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Blind Read Through: H.P. Lovecraft; Poetry and the Gods

“It was only a bit of vers libre, that pitiful compromise of the poet who overleaps prose yet falls short of the divine melody of numbers; but it had in it all the unstudied music of a bard who lives and feels, who gropes ecstatically for unveiled beauty.”

Welcome back for another Blind Read! This time we’re diving into a co-op between Lovecraft and Anna Helen Crofts. This story is a divergence from what we have seen so far in Lovecraft’s fiction so if you’re looking for a horror story, look elsewhere. What we do get to see here is an interesting genesis of Lovecraft as an author and potentially his position, much like Marcia in the story, as a herald to the gods.

The story follows the aforementioned Marcia, who lives in an austere mansion and suffers from general malaise because of, “…some greater and less explicable misplacement in time and space, whereby she had been born too late, too early, or too far away from the haunts of her spirit ever to harmonize with the unbeautiful things of contemporary reality…” This quote strikes me. It feels almost as if Lovecraft is using Marcia to be a stand in for himself (or potentially Ms. Crofts).

He was not born at the right time.

Lovecraft craved mystery, and the strange, and mysticism. Contemporary culture of the time just didn’t fit with these amorphous constructs. We see this time and again (especially in the stories such as HE or Shadow over Innsmouth) Lovecraft wanted magic in the world of technology.

We go along with Marcia as she’s approached by Hermes and brought before Zeus. Zeus is looking for a mortal to herald the coming of the gods and brings Marcia there to do so.

The text itself is interesting because the exposition is cut up by poetry, as if to expose how brilliant Marcia is, but it also displays how bad poetry can halt magic from happening.

This is pretty much everything you get out of the story. It’s disjointed and strange, but it tries to hover between the mega weird of Lovecraft and softer, more realistic fiction. It doesn’t hit the nail on the head. It leaves you with the feeling that either one, or both of the authors were trying to show off how important and how amazing they were, but the self aggrandizement comes off as cheap and smarmy. It makes the story feel useless.

Where my interest in this story lies is how similar the Greek gods of the story were with Lovecraft’s original cannon. I’ve mentioned before that Greek gods and culture were a heavy influence on Lovecraft in general, and this story solidifies this.

There is a bit of the Dream-Quest as Marcia is brought to Olympus and sits before Zeus, as he tells her, “..the time approaches when our voices shall not be silent. It is a time of awakening and change.”

There is even evidence of the Pnakotic Manuscripts or the Necronomicon with “…reading from a manuscript words which none has ever heard before, but which when heard will bring to men the dreams and fancies they lost so many centuries ago, when Pan lay down to doze in Arcady, and the great Gods withdrew to sleep in lotos-gardens beyond the lands of the Hesperides.”

So much correlation that it’s hard not to read into it. From stories such as The Tree, The Tomb and What the Moon Brings, we catch such a huge influence from Greek culture that I now truly believe that his Yog-Sothothery is based upon these gods. He just puts a slightly more nefarious tint to them.

What do you think??


Blind Read Through: H.P. Lovecraft; The Tree

I finished this story and my first response was…What was that?  This story is from his Dunsanian period, which I assumed to mean part of a otherworldly mien.  This extremely innocuous, and seemingly disparate narrative focuses on two artists who are commissioned to create a marble sculpture of Tyche, the Grecian Goddess who governed prosperity and fortune of a city.  One of the sculptors, Kalos, dies and asks to be buried with two olive branches by his head.  The other sculptor, Musides, is his best friend and complies.  Musides continues working on the sculpture, and eventually finishes as a tree grows from the grave site of Kalos.  The tree looks like a man. When the Grecians come to get the sculpture and give accolades to Musides, they find the house destroyed, the tree’s roots grown into the house and no sign of the sculpture or Musides.  The narrator tells us that in the boughs of the olive grove one can still hear whispers that say “I know, I know.”

That’s the story.  In it’s entirety.  It took me about an hour of rumination to come up with what it truly means.

In the first paragraph the narrator tells us that the grove is thought of as belonging to Pan, the Greek god of mischief.  Which would make sense since strange happenings go on there.  Then at the end of the paragraph, he tells us that he hears a different story.  This is where the Dunsany influence comes in, and why the story is truly Lovecraftian.

Kalos is said to speak to the creatures of the forest, in his Olive grove, and when he dies he asks for two olive branches to be put by his head.  Lovecraft was atheistic, but religion seeped into his writings because he thought that was the ultimate horror.  So the two olive branches indicate knowledge of the Gods and creation of a church. The creation of the Church was the tree that looked like a man, and the olive branches next to his head meant that Kalos was given the knowledge of the Gods as the branches grew through his head.  However it was thought that the god of the grove was Pan, but we are told that was not correct.  Kalos was given sight of the Great Old Ones.

Musides goes to finish his creation there, but in reality he comes to the realization of Kalos, because of the whispering of the tree.  The Great Old Ones are upset with his creation of a “graven image of another deity” in Tyche, so they destroy the house.

The whispering of “I know, I know” is not a comfort of one spirit of a friend to another, as I originally thought (I mean come on, this is Lovecraft, after all), but of knowledge.  Kalos is whispering to the world of the horrible knowledge of the Elder Gods he gained by communion in the olive grove.  The tree is Kalos ascended with that knowledge and he whispers in torment in his jail that is a tree in the shape of a man.

“I know, I know”