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ACT V. - 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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Plaza at the Port.
What influence dost thou use to draw me back?
Now also I obey against my will.
O cursed power, thy voice has won upon me,
Which erst so smoothly led me to obey,
Which got the mastery of the whole domain
Wherein my plastic nature was confin’d.
’Twas thou who taught me first the magic power
Of speech, the fine artistic web of words.
Thy lips unseal’d the world to me and gave me
The costly knowledge of my inmost heart.
This magic now thou usest to my harm;
Thou bindest me, thou draggest me away.
My mind is dull’d, my feelings are confus’d,
And I could wish I were among the dead.
Oh, would this magic had reveal’d its power
In days when I besought thee fervently
To let those lofty schemes of thine dissolve.
Didst thou imagine such a monstrous evil
And didst not warn the all-too-trustful mind?
Indeed I warn’d thee but in guarded words;
The secret spoken out had brought thee death.
And yet behind thy silence exile lay;
More welcome to me were the doom of death.
Yet this misfortune, unforeseen or not,
Has snar’d me with thee in the selfsame net.
How can I know what great reward thou’lt have
When thou hast work’d the undoing of thy charge?
’Tis waiting for me on a foreign shore.
The sail is spread and bears us both away.
The prison of the ship has not yet seiz’d me;
’Tis not too late; why should I go unwilling?
Hast thou not once appeal’d unto the people?
They only stared in silence and went their way.
Contending as I was with keen emotions
The common people thought that I was mad.
Yet not with words or violence should’st thou hinder
My bold, courageous steps to get me aid.
The magnates of this city from their houses
Come hither to the strand to watch the vessels
Which mass’d in fleets, by us unlov’d, depart.
Within the palace of the governor
The guards are stirring; he it is who comes
Adown you steps escorted by a throng.
I will address him and unfold my case.
If he be fit to represent my King
And take his place in matters of concern,
He’ll not repulse me without hearing me.
I stand not in the way of this attempt;
Yet name no names, but only tell thy story.
No names until I see that I can trust him.
He seems to be a noble youth, and gladly
Will do his utmost to confer a favor.
The Governor. Adjutants.
I crave a pardon for my over boldness;
Oh, wilt thou heed the stranger in thy way?
(After long and attentive contemplation.) One who, like thee, commends herself at sight
Will be secure of friendliest reception.
No bright and friendly matter do I bring;
The deepest woe compels me to address thee.
Then let it be my duty to dispel it;
Or failing that, to make it light to bear.
She who petitions is of loftiest race;
And yet she has no right to bear its name.
A name is soon forgotten; but thy face
Would stay forever in the memory.
Me from my father’s breast to the wild sea
Has treacherous violence harshly torn and forc’d.
Who with irreverent, hostile hand could think
Of bringing pain to such a peaceful heart?
Suspicion only tells me that this blow
Wag’d by a member of my race fell on me.
Misled by selfishness and evil counsels
My brother plotted this destruction for me.
And she whom here thou seest, who nurtured me,
I know not why, sides with my enemies.
I side with her and mitigate an evil
Which I, alas! cannot entirely cure.
She forces me to embark upon the ship;
She carries me away to yonder isles!
If I myself go with thee on this exile
It proves my love and motherly devotion.
Forgive me, honor’d ladies, if, one instant,
Surprise at seeing and at hearing you
O’ercomes a man who, young in years, has seen
And has consider’d many things in life.
Ye both to me seem worthy of belief;
And yet does each of you distrust the other.
At least it seems so. What am I to do
To disentangle now the twisted threads
Which in a puzzling knot so strangely bind you?
If thou wilt hear me I will tell thee more.
I also much am able to explain.
That oftentimes we are deceiv’d by strangers
Must also prejudice the truth when seen
Behind the seeming of adventurers.
If thou dost not believe me I am lost.
E’en if I did believe ’tis hard to help.
Oh, send me to my father’s house again!
To rescue outcast children, to protect
Foundlings or those who have been put away
Brings small reward to wisely-thinking men.
