From Doctor Faustus ("Was this the face that launched a thousand ships?")

Original Text: 
The Tragical History of D[octor] Faustus (London: Printed by V.S. for Thomas Bushell, 1604) sig. E4v-Fr / STC (2nd ed.) 17429
2And burned the topless towers of Illium?
3Sweet Helen, make me immortal with a kiss:
4Her lips suck forth my soul, see where it flies.
5Come Helen, come, give me my soul again.
6Here will I dwell, for heaven be in these lips
7And all is dross that is not Helena.
10And I will combat with weak Menelaus
11And wear thy colours on my plumed crest;
13And then return to Helen for a kiss.
14O, thou art fairer than the evening air,
15Clad in the beauty of a thousand stars;
16Brighter art thou than flaming Jupiter
18More lovely than the monarch of the sky
20And none but thou shalt be my paramour.


1] Faustus addresses this deeply ironic encomium to an infernal spirit that has assumed the shape of Helen of Troy in Act 5. Back to Line
8] Paris: a Trojan prince whose amorous affair with Helen provoked the legendary devastation of Troy by her husband Menelaus and the Achaeans. Back to Line
9] Wittenberg: the German location of the scene. Back to Line
12] heel: Achilles's mother, Thetis, washed all parts of the Achaean hero's body in the river Styx with the exception of his heel, making it his only vulnerability. Back to Line
17] Semele: a priestess and lover of Zeus (i.e. Jupiter). When she demanded to view the god directly, his lightning incinerated her. Back to Line
19] Arethusa: a nymph with whom the river God Alpheus (not Jupiter) became infatuated. To aid her escape Artemis transformed her into a subterranean stream but she was eventually subsumed by the liquid Alpheus. Back to Line
Publication Start Year: 
RPO poem Editors: 
Christopher Matusiak
RPO Edition: