Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Kerry Says ~ Ah, Mephistopheles!

"No Elizabethan play, outside the Shakespeare collection, has raised more controversy than Doctor Faustus.”

"Sorrow of Mephistopheles"
Candra on

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.

All Images sourced from
various online news publications.
Copyright belongs to individual photographers.

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
Fair Use

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.

Where possible, the sources of images have been acknowledged. If a photo or picture appears on this post, which you own, and want to have removed, please contact the blog editor.


Kenia Santos said...

Love the prompt Kerry! Will come up with something! <3

Anonymous said...

Fantastic prompt, Kerry! I could easily have named my contribution "Mephisto's River" but won't because that god wants to stay hidden deep under the ice of the poem. You sure know how to brew up a challenge.

Kerry O'Connor said...

This one is not brimming with Christmas cheer, so I'll understand those who prefer to skip it. Sometimes the weight of the world hangs heavy.

hedgewitch said...

Just not able to do prompts atm, Kerry--but this is an excellent one, very fitting to a grueling, disillusioning year. Here our ears are full of the justification of torture right now, and it is indeed a Hellish, Faustian landscape where we seem to have sold our collective soul for revenge, out of fear and smallness. Just re-read the legend via your links--too many parallels to list. Good to see you back, Kerry--you were missed.

Hannah said...

Thank you, Kerry, for this wonderfully meat-y challenge...I'm sorry to say, my angle may be a disappointment but it's all that I could wrap my head around (for now). :)

brudberg said...

Oh I think I have written several poem around this subject this year.. I would like to write something.. and I might be back later... but this subject is very close to my heart.

Susie Clevenger said...

Great challenge Kerry!

Anonymous said...

Hey Kerry--this is a wonderful prompt--I am very behind however, and am just posting my "James Wright" poem - which I'll link to that prompt and also to OLN.

I have something possibly in mind for this one. Hope you are well. k.

Gail said...

This may not be what you meant but it's what came out.

Thanks and Merry Christmas.

Anonymous said...

late, and skewed ~