As time goes on Mephistopheles makes Goethe a lord of lands who rule over a people. Trying to look to the sea and his stretching land, his view is obstructed by a pious, elderly couple who favor the old ways. Faust then tells the devil and his henchmen to rid him of their presence. However, the devil burns their home and them in it. Faust, lamenting the fact, tells them that he only wanted an exchange! This is his low point in the second part of the epic. He then is blinded, but sees more clearly.
As the devil then begins to dig Faust’s grave in preparation of Faust’s highest moment that will make him say, “tarry awhile, thou art so fair.” Faust hears the shovels and thinks of the expanding border’s of his people, one can only suppose it be Germany. Here I find the most memorable passage in Faust epic as his grave is being dug:
The Last word Wisdom ever has to say:
He only earns his Freedom and Existence,
Who is forced to win this freshly every day.
Childhood, manhood, age’s vigorous years,
Surrounded by danger’s, there’ll spend here.
I wish to gave again on such a land,
Free earth: where a free race, in freedom stand.
Then, to the moment I’d dare say:
‘Stay awhile! You are so lovely’
Through aeons, then, never to fade away
This path of mine through all that’s earthly, –
Anticipating, here, its deep enjoyment,
Not I savor it, that highest moment. (11571/11586 translated by A. S. Kline)
So what he can never tire of, what he finally sells his soul for is the idea of giving up his lands to his people; it’s the gift of giving. This is a moment to pause for to reflect back on Aristotle on the divine life there are two different sorts of life, one of the devoted scholar and one of the political law giver. Faust chooses to change the life of everyone whom he comes into contact with by choosing the latter. There is something divine in that, because that is god given, and something we must earn each and every day anew. Faust’s final sweet moment is one where he transcends his material body and externalizes himself to become one with the whole, so he can live an eternal life, not just one confined to mere materiality, but to history in the making. He quakes in the very idea of freedom, because it transcends all the calculations the material, mechanistic minded men can imagine
So what saves Faust? It’s his ceaseless striving, his commitment to find the great moment of contentment. The epic poem finally ends with:
All that is transitory
Is only a symbol;
What seems unacheiveable
Here is seen done;
Here becomes fact;
[the eternal Feminine],
Beckon us on. (12104/12111 translated by A. S. Kline)
What does that mean? We’ve gone through Helen, Penelope, Ariadne, and Diotima, Gretchen, and now this eternal Feminine which is the universal woman found in every woman. The particular is Gretchen, however, the ideal goes back to Helen. For men, in these works, women have a powerful influence in their lives, they become beacons of light and love, which can guide us through the toughest of times, whether it be troubled seas, labyrinth’s made to make one lost, or regrets that set the mind uneasy. What we learn in Faust is to never give up, even to one’s last breath. To never let into petty pleasures, or ephemeral riches. One thing that struck my heart was my compassion for the young girl Gretchen. So innocent and pious was she, that she found herself in a position where her own conscience drove her to madness. If only I could have been there for her. Whose fault was it? Was it the rigged community’s commitment to hate and shame a young girl given to birth, instead of celebration, or was it her own fault? She was only a child, it wasn’t her fault, she was driven by emotion and the reflection of her community upon herself. Passivity is evil, activity is good. That the marriage between romanticism and classicism is found between the energy and vitality of the romantics and the clearness and balance of the Greeks, Finally, that the gift of giving is the highest heights of transcendent strife. It is godly, because god gave us the world and thought that it is good. That the eternal life is found in this, because in externalizing oneself one finds an eternal life found within the whole of humanity and history.