Seismos is not only mythological personage but elemental phenomenon. The Sirens speak at times as representatives of Neptunism, while Anaxagoras and Thales maintain a scientific standpoint throughout. The ancient god of transformation expounds the modern laws of evolution and the flames of Homunculus on the sea are first regarded as a manifestation of Eros and immediately afterward as the element of fire. To mythology and science, which with the greatest art are blended into one is added much other thought and suggestion, and according to Goethe's own admission some ' gute Spasse ' and some ' Piquen ' withal.
The examination of the dramatic structure of this wonderful work should be made from the standpoint of the work itself and not from that of the drama as a whole. The Faust tragedy does not conform to the ordinary dramatic rules, but has standards of its own. Says Goethe to Eckermanu concerning the fourth act : ' Dieser Act bekommt wieder einen ganz eigenen Charakter, sodass er, wie eine filr sich bestehende kleiue Welt, das iibrige nicht beriihrt und nur durch eineji leisen Bezug zu dem Vorhergehenden und dem Folgenden sich dem Ganzen anschliesst.
Dem Dichter liegt daran, eine mannigfaltige Welt auszusprechen, und er beuutzt die Fabel eines beriihmten Helden bios als eine Art von durchgehender Schnur, um darauf aneinanderzureihen was er Lust hat. Its subject is the contrast of the world of the land and its wonder, the action of Seismos, which is followed by the fall of the rock from the moon, with the world of the sea and its wonder, the beginning by Homunculus of corporeal existence or the evolution of animal life. These aristeias of the land and of the sea can of course not lead up to the appearance of Helena, but have another scope which was also acknowledged by Goethe himself when he wrote to Eckermann : ' ich.
Homunculus reveals to Mephistopheles the existence and the date of the Night and actuates him to go. Faust here retrieves his consciousness which he has lost at the close of the first act and, even without the scene in Hades, makes us reason- ably expect that his descent in the company of Manto and with her good cheer will have a share in bringing about the entrance of Helena in the third.
Mephistopheles meets the Phorkyads whose shape he considers so useful for himself that he assumes it until the end of the next act. But all this, possibly with the exception of the Phorkyads, is purely episodical from the stand- point of the leading events of the Walpurgis-Night proper. Faust himself disappears before they have really commenced.
He appreciates Greece, but he does so because it is Helena's country.
He has a glance for the Sphinxes, the Sirens, the Ants and the Griffins and expresses his sentiments concerning them and the recollections connected with them in the grand line: Gestalten gross, gross die Erinnerungen, A. Indeed, it is almost surprising that this Faust should still engage in a conversation about the Argonauts instead of asking at once after Helena, and it is only natural that at one time Goethe actually thought of sacrificing that paragraph as is learned from the parentheses in the 'Erstes Mundum.
He does not notice the rumble of the earthquake which disturbs the rest of Peneus, and he is gone when the action of Seismos begins in good earnest. Chiron and Manto, with whom he has most to do, do not meet with any of the other main actors of the Walpurgis-Night, and seem to exist only for him. Mephistopheles, to be sure, does not stand quite so much aloof from the central action. The amorousness which has been aroused in him by the prospect of meeting the Lamiae domi- nates his sentiments, but does not preoccupy him to the exclu- sion of everything else.
Until he sees the witches he is, therefore, especially on account of his ignorance of most things ancient, quite a suitable, and at the same time humorous, vehicle of dramatic exposition. After he has caught sight of the objects of his longing, however, only his fear of getting lost retains him for another moment between the Sphinxes and, as soon as that fear is allayed, he starts in pursuit of the Lamiae hoping for what he considers the greatest of pleasures.
Denn wenn es keine Hexen gabe, Wer Teufel mochte Teufel sein! In Mephistopheles' eyes even the action of Seismos is a Brocken feat : Das heiss' ich frischen Hexenritt, Die bringen ihren Blocksberg mit. Nothing of the geological standpoint here which he occupies in the fourth act. While thus the Night would not be any longer a Walpurgis-Night without Mephistopheles and the Lamiae, the action of Seismos, and what clusters around it, would be just as complete without them.
