One of the nightmarish aspects of Marx's life was his fascination with Goethe's Faust, the story of a young man who is at war with himself over good and evil and makes a pact with Satan. Faust exchanges his soul (through his intermediary Mephistopheles) for a life of pleasure and for the right ultimately to control the world through massive organized labor. Goethe's Faust was Marx's bible throughout his life. He memorized whole speeches of Mephistopheles, and could recite long passages to his children. (He equally loved Shakespeare, whom he also quoted regularly.)
While he was a student at Berlin University in 1837, Marx wrote romantic verses dedicated to his fiancée, Jenny von Westphalen. One of these poems, "The Player," was published in a German literary magazine, Athenaeum, in 1841 (reprinted in Payne 1971, 59). It describes a violinist who summons up the powers of darkness. The player, either Lucifer or Mephistopheles, boldly declares,
Look now, my blood-dark sword shall stab Unerringly within thy soul. God neither knows nor honors art. The hellish vapors rise and fill the brain.
Til I go mad and my heart is utterly changed. See this sword—the Prince of Darkness sold it to me. For me he beats the time and gives the signs. Ever more boldly I play the dance of death.
Was this article helpful?