Home  »  library  »  poem  »  Invocation to Helen

C.D. Warner, et al., comp. The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes. 1917.

Invocation to Helen

By Christopher Marlowe (1564–1593)

From ‘Doctor Faustus

FAUSTUS—Was this the face that launched a thousand ships

And burnt the topless towers of Ilium?

Sweet Helen, make me immortal with a kiss.[Kisses her.]

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 sacked;

And I will combat with weak Menelaus,

And wear thy colors on my plumèd crest;

Yea, I will wound Achilles in the heel,

And then return to Helen for a kiss.

Oh, thou art fairer than the evening air

Clad in the beauty of a thousand stars;

Brighter art thou than flaming Jupiter

When he appeared to hapless Semele;

More lovely than the monarch of the sky

In wanton Arethusa’s azured arms:

And none but thou shalt be my paramour.

Ah, Faustus,

Now hast thou but one bare hour to live,

And then thou must be damned perpetually!

Stand still, you ever-moving spheres of heaven,

That time may cease, and midnight never come;

Fair Nature’s eye, rise, rise again and make

Perpetual day; or let this hour be but

A year, a month, a week, a natural day,

That Faustus may repent and save his soul!

O lente, lente, currite noctis equi!

The stars move still, time runs, the clock will strike,

The Devil will come, and Faustus must be damned.

Oh, I’ll leap up to my God! Who pulls me down?

See, see, where Christ’s blood streams in the firmament!

One drop would save my soul!—half a drop; ah, my Christ!

Ah, rend not my heart for naming of my Christ!

Yet will I call on him: O spare me, Lucifer!—

Where is it now? ’tis gone; and see where God

Stretcheth out his arm, and bends his ireful brows!

Mountain and hills come, come and fall on me,

And hide me from the heavy wrath of God!

No! No!

Then will I headlong run into the earth;

Earth gape! Oh, no, it will not harbor me!

You stars that reigned at my nativity,

Whose influence hath allotted death and hell,

Now draw up Faustus like a foggy mist

Into the entrails of yon laboring clouds,

That when they vomit forth into the air,

My limbs may issue from their smoky mouths,

So that my soul may but ascend to heaven.

[The clock strikes the half-hour.]
Ah, half the hour is past! ’twill all be past anon!

O God!

If thou wilt not have mercy on my soul,

Yet for Christ’s sake whose blood hath ransomed me,

Impose some end to my incessant pain;

Let Faustus live in hell a thousand years—

A hundred thousand, and—at last—be saved!

Oh, no end is limited to damnèd souls!

Why wert thou not a creature wanting soul?

Or why is this immortal that thou hast?

Ah, Pythagoras’s metempsychosis! were that true,

This soul should fly from me, and I be changed

Unto some brutish beast! all beasts are happy,

For, when they die,

Their souls are soon dissolved in elements;

But mine must live, still to be plagued in hell.

Curst be the parents that engendered me!

No, Faustus: curse thyself; curse Lucifer

That hath deprived thee of the joys of heaven.

[The clock strikes twelve.]
Oh, it strikes, it strikes! Now, body, turn to air,

Or Lucifer will bear thee quick to hell.

[Thunder and lightning.]
O soul, be changed into little water-drops,

And fall into the ocean—ne’er be found.

Enter Devils
My God! my God! look not so fierce on me!

Adders and serpents, let me breathe awhile!

Ugly hell, gape not! come not, Lucifer!

I’ll burn my books!—Ah, Mephistophilis!

[Exeunt Devils with Faustus.]
Enter Chorus
Chorus—Cut is the branch that might have grown full straight,

And burnèd is Apollo’s laurel bough,

That sometime grew within this learnèd man.

Faustus is gone: regard his hellish fall,

Whose fiendful fortune may exhort the wise

Only to wonder at unlawful things,

Whose deepness doth entice such forward wits

To practice more than heavenly power permits.[Exit.]