Read THE THIRD ACT of Mr. Faust , free online book, by Arthur Davison Ficke, on ReadCentral.com.

The scene is the nave of a great cathedral. Two rows of many-shafted columns stretch back to where, in the far background, rises the elaborate magnificence of the High Altar.

The nave is empty, except for an occasional figure moving at the far end of the long central aisle, and an occasional attendant in sacerdotal robes making ready the Altar.

Faust, entering from the right, and Satan, entering from the left, meet in the foreground. Satan is dressed in the dark robes of a priest.

FAUST

I care not for your masquerade attire;
But let that pass.... Well, I have kept your hour.
And this perhaps is not unfitting place
To make confession that you weary me
A little. In this running to and fro
Over the earth, my inclination tires
Of your companionship. I am resolved,
If three days’ time brings forth no new event,
To end this, and reclaim you to obey
My will.

SATAN

I am content; three days will serve.

FAUST

Good! Meanwhile, ’tis at least some recompense
That we return from airy Eastern domes
Glittering in blank sunlight, unto lands
Where men erect their temples to the gods
In forms whose light and shadow, stress and play
Of arch and buttress, satisfies my blood
Better than does barbaric loveliness.
The dome that poises its clear perfect curves
Rising above the palm-trees, with the look
As of a winged bubble lightly resting
On needless masonry that symbolled form
Of heavenly perfection never fills
My heart as do these knotted buttresses
And writhing ribs and vaults that strain in fight
And are victorious, as they raise to heaven
The climbing spires of such an edifice.

SATAN

Quite right but if youll let me interrupt
There is a woman yonder who, I think,
Is waiting for a chance to speak to you.
She looks at you, and hesitates, and turns
As though a little fearful to approach
So great a person.

FAUST

Where is she? I see.
I wonder if I know her.

SATAN

She is coming.

[A young woman, hardly more than a girl, comes
from between the pillars and approaches Faust.
Satan withdraws a little as she approaches.

THE WOMAN

I did not want to interrupt your talk;
But, Mr. Faust, I wished so much to speak
To you. You do not know me?

FAUST

Why, it seems...

THE WOMAN

Of course you do not; why should you remember?
But I have seen your face so many times
When you perhaps not noticed me at all,
That I feel half-acquainted. Mr. Brander
Speaks of you, too, so much that I have grown
To think I know you.

FAUST

Ah; yes, Brander....

THE WOMAN

Still
I have not told you who I am, and you
Do not yet know me. I am Mrs. Brander.

FAUST

What! Mrs. Brander! Ah, delighted ... yes....

THE WOMAN

You had not heard that we were married?

FAUST

No.
Of course, I am astounded; its delightful
And most surprising.

THE WOMAN

It was very sudden
While you were gone.

FAUST

I see. Yes, I’m surprised
And charmed. It’s strange, at first I could not bring
You to my memory.

THE WOMAN

I don’t believe
That you can yet!

FAUST

Why....

THE WOMAN

I don’t wonder at it.
I used to whisk about and peer at you
As you came in....

FAUST

Are you then ... then are you ...
Midge?

MIDGE

Yes! exactly.

FAUST

This is very charming.
Now I remember perfectly, of course,
Dear Mrs. Brander! I shall hope to see
Brander himself to-morrow. Give him, please,
My warmest wishes.

MIDGE

We shall hope to see you
In our apartment soon. It’s very tiny
And in a quite unfashionable street;
But it looks out across a bit of park
To westward, as I’ve always hoped it would.
Some days the sunset lights are lovely there.
You must come look at them.

FAUST

Thank you indeed
I shall be very glad to!

MIDGE

And I know
How shall I say it? that you’ll think me strange,
And that I cannot ever be your friend
As Mr. Brander is. I know so little

FAUST

Dear Mrs. Brander!

MIDGE

But I am so eager
That you should give me just a little trial
I want so much to know you, and so much
He should not lose you....

FAUST

Why, you make me feel
Quite like a monster!

MIDGE

Then you’ll come?

FAUST

I’ll come!

MIDGE

Good-bye and don’t forget me.

[Midge gives him her hand, and moves away
smiling.

FAUST
Well, of all
Impossible, grotesque, outrageous tricks
That Brander could have played upon himself!
Married the fool, the fool! And yet she is
Curiously sweet and fresh, that kitchen-maid.

SATAN

Are you quite through?

