Sunday, October 19, 2014

Auerbach's Cellar

A king there was once reigning,
Who had a goodly flea,
Him loved he without feigning,
As his own son were he!
His tailor then he summon'd,
The tailor to him goes:
Now measure me the youngster
For jerkin and for hose!

In satin and in velvet,
Behold the yonker dressed;
Bedizen'd o'er with ribbons,
A cross upon his breast.
Prime minister they made him,
He wore a star of state;
And all his poor relations
Were courtiers, rich and great.

The gentlemen and ladies
At court were sore distressed;
The queen and all her maidens
Were bitten by the pest,
And yet they dared not scratch them,
Or chase the fleas away.
If we are bit, we catch them,
And crack without delay.
-Goethe, "Faust"


nicrap said...

It's the other one i like much better...very neat!

In a cellar once there was rat
Who lived off lard and butter.
She grew and grew, she got as fat
As Doctor Martin Luther.
The cook put poison down the drain,
And soon she felt an awful pain —
As if love's dart had stuck her!

[Chorus] As if love's dart had stuck her!

She twitched as if she had had a fit
And drank from every puddle,
She chewed and scratched and gnawed and bit,
Her wits were in a muddle.
She jumped till she could jump no more,
And very soon lay at death's door —
As if love's dart had stuck her!

[Chorus] As if love's dart had stuck her!

In panic then at break of day
She ran into the kitchen,
And by the fireside she lay
In agony a-twitchin'.
The cook just laughed and said 'Oh my,
That rat is surely going to die —
As if love's dart had stuck her.'

[Chorus] As if love's dart had stuck her!

Goethe. Faust.

-FJ said...

...said the man who would live his life so as to evade love's dart. ;)

-FJ said...

Let's plunge ourselves into the roar of time, the whirl of accident; may pain and pleasure, success and failure, shift as they will -- it's only action that can make a man.”

-Goethe, "Faust"

-FJ said...

Care for a cup of Sturm und Drang, nicrap?

Thersites said...

MEPHISTOPHELES Fetch me a gimlet here!

BRANDER Say, what therewith to bore?
You cannot have the wine-casks at the door?

ALTMAYER Our landlord's tool-basket behind doth yonder stand.

MEPHISTOPHELES (takes the gimlet) (To FROSCH)
Now only say! what liquor will you take?

FROSCH How mean you that? have you of every sort?

MEPHISTOPHELES Each may his own selection make.

ALTMAYER (to FROSCH) Ha! Ha! You lick your lips already at the thought.

FROSCH Good, if I have my choice, the Rhenish I propose;
For still the fairest gifts the fatherland bestows.

MEPHISTOPHELES (boring a hole in the edge of the table opposite to where FROSCH is sitting)

Give me a little wax--and make some stoppers--quick!

ALTMAYER Why, this is nothing but a juggler's trick I


BRANDER Champagne's the wine for me;
Right brisk, and sparkling let it be!

(MEPHISTOPHELES bores; one of the party has in the meantime
prepared the wax-stoppers and stopped the holes.)

BRANDER What foreign is one always can't decline,
What's good is often scatter'd far apart.
The French your genuine German hates with all his heart,
Yet has a relish for their wine.

SIEBEI. (as MEPHISTOPHELES approaches him)

I like not acid wine, I must allow,
Give me a glass of genuine sweet!


Shall, if you wish it, flow without delay.

ALTMAYER Come! look me in the face! no fooling now!
You are but making fun of us, I trow.

MEPHISTOPHELES Ah! ah! that would indeed be making free
With such distinguished guests. Come, no delay;
What liquor can I serve you with, I pray ?

ALTMAYER Only be quick, it matters not to me.
(After the holes are bored and stopped.)

MEPHISTOPHELES (with strange gestures)

Grapes the vine-stock bears,
Horns the buck-goat wears!
Wine is sap, the vine is wood,
The wooden board yields wine as good.
With a deeper glance and true
The mysteries of nature view!
Have faith and here's a miracle!
Your stoppers draw and drink your fill!

ALL. (as they draw the stoppers and the wine chosen by each runs into
his glass)
Oh beauteous spring, which flows so far!

MEPHISTOPHELES Spill not a single drop, of this beware! (They drink repeatedly.)

ALL (sing) Happy as cannibals are we,
Or as five hundred swine.

MEPHISTOPHELES They're in their glory, mark their elevation!

