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But who with mine his spirit blends,
When years of rapture glided by,
The spring of life's unclouded weather,
My brother, grew in love together.
SCENE IN GOETHE'S FAUST.
THE following is taken from Lord Francis Leveson Gower's translation of Faust. The scene is, in itself, of the most heart-rending and pathetic character. If it require the most intimate acquaintance with human nature to describe the operations or revolutions of feeling that take place in a mind bordering upon insanity, what stretch of genius does it require to paint them, when reason has totally abandoned the helm, and left the mind to rove at large through the wild empire of the ideal world, without a star to guide its wanderings, or a clue to enable it to retrace its steps? On a slight consideration of the subject, it would seem that no writer can imagine, nor consequently give expression to, the chimeras of a disordered mind, unless he be himself subject to fits of insanity, and that he who asserted" there is a pleasure in madness which none but madmen know," must have been mad himself one time or other; for if this pleasure be known only to madmen, how came he acquaintIed with it if he had never been mad? We must either abandon this opinion, however, or cease to admire the profound acquaintance with nature which Shakspeare is supposed to have manifested in the ex
pressions which he puts into the mouth of Lear, for it has never been insinuated that Shakspeare was subject to temporary madness. How then are we to dispose of this question? shall we say aye or no to the assertion, that the language of Lear is natural to a madman? If it be, how account for it, but by supposing Shakspeare to have been mad at one time or other? if it be not, why admire it? if it be impossible to know what is, or what is not natural to a madman, or if none can divine the feelings of a madman but a madman himself, why pretend to offer any opinion on the subject of its merits? Whatever reply we make to these questions, it is certain, that we have a sort of innate conviction that the language of Lear is natural in the circumstances in which he is placed, and the insanity arising from them; and there are strong reasons to believe, that when men agree in opinion, on matters of feeling, their opinion is right, however unable they may be to account for it. The fact seems to be this, that when madness arises from some powerful influence exercised over the feelings, the thoughts and reasonings of the madman differ very little, if at all, from him who is labouring under some powerful passion or affection of mind, though he remain in full possession of the exercise of reason if he choose to exert it; for though he retains the power, he neglects, or rather refuses to avail himself of it, so that both he and the madman are solely governed by the state or condition into which their feelings have thrown them. Granting this theory to be good, the following scene in Faust is eminently beautiful, and equals any thing in Shakspeare, so far as regards the sentiments and expressions which Goethe puts into the mouth of Margaret. But was the noble translator justified in translating the insane Margaret's language into English rhyme? We know how few of those who are in their sober senses can succeed in this species of verse, it being entirely of a mechanical nature, for rhyme and measure must be sought for by art, the images and associations alone being the offspring of nature. The vivida vis animi of the poet can never suggest rhyme, while it suggests a thousand poetic associations. How then suppose it
possible for a madman to avail himself of that art which is exercised in forming rhyme and measure, as he expresses only what the associations or indescribable feelings of the moment suggest, and never asks himself the question whether it be verse or prose? Those who contend so eagerly for the three unities, can surely never admit such a violation of nature; and yet, while they have employed so much eloquence, displayed so much ingenuity, and manifested so much acrimony in defending the unities, they have never thought of exposing, or finding fault with, one of the most obvious violations of nature that a writer can be guilty of, if violations of nature are to be determined by the principles which they have themselves laid down. The following scene is too short to justify a long criticism: we shall not, therefore, enter into the question of the unities at present; but we shall not forget to resume it in a more proper place, where we doubt not of being able to expose all the absurdities that have been written on the subject, as well by ancient as by modern writers.
FAUST, with a bundle of keys and a lamp, before a low iron door.
Faust. Strength to my limbs my fainting soul denies, Such with the sense of man's collected woe; Behind this dungeon's dripping wall she lies,
Frenzy the crime for which her blood must flow. Traitor, thou darest not enter in
To face the witness of thy sin.
Forward! thy cowardice draws down the blow. Marg. (within) sings. Now shame on my mother, Who brought me to light,
And foul fall my father
Who nursed me in spite.
That is the song they sing to give me pain;
But never meant me before.
Faust. (unlocking the door) She dreams
Marg. (hiding herself in the straw on which she lies.)
Woe, woe! they wake me! bitter fate!
Faust. Hush, hush! I come to give thee means to fly. Marg. Art thou a man? then be compassionate. Faust. Soft! thou wilt wake thy jailors with that cry. (He seizes the chains to unlock them.)
Marg. (on her knees). Who gave the hangman power So soon to wake and slay?
Why call'st thou me at midnight's hour?
O! let me live till day!
Is it not time when morn has sprung? (She stands up.)
And I am yet so young! so young!
And yet so soon to perish by your laws.
Have I e'er wrong'd thee? why then bind me so? Let not my woman's voice implore in vain
Can I have hurt one whom I do not know? Faust. Can I outlive this hour of woe?
Marg. Ah! I am now within thy power; Yet let me clasp my only joy,
My child! I nursed it many an hour,
But then they took it from me to annoy,
' And she shall ne'er be happy more.'
Faust. He, whom you deem'd so far, before you lies, To burst your chain, and give the life you prize. Marg. Oh! raise we to the saints our prayer! For see beneath the stair,
Beneath the door stone swell
The penal flames of hell.
The evil one,
In pitiless wrath,
Roars for his prey.
Faust. (aloud.) Margaret! Margaret!
[She springs up; her chains fall off.
Where is he? for I know 'twas he, None, none shall stay me; I am free! "Tis to his bosom I will fly,
In his embraces I will lie.
His Margaret he calls, on the threshold he stands, 'Mid the laughter and howls of the fiendish bands; Through the shouts of their malice, their hissings of scorn,
How sweetly his voice of affection was borne !
Marg. Oh, say it, say it, once again,
My friend, my lover! Where is now my pain?
Faust. Away! away!
Marg. O, not so fast!
Time is with you so sweetly past.