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Friday, January 20, 2012


The Kalydonian Boar Hunt: Detail from the François Vase, Volute Krater, Attic Black-Figure style, ca. 570-560, now at the Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Florence

The hunt of the Calydonian boar (us kalydonios) is one of a series of Archaic Greek myths describing a gathering of heroes for the achievement of some great purpose, which in this particular case was the slaughter of a chthonic monster threatening the city of Calydon in western Greece. The myth of the Argonauts and their quest for the Golden Fleece was similarly such a gathering of heroes, as was the storming of Thebes by Polyneices and the Argives, and the Trojan War. In Calydon, the monstrous boar, a wild swine, was sent by the goddess Artemisa to devastate the fields and vineyards of the town. Today, nothing is left of Calydon, save the ruins of a temple to that same goddess.

Artemisa as Huntress

“Nothing is more violent than she when she sees her godhead wronged. The boar of Calydon will be my witness - fierce.” Ovid, Heroides 20. 99 ff. (trans. Showerman)

The "Diana of Versailles," Roman copy, dated 330 BCE

KALYDON (Καλυδών)

Located about a mile north from the shore of the Gulf of Corinth in Aetolia, the city of Calydon (In Greek: Καλυδών; gen.: Καλυδῶνος), was never very large. In the third century BCE, it was encircled by a wall and a fortified acropolis was built on the hill. The sacred road which led to the Sanctuary of Artemis Laphria is still visible today. Laphria was an earlier goddess whose worship antedates that of the Dorian Artemisa, and hence a syncretism of beliefs must have occurred in the region. There was a second Archaic temple on the acropolis, dedicated to Artemisa’s brother, Apollo Laphrios, and together the two shrines came to constitute an important sanctuary.

Ruins of the Temple of Artemis Laphria in Kalydon: The fourth century BCE Sanctuary of Artemis Laphria, excavated by Danish archaeologists under the leadership of Frederick Poulsen in 1925-32 stood on a platform erected on a terrace which is supported by sixth century retaining walls. From its privileged position above a natural spur of the hills it is possible to see the Gulf of Corinth and the city of Messolonghi below.

View of the city of Messolonghi from the Temple of Artemis Laphria in Kalydon

In the Hellenistic period these temples were surrounded by a series of treasuries, stoas and other minor shrines. The size of some of the Hellenistic tombs indicates that at some time there was prosperity. Strabo mentions Calydon in his Geographia, on its former beauty, as by his time it lay desolate: “. . . Calydon and Pleuron, which are now indeed reduced, though in early times these settlements were an ornament to Greece.”

Aerial view of Kalydon: In this photograph, taken from the North, the terrace constructed below the temple of Artemisa Laphria is clearly visible in the center of the picture.

Under the Roman conquest, the city declined, and in 30 BCE, after the Battle of Actium, Octavius Augustus transferred the inhabitants to the new city of Nikopolis (city of victory), further north, on the coast of the Ionian Sea. The town never reached the dimensions of a large city and gradually vanished during the Middle Ages.

To the right of the sacred way are the ruins of a Heroön (temple to the goddess Hera), the foundations of which are visible in the photograph above.

The earliest archaeological description of the site was that of the English antiquarian and topographer William Martin Leake, whose account of his discoveries in the area, Travels in Northern Greece, was published in 1835.

William Martin Leake

In the 1890’s, the site was visited by the Englishman William John Woodhouse (1866-1937), a Victorian classical scholar. As a Newton student of the British School of Archaeology in Athens, and Craven Fellow, he undertook a thorough topographical exploration of the rugged and little known Aetolian country in 1893. He published the results of his field-work in the Journal of Hellenic Studies and, in 1897, a substantial book, Aetolia.

Archeological excavations of the area were begun in 1908 by the Greek Archeological Society of Athens under the direction of Dr. George Sotiriades. In the period 1926-1932, joint Greek and Danish excavations were carried out under the archaeological team of Frederick Poulsen and Konstantinos Romaios, which had also been exploring and digging in Corinth. Today, the ruins are open to visitors, located right off the E-55 highway that runs along the north shore of the Corinthian Gulf in Aetolia, near the small modern town of Evinochori, and about eight miles east of the Gulf city of Messolonghi.

View of Mount Varásova, ancient Mount Chalkis from the Temple of Artemis Laphria at Kalydon

The Myth of the Boar of Kalydon

Homer mentions Kalydon as the home of Oeneus (Greek for “wine man”), and makes reference to the hunt for the mythical wild swine in the Iliad. The gigantic boar was sent by Artemisa to ravage the country and the vines around Calydon so as to punish Oeneus, its king, for neglecting to offer the first fruits of the harvests to her. Artemisa was the Greek goddess of wild animals and of the chase, among other various things, and she was also a Dorian goddess, a goddess of the Dorian conquerors who descended on Greece and occupied its ancestral lands. It is reasonable to suppose that the myth evokes the punishment of an earlier people of Calydon for their reluctance to adopt the worship of the goddess of their conquerors.

The boar that Artemisa sent to Calydon ravaged the countryside, destroying vines and crops and causing the farmers to seek refuge in the town. King Oeneus, in despair, summoned the heroes from throughout Hellas to hunt the beast and offered its skin and tusks as a reward. The heroes responded, although Heracles was significantly not among them. There is a myth of Heracles hunting his own mythical boar, the Erymanthian. The names of those who did participate in the hunt at Calydon include the semi-mythical, semi-divine, progenitors of the ruling houses of many of the Dorian cities of Greece, and include some of the Argonauts. The hunt was led by the king’s son, Meleagros, who struck the boar down. He gave the skin to the beautiful huntress Atalanta as a prize and she, in turn, hung the boar’s skin from a tree in a sacred Arkadian grove and dedicated it to Artemisa. The various accounts of the myth were later compiled by Ovid and re-told in the Metamorphoses.

(Below, Corinthian black-figured aryballos depicting the Calydonian Boar Hunt, ca. 580 BC., now at the Musée du Louvre)

Among the hunters were Theseus, the founder-king of Athens and son of the god Poseidon; Peleus, one of the Argonauts and father of Achilles, whose connection with Pisa and the Olympian Games has made doubly famous; Nestor, the old man of the Iliad, who was “still in his prime” according to Ovid; Asclepius, son of Apollo and founder of the medical profession; Deucalion, son of King Minos of Crete; Laertes, the father of Odysseus, and the famous Gemini twins, Castor and Pollux, sons of Leda and a swan (Zeus), and brothers of Helen of Troy and Clytaemnestra, Queen of Sparta.

Most significant among the hunters, however, was the huntress Atalanta.

“Atalante in days of yore, Arkadian Iasios' daughter, whose shaft slew Kalydon's boar. Yea, the heroes who, summoned to hunt the terror of Kalydon, came could dispraise not her prowess: the tokens of that her victory to Arkadia were brought, and the tusks of the boar there yet may ye see.” Callimachus, Hymn 3 to Artemis, 218 ff (trans. Mair).


Kalydonian Boar Hunt: Detail from the François Vase, Volute Krater, Attic Black-Figure style, ca. 570-560, now at the Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Florence

She had been suckled by a she-bear, Artemisa herself in disguise, and raised as a huntress by the goddess, so why was she there, hunting Artemisa's own boar? Because as a stand-in for the goddess she became a source of dissension among the hunters, as many of the men refused to hunt alongside a woman. But Meleagros, who fell in love with her, succeeded in persuading them to do so. Atalanta was the first to wound the boar with an arrow, and when Meleagros killed the boar, he gave the dead boar’s skin as prize to Atalanta. "But the goddess again made a great stir of anger and crying battle, over the head of the boar and the bristling boar's hide . . . .” (Iliad, ix, 543) Indeed, the trouble did not end there, for some of the men objected to the woman receiving the prize of the hunt, and the subsequent fight over the trophy led to the death of Meleagros, which was Artemisa’s final revenge against Oeneus.

