Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

Chloes, and I wanted to see if I could repeat his poem, in the character of a love-sick swain; but on throwing myself by the side of a ditch (for want of a purling rivulet) with a Jew's-harp in my hand, our neighbour, Farmer Giles, came behind, and pushed me.”

I shall mention one more instance of my hero's newlyacquired absence of mind, and leave you to form your own comments on it. .

We had been staying some time at Wendover, when my brother, the master of the post office, requested my son (as he himself was compelled to rise by day-break, on business) to deliver the bags to the guard, when the mail came by, about one o'clock in the morning. William promised to execute this commission with care and fidelity, and we all retired to rest. At the appointed time the horn sounded, the mail drove up, and the guard called aloud for the bags. My son, starting up from a poetical reverie, hastily arose; but instead of entering the room where the pockets were usually deposited, hurried by mistake into the master's bed-chamber, and taking up the first thing that presented, itself, which happened to be a pair of leather breeches, ran down with them to the guard, who by reason of the darkness of the morning, and the hurry of the moment, did not discover the mistake until the bags were all forwarded the next day to the general post office. The superintendant of this department immediately subjected them to anatomical process, in order to discover whether treasonable despatches were lodged in them; and not satisfied with this precaution, sent them to the ministry, the majority of whom were then resident in London. A Cabinet Council was accordingly summoned, the members of which, judiciously apprehending that the dislocated raiment might be the concerted signal of rebellion, like the violets and republican tricolours of France, commanded all the head breeches-makers in London to swear upon oath, whether or not there was any thing peculiar in the formation of the garments. The affair was then sifted to the bottom, by a Committee of Secrecy, who were appointed to investigate the circumstances; the Green Bag was resorted to, and with considerable difficulty our family escaped the charge of high treason.-RICHARD Meadows.

Gold and Northouse's London Magazin

[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors]

.: A CRITICAL: ESSAY ON ** GOËTHE’S FAUSTUS.—A Tragedy.

(Original.)

(Resumed from page 7.)" The last spell is too mighty for the Dæmon; the cloud falls away from him, and Mephistophilus appears before Faustus as a travelling student. Not only in exterior, but in language, and every thing that makes up identity, does the fiend of Goethe differ from every fiend that has figured in the world since the first hour of Christianity. He appears neither as the blasted angel of Milton, nor as the saucer-eyed monster of the nursery; he is a part of original chaos, a mere abstract quality for which language has no name,

“ The spirit that denies every thing, and would annihilate every thing.”

He mocks the sublimest mysteries of nature, as comedy mocks the frailties of men. Nothing vexes him so much as that he can not utterly destroy all life from the world, and blend the elements themselves into their original confusion:

« And that cursed set, the brood of beasts and men ! there is nothing to be done with them. How many have I buried ! and yet a new fresh blood is always circulating. So it goes on! 'Tis enough to drive one mad! A thousand seeds unfold themselves from the air and water as from the earth, in dry and moist, in hot and cold! If I had not reserved fire to myself, there would have been no room for me.”

There is something in this dry language quite foreign to all our pre-conceived ideas of the Devil; there seems at first sight to be too much flesh and blood about bim. We are not quite sure that we rightly understand the poet's purpose, but according to our ideas, his Dæmon is that principle of decay, or destruction, or by whatever name it is to be called, that is daily, and hourly, and minutely, at work upon life in all its forms, and whose attempts are as constantly frustrated by the perpetual re-production of things destroyed. Nor has the conversation of the spirit any of that dark grandeur, which has been his usual dialect; every word with him is hard, dry, biting satire; he is a perpetual scoffer and doubter, without ever rising to the sublime and beautiful. The familiarity of Faustus too, is altogether in the same tone; he tells the fiend, sans ceremony, that there is the wina Vol. I.]

[No. II.

E

.

dow and the door for him, but more particularly the chimney; and the fiend as frankly replies that he should be glad to take himself off, if it were not for a trifling obstacle, the spell on the door-sill, which it seems was imperfect enough to let him in, but too perfect to let him out. As to the other two modes of exit, to wit, by the window or the chimney, those, it seems, are of no present use to him, as

“ It is a law with Devils and Spirits, that where they enter, there they must go out."

Faustus, however, is inclined to no accommodation, and poor Mephistophilus is at his wit's end; nor does the artifice by which he at last escapes, redound much to the credit of his cunning. He offers his services to amuse his jailor, which being conditionally accepted, he calls up a troop of brother spirits, who fairly sing the persecutor asleep, an art in which many mere mortal singers. would not yield precedence to the Devil. Taking advantage of this slumber, he next summons a company of rats to his aid, and they prove more cunning than his infernal majesty : for they actually gnaw asunder the charm which was too powerful for him to injure. . Having thus provided for his personal freedom, (for even the Devil hates slavery,) he returns to ply his proper office of tempter, but not till he has thrice knocked, and thrice been allowed admittance: in truth, it must be allowed, that his previous usage offered no great encouragement to a second visit of intrusion. After all, too, though Faustus falls, he cannot be said to be deceived, or, if so, he is his own deceiver; it is the Dæmon within, not the Dæmon without, that betrays him : it is the restless spirit in his own breast incites him to seal the compact with hell, rather than any persuasion from abroad. He says:

“ The Great Spirit has rejected me; nature is locked against mé; the web of thought is torn; I loathe all knowledge. Let me still these glowing passions in the depths of sensuality."

