|"Sorrow of Mephistopheles"|
Candra on Deviantart.com
As we near the end of 2014, I realize with some dismay what an Annus Horribilis it has been in terms of threats to global peace, local and international tragedies relating to disease and deaths: accidental, criminal and suicidal. Terms such as ISIS and Boko Haram have taken their places in our vocabularies along with others, such as Ebola, Flights Mh370 and M17. Places, such as Gaza, Ukraine and Ferguson, Missouri, have gained in notoriety. In a year which commemorated the centenary of World War 1 and 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall, we may wonder how far we have advanced socially in the last century.
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It often falls to the poets, novelists, playwrights - the writers - to become the voice of their times, to describe the untenable, and highlight what is most uncomfortable, even unforgivable, in the historical present. The words of Mephistopheles, a character in The Tragicall History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus, a play by Christopher Marlowe (published post-humously in 1604), based on the Faust story, in which a man sells his soul to the devil for power and knowledge, ring true today:
"Hell hath no limits, nor is circumscribed
In one self place, for where we are is hell,
And where hell is must we ever be." — Christopher Marlowe
|Title page of 1620 Edition|
Some scholars believe that Marlowe developed the story of the Faust legend from a popular 1592 translation, commonly called The English Faust Book. There is thought to have been an earlier, lost, German edition of 1587, which itself may have been influenced by even earlier, equally unpreserved pamphlets in Latin. Suffice it to say, that the tale itself speaks not of any one author, but of human experience, hubris and downfall, with themes hearkening back to the myth of the Fall: a source of hidden knowledge, a temptation, a price to be paid, a world of sin.
OUR CHALLENGE: Mix these ideas together, with your own knowledge and experience of the year 2014, and see what poetry may be the result.
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