Tondo of a Laconian black-figure cup, ca. 555 BCE, now at the Louvre

The boar’s skin was said to have been preserved at the Temple of Athena Alae in Tegea, where Pausanias saw it in the second century A.D. The relic, “which time has shriveled and left without a single bristle . . . ,” was clearly nothing much to look at. ( Pausanias, Guide to Greece, vol.2, viii, 47). He reports that the tusks of the boar were taken by Octavius Augustus after Actium. The keepers of the Temple of Athena Alae told him that one of the tusks was broken, but the other was kept in the Emperor’s gardens, in a Sanctuary of Dionysos, in Rome, and it measured “just three feet long.” (Guide to Greece, vol.2, viii, 47).

(Below, Hans Holdt, photograph of the countryside around Kalydon taken in the 1920's)

Homer’s Version of the Myth

Iliad ix. 543 ff (trans. Lattimore):

“The Kouretes and the steadfast Aitolians were fighting and slaughtering one another about the city of Kalydon . . . For Artemis, she of the golden chair, had driven this evil upon them, angered that Oineus had not given the pride of the orchards to her, first fruits; the rest of the gods were given due sacrifice, but alone to this daughter of great Zeus he had given nothing. He had forgotten, or had not thought, in his hard delusion, and in wrath at his whole mighty line the Lady of Arrows sent upon them the fierce wild Boar with the shining teeth, who after the way of his kind did much evil to the orchards of Oineus. For he ripped up whole tall trees from the ground and scattered them headlong roots and all, even to the very flowers of the orchard. The son of Oineus killed this boar, Meleagros, assembling together many hunting men out of numerous cities with their hounds; since the Boar might not have been killed by a few men, so huge was he, and had put many men on the sad fire for burning. But the goddess again made a great stir of anger and crying battle, over the head of the boar and the bristling boar’s hide, between Kouretes [an Aitolian tribe] and the high-hearted Aitolians.”

The old sacred road leads up to the Temple of Artemis Laphria in Kalydon

Pseudo-Apollodorus’ Version of the Myth

“When Oineus [king of Kalydon] was offering his annual sacrifice of the first fruits of the land to all the gods, he overlooked Artemis. The wrathful goddess let loose a great and powerful wild boar, which made the earth unsowable and destroyed herds and people that encountered it. In order to get rid of this boar, Oineus called together all the best men of Hellas and proclaimed the skin as a trophy to the man who could slay it. Here are the people who gathered for the boar hunt: Oineus’ son Meleagros, and Dryas, son of Ares (both from Kalydon); Idas and Lynkeus, sons of Aphareus, from Messene; Kastor and Polydeukes, sons of Zeus and Leda, from Lakedaimon; Aegeus’ son Theseus from Athens; Admetos, the son of Pheres, from Pherai; Iason [Jason], Aeson’s son, from Iolkos; Iphikles, Amphitryon’s son, from Thebes; Peirithoos, son of Ixion, from Larise; Peleus, son of Aiakos, from Phthia; Atalante, the daughter of Skhoineus, from Arkadia; and Amphiaraos, the son of Oikles, from Argos. The sons of Thestios also attended the hunt.

The Hunt for the Calydonian Boar: Meleagros and Atalanta (Etruscan alabaster ash urn from Volterra)

Roman marble sarcophagus from Vicovaro, carved with the Calydonian Hunt, now at the
Palazzo dei Conservatori, Rome

When they had gathered, Oineus entertained them for nine days. On the tenth day, Kepheus and Ankaios [two of the hunters from Arkadia] and some of the others refused contemptuously to go out hunting with a woman, but Meleagros, though marries to Idas’ and Marpessa’s daughter Kleopatra, still wanted to make a child with Atalante, and so compelled the men to join the hunt with her. When they had encircled the boar, the animal killed Hyleus and Ankaios, and Peleus accidentally speared Eurytion [king of Phthia] with his javelin. Atalante was first to hit the boar, in the back with an arrow. Amphiaraos then got it in the eye, and Meleagros killed it with a blow on the flank. When he received the skin, he gave it to Atalante. But the sons of Thestios, who considered it disgraceful that a woman should get the trophy where men were involved, took the skin from her, saying that it was properly theirs by right of birth, if Meleagros chose not to accept it. Outraged by this, Meleagros slew the sons of Thestios and again gave the skin to Atalante. But Althaia, in grief over the death of her brothers, set fire to the brand [that the Moirai declared when consumed would end the life of Meleagros], and Meleagros died on the spot. Some say, however, that . . . the sons of Thestios claimed the skin on the grounds that Iphiklos had first hit the boar. A war then ensued between the Kouretes [an Aitolian tribe] and the Kalydonians.” Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 1. 66 (trans. Aldrich).

Rubens, The Hunt of Meleagros and Atalanta (1617-1618), Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.

In Rubens' paintings, Atalanta is always rather disheveled, a plump, blonde Flemish woman with her right breast bare, in the manner of the Amazons. In the painting above, she has just flung an arrow, or some missile, at the beast, as, according to the myth, she was the one who drew first blood in the hunt.

Rubens, The Calydonian boar hunt, ca. 1636. Museo del Prado Madrid

Description of an Ancient Greek Painting by Philostratus the Younger

“Are you surprised to see a girl [Atalanta] entering into so great a contest and withstanding the attack of so savage and so huge a boar? For you see how bloodshot is his eye, how his crest bristles, and how abundant is the foam that drips from his long upright tusks, which are un-blunted at the point; and you see how the beast’s bulk is proportional to his stride, which indeed is indicated by these tracks that are as large as those of a bull. For the painter has not failed to embody any of these points in his painting. But the scene before us is already terrible. For the boar has attacked Ankaios here in the thigh, and the youth lies pouring out his blood in streams and with a long gaping wound in his thigh; therefore now that the contest is already under way, Atalanta--for we must recognize that the girl is she--having put to the bowstring the arrow she has ready, is about to let it fly . . . The youths here are Meleagros and Peleus, for the painting tells us that it is they who have slain the boar; Meleagros in an attitude of defense throws his weight upon his left foot, and watching closely the boar’s advance, awaits his onset securely with couched spear . . . the hip is the kind to make us confident that the youth will not be overthrown by the boar’s attack . . . So much for the son of Oineos; but Peleus here holds his purple mantle out before him; and he holds in his hand the sword given him by Hephaistos, as he awaits the rush of the boar; his eye is unswerving and keen of glance.” Philostratus the Younger, Imagines 15 (trans. Fairbanks).

Kalydonian Boar Hunt. Detail from the François Vase, Volute Krater, Attic Black-Figure style, ca. 570-560, now at the Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Florence

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Monday, January 16, 2012


The Auerbachs Keller episode in Goethe’s Faust I: “A Lively and Lusty Drinking Party”

Introduction: The Wager

In the Auerbachs Keller episode of the Faust, written between 1772 and 1775, Goethe wrote his experience as a student in Leipzig in the 1760’s and expressed an aristocratic disdain for the young and the demotic which he had learned there at the time. To be sure, the scene was included because the old story of Dr. Faustus required it, but Goethe made it serve to illustrate the implications of Faust’s wager with Satan-Mephistopheles. At the end of this scene one cannot help but feel that Faust is on the way to winning his bet.

Murnau's Faust, 1926

Goethe’s Faust sought to find, in the world he yearned for, an equivalent to the grandiosity of his own subjectivity. In his dialogue with the Earth Spirit, he declares himself to be equal to the very image of God (Ebenbild der Gottheit). Yet though in his inner life he strives for divinity, his real life is the life of a dog.

(Below, Faust in his study looks on the apparition of the Earth Spirit)

As the crisis in Faust’s study-chamber mounts, the end-game appears to be suicide. Faust will take his own life in despair for his prospects. He knows that nothing in his mortal life will ever meet the exalted expectations that are concordant with the image of his inner self, and thus he wants to die. But his suicide attempt is foiled by recollections of childhood, and in the course of an Easter Sunday walk through a crowded meadow, he meets Mephistopheles in the form of a bothersome dog.

(Below, Faust and his famulus, Wagner, come upon Mephistopheles disguised as a dog)

The dialogue between Mephistopheles and Faust, back in Faust’s study-chamber, is the occasion when Faust challenges Satan to procure him a life he has no longer any expectation of living, a substitute for his present life, which he describes in the most pitiful terms.

