Friday, September 29, 2017

None gains or guesses what it hints at giving

"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
Opening to worlds where only gods can be.
It is in sunsets and strange city spires,
Old villages and woods and misty downs"

H.P. Lovecraft - Fungi From Yuggoth XXVIII - Expectancy

I maintain that the ending of The Lord of the Rings is one of the saddest in all literature. The survival of humanity scores a pyrrhic victory at best, and more rightly an insult to the superhuman wisdom and grace of the noble elves doomed to fade, to relinquish the world to short-lived, small-minded petty vermin.
To us, that is.

While my familiarity with H.P Lovecraft can't qualify as exhaustive, a recent reading of Fungi from Yuggoth has put the various disjointed yarns about fish-monsters and morbidity in perspective. Most of the Fungi are more or less what you'd expect from Lovecraft, florid descriptions of Bosch-like monsters and shuddering invocations of unknowable dangers lurking in the shadows. A little over halfway through the collection, however, several poems slip into a surprisingly touching, soulful melancholy which centers the author's viewpoint.

"I never can be tied to raw, new things,
For I first saw the light in an old town"

It's a sentiment familiar to many who scoff at their contemporaries' stumbling re-enactment of the human tragedy echoed in crumbling masonry from Babylon to Boston. One can't call it nostalgia though, as its sufferers have often never known these places, nor is it glorification of imaginary "golden ages" in themselves. Lovecraft was by what I've heard of him, like his hero Poe, too much of a snob and a dandy to really fall for romantic medievalism or the charms of quaint rustics keeping the old ways. The human world, in all its lack, is a cruel trick to play on sentient minds.There must be something more. There should have been something more.

It's more of a lament for the unfulfilled promise of past possibilities, the presque vu of man's fumbling helplessly within grasp of his rightful divinity, age after age, generation after generation, the constant backsliding into bestiality. Degeneration, not merely the loss of the elves but of the elvish blood of Numenor, the loss of promise in the secondborn. For all his grave warnings about the terrors of the cosmos, Lovecraft's most famous denouements as often as not yielded a human devolution (The Lurking Fear, The Rats in the Walls, etc.) In light of all accomplished in the past, the pettiness of the present is worse than stagnation, a betrayal of our own promise, and the insanity induced by eldritch horrors is less a comment on the vastness of the universe as on the diminution of human intellect.

No comments:

Post a Comment