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‘Mad Blind Hands’
Musings by Robert E. Howard, Reviewed by Mescaline Franklin
“The little poets sing of little things:
Hope, cheer, and faith, small queens and puppet kings;
Lovers who kissed and then were made as one,
And modest flowers waving in the sun.
“The mighty poets write in blood and tears
And agony that, flame-like, bites and sears
They reach their mad blind hands into the night,
To plumb abysses dead to human sight;
“To drag from gulfs where lunacy curled,
Mad, monstrous nightmare shapes to blast the world.”
In ‘Musings,’ Howard is comparing light, flowery and uplifting poetry with that of the more Sturm und Drang [1] variety. As if comparing a top 40 pop song with an epic Wagner piece or prog rock concept double album. There is no doubt of which of the two and their respective creators he finds superior, in fact closer to the Ur source of the written word itself.
The earliest poetry dealt with the very dire essence of humanity and a view of it that was not separated from the gods, goddesses and ubiquitous demonic beings who made life a struggle of creation and destruction. The tragic and the horrific were not yet reduced to metaphor but remained an accepted aspect of Life where ones place in the maelstrom was not questioned, even if lamentable.
Horror itself was inseparable from the early verse narratives. Even when distilled into its own genre in the 19th century, its power and connection to the whole was not diminished. It is the ancestral memory of being food for the eyes that shine in the night mingled with a maladapted consciousness. Knowing you will die but in a manner as yet unknown to you. That the worst has already happened and is fated to return, Evil will flourish, the just will suffer, fade and be forgotten as if the flies of a summer (to paraphrase Burke).
What I personally find in Howard’s distinctions between the two types of verse is how one can defy the horror of existence itself. By using the
impact of verse, one can sublimate the horror to better fight its creeping shadow. Words themselves are a way to control, both in the natural and supernatural worlds. Identifying and visualizing recurring antagonists and scenarios are akin to the masculine hunter who must imagine the hazards of the hunt.
Emerging wraith like from the unknown, what is horror in the end?
The imagination is the mind’s way of performing a type of reconnaissance into the darkness.
The poems Howard prefers also reach deep into one’s soul to access the primal which has not yet been castrated, a type of bracing against the foul weather to come; whether feeling the first chill of the season or watching the lurid sunset, the blood signals for one to prepare.
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