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Faust; a Tragedy.  Johann Wolfgang Goethe
Preface. PRELUDE IN THE THEATRE
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Manager. Dramatic Poet. Merry Person.

Manager.
You who in trouble and distress
Have both held fast your old allegiance,
What think ye? here in German regions
Our enterprise may hope success?
To please the crowd my purpose has been steady,
Because they live and let one live at least.
The posts are set, the boards are laid already,
And every one is looking for a feast.
They sit, with lifted brows, composed looks wearing,
Expecting something that shall set them staring.
I know the public palate, that's confest;
Yet never pined so for a sound suggestion;
True, they are not accustomed to the best,
But they have read a dreadful deal, past question.
How shall we work to make all fresh and new,
Acceptable and profitable, too?
For sure I love to see the torrent boiling,
When towards our booth they crowd to find a place,
Now rolling on a space and then recoiling,
Then squeezing through the narrow door of grace:
Long before dark each one his hard-fought station
In sight of the box-office window takes,
And as, round bakers' doors men crowd to escape starvation,
For tickets here they almost break their necks.
This wonder, on so mixed a mass, the Poet
Alone can work; to-day, my friend, O, show it!

Poet.
Oh speak not to me of that motley ocean,
Whose roar and greed the shuddering spirit chill!
Hide from my sight that billowy commotion
That draws us down the whirlpool 'gainst our will.
No, lead me to that nook of calm devotion,
Where blooms pure joy upon the Muses' hill;
Where love and friendship aye create and cherish,
With hand divine, heart-joys that never perish.
Ah! what, from feeling's deepest fountain springing,
Scarce from the stammering lips had faintly passed,
Now, hopeful, venturing forth, now shyly clinging,
To the wild moment's cry a prey is cast.
Oft when for years the brain had heard it ringing
It comes in full and rounded shape at last.
What shines, is born but for the moment's pleasure;
The genuine leaves posterity a treasure.

Merry Person.
Posterity! I'm sick of hearing of it;
Supposing I the future age would profit,
Who then would furnish ours with fun?
For it must have it, ripe and mellow;
The presence of a fine young fellow,
Is cheering, too, methinks, to any one.
Whoso can pleasantly communicate,
Will not make war with popular caprices,
For, as the circle waxes great,
The power his word shall wield increases.
Come, then, and let us now a model see,
Let Phantasy with all her various choir,
Sense, reason, passion, sensibility,
But, mark me, folly too! the scene inspire.

Manager.
But the great point is action! Every one
Comes as spectator, and the show's the fun.
Let but the plot be spun off fast and thickly,
So that the crowd shall gape in broad surprise,
Then have you made a wide impression quickly,
You are the man they'll idolize.
The mass can only be impressed by masses;
Then each at last picks out his proper part.
Give much, and then to each one something passes,
And each one leaves the house with happy heart.
Have you a piece, give it at once in pieces!
Such a ragout your fame increases;
It costs as little pains to play as to invent.
But what is gained, if you a whole present?
Your public picks it presently to pieces.

Poet.
You do not feel how mean a trade like that must be!
In the true Artist's eyes how false and hollow!
Our genteel botchers, well I see,
Have given the maxims that you follow.

Manager.
Such charges pass me like the idle wind;
A man who has right work in mind
Must choose the instruments most fitting.
Consider what soft wood you have for splitting,
And keep in view for whom you write!
If this one from ennui seeks flight,
That other comes full from the groaning table,
Or, the worst case of all to cite,
From reading journals is for thought unable.
Vacant and giddy, all agog for wonder,
As to a masquerade they wing their way;
The ladies give themselves and all their precious plunder
And without wages help us play.
On your poetic heights what dream comes o'er you?
What glads a crowded house? Behold
Your patrons in array before you!
One half are raw, the other cold.
One, after this play, hopes to play at cards,
One a wild night to spend beside his doxy chooses,
Poor fools, why court ye the regards,
For such a set, of the chaste muses?
I tell you, give them more and ever more and more,
And then your mark you'll hardly stray from ever;
To mystify be your endeavor,
To satisfy is labor sore....
What ails you? Are you pleased or pained? What notion----