FAUST
Quite, thank you.... It is strange....
But I forget; you are not interested.
What is it you would say now?

SATAN

I have things
Graver to speak of than admiring ladies
Or Gothic architecture. Here, to-day,
Unto your doubting eyes there shall be made
A revelation of profounder scope
Than aught that life has brought you.

FAUST

The hour strikes
Tardily; I am wearier than I was
When on this trial we entered.

SATAN

You have looked
Askance at me these many days, perplexed
To reconcile the fountains of my will
With my strange acts, and with the dark report
That you have heard concerning me. Dear friend,
Be you not angry, now I say to you
In full confession, that from day to day
I have deceived you: I have hid my face
Even from my friend: I have with doubtful mask
In alien guises tempted you, to try
Your metal. But the hour of trial is past;
The event is sure; and now I ope my heart
And show to you what few of living men
Have guessed my final secret.

FAUST

Play no tricks.
Before me, Satan; try no mumming game.
If you speak truth, let riddles cloak it not.

SATAN

Listen, and be truth’s judge. I am not such
As men esteem me; and my spirit’s springs
Rise not from buried and infernal realms,
But like your own, out of the fount of God
They have their being. I, though lowliest far,
Yet am a servant of the House of God
Deputed to mine office by His hand,
And on His mission.

FAUST

You are trifling with me.

SATAN

I speak the gospel of the living God.

FAUST

Are you not Lord of Evil? God doubtless asks
That service of you?

SATAN

God is infinite,
Likewise His wisdom. His omniscience wills
That I go forth among the haunts of men
And offer evil to their touch. Thereby,
Some spurn me and the force whereby they spurn
Lifts them up nearer to His arms. Some take
The sin I offer, fall from grace, go down
And lost in fathomless gulfs of wickedness,
Cry out with utter yearning to His love
That it may save them, and repentant turn
Their prodigal faces toward His doors again,
Never to wander more. But some few souls,
Who neither spurn temptation nor repent
After their fall these unregenerate
It is mine office wholly to destroy
And cleanse the universe for the praise of God.
Thus does all evil serve His mighty throne,
And all return to Him.

FAUST

I have no power
To take the measure of the words you speak.
Why tell me such things?

SATAN

I would tell you all
And show to you at last your destiny.
The vanities of the world, the woes and sins,
Are but the acid by whose fiery touch
I sort the gold from out the transient brass
And purify and fine it that it be
Worthy God’s altar. My beloved friend,
Such was your trial; thus have I tempted you
With things averse to God, with forms and faiths
Outcast and separate from Him. You have seen
The whole world’s vanities; you have come to know
That in this world’s illusion is no power
Whose love is refuge: even the living death
Of cold Nirvana frights you. Thus at last,
Knowing that you are powerless, and the world
Bare of salvation for your feebleness,
You stand on this great threshold; and your eyes
That see despair and loneliness shall raise
Their sight to heaven; and peace shall fold you round;
And God, who is our Father, shall be yours.

FAUST

This is not truth! My fevered eyes are weak
To look into this glowing maze of fire
With vision. All the ramparts of the world
Reel round me. I have scoffed God all my days,
Believing pain your province of the world
Proof of His non-existence. And you come
Crying His glory, testifying His faith,
Exhorting me to seek Him.... I am lost
Where naught is known to me.

SATAN

He is your hope,
Your sole salvation in a universe
Where never other form shall comfort you
A waif except for Him. So have all souls
The holy and the pure from age to age,
Learned, homesick for His home. Their frustrate hopes,
Their burdens heavier than by mortal strength
Can be sustained, their impotence, bow down
Each spirit: and it cries: “O God, support
My helplessness; unto Thy perfect will
Do I resign my vain and evil hopes,
My burdens; and Thy Will Be Done Forever.”
Thus, with arms folded on despairing breast,
With head bowed to the inscrutable decree,
They seek Him: and a sudden glory fills
The humbled bosom; all His stars and thrones
Shine down upon it; all His majesty
Enters that lowly door, lifts up, sustains
The sundered soul; and His beneficence
With more than father-love enfolds the heart
Joined to His own forever. From His light
Reflected radiance pours; to the dark sight
Comes glimpse of the high justice of God’s will;
And all roads lead to Heaven, and all hearts lie
Within His love, and all’s well with the world.

[Deep organ music begins to roll through the arches of the cathedral. Candles are lighted one by one on the High Altar. Worshippers begin to enter the nave: they pass down the long central aisle and gather in groups at the far end, near the Altar. Faust stands leaning against a pillar, silent and lost in meditation.