About the inheritance of property
Arises question of the rightful heir,
And hateful passions seethe, and if relations
Brawl noisily about the Mine and Thine
The stranger who shall meddle wins the hate
Of both sides. Not infrequently indeed,
If his more strenuous interference fail,
In shame before the judgment he is brought.
And so excuse me if I cannot promise
A hopeful answer to thy pressing claim.
If such timidity becomes the noble,
Then whither shall the poor downtrodden turn?
Yet certainly thou wilt excuse me now,
Since urgent business calls me swiftly hence,
If I invite thee early on the morrow
To seek my palace, there more comfortably
To learn the heavy fate that weighs thee down.
With pleasure will I come. And in advance
Accept my earnest thanks for my relief.
(Putting a paper into his hands.) If we do not accept thy invitation
This leaflet will appear our exculpation.
(Reading it attentively and handing it back.) My only service to thee then can be
To wish that thou may’st have a fortunate voyage,
Submission to thy destiny, and hope.
Is this the talisman which thou hast wielded
To carry me away, to hold me prison’d,
Which palsies all who come to my assistance?
Oh, let me look upon this deadly sheet.
I’ve learn’d to know my grief; so let me now
Know also who has caus’d the fatal blow.
(Opening the paper before her.)
Here! Look upon it!
(Turning away.) Horrible sensation!
Have I surviv’d it that my father’s name,
My King’s name flash’d against me from the page?
Yet may deception have been play’d, perchance
Some crown official, insolent, has dared
Misuse his power, and serve my brother’s whim,
To harass me. Then can I yet be rescu’d.
I’ll try this also. Let me see.
(As before.) Behold!
(As before.) My courage fails me. Nay! I dare not look.
Let be as Fate will have it: I am lost.
Driven out from all advantage of this world.
Oh, let me then renounce this world forever.
Oh, grant me this one boon. My enemies,
And thou among them, wish my death, they wish
To bury me alive. Permit me then
To yield me to the church which greedily
Has swallow’d so many a guiltless offering.
Here the cathedral stands: this door conducts
To silent sorrow or to silent joy.
Oh, let me take this step and hide myself.
And what awaits me there shall be my fate.
I see the Abbess comes accompanied
By twain o’ the sisters down into the plaza.
She too is young and of a princely house.
Disclose thy wish to her; I will not hinder.
Abbess. Two Nuns.
Adorable, holy virgin, here thou seest
One who is stupefied, confus’d, at odds
With self and with the world. My present sorrow,
Solicitude for future evils drive me
To seek thy presence, where I dare to hope
For swift deliverance from monstrous wrong.
If peace, reflection, reconciliation
With God and our own hearts can be imparted,
Then, noble stranger, shall the faithful word
Be taught thee which shall make thee know the joy
That blesses now and ever me and mine.
Unending is my woe; not even speech
With power divine could serve to assuage it.
Oh, take me! let me stay where thou dost stay,
And first, dissolv’d in tears of melancholy,
Devote my lighten’d heart to consolation.
Oft have I seen within my holy sphere
The tears of earth change into heavenly smiles,
And bitter sorrow into joy divine.
Yet not by force can entrance here be made.
Full many a trial must the novice suffer
That we may know her absolute desert.
Complete desert is easy to perceive,
And easy to fulfil severe conditions.
I do not doubt thy gentleness of birth,
Thy property, are all could be desir’d
To gain the privileges of this house
For thee, although they are so great and tempting:
So let me quickly learn what be thy wishes.
Grant my petition, take me to thy care!
Conceal me from the world in deep seclusion.
All that is mine I freely give to thee.
Much do I bring and more I hope to offer.
If youth and beauty can appeal to us,
A noble maiden fills our heart with love;
Dear child, then hast thou many claims upon us.
Beloved daughter, come into my arms.
With words like these, with such a warm embrace,
Thou hast at once appeas’d the angry storm
Which rag’d within my heart. The last wave dying
Still foams around me. I have reach’d the port.
(Stepping between.) Did not a wretched destiny oppose!
Behold this paper! give us then thy pity.
[She hands theAbbessthe paper.
(Having read it.) My censure thou deservest since thou knewest
That this was so, and yet our vain discourse
Thou didst permit unchalleng’d, though thou heardest.
I bow my head before the mightier hand
That seems to rule here.
What! a mightier hand?
What means the hypocrite? Is’t God she means?
The Almighty God of heaven has not surely
To do with any such atrocious deed.
Or does she mean our King? Well! I must bear it—
Whatever he imposes on me. Yet
I will no longer dubiously hover
Between my love and fear, nor like a woman
E’en while I sink will spare the feelings
Which fill my timid heart. So let it break
If break it must; and now I wish to see
That paper, if the sentence unto death
Be by my King or by my father sign’d.
Before the angry godhead that has crush’d me
I stand and face the consequences boldly.
Oh, that I really stood before it! Fearful
Is the last glance of injur’d innocence.
I never have refus’d it; take it now.
(Looking at the outside of the paper.) It is the idiosyncrasy of man
That in the very extremity of evil
The fear of further loss clings to him still.
Are we so rich, ye gods, that at one blow
Ye cannot strip us of our last possession?
This paper tore me from my life’s delight,
And lets me still forebode a deeper grief.
[She unfolds it.
Ah, well! be brave, my heart, and tremble not
To drain this bitter cup e’en to the dregs.
[She peers into it.
The seal and manual of the King!
(Taking away the paper.)
On me have pity while thyself thou mournest.
In undertaking this disastrous duty
I but fulfil the bidding of the Almighty,
That I may stand beside thee in thy sorrow,
Lest in the hand of strangers thou should’st fall.
What fills my soul with anguish, all I know
About this frightful deed soon thou shalt learn.
But grant me pardon if necessity
With iron hand compels me instantly
To take our passage on the parting vessel.
Thus then the loveliest kingdom on the earth,
This seaport peopled by its busy thousands,
Becomes a wilderness. I am alone.
Here noble gentlemen conform to laws,
And warriors listen to the word of duty;
Here saints in peace beseech the God of heaven;
The throng are busy striving after gain;
But I am banish’d without right or justice.
There is no hand to arm itself for me;
The house of safety is shut fast against me;
None dares to stir an inch in my defence.
Banishment! Yes, the hideous, burdensome word
Already crushes me with all its weight.
I feel that I am but a lifeless member
The which the healthy body lops away.
As one who dies before his time I am—
Who, conscious of himself but stricken dumb,
Lies shuddering in a waking dream, to be
The unwilling witness of his own interment.
Unspeakable necessity! Yet hold!
Is not a choice still left me? Can I not
Lay hold upon the hand of that good man
Who offer’d aid to me, the nobly born.
But could I do it? I renounce the birth
Which lifted me to such a lofty height?
Forever yield the glory of my hope?
In vain! oh, seize me, Force, with brazen claws!
Unseeing Fate, oh, take me hence away!
The choice that trembles dubious ’twixt two ills
Is even harder than the ill itself.
[Governess,with porters carrying luggage, goes in silence across the background.
They come, they bear off with them my possessions,
The last remaining of my costly treasures.
Will all I have be stolen from me too?
They take them to the ship and I must follow.
A favoring zephyr lifts the pennant seawards;
Soon shall I see the swelling sails all spread.
The fleet already leaves the harbor mouth!
And now the ship that bears me wretched sails.
They’re coming! I must set my foot on board.
O God! Why are the heavens as brass above me?
Does not my voice of anguish reach thine ear?
So be it! I will go. Yet shall the vessel
Not swallow me within its prison cell.
The plank that leads me over to its side
Shall be the first step for me unto freedom.
Receive me then, ye billows, take me up,
And girdling me around let me descend
Into the bosom of your solemn peace.
And when at last no more I have to fear
From the injustice of this world, then roll
To shore my whitening bones, that pious care
May make my grave upon my native soil.
[She takes a few steps.
Why stop then?
Will my foot no more obey me?
What chains my steps? What seems to hold me here?
Oh, fatal love for miserable life,
Again thou bring’st me to the bitter strife.
By banishment, by death and degradation
I am environ’d round about and each
Has deeper anguish for me than the other.
