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The Temptation of Faustus

by Danny "Don Juan" Henrey

From beneath the Gothic vault, from beneath
The tomes piled high, did Faustus weary rise,
Pond’ring yet, as blushing rose the morrow,
That knowledge is but sorrow,
Enlightenment blindness, truth but likely lies.
In Bodley’s halls, where sleep and boredom vie
For scholar’s souls, and where the dust drifts deep
Upon their supine forms, Faustus swore to spend
No further fraction of his life, to rend the tie
That dared, with ancient gaoler’s spite, still keep
Him fast imprisoned in Duke Humphrey’s End (as it were).
As through him coursed the gall of discontent,
A figure swathed in black before him rose,
With smile sublime, though far from heaven sent.
His All Souls tie, his ruddy ruby nose,
Nicotined fangs and shock of greasy hair
Kept company his scornful brass-rimmed stare.
The creature spoke, its pendent tail at rest:

Though he trembled, the scholar guessed his plight,
(His Marlowe and his Goethe had he read);
Thus, tempted by the prospect of delight,
Yet quailed a touch at joining with the dead;
The fiend, hight Grovistopheles, hid his ire,
And considered well how the mortal fire
For heedless, damned pleasure might be lit.

Then sang the dark, accursed rhapsodist
Of tales and fables of Romantic lore;
Faust listened with a smile and daydream sigh,
Then felt his middle pinched by demon claw,
As through the Bod’s massy beams the figures tore!
Over golden Oxford, ’twixt roof and sky,
About the singing bells, and ’mid the spires,
Across em’rald lawns, past gables steep,
Skimming cobbles smooth, donnish rooms unkempt,
Where heedless toiled beneath the firmament
Faust’s fellowship, their silhouettes did sweep
To that proud manse of revelrous desire,
In name, Coll Trinity
(Elsewhere quite from the Schools of Divinity).
With gentle tap ’pon Faustus’ shoulder gown’d,
Appearing with no sound,
There by him stood a figure of some note:
"Be calm," he said, "Of no malignity
Am I composed; I’m here to show you round
Our company dear: no dilettante
In sin’s sweet ways, nor soft virginity
Am I — Mad Jack’s the name,’ he bowed:
‘Your infernal guide — Virgil to your Dante.’
To Staircase Two their steps did tend,
But, as they neared its walls, upon the breeze
A symphony of snores arose, a blend
Of rattles, grunts and snuffling snorts, as if
A knot of hogs were feeding at the trough.
Said Schulze, ‘’Tis barely noon: the fault is ours;
Yon Byronists yet slumber in their bow’rs.
’Tis like they have caroused the night away:
Tony, Tina, Hideki, all the crew
Have chased Aurora’s steps in some low stew,
And now lie gurgling in their college cots,
As Phaeton shades with gold this summer’s day,
And makes very heaven of this spot,
Despite the porcine sounds that rend the air:
Come, let us to the dining hall repair.’
Yet here the greeting din was worse, far worse;
A slurping, yelping, gnashing, guzzling roar:
Harington the Bold loudest of the bunch;
On cabbage, stew and dumplings did he brunch:
‘More goulash, Nadash,’ called he, ‘bring me more!’
(It is a dish that he does adore),
Whilst next him, adversarial and keen
George, Stevey and Christoph’ traded curse.
‘List’, ye smegheads two,’ George quoth with spleen,
‘Space and time are as a prophylactic shaped,
Around which flows galactic lubricant,
And, from this cosmic condom, hath escaped
Our planet poor and insignificant.’
‘Such errant cobblers ne’er in all my days,
Or sable, starlit nights will I admit,’
Said d’Oakbutt: ‘Nay, ’tis but a bowl of tripe!’
Beneath the bench, concealed, as is most fit,
A rifle grasped he, fell agent of his scorn,
That he at Oxford physicists might snipe.
In time, the riotous rabble retire
To the verdant shades of Trinity lawn,
With baskets brimmed with jellies, fruit and Tokay,
There to play at croquet.
But soon the sun strokes lecherous desire
Within the fellowship entire;
Thus Bonnie, Pam and Charlotte
With urgent, breathless hurry needs must flee
Th’am’rous intent of goatish men on fire;
Of John, and Ian, who with lime pickle pot
Makes bold his ’thetic plaint on bended knee,
Hoping thus to curry Amal’s favour;
Richard, Danny, David and Gregory,
Tony too, Lothario of Bagley Wood,
And Masato, Lord of Misbehaviour,
His lips full crimson, eyes of azure hood,
Join in the lustful rout with chains and whips.
Only Chris stood apart, distant Romeo,
Speaking thus, gazing on a cameo:
‘Was this the face that fried a thousand chips,
And slopped beans numberless upon the shore
Of starving student’s plates?’ for he adored
A simple kitchen maid, hight Mrs. Beans;
A loving, gentle maid, whose sketch he bore,
That he might alway know what true love means.
The shameful riot might no end have known,
Yet on a moment’s spur the garden gates
Burst sunder, and, with mingled shriek and groan,
Fiona drives across the hallowed sod,
Her ancient Citroen with schoolgirls stuffed,
And Grinstead in the boot: ‘I promised dates,’
She cried, ‘Girls, here they are! More than enough!’
The men appealed in vain to Byron and the gods,
Yet vanquished were ’neath schoolgirls’ silken yoke,
As evening’s shadows wrapped them in its cloak.
The day’s events to Faustus seemed a dream;
He turned, and Mad Jack with an occult sign
Like frost in April faded from the scene,
To be replaced by Satan’s dark design.
With inward eye, the scholar’s heart it read,
That, quickened by the Byron Soc, yet quailed:
For pleasure thirsted he, yet did he dread
Pleasure’s fatal dues, its penitent travail.
So Grovistopheles took up the wight,
And flew with him far, far into the night.
Sad to relate, Faust lost that which he’d craved,
For only Byronists, my friends, are truly saved.