Brander enters among the worshippers. He passes the spot where Faust is standing, glances at him and stops, astonished.

BRANDER

You have come back! I had not heard of it. Where have you been these many months? I long To talk with you.

FAUST

Yes, come and see me soon.
It’s a long story.... I congratulate you
Upon your marriage....

BRANDER

Then you know....

FAUST

She came
And spoke to me a little while ago.

BRANDER

It must seem strange to you beyond my power
Ever to quite unravel. But for me
All things are clear; and to my blinded sight
Morning has come in this thing, as in all
The doubts that once enslaved me.

FAUST

Do you mean...

BRANDER

Come here aside before the service starts.
I owe it you to tell you. I have changed
In your long absence....

FAUST

These are curious words.
I do not understand.

BRANDER

To understand,
You must hear all. You know my life how vain
Its occupations, how absorbed I moved
In this days folly and to-morrows lure
How petty trifles made my whole small round
Of being selfish trifles, nothing worth,
Stained with a cruelty that I would forget.
That night we talked together you and I
And Oldham in your rooms, I wandered home
Sorely distressed. For you had stirred in me
A gnawing doubt whether the whole of life
Was not mere child’s play.

FAUST

I am sorry if

BRANDER

It was the kindest act man ever did
In all my life! I peered into my heart:
I saw myself Judas to innocence,
Betraying lightly with a careless kiss
A mortal body and immortal soul;
I saw no thing in all my days to claim
A sane man’s approbation; one by one
Each glittering bauble that I late had loved
Crumbled to dust beneath the parching fire
Of reason.... And that night, I walked in Hell.

FAUST

Poor Brander! And my mocking did all this?

BRANDER

Thank God for it! That night I saw my joys
Like some rank thicket of bright vanities
Masking a precipice. A sense of sin
And loathing overcame me, and the power
Of utter terror filled me. I beheld
The evil riot of gross earthy things
That had o’ergrown me. Like a burden lay
That sense upon me, and it pressed me down
To a despondence deep beyond all words,
Beyond all thought. And no escape I saw
Except the bullet....

FAUST

What a faith we pin
Upon that bullet!

BRANDER

Thus the doubtful days
Passed like a nightmare. Till, one Sabbath morn,
As restlessly I paced, some random mood
Led me to enter this cathedral’s doors
At hour of service. As I knelt, with lips
Unknown to prayer, the mighty music rolled
Over my heart like an all-purging flood,
And a voice chanted: “He that loveth life
Shall lose it; he that hateth this world’s life
Shall keep the life eternal.” And a voice
Shortly thereafter sang, in angel tones:
“Come, let our feet return unto the Lord;
For He hath torn, and He will heal us.” And
My soul cried: “Yield thy burdens to the Lord,
Upon His love cast thine unworthy self,
And bid His Will Be Done.”

And then my soul
Melted as in the warmth of His embrace.
My guilt was gone like night before the sun:
Light blinded me; an infinite love and joy
Lifted me up, a child again, from earth
Into such regions as my mortal speech
Can never utter. And from that hour forth,
God has been with me.... Now you know my tale.

FAUST

You teach me more of marvels than I guessed
Was yet unlearned by me.

BRANDER

No words can teach
These marvels to a heart that has not known
God’s glories.

FAUST
Then this mystery of the heart
Is what men mean when of the faith of God
They speak? I thought ’twas dogma, service, prayer;
But this is life, is vision.

BRANDER

Aye, and more!
Now do I walk in meadows of calm light;
The love of God is over me; I faint
Almost beneath its sweetness and wild joy.
My whole heart’s toil is how to merit it
Even a little.

SATAN (raising his hand to bless)

By the grace of God
You shall be worthy servant, O my son.

FAUST

This, then, is what Gods vision-seers behold
This revelation veiled unto mine eyes
This love unfelt by me this light of dawn
Beyond our darkened night.... I was too far
Estranged from Him, of too unworthy will,
Bowed by too sore a burden....

[The music of the organ rolls forth once more;
and, at the far end of the nave, the choir takes up
the music.

VOICES SINGING

From the waters of Zion,

From the fountains of peace,
Pour the floods on whose bosom
Thy seeking shall cease.

There the winds of His garments

Shall lull thee to rest.
There the night of His watching
Shall enter thy breast.

