Front Page Titles (by Subject) SCENE II. - Goethe's Works, vol. 2 (Faust 1 & 2, Egmont, Natural Daughter, Sorrows of Young Werther)
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SCENE II. - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Goethe’s Works, vol. 2 (Faust 1 & 2, Egmont, Natural Daughter, Sorrows of Young Werther) 
Goethe’s Works, illustrated by the best German artists, 5 vols. (Philadelphia: G. Barrie, 1885). Vol. 2.
Part of: Goethe’s Works, 5 vols.
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E’en as thou comest to me, honor’d lady,
I almost doubt if they have told me truly.
Thou art unhappy, say they, yet thou bringest
Where’er thou art prosperity and fortune.
If I o’erwhelm’d in tribulation find
The first to whom I turn my face and voice,
So kind and noble, as thou seem’st to me,
Then will my sorrow disappear, I hope.
If on a man of wide experience
A lot like thine should fall, ’twere pitiful.
But grief of youth when first oppress’d how sorely
It calls for sympathy and love’s protection.
Thus but a little time ago I came
Up from the night of death to light of day.
I knew not what befell, what accident
Had hurl’d me headlong from the dizzy cliff.
Then suddenly I rose, I recogniz’d
The lovely world again. I saw the leech
Struggling to stir the dying flames again;
Found in my father’s loving glance, his voice,
My life again. And now a second time
I waken from a more disastrous fall.
Unknown and shadowy is the scene around me;
Strange to me are the faces of the men;
Thy gentleness itself is like a dream.
If strangers feel for our adversity
Then are they nearer to us than our nearest,
Who often look upon our grief with coldness,
From very carelessness of wonted sight.
Thy case is perilous, but who can say
If yet there be not chance of safety for thee?
No answer can I make. Unknown to me
The powers are which have brought about my exile.
The woman whom thou spokest with knows well
I suffer from the madden’d deeds of others.
Although superior power with strenuous blow
Has stricken hard thy fault so innocent,
Thy error made so by an accident,
No less respect remains—and dawning love.
The knowledge that my heart is pure within
Makes strange the consequence of little errors.
’Tis sport to stumble on the level ground;
A single slip hurls from the precipice.
Upon those heights I wander’d full of joy;
Excess of rapture caus’d my foot to fail.
The coming fortune I anticipated;
My hands already grasp’d the precious pledge.
A single moment and a little patience,
And, as I fondly thought, the whole was mine.
But rash desire o’erwhelm’d me. Swift temptation
Made havoc with my resolution. Was that it?
I saw, I told what was forbidden me
To see, to tell. Is such a trifling fault
So harshly punish’d? Does a lightly-given
Injunction, seeming like a jocular test,
Relentlessly condemn the breaker of it?
Oh, then ’tis true what ancient legends tell,
Once deem’d incredible. The momentary,
Thoughtless enjoyment of the apple brought
Unending guilt and sorrow on the world.
Thus also to my care a key was trusted.
Forbidden treasures did I dare unlock,
And I unlock’d the entrance to my tomb.
Thou canst not find the evil’s primal source,
And were it found it still would flow forever.
In trifling faults I seek it. I impute
To idle fancy blame for such disaster;
But higher, higher let suspicion rest.
The twain to whom I owed my life’s completeness,
Those glorious men, apparently were friends.
But now the discord of unstable parties
Which long had coil’d in dusky hiding-places
Perchance is breaking forth in open feud.
And what surrounded me as fear and care
Has reach’d its crisis, while it crushes me
And threats annihilation to the world.
I pity thee. Destruction of a world
Thou prophesiest since thy grief is sore.
Did not the earth seem fortunate and joyful
When, as a happy child, thou play’dst ’mid flowers?
The fortune of the earth who ever saw
Bedeck’d in more attractive hues than I?
Ah! what magnificence, what purity,
What fulness, fill’d my life! The satisfaction
Of every human want seem’d but a tithe
Of all the riches squander’d for my pleasure.
And who provided me this Paradise?
A loving father, who, neglecting naught
Of least or greatest, prodigally pour’d
Bewildering wealth of treasures in my hands,
And form’d me, body and mind alike, to carry
The weight of such responsibility.
If my surroundings seem’d effeminate,
And comfort pour’d its subtile poison round,
Then knightly sports invited me away
To fight with danger on the mettlesome steed.
Ofttimes I yearn’d to visit far horizons
To view the bounds of countries new and strange,
And this my noble father promis’d me.
He promis’d me to take me o’er the sea.
He hop’d to join in loving sympathy
In my first rapture in the infinite.
And here I stand alone and gaze far out,
And closer seems the world to hedge me in.
O God! how limited are earth and heaven
To human hearts left wholly to themselves.
Thou hapless one! How like a meteor
With fell destruction in its train
Thou sweepest down upon me from on high,
Disturbing all the current of my life!
The joy which in the boundless sea I took
Henceforth is turn’d to pain by thee. When Phœbus
Prepares to couch upon his fiery pyre
And every eye is soften’d with delight,
My face will then be turn’d away, and tears
Will flow in sorrow for thee and thy fate.
