I. The Book
The place was dark and dusty and half-lost
In tangles of old alleys
near the quays,
Reeking of strange things brought in from the seas,
And with queer curls of fog that west winds tossed.
panes, obscured by smoke and frost,
Just shewed the books, in piles
like twisted trees,
Rotting from floor to roof - congeries
crumbling elder lore at little cost.
I entered, charmed, and from a cobwebbed heap
Took up the nearest
tome and thumbed it through,
Trembling at curious words that seemed to
Some secret, monstrous if one only knew.
Then, looking for
some seller old in craft,
I could find nothing but a voice that
I held the book beneath my coat, at pains
To hide the thing from
sight in such a place;
Hurrying through the ancient harbor lanes
With often-turning head and nervous pace.
Dull, furtive windows in
old tottering brick
Peered at me oddly as I hastened by,
thinking what they sheltered, I grew sick
For a redeeming glimpse of
clean blue sky.
No one had seen me take the thing - but still
A blank laugh echoed
in my whirling head,
And I could guess what nighted worlds of ill
Lurked in that volume I had coveted.
The way grew strange - the
walls alike and madding -
And far behind me, unseen feet were padding.
III. The Key
I do not know what windings in the waste
Of those strange sea-lanes
brought me home once more,
But on my porch I trembled, white with
To get inside and bolt the heavy door.
I had the book that
told the hidden way
Across the void and through the space-hung screens
That hold the undimensioned worlds at bay,
And keep lost aeons to
their own demesnes.
At last the key was mine to those vague visions
Of sunset spires
and twilight woods that brood
Dim in the gulfs beyond this earth's
Lurking as memories of infinitude.
The key was mine,
but as I sat there mumbling,
The attic window shook with a faint
The day had come again, when as a child
I saw - just once - that
hollow of old oaks,
Grey with a ground-mist that enfolds and chokes
The slinking shapes which madness has defiled.
It was the same -
an herbage rank and wild
Clings round an altar whose carved sign
That Nameless One to whom a thousand smokes
gone, from unclean towers up-piled.
I saw the body spread on that dank stone,
And knew those things
which feasted were not men;
I knew this strange, grey world was not my
But Yuggoth, past the starry voids - and then
shrieked at me with a dead cry,
And all too late I knew that it was I!
The daemon said that he would take me home
To the pale, shadowy
land I half recalled
As a high place of stair and terrace, walled
With marble balustrades that sky-winds comb,
While miles below a
maze of dome on dome
And tower on tower beside a sea lies sprawled.
Once more, he told me, I would stand enthralled
On those old
heights, and hear the far-off foam.
All this he promised, and through sunset's gate
He swept me, past
the lapping lakes of flame,
And red-gold thrones of gods without a
Who shriek in fear at some impending fate.
Then a black gulf
with sea-sounds in the night:
"Here was your home," he mocked, "when
you had sight!"
VI. The Lamp
We found the lamp inside those hollow cliffs
Whose chiseled sign no
priest in Thebes could read,
And from whose caverns frightened
Warned every living creature of earth's breed.
was there - just that one brazen bowl
With traces of a curious oil
Fretted with some obscurely patterned scroll,
hinting vaguely of strange sin.
Little the fears of forty centuries meant
To us as we bore off our
And when we scanned it in our darkened tent
struck a match to test the ancient oil.
It blazed - great God!... But
the vast shapes we saw
In that mad flash have seared our lives with
VII. Zaman's Hill
The great hill hung close over the old town,
A precipice against
the main street's end;
Green, tall, and wooded, looking darkly down
Upon the steeple at the highway bend.
Two hundred years the
whispers had been heard
About what happened on the man-shunned slope -
Tales of an oddly mangled deer or bird,
Or of lost boys whose kin
had ceased to hope.
One day the mail-man found no village there,
Nor were its folk or
houses seen again;
People came out from Aylesbury to stare -
they all told the mail-man it was plain
That he was mad for saying he
The great hill's gluttonous eyes, and jaws stretched wide.
VIII. The Port
Ten miles from Arkham I had struck the trail
That rides the
cliff-edge over Boynton Beach,
And hoped that just at sunset I could
The crest that looks on Innsmouth in the vale.
