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is Goëthe; and Goethe's spiritual history is embodied (we may see it from first to last, see the cotyledons bursting from the acorn, see the young tree at each and every one of its succeeding stages, see it at its sixty years' growth towering up the monarch of the forest) in this drama of Faust. When we meet him first, the faith of his childhood is still ringing with heart-touching melody in his weary heart, like distant church-bells, but they call him to prayer no longer : doubting every thing, doubt has taken the place of faith so entirely, that, in the same way as the real believer is not conscious of his belief but through his belief lives in love and peace, here he is not conscious that he doubts, but only is by his doubts made miserable:
Scruples, perplexities of doubt,
But I have lost all peace of mind.' Through the entire first tragedy, making shipwreck of all hope and fear in this world and the world to come, he plunges deeper and deeper down into the abyss of sin. The second part is the regeneration, where we shall hereafter see him reascending, inch by inch, fighting, struggling, at last conquering, having won his way to final triumph, like gold purged in the fire, in the calmness and serenity of faith. A picture it is, where we may see these secret things in all their depth and bitterness, without learning them ourselves by our own bitter experience: shadows of such thoughts at dark hours may have passed like muttered thunder over many of us; “Who is there,' says Hooker, " that of awfullest truths at times doubteth not;' but here we see them in all their terrors; we see them for a time triumphing, we see them too destroyed; every power of good and evil battling in fiercest confusion, and through it all at last the victor, soaring up on angel's wings, till at last we lose him in the glory of the opening heavens. I say it is a picture at which we must be content to look; gaze on the tree of knowledge, but taste not its fruit; woe to the miserable wretch who thinks to follow Goethe to the depths into which he plunged. Better had he
gone down among the sea-monsters in Charybdis; it is with awe and fear we look on him; but as an example, God forbid we should think to follow him ! he is so far away from us that we can scarcely sympathize with him, save where here and there his orbit crosses our fixed points.
And yet in this mysterious world of ours we do find that faith ebbs and flows, and the believing age alternates with the sceptical as light with darkness, day with night, summer with winter, waking with sleep; and our lot, alas, seems cast in a twilight of gathering darkness, where all old things seem passing away, and as yet no sign, or scarce a sign, of the new which is to come: a time seems coming when thinking men, many of them, will in some way be obliged to experience what Goethe experienced, and as they fall deeper down, they will learn more and more to value what he has done for them. Is it not so ? Is not this an age when men are acting one way and professing to believe another? Is there not then, must there not be, a hollow somewhere which we may soon look to see fall in ? On the whole, we take this to be true with nations as well as individuals, that the way men are acting is a statement in hieroglyphic of the way they will by-and-by believe.
What are in general the principles of a dissipated young man when he grows to manhood ?
Nature will not be mocked: we cannot go on working upon contradictions. Consistency of some kind all men at all times are tending towards. Look at the state of the Christian world. Look what Lutheranism has developed into. Look at Young, Germany, with its “ Friends of Light, 'Friends of Darkness, and Friends of Twilight.' Look at France, with its Napoleon Concordat Catholicism; there was some meaning in that old Republican bitter bit of irony in the nave of Notre Dame; ' It only wants the half million men that have lost their lives to get rid of all this, to make it perfect.' The fiats of a First Consul Napoleon will hardly determine the minds of human beings into believing either this or that. Above all, look at the Acts of our own Parliament, most members of which would say that they were Christians, and as Christianity is an exclusive religion, one would think exclusionists. Yet let a question bearing on the religious relations of the soul be brought forward, and immediately it appears to be impossible to act with any fixed principle on such a question at all;— Toleration Bills, Jews Disabilities' Bills, Repeals of Test Act, Irish Education Bills; the problem of modern English legislators is to find the greatest common measure of opinion on these matters, and establish that. Significant enough of where things at present are all tending.
Or, to look at a more awful question by far; on the whole men seem to agree in the reception of the articles of the Christian Faith ; yet how far can they be brought to agree on the grounds on which they receive them? Thirty years ago men were Christians because Locke and Lardner and Paley had proved Christianity to be reasonable; then a Church feeling rose, and in the strength of our new position we looked on with the greatest pleasure at the demolition of all that ground as utterly weak and untenable. Now Church principles seem to lead to Rome;
and there, at all hazards, we will not go; every thing is slipping from us; where men's faith is firm, we see it is so because it has become by habit and teaching a part of their minds, not for this or that reason that they assign. This will not last long, more particularly with us English; i.e., we are all
, more or less, rapidly developing into the condition of which the German Faust is the type and representation.