And when I turn my shuddering eyes from one
The other glares with hellish face upon me.
Is there no mortal means, no means divine
To free me from this thousand-footed anguish?
Oh, that a single sympathetic word
Might chance to reach me from the passing throng.
Oh, that a bird, foreboding peace, might fly
Light-winged by me, guiding me to shelter.
I gladly follow whither fate should call.
Point me the way and faith shall lead me on.
Or give me but a hint and I will yield
In hope and confidence without delay.
(Standing long in contemplation, then lifting her eyes and seeing theMonk.)
I cannot doubt it: here at last is safety.
Yes, this is he who shall decide my course.
In answer to my prayer he comes to me,
A man of wisdom, full of years, to whom
The heart unhesitating flies for succor.
My father! let the sweet, paternal name
To me denied, forbidden and embitter’d,
Be now transferr’d to thee, the noble stranger.
Let me narrate my trouble in few words.
With pain and yet with confidence I lay it
Upon thy heart, not for thy quality
Of wisdom and discreetness, but because
Thou art an aged man belov’d by God.
What troubles thee disclose with perfect freedom.
Through Providence the sufferer meets with him
Who ever must regard his highest duty
The alleviation of the woes of others.
A riddle thou wilt hear and not complaints.
For I would seek an oracle, not counsel.
In two detestable directions stretch
Two paths before my feet. The one leads hither,
The other thence. Which one shall I select?
Thou art a tempter to me. Thou wilt count
My answer as a lot?
A sacred lot.
If I conceive thee right, thy eyes aspire
To higher regions out of deepest need.
The will is stricken dead within thy heart.
Thou hopest for a stronger to decide.
In sooth, incomprehensibly to us,
The ever-active Agent as by chance
Sets this or that before us, for our good,
For our deliberation, our decision,
Or our accomplishment: thus, as it were,
Carried, in spite of us we win the goal.
To comprehend this is the richest fortune;
’Tis absolute duty not to interfere,
To wait in patience, comfort in distress.
Oh, would that I were granted grace to feel
Beforehand what were truly best for thee.
But in my breast presentiment is silent.
And if thou canst confide no more in me
Then take a fruitless pity for farewell.
Shipwreck’d I still have one last spar to clutch.
I hold thee fast and speak against my will
For the last time the word that crushes hope.
A scion of a noble house I now
Am outcast, banish’d o’er the sea; but yet
I could avoid my fate through marriage bonds
Which drag me down to low ignoble spheres.
What whispers now thy heart? Still is it silent?
Let it not speak until my searching reason
Shall be oblig’d to recognize its weakness.
The story which to me thou hast confided
Is too indefinite, and my advice
Can likewise only be indefinite.
If thou art forc’d to choose between two evils
Both hated, face them boldly, and then choose
The one that will allow thee widest scope
For worthy deeds and holy undertakings,
That puts the smallest limits to thy spirit,
That hinders thee the least from noble actions.
It is not marriage then that thou advisest?
Not such an one as seems to threaten thee.
What blessing can the priest give when the “Yes”
Proceeds not from the fair bride’s inmost heart?
He should not chain two contraries together
Lest conflict ever freshly born should rise.
It is his godlike service to fulfil
The wish of Love which to the All, the one,
To the eternal joins the momentary,
And that which fades to that which lasts forever.
Thou sendest me to woe across the ocean.
Go hence with comfort for the wretched there.
What comfort can I give in dark despair?
A pure heart as is witness’d by thy face.
A noble courage, lofty, boundless thoughts,
Will hold thee firm and others, wheresoe’er
On earth thy steps may wander. If thou now
In bloom of youth art banish’d innocent,
And bearest through thy solemn acquiescence
The imputation of the sins of others,
Then wilt thou, like a superhuman nature,
Diffuse a wondrous virtue all around thee—
The happy fortune of thy innocence.
So then go hence! Go like a healing breeze
Within the circle of those sorrowing ones;
Rejoice with thy appearance that sad world.
Through powerful words, through mighty deeds encourage
New strength in hearts that have forgot to hope.
Unite the scatter’d into bands around thee.
Bind them in love together, all to thee.
