Author Topic: The Works Of H.P. Lovecraft  (Read 2573 times)

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The Works Of H.P. Lovecraft
« on: July 16, 2005, 12:20:03 am »


The Beast in the Cave
By H.P. Lovecraft

http://www.dagonbytes.com/thelibrary/lovecraft/thebeastinthecave.htm
 
The horrible conclusion which had been gradually intruding itself upon my confused and reluctant mind was now an awful certainty. I was lost, completely, hopelessly lost in the vast and labyrinthine recess of the Mammoth Cave. Turn as I might, in no direction could my straining vision seize on any object capable of serving as a guidepost to set me on the outward path. That nevermore should I behold the blessed light of day, or scan the pleasant bills and dales of the beautiful world outside, my reason could no longer entertain the slightest unbelief. Hope had departed. Yet, indoctrinated as I was by a life of philosophical study, I derived no small measure of satisfaction from my unimpassioned demeanour; for although I had frequently read of the wild frenzies into which were thrown the victims of similar situations, I experienced none of these, but stood quiet as soon as I clearly realised the loss of my bearings.
 
Nor did the thought that I had probably wandered beyond the utmost limits of an ordinary search cause me to abandon my composure even for a moment. If I must die, I reflected, then was this terrible yet majestic cavern as welcome a sepulchre as that which any churchyard might afford, a conception which carried with it more of tranquillity than of despair.
 
Starving would prove my ultimate fate; of this I was certain. Some, I knew, had gone mad under circumstances such as these, but I felt that this end would not be mine. My disaster was the result of no fault save my own, since unknown to the guide I had separated myself from the regular party of sightseers; and, wandering for over an hour in forbidden avenues of the cave, had found myself unable to retrace the devious windings which I had pursued since forsaking my companions.
 
Already my torch had begun to expire; soon I would be enveloped by the total and almost palpable blackness of the bowels of the earth. As I stood in the waning, unsteady light, I idly wondered over the exact circumstances of my coming end. I remembered the accounts which I had heard of the colony of consumptives, who, taking their residence in this gigantic grotto to find health from the apparently salubrious air of the underground world, with its steady, uniform temperature, pure air, and peaceful quiet, had found, instead, death in strange and ghastly form. I had seen the sad remains of their ill-made cottages as I passed them by with the party, and had wondered what unnatural influence a long sojourn in this immense and silent cavern would exert upon one as healthy and vigorous as I. Now, I grimly told myself, my opportunity for settling this point had arrived, provided that want of food should not bring me too speedy a departure from this life.
 
As the last fitful rays of my torch faded into obscurity, I resolved to leave no stone unturned, no possible means of escape neglected; so, summoning all the powers possessed by my lungs, I set up a series of loud shoutings, in the vain hope of attracting the attention of the guide by my clamour. Yet, as I called, I believed in my heart that my cries were to no purpose, and that my voice, magnified and reflected by the numberless ramparts of the black maze about me, fell upon no ears save my own.
 
All at once, however, my attention was fixed with a start as I fancied that I heard the sound of soft approaching steps on the rocky floor of the cavern.
 
Was my deliverance about to be accomplished so soon? Had, then, all my horrible apprehensions been for naught, and was the guide, having marked my unwarranted absence from the party, following my course and seeking me out in this limestone labyrinth? Whilst these joyful queries arose in my brain, I was on the point of renewing my cries, in order that my discovery might come the sooner, when in an instant my delight was turned to horror as I listened; for my ever acute ear, now sharpened in even greater degree by the complete silence of the cave, bore to my benumbed understanding the unexpected and dreadful knowledge that these footfalls were not like those of any mortal man. In the unearthly stillness of this subterranean region, the tread of the booted guide would have sounded like a series of sharp and incisive blows. These impacts were soft, and stealthy, as of the paws of some feline. Besides, when I listened carefully, I seemed to trace the falls of four instead of two feet.
 
I was now convinced that I had by my own cries aroused and attracted some wild beast, perhaps a mountain lion which had accidentally strayed within the cave. Perhaps, I considered, the Almighty had chosen for me a swifter and more merciful death than that of hunger; yet the instinct of self-preservation, never wholly dormant, was stirred in my breast, and though escape from the on-coming peril might but spare me for a sterner and more lingering end, I determined nevertheless to part with my life at as high a price as I could command. Strange as it may seem, my mind conceived of no intent on the part of the visitor save that of hostility. Accordingly, I became very quiet, in the hope that the unknown beast would, in the absence of a guiding sound, lose its direction as had I, and thus pass me by. But this hope was not destined for realisation, for the strange footfalls steadily advanced, the animal evidently having obtained my scent, which in an atmosphere so absolutely free from all distracting influences as is that of the cave, could doubtless be followed at great distance.
 
