Saturday, February 23, 2008

Between the Stirrup and the Ground Revisited

Okay, as I recall Graham Greene's character didn't do too well with the repentance part either. El Comandante Caggado has fired back at the world, particularly the United States. So much for my theory. But maybe not. As I see it there are three options. He is an unrepentant SOB. Since he has been just that for most of his life, this is a pretty good probability. The second is that his "reflections" are being penned for him, also a distinct possibility. The stupid humor of "change in the United States," though, sounds very much like the man of old, so I'm less likely to opt for that one. There is, however, there is a third possibillity. For this one, we need another literary parallel. How about Shakespeare?

O, my offence is rank, it smells to heaven;
It hath the primal eldest curse upon't,--
A brother's murder!--Pray can I not,
Though inclination be as sharp as will:
My stronger guilt defeats my strong intent;
And, like a man to double business bound,
I stand in pause where I shall first begin,
And both neglect. What if this cursed hand
Were thicker than itself with brother's blood,--
Is there not rain enough in the sweet heavens
To wash it white as snow? Whereto serves mercy
But to confront the visage of offence?
And what's in prayer but this twofold force,--
To be forestalled ere we come to fall,
Or pardon'd being down? Then I'll look up;
My fault is past. But, O, what form of prayer
Can serve my turn? Forgive me my foul murder!--
That cannot be; since I am still possess'd
Of those effects for which I did the murder,--
My crown, mine own ambition, and my queen.
May one be pardon'd and retain the offence?
In the corrupted currents of this world
Offence's gilded hand may shove by justice;
And oft 'tis seen the wicked prize itself
Buys out the law; but 'tis not so above;
There is no shuffling;--there the action lies
In his true nature; and we ourselves compell'd,
Even to the teeth and forehead of our faults,
To give in evidence. What then? what rests?
Try what repentance can: what can it not?
Yet what can it when one cannot repent?
O wretched state! O bosom black as death!
O limed soul, that, struggling to be free,
Art more engag'd! Help, angels! Make assay:
Bow, stubborn knees; and, heart, with strings of steel,
Be soft as sinews of the new-born babe!
All may be well.

Claudius' soliloquy from Hamlet.

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