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pp - Building


Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

Faust Part II

(Act III)

A. S. Kline ã2003 All Rights Reserved

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


Scene I: Before the Palace of Menelaus in Sparta

(Helen enters with the Chorus of Captive Trojan Women. Panthalis is leader of the Chorus.)


I, Helen the much admired yet much reviled,

Come from the shore, where recently we landed,

Still drunk with the violent rocking of those waves 8490

That from Phrygian heights on high-arched backs,

By Poseidon’s favour, and the East Wind’s power,

Carried us here to the coast of my native land.

There, below us, beside his bravest soldiers

King Menelaus, now, celebrates his return. 8495

But you, bid me welcome, you, the lofty house

Tyndareus my father built when he returned,

Close by the slope of Pallas Athene’s hill:

Here, where with Clytemnestra, in sisterhood, I

And Castor and Pollux, grew and happily played: 8500

You, more nobly adorned than all Sparta’s houses.

Be greeted by me, you honoured double doors!

Once, Menelaus the shining bridegroom came

To me, through your friendly inviting portals,

I, the one singled out from among so many. 8505

Open to me once more, so that I might fulfil,

The King’s command, truly, as a wife should.

Let me pass! And let everything be left behind,

That raged round me, till now, so full of doom.

For since, light in heart, I left this place behind, 8510

Seeking out Venus’ temple, in sacred duty,

Where instead a Trojan robber abducted me,

Many things have happened, men, far and wide,

Gladly tell of, though she’s not so glad to hear them,

Round whom the story grew, and myth was spun. 8515


O marvellous woman, don’t disdain

Inheritance of the noblest estate!

For the highest fate’s granted to you alone,

The glory of beauty that towers above all.

The Hero’s name sounds his advance, 8520

And proudly he strides:

But he bows down, most stubborn of men,

Before conquering Beauty, in mind and sense.


Enough of that! I’m brought here by my husband,

I’ve been sent ahead by him, now, to his city: 8525

But what the meaning of it is I can hardly guess.

Do I come as his wife? Do I come as the Queen?

Or a sacrifice, for a Prince’s bitter pain,

And the ill fortune long endured by the Greeks?

I’m conquered: but am I a prisoner? I can’t tell! 8530

True, the Immortals appointed Fame, and Fate,

As the two ambiguous, doubtful companions

Of Beauty, to stand here at this threshold with me,

The gloomy, threatening presences by my side.

Even in the hollow ship my husband seldom 8535

Gazed at me, or spoke an encouraging word.

He sat in front of me, as if in evil thought.

But scarcely had the foremost ship’s prow greeted

Land, in that deep bay Eurotas’ mouth has made,

Than he spoke to us, as the gods had urged him: 8540

‘Here my soldiers will disembark in ordered ranks,

I’ll muster them, ranged along the ocean’s-shore:

But you’ll go on, ever on along the banks

Of sacred Eurotas, shining with bright orchards,

Guide the horses through gleaming water meadows, 8545

Till of your lovely journey you make an end,

Where Lacedemon, once a rich spreading field,

Surrounded by austere mountains, was created.

Walk through the high-towered house of princes,

And summon the capable old Stewardess 8550

Along with the maidservants I left behind,

Let her display the store of rich treasure to you,

That which your father left, and that I myself

Have added to, amassing it in war and peace.

You’ll find it all still in the most perfect order: 8555

It is a prince’s privilege that he should find

That all is loyalty, on returning to his house,

All that he’s left behind still in its proper place.

Since no slave has the power to effect a change.’


Let this treasure, so steadily massed, 8560

Bring you delight, now, in eye and breast!

For the necklace bright, and the crown of gold,

Were resting, and darkening, in proud repose:

But enter now, and claim them all,

They’ll quickly respond. 8565

I love to see Beauty itself compete

Against gold and pearls and glittering gems.


So again there came my lord’s imperious speech:

‘When you’ve examined all of it in due order,

Take as many tripods as you think you’ll need, 8570

And as many vessels as sacrifice requires,

To fulfil the customs of the sacred rites.

Take cauldrons, and basins, and circular bowls:

The purest of water from the holy fountains,

In deep urns: take care that you’ve dry wood too, 8575

Such as will quickly catch fire, and hold all ready:

And finally don’t forget a well-honed knife:

Everything else I’ll leave for your decision.’

So he spoke, at the same time urging my going:

But he who commanded marked out nothing living 8580

To be slain: to honour the Olympian gods.

Essential, but I’ll think no more about it,

And leave all things in the hands of the gods:

They fulfil whatever is in their mind to do,

Whether or not we think it good or evil: 8585

In either case we mortals must endure it.

Often the priest’s heavy axe has been lifted,

From the bowed neck of the sacrificial victim,

So he could not slaughter it, being hindered,

By enemies near, or the gods’ intervention. 8590


What might happen, think not of that:

Queen, go on, now, step inside,

And be brave!

Good and evil come

Unannounced, to Mankind: 8595

Though it’s proclaimed, we’ll not believe.

Troy still burned: did we not see

Death in our faces, shameful death:

And are we not here,

Your friends, happily serving, 8600

Seeing the blinding sun in the sky

Seeing the Loveliest on Earth,

You, the kind: we the joyous?


Let it be, as it will! Whatever awaits me,

I must go, swiftly, up to that royal house, 8605

Long forsaken, often longed for, almost lost,

That’s before my eyes once more: I know not how.

My feet don’t carry me onwards so bravely, now,

Up those high steps, I skipped over as a child.


Sorrowful prisoners, 8610

Oh, cast away, Sisters,

All your pain, to the winds:

Share in your mistress’ joy

Share now in Helen’s joy,

Who returns, truly late indeed,

To her father’s hearth and home, 8615

But with all the more firm a step,

Delightedly approaching.

Praise the sacred gods,

Creating happiness, 8620

Bringing the wanderer home!

See the freed prisoner

Soar on uplifted wings,

Over harshness, while, all in vain,

The captives, so full of longing, 8625

Pine away, arms still outstretched,

To the walls of their prison.

But a god snatched her up, then,

The far-exiled:

And from Ilium’s fall, 8630

Carried her back once more, home

To the old, to the newly adorned, her

Father’s house,

From unspeakable

Rapture and torment, 8635

Now, reborn, to remember

The days of her childhood.

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