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presents greater difficulties to the translator, and we know of no translation more triumphantly successful than Mr. Brooks's rendering of this song.
This canon, however, is applicable in its full force only to the lyric portions of the poem, in which alone the metre constitutes so essential a moment. In the dialogue greater lati. tude is allowable and desirable. And here we think Mr. Brooks has been embarrassed by too strict an interpretation of his task. We are least satisfied with those parts of the work which are easiest, and which might have been equally well translated by a less skilful hand. They have not the freedom and idiomatic naturalness which we require in dialogue. We could have tolerated some irregularities in the measure, and an occasional absence of rhyme, for the sake of more ease and less appearance of translation. The author, in his Preface, criticises former translations, “as if in respect to metre at least they had asked themselves how would Goethe have written or shaped this in English, had that been his native language.” With due deference, this strikes us as not a bad principle of translation, when applied to the level and colloquial, and especially to the comic, parts of the play, where the interest is not rhythmical, but merely dramatic and humane. We wish these portions to read (as, indeed, all good translations should read) as if written originally in English. We like to believe that the characters might possibly have spoken in the manner imputed to them.
Occasionally, though rarely, the translator fails through inadequate appreciation, as it seems to us, of the force of the original; and sometimes, through carelessness, he impairs the dignity of a serious and elevated strain, by the use of a homely and ignoble phrase. In that magnificent passage which occurs in the second interview with Mephistopheles, where Faust, resenting the momentary weakness and contentment with life into which the hearing of the Easter Hymn had betrayed him, thunders forth the terrific curse of a revolted spirit on the whole economy of life, and all the joys of mortality, Mr. Brooks, we think, has failed to do justice to the spirit and passion of the author. He begins by mistaking or mistranslating the first word, the conjunction wenn, which he
renders “ since," and thereby misses or dulls the point of the following antithesis.
6. Since that sweet tone with fond appealing
Drew me from witchcraft's horrid maze.” The expression “dem schrecklichen Gewühle” has nothing to do with the diablerie of that Easter eve, but refers to the passionate conflict in the breast of Faust, - a conflict with self and destiny, — which constitutes the prime motive and pivot of the piece. Further on, in the fourth anathema,
• Cursed all that as possession rules us,
As house and barn, and child and wife.” The effect of the word barn, which by no means occupies the same grade in point of association with the German Pflug, is disturbing and degrading. In the last two verses, "hope that man seduces” is frigid, and “ patience last not least of all” borders on bathos.
We venture to offer the following version of this passage, as nearer the original in spirit, if not in letter :
Though the torn heart a moment's healing
Imbibed with that familiar strain, And what remained of childish feeling
Echoed the dear old time again ; Yet cursed be henceforth all that borrows
A magic lure to charm the breast, That — prisoned in this cave of sorrows
Would dazzle me or lull to rest. Cursed before all the high opinion
With which the mind itself deludes ; Cursed be Appearance, whose dominion
Its shows on human sense intrudes; Cursed all that to Ambition caters
With honor and a deathless name ; Cursed all that as Possession flatters,
As wife and child, as goods and game. Cursed, when with hope of golden treasure
He spurs our spirits to the fight, And cursed be Mammon, when for pleasure
He lays the tempting pillow right. Cursed be the grape's balsamic potion,
And cursed be love's delicious thrall, And cursed be hope and faith's devotion,
And cursed be patience most of all!
* I. e. this earth.
Then is heard the invisible chorus of spirits.
Earth's son! in splendor
In that brief and sublimely wild scene which precedes the visit to the prison, where Faust and Mephistopheles, flying by night on charmed horses to the rescue of Margaret, see spectres ominously gesticulating, as they sweep by the gallows-tree, the translator, misled by his comic proclivity, has given a ludicrous effect to what was meant to be serious and sublime. Daherbrausend (rushing by, or storming by) he renders 6 scudding along." • Up they go, down they go, wheel about, reel about,” is more suggestive of “Jim Crow" than of spiritual agency. The whole scene consists of three or four lines, as follows:
Night. A Heath. — Faust, MEPHISTOPHELES, whirling by on black horses.
