IMPERIAL PALACE. THRONE-ROOM
Council of State, in expectation of the EMPEROR
Enter courtiers of every grade, splendidly attired. The Emperor ascends the throne; to the right the ASTROLOGER.
I greet you, trusty friends and dear,
Assembled thus from far and wide!—
I see the wise man at my side,
But wherefore is the fool not here?
Entangled in thy mantle’s flow.
He tripped upon the stair below;
The mass of fat they bare away,
If dead or drunken—who can say?
Forthwith another comes apace,
With wondrous speed to take his place;
Costly, yet so grotesque his gear,
All start amazed as he draws near.
Crosswise the guards before his face,
Entrance to bar, their halberds hold—
Yet there he is, the fool so bold.
MEPHISTOPHELES (kneeling before the throne)
What is accursed and gladly hailed?
What is desired and chased away?
What is upbraided and assailed?
What wins protection every day?
Whom darest thou not summon here?
Whose name doth plaudits still command?
What to thy throne now draweth near?
What from this place itself hath banned?
For this time thou thy words may’st spare!
This is no place for riddles, friend;
They are these gentlemen’s affair,—
Solve them! an ear I’ll gladly lend.
My old fool’s gone, far, far away, I fear;
Take thou his place, come, stand beside me here!
[MEPHISTOPHELES ascends and places himself at the EMPEROR’S left.]
Murmur of the Crowd
Here’s a new fool—for plague
Whence cometh he?—How passed he through?
The old one fell—he squander’d hath.—
He was a tub—now ’tis a lath.—
So now, my friends, beloved and leal,
Be welcome all, from near and far!
Ye meet ’neath an auspicious star;
For us above are written joy and weal.
But tell me wherefore, on this day,
When we all care would cast away,
And don the masker’s quaint array,
And naught desire but to enjoy,
Should we with state affairs ourselves annoy?
But if ye think it so must be indeed,
Why, well and good, let us forthwith proceed!