(Below, old print of Faust in conversation with Satan)

“Ich bin zu alt, um nur zu spielen,
Zu jung, um ohne Wunsch zu sein.
Was kann die Welt mir wohl gewähren?
Entbehren sollst du! Sollst entbehren!
Das ist der ewige Gesang,
Der jedem in die Ohren klingt,
Den, unser ganzes Leben lang,
Uns heiser jede Stunde singt.
Nur mit Entsetzen wach’ ich morgens auf,
Ich möchte bitter Tränen weinen,
Den Tag zu sehn, der mir in seinem Lauf
Nicht Einen Wunsch erfullen wird, nicht Einen,
Der selbst die Ahnung jeder Lust
Mit eigensinningem Krittel mindert,
Die Schöpfung meiner regen Brust
Mit tausend Lebensfratzen hindert.”

“I am too old for mere amusement
And still too young to be without desire.
What has the world to offer me?
You must renounce! Renounce your wishes!
That is the never-ending litany
Which every man hears ringing in his ears,
Which every hour hoarsely tolls
Throughout the livelong day.
I awake with horror in the morning,
And bitter tears well up in me
When I must face each day that in its course
Cannot fulfill a single wish, not one!
The very intimations of delight
Are shattered by the carpings of the day
Which foil the inventions of my eager soul
With a thousand leering grimaces of life.”

(Faust I, Studierzimmer. English translations are by Peter Salm, Bantam, 1988)


But the challenge is made, and Mephistopheles takes it on confident of success. Faust’s wager with Satan is defiant despair. He challenges Mephistopheles to expose him to all the possibilities of mortal life in the real world and bets his immortal soul on his anticipated rejection of them, for he knows that nothing in the physical world will satisfy him sufficiently to make him want to live in it. Having been on the brink of suicide, he cannot conceive of any experience that will once again make him desire to live. Unquenchable desire is only part of the problem; the other part is finding the equivalent to his subjectivity, which approaches the divine.

“Der Gott, der mir im Busen wohnt,
Kann tief mein Innerstes erregen;
Der über allen meinen Kräften thront,
Er kann nach außen nichts bewegen;
Und so ist mir das Dasein eine Last,
Der Tod erwünscht, das Leben mir verhaßt.”

“The god that lives within my bosom
Can deeply stir my inmost core;
Enthroned above my human powers,
He cannot move a single outward thing.
And so, to be is nothing but a burden;
My life is odious and I long to die.”

(Faust I, Studierzimmer)

Accordingly, his wager with the Devil is based on his contempt for life, and any life he may lead with the Devil’s help can be no more than the next best thing to suicide. Faust mocks the ability of the Devil to tempt him with worldly goods.

“Was willst du armer Teufel geben?
Ward eines Menschen Geist, in seinem hohen Streben,
Von deinesgleichen je gefaßt?
Doch hast du Speise, die nicht sättigt, hast
Du rotes Gold, das ohne Rast,
Quecksilber gleich, dir in der Hand zerrinnt,
Ein Spiel, bei dem man nie gewinnt,
Ein Mädchen, das an meiner Brust
Mit Äugeln schon dem Nachbar sich verbindet,
Der Ehre schöne Götterlust,
Die, wie ein Meteor, verschwindet?”

“What, poor devil, can you offer?
Was ever human spirit in its highest striving
Comprehended by the like of you?
You offer food which does not satisfy,
Red gold which moves unsteadily,
Quicksilver-like between one’s fingers.
You offer sports where no one gains the prize,
A girl perhaps who in my very arms
Hangs on another with conspiring eyes.
Honors that the world bestows on man
Which vanish like a shooting star.”

(Faust I, Studierzimmer)

In the “Moonlight” section of the first act of the play, Faust expresses a desire for a more intimate knowledge of the universe and a simultaneous turning away from the knowledge of books and papers, such as lie strewn all about him in his study. The moonlight carries him off, away from the confinement of his study, to a dew-covered meadow where he imagines himself pursuing a young woman. Awake again, he has proceeded to make three attempts to escape the world of his reality: an appeal to the Macrocosm, a fruitless exchange with the Earth Spirit, and contemplation of suicide, the absolute denial of life. Now, the wager with Satan/Mephistopheles consists in a promise to deliver his soul after death in exchange for the experience of an instant when he can “say to the passing moment (Augenblick), tarry a while, thou art so fair!” That moment of affirmation of his life and satisfaction with his lot and with himself, - he wagers -, shall be his doom.

Werd’ ich beruhigt je mich auf ein Faulbett legen,
So sei es gleich um mich getan!
Kannst du mich schmeichelnd je belügen,
Daß ich mir selbst gefallen mag,
Kannst du mich mit Genuß betrügen,
Das sei für mich der letzte Tag!
Die Wette biet’ ich!

Mephistopheles: Topp!

Und Schlag auf Schlag!
Werd’ ich zum Augenblicke sagen:
Verweile doch! Du bist so schön!
Dann magst du mich in Fesseln schlagen,
Dann will ich gern zugrunde gehn!

If you should ever find me lolling on a bed of ease,
Let me be done for on the spot!
If you ever lure me with your lying flatteries,
And I find satisfaction in myself,
If you bamboozle me with pleasure,
Then let this be my final day!
This bet I offer you!

Mephistopheles: Agreed!

Let’s shake on it!
If ever I should tell the moment:
Oh, stay! You are so beautiful!
Then I shall smile upon perdition!”

(Faust I, Studierzimmer)

But Faust knows that moment will never arrive, because he can conceive of nothing in the world worth living for. When Mephistopheles accepts the wager and proceeds to lead Faust into the world, the first place they visit is Auerbachs Keller, the beer-tap cellar of the Auerbach Hotel in Leipzig. The myth of Dr. Faustus requires it. But Goethe must have thought, ‘where shall I take them to drink and play after the tension of their mutual agreement and the bargaining for an immortal soul?’ His brilliant choice was Auerbachs Keller, where he had been a carousing student in his youth, to re-experience there the little world of the body, drinking and carousing with students, in the city which was known in Goethe’s time as “Little Paris.”

Model of the City of Leipzig in the eighteenth century, at the Historical Museum in the Altes Rathaus, Leipzig.

Goethe in Leipzig

The young Goethe in 1779

(after an engraving by Georg Oswald May)

When Goethe arrived in Leipzig in1765, the city had a reputation for enlightenment, vigorous trade, studious endeavor and a liberality in its way of life that contrasted with that of Dresden, the capital of Saxony and residence of the Saxon Electors. The Court influenced the city of Leipzig by its absence, yet its Baroque splendor was nonetheless felt, and it came alive for Goethe in the person of a friend he made there as he began his studies at the University. Ernst Wolfgang Behrisch (1738-1809), was Goethe’s only friend and constant companion during the last two years of Goethe’s University studies in Leipzig, from 1766 to 1768. He was the Tutor of Count Lindenau, the son of the Chief Equerry of the Court in Dresden, and held to the courtly conventions and exquisite style of an aristocratic taste for etiquette, fashion, art and literature, in contrast to Goethe’s own bourgeois Frankfurt background. They met at an inn run by C.G. Schönkopf, where a group of Frankfurt citizens and other guests would dine every day in agreeable company. The slightly older Behrisch was a decisive influence on Goethe, and caused him to revise some of his artistic and literary preconceptions. The courtier Behrisch, for example, had contempt for the printed word and for the world of printing and publishing, and he encouraged Goethe to put down his literary work in handwritten calligraphy, so that its distribution would be limited to the select few, rather than be made public in print for the benefit of the many.

(Below, monument to Goethe in Leipzig)

Count Lindenau was the owner of the Hotel Auerbach, and its now famous Cellar in the basement, and these premises became one of Goethe’s favorite haunts when he joined Behrisch in disdainful isolation from the society of students and plebeians, as he reported to his sister in a letter:

“. . . my life here is as quiet and contented as it could be, I have a friend in the tutor of Count Lindenau, who has been banished from the beau monde for the same reasons as I. We console ourselves with each other’s company by sitting cut off from the human race, as if in a fortress, in our Hotel Auerbach, which belongs to the Count, and without being misanthropical philosophers we laugh at the Leipzigers, and woe betide if with mighty hand we unexpectedly sally forth upon them from our castle.”