Far out at
sea was a retreating sail,
White as hard years of ancient winds could
But evil with some portent beyond speech,
So that I did
not wave my hand or hail.
Sails out of lnnsmouth! echoing old renown
Of long-dead times. But
now a too-swift night
Is closing in, and I have reached the height
Whence I so often scan the distant town.
The spires and roofs are
there - but look! The gloom
Sinks on dark lanes, as lightless as the
IX. The Courtyard
It was the city I had known before;
The ancient, leprous town where
Chant to strange gods, and beat unhallowed gongs
In crypts beneath foul alleys near the shore.
fish-eyed houses leered at me
From where they leaned, drunk and
As edging through the filth I passed the gate
black courtyard where the man would be.
The dark walls closed me in, and loud I cursed
That ever I had come
to such a den,
When suddenly a score of windows burst
light, and swarmed with dancing men:
Mad, soundless revels of the
dragging dead -
And not a corpse had either hands or head!
X. The Pigeon-Flyers
They took me slumming, where gaunt walls of brick
with a viscous stored-up evil,
And twisted faces, thronging foul and
Wink messages to alien god and devil.
A million fires were
blazing in the streets,
And from flat roofs a furtive few would fly
Bedraggled birds into the yawning sky
While hidden drums droned on
with measured beats.
I knew those fires were brewing monstrous things,
And that those
birds of space had been Outside -
I guessed to what dark planet's
crypts they plied,
And what they brought from Thog beneath their
The others laughed - till struck too mute to speak
they glimpsed in one bird's evil beak.
XI. The Well
Farmer Seth Atwood was past eighty when
He tried to sink that deep
well by his door,
With only Eb to help him bore and bore.
laughed, and hoped he'd soon be sane again.
And yet, instead, young Eb
went crazy, too,
So that they shipped him to the county farm.
bricked the well-mouth up as tight as glue -
Then hacked an artery in
his gnarled left arm.
After the funeral we felt bound to get
Out to that well and rip the
But all we saw were iron hand-holds set
Down a black
hole deeper than we could say.
And yet we put the bricks back - for we
The hole too deep for any line to sound.
XII. The Howler
They told me not to take the Briggs' Hill path
That used to be the
highroad through to Zoar,
For Goody Watkins, hanged in seventeen-four,
Had left a certain monstrous aftermath.
Yet when I disobeyed, and
had in view
The vine-hung cottage by the great rock slope,
not think of elms or hempen rope,
But wondered why the house still
seemed so new.
Stopping a while to watch the fading day,
I heard faint howls, as
from a room upstairs,
When through the ivied panes one sunset ray
Struck in, and caught the howler unawares.
I glimpsed - and ran in
frenzy from the place,
And from a four-pawed thing with human face.
The winter sunset, flaming beyond spires
And chimneys half-detached
from this dull sphere,
Opens great gates to some forgotten year
elder splendours and divine desires.
Expectant wonders burn in those
Adventure-fraught, and not untinged with fear;
of sphinxes where the way leads clear
Toward walls and turrets
quivering to far lyres.
It is the land where beauty's meaning flowers;
Where every unplaced
memory has a source;
Where the great river Time begins its course
Down the vast void in starlit streams of hours.
Dreams bring us
close - but ancient lore repeats
That human tread has never soiled
It is a certain hour of twilight glooms,
Mostly in autumn, when the
Down hilltop streets, deserted out-of-doors,
shewing early lamplight from snug rooms.
The dead leaves rush in
strange, fantastic twists,
And chimney-smoke whirls round with alien
Heeding geometries of outer space,
While Fomalhaut peers in
through southward mists.
This is the hour when moonstruck poets know
What fungi sprout in
Yuggoth, and what scents
And tints of flowers fill Nithon's
Such as in no poor earthly garden blow.
Yet for each
dream these winds to us convey,
A dozen more of ours they sweep away!
Deep in my dream the great bird whispered queerly
Of the black cone
amid the polar waste;
Pushing above the ice-sheet lone and drearly,
By storm-crazed aeons battered and defaced.
