satisfies justice by her willing death, and Faust vanishes with Mephistopheles.

Now follows the Second Part, generally considered as not having a sufficient connection with the first, but it is a perfectly

natural sequel, and, indeed, a necessary one.

Faust would be

a most incomplete study, could we not, after witnessing his many errors, follow him through the various experiences that are to shape him. He is the erring man that has forsaken the known road to seek his way through mysterious by-paths, and the concluding scene of the First Part shows only the first great chastisement for guilt committed under the malign influences to which he had given himself willfully up.

There can scarcely have elapsed much time between the two parts; for, in the opening scene of the first act, of Part Second, we find Faust lying on flowery turf, exhausted by grief and seeking rest. Margaret's death lies still heavy on him, but nature is pointing out her recuperative powers and he falls asleep under her sweet music. Ariel and his spirit troupe sing him into rest.

They appear designed to represent the healthier forces of the universe which minister to man's wants. How finely is their delicate organization expressed by their refined sense of hearing! They dread the terrible noise which the breaking of day is supposed to make. They run to hide themselves within the chalices of flowers, the fissures of rocks, and under the foliage of the trees.

This scene, in particular, from the intensity of its poetic life, serves to balance the otherwise over-speculative element of the work.

The next scene brings us into the presence of the Emperor. The affairs of the realm seem to be in a rather bad condition; for complaints of every sort pour in from all sides. False constitutions and bad laws may be eating up a country for a long time. The true surgeons, a few powerless reformers, dare not apply the saving knife to the unwilling patient, for the quack has gentler means at hand, and speaks more agreeably to the mind of the blinded multitude.

Thus is the cancer covered adroitly up and momentary relief is obtained, and deluded mankind pursues its reckless course, until the secret disease has triumphed over the empiric remedies which arrested for a while its development, and demands wiser remedies.

The Emperor and his people are in great difficulty, and the Spirit of Evil, ever ready, and on all occasions, with its services, here offers its willing help. Mephistopheles is made the Emperor's fool, and by his wits solves all monetary and political problems. The Astrologer promises days of happiness and plenty, and all hearts are dilated with joy. The carnival, too, is approaching, and in view of the coming abundance everybody is to give himself up to pleasure.

The masquerade which follows, mirrors forth the wild and heedless doings of the world, itself a masquerade. It seems intended to represent the manifold characters that play their part in the world-its good and its evil linked hand in hand. Much could be said of the genius of the author, whose artistic touch gives to each subject its own peculiar color and tone. The rough wood-cutters come before us in all their noisy reality. The short, knotty meter which the poet employs for this purpose, sounds like the noise of the axe in the felling of trees, and the refrain of the drunkard conveys to the ear the tinkling sound of the glass that meets its fellow toaster.

The merry scene closes with a conflagration in which the emperor, disguised as the great Pan, disappears in an apparent combustion. His simple curiosity leads him to look too far into the fiery gold mine which the gnomes have discovered to him, and his long beard catches fire and spreads destruction all around.

During this diversion we have almost lost sight of Faust. He reappears however in the following scene, and we experience a feeling of uncertainty as to the good his late fearful visitation may have worked in him. He is undoubtedly again in close communion with Mephistopheles, for he appears to be engaged with him in controlling the affairs at the court. We may infer from this, that, as time calmed his great grief, he forgot its admonition or cared not to heed it, and was again in pursuit of further experiences.

We see him play soon a most active part. All the financial oppression in the empire has been removed, thanks to the fool. It has been discovered that the earth contained innumerable treasures, and upon this fact is based a great money scheme.

Paper anticipates gold, and the poet is not sparing in sarcasm, as to its manifold uses. This satire may hold equally good, as directed against Law's great South Sea Bubble, or against paper money in general. The realm thus set aright, other wants arise. The Emperor will be amused and Faust is called upon to furnish the means. Nothing less is asked of him than to produce Helena of Greece, and Paris. Mephistopheles must needs come to his assistance. He names the "Mothers" as the only means of obtaining so apparently impossible an object.

The subject of the "Mothers" has been the puzzle of the readers and critics of Faust. Its vagueness affords room for endless interpretations. But a plausible one at least, and that without seeking for or torturing the language, as many of the German critics have done, readily presents itself to the reader, not too intent upon the discovery of profound mysteries.

To reach the sacred sources of the Beautiful and fill himself with its spirit, in order to reproduce Beauty, such as it existed in the times of great Greece, Faust has to traverse solitudes endless, and desert wastes. "The Mothers" are the generative power. They generate and nourish within the soul of the Artist the power to recognize, idealize, and reproduce the Beautiful; or, to employ the image given, they are in possession of the luminous tripod of Inspiration. Mephistopheles can only give Fanst a key to these paths untrodden and not to be trodden. He has nothing in common with these divine powers. They are Goddesses unknown to his fiendish intellect, so wholly divorced from all pure and exalted sentiment.

This descent or ascent of Faust to the "Mothers" is of weighty significance. We may see in it a transformation of his nature. He He passes from the rigidly intellectual man, struggling through the inefficient agency of the mere reason to solve spiritual problems, to the emotional man, whose soul accords with the harmonies of nature, and thus reaches her secrets intuitively. In other words, he develops into the artist. If we accept this idea as forming the undercurrent of the strange phantasmagoria of Helena, we shall be able to follow

« PreviousContinue »