Faust: A Tragedy, Part One

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Overview

Goethe’s masterpiece and perhaps the greatest work in German literature, Faust has made the legendary German alchemist one of the central myths of the Western world. Here indeed is a monumental Faust, an audacious man boldly wagering with the devil, Mephistopheles, that no magic, sensuality, experience, or knowledge can lead him to a moment he would wish to last forever. Here, in Faust, Part I, the tremendous versatility of Goethe’s genius creates some of the most beautiful passages in literature. Here too we experience Goethe’s characteristic humor, the excitement and eroticism of the witches’ Walpurgis Night, and the moving emotion of Gretchen’s tragic fate.

This authoritative edition, which offers Peter Salm’s wonderfully readable translation as well as the original German on facing pages, brings us Faust in a vital, rhythmic American idiom that carefully preserves the grandeur, integrity, and poetic immediacy of Goethe’s words.

A new translation, in rhymed verse, of Goethe's Faust - preserves the essence without resorting to an overly literal, archaic translation.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
This is a facsimile of the original 1833 English translation of Goethe's epic. For serious literature collections only.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300056563
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 11/28/1992
  • Series: Faust Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 156
  • Sales rank: 1,058,792
  • Product dimensions: 5.54 (w) x 8.18 (h) x 0.57 (d)

Meet the Author

Before he was thirty, Goethe had proven himself a master of the novel, the drama, and lyric poetry. But even more impressive than his versatility was his unwillingness ever to settle into a single style or approach; whenever he used a literary form, he made of it something new.

Born in 1749 to a well-to-do family in Frankfurt, he was sent to Strasbourg to earn a law degree. There, he met the poet-philosopher Herder, discovered Shakespeare, and began to write poetry. His play Götz von Berlichingen (1773) made him famous throughout Germany. He was invited to the court of the duke of Sachsen-Weimar, where he quickly became a cabinet minister. In 1774 his novel of Romantic melancholy, The Sorrows of a Young Werther, electrified all of Europe. Soon as he was at work on the first version of his Faust, which would finally appear as a fragment in 1790.

In the 1780s Goethe visited England and immersed himself in classical poetry. The next decade saw the appearance of Wihelm Meister’s Apprenticeship, his novel of a young artist education, and a wealth of poetry and criticism. He returned to the Faust material around the turn of the century and completed Part 1 in 1808.

The later years of his life were devoted to a bewildering array of pursuits: research in botany and in a theory of colors, a novel (Elective Affinities), the evocative poems of the West-Easters Divan, and his great autobiography, Poetry and Truth. In his eighties he prepared a forty-volume edition of his works; the forty-first volume, published after his death in 1832, was the send part of Faust.

Goethe’s wide-ranging mind could neverbe confined to one form or one philosophy. When asked for the theme of his masterwork, Faust, he could only say. “From heaven through all the world to hell”; his subject was nothing smaller.
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Read an Excerpt

Dedication One
Wavering forms, you come again;
once long ago you passed before my clouded sight.
Should I now attempt to hold you fast?
Does my heart still look for phantoms?
You surge at me! Well, then you may rule
as you rise about me out of mist and cloud.
The airy magic in your path
stirs youthful tremors in my breast.
You bear the images of happy days,
and friendly shadows rise to mind.     
With them, as in an almost muted tale,
come youthful love and friendship.
The pain is felt anew, and the lament
sounds life's labyrinthine wayward course
and tells of friends who went before me
and whom fate deprived of joyous hours.
They cannot hear the songs which follow,
the souls to whom I sang my first,
scattered is the genial crowd,
the early echo, ah, has died away.     
Now my voice sings for the unknown many
whose very praise intimidates my heart.
The living whom my song once charmed
are now dispersed throughout the world.
And I am seized by long forgotten yearnings
for the solemn, silent world of spirits;
as on an aeolian harp my whispered song
lingers now in vagrant tones.
I shudder, and a tear draws other tears;
my austere heart grows soft and gentle.
What I possess appears far in the distance,
and what is past has turned into reality.

Prelude in the Theater
Manager, Dramatic Poet, Comic Character.


