Friday, October 7, 2016

Hamlet's Distressing Glimpse of Absolute Truth

Hamlet's Distressing Glimpse of Absolute Truth
Bobby Derie and H. P. Lovecraft

Exeunt all but HAMLET


At last, the veil is lifted from my eyes!
All illusions of virtue and grace fall
As scales from the carpenter's healing touch.
How blindly have I wandered through life,
Uncomprehending what vision beholds.
The worm in the rose, the slow death of all,
The bizarre mad race of humanity,
Self-blinded earth-gazers, running from truth.
What matters virtue or art, this bright day?
All pride, all honour, all courtly conduct,
Are but the tricks of trained animals
Seeking thy master's kind word and sweet treat.
What curse is this, to lose my innocence
Yet retain all my powers of reason?
Sure, oblivion be the blissful course.
For my mind works constant and unfettered,
Alien thoughts on old familiar themes,
And no more can I ignore the true world.
Lost must I be for a time in my own
Mind, to reconsider all I once knew,
Or thought I knew, and see the universe
As it truly is. Blind and uncaring
To human concerns and human desires,
I now can credit the unthinkable.
What insight was disguised as madness!
And might be once again, for I fear all
Shall see it working in me from now on.
Yet I had rather be known as madman
Than dwell once more in perfect ignorance,
Whatever may yet come I cannot see,
But I shall know it and own to it, aye!
To my own self, I shall always be true.

Exeunt HAMLET.

"Continuing in the dramatick line, but ascending the scale several degrees, I find "Hamlet" a most absorbing character, even as you do. It is hard for me to give an original estimate or opinion, since other commentators' opinions are so abundant; but I find in Hamlet a rare, delicate, & nearly poetical mind, filled with the highest ideals and pervaded by the delusion (common to all gentle & retired characters unless their temperament be scientific & predominantly rational--which is seldom the case with poets) that all humanity approximates such a standard as he conceives. All at once, however, man's inherent baseness becomes apparent to him under the most soul-trying circumstances; exhibiting itself not in the remote world, but in the person of his mother & his uncle, in such a manner as to convince him most suddenly & most vitally that there is no good in humanity. Well may he question life, when the perfidiousness of those whom he has reason to believe the best of mortals, is so cruelly obtruded on his notice. Having had his theories of life founded on mediaeval and pragmatical conceptions, he now loses that subtle something which impels persons to go on in the ordinary currents; specifically, he loses the conviction that the usual motives & pursuits of life are more than empty illusions or trifles. Now this is not "madness"--I am sick of hearing fools & superficial criticks prate about "Hamlet's madness". It is really a distressing glimpse of absolute truth. But in effect, it approximates mental derangement. Reason is unimpaired, but Hamlet no longer sees any occasion for its use. He perceives the objects & events about him, & their relation to each other & to himself, as clearly as before; but his new estimate of their importance, and his lack of any aim or desire to pursue an ordinary course amongst them, impart to his point of view such a contemptuous, ironical singularity that he may well be thought a madman by mistake. He sums up this position himself when he says:

"How weary, stale, flat, & unprofitable

Seem to me all the uses of this world

Fie on't! ah, Fie! 'tis an unweeded garden

That grows to seed. Things rank & gross in Nature

Possess it merely."

- H. P. Lovecraft to Alfred Galpin, 14 Nov 1918, Letters to Alfred Galpin 48-49


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