It is Easter’s Eve. Dr. Faust has passed the night in his study agonizing over his search for truth that has ended is such desolation. As morning dawns he mixes a deadly elixir with which he will end his life. Despair has prevailed. The light is extinguished; only the void remains. As Dr. Faust bravely raises the goblet of despair to his lips, he hears the choirs of heaven singing for joy: Christ is Risen! Alleluia!
(Faust, Part One, Goethe, transl. David Luke, Oxford, 1998)
FAUST. You gentle puissant choirs of heaven, why
Do you come seeking me? The dust is stronger!
Go, chant elsewhere to tenderer souls! For I
Can hear the message, but believe no longer.
Wonders are dear to faith, by it they live and die.
I cannot venture to those far-off spheres,
Their sweet evangel is not for my ears.
And yet – these strains, so long familiar, still
They call me back to life. There was time
Of quiet, solemn sabbaths when heaven’s kiss would fill
Me with its love’s descent, when a bell’s chime
Was deep mysterious music, and to pray
Was fervent ecstasy. I could not understand
The sweet desire that drove me far away
Out through the woods, over the meadowland:
There I would weep a thousand tears and feel
A whole world come to birth, my own yet real.
Those hymns would herald youthful games we played
To celebrate the spring. As I recall
That childhood, I am moved, my hand is stayed,
I cannot take this last and gravest step of all.
Oh sing, dear heaven-voices, as before!
Now my tears flow, I love the earth once more!
Dr. Faust is, but for a time, recalled to life.