Solomon Kane (2009)

| | Action-Adventure/Dark Fantasy | France/Spain/UK 2009 | USA 2012


At first he thought that it was the shadow of a man who stood in the entrance; then he saw that it was a man himself, though so dark and still he stood that a fantastic semblance of shadow was lent him by the guttering candle.

—Robert E. Howard, Red Shadows


§.00 Michael J. Bassett’s dark fantasy adaptation of Robert Howard’s work begins 39 years before the publications of the Bay Psalm Book, and 19 years before the establishment of the Plymouth Colony, with the pirate Solomon Kane (James Purefoy), who, along with his band of bloodthirsty privateers, lays seige to a unnamed Ottoman stronghold. Kane is utterly ruthless in battle. In one scene, he delivers a thrust to a Ottoman soldier’s neck and, sadistically amused, drags the dying man along like a macabre puppet before the his horrified comrades.

When Kane’s band penetrates the stronghold’s defenses and make way to the throne room they are assailed by demons; panic ensues; Kane tells them to hold the line. One of his men defies him and makes for the exit, whereupon he is promptly slain by Kane who declares, “I am the only devil here!”

After this incident Kane enters the throne room but the doors shut behind him. He hears the howling of his men and grimaces, knowing that demons have set upon them. Alone, he turns to the gilded treasure spilt upon the floor of the throne room and is hailed by a demon who introduces itself as the ‘devil’s reaper,’ and declares that it has come to claim Kane’s soul, which is forfeit due to his villainy. The reaper then instructs Kane to submit. Kane, however, refuses to give himself over to the aberration, and escapes.

Sometime later, Kane makes his way to a monastery and turns to a contemplative life of Puritanism and good works. His newfound dedication to being “a man of peace,” however, is tested when a group of travelers with whom he forms a bond is waylaid by demonic brigands under the command of the satanic sorcerer, Malachi (a ominously tattooed Jason Flemyng).

§.01 The central strength of the film is Purefoy’s performance, which is superb throughout. Added to this is the atmosphere, aptly realized through real-location filming, Klas Badelt’s score, which is alternatively (and suitably) rousing and grim, and an able supporting cast (including, Peter William Postlethwaite, Alice Krige, Max Von Sydow and Rachel Hurd-Wood).

§.02 The central weakness in the film is its flimsy penultimate conclusion. The addition of a gigantic metallic fire demon that looked like it walked off the set of Warcraft presented two problems, the first being that it [the demon] has no heft or solidity (unlike the reaper from the beginning of the film); never does the creature appear like it might snatch up the swift-dashing Kane, rather the distinct impression is that if it were to grasp him, it would phase right through the man’s body. Secondarily (and more importantly), the addition of the fire-demon detracts from Kane’s interaction with Malachi, who has just been introduced on-screen, after half a film’s worth of build-up. Malachi, after being introduced, swiftly vanishes (through the use of his magic) and then, when he finally reappears, holding Meredith as a human shield, focus is removed from him once again, and placed upon the lava monster. It is strange to see a character who is not the focal point of their own scene, especially when they are so pivotal to the plot.

§.03 The aforementioned issues are, however, thankfully brief and do little to detract from my generally positive opinion of the film. Its much better than its trailer made it out to be.


In 2010, Solomon Kane was adapted as a novel by British fantasy author, Ramsay Campbell (published by Titan Books).

The First Book Printed In English-America

§.00 The first book known to have been printed in English-America is the Whole Book of Psalms (Bay Psalm Book, or, New England Version Of The Psalms) and was printed by Stephen Daye in Massachusetts, 1640 (20 years after the pilgrims landed at Plymouth).