[Cited in Nicholas Boyle, Goethe: The Poet and The Age, vol. 1, (Oxford, 1992), p. 68]

The Hotel Auerbach was destroyed during the Second World War. A gallery and arcade have been built above Auerbachs Keller

In the cellar of the Auerbach Hotel, Goethe must have seen the seventeenth-century wall paintings depicting Dr. Faustus flying out on a wine-barrel. But it is primarily Goethe’s friendship with Behrish that is crucial to a proper appreciation of the Auerbachs Keller scene in the Faust. In fact, it would not be far-fetched to argue that the frequent sojourns of these two friends at the tavern, where they could regard the mob of students, when they ‘sallied forth upon them,’ with that certain critical detachment and subdued contempt, were not unlike the visit made by Faust and Mephistopheles to the tavern in Goethe’s play. Goethe’s biographer, Nicholas Boyle, has this to say about the friendship:

“In Leipzig, and in the person of Behrisch, Goethe first experienced the seductions of a courtly culture that was the personal affair of a few select individuals, elevated above the anonymous mass of the public – and the public, as Leipzig showed with especial clarity, was something created by ugly mechanical devices such as printing-presses, which, so Behrisch claimed, deformed their operators, and by the lowly workings of trade.”

[Boyle, op.cit., p. 68]

(Below, the Altes Rathaus in Leipzig)

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In Goethe’s Auerbachs Keller episode, that aristocratic disdain for the lowly both enhances and adorns the traditional story of Faust’s mythical visit to the locale, a tradition which had been carried down for hundreds of years in the old city of Leipzig.

Sculptures at the entrance of Auerbachs Keller:
Faust and Mephistopheles

And thus, Faust, now under the guidance and tutelage of Mephistopheles, prepared to live out the consequences of his wager.

Faust I, Act I (Conclusion of Scene IV)
Where do we go from here?’ Faust asks Mephistopheles. ‘Where you please,’ answers Mephisto, but it is to the “little world” that they will venture into first. The little world of every day life, where fun is the paramount objective: the student beer-tavern in Leipzig.

Murnau's Faust, with Mephistopheles, 1926


Wohin soll es nun gehn?

Where do we go from here?


Wohin es dir gefällt.
Wir sehn die kleine, dann die große Welt.
Mit welcher Freude, welchem Nutzen
Wirst du den Cursum durchschmarutzen!

Where you please.
The little world, and then the great, we’ll see.
With what profit and delight,
This term, you’ll be a parasite!

As Mephisto and Faust prepared to depart from the Study room where such momentous dialogue had taken place, Faust feels inadequate, and understandably so, since the grandeur of his inner life must now be measured against the offerings of the real physical world Mephisto is willing to offer him. His feelings of alienation turn on what he now regards as the inadequacy of his outward physical aspect. His beard, the scholar’s beard appears to him now as contrasting negatively with ‘life’s superficial style,’ the style of the worldly.


Allein bei meinem langen Bart
Fehlt mir die leichte Lebensart.
Es wird mir der Versuch nicht glücken;
Ich wußte nie mich in die Welt zu schicken.
Vor andern fühl ich mich so klein;
Ich werde stets verlegen sein.

Yet with my long beard, I’ll
Lack life’s superficial style.
My attempt will come to nothing:
I know, in this world, I don’t fit in.
I feel so small next to other men,
It only means embarrassment.


Mein guter Freund, das wird sich alles geben;
Sobald du dir vertraust, sobald weißt du zu leben.

My friend, just give yourself completely to it:
When you find yourself, you’ll soon know how to live it.

Leipzig in the eighteenth century

Mephistopheles counsels self-abandonment as a means of enjoyment. In reality, the reason why Mephisto will take Faust to Auerbachs Keller is that the myth of Dr. Faustus requires it. Throughout this scene, Goethe must balance what he wants to say against what the old myth of Doctor Faustus traditionally held. In the old story, Faust had been there before and was said to have flown out of Auerbachs Keller on a wine-barrel. In Goethe’s Faust, he flies in on the Devil’s cloak.

Ernst Barlach, Faust and Mephistopheles (Woodcut, 1923)


Wie kommen wir denn aus dem Haus?
Wo hast du Pferde, Knecht und Wagen?

How shall we depart from here, then?
I see not one servant, coach, or horse.

Sculpture at the entrance of Auerbachs Keller


Wir breiten nur den Mantel aus,
Der soll uns durch die Lüfte tragen.
Du nimmst bei diesem kühnen Schritt
Nur keinen großen Bündel mit.
Ein bißchen Feuerluft, die ich bereiten werde,
Hebt uns behend von dieser Erde.
Und sind wir leicht, so geht es schnell hinauf;
Ich gratuliere dir zum neuen Lebenslauf!

We’ll just spread this cloak wide open,
Then through the air we’ll take our course.
For a daring trip like this we’re on,
Better not take much baggage along.
A little hot air I’ll ready, first,
To lift us nimbly above the Earth,
And as we’re light we’ll soon get clear:
Congratulations on your new career!

Mikhail Vrubel, The Flight of Faust and Mephistopheles, 1896

Act I, Scene V: Auerbach’s Cellar in Leipzig

Auerbachs Keller today

Prior to the arrival of Faust and Mephistopheles at the Cellar, Goethe sets the scene. It is unclear who all these characters in the tavern are, but their names provide a clue to their status as stereotypes of the academic world. “Frosch” is a nickname for freshmen, and at one time “Brander” was a nickname for sophomores. “Altmeyer” a name whose stem means old age in German (Alt), is an alumnus of the Universtiy, and “Siebel” is the bartender, older, bald and pot-bellied, as is made clear later in the course of the dialogue.

The exchanges among the students, who have clearly been drinking heavily at the bar, are predictably banal. There is throughout an underlying forced nature to their carousal, as if the natural torpor of inebriation needed to be overcome in order for joy to be found. Consequently, there is the underlying and constant threat of violence as well. Thus Frosch, bored and eager to laugh, yet finding neither an echo nor little around him that can induce mirth, immediately begins to threaten violence.

Tavern scene

Auerbachs Keller in Leipzig

(Zeche lustiger Gesellen)


Will keiner trinken? keiner lachen?
Ich will euch lehren Gesichter machen!
Ihr seid ja heut wie nasses Stroh,
Und brennt sonst immer lichterloh.

(Friends happily drinking)

Will none of you laugh? Nobody drink?
I’ll have to teach you to smile, I think!
You’re all of you like wet straw today,
And usually you’re well away.

The exchange is rough and competitive, with an effortless show of contempt and mutual insults. Brander responds with the Sophomore's barely hidden feeling of superiority toward the Freshman:


Das liegt an dir; du bringst ja nichts herbei,
Nicht eine Dummheit, keine Sauerei.

That’s up to you, you bring us nothing.
Nothing dumb, or dirty, nothing.

FROSCH (giesst ihm ein Glas Wein über den Kopf):

Da hast du beides!

(Pouring a glass of wine over Brander’s head):

You can have both!


Doppelt Schwein!

Rotten swine!


Ihr wollt es ja, man soll es sein!

You wanted them both, so you got mine!

Siebel, who seems to be an older man, appears to be a peace-maker. Violence between the drunken students can be deflected by bad singing.

Auerbachs Keller in the nineteenth century


Zur Tür hinaus, er sich entzweit!
Mit offner Brust singt Runda, sauft und schreit!
Auf! Holla! Ho!

Out the door, whoever fights! Get out!
Let’s sing a heart-felt chorus, drink and shout!
Up! Hurray! Ha!


Weh mir, ich bin verloren! Baumwolle her! der Kerl sprengt mir die Ohren.

Ah! I’m in agony!
Earplugs, here! This fellow’s deafened me.

The four men ridicule each other’s attempts at self-expression.


Wenn das Gewölbe widerschallt,
Fühlt man erst recht des Basses Grundgewalt.

Only when the vaults rebound
Can you really enjoy the growl of the basses.


So recht, hinaus mit dem, der etwas übel nimmt!
A! tara lara da!

Right, out with him who takes offence!
Ah! Tara lara da!


A! tara lara da!

Ah! Tara lara da!


Die Kehlen sind gestimmt.


Das liebe Heil'ge Röm'sche Reich,
Wie hält's nur noch zusammen?

Our throats are tuned: commence.

(He sings.)

‘Dear Holy Roman Empire,
How do you hold together?’


