A Willow Grows Askant

A Willow Grows Askant

by Petri Salin

The Queen was annoyed. She paced up and down her chambers, up and down, up and down, and had been doing so for the past half hour. Her footfalls echoed and reverbarated in the gothic valves of the cold mediaeval castle. Where was the wretched girl? She'd been summoned over an hour ago, so where was she?

It was intolerable, quite intolerable.

It's not that things weren't bad enough as they were, the girl made them infinitely worse with her irresponsible, downright childish behaviour. It simply couldn't go on. She had to be made see reason.

A lady-in-waiting rushed in without knocking and curtseyed. ”Not in her chambers, your majesty,” she said.

Another one, older and heavier, followed. ”Not in the courtyard, your majesty,” she said, all red in the face and panting for breath.

”Go, seek once more,” the Queen cried. ”Dare not return without her.”

The ladies-in-waiting dashed off, knowing full well any protest quite futile.

The Queen's foul mood had lasted almost a day now, ever since she found the red ribbon with flowers on it in their bed; proof positive of infidelity. She'd been at the King all night, hammering away, trying to get the truth out of him, not getting a single wink of sleep nor letting him get one neither. The King had denied everything, of course he had, and she'd been tempted to believe him, sorely tempted, because she wanted to believe him. Where she stood now she did not know. She was quite confused. The lack of sleep made her slightly dizzy. She had not eaten anything all day. Just drunk wine. Goblet upon goblet of red sinewy wine. It calmed her down. Or did it?

”Not up on the castle walls, my lady,” announced a third lady-in-waiting.

If only the silly girl kept quiet, the Queen thought to herself. Then everything would be all right. It's not that she did it deliberately, but her very visage was an unspoken accusation. And the songs, the disturbing songs she kept singing at every turn. They certainly didn't help. They were all about death, the death of her father.

The Queen was sorry about that, she sincerely was. If there had been anything, anything at all that she could have done to have the unfortunate deed undone, she would not have hesitated for a second. But there was nothing. Nothing she nor anyone else could do.

Now the important thing was to get over it and get on with life. Cruel? Maybe. Harsh? Possibly. But the alternative? Unthinkable.

The girl's father was dead and that was the end of the matter.

Surely the girl must see that if someone explained it to her properly? Surely she must grasp what consequences her foolish words might have.

And there was no one else to do the explaining but the Queen.

If the girl didn't stop her seditious prattling, if she didn't hold her tongue, there was no knowing what misconceptions her hot-headed brother might fall under nor what ill-conceived ideas he might stumble upon. Then there would be more blood. That was for certain.

”No,” the Queen said aloud. ”No more blood.”

”Your majesty?” the third lady-in-waiting said and looked at her askance.

”Still here? Off with you, hence!” the Queen said and raised her voice.

The lady-in-waiting scuttled off, not quite knowing wither, not much caring. When the Queen was in one of her moods it was best to be elsewhere.

Where was the girl?

Somewhere spreading her fantastic tales of her father? Perhaps accusing the Queen's son for the foul deed? That never would do.

Suddenly it struck the Queen – flowers. The girl had been talking of flowers the previous day, funereal flowers, flowers of mourning, flowers of death. Larded with sweet flowers which bewept to the grave did go, she'd sung, and the song had chilled the Queen to her marrow. Could it be that the girl was outside the castle walls picking wild flowers?

She'd immediately send someone to look. The Queen turned around. There was nobody there. They were all out looking for the girl already. Oh well, it would have to wait. No it couldn't. She would go out looking for the girl herself.

The Queen downed the dregs of her wine. They tasted bitter in her mouth.

Out in the open she soon felt better. The sun was shining and there was a mild and pleasant breeze blowing over the barren landscape. The outdoors smelt of spring and a new beginning. She liked that. A new beginning for all. It was time to put aside the dreary cloak of death and start life anew.