Create there what thou here hast lost,
A race and fatherland and princely house.
Would’st thou have faith to do what thou commandest?
Thus have I done. When still my years were young
The spirit led me into savage lands.
I chang’d rough lives to gentle practices;
I gave the hope of heaven unto death.
Oh, had I not, misled by genuine longing
To serve my fatherland, turn’d back my steps
Unto this desert of audacious life,
This city wilderness of subtile crimes,
This troubled pool of selfish vanity!
The era’s impotency chains my spirit,
Old customs, duties and perhaps a fate
That brought its heaviest trial on me late.
But thou art young, and free from every hindrance;
The wide world lies before thee; press thou on
And get salvation. All the grief thou feelest
Will change to genuine pleasure. Hasten forth!
Explain more clearly what it is thou fearest.
In darkness comes the future pressing on;
What closest lies before us is not seen
E’en by the open eyes of sense, of reason.
If I by daylight wander through these streets
In wonder, and behold the splendid buildings,
The solid bulks rocklike with lofty towers,
The parks with palaces, the noble churches,
And see the harbor with its fleets of ships—
It all appears to me dispos’d and founded
To last forever, and these hurrying throngs
Of busy workers rushing on and on
In ceaseless waves through all the spaces seem
The promise of eternal lastingness.
But when at night this mighty panorama
Repasses through the chambers of my mind,
Then all the murky air is fill’d with rumblings,
The solid earth gives way, the towers totter,
The fitted stonework falls, and all the glory
Which fill’d the scene is scatter’d in confusion.
A few sad creatures climb the hills new risen,
And every heap of rubbish marks a tomb.
A lessen’d people, hard-oppress’d, no more
Are able to restrain the elements;
And with its restless overflow the tide
Fills up the harbor with its sand and slime.
Night first disarms a man and then in spite
Subdues him with her idle fantasies.
Ah! soon enough the sun’s face veil’d in sadness
Comes forth to look upon our woful plight.
But thou must go, thou whom a kindly spirit
Bless’d e’en in banishing. Farewell and hasten!
From selfish sorrow I am led away
And others’ woes are plac’d before my ken.
Yet does it not concern thee what shall happen
Unto thy fatherland? With added weight
This settles on my overburden’d heart.
Besides the present evil must I bear
The imaginary burdens of the future?
Then it is true what e’en in childhood’s days
Rang in my ears unconscious, what I heard
In youth and question’d and at last have learn’d
From truthful lips of father and of King:
This realm is threaten’d with a sudden fall;
The elements once fused in mighty life
No longer will reciprocally join
With force of love in unity renew’d
Continually. Scattering, forth they fly,
And each returns unto itself in coldness.
Where was the mighty spirit of our fathers
Which for one purpose brought them into union
That hitherto had stood apart in battle,
And which before this mighty people became
Personified as monarch and as father?
That spirit is no more. What now remains
Is but a spectre which with idle striving
Gropes blindly, hopelessly, for lost possessions.
And could I take such cares across with me?
Could I withdraw me from the common danger?
Could I neglect the chance to show myself
Of courage worthy of my noble sires,
And in a time of trouble by my aid
Shame him who has unworthily oppress’d me?
Now, O my fatherland, thy sacred soil
Has first become my inspiration, now
I feel for the first time the pressing call
To stand by thee so long as life shall last.
I will not let thee go; whate’er the bond
That binds me unto thee is henceforth holy.
Where shall I find that noble-minded man
Who offer’d me his hand so honorably?
To him I will confide my life. In secret
He shall preserve me as a talisman pure!
For if a marvel happens on the earth
It happens through the love of faithful hearts.
The greatness of the peril I dismiss;
I do not dare to think upon my weakness.
A favorable chance when times are ripe
Shall bring to lofty purposes the whole.
And if my father, if my King forget me
Whom once they banish’d and disown’d, their eyes
Astonish’d shall upon me rest, preserv’d
To work for the accomplishment in sorrow
Of what in fortune she had vow’d to do.
He comes! With more delight I see him now
Than when he left me. Seeking me he comes!
He thinks we part; I shall remain to him.
