I am the spirit, ever, that denies!
And rightly so: since everything created,
In turn deserves to be annihilated:
Better if nothing came to be.
So all that you call Sin, you see,
Destruction, in short, what you’ve meant
By Evil is my true element.

[Ich bin der Geist, der stets verneint!
Und das mit Recht; denn alles, was entsteht,
Ist wert, daß es zugrunde geht;
Drum besser wär’s, daß nichts entstünde.
So ist denn alles, was ihr Sünde,
Zerstörung, kurz, das Böse nennt,
Mein eigentliches Element.]

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) German poet, statesman, scientist
Faust: a Tragedy [eine Tragödie], Part 1, sc. 6 “The Study,” l. 1337ff [Mephistopheles] (1808-1829) [tr. Kline (2003)]

Some translations (and this site) include the Declaration, Prelude on the Stage, and Prologue in Heaven as individual scenes; others do not, leading to their Part 1 scenes being numbered three lower.

(Source (German)). Alternate translations:

I am the Spirit that Denies!
And rightly so, for all that from the Void
Wins into life, deserves to be destroyed;
Thus it were better nothing life should win.
And so is all that you as Sin,
Destruction, in a word, as Evil represent,
My own peculiar element.
[tr. Latham (1790)]

I am the Spirit that denies!
And rightly too; for all that doth begin
Should rightly to destruction run;
'Twere better then that nothing were begun.
Thus everything that you call Sin,
Destruction -- in a word, as Evil represent --
That is my own, real element.
[tr. Priest (1808)]

I am the spirit who says "nay" to all,
And rightly so; for all that have existence
Deserve that they should perish; so 'twere better
That nothing earthly should enjoy existence.
All, therefore, that you mortals mean by Sin,
Destruction, in a word, what you call Evil,
Is my peculiar element.
[tr. Coleridge (1821)]

I am the spirit which constantly denies, and that rightly; for everything that has originated, deserves to be annihilated. Therefore better were it that nothing should originate. Thus, all that you call sin, destruction, in a word. Evil, is my proper element.
[tr. Hayward (1831)]

The spirit I, which evermore denies!
And justly; for whate'er to light is brought
Deserves again to be reduced to naught;
Then better 'twere that naught should be.
Thus all the elements which ye
Destruction, Sin, or briefly, Evil, name,
As my peculiar element I claim.
[tr. Swanwick (1850)]

I am the spirit that denies!
And justly so; for all that time creates,
He does well who annihilates!
Better, it ne'er had had beginning;
And so, then, all that you call sinning,
Destruction, -- all you pronounce ill-meant, --
Is my original element.
[tr. Brooks (1868)]

I am the Spirit that Denies!
And justly so: for all things, from the Void
Called forth, deserve to be destroyed:
'Twere better, then, were naught created.
Thus, all which you as Sin have rated, --
Destruction, -- aught with Evil blent, --
That is my proper element.
[tr. Taylor (1870)]

I am the Spirit of Negation:
And justly so; for all that is created
Deserves to be annihilated.
’Twere better, thus, that there were no creation.
Thus everything that you call evil,
Destruction, ruin, death, the devil,
Is my pure element and sphere.
[tr. Blackie (1880)]

I am the spirit that negates.
And rightly so, for all that comes to be
Deserves to perish wretchedly;
'Twere better nothing would begin.
Thus everything that your terms, sin,
Destruction, evil represent --
That is my proper element.
[tr. Kaufmann (1961)]

I am the spirit that denies forever!
And rightly so! What has arisen from the void
deserves to be annihilated. It would be best if
nothing ever would arise. And thus what you call
havoc, deadly sin, or briefly stated: Evil,
that is my proper element.
[tr. Salm (1962)]

The spirit which eternally denies!
And justly so; for all that which is wrought
Deserves that it should come to naught;
Hence it were best if nothing were engendered.
Which is why all things you have rendered
By terms like sin, destruction -- evil, in brief --
Are my true element-in-chief.
[tr. Arndt (1976)]

I am the spirit of perpetual negation;
And rightly so, for all things that exist
Deserve to perish, and would not be missed.
Much better it would be if nothing were
Brought into being, Thus, what you men call
Destruction, sin, evil in short, is all
My sphere, the element I most prefer.
[tr. Luke (1987)]

I am the spirit that says no, no,
Always! And how right I am! For surely
It's right that everything that comes to be
Should cease to be. And so they do. Still better
Would be nothing ever was. Hence sin
And havoc and ruin -- all you call evil, in sum --
For me's the element in which I swim.
[tr. Greenberg (1992)]

I am the spirit of perpetual negation.
And that is only right; for all
That's made is fit to be destroyed.
Far better if it were an empty void!
So -- everything that you would call
Destruction, sin, and all that's meant
By evil, is my proper element.
[tr. Williams (1999)]

Added on 20-Sep-22 | Last updated 20-Sep-22
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