Faustus

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Laying the pen aside, when he had signed,
“I might repent, might yet find grace,” he said,
“What could you do?” The Devil shook his head,
“You’re not the first, my friend: we know your kind.

“Logic, not justice, in this case prevails:
This bond can’t be enforced in any court.
You might prove false as hell, but have you thought
The fraud may damn you, though the promise fails?”

“Suppose I use these powers, as well I may,”
Said Faustus then, “to serve the cause of good!
Should Christ at last redeem me with his blood
You must admit there’d be the devil to pay.”

The Devil laughed and conjured from the air
A feast, a fortune and a naked bed.
“Suppose you find these powers use you instead!
But pun your way to heaven, for all I care.

“We could have had your soul without this fuss.
You could have used your wits and saved your breath,
Do what you like, but we at least keep faith.
You cheated God, of course; you won’t cheat us.”

Faustus unclasped the Book: when that first hour
Struck on his heart, a fragment broke away.
What odds? With four and twenty years to pay
And every wish of man within his power!

He asked to know: before the words were said
Riddles that baffled Kepler all lay bare;
For wealth, an argosy walled in his chair;
For love and there lay Helen in his bed.

Years passed in these enchantments. Yet, in fact
He wondered sometimes at so little done,
So few of all his projects even begun.
He did not note his will, his power to act

Wither, since a mere wish would serve as well,
His reason atrophy from day to day
Unexercised by problems, Love decay
Untried by passion, desire itself grow stale,

Till he, who bought the power to command
The whole world and all wisdom, sank to be
A petty conjurer in a princeling’s fee
Juggling with spells he did not understand

And when, at last, his last year came, and shrank
To a bare month and dwindled to an hour,
Faustus sat shuddering in his lamp-lit tower
Telling the time by seconds till time went blank.

Midnight had come: the fiend did not appear;
And still he waited. When the dawn began
Scarce crediting his luck he rose and ran
And reached the street. The Devil met him there.

It was too much. His knees gave way. He fell.
“The bond? … My soul?” Quite affable the fiend
Helped him to rise: “Don’t fret yourself my friend;
We have your soul already, quite safe, in Hell.

“Hell is more up-to-date than men suppose.
Reorganized on the hire-purchase plan,
We take souls by instalment now and can
Thus save the fuss and bother to foreclose.

“And since our customers prefer, you know,
Amortized interest, at these higher rates,
Most debts are paid in full before their dates.
We took your final payment months ago.

“But, as I say, why fret? You’ve had your fun.
You’re no worse off without a soul you’ll find
Than the majority of human kind,
Better adjusted, too, in the long run.”

Back in his tower Faustus found all bare.
Nothing was left. He called: the walls were dumb,
Drawing his knife, he stalked from room to room
And in the last he found her, waiting there,

That fabulous Helen his magic art had won.
Riches and power, she was their sum and prize;
Ten thousand years of knowledge were in her eyes
As first he cut her throat and then his own.

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