Seeing therefore that I must be armed for defense against an uncanny and unseen attack in the dark, I groped about me the largest of the fragments of rock which were strewn upon all parts of the floor of the cavern in the vicinity, and grasping one in each hand for immediate use, awaited with resignation the inevitable result. Meanwhile the hideous pattering of the paws drew near. Certainly, the conduct of the creature was exceedingly strange. Most of the time, the tread seemed to be that of a quadruped, walking with a singular lack of unison betwixt hind and fore feet, yet at brief and infrequent intervals I fancied that but two feet were engaged in the process of locomotion. I wondered what species of animal was to confront me; it must, I thought, be some unfortunate beast who had paid for its curiosity to investigate one of the entrances of the fearful grotto with a life-long confinement in its interminable recesses. It doubtless obtained as food the eyeless fish, bats and rats of the cave, as well as some of the ordinary fish that are wafted in at every freshet of Green River, which communicates in some occult manner with the waters of the cave. I occupied my terrible vigil with grotesque conjectures of what alteration cave life might have wrought in the physical structure of the beast, remembering the awful appearances ascribed by local tradition to the consumptives who had died after long residence in the cave. Then I remembered with a start that, even should I succeed in felling my antagonist, I should never behold its form, as my torch had long since been extinct, and I was entirely unprovided with matches. The tension on my brain now became frightful. My disordered fancy conjured up hideous and fearsome shapes from the sinister darkness that surrounded me, and that actually seemed to press upon my body. Nearer, nearer, the dreadful footfalls approached. It seemed that I must give vent to a piercing scream, yet had I been sufficiently irresolute to attempt such a thing, my voice could scarce have responded. I was petrified, rooted to the spot. I doubted if my right arm would allow me to hurl its missile at the oncoming thing when the crucial moment should arrive. Now the steady pat, pat, of the steps was close at hand; now very close. I could hear the laboured breathing of the animal, and terror-struck as I was, I realised that it must have come from a considerable distance, and was correspondingly fatigued. Suddenly the spell broke. My right hand, guided by my ever trustworthy sense of hearing, threw with full force the sharp-angled bit of limestone which it contained, toward that point in the darkness from which emanated the breathing and pattering, and, wonderful to relate, it nearly reached its goal, for I heard the thing jump, landing at a distance away, where it seemed to pause.
 
Having readjusted my aim, I discharged my second missile, this time most effectively, for with a flood of joy I listened as the creature fell in what sounded like a complete collapse and evidently remained prone and unmoving. Almost overpowered by the great relief which rushed over me, I reeled back against the wall. The breathing continued, in heavy, gasping inhalations and expirations, whence I realised that I had no more than wounded the creature. And now all desire to examine the thing ceased. At last something allied to groundless, superstitious fear had entered my brain, and I did not approach the body, nor did I continue to cast stones at it in order to complete the extinction of its life. Instead, I ran at full speed in what was, as nearly as I could estimate in my frenzied condition, the direction from which I had come. Suddenly I heard a sound or rather, a regular succession of sounds. In another Instant they had resolved themselves into a series of sharp, metallic clicks. This time there was no doubt. It was the guide. And then I shouted, yelled, screamed, even shrieked with joy as I beheld in the vaulted arches above the faint and glimmering effulgence which I knew to be the reflected light of an approaching torch. I ran to meet the flare, and before I could completely understand what had occurred, was lying upon the ground at the feet of the guide, embracing his boots and gibbering. despite my boasted reserve, in a most meaningless and idiotic manner, pouring out my terrible story, and at the same time overwhelming my auditor with protestations of gratitude. At length, I awoke to something like my normal consciousness. The guide had noted my absence upon the arrival of the party at the entrance of the cave, and had, from his own intuitive sense of direction, proceeded to make a thorough canvass of by-passages just ahead of where he had last spoken to me, locating my whereabouts after a quest of about four hours.
 