The Lamiae do not seem to pay any attention to it at all, and Mephistopheles, though respecting it as a Walpurgis-Night feat, is filled by it only with the fear of not refinding his landmarks. Dramatically he does not become useful ag-ain until he elicits the words from the Oreas which contrast the old mountain with the new and lead over to the Phorkyads who, by their very nature, are debarred from joining the other characters. In Xacht geboren, Nachtlichem verwandt, Beinah tins selbst, ganz alien unbekannt. Only Homunculus, as we shall see hereafter, is both a most attentive witness of the principal action of the land and an absolutely indispensable factor of the action of the sea.
The Night begins with the prologue of Erichtho and the descent and separation of the travelers. This is followed by the exposition proper which prepares the way for the designs of Faust and Mephistopheles and introduces the three principal purely mythological actors of the land existing at that time, the Sphinxes, the Griffins and the Ants, and the Sirens, the chorus of the sea. The great turmoil of monsters for which the prose outline provided has wisely been discarded. Seismos and Homunculus, the impersonations of the wonders of the land and of the sea, are A.
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While the Ants show greed for gold, the Griffins both that and inhospitability toward Mephistopheles, the Sphinxes kindness toward Mephistopheles and Faust but distrust toward the Sirens, the last proclaim love and joy and a cheerful welcome to every one. The first rumble of Seismos, which disturbs Peneus in his dreams, gives us a premonition of what is to come.
The real action of Seismos, which constitutes the wonder of the land, does not begin, however, till the episode with Chiron and Manto is closed and we return to the Sirens, Sphinxes, Griffins and Ants. In the very moment before the great earthquake the Sirens, speaking this time like philosophers whose mission it is to convince the ill-starred believers in the Plutonic theory of their sad error, proclaim their: Ohne Wasser ist kein Heil!
Horrified and ready to flee they extend a most courteous invitation to all to accompany them to the sea : Fort! Schauderhaft ist's um den Ort. Now Seismos, mythological personage and elemental phe- nomenon in one, has his sway. The Sphinxes, who look upon his action from the mythological standpoint, detest and defy it.
The Griffins and Ants make an effort to enrich themselves by it. His own larger creatures, the Pygmies, overbearingly enslave their smaller kin and the helpless Ants, and wantonly slay the peaceable Herons.
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The Cranes of Ibycus prepare revenge. Meanwhile the scene with the Lamiae and what follows pro- ceeds. The Oreas declares the mountain of Seismos a ' Gebild des Walius. Allein was ich bisher gesehn, Hinein da mocht' ich mich nicht wagen. Then the philosophers appear. To this Thales confidently retorts: Im Feuchten ist Lebendiges entstanden and in the next moment Homunculus, who is to be the visible proof of this theory and to set the wonder of Seismos at naught, asks permission to join them.
Soon the Cranes begin to wreak bloody revenge upon the cruel Pygmies, and the rock from the moon by means of which Anaxagoras attempts to save his people crushes both friend and enemy. Thales turns away from this spectacle, saying: 'Es was nur gedacht. With this they leave for the sea, where Homunculus will stand a better chance. Nun fort zum heitern Meeresfeste, Dort hofft und ehrt man Wundergaste.
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Now comes still the last manifestation of the land ; after the A. Thus we finally arrive by the sea, whose praise the Sirens have sung and where Thales expects more comfort for Homun- culus and himself. Nor are we disappointed. After the disgust, greed, bloodshed, hatred, death and hideousness which we have just witnessed, we find joy, good-will, peace, love, life and beauty.
