Friday, August 26, 2016

Part One: "ICH BIN FAUSTUS"

Georg,
As our hero was christened,
Was born on a farm
Outside a small German town
In the year of our Lord 1466.
In other words,
If you had any wit about you,
You were bored out of your mind.
Georg learned to read early,
And loved it,
Tho' books were scarce,
As the printing press,
And especially movable type,
Had only recently been invented
European style
-Many said by the Devil-
(The Chinese had had it for 400 years)
And were mostly of a religious nature.
For his 13th birthday
A wealthy kinsman gifted him a
Gutenberg Bible
Which he read thoroughly
For all it's drama, sex, and violence.
As he got older,
And less inclined to farm life,
His wealthy kinsman,
Being without issue,
Sent him to the University at
Heidelberg,
Under the name Georgius Helmstetter,
Where he excelled in Philosophy,
So much so that he had to
Wait a year for his degree.
He fulfilled his two year teaching duty,
Afterwhich, bored with stuffy academia,
Coupled with an outbreak of plague,
He took to the road
As a wandering scholar.

He spent a great deal of time
In various taverns
Having discovered his facility for
Storytelling
(He could really make shit up
Which got him free drinks
From his rapt listeners)
Along his aimless trail,
Mostly determined by that of
The Black Death,
He landed in Krakow,
Where he studied Astrology
At the Jagiellonian University,
In order to expand his financial gain.
(A common practice among scholars).
Krakow was a new experience,
Exciting,
One of Europe's most important cities,
Capital of the Kingdom of Poland,
Which had formed a commonwealth with
Lithuania.
A very capitalist society,
Powered by "landed aristocracy",
Supplying most of Europe with grain,
And a flourishing center of the
Sciences and Arts.
Well placed on the
Vistula River,
At the foot of
Wawel Hill.
Here he also met one
Laurentius Dhur [or Durus]
[(Known to legend as Pan Twardowski)]
Seven years his junior,
But well versed in various
Divinations.
And so Georg learned these
As well.

Passing thro' Koln
He garnered some lectures
At the university.
Here he met a bright young student,
Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa von Nettesheim
(Later author of
THREE BOOKS CONCERNING OCCULT PHILOSOPHY
As well as being a physician,
Legal scholar, soldier, spy, and theologian),
Whom he befriended.
Next he stopped in Gelnhausen
Where the Abbot Johannes Trithemius,
Whom Georg had heard about from
Agrippa,
Was also passing through.
The Abbot was given one
Of Georg's calling cards,
Listing his abilities,
Along with his newly adopted magician's name,
Magister Georgius Sabellicus Faustus junior,
A mouthful to be sure.
Trithemius sent word that
He desired to meet this magician,
But Faustus did not share the
Interest,
And so travelled on to Wurzburg,
Leaving Trithemius to return to
His abbey in Speyer emptyhanded.

Georg managed to acquire the post of
Schoolmaster at Bad Kreuznach,
After befriending the humanist knight
Franz von Sickingen
(A rather energetic fellow
Who later joined with Ulrich von Hutten
To use military might to bring on the
Reformation).
Life there was rather boring, however,
The locals too dull witted for stories.
On occasion he was invited to dine
At von Sickingen's castle,
Which was usually a convivial affair,
With good food, good wine, and good conversation.
(Von Sickingen had studied under
The great philosopher-teacher
Johannes Reuchlin
So while being typical of knighthood
In many ways
Was not a complete dolt
And even with some other guests of the
"Righteous" variety
There were plenty of topics discussed).
He also became a mentor,
In the old Greek tradition
(In ancient Greece a promising youth
Was mentored by an older,
More experienced man,
Which included sex),
To one of his students,
Kristoff Wagner,
A clever and pretty lad,
But this lead to trouble
From a jealous priest,
Who spread the accusation of
Sodomy
Though the "good" father himself
Was far more guilty of,
As Wagner was the only one
Georg had relations with,
But the local authorities,
Being dullards quick to jump to,
Our hero fled,
Though his friend von Sickingen
Sent a good word ahead to
Johannes Virdung, in Heidelberg,
Who then awaited the scholar,
Which he wrote about to
Trithemius,
The latter's response being vitriolic
Towards Faustus.
However, Virdung paid no heed.