Ein garstig Lied! Pfui! ein politisch Lied
Ein leidig Lied! Dankt Gott mit jedem Morgen,
Daß ihr nicht braucht fürs Röm'sche Reich zu sorgen!
Ich halt es wenigstens für reichlichen Gewinn,
Daß ich nicht Kaiser oder Kanzler bin.
Doch muß auch uns ein Oberhaupt nicht fehlen;
Wir wollen einen Papst erwählen.
Ihr wißt, welch eine Qualität
Den Ausschlag gibt, den Mann erhöht.

A lousy song! Bah! A political song -
A tiresome song! Thank God, every morning,
It isn’t you who must sit there worrying
About the Empire! At least I’m better for
Not being a King or a Chancellor.
But we should have a leader, so
We’ll choose a Pope of our own.
You know the qualities that can
Swing the vote, and elevate the man.

As politics are rejected, the students turn their ribaldry to sex.

FROSCH (singt):

Schwing dich auf, Frau Nachtigall,
Grüß mir mein Liebchen zehentausendmal.


‘Sing away, sweet Nightingale,
Greet my girl, and never fail.’

Dem Liebchen keinen Gruß! ich will davon nichts hören!

Don’t greet my girl! I’ll not allow it!


Dem Liebchen Gruß und Kuß! du wirst mir's nicht verwehren!


Riegel auf! in stiller Nacht.
Riegel auf! der Liebste wacht.
Riegel zu! des Morgens früh.

Greet and kiss her! You’ll not stop it!

(He sings)

‘Slip the bolt in deepest night!
Slip it! Wake, the lover bright.
Slip it to! At break of dawn.’

Reacting to Frosch’s song about lost love, Siebel, the bartender, shows himself to be embittered by his experiences with women. He cynically deplores the falsehood of the opposite sex in a familiar mode of irony. He implies that he has recently had some heartbreak, and hopes that his former girlfriend will get nothing but a “dwarf for a lover / an old goat from Block Mountain (the Brocken, scene of the Witches Festivals)” But he is ignored by the others.

Ja, singe, singe nur und lob und rühme sie!
Ich will zu meiner Zeit schon lachen.
Sie hat mich angeführt, dir wird sie's auch so machen.
Zum Liebsten sei ein Kobold ihr beschert!
Der mag mit ihr auf einem Kreuzweg schäkern;
Ein alter Bock, wenn er vom Blocksberg kehrt,
Mag im Galopp noch gute Nacht ihr meckern!
Ein braver Kerl von echtem Fleisch und Blut
Ist für die Dirne viel zu gut.
Ich will von keinem Gruße wissen,
Als ihr die Fenster eingeschmissen

Yes, sing in praise of her, and boast: sing on!
I’ll laugh later when it suits:
She leads me a dance, she’ll lead you too.
She should have a dwarf for a lover!
At the crossroads, let him woo her:
An old goat from Blocksberg, galloping over,
Can bleat goodnight, as it passes by her.
An honest man, of flesh and blood,
For a girl like that’s far too good.
I’m not bothered even to say hello
Except perhaps to break her window.

BRANDER (auf den Tisch schlagend):

Paßt auf! paßt auf! Gehorchet mir!
Ihr Herrn, gesteht, ich weiß zu leben
Verliebte Leute sitzen hier,
Und diesen muß, nach Standsgebühr,
Zur guten Nacht ich was zum besten geben.
Gebt acht! Ein Lied vom neusten Schnitt!
Und singt den Rundreim kräftig mit!

(Pounding on the table)
Quiet! Quiet! Or you won’t hear!
I know about life, you lot, confess.
Besotted persons sit among us,
As fits their status, then, I must
Give them, tonight, of my very best.
Listen! A song in the newest strain!
And you can shout out the refrain!

The banality of the exchanges among the besotted group continues. The song that Brander now begins to sing about a love-stricken rat makes explicit reference to sexual desire, which is what is driving the rat mad, ‘as if she had love in her belly,’ but is in fact her death throes. Ironically, the rat is first described as round and fat, living off grease and butter, with a belly like that of Dr. Luther, which conjures up an image that is quite antithetical to that of the sexual aggressor, and more like that of the sedentary monk. But the sexual desire of the rat is in fact the effect of the cook’s poison, which finally destroys her.

(Er singt)

Es war eine Ratt im Kellernest,
Lebte nur von Fett und Butter,
Hatte sich ein Ränzlein angemäst't,
Als wie der Doktor Luther.
Die Köchin hatt ihr Gift gestellt;
Da ward's so eng ihr in der Welt,
Als hätte sie Lieb im Leibe.

Lucas Cranach the Elder, Martin Luther

(He sings)

‘A rat lived in a cellar nest,
Her paunch could not be smoother.
She liked her lard and butter best,
And looked like Martin Luther.
The cook she set some poison bait;
The rat got in an awful state,
As if she had love in her belly.’

CHORUS (jauchzend):
Als hätte sie Lieb im Leibe.

Chorus (Jubilant):
‘As if she had love in her belly!’

Sie fuhr herum, sie fuhr heraus,
Und soff aus allen Pfützen,
Zernagt', zerkratzt, das ganze Haus,
Wollte nichts ihr Wüten nützen;
Sie tät gar manchen Ängstesprung,
Bald hatte das arme Tier genung,
Als hätt es Lieb im Leibe.

‘She scurried here and scurried there;
She guzzled puddle juice
She scraped and flitted everywhere,
Her frenzy was no use.
She leapt great leaps in mortal fear,
Without a doubt, the end was near –
As if she had love in her belly.’

Als hätt es Lieb im Leibe.
‘As if she had love in her belly!’

Sie kam vor Angst am hellen Tag
Der Küche zugelaufen,
Fiel an den Herd und zuckt, und lag,
Und tät erbärmlich schnaufen.
Da lachte die Vergifterin noch:
Ha! sie pfeift auf dem letzten Loch,
Als hätte sie Lieb im Leibe.

‘And in the glaring light of day
She ran into the kitchen,
Dropped at the hearth and jerked and lay
Panting hard and pitching.
And now the cook did laugh to boot,
“Ha! This is her final toot,
As if she had love in her belly."

Als hätte sie Lieb im Leibe.
‘As if she had love in her belly.’

Siebel disapproves of the tenor of the song as well as the jubilation of the chorus, and his disapproval is the occasion for Altmeyer to point out that Siebel, being older, has reached the contentment and cowardice of middle-age.

Wie sich die platten Bursche freuen!
Es ist mir eine rechte Kunst,
Den armen Ratten Gift zu streuen!

How pleased they are, the tiresome fools!
Spreading poison for wretched rats,
To me, that’s the right thing to do!

Sie stehn wohl sehr in deiner Gunst?
You’re in sympathy with them, perhaps?

Der Schmerbauch mit der kahlen Platte!
Das Unglück macht ihn zahm und mild;
Er sieht in der geschwollnen Ratte
Sind ganz natürlich Ebenbild

That fat belly with a balding head!
Bad luck makes him meek and mild:
From a swollen rat, he sees, with dread,
His own natural likeness is compiled.

At this point, Faust and Mephistopheles finally appear. The stage has been set for them. The students are drunk and quarrelsome. A failed attempt to address a political song has been overtaken by a ribald song of love and death, which ominously forecasts the tragic fate of Gretchen at Faust’s hands (‘As if she had love in her belly’). Now Faust and Mephistopheles can indulge their contempt towards the student mob, much like Goethe and Behrisch most likely did in their time.

Faust and Mephisto
Sculptures at the entrance of Auerbachs Keller

(Faust und Mephistopheles treten auf)

(Faust and Mephistopheles appear)

Ich muß dich nun vor allen Dingen
In lustige Gesellschaft bringen,
Damit du siehst, wie leicht sich's leben läßt.
Dem Volke hier wird jeder Tag ein Fest.
Mit wenig Witz und viel Behagen
Dreht jeder sich im engen Zirkeltanz,
Wie junge Katzen mit dem Schwanz.
Wenn sie nicht über Kopfweh klagen,
So lang der Wirt nur weiter borgt,
Sind sie vergnügt und unbesorgt.