By the time he had related this to me, I, emboldened by his torch and his company, began to reflect upon the strange beast which I had wounded but a short distance back in the darkness, and suggested that we ascertain, by the flashlight's aid, what manner of creature was my victim. Accordingly I retraced my steps, this time with a courage born of companionship, to the scene of my terrible experience. Soon we descried a white object upon the floor, an object whiter even than the gleaming limestone itself. Cautiously advancing, we gave vent to a simultaneous ejaculation of wonderment, for of all the unnatural monsters either of us had in our lifetimes beheld, this was in surpassing degree the strangest. It appeared to be an anthropoid ape of large proportions, escaped, perhaps, from some itinerant menagerie. Its hair was snow-white, a thing due no doubt to the bleaching action of a long existence within the inky confines of the cave, but it was also surprisingly thin, being indeed largely absent save on the head, where it was of such length and abundance that it fell over the shoulders in considerable profusion. The face was turned away from us, as the creature lay almost directly upon it. The inclination of the limbs was very singular, explaining, however, the alternation in their use which I bad before noted, whereby the beast used sometimes all four, and on other occasions but two for its progress. From the tips of the fingers or toes, long rat-like claws extended. The hands or feet were not prehensile, a fact that I ascribed to that long residence in the cave which, as I before mentioned, seemed evident from the all-pervading and almost unearthly whiteness so characteristic of the whole anatomy. No tail seemed to be present.
 
The respiration had now grown very feeble, and the guide had drawn his pistol with the evident intent of despatching the creature, when a sudden sound emitted by the latter caused the weapon to fall unused. The sound was of a nature difficult to describe. It was not like the normal note of any known species of simian, and I wonder if this unnatural quality were not the result of a long continued and complete silence, broken by the sensations produced by the advent of the light, a thing which the beast could not have seen since its first entrance into the cave. The sound, which I might feebly attempt to classify as a kind of deep-tone chattering, was faintly continued.
 
All at once a fleeting spasm of energy seemed to pass through the frame of the beast. The paws went through a convulsive motion, and the limbs contracted. With a jerk, the white body rolled over so that its face was turned in our direction. For a moment I was so struck with horror at the eyes thus revealed that I noted nothing else. They were black, those eyes, deep jetty black, in hideous contrast to the snow-white hair and flesh. Like those of other cave denizens, they were deeply sunken in their orbits, and were entirely destitute of iris. As I looked more closely, I saw that they were set in a face less prognathous than that of the average ape, and infinitely less hairy. The nose was quite distinct. As we gazed upon the uncanny sight presented to our vision, the thick lips opened, and several sounds issued from them, after which the thing relaxed in death.
 
The guide clutched my coat sleeve and trembled so violently that the light shook fitfully, casting weird moving shadows on the walls.
 
I made no motion, but stood rigidly still, my horrified eyes fixed upon the floor ahead.
 
The fear left, and wonder, awe, compassion, and reverence succeeded in its place, for the sounds uttered by the stricken figure that lay stretched out on the limestone had told us the awesome truth. The creature I had killed, the strange beast of the unfathomed cave, was, or had at one time been a MAN!!!
 
Further Works of HP Lovecraft:
http://www.dagonbytes.com/thelibrary/lovecraft/index.html

prezhorusin04

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The Works Of H.P. Lovecraft
« Reply #1 on: July 16, 2005, 12:37:38 am »
I don't necessarily agree with the whole take on this article, but it does shed some interesting light. It should also be noted that HP Lovecraft was a follower of racial superiority ideals. :cry:
 

 
Dreamer of the Dark
http://www.forteantimes.com/articles/184_lovecraft1.shtml
Was the most influential horror writer of the 20th century a believer in the paranormal? DANIEL HARMS examines the evidence. Main illustration by Dave Carson.
 
Mention of the name Howard Phillips Lovecraft might elicit nothing more than a noncommittal shrug from most people, but for fans of the macabre he is still a revered figure, held in awe for his unique literary visions of cosmic horror.
 
Lovecraft spent most of his life (1890-1937) in Providence, Rhode Island. The last son of a once-wealthy family, he devoted his life to literature, soon finding that his strengths lay in tales of the uncanny. These stories attracted a small following among the readers of Weird Tales and other pulp magazines, and his correspondents included a formidable roster of early horror writers. Since his early death, the popularity of his work has grown – in ways he could never have imagined – inspiring countless stories and novels, films, cartoons, games and even cuddly toys.
 
His tales have continued to compel readers because of their convincing melding of fact and fantasy and their evocation of a world both phantasmagoric and believable at the same time. The stories serve as a loosely constructed chronicle of the "Old Ones," alien creatures from other worlds and other dimensions. The Old Ones include the mindless chaos Azathoth; the Black Goat of the Woods, Shub-Niggurath; and Cthulhu, a winged squid-like god who lives in a sunken city in the Pacific. Once, in the planet’s distant past, the Old Ones lived on Earth, but eventually they fell into an жons-long sleep. Their worshippers, including the fish-men known as the "deep ones," and the crustacean-like fungi from the planet Yuggoth (Pluto) are still awake and sometimes menace humanity. Books such as the infamous Necronomicon of Abdul Alhazred hold the Old Ones’ lore, and cults around the world work their rituals in the hope that their masters will return to rule again.
 
