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

The scene is once more Faust’s library. The dim slanting sunlight of late afternoon streams through the open windows, touching the gold of books and the brown of furniture with an enamel-like brilliancy.

Brander and Fausts butler stand just inside the door.

BUTLER

I am afraid you cannot see him now.
The doctor is still here. I do not know
If anyone may see him.

BRANDER

I will wait
A moment, and perhaps may see the doctor
As he goes out. Have things been bad to-day?

BUTLER

Yes, sir.

[The doctor enters from the door on the left. The
butler goes out.

BRANDER

How is he?

DOCTOR

As one might expect.
The fever’s gone; but strength has gone with it:
No one can tell how long his heart will stand
The strain.

BRANDER

You see no hope?

DOCTOR

I only see
That we are doing all we can for him.
Beyond that, I can say no more than you.

BRANDER

You think I should not see him?

DOCTOR

Oh, no harm.
You might have seen him when you came this morning
If you had waited. You can see him here.
He wanted to be in this room again,
And I make no objection. Well, good-bye.

[The doctor goes out. Brander moves restlessly about the room. A moment later, the door on the left opens, and Faust, reclining in an invalid’s chair, is wheeled into the room by the butler. He is clad in a long dressing-gown; he is very pale. The butler, after placing the chair before the fireplace, goes out. Brander remains doubtfully in the background; Faust does not observe his presence.

FAUST

Again these walls! home to what barren dreams!
And home to me! O dreams and bitterness,
How are you gilded by this setting light
Of afternoon! Meseems I have not been
Happy save here, where all unhappiness
Of mine had source and root. That forest holds
Now nothing grievous to my eyes that see
What once they saw not. Sweetness like the light
Of setting suns now lingers over it
In my enchambering memory Life, life
With all its glow and wonder pours a flood
On this strait room whence I have watched the world
Whence I must go with all my love and wonder
As though no love and wonder I had won.

[Faust bends his head, sinking into a daze of
thought. Brander doubtfully approaches him, and at
last touches his shoulder.

BRANDER

I have been heavy-hearted; but that thus
I find you, overwhelms me....

FAUST

Why thus sad
Over milk so irrevocably spilled?

BRANDER

I cannot utter what is in my heart.
It is as though I had with my own hand
Stricken you down. And yet I did not dream
Of what would follow.... O Faust, Faust, forgive me!

FAUST

Forgive you? Aye, and thank you! Greater things
Hung imminent than you dreamed of. For you set
Wild lightnings free in me that smote the dark
Furled round me; and they grew and flashed and flamed
Even as I fell. Aye, Brander, you who strove
For my salvation should rejoice at last
Now, past all doubts and wanderings, I am saved!

BRANDER

Saved! Ah, impossible!

FAUST

Saved! And the light
Of glory fills me, though my physical frame
Totters on dissolution. I believe!...
The night is over.

BRANDER

Faust! O dearest friend!
My heart refuses now to grasp such joy.
If it were possible! Can, can it be
That God has bent once more, and with cool touch
Dispelled the feverous mists? Oh, I could weep
With happiness to dream it!

FAUST

Nay, my words
Mean more than you interpret. I am saved
Not as you count salvation. Nay, I come
To one last refuge, finding all others vain.
The common joys, the peace of nescience,
The trust in some far Will, the hope to flame
A beacon in the darkness of men’s dreams:
Driven forth from these, one citadel still lifts
Heaven-fronting: there I stand, delivered, free,
Master again that citadel, my soul.
I have escaped from all the bondages;
And now bow down to nothing. Joy or pain,
Defeat or conquest, good or evil, now
Lure me no more. I will put hope in nothing
Save in that whole strange glistening mortal life
That past me streams unto an end sublime
Whereof you know not. All our ends are folly,
And win not what they seek; yet there is joy
In seeking; and one end there is that shows
A brighter glow. I am the watcher set
Upon the heights. In my impassioned sight
All life is holy that strives unto life:
Death only is damnation. I will be
More happy than the happiest man, more strong
Than is the strongest! I will climb on the neck
Of this great monster, Life, and guide its course
For I am master toward that end I see
Hidden afar off.

BRANDER

You are sick and spent.
I should not thus

FAUST

Fear not; I do not wander.
Or can you understand? No, no, you cannot.
And yet some tenderness from days long past
Stirs in me with a hope for you once more
Hear me for one last time.

[Faust touches a bell. The butler enters.

FAUST

Bring to me, please,
That large black-covered manuscript I wrote
Last night until the doctor took it from me.
It is among the papers on my desk.

[The butler searches, finds the note-book and places it on the table beside Faust. The butler goes out. Faust sits turning over the pages of the manuscript.