She came across a brook. The glassy stream flowed with a brisk, furious pace. She started following it upstream. There were flowers everywhere. Rosemary for remembrance, pansies for thoughts, fennel and columbine, rue, daisy, roses of May. No violets, though. No violets. Then she saw her. She was standing by the crooked willow that bent halfway over the brook.

”Ophelia,” the Queen said softly.

The girl heard her not.

The willow sprouted hoar leaves, its pendent boughs coronet weeds. Ophelia had assembled herself a garland of crow-flowers, nettles, daisies, and long purples that cold maids do dead men's fingers call.

”Ophelia,” the Queen said once more.

”Where is the beauteous majesty of Denmark?” the girl said, looking up.

”Come hither, girl,” the Queen said commandingly.

”Say you, nay, pray you, mark,” the girl said and started singing. ”He is dead and gone, lady, he is dead and gone, at his head a grass-green turf, at his heels a stone, white his shroud as the mountain snow.”

”Quiet,” the Queen said sternly. ”Be quiet!”

”They bore him barefaced on the bier, hey non nonny, nonny, hey nonny, and in his grave rain'd many a tear.”

Was she doing it on purpose? Was she being deliberately difficult?

”And will he not come again? And will he not come again? No, no, he is dead, go to thy death-bed, he never will come again, his beard was as white as snow, all flaxen was his poll. He is gone, he is gone, and we cast away moan, God ha' mercy on his soul.”

Ophelia stretched her hand, trying to get at the willow's boughs and leaves to add to her garland. She took a step forward, toward the brook. The stones were wet and slippery.

”Careful, girl!” the Queen cried out. ”The current is cold and swift.”

”To-morrow is Saint Valentine's day, all in the morning betime, and I a maid at your window, to be your Valentine. Then up he rose, and donn'd his clothes, and dupp'd the chamber-door, let in the maid, that out a maid never departed more.”

”I'm so sorry,” the Queen said. ”So sorry for everything. Hamlet treated you poorly. But it never could have been. Surely you must understand that. Hamlet is to be king and when he weds he must wed someone of noble blood.”

Ophelia reached out, grabbed a branch to steady herself so that she could reach even farther out. Suddenly the sliver of a branch cracked and gave away. Ophelia lost her balance on the soaked rocks and took a tumble falling right into the roaring waters of the hungry brook.

The Queen did not hesitate for an instant. With one swift leap she was down by the current. She grabbed hold of Ophelia's heavy garment that had not yet been sucked under the surface and pulled out the girl as if she were a ragdoll. Ophelia did not seem to understand what just happened.

”Young men will do't, if they come to't,” she chanted. ”By cock, they are to blame, quoth she, before you tumbled me, you promised me to wed, so would I ha' done, by yonder sun, an thou hadst not come to my bed.”

”Oh poor girl,” the Queen said and folded her arms around Ophelia. ”You poor, poor girl.”

They wept together, the Queen whispering in Ophelia's ear that everything would be all right, she would see to it. It took a good long while for Ophelia to come around. The Queen petted her and stroked her hair.

That's when she noticed the red ribbon in Ophelia's hair. There were flowers on it. Flowers she'd seen before.

Suddenly everything made sense. Ophelia's madness. The King's strange behaviour. Everything. She'd been so blind, so trusting. Why had she never noticed the King's tone of voice when he called the girl my pretty Ophelia. He called her pretty so often. He always called her pretty. She should have noticed.

And now the King had taken his pretty Ophelia to his bed. The Queen's bed.

”I hope all will be well,” Ophelia said. ”We must be patient. But I
cannot choose but weep, to think they should lay him i' the cold ground. And so I thank you for your good counsel. Come, my coach! Good night, ladies, good night, sweet ladies, good night, good night.”

The Queen helped the girl up.

”You poor girl,” she said and pushed Ophelia in the brook, to muddy death.

”Good night, sweet lady, good night.”

She watched till there was nothing more to watch.

”Drown'd, drown'd,” she murmured. ”Poor mermaid, pretty Ophelia.”

Then she returned to the castle, the bearer of bad tidings.


Anonymous said...

That's quite an interesting point of view.