While the principal action of the land was delayed by the scene with Chiron and Manto, retarded by the episode with the Iyamiae and only loosely connected with the Phorkyads, the sea scene is both well engrafted upon the preceding part of the Night and continuous and well rounded in itself. Two actions, closely intertwined from the outset and rising higher and higher, tend to a double climax in one. The one of these actions is the preparation for the appearance of Galatea which culminates in the arrival of her train, the other is the progress of Homunculus which reaches its supreme point when he commences corporeal existence at her feet.
The Sirens, the ' Damonen ' of the bay, call on fair Luna not to allow herself to be dragged impiously down from the sky, but to shine gracefully and peacefully on the concourse on the glit- tering waves below. The lovely sounds of this invocation allure the Nereids and Tritons from the deep. Both the Nereids and Tritons and the Sirens wish for the propitious presence of the Cabiri, and the former hasten to Samothrace in their quest.
In the mean time, Thales and Homunculus apply for advice to Nereus. The aged god tells them that his bad experiences with Paris and Ulysses have made him loath of counseling and begs them not to spoil his rare humor. He is looking forward to the arrival of his daughters, the Graces of the sea, whose beauty has no equal either in Olympus or on the land, and he rejoices especially in anticipation of seeing Galatea, the most beautiful of all, the heiress of Venus' temple and chariot of shell.
Yet the very thought of the honor and beauty of his most beloved daughter softens his heart and he realizes that he should not deny advice. Hinweg zu Proteus! Fragt den Wundermann : Wie man entstehn und sich verwandeln kann. Now the Nereids and Tritons return with the fabulous gods of Samothrace, the saviours of the shipwrecked, whose presence is another guarantee of the peace of the night.
Wir bringen die Kabiren, Ein friedlich Fest zu fiihren; Denn wo sie heilig walten, Neptun wird freundlich schalten.
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While the Sirens affirm their devotion for them and both they and the Nereids and Tritons continue their praise, Homunculus and Thales exchange a less favorable remark which is echoed by Proteus, who though heard is not yet seen. For a few moments the god of transformation eludes Thales and Homunculus by his usual tricks, but Thales is a friend of his and knows how to deal with him. So Proteus appears in human form, becomes interested in the ' leuchtendZwerglein,' and gives even more information than he was asked.
He does not only state how Homunculus must commence existence, but adds to this a word about his further evolution, because unlike to the further development of the action of Seismos this could not be repre- sented on the stage. Im weiten Meere must du aubeginnen! Da fangt man erst im Kleinen an Und freut sich Kleinste zu verschlingen, Man wachs't so nach und nach heran Und bildet sich zu hoherem Vollbringen.
At the same time Proteus' words are as it were confirmed by Homunculus himself. He is pleased with the soft air of the sea and has a presentiment that it will be conducive to his growth. Hier weht gar eine weiche Luft, Es grunelt so und mir behagt der Duft! Still further to assure the success of this procession, the Telchines of Rhodes arrive with the trident of Neptune as the most certain pledge of the continuance of the peace and tranquillity of the sea.
Heartily welcomed by the Sirens, they speak wonderful lines in praise of Helios and Rhodes.
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Yet what they say about the statues which they have pro- duced does not meet with the approval of Proteus and, once more and for the last time, land and sea are directly contrasted. Thus Homunculus is taken out into the sea in order to be wedded to the ocean, and both Thales and Proteus avail them- selves of this opportunity to emphasize once more his evolution. Not by any sudden or violent procedure, but according to eternal laws, he will slowly grow from stage to stage to man. Now everything is ready for the double climax. Galatea's train with all its glory is at hand.
Doves announce it ; Psylli and Marsi conduct it ; amid the circles of her sisters, who bring with them sailor boys they have lovingly saved from death, Galatea herself appears on her resplendent chariot of shell, drawn by her dolphins. The sight of her beauty inspires her aged father with joy and longing and raises Thales' conviction of the truth of his views and his enthusiasm for them to the highest pitch.
Alles ist aus dem Wasser entsprungen! Alles wird durch Wasser erhalten! Ocean, gonn' mis dein ewiges Walten.