Thou shalt sleep, and awaken;
On His morrow, to be
As a star in His heavens,
A wave in His sea.

FAUST

With old, profound, unutterable grief
My spirit speaks in me: as, many a time
In childhood, at the hour of evening dusk,
When all the room was still and shadowy,
I, at my mother’s knee, wept out my heart
And knew not why I wept. And I am drawn
Out of myself upon the music’s tide,
With nameless sorrowing, with childlike pain
As though in careless play-hours of the day
I had done hurt to someone that I loved.
Ah, I am homesick; and in all the world
There is no knee at which I can weep out
My loneliness. There is no breast of peace
And silence and forgiveness for this child
In any dusk-strewn chamber....

BRANDER

There is God!

FAUST

O God, can Thine arms fold me? Can my weight
Of loneliness and failure and despair
With the day’s fruitage, find a child’s release
In Thy great tenderness? I am a child;
And life’s vast terrors gather round my soul;
And I am frightened. I am weary, Lord!
It darkens; and the storms creep on with night;
The shadows come; the wanderer would turn home.

[Faust falls to his knees; he bows his head. Again the organ throbs, the choir sings.

VOICES SINGING

To His peace shalt thou yield thee;

In His love shalt thou sleep;
All the rills of thy valleys
Shall merge in His deep.

To His hands shalt thou offer

All hope thou hast known.
His hope and His glory
Shall compass thine own.

And the vain stars of longing
Shall fade in His sun;
And the vain hand shall stay;
And His Will Shall Be Done.

SATAN

Let us beside our brother kneel in prayer
Beseeching mercy.

[Satan and Brander kneel beside Faust.

BRANDER

Brother in the Lord,
Let us together from devoted hearts
Repeat: “Thy Will Be Done.”

[Faust continues to kneel in silence. The music
ceases.

BRANDER

Faust, let us pray:
“Father, we do beseech Thee for Thy light"...

SATAN

Brother, pray thus: “Thy Will Be Done"...

FAUST (rising)

What will?...

BRANDER

Faust!

FAUST

Lost is my way among eternal shadows.
Darkened is every light; and clouds are rolled
With blackening curtain over all the stars
Within my heaven. But I stand upright
Now to the end, no traitor to that dawn
I cannot image.

SATAN

What do you mean?

FAUST

Begone,
Judas!...

Ah, Brander, would that I could yield
Myself to Him who has received your burdens!
But to me seems it as another sleep,
Like that Nirvana which I put aside
In other gardens of temptation. Sleep
Sleep that should have no waking happy sleep
An anodyne for which my spirit yearns
But dare not take a yielding to some Will,
Whose Will, we know not, nor do greatly care
So long it be not our will....

Thus may yield
The weary; I am weary, but not yet
To such last slumber. Thus may yield the base;
I am not base. Thus may those spirits yield
Who, poisoned by some madness in their blood,
Despise life’s being; but not yet will I
So utterly despise it. Though in gulfs
Of yet unsounded ruin I should die
At the end miserably, I still shall seek
In life itself my refuge: not in God
That stands apart from life, on heights of peace.
All my desires, my visions, my dreams, my unrest,
My loathing and my longing will I clutch
And cry: “With all its bitterness on my head,
My Will be done, not Thy Will!”

BRANDER

Blasphemy!
Ah, Faust, what madness!...

FAUST

With calm sight, I speak
No blasphemy, but truth. Shall I buy peace
So easily? Toss my burdens to Gods Will
Into the fathomless void of that unknown?
Such were the last, the great apostacy....
I go into a darkness past your thought
Into an emptiness you know not of
A night profounder that it late has held
Marsh-lights of promise. My last altar lies
Smoking in ruins; and I stand alone
Of all the universe. But my Will be done!
My errant tortured Will, my bitter Will,
My Will, my Will!

BRANDER

Flee, ere the awful wrath
Of God smite down these walls, these poisoned stones,
That hear your words! Flee, ere the heavens rain forth
Lightnings to blast us for these horrors!

FAUST

Nay!
In this dim hour of desolation’s reign
Upon my soul, I summon to my soul
All powers that good or evil may consign
To the most lonely man in all the world;
I lift my voice, burdened with all the weight
Of loathing and of longing, and I cry:
My curse upon Thee, lure of dying hearts!
May lightnings smite Thy altars back to earth!

BRANDER

Father, forgive! He knows not what he does....

CURTAIN