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child-like, artless, yet so guilty-she speaks from her failing heart such a voice of suppliant agony, that there should be a spirit found to give it an echo in reproaches-to aggravate her misery and drive her to despair, it is a thing too horrible for a poet even to imagine of the devil. We seem to feel her tears falling, to hear her sobs in the broken sentences, and to look round for her gentle form with words of comfort and reassurance rising to our lips-be of good cheer—thy sins are forgiven thee. Such feelings rise so irresistibly that one expects to find them every where, even in the child and father of perdition, and it is a disappointment and a new and deeper stain even on his character that he has them not. The poem opens
with an address of the author to the creatures of his fancy--the society of his declining age--the replacers of the companionships of his youth. It is very sweet and mournful and solemn, but seems to have no very
direct bearing in any thing that follows. It has been done into English by Lord Levison Gower, and so done, that even to the mere English reader the vague melody of the original words conveys more of the spirit of the writer than all the sense of the translation. For the German is a language eminently poetical, of plastic ductility and infinitely rich, and admitting in a high degree of that suitableness of sound to sense, of which we talk so much and show so few examples. They who are ignorant and wish to be witty on this subject, may be witty if they can, or failing that, they may resort to the old story of the emperor who thought the German a fit language for his horse-fitter no doubt than for himself. But the initiated know, and the uninitiated may learn, if they will be reasonable, that no modern European language combines so many attractions as the German. Its facility for compound words—the versatility of its inversions—its faculty of appropriating entire foreign dialects to its own use, and working them in to its own texture—its energy, sweetness, and expression—these are the things to be weighed and estimated, and which the wise may be easily won to appreciate, in utter contempt of the small dust of the balance, of old saws about emperors and horses, and of studied bouquets of reiterated gutturals, and “acht hundert acht und achtzig achteckige hechs koepfe."
This poem is followed by a prelude in the theatre behind the curtain, where the stage manager appears between his clown and poet, as preparing for the first exhibition of the new
drama. The manager is full of anxiety. He exhorts the poet on the subject of his work as if it were still to do—as if he were there to inspire the actors, or to possess them in the very hour of their performance, and he supplicates for invention, novelty, variety, incident, and spirit, as one whose means of living depend on the event. He classes the poet and the clown together as the pillars of his hope he reminds them that they have stood by him thus far through foul and fair, and begs them not to desert him here in his extremest needhe lectures them upon public taste and the most infallible claptraps and baits for applause, and declares it is far better to get cash from the present generation, than the shadowy hope of a harvest of praise from the next.
All this is as nuts to the clown—to the poet bitter ashes. Suppose, says the former, scoffingly, I too should talk about posterity and neglect my business, who would make sport for the world that is passingyet this must have its pleasures. You know what we stand in need of, dish it up for us by old rules and approved receipts, a love adventure, hopes, fears, and a catastrophe, a little noise and tinsel, and all goes down. But the dealer in metre stands upon his dignity-he speaks disrespectfully of the mob -gets on his high horse and appeals to future ages—then thinks of bygone days, and promises passionately that if they can be recalled, all contradictions shall be reconciled, all impossibilities performed, and all parties satisfied.
Ay, once again those moments bring,
When early hopes, a ripening throng,
Uninterrupted joy and-song.
Around life's rugged steeps were curl'd,
The promise of a magic world,
Those hopes—those passions-bid them burn
And youth-oh bid my youth return.
This, however, is asking too much, but the manager smooths him down as well as he can, and comforts him for the control he cannot have over time and the past, by offering the regions of space and all that therein is to his absolute disposal. He begs him again to astonish the expectant audience to the very
top of their expectations, and makes over to him, his mimic universe full of materials for the purpose.
Command your utmost heart's desire,
Suns, moons, and stars, nor save, nor spare,
And living things of earth and air.-
Its tribute far and wide compel,
From leav'n, throughout the carth, and hell.