FAUST

Here to posterity I bequeath my soul
Worthless, perhaps, as heritage, but the all
I have to give to them I love so much.
These pages shall cry kinship to the few
Who, finding solace nowhere, yet shall find
Solace in fierce destruction that assails
The folly and the madness of mankind.

(He begins to read from the manuscript)

Satan recedes; but thou who seemest near
O unborn man, whose soul is of my soul,
Whose glory is of my glory all my love
Floods out like light from the down-going sun
Toward thee, the nursling of a lofty line.
Thou art my faith man the divine to come
Man whom I loathe for that which he is not
Man, even now half divine because of all
That shall spring from him in the days to be.
Thou, too, shalt fight with Satan, as I fought,
Yea, in eternal battles till the end.
Thou shalt go with him past the lure of lust,
The lure of power, the lure of that great sleep
Nirvana; past the yet more luring sleep
Where dreams assuage the soul to be a dream.
Thou shalt go with him, yet apart from him
And all his works. He has no part in thee.
He is the chaos seething at earths core
Remnant of times when out of chaos sprang
Life’s upward impulse. He is the darkness spread
Ere yet was light the matter ere was form
The vast inertia that on motion’s heels
Clings viper-like. Of life and form and growth
He is negator; and his ceaseless joy
Is to impede and drag to chaos back
The shoot that toward the light triumphant springs.

But vain his victories, though he lingers yet
With slowly narrowing frontiers. Past his will,
Slowly the sons of light transcend, remould
Their day and destiny; slowly there is born
Order from chaos, flowers from formless mud,
Light from the darkness, Faust’s from Satan’s soul.

With laughing and with wonder and with triumph
I take that life and clasp it to my breast
I, part of all, and all a part of me
Streaming a river flashing in the sun.
I am drunk with the glory of that which tramps me down
And passes and transcends me and is mine!

I, one with thee, O child of Flame, behold
Thy harvest when the passion of the years
Turns earthward, and in mastered order sets
The house that is our dwelling. And therein,
In the gold light of summer afternoons,
With thee I too, careless and laughing, play
Mid dreams and wonders that our will has made
Bathe in the beauty that our eyes have poured
Upon the hills and drink in thirsty draughts
The happiness we have rained upon the earth.

I see, with ultimate unshaken vision!
I see the earthly paradise; I see
Men winged with wonder on the future throne
Up infinite vistas where life’s feet shall climb.
Out of the dust, out of the plant and worm,
Out of ourselves about whose feet still clings
The reptile-slime of our creation lo!
Our children’s children rise; and all my love
Draws toward them and the light upon their brows.
This is my faith; this is my happiness;
This is my hope of heaven; this is my God.

BRANDER

The eternal God in heaven forgive you this!

FAUST

The Devil I can foil, but not my friends!
Strange allies to his cause! Well, dusk was long
My portion; now all gathering storms of hate
Are less than naught to me. Six months ago,
When here I stood that memorable night,
My gloom was starless; now one fiery star
Pierces it. And this broken frame of mine
Cannot annul that much of victory
The solace born of passion to destroy
That shall survive me if indeed I die.
Alone my life was lived; if now I go,
It is alone into a quiet grave
Above whose mound the fairer future days
Shall pass, and I not know them. Yet my night
Takes foregleam from the vision of that dawn
And I am solaced. And I leave my solace
As heritage to the ever widening few
Who after me shall triumph more than I
In dawns of flaming.

BRANDER

O my friend, my friend,
I would my tongue could cry as my heart cries
Turn back from darkness before the hour has struck!
Even yet may mercy fold you. God is great
And tender; and perhaps His love may clasp
Even your aloofness, if at last your heart
Calls in repentance to Him. O Faust, Faust,
Sink your vain pride of spirit kneel to Him
Beseech His mercy ere it is too late!

FAUST

I am no melancholy death-bed scene
To claim your tears, dear Brander. Doubtless days
Of infinite scope lie yet before me, since
No oracle has foretold that I shall die.
But if I die, then go I singing down,
Not praying or repentant, to my grave.
I would smite again the altar! I would smite
The hearts bowed before it; all the world
And the Beyond-world would I rend, having seen
Serpents in their secret places.

BRANDER

Has no breath
Of heavenly love touched this corrosive core
Of hell-fire in you?

FAUST

There is none whose power
Is half so mighty.

BRANDER

Through last night’s long hours,
Poor Midge, alone and comfortless, wept out
Her heart, believing all that you had said.
And when I spoke to her, she cried: “Go, go!
I am lost where none can help me; all my dreams
Shudder and perish, even as he has perished;
Yet they shall live again but he will die!” ...
Thus darkness falls from you upon men’s hearts.
I know not if God’s deep forgiving love
To such as you is granted....

