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The Messenger -- H P Lovecraft

Guest poem submitted by William Johns:
(Poem #692) The Messenger
 The thing, he said, would come in the night at three
 From the old churchyard on the hill below;
 But crouching by an oak fire's wholesome glow,
 I tried to tell myself it could not be.

 Surely, I mused, it was pleasantry
 Devised by one who did not truly know
 The Elder Sign, bequeathed from long ago,
 That sets the fumbling forms of darkness free.

 He had not meant it - no - but still I lit
 Another lamp as starry Leo climbed
 Out of the Seekonk, and a steeple chimed
 Three - and the firelight faded, bit by bit.

 Then at the door that cautious rattling came -
 And the mad truth devoured me like a flame!
-- H P Lovecraft
Howard Phillips Lovecraft was a weird fiction author during the 1920's and
30's.  After failing to complete school, allegedly due to poor health, and
being unable to go on to become a scientist as he wished, he became quite
reclusive, perhaps even clinically depressed, for several years.  He became
involved in what would today be called a "flame war" over the merits of a
certain romance author, and his letters, cleverly written in prose,
attracted the attention of the Amateur Publishing Association.  He was
invited to join, and published his first story, "The Alchemist".  Membership
and activity in the APA pulled him out of his doldrums, and he went on to
become the greatest weird fiction author of all time.

That being said, it must also be said that much of his poetry, especially
early on, was awful.  Only later on, when he adopted a more modern style and
freed himself from the imitation of earlier poets, did his prose become
palatable.  "The Messenger" is a good example of what he was capable of.
There is an interesting story of how this poem came about.

In the summer of 1926, H. P. Lovecraft wrote "The Call of Cthulhu", which
was published in February 1928 in Weird Tales and is perhaps his most famous
(if not best) story.  In that story, a sculptor named Henry Anthony Wilcox,
described as "a thin, dark young man of neurotic and excited aspect",
produced a clay tablet covered in mysterious heiroglyphs while sleepwalking.
Wilcox' address is given as 7 Thomas Street, Providence, R. I.

Bertrand Kelton Hart, author of a daily column called "The Sideshow" in the
Providence Journal, happened to live at that address.  Upon learning that
his address had been used in Lovecraft's story, he published in his column
"...I shall not be happy until, joining league with wraiths and ghouls, I
have plumped down at least one large and abiding ghost by way of reprisal
upon [Lovecraft's] own doorstep in Barnes street... I think I shall teach it
to moan in a minor dissonance every morning at 3 o'clock sharp, with a
clinking of chains."

This, in turn, inspired Lovecraft to write "The Messenger", which was
published in the Providence Journal on December 3, 1929.


[thomas adds]

Martin once ran a set of three poems written by fantasy authors:

Poem #257 - "Three Rings for the Elven Kings", J. R. R. Tolkien
Poem #259 - "Songs from an Evil Wood", Lord Dunsany
Poem #261 - "Recompense", Robert E. Howard

Needless to say, "The Messenger" would have fit the theme like a glove.

Incidentally, "weird fiction" is as good a description of Lovecraft's
peculiar brand of fantasy as any I've seen <grin>.


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Anonymous said...

what kind of poem is The messenger? i don't know do you? is it alliteration, metaphore simile...
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It has been rumored that Lovecraft was into the occult.

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