Faust. What weave yon shapes by the Rabenstein ? *
* Place of execution.
We trust we shall not be thought captious or ungracious in propounding these criticisms. We can give no better proof of the sincerity of our praise, than by showing that we have read the volume with a critic's eye, and are not commending what we have not examined. It is easy to criticise; not so easy to produce a better than the thing criticised. Mr. Brooks's translation, though not faultless, will not soon be surpassed as a whole, — never perhaps by one individual, unless that individual be himself.
The frequency with which this First Part of Faust has been translated, if it does not demonstrate the excellence of the poem, attests the high estimation in which it is held by literary men. And yet we suspect that few have become deeply interested in Faust who have made their first acquaintance with it through the medium of an English version. Nor are we surprised that minds of a certain class should fail to appreciate a work so radically German, and otherwise so idiomatic, so Goethean, so incommensurable, so abhorrent from all literary antecedents. It is natural enough that even cultivated men, in whom the poetic element is weak, and whose minds are full of traditional models, should be more offended with its strangeness than ravished with its marvels. We are no more surprised that Mr. Landor, for example, should disparage Faust, than that Hume or Voltaire could see nothing in Shakespeare. “Non ragionam di lor.”
The merits of a poem are not a matter of demonstration. No argument will create a liking for a work which does not inspire that liking in the reader. But we wish to say a word or two in justification of the high estimate which the literary world has put upon the First Part of Faust.
Setting aside its philosophic character and typical import, we have here a tragedy of every-day life whose sweetness and pathos have never been surpassed. The part which relates to Margaret, and to Faust in his character of Margaret's lover, may be considered independently of the rest, and so considered constitutes a dramatic poem in which the simplicity of the plot, the unity of the interest, and the strength and naturalness of the sentiment, remind us of the antique. A cavalier falls in with a simple girl of the lower class, and
becomes vehemently enamored. His passion is returned. He pursues the connection, grows more and more entangled, and finally, goaded by his baser nature (Mephistopheles), betrays her innocence and completes her ruin. Her mother dies by her hand from an over-dose of what was intended to produce sleep, and thereby to facilitate the lovers' intercourse. Her soldier-brother, intent on avenging his sister's fall, attacks Faust in the street, and is slain by him in a duel before Gretchen's door. Faust flees the country to escape the consequences of this act, but, learning that Gretchen is imprisoned and condemned to death for child-murder, he returns to her rescue. The jailer is drugged, Faust possesses himself of the key of Gretchen's cell, and finds a raving maniac, who takes no note of his presence. She overwhelms him with incoherent utterances, pictures of the past which melt his soul with anguish, but is roused at last by his vehement appeal,“ That was the friend's voice,” and becomes aware of his purpose. For a brief interval her senses return, but soon wander again, and all attempts to draw her from prison are foiled by her madness. Faust resorts to force, but she resists.
. In the midst of the conflict, the evil soul in her lover (Mephistopheles again) is revealed to her. She renounces him,“ Henry, thou art fearful to me,” — commends herself to the judgment of God, and, though doomed in the flesh, as the poet intimates, is saved in the spirit.
The plot is of the simplest, the characters few, the action meagre; but the situations are all striking, the characterization perfect, and the dialogue instinct with purest genius.
The scenes in Martha's garden — that in which Gretchen by actions, rather than by words, confesses her love, and that in which she questions her lover concerning his religion exhibit with a few masterly strokes the honest simplicity of a thoroughly artless nature. Goethe is the only dramatic poet who has succeeded in giving to a simple, uncultured girl from the lower ranks of life a poetic interest. Shakespeare's heroines are all high-bred or high-strung. They are all witty, like their author, and discourse in polished and pointed periods. We do not remember an instance in which he has assigned prominent part to a simple girl of low birth, speaking the