Hither no living
earth-shapes take their courses,
And only pale auroras and faint suns
Glow on that pitted rock, whose primal sources
Are guessed at
dimly by the Elder Ones.
If men should glimpse it, they would merely wonder
mound of Nature's build they spied;
But the bird told of vaster parts,
The mile-deep ice-shroud crouch and brood and bide.
help the dreamer whose mad visions shew
Those dead eyes set in crystal
XVI. The Window
The house was old, with tangled wings outthrown,
Of which no one
could ever half keep track,
And in a small room somewhat near the back
Was an odd window sealed with ancient stone.
There, in a
dream-plagued childhood, quite alone
I used to go, where night reigned
vague and black;
Parting the cobwebs with a curious lack
and with a wonder each time grown.
One later day I brought the masons there
To find what view my dim
forbears had shunned,
But as they pierced the stone, a rush of air
Burst from the alien voids that yawned beyond.
They fled - but I
peered through and found unrolled
All the wild worlds of which my
dreams had told.
XVII. A Memory
There were great steppes, and rocky table-lands
half-limitless in starlit night,
With alien campfires shedding feeble
On beasts with tinkling bells, in shaggy bands.
Far to the
south the plain sloped low and wide
To a dark zigzag line of wall that
Like a huge python of some primal day
Which endless time had
chilled and petrified.
I shivered oddly in the cold, thin air,
And wondered where I was
and how I came,
When a cloaked form against a campfire's glare
Rose and approached, and called me by my name.
Staring at that
dead face beneath the hood,
I ceased to hope - because I understood.
XVIII. The Gardens of Yin
Beyond that wall, whose ancient masonry
Reached almost to the sky
in moss-thick towers,
There would be terraced gardens, rich with
And flutter of bird and butterfly and bee.
There would be
walks, and bridges arching over
Warm lotos-pools reflecting temple
And cherry-trees with delicate boughs and leaves
pink sky where the herons hover.
All would be there, for had not old dreams flung
Open the gate to
that stone-lanterned maze
Where drowsy streams spin out their winding
Trailed by green vines from bending branches hung?
- but when the wall rose, grim and great,
I found there was no longer
XIX. The Bells
Year after year I heard that faint, far ringing
Of deep-toned bells
on the black midnight wind;
Peals from no steeple I could ever find,
But strange, as if across some great void winging.
I searched my
dreams and memories for a clue,
And thought of all the chimes my
Of quiet Innsmouth, where the white gulls tarried
Around an ancient spire that once I knew.
Always perplexed I heard those far notes falling,
Till one March
night the bleak rain splashing cold
Beckoned me back through gateways
To elder towers where the mad clappers tolled.
tolled - but from the sunless tides that pour
Through sunken valleys
on the sea's dead floor.
Out of what crypt they crawl, I cannot tell,
But every night I see
the rubbery things,
Black, horned, and slender, with membraneous
And tails that bear the bifid barb of hell.
They come in
legions on the north wind's swell,
With obscene clutch that titillates
Snatching me off on monstrous voyagings
To grey worlds
hidden deep in nightmare's well.
Over the jagged peaks of Thok they sweep,
Heedless of all the cries
I try to make,
And down the nether pits to that foul lake
the puffed shoggoths splash in doubtful sleep.
But oh! If only they
would make some sound,
Or wear a face where faces should be found!
And at the last from inner Egypt came
The strange dark One to whom
the fellahs bowed;
Silent and lean and cryptically proud,
wrapped in fabrics red as sunset flame.
Throngs pressed around,
frantic for his commands,
But leaving, could not tell what they had
While through the nations spread the awestruck word
wild beasts followed him and licked his hands.
Soon from the sea a noxious birth began;
Forgotten lands with weedy
spires of gold;
The ground was cleft, and mad auroras rolled
on the quaking citadels of man.
Then, crushing what he chanced to
mould in play,
The idiot Chaos blew Earth's dust away.
Out in the mindless void the daemon bore me,
Past the bright
clusters of dimensioned space,
Till neither time nor matter stretched
But only Chaos, without form or place.
