Note: Spengler on Goethe's Faust as a physiognomic picture of western Culture (i.e., whose lineaments were first sketched out around the 11th century and ripened into 'Gothic' style).
[Work in Progress]
Night - Faust's Study (i)
In a high-vaulted, narrow, gothic chamber,
Faust is discoverd restless at his desk.
FAUST. Philosophy have I digested,
The whole of Law and Medicine,
From each its secrets I have wrested,
Theology, alas, thrown in.
Poor fool, with all this sweated lore,
I stand no wiser than I was before.
Master and Doctor are my titles;
And well I know that ignorance is our fate,
And this I hate.
And in return am destitute of pleasure,
knowing that knowledge tricks us beyond measure,
That man's conversion is beyond my reach,
Knowing the emptiness of what I teach.
Meanwhile I live in penury,
No worldly honour falls to me.
No dog would linger on like this,
And so I turn to the abyss
Of necromancy, try if art
Can voice of power of spirits start
To do me service and reveal
The things of Nature's secret seal,
And save me from the weary dance
Of holding forth in ignorance,
Then shall I see, with vision clear,
How secret elements cohere,
O silver majestic night,
Moon, look no more upon my plight,
You whom my eyes at midnight oft
Have gazed upon, when slow and soft
You crossed my papers and my books
With friendly, melancholy looks.
Would that my soul could tranquil stray
On many a moonlit mountain way,
By cavernous haunts with ghostly shadows,
Or thread the silver of the meadows,
Released from learning's smoky stew
To lave me in the moonlit dew.
But, ah, this prison has my soul,
Damnable, bricked-in, cabined hole,
Where even the heaven's dear light must pass
Saddened through the painted glass.
Hemmed in with stacks of books am I,
Where works the worm with dusty mange,
While to the vaulted roof on high
The smoky ranks of papers range;
Retorts and jars my crib-encumber,
And crowded instruments and, worse,
Loads of hereditary lumber--
And this, ay this, is called my universe.
And shall I wonder why my heart
Is lamed and frightened in my breast,
Why all the springs of life that start
Are strangely smothered and oppressed?
Instead of all that life can hold
Of Nature's free, god-given breath,
I take to me the smoke and mould
Of skeletons and dust and death.
Up and away! A distand land
Awaits me in this secret book
From Nostradamus' very hand,
Nor for a better guide I look.
(Disconsolately he turns the pages until his glance rests on the sign of the spirit of the earth.)
A curious change affects me in this sign:
you, kindred Spirit of Earth, come strangely nearer;
My spirits rise, my powers are stronger, clearer,
As from the glow of a refreshing wine.
I gather heart to risk the worlds encounter,
To bear my human fate as fate's surmounted,
To front the storm, in joy or grief not palter,
Even in the gnash of shipwreck never falter.
The clouds close in above me
And hidden is the moon;
The lamp dies down.
A vapor grows- red quiverings
Dart round my head - there creeps
A shuddering from the vaulted roof
And seizes me!
I know, dread spirit of my call, tis you.
Stand forth disclosed!
Ah, how my heart is harrowed through!
In tumult of feeling
My mind is riven, my senses reeling.
To you I yield, nor care if I am lost.
This thing must be, though life should be the cost
(He seizes the book and pronounces the secret sign of the spirit. A reddish flame shoots up, and the Spirit appears in the flame.)
SPIRIT. Who calls on me?
FAUST. (turning away). O fearful form!
SPIRIT. At length
You have compelled me here. Your strength
Has wrestled long about my sphere,
FAUST. I tremble: come not near.
SPIRIT. With bated breath you laboured to behold me,
To hear my voice, to see me face to face.
You prayed with might, with depth that has controlled me,
And here am I! -- What horror now can chase
The colour from your lips, my superman?
Where the soul's cry? The courage that began
To shape a world, and bear and foster it?
The heart that glowed, with lofty ardour lit,
To claim ethereal spirits as your peers?
Are you that Faust whose challenge smote my ears,
Who beat his way to me, proclaimed his hour,
And trembles now in presence of my power,
Writhes from the breath of it, a frightened worm?