FAUST Let's hence, nor here our stay prolong.

MEPHISTOPHELES Attend, of brutishness ere long
You'll see a glorious revelation.

SIEBEL (drinks carelessly; the wine is spilt upon the ground, and turns to
Help! fire! help! Hell is burning!

MEPHISTOPHELES (addressing the flames) Stop,
Kind element, be still, I say!
(To the Company.)

SIEBEL What means the knave! For this you'll dearly pay!
Us, it appears, you do not know.

FROSCH Such tricks a second time he'd better show!

ALTMAYER Methinks 'twere well we pack'd him quietly away.

SIEBEL What, sir! with us your hocus-pocus play!

MEPHISTOPHELES Silence, old wine-cask!

SIEBEL How! add insult, too!
Vile broomstick!

BRANDER Hold, or blows shall rain on you!

ALTMAYER (draws a stopper out of the table; fire springs out against him)
I burn! I burn!

SIEBEL 'Tis sorcery, I vow!
Strike home! The fellow is fair game, I trow!

(They draw their knives and attack MEPHISTOPHELES.)

FreeThinke said...

O, Great Moussorgsky! How excellent is thy name in all the earth!

I'll take Moussorgsky's robust, earthy Faust over Gounod's insipid romanticization an day.

Wonder if this Paean to a Flea was written with Feodor Chaliapin in mind?

FreeThinke said...

Es stand am rein ein Hirtenkind
Und huetete die Herde
Und wie Sie sang im Sommerwind
Ihr Haar floss bis zur Erde

Es kam herab vom zeinem Schloss
Der junge Prinz gestiegen
Er hielt am weg mit seine Tross
Und sah ihr gold' Haar fliegen

Sie sang ein altes Liebeslied
Dem jungen Koenig's Sohn
Ein altes Liebeslied
Dem jungen Koenig's Sohn

Dann hat er schnell
Vor Ihr gekniet
Und bot Ihr seine Krone
Und bot Ihr seine Krone

Es ist in alle Lande in
Der Fuerstin's Ruhm erklungen
Doch hat die junge Koenigin
Wohl niemals mehr gesungen

~ Heine

nicrap said...

...said the man who would live his life so as to evade love's dart.

...proves i am not a rat and would not like to die a rat's death. ;)

-FJ said...

Among the thousands of books burned on Berlin's Opernplatz in 1933, following the Nazi raid on the Institut für Sexualwissenschaft, were works by Heinrich Heine. To commemorate the terrible event, one of the most famous lines of Heine's 1821 play "Almansor" was engraved in the ground at the site: "Dort, wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man am Ende auch Menschen." ("Where they burn books, they will ultimately also burn people.")

-FJ said...

...ah, but to live a rat's life... what fun that must be! ;0

nicrap said...

lol. All about trade-offs, my friend, all about trade-offs ... what is that line by Berlin you are so fond of quoting, something about choices?

nicrap said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
-FJ said...


Isaiah Berlin, "letter to George Kennan"

“... If I understand you correctly, you think that Western Civilization has rested upon the principle that, whatever else was permitted or forbidden, the one heinous act which would destroy the world was to do precisely this--- the deliberate act of tampering with human beings so as to make them behave in a way which, if they knew what they were doing, or what the consequences were likely to be, would make them recoil with horror and disgust.”

" say (and I am not quoting) that every man possesses a point of weakness, an Achilles' heel, and by exploiting this a man may be made a hero or a martyr or a rag. Again, if I understand you correctly, you think that Western civilisation has rested upon the principle that, whatever else was permitted or forbidden, the one heinous act which would destroy the world was to do precisely this--the deliberate act of tampering with human beings so as to make them behave in a way which, if they knew what they were doing, or what its consequences were likely to be, would make them recoil with horror and disgust. The whole of the Kantian morality (and I don't know about Catholics, but Protestants, Jews, Muslims and high-minded atheists believe it) lies in this; the mysterious phrase about men being "ends in themselves," to which much lip-service has been paid, with not much attempt to explain it, seems to lie in this: that every human being is assumed to possess the capacity to choose what to do, and what to be, however narrow the limits within which his choice may lie, however hemmed in by circumstances beyond his control; that all human love and respect rests upon the attribution of conscious motives in this sense; that all the categories, the concepts, in terms of which we think about and act towards one another--goodness, badness, integrity and lack of it, the attribution of dignity or honour to others which we must not insult or exploit, the entire cluster of ideas such as honesty, purity of motive, courage, sense of truth, sensibility, compassion, justice; and, on the other side, brutality, falseness, wickedness, ruthlessness, lack of scruple, corruption, lack of feelings, emptiness--all these notions in terms of which we think of others and ourselves, in terms of which conduct is assessed, purposes adopted--all this becomes meaningless unless we think of human beings as capable of pursuing ends for their own sakes by deliberate acts of choice--which alone makes nobility noble and sacrifices sacrifices. "