Given the power of his vision, many have speculated on just how much Lovecraft knew about the occult. Some occultists hail him as the prophet of a new Dark Age, claiming that his fiction bears genuine traces of ancient knowledge and re-emerging archetypes from the depths of our collective unconscious. Yet, all too often, their conclusions are based on guesswork, rather than the evidence of his own writing. Fortunately for us, he had perhaps one of the best-documented lives in literary history, writing approximately 100,000 letters over his 46 years. Through these letters, and other newly discovered sources, a glimpse into the reality of Lovecraft’s occult lore is finally possible.
 
Lovecraft as Debunker
 
To begin with, it’s clear that Lovecraft himself had no belief whatsoever in the occult. As a youth, he had come to doubt the Christian faith of his family, and explored the beliefs of the Greeks, Muslims, Egyptians, and Hindus. None of these satisfied him, and he turned to atheism and scepticism as the only possible alternatives. In 1925, he wrote to his friend Clark Ashton Smith, saying: "I am, indeed, an absolute materialist so far as actual belief goes; with not a shred of credence in any form of supernaturalism – religion, spiritualism, transcendentalism, metempsychosis, or immortality". 1 Anyone who wrote to him asking if the gods and occult tomes mentioned in his stories were real would receive a polite letter stating his disbelief in such notions.
 
He was not merely a passive believer in a philosophy of scepticism, but a passionate missionary for his creed. He wrote letters to local newspapers attacking claims of the Hollow Earth and astrology. These letters may contain more vitriol than reasoned critique, but they nonetheless make their points effectively and entertainingly. Such debates also raged in his letters, for he kept a wide circle of friends with widely differing perspectives from his own. If he were alive today, Lovecraft would probably be a strong supporter of CSICOP.
 
 
Lovecraft’s scepticism was so vehement that, at one point, it almost brought him a book deal. The celebrated stage magician Harry Houdini was known as a debunker of spiritualists and quacks. Lovecraft revised a fictionalised account of one of Houdini’s adventures, in which the conjuror escapes bandits and far worse things in the tunnels beneath the Great Pyramids ("Imprisoned with the Pharaohs"). Houdini was happy with the rewrite, and the two exchanged letters discussing future collaborations. Along with Providence author C M Eddy, they decided to write a book called The Cancer of Superstition, which they thought would strike a final blow against credulity. Houdini’s death in 1926 put an end to the project; if what survives is anything to go by, 2 it was no great loss, the authors’ names being the book’s most interesting feature.
 
Nevertheless, Lovecraft was at least somewhat familiar with the literature of occultism, especially in his later years. At the time of his death, his library contained such works as Lewis Spence’s Encyclopжdia of Occultism, Sir Walter Scott’s Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft, Camille Flammarion’s Haunted Houses, and a variety of works on ghosts, folklore, and mythology. 3 This was not the end of the matter, as Lovecraft also borrowed a number of occult works – as well as Charles Fort’s Book of the Damned and New Lands 4 – from libraries and his friends, most notably Herman C Koenig of New York City. (Interestingly, Lovecraft actually mentions Fort by name in a couple of stories.). Lovecraft, then, was hardly an authority on matters esoteric and uncanny, but he had some basic knowledge that he incorporated into his tales.
 
CONTINUED TEXT:
http://www.forteantimes.com/articles/184_lovecraft1.shtml
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THE BOOK
By HP Lovecraft

 
My memories are very confused. There is even much doubt as to where they begin; for at times I feel appalling vistas of years stretching behind me, while at other times it seems as if the present moment were an isolated point in a grey, formless infinity. I am not even certain how I am communicating this message. While I know I am speaking, I have a vague impression that some strange and perhaps terrible mediation will be needed to bear what I say to the points where I wish to be heard. My identity, too, is bewilderingly cloudy. I seem to have suffered a great shock-perhaps from some utterly monstrous outgrowth of my cycles of unique, incredible experience.
 
These cycles of experience, of course, all stem from that worm riddled book. I remember when I found it-in a dimly lighted place near the black, oily river where the mists always swirl. That place was very old, and the ceiling-high shelves full of rotting volumes reached back endlessly through windowless inner rooms and alcoves. There were, besides, great formless heaps of books on the floor and in crude bins; and it was in one of these heaps that I found the thing. I never learned its title, for the early pages were missing; but it fell open toward the end and gave me a glimpse of something which sent my senses reeling.
 