When the Fiend makes answer, that no bounds will be set to his desires, that his every wish will be gratified, he exclaims vehemently,

“ Mind, I don't talk of happiness ; I devote myself to the whirl of pleasure, to beloved hatred, to refreshing anger. My breast, which is healed from the sting of knowledge, shall for the future be closed to no pain, and that, which is portioned out to all existence, I will enjoy in

iny inward self. With my spirit I will grasp the highest and the deepest, will heap up in my own bosom their weal and woe."

When the Dæmon replies that this is only for a God, he exclaims, sternly,

“ But I will ! *** I feel that I have to no purpose collected in myself all tlie treasures of the human intellect; and when at last I sit down, no new strength flows within. I am not a hair's breadth higher! I am no nearer to the Infinite One !"

The next scene introduces the two travellers to a winevault at Leipsic, where a party of drunken students are amusing themselves. Here the Dæmon plays off a few hocuspocus tricks, all strongly expressive of that restless mocking spirit which constitutes his very essence. He is at first a boon companion, singing songs for the general entertainment; then be makes a parade of his juggling skill, by drawing different sorts of wine from the table, according to the various wishes and appetites of the students: lastly, he converts the wine into fire, to the general annoyance, and, as all are about to fall on him and his friend, he flings over the assailants a second spell, that makes the room show to them like green fields; when the illusion is over, each finds himself holding his neighbour by the nose. Meanwhile Faustus and his infernal friend take advantage of their delusion to fly away upon a cask, according to the testimony borne by one of these worthy sons of Bacchus.

Between this and the following scene there appears to be a great gap of time unfilled; for on a sudden we find Faustus seeking for a draught, which may fling thirty years from him, and renew his youth. For this purpose he is conducted by the Dæmon to the cave of an old Witch. The good old lady herself happens not to be at home; but her servants are busy enough, and strange animals they are, as strange as their occupations, to say the least of them. The English language has no name for these creatures, which are described as being half Cat, half Monkey,--Meerkatze. The male brute is employed in scumming a cauldron that hangs over a low fire, taking heed that it should not boil over, while his female lies beside him with her young, and warms her paws. Faustus views this scene with indignation, and reproaches the Dæmon:

Do I want counsel of an old woman ? Will this greasy cookery take off thirty years from my body ? Woe is me, if you know nothing better! Already hope has left me!”

Meph. Now, my friend, you talk wisely again! Yet there are means to renew youth; but they stand in another book, and the chapter is a wonderful one.

Faust. I will know it. Meph. Good! To find a means without gold or magic! Betake yourself directly to the fields ; begin to cleave and to dig ; confine yourself and your senses in a very narrow circle; nourish yourself with unmixed food. Live with the beast as a beast. These, believe me, are the best means to renovate yourself for eighty years.

Faust. I am not used to this; I can not persuade myself to take the spade in my hand; this confined life suits not me.

Meph. Then the Witch must help you

Faust. But why must it be the old woman? Can you not brew the draught yourself?

Meph. That would be a pretty recreation : I should build a thousand bridges in the time. Not only are art and science, but patience also, requisite to the work. A still spirit is occupied for years ; time alone makes effective the delicate fermentation, and all that belong to it are matters truly wonderful. The Devil is indeed acquainted with them, but the Devil can not create.

Here again is the development of that principle of destruction, already mentioned, and which bereafter is so constantly to occur. Goëthe may well make Faustus call the Dæmon a child of Chaos; he is evidently painted from that perpetual tendency in all nature to resolve itself into the original elements, and which is only prevented by the constant and active energies of the re-productive powers. But it will be perhaps better to extend our extracts, for the story never can be so well told as in the language of the author.

Meph. (Looking at the Beasts.) See, what an elegant family! That is the maid, and that the footman !-(To the Beasts.)-It seems your mistress is not at home. Beasts. At the feast,

Out of the house,

Up the chimney.
Meph. How long does she revel?
Beasts. As long as we warm our paws.
Meph. (To Faust.) How find you the tender animals ?
Faust. The most insipid brutes I ever met with.

Meph. Now a conversation such as this is precisely what I most like to carry on.

And he does carry it on for several pages, till the heart grows sick, and recoils, from his perpetual scoffing. His mockery cuts up every thing by the roots, making a leafless desert of life. It is that sort of language, which, if any human being could listen to, he would inevitably put a pistol to

« AnteriorContinuar »