First of all, I had to bring you here,
Where cheerful friends sup together,
To see how happily life slips away.
For these folk every day’s a holiday.
With lots of leisure, and little sense,
They revolve in their round-dance,
Chasing their tails as kittens prance,
If the hangovers aren’t too intense,
If the landlord gives them credit,
They’re cheerful, and unworried by it.

Mephisto’s evaluation of the scene is an improvement over its reality. There is no happiness here, and no enjoyment of the moment. In fact there is little cheerfulness, rather competitiveness, sexual frustration, a hankering after lust and a barely suppressed violence. This is the painful carousal induced by alcohol, an attempt at forgetfulness after another sordid day of reality. There is indeed leisure, and little sense, but the scene we just witnessed was a far cry from the innocent prance of kittens chasing their tails. Yet Mephisto’s point to Faust is that mortal life is precisely no more than that, an aimless chasing of one’s tail, where days follow each other senselessly and aimlessly and ‘life slips away.’ Cheerfulness and the absence of worry is proposed as a balm for the frustrated Faust, and as an enticement to renounce all striving and perhaps say to the passing moment, ‘tarry a while, thou art so fair!’

The students gaze at the strangers as they walk in. Brander takes them for foreigners, since the Doctor and Mephisto are elegantly attired adults in a student bar, one of them exotically dressed.

Die kommen eben von der Reise,
Man sieht's an ihrer wunderlichen Weise;
Sie sind nicht eine Stunde hier.

They’re fresh from their traveling days,
You can tell by their foreign ways:
They’ve not been back an hour: you see.

Wahrhaftig, du hast recht! Mein Leipzig lob ich mir!
Es ist ein klein Paris, und bildet seine Leute.

True, you’re right! My Leipzig’s dear to me!
It’s a little Paris, and educates its people.

(Below, painting of Leipzig in the nineteenth century. Museum of History, Leipzig)

Goethe here makes his reference to Leipzig’s reputation as a cultured city. Faust’s new life, like Goethe’s own, begins in a University town.

Für was siehst du die Fremden an?

Who do you think the strangers are?

Laß mich nur gehn! Bei einem vollen Glase
Zieh ich, wie einen Kinderzahn,
Den Burschen leicht die Würmer aus der Nase.
Sie scheinen mir aus einem edlen Haus,
Sie sehen stolz und unzufrieden aus.

Let me find out! I’ll draw the truth,
From those two, with a brimming glass,
As easily as you’d pull a child’s tooth.
It seems to me they’re of some noble house,
They look so discontented and so proud.

Initially, the students think they can outwit these two misplaced strangers, deceiving themselves by the natural arrogance of youth and a sense of possession in familiar haunts. A drink will loosen the tongue of these travelers and disclose their identiy.

Marktschreier sind's gewiß, ich wette!

They’re surely strolling players, I’d guess!



Gib acht, ich schraube sie!

Watch me screw it out of them, then!

Mephistopheles remarks on the naïvete and innocence of the students.

Den Teufel spürt das Völkchen nie,
Und wenn er sie beim Kragen hätte.

These folk wouldn’t feel the devil, even
If he’d got them dangling by the neck.

Faust now utters the only words he will say until it's time for him to leave. He is clearly not going to have a good time at Auerbach’s Keller.

Seid uns gegrüßt, ihr Herrn!

Greetings, sirs!

Viel Dank zum Gegengruß.

(Leise, Mephistopheles von der Seite ansehend)

Was hinkt der Kerl auf einem Fuß?

Thank you, and greetings.

(He mutters away, inspecting Mephistopheles side-on)

What’s wrong with his foot: why’s he limping?

Mephisto, apparently not noticing the insult, shows his contempt for the environment he finds himself in: in a student beer hall it will most likely be impossible to have anything decent to drink.

Ist es erlaubt, uns auch zu euch zu setzen?
Statt eines guten Trunks, den man nicht haben kann
Soll die Gesellschaft uns ergetzen.

Allow us to sit with you, if you please.
Instead of fine ale that can’t be had,
We can still have good company.
Ihr scheint ein sehr verwöhnter Mann.

You seem a choosy sort of lad.

Ihr seid wohl spät von Rippach aufgebrochen?
Habt ihr mit Herren Hans noch erst zu Nacht gespeist?

Was it late when you started out from Rippach?
Perhaps you dined with Hans there, first?

The students feel they have the upper hand. Frosch’s reference to Hans Rippach is meant to make his friends laugh at the expense of the strangers, who are now guests at their table. Rippach was a village near Leipzig, the last post station for changing horses on the way from Naumburg to Leipzig. It was proverbially a place of origin for fools and dupes, inhabited by boorish farmers and squires, and Hans Arse, Hans Arsch (Arse) von Rippach, a sort of loud-mouthed potato baron, was a figure of fun for the Leipzig students.

Mephisto’s response, where he refers to the students as Hans Rippach’s cousins, is designed to show them he is not easily outwitted, and a sign of things to come.

Heut sind wir ihn vorbeigereist!
Wir haben ihn das letztemal gesprochen.
Von seinen Vettern wußt er viel zu sagen,
Viel Grüße hat er uns an jeden aufgetragen.

(Er neigt sich gegen Frosch)

We passed straight by, today, without a rest!
We spoke to him last some time back,
When he talked a lot about his cousins,
And he sent to each his kind greetings.

(He bows to Frosch)

ALTMAYER (leise):
Da hast du's! der versteht's!

He did you, there! He’s smart!

Ein pfiffiger Patron!

A shrewd customer

Nun, warte nur, ich krieg ihn schon!

Wait, I’ll have him soon, I’m sure!

Frosch wants to test his wits with the Devil.

Wenn ich nicht irrte, hörten wir
Geübte Stimmen Chorus singen?
Gewiß, Gesang muß trefflich hier
Von dieser Wölbung widerklingen!

If I’m not wrong, we heard
A tuneful choir singing?
I’m sure, with this vault, the words
Must really set it ringing!

The latter is a reference to the vaulted ceiling of Auerbach’s wine cellar, as well as an ironic reference to the students’ previous caterwauling.

Seid Ihr wohrgar ein Virtuos?

Are you by any chance a virtuoso?

O nein! die Kraft ist schwach, allein die Lust ist groß.

No! Though my desire is great, my skill is only so-so.

Gebt uns ein Lied!

Give us a song!

Wenn ihr begehrt, die Menge.

If you wish it, a few.
Nur auch ein nagelneues Stück!

So long as it’s a brand-new one!

Wir kommen erst aus Spanien zurück,
Dem schönen Land des Weins und der Gesänge.

Es war einmal ein König,
Der hatt einen großen Floh-

Well, it’s from Spain that we’ve just come,
The lovely land of wine, and singing too.

(He sings)

‘There was once a king, who
Had a giant flea’ –

Horcht! Einen Froh! Habt ihr das wohl gefaßt?
Ein Floh ist mir ein saubrer Gast.

Listen! Did you get that? A flea.
A flea’s an honest guest to me.

Mephistopheles’ song about the flea is political satire. Whereas the song about the Holy Roman Empire had been hastily dismissed by the students and substituted by the song about the rat, here Mephisto is allowed to proceed without more. The song is a satire on the Ancien Regime, the established political order in Europe prior to the French Revolution. The flea is an upstart member of the court, a favorite of the king, holding court with the king. Even though, in the song, the members of the aristocracy find it appalling that a flea would thus join their ranks, they accept its preferment and submit to the parasite that gorges on their blood. Like many a parasite among the ruling classes, fleas fatten on the blood of those who are more powerful, for they have no independent means of existence.

Courtiers: Aert de Gelder, Banquet at the House of Ahasuerus, 1680

Es war einmal ein König
Der hatt einen großen Floh,
Den liebt, er gar nicht wenig,
Als wie seinen eignen Sohn.
Da rief er seinen Schneider,
Der Schneider kam heran:
Da, miß dem Junker Kleider
Und miß ihm Hosen an!

‘There was once a king, who
Had a giant flea,
He loved him very much, oh,
He was like a son, you see.
The king called for his tailor,
He came right away:
Now, measure up the lad for
A suit of clothes, I say!’

Vergeßt nur nicht, dem Schneider einzuschärfen,
Daß er mir aufs genauste mißt,
Und daß, so lieb sein Kopf ihm ist,
Die Hosen keine Falten werfen!