FAUST

Midge could tell
A truer tale. Her eyes were full of light
And wonder as she heard me.

BRANDER

And she now
Weeps comfortless!

FAUST

And shall I then regret?
Is her soul yours, that you appraise and know?
Life stirs in her: and like the agonies
Of all life’s birth, it shakes her: yet one day
She shall rise strong, sister to mighty winds,
A new and holy wonder in her eyes.
Tell her from me that I have not forgotten
My promise in the church that I would come.
But if I come not, let her come to me!
Let her come with me on my luminous road.

BRANDER

Pity her, and the hosts that with her stand
Shelterless from the blasts of your wild hate.

FAUST

Who loves must hate, who hates must burn with love....
I hate the world; but like the breath of life,
Sustaining me even yet a little while,
Is my surpassing love for its great hopes.
Aye, in the hour when I knew myself alone,
My hate cried: Smite! because of thy great love
For one irradiant form that is to be.
Now is my hate a lamp of tenderness
Now I destroy because I love beyond
I build, I triumph with bright domes that rise
In laughing loveliness into the morning!

BRANDER

I love you and I pity you and I go.

FAUST

We shall not meet again.

[Brander goes out.

FAUST

He will go down
Not singing, no, not singing!...

(He once more takes up the manuscript, and turns
to the last pages)

And now, when from my shoulders like a load
Begins to slip the weariness of life,
And a new vigor fills me now it seems
That death is hovering close. O Grisly One,
Whom once I thought a not unwelcome guest
To my cold troubled house, I am not glad
To hear thy steps without. For in my halls
Lights kindle, and the music sobs and sings
In ecstasy of other guests than thee....

(He takes up his pen and turns to the end of the
manuscript, as if to write)

Can this poor strength suffice me to complete
These final words? Nay, better to leave unsaid
The few last lines my vanity desires
To tell and justify my end and fall
Like flourish of bright trumpets. Let them sleep
Unuttered; for the burden of my song
Is voiced already in these labored leaves;
And it is well, unfinished and unclosed
Should stop this record, whose concluding words
Of fairer hope, of sheerer miracle,
Some greater hand than mine shall some day write
And seal the chronicle nay, never seal it!

[The butler enters.

BUTLER

There is a man waiting to see you, sir.

FAUST

Let him come in.

BUTLER

I beg your pardon, sir
Can I do nothing for you?

FAUST

Thank you, nothing.

[The butler goes out again, Satan enters. He is dressed in a long black cloak of foreign cut; for the first time, he has the look of sinister majesty appropriate to the Prince of Hell.

SATAN

Master, your slave is here!

FAUST

This fooling still?

SATAN

What little service would my conqueror wish?

FAUST

Peace from your childish talk. The game is done.
Quite well you knew that, came I victor forth,
I would not, for all treasure in the world,
Have such an one as servant, who can serve
No end that I desire.

SATAN

Aha! At last
Light penetrates that cobwebbed cranium,
And I can laugh in public! All these months,
I several times have come perilously near
Bursting with mirth at the rare spectacle.

FAUST

Pray you, laugh freely.

SATAN

Nay, my mirth is spent.
My heart is moved even toward an enemy,
When on his head defeat its torrent pours.
I offer you my sympathy.

FAUST

My thanks
Are in appropriate measure tendered you.

SATAN

Distrust me not, for lo, the game is done
There are no battles more, no testings more
To set between us. From the heart of life
Have forces risen aye, from the peoples breast!
To seal the measure of defeat; and now
Why shall we quarrel further?

FAUST

Why, indeed?

SATAN

I hear that you are working on a book
Recounting your adventures with the Devil.
I hope ’tis finished: it had better be!
You will not write large libraries, my friend,
In what of life remains to you.

FAUST

It is
Completed wholly.

SATAN

May I look at it?

FAUST

You may not.

SATAN

Ah, ’tis a surprise for me!

FAUST

Possibly.

SATAN

Well, you work late into dusk.
Dusk falls about you; soon the night will come,
And silence.... Has an oracle in your heart
Whispered the tidings of that night? Or have
The pages of the prophets told to you
What waits within that darkness?

FAUST

There waits sleep.
But I have lived, and do not fear life’s last
Inevitable word.