Anonymous said...

Samaa mieltä, ja kauniisti kirjoitettu, mutta toisaalta epäuskottava. Kun ottaa huomioon, kuinka usein miehet noin ylipäätään pettävät vaimojaan, kuninkaita tai eivät, ei kai tämä kuningattarelle tai muullekaan naiselle niin suuri järkytys voisi olla. Tai sitten minusta on kasvanut varsin kyyninen. -TM-

Anonymous said...

Jatko edell. kommenttiin. Älä vaan välitä tällaisen kyynisen keski-ikäisen vanhanpiian jorinoista, vaan jatka samaan tyyliin! Tarkemmin ajateltuani tajusin, että ihmiset kyllä murhailevat toisiaan mitä kummallisimmista syistä ja muuten vaan. Olen vain edelleen niin sinisilmäinen, että toivoisin ihmisten, myös fiktiivisten, olevan parempia kuin he ovatkaan. -TM-

PS said...

Voit hyvinkin olla oikeassa aikaisemmassa kommentissasi. En ole uskottavuusasiaa välttämättä miettinyt ihan loppuun, tai ainakaan täysin toteuttanut sitä.

Premissi oli seuraava: joku totesi että melko outoa kuinka tarkan kuningatar osaa kuvailla Ofelian viimeisiä hetkiä (Näytös IV, kohtaus vii). Tätä rupesin miettimään.

Voi olla että on kuullut vaikka palvelijalta. Mutta kertomus on silti kovin kovin yksityiskohtainen. Aivan kuin silminnäkijän todistus. Aivan kuin hän olisi itse nähnyt sen.

Yksi mahdollisuus on tietenkin se että se on pelkkä sattuma. Ja ehkä että Gertrude pyrkii peittämään sen (mihin haudankaivajatkin viittaavat) että Ofelia riisti oman henkensä.

Silti, melkoinen yhteensattuma että Gertrude sattui juuri olemaan siinä näkemässä sen. Oli sitten onnettomuus tai itsemurha.

Tästä ajatuksesta ei ole pitkä loikka siihen ajatukseen että se ei olekaan sattumaa.

Ja symmetriaahan olisi tämä: Hamlet tappaa Poloniuksen, Ofelian isän ja Gertrude tappaa Ofelian, Poloniuksen tyttären.

Syitä? Se että Ofelian häiriintynyt käytös koko ajan kiinnittää huomiota Poloniuksen tappoon ja siihen että Hamet teki sen.

Mutta tekstiä tutkiessani kiinnitin huomiota siihen kuinka usein Claudius kutsuu Ofeliaa pretty Ofeliaksi. Voisiko heidän välillään olla suhde?

Ehkä voisi. Ehkä ei. Mutta voisiko Gertrude uskoa niin? Hänen miehensä on juuri kuollut, hän on heti mennyt naimisiin miehensä veljen kanssa (jonka kanssa hänell ehkä on jo ollut aikaisempi suhde). Hän ehkä tietää ettei Claudius perusta uskollisuudesta, hänellä voi olla hyvä syy olettaa että Claudius ei oikeasti rakasta häntä, että häät pidettiin pääasiassa siksi että se vahvisti Claudiuksen otetta kruunusta.

Ja Gertruden poika paheksuu littoa. Syvällä sisimmässään Gertrude tietää että teki väärin, ainakin epäilee. Ainakin kaikki ajatelevat niin. Hamlet ei anna sitä anteeksi. Poloniuksen murhakaan ei ole parantanut asioita vaan sotkenut kaiken entistä pahemmin. Koko tilanne on räjähdysaltis. Ja Ofelia vaan käytöksellään pahentaa kaikkea.

Ja jos Hamletin aina ajatellaan olevan mustasukkainen Gertrudesta niin miksei kuvio voisi toimia myös toisinpäin?

On siis syytä olettaa ettei Gertrude ole aivan täysissä sielun voimissa.

Tätä lienee syytä korostaa kun kirjoitan tekstin uusiksi.