Make sure the tailor’s sharp,
And cuts them out precisely,
And, since his son’s dear to his heart,
Make sure there’s never a crease to see.

In Sammet und in Seide
War er nun angetan
Hatte Bänder auf dem Kleide,
Hatt auch ein Kreuz daran
Und war sogleich Minister,
Und hatt einen großen Stern.
Da wurden seine Geschwister
Bei Hof auch große Herrn.

Und Herrn und Fraun am Hofe,
Die waren sehr geplagt,
Die Königin und die Zofe
Gestochen und genagt,
Und durften sie nicht knicken,
Und weg sie jucken nicht.
Wir knicken und ersticken
Doch gleich, wenn einer sticht.

All in silk and velvet,
He was smartly dressed,
With ribbons on his coat,
A cross upon his chest.
He was the First Minister,
And so he wore a star:
His brothers and his sisters,
He made noblest by far.

The lords and the ladies,
They were badly smitten,
The Queen and her maids,
They were stung and bitten.
They didn’t dare to crush them,
Or scratch away, all night.
We smother them, and crush them,
The moment that they bite.’


CHORUS (jauchzend):
Wir knicken und ersticken
Doch gleich, wenn einer sticht.

CHORUS (Shouting)

‘We smother them, and crush them,
The moment that they bite.’

Bravo! Bravo! Das war schön!

Bravo! Bravo! That went sweetly!

So soll es jedem Floh ergehn!

So shall it be with every flea!

Spitzt die Finger und packt sie fein!

Sharpen your nails, and crush them fine!

Es lebe die Freiheit! Es lebe der Wein!

Long live freedom, and long live wine!

The students have all been put in a fine mood by Mephisto’s song, thus setting the stage for what happens next, which is their deception and humiliation. Mephisto calls for a drink, so as to ensnare the unsuspecting and already besotted students.

Ich tränke gern ein Glas, die Freiheit hoch zu ehren,
Wenn eure Weine nur ein bißchen besser wären.

I’d love to drink a glass, in freedom’s honor,
If only the wine were a little better.

Why does Mephisto propose a toast to Freedom? He is setting the stage for the temptation of the students with the magical wines, their deception and humiliation, but why freedom?

Wir mögen das nicht wieder hören!

Not again, we don’t want to hear!

Ich fürchte nur, der Wirt beschweret sich;
Sonst gäb ich diesen werten Gästen
Aus unserm Keller was zum besten.

I fear the landlord might complain
Or I’d give these worthy guests,
One of my cellar’s very best.

Auerbachs Keller today: Faust and Mephistopheles sit on the wine-barrel.

Nur immer her! ich nehm's auf mich.

Just bring it on! He’ll accept it: I’ll explain.

The landlord will not object to the serving of a guest’s own wine, the students will talk him into it. They have the run of the place!

Schafft Ihr ein gutes Glas, so wollen wir Euch loben.
Nur gebt nicht gar zu kleine Proben
Denn wenn ich judizieren soll,
Verlang ich auch das Maul recht voll.

Make it a good glass and we’ll praise it.
But don’t make it so small we can’t taste it.
Because if I’m truly going to decide,
I need a really big mouthful inside.

The students are daring Mephisto to make free with his wine.

ALTMAYER (leise):
Sie sind vom Rheine, wie ich spüre.

They’re from the Rhine, as I guessed.

Altmayer is only speculating on the origin of the strangers, but has no clear notion. His reference to the Rhineland, the source of Germany’s most highly regarded wines, is due to his growing admiration for Mephistopheles’ apparent sophistication.

Mephistopheles now sets in motion his plan to humiliate the students. He calls for a corkscrew, with which he will bore holes in the table, seal them, and thus create a tap for the spirits he will serve, and he suggests to the group that they each request whatever drink they desire. “There is a choice for every one of you.” The meaning of his toast to “Freedom” begins to emerge. It is the freedom of desire.

[Above, a mural at Auerbachs Keller shows Mephistopheles preparing his tap]

Schafft einen Bohrer an!

Bring me a corkscrew!

Was soll mit dem geschehn? Ihr habt doch nicht die Fässer vor der Türe?

What for?
Is it outside already, this cask?

Dahinten hat der Wirt ein Körbchen Werkzeug stehn.

There’s one in the landlord’s toolbox, for sure.

MEPHISTOPHELES (nimmt den Bohrer. Zu Frosch):

Nun sagt, was wünschet Ihr zu schmecken?

(Takes the corkscrew. To Frosch)

Now, what would you like to try?

Wie meint Ihr das? Habt Ihr so mancherlei?

What? Is there a selection, too?

Ich stell es einem jeden frei.

There’s a choice for every one of you.

ALTMAYER (zu Frosch):
Aha! du fängst schon an, die Lippen abzulecken.

(To Frosch)
Ah! You soon catch on: your lips are dry?

Gut! wenn ich wählen soll, so will ich Rheinwein haben.
Das Vaterland verleiht die allerbesten Gaben.

Good! When I’ve a choice, I drink Rhenish.
The Fatherland grants those best gifts to us.

MEPHISTOPHELES (indem er an dem Platz, wo Frosch sitzt, ein Loch in den Tischrand bohrt):

Verschafft ein wenig Wachs, die Pfropfen gleich zu machen!

(Boring a hole in the table-edge where Frosch is sitting)

Bring me a little wax, to make the seals, as well!

Ach, das sind Taschenspielersachen.

Ah, that’s for the conjuring trick, I can tell.

[Altmayer is guessing right: Mephisto is indeed setting up a conjuring trick]


Und Ihr?

(To Brander.)

And yours?

Ich will Champagner Wein Und recht moussierend soll er sein!

(Mephistopheles bohrt; einer hat indessen die Wachspfropfen gemacht
und verstopft.)

Man kann nicht stets das Fremde meiden
Das Gute liegt uns oft so fern.
Ein echter deutscher Mann mag keinen Franzen leiden,
Doch ihre Weine trinkt er gern.

Champagne for me is fine:
Make it a truly sparkling wine!

(Mephistopheles bores the holes: one of the others makes the wax stoppers and stops the holes with them.)

We can’t always shun what’s foreign,
Things from far away are often fine.
Real Germans can’t abide a Frenchman,
And yet they gladly drink his wine.

Wine Judges

SIEBEL (indem sich Mephistopheles seinem Platze nähert):

Ich muß gestehn, den sauern mag ich nicht,
Gebt mir ein Glas vom echten süßen!

(As Mephistopheles approaches his seat)

I must confess I do dislike the dry,
Give me a glass of the very sweetest!

Euch soll sogleich Tokayer fließen.

(Boring a hole)

I’ll pour an instant Tokay for you, yes?

Once again, as he did earlier, Altmeyer, the alumnus, is suspiciously aware that Mephistopheles is outwitting all of them, but he continues to go along with the prank, as Mephisto tries to disabuse him of his doubt.

Nein, Herren, seht mir ins Gesicht!
Ich seh es ein, ihr habt uns nur zum besten.

Now, gentlemen, look me in the eye!
I see you’ve had the better of us there.

Ei! Ei! Mit solchen edlen Gästen
Wär es ein bißchen viel gewagt.
Geschwind! Nur grad heraus gesagt!
Mit welchem Weine kann ich dienen?

Now! Now! With guests so rare,
That would be far too much for me to dare.
Quick! Time for you to declare!
Which wine can I serve you with?

Mit jedem! Nur nicht lang gefragt.

(Nachdem die Löcher alle gebohrt und verstopft sind.)

Any at all! Don’t make us ask forever.

(Now all the holes have been stopped and sealed.)

Mephisto now proceeds to conjure the alcoholic spirits. He has turned the table into a tap-room bar to pour and serve the drinks.

MEPHISTOPHELES (mit seltsamen Gebärden):

Trauben trägt der Weinstock!
Hörner der Ziegenbock;
Der Wein ist saftig, Holz die Reben,
Der hölzerne Tisch kann Wein auch geben.
Ein tiefer Blick in die Natur!
Hier ist ein Wunder, glaubet nur!
Nun zieht die Pfropfen und genießt!
(With a strange gesture)

Grapes, they are the vine’s load!
Horns, they are the he-goat’s:
Wine is juice: wood makes vines,
The wooden board shall give us wine.
Look deeper into Nature!
Have faith, and here’s a wonder!
Now draw the stoppers, and drink up!