Back in his old alma mater
Dr. Faustus,
As he was now known,
Spent many hours
With his new friend,
Virdung,
In the University's library,
Diligently studying works on
Alchemy.
Faustus also met,
And had an affair with,
One of the students of theology
And philosophy,
A very bright boy of 20 years,
Named Johann Faust.
However, things were thrown
Into turmoil
Early in the year,
With the death of Virdung's patron,
Philipp "The Upright" von Wittelsbach,
Elector of the Palatinate,
Being succeeded by his son,
Ludwig V, "The Pacific",
Prompting Faustus to move on,
Rather than risk expulsion.
This time he traveled far,
All the way to Paris,
Writing a conjuring book
Along the way.
In Paris he had the book published
With the help of his friend
Cornelius Agrippa,
With whom he discussed magic at length,
Becoming, thro' him, involved with
The court intrigues of
The Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I,
And joining up in an adventure,
Wherein a small band seized
The Fuerto Negro fortress
At Catalonian Tarragon,
To benefit Juanetin de Gerona,
Who'd been ousted by a
Peasant revolt,
But also for de Gerona's loyalty
To Maximilian.
The band moved to Gerona's house at Villarodona,
As the man himself headed to Barcelona
For assistance,
Only to be captured by rebels.
Agrippa led his band to a more
Secure tower,
Just before a peasant force
Lay siege.
To get a message out for escape
Cornelius had the tower keeper's
Son dress as a leper,
And he left and returned
Unmolested, with an answer
From the Archbishop of Tarragon,
Who opposed the rebellion.
So two fishing boats awaited
The besieged,
Carrying them away,
After they snuck out the back way.

Faustus headed off to join up
With Sickingen,
Who was joining Maximilian's faction
Of the League of Cambrai,
Which also included Papal forces,
(Under Pope Julius II),
Along with Louis XII of France,
Ferdinand II of Aragon,
And later other European powers,
Against the Republic of Venice,
Whom all felt had grown too powerful.
This was Faustus' first sojourn
Into warfare,
And tho' he stayed out of the
Fighting,
He did observe the brutality,
Bad strategies,
And multiple side effects,
Of this wasteful greed
For power.
He also wondered
At the ill-thought out
Warring amongst Christians
While the Muhammadans
Posed a constant threat
In the East.
Faustus had long been
Skeptical of the Church
With all it's machinations,
Becoming even more so
As the Pope engaged in
Bloody conquest.
Maximilian's force lay siege on
Padua,
Bombarding the walls
With canon fire,
From the 15th of September,
Until the 30th, 1509,
Never able to press any breach,
Emptying his coffers in the balance.
The Emperor withdrew to Tyrol
With most of his forces,
Leaving a small contingent
Under the Duke of Anhalt,
Faustus among the latter.
This small Imperial force
Was easily run off
Two months later
By Venetian troops.
(Erasmus wrote his
"Moriae Encomium"
["The Praise of Folly"]
That year, being inspired by all the
Stupidity).

Faustus was not ready to
Leave Italy just yet,
As much of the social changes,
And re-acquired knowledge,
The Renaissance in fact,
Came out of there.
With a small eclectic band of
Fellow disillusioned wanderers
He headed South
All roads leading towards
Rome,
Plus being far away from the
Continuing warring.
Passing thro' Florence
He acquired a copy of
Agrippa's as yet unpublished
OCCULT PHILOSOPHY,
Which he read voraciously.
In Rome, Faustus spent his time
Regaling taveners with tales of
War
For wine and food,
Drew horoscopes,
Performed divinations,
As well as saw all there was to
See in the great city.
Michelangelo's ceiling in the
Sistine Chapel
Was certainly a highlight,
But he was also fascinated
By the remnants of
Ancient Rome.
Tho' his minor Latin
Helped understand some
Italian,
He had to rely heavily on other
German pilgrims.
When he learned that one,
An Augustinian monk named
Martin Luther,
Was heading back to Wittenberg,
Faustus begged along.

