BY THE LOWER PENEUS
PENEUS surrounded by waters and nymphs.
Peneus. Wake and stir, ye whispering bushes,
Softly breathe, ye reeds and rushes,
Rustle, willows by the river,
Lisp, ye poplar sprays a-quiver,
To my interrupted dream!...
Fearful, stirring breezes wake me
And mysterious tremors shake me
From my rippling, restful stream.
Faust [stepping to the edge of the river].
If I dare such fancies harbour,
Deep within the tangled arbour
Of these twigs and bushes noises
Sounded as of human voices.
Wave doth seem a very chatter,
Zephyr sounds a jesting patter.
Nymphs [to FAUST].
Ah, best were it for thee
To lie here, reviving
In coolness thy members
Worn out by their striving,
The rest thus enjoying
That from thee doth flee;
We'll rustle, we'll murmur,
We'll whisper to thee.
Faust. I am awake! Oh, let them stay me,
Those peerless forms, and let them sway me
As mine eye sees them in its quest.
What thrills run through my every member!
Do I but dream? Do I remember?
Ah, once before was I so blessed.
A cooling stream is softly gliding,
Amid the trembling copse half hiding;
It scarcely murmurs in its flow.
From every side, clear and delighting,
A hundred streamlets are uniting
To fill a bath-like pool below.
The fair young limbs of women trouble
The liquid mirror, showing double,
And double so the eye's delight!
Bathing with joy, each other aiding,
Now boldly swimming, shyly wading,
Ending in screams and water-fight.
These should content me, here with pleasure
My sight should be restored at leisure;
Yet toward yonder leafy screen
My vision ever further presses;
The verdant wealth of those recesses
Surely enveils the lofty queen.
Strange and marvellous! Swans are swimming
From the inlets, hither skimming
In their stately majesty,
Calmly floating, sweetly loving,
Heads and beaks uplifted moving
In proud self-complacency.
But among them one seems peerless,
In his self-love proud and fearless;
Through the throng he sails apace,
Swells his plumage like a pillow,
He, a billow breasting billow,
Speeds on to the sacred place...
The others to and fro, together,
Swim with unruffled, radiant feather,
Or soon in stirring, splendid fray
Seek to divert each timid beauty
Away from any thought of duty
To save herself if save she may.
Sisters, hearken, lend a hearing
At the river's verdant shore;
If I err not, more and more
Sounds of horse's hoofs are nearing.
Would I knew who in swift flight
Brings a message to this night!
Faust. I believe the earth's resounding
To a steed that's hither bounding.
Turn there, my glance!
A most auspicious chance,
Can it be hither faring?
O marvel past comparing!
A rider's trotting on toward me.
Spirited, strong, he seems to be;
Borne on a snow-white steed he's nearing...
I do not err, I know him now,
The famous son of Philyra!-
Halt, Chiron, halt! and give me hearing!
Chiron. What now? What is it?
Faust. Check your pace and stay!
Chiron. I do not rest.
Faust. Take me along, I pray!
Chiron. Then, mount! and I can question you at leisure:
Whither your way? You're standing on the shore
And I will bear you through the stream with pleasure.
Faust [mounting]. Whither you will, I'll thank you evermore...
The noble pedagogue, so great in name,
Who reared full many a hero, to his fame,
The troop of Argonauts, renowned in story,
And all who built the poets' world of glory.
Chiron. Let us not talk of that. As mentor, none,
Not Pallas' self, is venerated.
For, after all, in their own way men carry on
As if they never had been educated.
Faust. The doctor who can name each plant, who knows
All roots, even that which deepest grows,
Who soothes the wounded, makes the sick man whole,
You I embrace with all my might and soul.
Chiron. If at my side a hero felt the smart,
I knew the aid and counsel to be tendered!
But in the end all of my art
To parsons and herb-women was surrendered.
Faust. Upon a true, great man I gaze!
Who will not hear a word of praise,
Modestly strives to shut his ears
And acts as had he many peers.
Chiron. You are well-skilled, I see, in idle patter,
Princes and common folk alike to flatter.
Faust. At least confess that you have seen
The greatest men that in your time have been.
You've with the noblest vied in earnest strife
And like a demigod have lived your life.
Of all the figures of heroic mould
Whom as the ablest did you hold?
Chiron. Among the Argonauts, superb procession!
Each one was worthy after his own fashion,
And by the special power that he possessed,
Could do what lay beyond the rest.
Castor and Pollux ever did prevail
Where youthful bloom and beauty turned the scale.
In swift resolve and act for others' good
The sons of Boreas proved their hardihood.
Reflective, strong and shrewd, in council wise,
Thus Jason ruled, a joy to women's eyes.
Then Orpheus, gentle, still, and contemplating,
But, when he smote the lyre, all subjugating;
Keen-sighted Lynceus who by day and dark
Past reef and shallow steered the sacred bark.