ALLE (indem sie die Pfropfen ziehen und jedem der verlangte Wein ins Glas läuft):

O schöner Brunnen, der uns fließt!

ALL ( they draw the stoppers, and the spirits they chose flow into each glass.)

O lovely fount, that flows for us!
Nur hütet euch, daß ihr mir nichts vergießt!

(Sie trinken wiederholt)

But careful, don’t lose a drop!

(They drink repeatedly)

ALLE (singen):

Uns ist ganz kannibalisch wohl,
Als wie fünfhundert Säuen!

ALL (singing)

‘We’re all of us cannibals now,
We’re like five hundred sows.’

Das Volk ist frei, seht an, wie wohl's ihm geht!

The folk are free, and we can go, you see!

Mephisto has turned to the silent Faust, and remarks that his job is done. Now we understand Mephistopheles’ earlier toast to “Freedom.” It is the freedom from reason and sense, the freedom of unbridled desire. His irony points to the fact that he has degraded the students to the level of animals or infants. “The folk are free.”

Faust then utters the first words he has spoken since his initial greeting. He is not amused at Auerbachs Keller. He wants to leave, but Mephisto urges him to look upon the ‘bestiality’ of the students.

Ich hätte Lust, nun abzufahren.

I’d like to leave here now.

Gib nur erst acht, die Bestialität
Wird sich gar herrlich offenbaren.

Watch first: their bestiality
Will make a splendid show.

This is the final humiliation and degradation of the students by Mephistopheles. He has taken advantage of their need for alcoholic inebriation, and degraded them accordingly. They are singing about how they are all cannibals and sows when Mephisto invites Faust to observe their bestiality. Mephistopheles thus shows his contempt for humanity. But the show is not over, for he must also make them afraid.

Siebel, drinking without care, drops his wine on the ground and starts a fire. “Hell burns bright!” Satan’s fire, Mephisto’s “friendly element,” burns bright.

Delacroix, Scene at Auerbachs Keller from the Faust

SIEBEL (trinkt unvorsichtig, der Wein fließt auf die Erde und wird zur Flamme):

Helft! Feuer! helft! Die Hölle brennt!

Help! Fire! Hell burns bright!

MEPHISTOPHELES (die Flamme besprechend):

Sei ruhig, freundlich Element!

(Zu den Gesellen.)

Für diesmal war es nur ein Tropfen Fegefeuer.

(Charming away the flame)

Friendly element, be quiet!

(To the drinkers)
For this time, just a drop of Purgatory.

Mephistopheles makes reference to the long night of Purgatory that the students will have to look forward after their death.

[Below, a mural at Auerbachs Keller shows Mephisto conjuring the fire]

Was soll das sein? Wart! Ihr bezahlt es teuer!
Es scheinet, daß Ihr uns nicht kennt.

What’s that? You wait! You’ll pay dearly!
It seems you don’t quite see us right.

Indeed, “you don’t quite see us right” The students and Siebel have finally wised up to the trick that has been played upon them, and are angered by their humiliation and degradation.

Laß Er uns das zum zweiten Male bleiben!

Try playing that trick a second time, on us!

Ich dächt, wir hießen ihn ganz sachte seitwärts gehn.

I think we should quietly send him packing.

Was, Herr? Er will sich unterstehn,
Und hier sein Hokuspokus treiben?

What, sir? You think you’re daring,
Tricking us with your hocus-pocus?

But Mephistopheles’ contempt is now finally expressed openly:

Still, altes Weinfaß!

Be quiet, you old wine-barrel!

Besenstiel! Du willst uns gar noch grob begegnen?

You broomstick! You’ll show us you’re ill bred?

And Siebel has become aware, at some level of his consciousness, that the stranger in their midst is the Devil. A “broomstick” is the vehicle of witches and worlocks.

Wart nur, es sollen Schläge regnen!

Just wait, it’ll rain blows, on your head!

ALTMAYER (zieht einen Pfropf aus dem Tisch, es springt ihm Feuer entgegen):

Ich brenne! ich brenne!

(Draws a stopper and fire blazes in his face)

I’m burning! Burning!

Sculpture group at the entrance of Auerbachs Keller

Stoßt zu! der Kerl ist vogelfrei!

(Sie ziehen die Messer und gehn auf Mephistopheles los.)

It’s magic, strike!
The man’s a rascal! Kick him as you like!

(They draw knives and rush at Mephistopheles)

Sculptures at the entrance of Auerbachs Keller

MEPHISTOPHELES (mit ernsthafter Gebärde):

Falsch Gebild und Wort
Verändern Sinn und Ort!
Seid hier und dort!
(Sie stehn erstaunt und sehn einander an)

(With solemn gestures)

Word and Image, ensnare!
Alter, senses and air!
Be here, and there!

(They look at each other, amazed)

Wo bin ich? Welches schöne Land!

Where am I? What a lovely land!

Weinberge! Seh ich recht?

Vineyards? Am I seeing straight?
Und Trauben gleich zur Hand!

And, likewise, grapes to hand!

Hier unter diesem grünen Laube,
Seht, welch ein Stock! Seht, welche Traube!

(Er faßt Siebeln bei der Nase. Die andern tun es wechselseitig und heben die Messer)

Deep in this green arbor, here,
See, the vines! What grapes appear!

(He grasps Siebel by the nose: the others do the same reciprocally, and raise their knives.)

If at first they were only deceived, the students are now totally humiliated, holding each other by their noses and wandering about among illusions and hallucinations.


Irrtum, laß los der Augen Band!
Und merkt euch, wie der Teufel spaße.

(Er verschwindet mit Faust, die Gesellen fahren auseinander)

From their eyes, Error, take the iron band,
And let them see how the Devil plays a joke.

(He vanishes with Faust: the revellers separate)

Was gibt s?

What’s happening?


And how?

War das deine Nase?

Was that your nose?

BRANDER (zu Siebel):
Und deine hab ich in der Hand!

(To Siebel)
And I’ve still got your nose in my hand!

Es war ein Schlag, der ging durch alle Glieder!
Schafft einen Stuhl, ich sinke nieder!

It was a tremor that passed through every limb!
Pass me a stool: I’m sinking in!
Nein, sagt mir nur, was ist geschehn?
Tell me: what happened there, my friend?

Wo ist der Kerl? Wenn ich ihn spüre,
Er soll mir nicht lebendig gehn!

Where is he? When I catch that fellow,
He won’t leave here alive again!

Altmayer now makes reference to the very origin of the Auerbachs Keller episode, buried deep in history and myth, which is the story of Dr. Faustus riding out of Auerbachs Keller on a barrel.

Ich hab ihn selbst hinaus zur Kellertüre-
Auf einem Fasse reiten sehn--
Es liegt mir bleischwer in den Füßen.

(Sich nach dem Tische wendend.)

Mein! Sollte wohl der Wein noch fließen?

I saw him myself fly out of the cellar
Riding on a barrel – and then –
I feel there’s lead still in my feet.

(He turns towards the table.)

Ah! Does the wine still flow as sweet?
Betrug war alles, Lug und Schein.

It was deception, cheating, lying.

Mir deuchte doch, als tränk ich Wein.

Still, it seemed that I drank wine.

Aber wie war es mit den Trauben?

And what about all those grapes that hung there?
Nun sag mir eins, man soll kein Wunder glauben!

Tell me, now, we shouldn’t believe in wonders!

And so ends the scene at Auerbachs Keller in Leipzig, as Faust and Mephistopheles depart on an adventure which shall take Faust to the palaces and battlefields of the Holy Roman Emperors, to the Mothers of Invention, to Ancient Greece, the shores of the Aegean and the valleys of the Peneus, to the fortresses of Mystra, and into the arms of Gretchen and of Helen of Troy, forever dissatisfied and forever striving onwards until he reaches the lowlands where he will finally learn to care. His brief sojourn at Auerbachs Keller, among its wine-barrels, and with his ever-present companion goading him on, was no more than a brief glimpse into the mortal life he was so intent on overcoming.