Far on the rim of night-surrounded ocean
I see thy path beset by want and sorrow!
Depriv’d of all thy wonted joys and comforts,
Afflicted hopelessly with trials new!
The glowing arrows of the sun are pour’d
Upon a land scarce sever’d from the tide;
The pestilence of poisonous dampness born
Hovers in murky vapors o’er the lowlands.
I see thee in the valley of the shadow
Languid and pale, fading from day to day.
Must she who stands before me fair and blooming
So prematurely die a living death?
Thou callest shapes of horror up before me.
There, there they banish me? To yonder land
From childhood painted in the gloomiest colors,
The very hiding-place of hell on earth:
Where ’mid foul swamps the serpent and the tiger,
Through reeds and tangled thorn-brakes lurking, crawl;
Where swarms of insects arm’d with cruel stings
Like living clouds surround the wanderer;
Where every wind-breath, weighted with discomfort
And deadly, shortens life by precious hours.
I thought to ask thee; now thou seest, beg
With importunity the hapless maid:
Thou canst, thou wilt avert this fate from me.
A talisman of frightful potency
The woman who hath brought thee hither holds.
What use are law and order if they fail
To shelter childhood from the crafts of crime?
Who then are you, who with your empty pride
In justice boast of quelling lawlessness?
In narrow circles lies our jurisdiction;
And all the weight of law that we can wield
Rules the unstable class of humble life.
The varied deeds that pass in higher places,
High-handed deeds that give life or that kill,
Accomplish’d without counsel, without verdict,
Are measur’d by another measure, punish’d,
Perchance, according to another standard,
Remaining ever like a dubious riddle.
And is that all? Hast thou no more to say,
To tell me?
I believe thee not;
I do not dare believe!
Let me depart.
Must I appear a weak, a lackwit coward?
Bewail and pity? Shall I not devise
Some daring stroke that shall secure thy rescue?
Yet would not in this very boldness lurk
The poignant danger that thou mightest hope
Too much from me? that if my plan should fail
I should appear to thee a wretched bungler?
I will not let thee go whom fortune sends—
My happy fortune of the olden days
Which from my youth up watch’d and guarded me,
And now, when angry storms are raging, sends
A’noble substitute to take her place.
Shall I not see and feel the sympathy
Thou takest in me and my fate? I stand
Not without influence here. Thou thinkest, plannest—
The wide domain of law’s experience
Will surely offer some resource to save me.
Not yet is all hope lost. Oh, yes, thou seekest
Some means of rescue—hast already found it.
I know it, read it plainly in thy face,
Thy earnest, friendly, melancholy face.
Turn not away from me. Oh, speak the word,
The earnest glorious word that brings me comfort!
Thus, full of confidence, the sorely ill
Seeks the physician, begging for relief,
For help against the threat of darkening days.
The skilful man appears to him a god.
Yet ah! a bitter, unendurable means
Is offer’d of relief. Alas! must hope
Give way, must mutilation’s gruesome horror
Cause loss instead of healing? must it be?
Thou wilt be rescu’d and thou canst be rescu’d,
But not restor’d. Thy past is gone forever.
The future that may wait thee, canst thou bear it?
For rescue from the hateful power of death,
For quickening refreshment of the light,
For mere security of life, one sinking
O’erwhelm’d in waves of difficulty calls.
What later must be heal’d, what be renew’d
And what be miss’d, the coming days will teach.
And next to life what dost thou most desire?
To live in my beloved fatherland.
That single mighty word is much to ask.
A single word contains my happiness.
Who can annul the magic incantation?
Victorious is the counter-charm of virtue.
’Tis hard to fight against superior might.
Superior might is not all-powerful!
But surely knowledge of the legal forms
Which bind alike the lofty and the low
Has found a means. Thou smilest. Is it true?
The means is found. Oh, free me from suspense.
What were the advantage, lady, if I spoke
Of possibilities to thee? Our wishes
Make everything seem possible. Our acts,
Oppos’d by much without us and within,
Are ignominiously brought to naught.
I cannot, dare not speak. Let me depart.
And even if thou should’st deceive! Were only
My imagination for a few glad moments
Allow’d to try a dubious, feeble flight!
Let me exchange one evil for another.
I feel that I am sav’d if I can choose.
There is one way by which thou canst remain
Here in thy fatherland—a peaceful way,
And many would conceive it pleasant. Favor
Is given it both by God and man. ’Tis lifted
By mighty powers above all fear of chance.
To those who take it, choose it for their own,
It bringeth peace and fortune. Full abundance
Of all desirable fruits of life it gives us
As well as most alluring future hope.
By heaven itself ’twas granted unto men
To be a common benefit and fortune.
Or boldness, or unfroward inclination
May find it leads to fields of sure content.
What paradise dost thou present in riddles?
Earth’s heavenly fortune which thou canst create.
What helps my riddling it? I am perplex’d.
