Friday, July 12, 2013

A wretched fool (Goethe, Faust)


I've studied now, to my regret,
Philosophy, Law, Medicine,
and—what is worst—Theology
from end to end with diligence.
Yet here I am, a wretched fool
and still no wiser than before.
I’ve become Master, and Doctor as well,
and for nearly ten years I have led
my young students a merry chase,
up, down, and every which way—
and find we can't have certitude.
This is too much for heart to bear!           
I well may know more than all those dullards,
those doctors, teachers, officials, and priests,
be unbothered by scruples or doubts,
and fear neither hell nor its devils—
but I get no joy from anything, either,           
know nothing that I think worthwhile,
and don't imagine that what I teach
could better mankind or make it godly.
Then, too, I don't have land or money,
or any splendid worldly honors.           
No dog would want to linger on like this!
That is why I've turned to magic,
in hope that with the help of spirit-power
I might solve many mysteries,
so that I need no longer toil and sweat           
to speak of what I do not know,
can learn what, deep within it,
binds the universe together,
may contemplate all seminal forces—
and be done with peddling empty words.

Goethe, Faust, Princeton University Press, 1984,
Edited and translated by Stuart Atkins

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