Manager

You two who often stood by me
in times of hardship and of gloom,
what do you think our enterprise
should bring to German lands and people?
I want the crowd to be wellsatisfied,
for, as you know, it lives and lets us live.
The boards are nailed, the stage is set,
and all the world looks for a lavish feast.    
There they sit, with eyebrows raised,
and calmly wait to be astounded.
I have my ways to keep the people well disposed,
but never was I in a fix like this.
It's true, they're not accustomed to the best,
yet they have read an awful lot of things.
How shall we plot a new and fresh approach
and make things pleasant and significant?
I'll grant, it pleases me to watch the crowds,
as they stream and hustle to our tent  
and with mighty and repeated labors
press onward through the narrow gate of grace;
while the sun still shines--it's scarcely four o'clock--
they fight and scramble for the ticket window,
and as if in famine begging at the baker's door,
they almost break their necks to gain admission.

The poet alone can work this miracle
on such a diverse group. My friend, the time is now!

Poet

Oh, speak no more of motley crowds to me,
their presence makes my spirit flee.   
Veil from my sight those waves and surges
that suck us down into their raging pools.
Take me rather to a quiet little cell
where pure delight blooms only for the poet,
where our inmost joy is blessed and fostered
by love and friendship and the hand of God.
Alas! What sprang from our deepest feelings,
what our lips tried timidly to form,
failing now and now perhaps succeeding,
is devoured by a single brutish moment. 70
Often it must filter through the years
before its final form appears perfected.
What gleams like tinsel is but for the moment.
What's true remains intact for future days.

Comedian
Oh, save me from such talk of future days!
Suppose I were concerned with progeny,
then who would cheer our present generation?
It lusts for fun and should be gratified.
A fine young fellow in the present tense
is worth a lot when all is said and done.      
If he can charm and make the public feel at ease,
he will not mind its changing moods;
he seeks the widest circle for himself,
so that his act will thereby be more telling.
And now be smart and show your finest qualities,
let fantasy be heard with all its many voices.

Manager
Above all, let there be sufficient action!
They come to gaze and wish to see a spectacle. 
If many things reel off before their eyes,
so that the mob can gape and be astounded,
then you will sway the great majority
and be a very popular man.
The mass can only be subdued by massiveness,
so each can pick a morsel for himself.
A large amount contains enough for everyone,
and each will leave contented with his share.
Give us the piece you write in pieces!
Try your fortune with a potpourri      
that's quickly made and easily dished out.
What good is it to sweat and to create a whole?
The audience will yet pick the thing to pieces.

Poet

You do not feel the baseness of such handiwork.
How improper for an artist worth his salt!
I see, the botchery of your neat companions
has been the maxim of your enterprise.

Manager

Such reproaches leave me unperturbed.
A man who wants to make his mark
must try to wield the best of tools.   
You have coarse wood to split, remember that;
consider those for whom you write!
A customer may come because he's bored,
another may have had too much to eat;
and what I most of all abhor:
some have just put down their evening paper.
They hurry here distracted, as to a masquerade,
and seek us out from mere curiosity.
The ladies come to treat the audience to their charms
and play their parts without a salary. 
Now are you still a dreamer on poetic heights?
And yet content when our house is filled?
Observe your benefactors at close range!
Some are crude, the others cold as ice.
And when it's finished, this one wants a deck of cards
and that one pleasure in a whore's embrace.
Why then invoke and plague the muses
for such a goal as this, poor fools?
I say to you, give more and more and always more,
and then you cannot miss by very much. 
You must attempt to mystify the people,
they're much too hard to satisfy--
What's got into you--are you anguished or ecstatic

Poet
Go find yourself another slave!
The poet, I suppose, should wantonly give back,
so you'd be pleased, the highest right
that Nature granted him, the right of Man!
How does the poet stir all hearts?
How does he conquer every element?
Is it not the music welling from his heart     
that draws the world into his breast again?
When Nature spins with unconcern
the endless thread and winds it on the spindle,
when the discordant mass of living things
sounds its sullen dark cacophony,
who divides the flowing changeless line,
infusing life, and gives it pulse and rhythm?
Who summons each to common consecration
where each will sound in glorious harmony?
Who bids the storm accompany the passions,     
the sunset cast its glow on solemn thought?
Who scatters every fairest April blossom
along the path of his beloved?
Who braids from undistinguished verdant leaves
a wreath to honor merit?
Who safeguards Mount Olympus, who unites the gods?
Man's power which in the poet stands revealed!