SATAN

My lips are sealed,
Though I would fain prepare you for that first
And awful moment when, beyond death’s gates,
You see and know for now you do not know
What there awaits you. You have seen the grave;
You know the dissolution and decay
That folds the body as it mouldering lies
After the racking of those final hours
Where soul and body part. But have you guessed
That as the body rots without the soul
So the soul crumbles in a vile decay
You cannot picture, when the body dies?
Then falls the spirit limb from reeking limb.
An agony beyond all mortal thought
Shakes every atom of the spiritual frame
The throes of dissolution. Death, indeed,
All men can bear; but this last spiritual death,
This torture of the disembodied soul
To force dissolving ah, prepare yourself!
It shall appall you!

FAUST

If it comes, it comes.

SATAN

We have been foes; but now I speak as friend.
This shall not come to you! ’Tis in my power
To save you from this uttermost horror’s grasp.
For I have gift of perfect dreamless sleep;
And those to whom I give shall after death
Slumber unconscious while the awful change
Attacks them; and oblivion shall be theirs
Unbroken stretching from the final hour.

FAUST

That were a boon not easily despised.

SATAN

It shall be yours! My crushed and broken foe
Shall never at my hand lack final rest
Where nightmares cannot come. As honest foes
We shall be quit. And for this priceless gift
I ask but that you give me, as remembrance,
That book which you have wrought concerning me.

FAUST

Why still so eager?

SATAN

Eager? I am not.

FAUST

Satan, my soul still sees, though death has drawn
Its curtains round my body. You have sought
With long endeavor to enslave my will
To nothingness; now would you doom to dark
My sublimated soul, my written word,
My force immortal....

(He takes up the pen)

This, Satan, is your answer

(He writes on the last sheet of the manuscript)

“With this last word I close my testament: ‘Man, work thy will, and God shall come of thee.’”

SATAN

Poor thwarted fool, who would not take my lures, Being far too wise! Yet dustward now he turns, And where Faust stood shall nothingness survive!

FAUST

Approach me not: I have grown sanctified.
Loathing the night and dreaming of the dawn,
I claim some kinship with the Eternal Power
Which in the dust, the daisy and the star
Moves onward in its self-ordained sway
Life everlasting. Through my veins it sweeps,
Bearing me onward; and as I am borne,
I onward urge, till my short day be done
And I fall spent; and over me the wave
Sweeps on its way immortal; and my soul
Partakes of that lost immortality.

SATAN

Dreamer, whose dreams shall soon be choked with dust!

FAUST (slowly rising)

I am that dreamer to whose mounting dreams
No bounds are set, no region which my will
May not reach out toward. And I will create
I, and the souls that after me shall come
By passion of desire a pillar of flame
Above the wastes of life. If no God be,
I will from my deep soul create a God
Into the universe to fight for me!

(He sinks back)

SATAN

How strong a master! Why not slay me now?
Put forth your strength, and try how great it be!

FAUST

Though dying, I am master. But you still
Are jester, even at death-beds knowing well
I have no power to slay you. You retreat
But perish not; the sphere of your domain
Contracts, but it endures immortally.
Have done with jesting: look me in the eyes!
Acknowledge me, and all high heritors
Who shall succeed me, your eternal foe,
Your eternal victor in half-victories
But never your destroyer to the last.

SATAN

I thank all prophets for their prophecy!
But I shall still remain?...

FAUST

You shall remain....

SATAN

I shall remain!...

[Faust and Satan sit silent, watching each other
steadily. Faust closes his eyes, then suddenly
raises himself in his chair.

FAUST

Ah, what a ghastly dream!
Ghastly, for all its cold and lofty state.
Nay, what have I to do with yearning thoughts
Of immortality? I am young with life!
I shall not die! Hope and the eager years
Of labor rise before me as I press
Clear of these shadows. I have dreamed dark dreams
One very dark of late but now my blood
Resurges in a not less passionate fire
Than when, less wise, I stretched my hands to life,
And all my hopes were winged. But that is past;
And dreams are past: the day of deed is come.
Aye, in the cities, on the hills of the world,
I shall uplift the banner of high wars
I shall make mock of this strange dizziness
I shall live and Death retreats from me afraid!

SATAN

What! Then I’ll do his office!

FAUST

Spare your pains
The tide of strength recedes, swift as it came....
Oldham! I cannot die! I cannot die!...
And I am dying....

[Faust sinks back with closed eyes. The door opens softly and the butler enters, followed by Midge who carries an armful of flowers. She looks around the room, bewildered; then crosses quickly to Faust’s chair.

SATAN

Madam, you come too late.

[Faust opens his eyes and, lifting the
manuscript, with feeble hand holds it out to her.

FAUST

No, not too late.... Touch me across the dusk

[Midge, shaken and faltering, clasps the book to
her. Doubtfully she touches his shoulder. Faust,
slightly smiling, closes his eyes.

CURTAIN