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!
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. Bill. [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>. thomas.