A long journey,
With stops in monasteries
Along the way
Made longer still by
Luther's sullen silence
Brother Martin having been
Greatly dismayed
By the debauchery
And corruption of
Holy Rome
Only speaking briefly
Now and then
On how could this be
The other brother
Tried lamely
To point out the wonders
But Martin would none of it.

As they were reaching the
Northern part of the Romagna
They passed the retreating
Papal forces
Headed by the warmongering
Pope Julius II
Lately routed from Bologna
By the French,
In league with Ferrara,
And heading to Ravenna.
Faustus decided on a detour,
Weary of his travelling companions,
Traversing to the city of
Ferrara,
To try his luck in a new locale.

In the grand city
He found the French generals
Being feted by the Duchess,
Who was none other than
Lucrezia of the infamous
Borgias,
But retired for some years now
To the side of her third husband
Duke of Ferrara.
Faustus found her a charming
And gracious lady,
Hardly the murderous wanton
Of her legend.

He spent some time there
Pedalling his talents
Before moving on,
Wishing to return to German lands
He passed through Venice
Thro' subterfuge,
As they were now in league with
The Pope
Against Ferrara
And so the borderlands
Were fraught with danger
But as luck would have it
The Battle of Ravenna
Was building up
Making individual passage
Easily overlooked.
In the great city of canals
He gathered a large crowd
With his promise of a
Demonstration of flight.
From the clock tower
In the Piazza San Marco
Built at the turn of the century.
Faustus waved to his audience
Prepared for his flight,
Which consisted of projecting his image
Via a "Fontana's Lantern"
(Invented nearly a century before
By Giovanni Fontana),
Which worked fine,
Except for a slight mishap,
Which ended with Faustus
Falling from his perch.
However, the throngs believed
That he had flown,
Before falling back to Earth
- Dashed down by the Devil,
As was later told,
And surviving with little injury
Made the people marvel all the more.

Faustus continued his Northerly
Wandering
Maintaining his food and
Alcohol intake
With his various skills
And tales of warfare.
In the Autumn of
1513
He landed in Erfurt
And set up shop.
There were fellow malcontents
Such as the Humanists
Crotus Rubeanus
And Eobanus Hessus
As well as visiting Swiss physician
Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus
Von Hohenheim
Come to be known simply as
Paracelsus
Just 20 at the time
But would be a leader in the
Medicinal revolution.
Faustus also soon was
Making enemies
Such as Conrad Mutianus Rufus,
Canon of the Church of St. Mary's
At Gotha,
And friend of Trithemius,
And who denounced Faustus
In letters
Calling for the theologians
To rise against him
As opposed to their attacks on
The Humanist philosopher
Johannes Reuchlin.
(Luther had left for
Wittenberg
By this time,
So he was no worry).
Faustus secured permission
To lecture publicly on
Homer
At the University
For which he became so
Popular
The students called upon him
To use his well-known art
To conjure up the heroes of the
Trojan War,
To which the Doctor agreed.
Acquiring some covert help
And employing the "Fontana's lantern"
Which he'd brought from Venice.
The show was a resounding success
Especially the appearance of
Polyphemus the cyclops.
With human legs dangling from
His mouth,
And well timed banging
Simulating the giant's spear
Being hammered on the floor,
Scaring may of the spectators.
At a subsequent banquet
Held for the commencement of masters,
During a discussion on the lost
Comedies of Plautus and Terence,
Faustus feigned quotations from
The same and
Offered, if not held against him,
To bring them to light again,
Just long enough to be copied quickly.
But the theologians, and councillors too,
Rejected the offer
For fear the Devil
Would interject
Offensive things.

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