Front Page Titles (by Subject) SCENE VII. - Goethe's Works, vol. 2 (Faust 1 & 2, Egmont, Natural Daughter, Sorrows of Young Werther)
Return to Title Page for Goethe’s Works, vol. 2 (Faust 1 & 2, Egmont, Natural Daughter, Sorrows of Young Werther)
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
Also in the Library:
SCENE VII. - 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.
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
(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!