Monday, November 26, 2018

‘For God’s Sake’

James LaFond's Impressions of Skulls in the Stars by Robert E. Howard

“He was a tall, gaunt man, was Solomon Kane, his darkly pallid face and deep brooding eyes made more somber by the drab Puritanical garb he affected,”

In this passage, everything about Kane is revealed, that he is lean, mean, haunted or driven and that he has “affected” his Puritan appearance. In later stories it will come to grey light—for Kane is never seen in the brightness of other men’s waking eye—that the “Puritan” was once a sea dog, a pirate employed by his nation as a disposable heroic asset to commit vile deeds on the high seas and in the lands beyond.

He is approached on the road to Torkertown by an innocent child who pleads with him to take the swamp road rather than the moor path, where men were known to be slain by night. Kane, however, is a being of personified vengeance, seeking to purge the taint from his soul left by being party to past deeds by seeking out evil and extinguishing it from the face of the earth, which he wanders as a murderous son of man in his prodigal exile.

It is of interest that Howard begins the Kane saga with a quote from Hood:

He told how murders walk the earth
Beneath the curse of Cain,
With crimson clouds before their eyes
And flames about their brain:
For blood has left upon their souls
Its everlasting stain.

A man’s youthful past as a stain upon his soul is the theme of the entire saga, with the man driven to bloody redemption justified in his actions, as judge and executioner of mankind by the evil that men do. As Kane says, passing sentence on Ezra the Miser for the murder of his brother Gideon,

“A hard thing it is, to sentence men to death in cold blood and in such a manner as I have in mind, but you must die that others may live—and God knoweth you deserve death.”

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