The German Classics of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries Volume I Part 98

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LABORATORY

(_After the fashion of the middle ages; c.u.mbrous, useless apparatus, for fantastic purposes_)

WAGNER (_at the furnace_)

Soundeth the bell, the fearful clang Thrills through these sooty walls; no more Upon fulfilment waits the pang Of hope or fear;–suspense is o’er; The darknesses begin to clear, Within the inmost phial glows Radiance, like living coal, that throws, As from a splendid carbuncle, its rays; Athwart the gloom its lightning plays.

A pure white l.u.s.tre doth appear; O may I never lose it more!– My G.o.d! what rattles at the door?

MEPHISTOPHELES (_entering_)

Welcome! As friend I enter here.

WAGNER

Hail to the star that rules the hour!

(_Softly_)

On breath and utterance let a ban be laid!

Soon will be consummate a work of power.

MEPHISTOPHELES (_in a whisper_)

What is it, then?

WAGNER A man is being made.

MEPHISTOPHELES

A man? and pray what loving pair Have in your smoke-hole their abode?

WAGNER

Nay! Heaven forbid! As nonsense we declare The ancient procreative mode; The tender point, life’s spring, the gentle strength That took and gave, that from within hath pressed, And seized, intent itself to manifest, The nearest first, the more remote at length,– This from its dignity is now dethron’d!

The brute indeed may take delight therein, But man, by whom such mighty gifts are own’d, Must have a purer, higher origin.

(_He turns to the furnace_)

It flashes, see!–Now may we trustful hold, That if, of substances a hundred-fold, Through mixture,–for on mixture it depends– The human substance duly we compose, And then in a retort enclose, And cohobate; in still repose The work is perfected, our labor ends.

(_Again turning to the furnace_)

It forms! More clear the substance shows!

Stronger, more strong, conviction grows!

What Nature’s mystery we once did style, That now to test, our reason tries, And what she organized erewhile, We now are fain to crystallize.

MEPHISTOPHELES

Who lives, doth much experience glean; By naught in this world will he be surprised; Already in my travel-years I’ve seen Full many a race of mortals crystallized.

WAGNER (_still gazing intently on the phial_)

It mounts, it glows, and doth together run, One moment, and the work is done!

As mad, a grand design at first is view’d; But we henceforth may laugh at fate, And so a brain, with thinking-power embued, Henceforth your living thinker will create.

(_Surveying the phial with rapture_)

The gla.s.s resounds, with gracious power possessed; It dims, grows clear; living it needs must be!

And now in form of beauty dressed, A dainty mannikin I see.

What more can we desire, what more mankind?

Unveiled is now what hidden was of late; Give ear unto this sound, and you will find, A voice it will become, articulate.–

HOMUNCULUS (_in the phial, to_ WAGNER)

Now, Fatherkin, how goes it? ‘Twas no jest!

Come, let me to thy heart be fondly pressed– Lest the gla.s.s break, less tight be thine embrace This is the property of things: the All Scarcely suffices for the natural; The artificial needs a bounded s.p.a.ce.

(_To_ MEPHISTOPHELES)

But thou, Sir Cousin, Rogue, art thou too here?

At the right moment! Thee I thank. ‘Tis clear To us a happy fortune leadeth thee; While I exist, still must I active be, And to the work forthwith myself would gird; Thou’rt skill’d the way to shorten.

WAGNER

Just one word!

I oft have been ashamed that knowledge failed, When old and young with problems me a.s.sailed.

For instance: no one yet could comprehend, How soul and body so completely blend, Together hold, as ne’er to part, while they Torment each other through the live-long day.

So then–

MEPHISTOPHELES

Forbear! The problem solve for me, Why man and wife so wretchedly agree?

Upon this point, my friend, thou’lt ne’er be clear; The mannikin wants work, he’ll find it here.

HOMUNCULUS

What’s to be done?

MEPHISTOPHELES (_pointing to a side door_)

Yonder thy gifts display!

WAGNER (_still gazing into the phial_)

A very lovely boy, I needs must say!

(_The side door opens_; FAUST _is seen stretched upon a couch_)