We’re stretching the definition of ‘poem’ a little bit this week to enjoy this famous speech from Christopher Marlowe’s The Tragicall History of Dr Faustus. Near the end of the play Faustus seems to be reneging on his deal with Lucifer. Mephistopheles, trying to keep Faustus’ soul for his Lord thinks out loud: “I cannot touch his soul; / But what I may afflict his body with / I will attempt, which is but little worth.” Faustus chooses Helen of Troy, “Whose sweet embracings may extinguish clean / Those thoughts that do dissuade me from my vow, / And keep mine oath I made to Lucifer”. Then she appears and he is lost:
Was this the face that launch’d a thousand ships,
And burnt the topless towers of Ilium–
Sweet Helen, make me immortal with a kiss.–
Her lips suck forth my soul: see, where it flies!–
Come, Helen, come, give me my soul again.
Here will I dwell, for heaven is in these lips,
And all is dross that is not Helena.
I will be Paris, and for love of thee,
Instead of Troy, shall Wertenberg be sack’d;
And I will combat with weak Menelaus,
And wear thy colours on my plumed crest;
Yea, I will wound Achilles in the heel,
And then return to Helen for a kiss.
O, thou art fairer than the evening air
Clad in the beauty of a thousand stars;
Brighter art thou than flaming Jupiter
When he appear’d to hapless Semele;
More lovely than the monarch of the sky
In wanton Arethusa’s azur’d arms;
And none but thou shalt be my paramour!
Text courtesy of the Gutenberg Project from the Quarto, 1604.
Posted by Chris Routledge