Thyself must solve it or thy hope is over.
Let that be seen when thou hast told it me.
Great is my boldness! It is marriage.
The word is spoken. Thou must ponder it.
It takes me by surprise; it grieves my heart.
Thou must face bravely what surprises thee.
Far from me was it in my happy days,
And now its nearness is to me a horror.
My sorrow, my anxieties increase.
My father and my King I once suppos’d
Would bring the bridegroom at the proper time.
My anxious fancy did not search the future.
No lover’s image ever fill’d my breast.
Now must I think, perforce, unwonted thoughts,
And school myself to feelings new and strange.
Must give me to a husband, ere a man
Loveworthy, worthy of my hand, appear.
And violate the fortune Hymen grants
To save me from the misery of my need.
A woman may entrust her dubious fate
To any worthy man, albeit a stranger.
He is no stranger who can sympathize.
And quickly one in sore distress will learn
To love his rescuer. What brings in union
Through years of life the woman with the man—
The feeling of security—will never
Fail her in comfort, counsel, help, protection,
With which upon the instant, for all time,
A steadfast man through deeds of bravery
Inspires the woman when oppress’d with danger.
And where for me were such a hero found?
This city has a host of worthy men.
Yet no one knows me or would care to know.
A face like thine cannot remain conceal’d.
Oh, do not cheat a hope so prone to fail.
Where would a man be found so generous
To give his hand to me, the deeply-humbl’d?
Could I myself accept a boon so great?
Unfair seem many things in life; yet soon
And unexpected comes the compensation.
In constant change the weal outweighs the woe,
And sudden sorrows counterbalance joys.
Nothing is constant. Many a coil of trouble
Is disentangled while the days roll by
Resolving into gradual harmony.
And ah! the widest chasms love can bridge,
And bind in lasting union earth and heaven.
With empty visions wilt thou mock my eyes?
Thy safety is secur’d if thou canst trust me.
Then let me see my rescuer’s faithful image.
Thou seest him; he offers thee his hand.
Thou! What access of madness has o’ercome thee?
Forever resolute my feelings stand.
And can a moment bring forth such a marvel?
A miracle ever is a moment’s birth.
And so is error also child of rashness.
A man who once has seen thee errs no more.
Wisdom remains forever queen of life.
She may mistake, e’en while the heart decides!
Oh, let me tell thee how I with myself,
Not many hours ago, took serious counsel.
And as I felt my loneliness, review’d
My situation as it was, my fortune,
Position, possibilities of life,
And cast my eyes about to seek a wife.
Then fancy show’d me many a pleasing picture,
The garner’d treasures of my recollection.
They pass’d in bright procession through my mind;
But to a choice my heart was not inclin’d:
Now thou appearest and my bosom glows
With sense of what it lack’d. This is my fate.
The stranger, ill-entreated, sadly-dower’d,—
She could confess a glad, proud consolation
To see herself so treasur’d and so lov’d,
But she considers also her friend’s fortune—
The unselfish man, who should perchance be last
Among all men to proffer her his aid.
Dost thou not cheat thy heart, and dost thou dare
Defy those mighty powers that threaten me?
Not those alone. The monstrous violence
That stirs among the masses must be shunn’d.
And God has given men the safest haven
Within the home o’er which the husband guards.
There only dwelleth peace, which thou in vain
Outside its sacred circle mightest seek.
Disturbing jealousy, venomous calumny,
The noisy strife and selfish interests
Within its lovely shelter have no place.
Its happiness is hedg’d by love and reason,
And all mischance is soften’d by their power.
Oh, come! Accept the safety I can offer.
I know myself and what I dare to promise.
Art thou a Prince within thy house?
And so is every man, the evil and the good.
Is not that house a little kingdom where
The husband tyrannizes o’er the wife?
When he, according to his selfish humor,
With whims, and bitter words and cruel deeds,
Takes fiendish pleasure in the slow destruction
Of gentle joys which he had sworn to cherish.
Who dries the suffering woman’s tears? What law
Or what tribunal reaches the offender?
He triumphs, and with agony of patience
She sinks before her time into the grave.
Necessity, the law, and custom gave
The man these arbitrary powers. They trusted
His strength, his honest worth would be the safeguard.
I cannot offer thee, beloved, honor’d stranger,
A knightly arm, a long descent of heroes,
Only the yeoman’s worthy rank secure.
When thou art mine, what more can trouble thee?
Forever thou art mine, maintain’d, protected.
Should even the King demand thee back from me,
As consort I could reckon with the King.
Forgive me. Yet too vividly I see
Hovering before me what I lost so lightly.
O friend magnanimous, thou canst not think
How little now of good remains to me.
This little thou teachest me to prize, thou givest
With new vitality endow’d myself
Back to myself, so generous is thy heart.
I give thee honor for it—can I speak it?—
The grateful loving feelings of a sister!
I call myself thy work, but what thou wishest
Alas! I never can become to thee.
Dost thou so rashly blast my hope and thine?
The word that dooms our hopes is ever sudden.