The New Annotated H.P. Lovecraft | Chapter 14 of 46 - Part: 1 of 3

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Nyarlathotep1

Like “The Statement of Randolph Carter,” “Nyarlathotep” is a record of a dream of Lovecraft’s. A vision of the downfall of civilization, its powerful images are impossible to pin down—disturbing in the way that dreams disturb us. The persona of “Nyarlathotep” returns in future versions of the Cthulhu Mythos,

yet never in more dramatic fashion than here.

Nyarlathotep . . . the crawling chaos. . . . I am the last . . . I will tell the audient

void. . . .

2

I

do not recall distinctly when it began, but it was months ago.3 The general tension was horrible. To a season of political and social upheaval was added a strange and brooding apprehension of hideous physical danger; a danger widespread and all-embracing, such a danger as may be imagined only in the most terrible phantasms of the night. I recall that the people went about with pale and worried faces, and whispered warnings and prophecies which no one dared consciously repeat or acknowledge to himself that he had heard. A sense of monstrous guilt was upon the land, and out of the abysses between the stars swept chill currents that made men shiver in dark and lonely places. There was a dæmoniac alteration in the sequence of the seasons—the autumn heat lingered fearsomely, and everyone felt that the world and perhaps the universe had passed from the control of known gods or forces to that of gods or forces which were unknown.

And it was then that Nyarlathotep came out of Egypt. Who he was, none could tell, but he was of the old native blood and looked like a Pharaoh. The fellahin4 knelt when they saw him, yet could not say why. He said he had risen up out of the blackness of twenty-seven centuries,5 and that he had heard messages from places not on this planet. Into the lands of civilisation came Nyarlathotep, swarthy, slender, and sinister, always buying strange instruments of glass and metal and combining them into instruments yet stranger. He spoke much of the sciences—of electricity and psychology—and gave exhibitions of power which sent his spectators away speechless, yet which swelled his fame to exceeding magnitude.6 Men advised one another to see Nyarlathotep, and shuddered. And where Nyarlathotep went, rest vanished; for the small hours were rent with the screams of nightmare. Never before had the screams of nightmare been such a public problem; now the wise men almost wished they could forbid sleep in the small hours, that the shrieks of cities might less horribly disturb the pale, pitying moon as it glimmered on green waters gliding under bridges, and old steeples crumbling against a sickly sky.

I remember when Nyarlathotep came to my city—the great, the old, the terrible city of unnumbered crimes. My friend had told me of him,7 and of the impelling fascination and allurement of his revelations, and I burned with eagerness to explore his uttermost mysteries. My friend said they were horrible and impressive beyond my most fevered imaginings; that what was thrown on a screen in the darkened room8 prophesied things none but Nyarlathotep dared prophesy, and that in the sputter of his sparks there was taken from men that which had never been taken before yet which shewed only in the eyes. And I heard it hinted abroad that those who knew Nyarlathotep looked on sights which others saw not.

It was in the hot autumn that I went through the night with the restless crowds to see Nyarlathotep; through the stifling night and up the endless stairs into the choking room. And shadowed on a screen, I saw hooded forms amidst ruins, and yellow evil faces9 peering from behind fallen monuments. And I saw the world battling against blackness; against the waves of destruction from ultimate space; whirling, churning, struggling around the dimming, cooling sun.10 Then the sparks played amazingly around the heads of the spectators, and hair stood up on end whilst shadows more grotesque than I can tell came out and squatted on the heads. And when I, who was colder and more scientific than the rest, mumbled a trembling protest about “imposture” and “static electricity,” Nyarlathotep drave us all out, down the dizzy stairs into the damp, hot, deserted midnight streets. I screamed aloud that I was not

afraid; that I never could be afraid; and others screamed with me for solace. We sware to one another that the city was exactly the same, and still alive; and when the electric lights began to fade we cursed the company over and over again, and laughed at the queer faces we made.