In healthy times men believe what they are taught because it is taught them; asking no question of why or wherefore, and never challenging the authority that imposes it. Faith grows up and forms the nerve and sinew of a man's mind, as the food he eats does of his body. His actions will be simple and straightforward, because he has no misgivings about his being right; and his reason is confined to the comparatively easy process of developing the successive formulæ virtually contained in the premises to which he has submitted, as surely and certainly as the successive theorems of Euclid are developed out of the primary axioms of the mind. Hence the healthy, vigorous harmony in the writings of the Catholic Fathers. But in this unhealthy modern time, when all is re-examined, researched into, questioned, and, therefore, supposed possibly to be false, how is all jar, discord, and uncertainty! With hearts aching, with misgivings and perplexities, our poor seekers find all answers from without and from within alike hollow and unsatisfying ; eager to do something, yet not knowing what to do; craving for knowledge, yet, from all their seeking, finding only nothing can be known; if they cannot force their minds into a surrender to the supreme law that faith, not knowledge, is the root of man's happiness and man's activity, in despair of life they are like enough with Faust to fly to poison as their best deliverer from a system for which they have deliberately unfitted themselves, and seek the peace they cannot find here, either in a higher brighter life-or in silence. How far in the working out so vast a scheme as the development of humanity there must not be whole eras of doubt and scepticism, as there are trial eras in the life of each several individual when the simpler faith of childhood is remodelled with the expanding of his mind; how far amidst the growing light (we use the word 'light' advisedly) of these modern times, some such transition state of perplexity on matters of deepest moment it were possible to have avoided,—is a question which can be answered only by those who have thought long and deeply on the great problem of the history of the world. Perhaps the same law holds in the history of truth, which we find for certain in the social and moral life of mankind; that corrupt practice brings suffering; that sin and its punishment grow out of one stem; that institutions and practices which were healthy, when worked by healthy men for healthy ends, become poisonous as soon as these ends are lost sight of, and they are supposed to have an inherent divinity of their own; that all human fabrics, as they begin in time, so in time must come to an end, that when the channels of truth become overgrown and polluted, she herself may contract pollution in passing through them; and they must be re-fused and purified in the fire before they are fit for the transmission of so divine an element, unless the end of all things be indeed come, and the sun is to give his light no longer. The minds of men are like steel reflectors, which must be kept bright by polishing. When they are eaten up with rust, they must be hard ground and scoured in an element dirty enough before they can do their work again. We can suppose there may be entire generations when all real thought is sceptical, and all the thinkers for their earthly time at least shut out from all light and all pure faith, and even love, from every thing but hope. Nevertheless, if by their suffering there be purchased long ages of light and peace to the great world, if they are true men they will not repine, nay, will think it high honour that they are thought worthy to be made anathema in a cause so glorious.
Anyhow we have the hard fact between our teeth, digest it how we can, that this age is an age of questioning and trouble and perplexity. That the Reformation split asunder the framework that bound Christianity together; and as soon as men arrived at the point where what had been the nearest and dearest portions of it to simpler ages as well as the surest evidence of its truth, its positive exclusive form and its miraculous narrative, became themselves the greatest sources of difficulty—it began to dissolve and fall away, first the mysteries, then the dogmatism, now, last of all, the history itself. Where before every thing was received without doubt, now every thing is doubted.
We must beg particular attention to the following dialogue, which, at the risk of disturbing the natural structure of the play, we extract from the Second Act. It is introduced to show by a most terrible example how what was once thought to be purest medicine may be discovered to be a deadly poison; and Faust is haunted by a terror that growing knowledge may make the same awful discovery with respect to all other body and soul medicines whatsoever. It is the Easter morning, and Faust, and Wagner his pupil, are out among the peasantry before the gate of the city, who press round Faust with every token of reverence and admiration.
It seems there had been a dreadful pestilence in the city, and the peasants express their thankfulness for Faust's activity and help
• Wagner. With what a sense of
The caps flung up on high.
His father was an alchemist, who conceived he had discovered a sovereign remedy for all sickness.
* This was our medicine. They who took it died ;
If this be so, why grieve ?
The want of knowledge—all we know is useless.' This is very stern and very dreadful, and gives reason for some very serious reflections. But we return to the beginning of the poem.
It is introduced with a double preface; the first, a dialogue at the theatre between the manager, poet, and other caterers for the public amusement: the earthly or natural side of what is to come. The second, the much canvassed and questioned prologue in Heaven. In the first, the manager and a dilettante critic are represented as instructing the poet how best to pur