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In Faust," the "Prologue in Heaven" presents a vision of heaven. What is Goethe's...

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mparish1 | Honors

Posted March 2, 2011 at 10:43 AM via web

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In Faust," the "Prologue in Heaven" presents a vision of heaven. What is Goethe's heaven like?

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted March 5, 2011 at 4:29 AM (Answer #1)

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The "Prologue in Heaven," part of Goethe's Faust, presents a place where God reigns over all, even Mephistopheles. The heavenly host are gathered, with angels Raphael, Gabriel and Michael praising God's creation—the earth: each praises some aspect of God's work.

Raphael praises the sun:

The Sun, in ancient guise, competing
With brother spheres in rival song,
With thunder-march, his orb completing,
Moves his predestin'd course along;
His aspect to the powers supernal
Gives strength, though fathom him none may;
Transcending thought, the works eternal
Are fair as on the primal day.

The Sun, as he was in ancient days, continues his journey around the earth—always the same—giving strength, though no one can completely understand him. (Referring to the Sun as "him," personifies this fiery heavenly body with human characteristics.)

Gabriel praises the “earth’s splendour:”

With speed, thought baffling, unabating,
Earth's splendour whirls in circling flight;
Its Eden-brightness alternating
With solemn, awe-inspiring night;
Ocean's broad waves in wild commotion,
Against the rocks' deep base are hurled;
And with the spheres, both rock and ocean
Eternally are swiftly whirled.

Gabriel describes its "Eden-brightness" as having never faded since the beginning of time; and night, which still inspires awe to all who contemplate it; he praises, too, the Ocean's "broad waves in wild commotion," which hurls itself powerfully against the rocks and moves endlessly.

Finally, Michael praises nature's movement of lightning and thunder across the face of the world.

And tempests roar in emulation
From sea to land, from land to sea,
And raging form, without cessation,
A chain of wondrous agency,
Full in the thunder's path careering,

Flaring the swift destructions play;
But, Lord, Thy servants are revering
The mild procession of thy day.

Michael praises the "tempests" (storms) that move across the land and the sea, without end— a "wondrous agency" (a wonder to behold): both thunder and "flaring" (lightning).

Michael summarizes this by saying that all of his servants revere (honor and adore) his work.

All three angels say:

Thine aspect to the powers supernal
Gives strength, though fathom thee none may;
And all thy works, sublime, eternal,
Are fair as on the primal day.

In other words, they praise God's creation, as splendrous and everlasting as it was when it was created on the "primal day."

Goethe sees heaven as a place where God gathers with his host, and all praise him for the many glorious aspects of his formation of the world.

This is followed by discussion with Mephistopheles, so Goethe may imagine that "heavenly business" is also addressed there. Perhaps alluding to the fall of Adam and Eve, Mephistopheles (Mephisto) maintains that knowledge had brought mankind nothing but misery, thus questioning or challenging God's creation. Had mankind not had its glimpse of heaven at that first moment,

Better he might have fared, poor wight,
Hadst thou not given him a gleam of heavenly light;

would humans now be so vicious and stupid?

Men, in their evil 'clays, move my compassion;
Such sorry things to plague is nothing worth.

This is where God and Mephistopheles wager over the strength of Faust's faith. God permits (as happened in the book of Job in the Old Testament) Mephisto to do all he can to lure Faust from his faith; God is certain that Faust will, in time, prove his dedication to his Creator instead of to Mephistopheles, while perhaps learning lessons along the way.

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