H. P. Lovecraft: The Hounds of TimeFebruary 25th, 2009 by Gabrielle Faust received No Comments »
A new essay by contributor L.P. Van Ness. Photo from the Temple of Cthulhu website.
H. P. Lovecraft: The Hounds of Time
By L. P. Van Ness
I recently busied myself by sorting through two boxes of Amazing Stories at a local book fair. Though priced amicably, they were worthless in my eyes. Suddenly, I raised my round, purple sunglasses and, glancing at the shelf above, I spied the bloody, red bindings of four issues of Weird Tales that had been misplaced between some useless tomes! The first three issues were busts. Ah, but the cover of the fourth heralded a tombstone whose epitaph read, “H. P. Lovecraft’s Hallowe’en in a Suburb!” The Goddess of Serendipity had smiled on me once again, for along with “In a Sequestered Churchyard Where Poe Once Walked,” which I had discovered over a decade ago in the March/April issue of The Science-Fantasy Correspondent, this was also one of my favorite Lovecraft poems!
Now I held more of the history of horror in my hands. Pages browned with age, the smell of dust and mold, which is to the bibliophile as sweet as the perfume from an “unseen censer,” I carefully reviewed the calligraphy of the table of contents of the September 1952 issue of Weird Tales: “Island of the Hands” by Margaret St. Clair, gruesomely portrayed by the wailing creatures on the cover, “Where to, Please?” by L. Sprague de Camp, and “The Lost Path” by August Derleth. Lovecraft’s poem, however, leads-off the issue on page nine. A lurid illustration of its “harpies,” winged nightmares with shriveled breasts, wiry hair, and wizened faces with bulging eyes, fluttering midst black clouds and a full moon, compliments it on the preceding page. An excellent illustration, Mr. Drayne, can really bring a poem or tale to life!
Lovecraft’s “Hallowe’en in a Suburb” begins with vampires and harpies of the upper air fluttering, laughing, and staring from the moonlit steeples and silver trees. The village dead are attracted to the moon as well and grow out of the rivers of madness from deep gulfs of dead years, the pit of dream. It is the hour “when spectral power / Spreads sleep o’er the cosmic throne, / And losses the vast unknown.” A danse macabre begins as “the dead leap gay in the pallid ray, / Sprung out of the tomb’s black maw.” But the dead become forlorn as they patrol outside the brick abodes whose slumbering citizens “shall some day be with the rest, / And brood with the shades unblest.” This hour is not to be the transient portal of the traditional Halloween, where the dead roam among us for a limited time. No! The lemurs begin to bark and “leprous spires” of the Necropolis of the Dead “ascend” as the dead world is entered permanently into the time of the living! For now “new and old alike in the fold / Of horror and death are penned, / For the Hounds of Time to rend.”
In “Notes on Writing Weird Fiction,” from The Miscellaneous Writings of H. P. Lovecraft, Arkham House, 1995, Lovecraft revealed, “The reason time plays a great part in so many of my tales is that this element looms up in my mind as the most profoundly dramatic and grimly terrible thing in the universe. Conflict with time seems to me the most potent and fruitful theme in all human expression.” In his “Hallowe’en in a Suburb,” we see that Lovecraft applied the same theory to his poetry as well. No longer content with their finite midnight hour of Halloween hauntings, the dead had rebelled; with the conflicting image of the dead city (past time) rising up to war on and replace that of the living one (present time), Lovecraft had brilliantly, once again, rewritten the set rules of the supernatural making the horror all the more palpable and leaving a lasting impression of dread.
Thank you to LP Van Ness for submitting this article for the Eternal Vigilance website! If you are interested in submitting original fiction or blog posts about anything horror, writing, or science fiction related, please drop me a line!