Comedian
Very well, then put to use those handsome powers
and carry on the poet's trade,
as one would carry on a love affair.   
One meets by accident, emotes, and lingers,
and by and by one is entangled,
one's bliss increases, then one is in trouble;
one's rapture grows, then follow grief and pain,
before you know, your story is completed.
We must present a drama of this type!
Reach for the fullness of a human life!
We live it all, but few live knowingly;
if you but touch it, it will fascinate.
A complex picture without clarity,     
much error with a little spark of truth--
that's the recipe to brew the potion
whence all the world is quenched and edified.
The fairest bloom of youth will congregate
to see the play and wait for revelation;
then every tender soul will eagerly absorb
some food for melancholy from your work.
First one and then another thing is stirred,
so each can find what's in his heart.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 39 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 39 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 31, 2012

    Warning--this is not the complete Faust as advertised. Only part

    Warning--this is not the complete Faust as advertised. Only part one.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 27, 2008

    I Also Recommend:

    A pleasure to read.

    Goethe¿s ¿Faust¿ is arguably the most important milestone in Romantic literature. Taking the famous medieval legend of Dr. Faustus and his pact with the devil, Goethe adapted the tale of old, and transformed it into a great love story, and a probing poetical tract on the nature of good and evil, salvation and damnation, failing and striving, the innate search for truth and lasting fulfilment.<BR/><BR/>Part One (first published 1808) features Faust¿s disgust with his life and the world at large, and attempting to unite with the Spirit of creation and soar above the petty corporality of earth, the proud old scholar is dashed to the ground, for he must first work his salvation out on earth by the sweat of his brow before he can be admitted into the presence of the Deity. In desperation, Faust tries to commit suicide, but then makes a wager with the devil: if Mephistopheles can show him that one moment of bliss he is searching for and succeeds in persuading him to cease all his human striving for that one moment, then his soul is forfeit. The devil agrees to the wager, grants Faust the gift of youth, and the adventures begin. He meets young Margareta and falls in love, a romance that leads to tragedy for the innocent maiden.<BR/><BR/>David Luke¿s award-winning translation is one of the best I have read. While the rhythms do jar on occasion, this does not take away from the `flow¿ of this rendition. There will always be discrepancies when a text is taken out of its original language in any case, so it is more constructive to concentrate on the `readability¿, this translation succeeds in portraying the mood of Goethe¿s text and the personality of his vibrant characters. In some instances, it may be argued the translation is too modern, for example, lines [2065-2070] when Mephistopheles prepares his magic flying cloak for their journey to a new life of youthful debauchery:<BR/><BR/>Mephistopheles:<BR/>¿One merely spreads one¿s cloak¿you¿ll find<BR/>It give us aerial elevation.<BR/>Though, please, this bold step for mankind,<BR/>Imposes luggage-limitation.<BR/>I¿ll set the burners going, heat some air, and lo!<BR/>We travel light, the earth lies far below.¿<BR/><BR/>Did Neil Armstrong land on the moon in Goethe¿s time? Of course not, but Luke¿s witty lines humorously displays Mephistopheles¿ rakish personality and has become one of my personal favourites in this English edition.<BR/><BR/>The book features an informative introduction on Goethe¿s biography and the composition of Part One and includes a graph displaying how he edited and added to the scenes until he arrived at the text we know today.<BR/>There is also a select bibliography, a general chronology of Goethe¿s life and career, and helpful explanatory endnotes for those who wish to study the details of the text more thoroughly. For ¿Urfaust¿ scholars, Luke highlights the lines that were part of Goethe¿s early draft.<BR/><BR/>E.A. Bucchianeri, author of ¿Faust: My Soul be Damned for the World¿

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 6, 2014

    Genius for its time. It is no wonder that Mellville cites him in

    Genius for its time. It is no wonder that Mellville cites him in his work.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 29, 2002

    Faust is truly a book of its time

    I think that 'Faust' is a excellent book. It displays the remmicks of good and evil and respresents of how one's soul is a very important source of who one is. Goeth has really captured the true essence of the human soul.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 24, 2013

    Cool

    Very cool

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 9, 2013

    Some room for improvement

    Line numbers would be nice, I'm having to take them from a physical copy I have by me. Also, no section breaks are given, making a return to interesting sections difficult. Under the content menu , no chapters for an easy connection can be found. If you know what you are looking for in the play, have a physical copy beside you, or are fluent enough in German to simply read it without stopping,this is for you. For $0.99,this is a pretty good value.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 10, 2006