Eugenie. Counsellor. Boybearing a beautiful casket.
The vessels one by one are putting out
And soon I fear me wilt thou too be call’d.
Receive once more a hearty “Fare-thee-well”
With this slight gift which breathes to weary hearts
Refreshment for the long-continu’d voyage.
Remember me, and oh, may evil days
On which thou yearnest for me never come.
With pleasure I accept thy graceful gift;
It is a pledge to me of loving care;
Yet send it quickly to thy house again.
And if thou thinkest former thoughts and feelest
As thou hast felt, that still my love could be
A satisfaction to thee, I will follow.
(After a pause, motioning theBoyto depart.) Is’t possible? Has such a sudden change
Brought round thy will to answer in my favor?
My will is chang’d indeed; but do not think
That apprehension drove me back to thee.
A feeling that is nobler (let me hide it)
Preserves me for my fatherland, for thee.
Now let the question come: Hast thou the courage,
The lofty courage for renunciation,
To vow thyself to her who must renounce?
Canst thou agree to take me, as a sister
Is taken by a brother, in pure affection?
And wilt thou give me counsel and protection
And peaceful home-life in return for love?
I think that I could all things bear but one—
The thought of losing thee now I have found thee
Seems unendurable to me. To see thee,
Near thee to be, for thee to live, I count
My sole, my highest fortune. Therefore let
Thy heart alone be privileg’d to set
The terms of the alliance which we pledge.
Henceforth, the world avoiding, I must live
In deep seclusion only known by thee.
If thou a distant lonely house possessest,
Then give it me and send me thence away.
A small estate I own, well-situated;
But old and half in ruins is the house.
Thou canst however in that region soon
The loveliest dwelling find at small expense.
Nay! let me settle in the ancient ruin.
It suits my circumstances and my mind.
And when my fortune brightens I shall find
Material and time for busy action.
So soon as I am thine, accompanied
By some retainer, old and faithful, let me
There find a lonely burial-place, in hope
Soon to return in joyful resurrection.
When can I make my visit to thee there?
Thou must await in patience till I summon,
For such a day will come to us perchance
To bind us closer with most solemn bonds.
Thou layest on me a burden all too heavy.
Fulfil thy obligations unto me;
That I acknowledge mine be well assur’d.
Thou darest much to offer me thy hand
That thou may’st save me. Should I be discover’d,
Too soon discover’d, much thou mightest suffer.
I bid thee keep the wisest circumspection;
Let no one learn the place from which I came.
Indeed my distant lov’d ones I will visit
In spirit only. Not a single line,
No messenger shall dare to name me there
Where for my rescue glows perchance a spark.
In this momentous crisis words are vain.
The lips can often counterfeit with boldness
Disinterested love, when in the heart
The monster, selfishness, is grimly lurking.
The power of love is shown by deeds alone.
Thus while I win thee I must yield up all,
Even the sight of thee. I meet the test.
Thy image ever will before my eyes
Seem as it seem’d when first I saw thy face,
An object of attraction and of honor.
Because of thee I wish to live. Thou art
My mistress and my queen. And if the priest
From day to day so long as life may last
Bows low before the God he cannot see,
Which in a moment of supreme conviction
In grand ideal swept before his spirit,
So nothing shall destroy henceforth for me,
However thou may’st hide thyself away,
The glory thou hast shed upon my life.
How absolutely I confide in thee,
And read the truthful lineaments of thy face,
The accents of thy tongue so free from guile!
How sure I am of what a man thou art,
Upright, warm-hearted, strong, reliable!
Here have the proof than which no higher can be
By any woman in her senses given:
I linger not, I haste to follow thee,
Here is my hand. We go unto the altar!
THE SORROWS OF YOUNG WERTHER
I have carefully collected whatever I have been able to learn of the story of poor Werther, and here present it to you, knowing that you will thank me for it. To his spirit and character you cannot refuse your admiration and love; to his fate you will not deny your tears.
And thou, good soul, who sufferest the same distress as he once endured, draw comfort from his sorrows; and let this little book be thy friend, if from fortune or thine own fault thou canst find no dearer companion.