Here the vast
Lord of All in darkness muttered
Things he had dreamed but could not
While near him shapeless bat-things flopped and fluttered
In idiot vortices that ray-streams fanned.
They danced insanely to the high, thin whining
Of a cracked flute
clutched in a monstrous paw,
Whence flow the aimless waves whose
Gives each frail cosmos its eternal law.
His Messenger," the daemon said,
As in contempt he struck his Master's
I do not know if ever it existed -
That lost world floating dimly
on Time's stream -
And yet I see it often, violet-misted,
shimmering at the back of some vague dream.
There were strange towers
and curious lapping rivers,
Labyrinths of wonder, and low vaults of
And bough-crossed skies of flame, like that which quivers
Wistfully just before a winter's night.
Great moors led off to sedgy shores unpeopled,
Where vast birds
wheeled, while on a windswept hill
There was a village, ancient and
With evening chimes for which I listen still.
not know what land it is - or dare
Ask when or why I was, or will be,
XXIV. The Canal
Somewhere in dream there is an evil place
Where tall, deserted
buildings crowd along
A deep, black, narrow channel, reeking strong
Of frightful things whence oily currents race.
Lanes with old
walls half meeting overhead
Wind off to streets one may or may not
And feeble moonlight sheds a spectral glow
Over long rows of
windows, dark and dead.
There are no footfalls, and the one soft sound
Is of the oily water
as it glides
Under stone bridges, and along the sides
Of its deep
flume, to some vague ocean bound.
None lives to tell when that stream
Its dream-lost region from the world of clay.
XXV. St. Toad's
"Beware St. Toad's cracked chimes!" I heard him scream
As I plunged
into those mad lanes that wind
In labyrinths obscure and undefined
South of the river where old centuries dream.
He was a furtive
figure, bent and ragged,
And in a flash had staggered out of sight,
So still I burrowed onward in the night
Toward where more
roof-lines rose, malign and jagged.
No guide-book told of what was lurking here -
But now I heard
another old man shriek:
"Beware St.Toad's cracked chimes!" And growing
I paused, when a third greybeard croaked in fear:
St. Toad's cracked chimes!" Aghast, I fled -
Till suddenly that black
spire loomed ahead.
XXVI. The Familiars
John Whateley lived about a mile from town,
Up where the hills
begin to huddle thick;
We never thought his wits were very quick,
Seeing the way he let his farm run down.
He used to waste his time
on some queer books
He'd found around the attic of his place,
funny lines got creased into his face,
And folks all said they didn't
like his looks.
When he began those night-howls we declared
He'd better be locked
up away from harm,
So three men from the Aylesbury town farm
for him - but came back alone and scared.
They'd found him talking to
two crouching things
That at their step flew off on great black wings.
XXVII. The Elder Pharos
From Leng, where rocky peaks climb bleak and bare
Under cold stars
obscure to human sight,
There shoots at dusk a single beam of light
Whose far blue rays make shepherds whine in prayer.
(though none has been there) that it comes
Out of a pharos in a tower
Where the last Elder One lives on alone,
Chaos with the beat of drums.
The Thing, they whisper, wears a silken mask
Of yellow, whose queer
folds appear to hide
A face not of this earth, though none dares ask
Just what those features are, which bulge inside.
Many, in man's
first youth, sought out that glow,
But what they found, no one will
I cannot tell why some things hold for me
A sense of unplumbed
marvels to befall,
Or of a rift in the horizon's wall
worlds where only gods can be.
There is a breathless, vague
As of vast ancient pomps I half recall,
Ecstasy-fraught, and as a day-dream free.
It is in sunsets and strange city spires,
Old villages and woods
and misty downs,
South winds, the sea, low hills, and lighted towns,
Old gardens, half-heard songs, and the moon's fires.
its lure alone makes life worth living,
None gains or guesses what it
hints at giving.
Once every year, in autumn's wistful glow,
The birds fly out over
an ocean waste,
Calling and chattering in a joyous haste
some land their inner memories know.
Great terraced gardens where
bright blossoms blow,
And lines of mangoes luscious to the taste,
And temple-groves with branches interlaced
Over cool paths - all
these their vague dreams shew.
