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Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

Faust Part II

(Act II: Scenes V-VI)

A. S. Kline ã2003 All Rights Reserved

This work may be freely reproduced, stored, and transmitted, electronically or otherwise, for any non-commercial purpose.

Act II

Scene V: Rocky Coves in the Aegean Sea

(The Moon, lingering, at the zenith.)

The Sirens (Lying on the cliffs round about, playing flutes and singing.)

Though the Thessalian witch-women

Wickedly, dragged you down to them, 8035

With their horrors, long ago, in the dark,

Look quietly down, now, from the arc

Of night, on waves of glittering sparks:

Mildly flashing, bright crowds, these:

Shine now upon the swelling seas, 8040

Which raise themselves from the deep!

We’re sworn to serve you, thus,

Sweet Luna, show grace to us.

The Nereids and Tritons (As marvels of the deep.)

Sound out loud, with clearer tones,

Ringing through the sea’s wide zones: 8045

Call the peoples of the deep!

Before the storm’s ravening face,

We sank to the stillest place,

Now we’re drawn, by singing, sweet.

See, how we’ve adorned ourselves, 8050

In our great delight, as well,

With our crowns, so nobly gemmed,

And our belts with spangles hemmed!

These spoils, now, before you, we lay,

Treasures, shipwrecked here, and swallowed, 8055

Your enticing songs they followed,

You the daemons of our bay.

The Sirens

We know well, in ocean freshness,

Fishes play in slippery smoothness,

Flickering lives, devoid of pain: 8060

Yet you festive crowds that stray

We would rather find today,

That you’re more than fish, again.

The Nereids and Tritons

Before we came to meet you,

We were thinking of that too: 8065

Speed away now, sisters: brothers!

It only needs the slightest journey,

For most effective proof that we,

Certainly, are more than fishes.

(They swim off.)

The Sirens

They’ve vanished in a moment! 8070

To Samothrace they’re bent,

Gone, with a favourable breeze.

What is it they think they’ll see,

In the realm of the noble Cabiri?

They’re gods! But wondrously strange, 8075

Always causing their forms to change,

Never knowing what they might be.

Stay at your clear height,

Sweet Luna, graceful light,

So we’ll remain nocturnal, 8080

Not chased by the diurnal!

Thales (On the shore, to Homunculus.)

I’d gladly lead you to old Nereus:

His home’s not far away and cavernous,

But his head, it’s of the very stubbornest,

He’s a sour-top, and quite the nastiest. 8085

The whole human race can’t satisfy

Him, the grumbler, and needn’t try.

Yet to him the future is revealed,

And so all show respect, and yield

Him honour in his high position: 8090

He’s done quite well by many a one.


Then let’s try him, and hurry on!

My glass and flame won’t fail our mission.

Nereus (The sea-god.)

Are those human voices, in my ear?

How quickly my deepest anger stirs! 8095

Forms, reaching for the gods, in their endeavour,

Yet condemned to be themselves, forever.

In ancient times I had heavenly rest,

Yet drove myself to act well to the best:

And then, when I’d finished what I’d done, 8100

It was quite clear that nothing had been won.


And yet, Old Man of the Sea, we trust you:

You’re the Wise: so don’t drive us from you!

See this flame, he’s almost human, really,

He yields himself to your advice, completely. 8105


What advice! Has Mankind valued my advice?

A wise word’s frozen in a stubborn ear.

No matter how often some harsh action strikes,

People remain as self-willed as before.

I warned Paris himself, in a fatherly way, 8110

Before the foreign girl tempted him to stray.

He stood bravely on the shore of Greece,

And I told him what my Spirit could see:

The smoke-filled air, the streaming blood,

Glowing timbers, slaughter’s flood, 8115

Troy’s day of judgement, caught in verse,

Its horrors known for ten thousand years.

The old man’s words seemed idle to the young,

He followed his need, and Ilium was gone –

A bloody corpse, frozen with ancient pain, 8120

For Pindus’ eagles, a literary gain.

Ulysses too! Didn’t I tell him about

Circe’s wiles, that Cyclopean lout?

The indecision in his own shallow mind,

And all of it! What benefit did he find? 8125

Till, late indeed, the ocean favoured him more,

And brought him, wave-tossed, to a friendly shore.


Such behaviour brings the wise man pain,

Yet the good will chance it all again.

An ounce of thanks will still please them deeply, 8130

Outweighing tons of ingratitude completely.

And it’s nothing slight we ask of you:

The boy here wants to exist, and wisely too.


Don’t ruin such a rare mood as this!

Greater needs await me, today, than his: 8135

I’ve summoned all my daughters here to me,

The Dorides, the Graces of the Sea.

Neither Olympus, nor your lands can show

Such lovely forms, with such delicate flow,

They fling themselves, with graceful actions, 8140

From sea-horses to Neptune’s stallions,

Blending so sensitively with the element,

That they seem made of foam, to all intent.

In a play of colours, on Venus’ chariot shell,

Galatea, the loveliest, comes to me, as well, 8145

Who, since Cypris turned away from us,

Rules as the new divinity of Paphos.

And so, heiress, for ages now, the sweet one,

Holds town, and temple, chariot and throne.

Away! It’s time for a father’s enjoyments, 8150

Hearts without hate, lips without judgements.

Away, to Proteus! Ask that wondrous man:

How man exists, and changes, if he can.

(He vanishes into the sea.)


We’ll achieve nothing by that game,

Meet Proteus: he’ll vanish, just the same: 8155

And if he stays, he’ll only tell you,

What will amaze you, and confuse you.

But you’ve need of such advice,

Well, make tracks, then, and we’ll try!

(They depart.)

The Sirens (On the rocks above.)

What is it we see whitening 8160

The realms of ocean, brightening?

As when the wind prevails,

And shows the snowy sails,

So the Ocean’s daughters,

Transfigured, light the waters. 8165

Let us clamber shore-wards,

So we can hear their voices.

The Nereids and Tritons

What in our hands we treasure,

Will give you all great pleasure.

Chelone’s turtle shield 8170

The shining form we wield:

On it gods we’re bringing:

Your noblest songs, be singing.

The Sirens

Little in form,

Great in the storm, 8175

Saving the shipwrecked,

Gods always respected.

The Nereid and Tritons


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