Poet.
Go to, and find thyself another slave!
What! and the lofty birthright Nature gave,
The noblest talent Heaven to man has lent,
Thou bid'st the Poet fling to folly's ocean!
How does he stir each deep emotion?
How does he conquer every element?
But by the tide of song that from his bosom springs,
And draws into his heart all living things?
When Nature's hand, in endless iteration,
The thread across the whizzing spindle flings,
When the complex, monotonous creation
Jangles with all its million strings:
Who, then, the long, dull series animating,
Breaks into rhythmic march the soulless round?
And, to the law of All each member consecrating,
Bids one majestic harmony resound?
Who bids the tempest rage with passion's power?
The earnest soul with evening-redness glow?
Who scatters vernal bud and summer flower
Along the path where loved ones go?
Who weaves each green leaf in the wind that trembles
To form the wreath that merit's brow shall crown?
Who makes Olympus fast? the gods assembles?
The power of manhood in the Poet shown.

Merry Person.
Come, then, put forth these noble powers,
And, Poet, let thy path of flowers
Follow a love-adventure's winding ways.
One comes and sees by chance, one burns, one stays,
And feels the gradual, sweet entangling!
The pleasure grows, then comes a sudden jangling,
Then rapture, then distress an arrow plants,
And ere one dreams of it, lo! there is a romance.
Give us a drama in this fashion!
Plunge into human life's full sea of passion!
Each lives it, few its meaning ever guessed,
Touch where you will, 'tis full of interest.
Bright shadows fleeting o'er a mirror,
A spark of truth and clouds of error,
By means like these a drink is brewed
To cheer and edify the multitude.
The fairest flower of the youth sit listening
Before your play, and wait the revelation;
Each melancholy heart, with soft eyes glistening,
Draws sad, sweet nourishment from your creation;
This passion now, now that is stirred, by turns,
And each one sees what in his bosom burns.
Open alike, as yet, to weeping and to laughter,
They still admire the flights, they still enjoy the show;
Him who is formed, can nothing suit thereafter;
The yet unformed with thanks will ever glow.

Poet.
Ay, give me back the joyous hours,
When I myself was ripening, too,
When song, the fount, flung up its showers
Of beauty ever fresh and new.
When a soft haze the world was veiling,
Each bud a miracle bespoke,
And from their stems a thousand flowers I broke,
Their fragrance through the vales exhaling.
I nothing and yet all possessed,
Yearning for truth and in illusion blest.
Give me the freedom of that hour,
The tear of joy, the pleasing pain,
Of hate and love the thrilling power,
Oh, give me back my youth again!

Merry Person.
Youth, my good friend, thou needest certainly
When ambushed foes are on thee springing,
When loveliest maidens witchingly
Their white arms round thy neck are flinging,
When the far garland meets thy glance,
High on the race-ground's goal suspended,
When after many a mazy dance
In drink and song the night is ended.
But with a free and graceful soul
To strike the old familiar lyre,
And to a self-appointed goal
Sweep lightly o'er the trembling wire,
There lies, old gentlemen, to-day
Your task; fear not, no vulgar error blinds us.
Age does not make us childish, as they say,
But we are still true children when it finds us.

Manager.
Come, words enough you two have bandied,
Now let us see some deeds at last;
While you toss compliments full-handed,
The time for useful work flies fast.
Why talk of being in the humor?
Who hesitates will never be.
If you are poets (so says rumor)
Now then command your poetry.
You know full well our need and pleasure,
We want strong drink in brimming measure;
Brew at it now without delay!
To-morrow will not do what is not done to-day.
Let not a day be lost in dallying,
But seize the possibility
Right by the forelock, courage rallying,
And forth with fearless spirit sallying,--
Once in the yoke and you are free.
Upon our German boards, you know it,
What any one would try, he may;
Then stint me not, I beg, to-day,
In scenery or machinery, Poet.
With great and lesser heavenly lights make free,
Spend starlight just as you desire;
No want of water, rocks or fire
Or birds or beasts to you shall be.
So, in this narrow wooden house's bound,
Stride through the whole creation's round,
And with considerate swiftness wander
From heaven, through this world, to the world down yonder.