"All this [the praise of our choicemaking volk] may seem an enormous platitude, but, if it is true, this is, of course, what ultimately refutes utilitarianism and what makes Hegel and Marx such monstrous traitors to our civilisation. When, in the famous passage, Ivan Karamazov rejects the worlds upon worlds of happiness which may be bought at the price of the torture to death of one innocent child, what can utilitarians, even the most civilised and humane, say to him? After all, it is in a sense unreasonable to throw away so much human bliss purchased at so small a price as one--only one--innocent victim, done to death however horribly--what after all is one soul against the happiness of so many? Nevertheless, when Ivan says he would rather return the ticket, no reader of Dostoevsky thinks this cold-hearted or mad or irresponsible; and although a long course of Bentham or Hegel might turn one into a supporter of the Grand Inquisitor, qualms remain."

Was it the quote that you were expecting, Don Quixote? ;)

-FJ said...


It's what Berlin termed "the unavoidability of conflicting ends" or, alternatively, the "incommensurability" of values. He once called this "the only truth which I have ever found out for myself... Some of the Great Goods cannot live together.... We are doomed to choose, and every choice may entail an irreparable loss." In short, it's what Michael Ignatieff summarized as "the tragic nature of choice".

-FJ said...

Why I am a Conservative...

Euripedes Hecuba - I may be a slave and weak as well, but the gods are strong, and custom too which prevails o'er them, for by custom it is that we believe in them and set up bounds of right and wrong for our lives. Now if this principle, when referred to thee, is to be set at naught, and they are to escape punishment who murder guests or dare to plunder the temples of gods, then is all fairness in things human at an end.


Pascal's "Pensees" - The result of this confusion is that one affirms the essence of justice to be the authority of the legislator; another, the interest of the sovereign; another, present custom, and this is the most sure. Nothing, according to reason alone, is just in itself; all changes with time. CUSTOM CREATES THE WHOLE OF EQUITY, FOR THE SIMPLE REASON THAT IT IS ACCEPTED. IT IS THE MYSTICAL FOUNDATION OF ITS AUTHORITY; WHOEVER CARRIES IT BACK TO FIRST PRINCIPLES DESTROYS IT. NOTHING IS SO FAULTY AS THOSE LAWS WHICH CORRECT FAULTS. He who obeys them because they are just, obeys a justice which is imaginary, and not the essence of law; it is quite self-contained, it is law and nothing more. He who will examine its motive will find it so feeble and so trifling that if he be not accustomed to contemplate the wonders of human imagination, he will marvel that one century has gained for it so much pomp and reverence. The art of opposition and of revolution is to unsettle established customs, sounding them even to their source, to point out their want of authority and justice. We must, it is said, get back to the natural and fundamental laws of the State, which an unjust custom has abolished. It is a game certain to result in the loss of all; nothing will be just on the balance. Yet people readily lend their ear to such arguments. They shake off the yoke as soon as they recognise it; and the great profit by their ruin, and by that of these curious investigators of accepted customs. But from a contrary mistake men sometimes think they can justly do everything which is not without an example. THAT IS WHY THE WISEST OF LEGISLATORS SAID THAT IT WAS NECESSARY TO DECEIVE MEN FOR THEIR OWN GOOD; and another, a good politician, "Cum veritatem qua liberetur ignoret, expedit quod fallatur."

nicrap said...

...the "unavoidability of conflicting ends" — yes, precisely this. Thanks! it was good of you to quote the whole passage. As i am not quite acquainted with Berlin.

Why I am a Conservative...

Between the fool and the knave — the choice is yours, my friend. As for me, i wouldn't be seen dead in the same grave as either of the two ... and, mind you, not just because i am Hindu*. heh. ;)

* as we don't bury our dead, but we burn them.

Thersites said...

Just describing the "bed" I've tied myself to. ;)

nicrap said...

Heh. you are a real good sport, as the English say. :)

Thersites said...