Danger is tested best by banded brothers:
When one achieves, then praise him all the others.
Faust. I beg, of Hercules I would be learning!
Chiron. Oh, woe! Awaken not my yearning!...
Phoebus I ne'er had seen, nor yet
Seen Ares, Hermes, as they're called, in fine,
When my enraptured vision met
A form that all men call divine.
A king by birth as was no other,
A youth most glorious to view,
A subject to his elder brother
And to the loveliest women too.
His like will Gaea bring forth never
Nor Hebe lead to Heaven again;
Songs struggle in a vain endeavour,
Men torture marble all in vain.
Faust. Though men may strive in stone and story,
Never has he appeared in all his glory.
You now have spoken of the fairest man;
Tell of the fairest woman all you can!
Chiron. What! Woman's beauty? That is not worth telling,
Too oft a rigid image do we see;
I praise alone a being welling
With love of life and gaiety.
Self-blest is beauty, cold and listless,
'Tis winsomeness that makes resistless,
Like that of Helena whom once I bore.
Faust. You bore her?
Chiron. Aye, upon this back.
Faust. Was I not crazed enough before?
And here to sit! Such bliss I do not lack!
Chiron. She also grasped me by the hair,
Seizing it just as you are doing now.
Faust. I'm losing all my senses! Tell me how,
Whence, whither? Ah, you really did her bear?
She only is my whole desire!
Chiron. Easy it is to tell what you require.
Castor and Pollux had at that time freed
Their darling sister from base robbers' greed.
The robbers, wonted not to be subdued,
Took heart and in a storm of rage pursued.
Brothers and sister, speeding on their way,
Were checked by swamps that near Eleusis lay;
The brothers waded, but I splashed, swam over;
Then off she sprang, she stroked and pressed me
On my wet mane, thanked and caressed me
Sweetly self-conscious, affectionate and sage.
How charming was she! young, the joy of age!
Faust. Just ten years old!
Chiron. The doctors of philology
Have fooled you like themselves, I see.
Peculiar is it with a mythologic dame;
The poet brings her, as he needs, to fame;
She never grows adult and never old,
Always of appetizing mould,
Ravished when young, still wooed long past her prime.
Enough, the poet is not bound by time.
Faust. Then, here too, be no law of time thrown round her!
On Pherae's isle indeed Achilles found her
Beyond the pale of time. A happiness, how rare!
In spite of fate itself love triumphed there.
Is it beyond my yearning passion's power
To bring to life the earth's most perfect flower?
That deathless being, peer of gods above,
Tender as great; sublime, yet made for love!
You saw her once, today I've seen her too,
Charming as fair, desired as fair to view.
My captured soul and being yearn to gain her;
I will not live unless I can attain her.
Chiron. Strange person! As a man you feel an ecstasy,
But to us spirits you seem mad to be.
Now, as it haps, good fortune meets you here,
Since for some moments every year
I'm wont to Manto to repair
Who, Aesculapius' child, in silent prayer
Implores her father, for his honour's gain,
To throw some light in the physicians' brain
That from rash slaughter may their hands refrain.
I love her most of all the guild of sybils,
Gentle and kind, nor prone to shifty quibbles.
If but a while you stay, her art secure
By powerful roots will work your perfect cure.
Faust. I'm sound in mind. A cure is not my aim;
Else, like to others, I'd be base and tame
Chiron. The noble fountain's cure, neglect it not!
Be quick, dismount! We've reached the spot.
Faust. Say, whither have you in this gruesome night
Borne me through pebbly waters in our flight?
Chiron. Here Rome and Greece each bearded each in fight,
Olympus on the left, Peneus on the right.
The greatest realm that ever was lost in sand;
The monarch flees, the conquering burghers stand.
Look up! Here stands, significantly near,
The eternal temple in the moonlight clear.
Manto [dreaming within].
From horse-hoofs bounding
The sacred stairs are resounding;
Demigods are drawing near.
Raise your eyes; behold who's here!
Manto [awakening]. Welcome! I see you do not fail to come.
Chiron. Likewise for you still stands your temple-home.
Manto. Are you still roaming, never weary?
Chiron. Well, you abide in stillness eerie,
The while I circle joyously.
Manto. I wait here, time encircles me.
And this man?
Chiron. Him hath this ill-fated night
Caught in its whirl and brought here to your sight.
Helena, go his wits a-spinning,
Helena he has dreams of winning,
But knows no way to make beginning,
Most worthy, Aesculapian cure to prove.
Manto. Who yearns for the impossible I love.
CHIRON is already far away.
Manto. Enter, audacious one, glad shall you be;
The gloomy way leads to Persephone.
Within Olympus' cavern foot
She lists in secret for prescribed salute.
Here did I smuggle Orpheus in of old.
Use your turn better! Quick! be bold!