There was a formula-a sort of list of things to say and do-which I recognized as something black and forbidden; something which I had read of before in furtive paragraphs of mixed abhorrence and fascination penned by those strange ancient delvers into the universe's guarded secrets whose decaying texts I loved to absorb. It was a key-a guide-to certain gateways and transitions of which mystics have creamed and whispered since the race was young, and which lead to freedoms and discoveries beyond the three dimensions and realms of life and matter that we know. Not for centuries had any man recalled its vital substance or known where to find it, but this book was very old indeed. No printing-press, but the hand of some half-crazed monk, had traced these ominous Latin phrases in uncials of awesome antiquity.
 
I remember how the old man leered and tittered, and made a curious sign with his hand when I bore it away. He had refused to take pay for it, and only long afterward did I guess why. As I hurried home through those narrow, winding, mist-cloaked waterfront streets, I had a frightful impression of being stealthily followed by softly padding feet. The centuried, tottering houses on both sides seemed alive with a fresh and morbid malignity-as if some hitherto closed channel of evil understanding had abruptly been opened. I felt that those walls and overhanging gables of mildewed brick and fungoid plaster and timber-with eyelike, diamond-paned windows that leered-could hardly desist from advancing and crushing me...yet I had read only the least fragment of that blasphemous rune before closing the book and bringing it away.
 
I remember how I read the book at last-white-faced, and locked in the attic room that I had long devoted to strange searchings. The great house was very still, for I had not gone up till after midnight. I think I had a family then- though the details are very uncertain-and I know there were many servants. Just what the year was, I cannot say; for since then I have known many ages and dimensions, and have had all my notions of time dissolved and refashioned. It was by the light of candles that I read-I recall the relentless dripping of the wax-and there were chimes that came every now and then from distant belfries. I seemed to keep track of those chimes with a peculiar intentness, as if I feared to hear some very remote, intruding note among them.
 
Then came the first scratching and fumbling at the dormer window that looked out high above the other roofs of the city. It came as i droned aloud the ninth verse of that primal lay, and I knew amidst my shudders what it meant. For he who passes the gateways always wins a shadow, and never again can he be alone. I had evoked-and the book was indeed all I had suspected . That night I passed the gateway to a vortex of twisted time and vision, and when morning found me in the attic room, I saw in the walls and shelves and fittings that which I had never seen before.
 
Nor could I after see the worlds as I had known it Mixed with the present scene was always a little of the past and a little of the future, and every once-familiar object loomed alien in the new perspective brought by my widened sight. From then on I walked in a fantastic dream of unknown and half-known shapes, and with each new gateway crossed, the less plainly could I recognize the things of the narrow sphere to which I had so long been bound. What i saw about me, none else saw; and I grew doubly silent and aloof lest I be thought mad. Dogs had a fear of me, for they felt the outside shadow which never left my side. But still I read more-in hidden, forgotten books and scrolls to which my new vision led me-and pushed through fresh gateways of space and being and life-patterns toward the core of the unknown cosmos.
 
I remember the night I made the five concentric circles of fire on the floor, and stood in the innermost one changing that monstrous litany the messenger from Tartary had brought. The walls melted away, and I was swept by a black wind through gulfs of fathomless grey with the needle-like pinnacles of unknown mountains miles below me. After a while there was utter blackness, and then the light of myriad stars forming strange, alien constellations. Finally I saw a green-litten plain far below me, and discerned on it the twisted towers of a city built in no fashion I had ever known or read of or dreamed of. As i floated closer to that city I saw a great square building of stone in an open space, and felt a hideous fear clutching at me. I screamed and struggled, and after a blackness was again in my attic room sprawled flat over the five phosphorescent circles on the floor. In that night's wandering there was no more of strangeness than in many a former night's wandering; but there was more of terror because I knew I was closer to those outside gulfs and worlds than I had ever been before. Thereafter I was more cautious with my incantations, for I had no wish to be cut off from my body and from the earth in unknown abysses whence I could never return....
CIRCA 1934

prezhorusin04

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The Works Of H.P. Lovecraft
« Reply #2 on: July 16, 2005, 12:54:49 am »

Cthulhu for President. Why vote for a lesser evil?
http://www.cthulhu.org/

More Madness from the Cthulhu!:
http://www.locksley.com/cthulhu/

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The Works Of H.P. Lovecraft
« Reply #3 on: August 15, 2005, 10:32:54 am »
Lovecraft definitely was an excellent writer.  I remember how they did an adaptation of his story "Pickman's Model" for the old Night Gallery show.