They search the sea for marks of their old shore -
For the tall
city, white and turreted -
But only empty waters stretch ahead,
that at last they turn away once more.
Yet sunken deep where alien
The old towers miss their lost, remembered song.
I never can be tied to raw, new things,
For I first saw the light
in an old town,
Where from my window huddled roofs sloped down
a quaint harbour rich with visionings.
Streets with carved doorways
where the sunset beams
Flooded old fanlights and small window-panes,
And Georgian steeples topped with gilded vanes -
These were the
sights that shaped my childhood dreams.
Such treasures, left from times of cautious leaven,
loose the hold of flimsier wraiths
That flit with shifting ways and
Across the changeless walls of earth and heaven.
They cut the moment's thongs and leave me free
To stand alone
XXXI. The Dweller
It had been old when Babylon was new;
None knows how long it slept
beneath that mound,
Where in the end our questing shovels found
Its granite blocks and brought it back to view.
There were vast
pavements and foundation-walls,
And crumbling slabs and statues,
carved to shew
Fantastic beings of some long ago
Past anything the
world of man recalls.
And then we saw those stone steps leading down
Through a choked
gate of graven dolomite
To some black haven of eternal night
elder signs and primal secrets frown.
We cleared a path - but raced in
When from below we heard those clumping feet.
His solid flesh had never been away,
For each dawn found him in his
But every night his spirit loved to race
gulfs and worlds remote from common day.
He had seen Yaddith, yet
retained his mind,
And come back safely from the Ghooric zone,
When one still night across curved space was thrown
piping from the voids behind.
He waked that morning as an older man,
And nothing since has looked
the same to him.
Objects around float nebulous and dim -
phantom trifles of some vaster plan.
His folk and friends are now an
To which he struggles vainly to belong.
XXXIII. Harbour Whistles
Over old roofs and past decaying spires
The harbour whistles chant
all through the night;
Throats from strange ports, and beaches far and
And fabulous oceans, ranged in motley choirs.
Each to the
other alien and unknown,
Yet all, by some obscurely focussed force
From brooding gulfs beyond the Zodiac's course,
Fused into one
mysterious cosmic drone.
Through shadowy dreams they send a marching line
Of still more
shadowy shapes and hints and views;
Echoes from outer voids, and
To things which they themselves cannot define.
always in that chorus, faintly blent,
We catch some notes no
earth-ship ever sent.
The way led down a dark, half-wooded heath
Where moss-grey boulders
humped above the mould,
And curious drops, disquieting and cold,
Sprayed up from unseen streams in gulfs beneath.
There was no
wind, nor any trace of sound
In puzzling shrub, or alien-featured
Nor any view before - till suddenly,
Straight in my path, I
saw a monstrous mound.
Half to the sky those steep sides loomed upspread,
and cluttered by a crumbling flight
Of lava stairs that scaled the
In steps too vast for any human tread.
shrieked - and knew what primal star and year
Had sucked me back from
man's dream-transient sphere!
XXXV. Evening Star
I saw it from that hidden, silent place
Where the old wood half
shuts the meadow in.
It shone through all the sunset's glories - thin
At first, but with a slowly brightening face.
Night came, and that
lone beacon, amber-hued,
Beat on my sight as never it did of old;
The evening star - but grown a thousandfold
More haunting in this
hush and solitude.
It traced strange pictures on the quivering air -
that had always filled my eyes -
Vast towers and gardens; curious seas
Of some dim life - I never could tell where.
But now I
knew that through the cosmic dome
Those rays were calling from my far,
There is in certain ancient things a trace
Of some dim essence -
more than form or weight;
A tenuous aether, indeterminate,
linked with all the laws of time and space.
A faint, veiled sign of
That outward eyes can never quite descry;
dimensions harbouring years gone by,
And out of reach except for
It moves me most when slanting sunbeams glow
On old farm buildings
set against a hill,
And paint with life the shapes which linger still
From centuries less a dream than this we know.
In that strange
light I feel I am not far
From the fixt mass whose sides the ages are.