I pause here to express my utter dissatisfaction, disappointment, and anger, at Lord Levison Gower. This dialogue, which in the original is eminently characteristic and full of sentiments, which though the situation makes them border on ridicule, are yet natural and truc-vividly brought out and strikingly contrasted—all this, I say, he has tamed down in his translation, so that the greater part of it is not fit for the poet's corner in a village newspaper. One passage deserves to be excepted—it is the first of those I have translated, and I shall cite his version here, because one or two ideas in the lines in italics are preserved from the original in his, which are lost, or nearly so, in mine in the rest my own, as a transļation, is most accurate of the two.
Then give me back those days of feeling,
When I uogis an espectant too-
The streum of song was ever new-
And buds foretold the promised rose
And plucked and rifled as I chose.
of pleasure stretch'd almost to pain
Give me my youth again.
A passage which follows this is tolerably done, but all the rest is bad, excessively; but I do not complain of this so much, because it is in virtue of a privilege I have claimed for the whole herd of translators—servum pecus—but he has changed a corner stone of the design. Instead of the stage buffoon or clown, he introduces a friend with the manager and poet, thus destroying some of the liveliest points of the conversation, and deadening the little spirit that had not been distilled out of it
and carried off with the original dialect. He takes a freedom quite as unwarrantable in the next scene, of which he leaves out an important part, without a word of apology or hint at its existence in the German. It is a prelude, in Heaven. The angels are introduced singing anthems of praise; after which Mephistopheles enters and the conversation which Lord L. G. omits, follows between him and the Creator. It has too direct a bearing on the action of the piece to be thus passed over in dead silence, though it may not be very possible or desirable to render it in English-its familiarity is too decidedly profane and it must get new faults in any version. The only attempt I know of is by Shelley, which can be referred to for proof of what I am saying. With these exceptions, however, it is much to the purpose of that in Job, on which it is evidently modelled. Permission is granted to Mephistopheles to try the strength of his temptations upon Faust, and the scene closes with the extraordinary stage direction, “Heaven shuts and the archangels separate," and Mephistopheles left alone, soliloquizes on the kindness of the Deity in being so affable even with the devil.
I shall attempt the anthem of the angels—it has some indestructible essence in it, and although it has been treated first and last even worse than poor John Barleycorn, ploughed down, tossed to and fro and mangled, no translator I have met with has succeeded in quite extinguishing it.
MICHAEL..... The sun contends as erst and aye,
With kindred spheres in joyous sound.
In paths of thunder always round.
Though none his secret mystery knows,
Aro glorious as at first they rose.
The earth pursues her rolling flight,
With deep, and ehill, and shudd'ring night.
On rocks and shallows far and near-
The ever swist revolving sphere.
RAPHAEL....Contending storms through ether sweep,
And sea and land by turns invade,
Apd still to them subservient made.
Precursor of the thunder's roar,
In fire, destruction marks its way,
Lord, in the peaceful beams of day.
AL L........Angelic powers thy sight inspires,
Though none thy secret mystery knows,
Are glorious as at first they rose.
We are now introduced to Faust, and we find him first in his character of an University Professor, in an old Gothic chamber of an ancient tower, among musty parchments, strange apparatus, and antiquated furniture. It is late in the night, and he seems to have just thrown aside his books in despair and disappointment, to muse on the results of his application, on the arts and uses of his life, and he finds them nothing. He discusses the value and substance of the sciences and studies among which he has so long been seeking repose of spirit and finding none, and he pronounces them vain and illusory, and exclaims bitterly against the deceit they have so long been wont to put on him, and through his means on others. He rhapsodizes his regret for the always inevitable and now irreparable waste of his life—of time and energies created and given him expressly to be wasted, and for that only, fitted and predestinated. He looks out at the window and speaks to the only face he sees, to the only companion he is wont to welcome.
Thou full orb’d moon–oh could tlry liglit
Wo-still in prison, fast and deep,
And worms long since have made their prey,
Are hastening in their old decay