    Modern Faust

    ¿Me love you long time.¿ ¿He gave him the shoe out the door.¿ Translation of foreign writing into English has always been the bane of readers everywhere. The play Faust is no exception there have been many attempts to translate the figurative meaning of Van Goethe¿s German script into an English script. Carl Mueller¿s translation is just one of many however it distinguishes itself by offering a modern translation of Faust that loses little of the original flavor while making the text more accessible and readable to a contemporary audience. Faust has always traditionally revolved around the quest of a scientist to find the true meaning of life. To fulfill this end, he summons the devil and promises the devil his soul if the devil can deliver the apex of ecstasy to him. Part I of Faust tells the story of the devil¿s attempts to seduce Faust with cheap thrills, but ends in tragedy as Faust loses the woman he desires. What Mueller has done is rewrite the script into a more modern style, using more contemporary wording and discarding the rhyming aspect in order to make the text easier to interpret. Yet the weight of most scenes carries through, especially the cathedral scene There, Gretchen makes her confession in the church with the devil tormenting her, while the Latin hymn Dies Irae sounds in the background. While not a edition for the hardcore, Mueller¿s translation of Faust presents a more accessible text to both casual readers and theatre production through the modern text and the slight cuts in certain lines. It is a perfect edition for both public libraries and all universities to offer an excellent introduction to one of the greatest works in history.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 14, 2006

    Powerful rendition of a classical theme intimate to the minds of all societies since the dawn of civilization

    While Goethe's Faust Part One is fundamentally a reiterated plot, it conveys the moral of the legend of Faust most effectively by involving fantastic descriptions and inventive language that make the tale memorable. In the scene Walpurgis Night's Dream, for example, Goethe explores the use of quotes that appear superficially disconnected, but when taken in context of the individuals that speak them express the central theme of the Faust epic. Moreover this chaotic structure highlights the context of Walpurgis Night itself and underscores the significance of the night with respect to Faust's predicament. Goethe uses a similar structure in the beginning of the scene Outside the Town Gate in a manner that also conveys the atmosphere of the scene with an ingenuity that is well remembered. The varied conversations between Faust and Mephistopheles perhaps most powerful exhibits the command of language Goethe possesses to invoke in the reader's mind the complex relationship between the protagonist and the antagonist. The dialogue is full of classical allusions, each of which, when analyzed and understood, molds the reader's understanding of the relationship with convincing efficacy. The fact that Faust is a play, thus containing minimal narration and moving the plot largely through dialogue, is a testament to the adeptness with which Goethe wields language.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 10, 2006

    Faust: A Review of our Society?

    A man wagering his soul for happiness, a bet between God and the devil, and a judgement of what all humanity stands for, what more is there to ask from a classical literary play? Goethe¿s Faust: der Tragödie erster Teil, translated to be Faust: Part One in English from German, is often considered the best German classical work, and rightfully so. The careful blend of details, emotions, curiosity, and controversial themes allows for plentiful interpretations and emotional involvement of the reader. The complete work of Faust is very complex, and open to many literary translations. However, the first part sets the scene for tragedy. Goethe focuses on the religious and moral dilemmas of the main character, Faust, who debarks from his religious goal of seeking divine knowledge into a wager with the Devil, Mephistopheles. Using a connection between the Devil, God, and God¿s trust in mankind, Goethe is able to evoke religious emotions from the readers and use it to reinforce his themes. In addition to religious themes, Goethe throws in many moral twists and turns to keep the reader engaged and interested. An example of this is how Faust damns his love, Gretchen, to a life of poverty and sin by using the Devil to help him gain her acceptance. Faust is a sophisticated play that mirrors many of the problems that humanity has had, as well as the wishes of people. What would one do if they could get anything they wanted? Would one ever run out of things they desired? This play requires a great amount of thought and personal interpretation to understand fully. Goethe has done an excellent job in creating this literary work, and anyone who enjoys deep reading and thinking should look into researching and reading this play.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 20, 2003

    mephisto should have waited...faust would have come to him eventually

    faust is not a hero...he is self serving and almost sub-human. mephistopheles should have selected better prey for faust was destined to go to the devil anyway...

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted December 26, 2009

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