Monday, March 28, 2011
A Natural Way to Make You Young
In Goethe’s Faust, the devil Mephistopheles is fulfilling some of the learned doctor’s wishes by means of witchcraft, which the doctor is finding unpleasant. The witches cook up a brew that promises to make him young, but Faust is nauseated by it. He asks (this is Randall Jarrell’s translation):I am indebted once again to R.E. Mason, who gave me a copy of Wendell Berry's excellent book. Thanks very much, Mr. Mason.Has neither Nature nor some noble mindMephistopheles, who is a truth-telling devil, replies:
Discovered some remedy, some balsam?There is a natural way to make you young...Faust, a true intellectual, unsurprisingly objects:
Go out in a field
And start right in to work: dig, hoe,
Keep your thoughts and yourself in that field,
Eat the food you raise...
Be willing to manure the field you harvest.
And that’s the best waytake it from me!
To go on being young at eighty.Oh, but to live spade in handAnd Mephistopheles replies:
I’m not used to it, I couldn’t stand it.
So narrow a life would not suit me.Well then, we still must have the witch.
Related post: Panacea.