I believe we felt something coming down from the greenish moon, for when we began to depend on its light we drifted into curious involuntary formations and seemed to know our destinations though we dared not think of them. Once we looked at the pavement and found the blocks loose and displaced by grass, with scarce a line of rusted metal to shew where the tramways had run. And again we saw a tram-car, lone, windowless, dilapidated, and almost on its side. When we gazed around the horizon, we could not find the third tower by the river, and noticed that the silhouette of the second tower was ragged at the top.11 Then we split up into narrow columns, each of which seemed drawn in a different direction. One disappeared in a narrow alley to the left, leaving only the echo of a shocking moan. Another filed down a weed-choked subway entrance, howling with a laughter that was mad. My own column was sucked toward the open country, and presently I felt a chill which was not of the hot autumn; for as we stalked out on the dark moor, we beheld around us the hellish moon-glitter of evil snows. Trackless, inexplicable snows, swept asunder in one direction only, where lay a gulf all the blacker for its glittering walls. The column seemed very thin indeed as it plodded dreamily into the gulf. I lingered behind, for the black rift in the green-litten snow was frightful, and I thought I had heard the reverberations of a disquieting wail as my companions vanished; but my power to linger was slight. As if beckoned by those who had gone before, I half-floated between the titanic snowdrifts, quivering and afraid, into the sightless vortex of the unimaginable.

Screamingly sentient, dumbly delirious, only the gods that were can tell. A sickened, sensitive shadow writhing in hands that are not hands, and whirled blindly past ghastly midnights of rotting creation, corpses of dead worlds with sores that were cities, charnel winds that brush the pallid stars and make them flicker low. Beyond the worlds vague ghosts of monstrous things; half-seen columns of unsanctified temples that rest on nameless rocks beneath space and reach up to dizzy vacua above the spheres of light and darkness. And through this revolting graveyard of the universe the muffled, maddening beating of drums, and thin, monotonous whine of blasphemous flutes from inconceivable, unlighted chambers beyond Time; the detestable pounding and piping whereunto dance slowly, awkwardly, and absurdly the gigantic, tenebrous12 ultimate gods—the blind, voiceless, mindless gargoyles whose soul is Nyarlathotep.13

image

“Völker Europas, wahrt eure heiligsten Güter!”

(Peoples of Europe, Protect Your Holiest Possessions!

) by Wilhelm II, ca. 1895.

1. Written in December 1920, the tale first appeared in the United Amateur

(dated November 1920 but published no earlier than January 1921).

2. Will Murray, in “Behind the Mask of Nyarlathotep,” points out that not only is this Lovecraft’s first fictitious god, but it is the first to appear in more than one Lovecraft story. Nyarlathotep appears as a character in six of Lovecraft’s works, “The Rats in the Walls” (1924), as a faceless god in the caverns of the center of the Earth; The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath

(1926–27), unpublished during Lovecraft’s lifetime; the twenty-first sonnet of the thirty-six-poem cycle “Fungi from Yuggoth” (1929–30); and the stories “The Dreams in the Witch House” (1933) and “The Haunter of the Dark” (1936). The name, according to David Haden, in Walking with Cthulhu: H. P. Lovecraft as Psychogeographer, New York City, 1924–26

, may be roughly translated as “the message (messenger) that is trusted of (by) the gods.” In “Cthulhu’s Scald: Lovecraft and the Nordic Tradition,” Jason C. Eckhardt points out similarities between Nyarlathotep and the Norse mythological figures of Loki (a devious, mysterious shape-shifter) and Surt (Lord of Muspelheim, land of fire, who, it is suggested, will figure prominently in the end of the world).

3. David Haden, in Walking with Cthulhu,

argues that the “season” is late 1919. The world was still recovering from the mortal and psychic consequences of the Great War, a worldwide influenza epidemic killed over 25 million worldwide, the scientific world was in upheaval due to the theories of Einstein, and a terrible heat wave in New England and New York took almost 600 lives.

Comments

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Alice
Great book, nicely written and thank you BooksVooks for uploading

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