§.01 The New England settlers were partial to Henry Ainsworth’s version of the psalms, the first edition of which was published in 1612, titled The Book Of Psalms: Englished Both In Prose And Metre. With Annotations, Opening Words And Sentences, By Conference With Other Scriptures. However, Ainsworth’s Psalms, unsurprisingly, were not ubiquitous in their popularity; the Puritans of Massachusetts Bay favored T. Sternhold & J. Hopkin’s Psalms (featured in the Geneva Bible of 1569), yet Sternhold & Hopkin’s version was considered unacceptable by numerous nonconformists of the time (Cotton Mather, in his Magnolia Christi Americana, 1663-1728, described the Bay Colony Puritan’s opinions of the Ainsworth’s Psalms as a “Offence” to “The Sense of the Psalmist”). Thus, there was a desire for a book of psalms which was more true to the original Hebrew.

§.02 The book may be read online and in-full here.


Sources

  1. (1903) The Bay Psalm Book: Being A Facsimile Reprint of the First Edition Printed by Stephen Daye. Dodd, Mead & Co.
  2. Cotton Mather. (1663-1728) Magnolia Christi Americana: or, The Ecclesiastical History of the New England, from its first planting in the year 1620, unto the year of Our Lord, 1698. In seven books. London. Printed for Thomas Parkhurst, at the Bible and three crowns in Cheapside.
  3. John Josselyn. (1865) An Account of Two Voyages to New England: Made During The Years 1638, 1663. Boston. William Veazie. MDCCCLXV.

Verses Upon The Burning Of Our House (1666)

Written by Anne Bradstreet¹—the ‘Empress Consort of Massachusetts’²—July 10th, 1666 after the burning of her house. Copied from The Columbia Anthology of American Poetry (Columbia University Press, 1995).


In silent night when rest I took,
For sorrow near I did not look,
I wakened was with thund’ring noise
And piteous shrieks of dreadful voice.
That fearful sound of “fire” and “fire,”
Let no man know is my Desire.
I, starting up, the light did spy,
And to my God my heart did cry
To straighten me in my Distress
And not to leave me succourless.
Then, coming out, behold a space
The flame consume my dwelling place.
And when I could no longer look,
I blest His name that gave and took,
That laid my goods now in the dust.
Yea, so it was, and so ‘twas just.
It was his own, it was not mine,
Far be it that I should repine;
He might of all justly bereft
But yet sufficient for us left.
When by the ruins oft I past
My sorrowing eyes aside did cast
And here and there the places spy
Where oft I sate and long did lie.
Here stood that trunk, and there that chest,
There lay that store I counted best.
My pleasant things in ashes lie
And them behold no more shall I.
Under thy roof no guest shall sit,
Nor at thy Table eat a bit.
No pleasant talk shall ‘ere be told
Nor things recounted done of old.
No Candle e’er shall shine in Thee,
Nor bridegroom‘s voice e’er heard shall be.
In silence ever shalt thou lie,
Adieu, Adieu, all’s vanity.
Then straight I ‘gin my heart to chide,
And did thy wealth on earth abide?
Didst fix thy hope on mould’ring dust?
The arm of flesh didst make thy trust?
Raise up thy thoughts above the sky
That dunghill mists away may fly.
Thou hast a house on high erect
Frameed by that mighty Architect,
With glory richly furnished,
Stands permanent though this be fled.
It‘s purchased and paid for too
By Him who hath enough to do.
A price so vast as is unknown,
Yet by His gift is made thine own;
There‘s wealth enough, I need no more,
Farewell, my pelf, farewell, my store.
The world no longer let me love,
My hope and treasure lies above.

 

¹Anne Dudley Bradstreet (1612-72) was a prominent North American poet and scholar. She wrote extensively and was widely read in both America and England. Her writing is exemplary of Puritan plain style and was influenced by the Huguenot courtier-poet, Guillaume de Salluste Du Bartas. A memorial marker stands in her honor at Old North Parish Burial Ground, North Andover, Massachusetts.

²Rosemary M. Langlin. (1970) Anne Bradstreet: Poet in search of a Form. American Literature vol 42, no 1, Duke University Press.