Reading, Short And Deep #396
Eric S. Rabkin and Jesse Willis discuss Narcissus by Clark Ashton Smith
Here’s a link to a PDF of the story.
Narcissus was published in The Acolyte, Winter 1945.
The SFFaudio Podcast #486 –The City Of The End Of Things by Archibald Lampman; read by Mr Jim Moon. This is an unabridged reading of the poem (5 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse, Mr Jim Moon, and Prof. Eric S. Rabkin.
Talked about on today’s show:
Jesse goes crazy, this guy’s amazing!, unheard of, earlier and later weird poetry, Ezra Pound and T.S. Elliot, the poems of Clark Ashton Smith, child prodigy out of California writes amazing poetry!, Hamilton, poetry without music isn’t mainstream anymore, rhyme and verbal invention, evolutionarily pro-adaptive, mate-getting and gene replication, fashion, Dr. Bowdler’s Legacy, Sir Walter Scott, immoral novels, flat-chested sexy women, enormously mammary sexy women, almost perfect rhyme and rhythm, doggerel, Alexander Pope, the Canadian Keats, romantic poetry, William Wordsworth, Archibald Lampman on twitter: @alampman, H.P. Lovecraft, almost Lovecraftian, cosmicism, a dream poem, A Thunderstorm, multi-valent meaning, depths, circles, 1894, multiple ways to understand,
BESIDE the pounding cataracts
Of midnight streams unknown to us,
’T is builded in the dismal tracts
And valleys huge of Tartarus.
Lurid and lofty and vast it seems;
It hath no rounded name that rings,
But I have heard it called in dreams
The City of the End of Things.
Its roofs and iron towers have grown
None knoweth how high within the night,
But in its murky streets far down
A flaming terrible and bright
Shakes all the stalking shadows there,
Across the walls, across the floors,
And shifts upon the upper air
From out a thousand furnace doors;
And all the while an awful sound
Keeps roaring on continually,
And crashes in the ceaseless round
Of a gigantic harmony.
Through its grim depths reëchoing,
And all its weary height of walls,
With measured roar and iron ring,
The inhuman music lifts and falls.
Where no thing rests and no man is,
And only fire and night hold sway,
The beat, the thunder, and the hiss
Cease not, and change not, night nor day.
lurid night, end of days, a Dying Earth story, an automated factory, a city at the end of time, post humanity, the end of things we have made, at the end of the concept of things (manufacture and industry), bursting with different ways of looking, a Canadian Shelley, “hail to thee blithe spirit”, Ozymandias, the works of man, creation, what does the first “of” mean, the telos of things, removing humanity, leafless vs. dismal, sonorous description, murky, flaming, what does this presage?, “wandering lonely as a cloud”, the creations of man persisting, leafless tracts, lands with no leaves, books without pages, making decisions, this is a fantasy or this is a science fiction, dreams as vision, genre distinctions, Edgar Allan Poe, Dreamland, “bottomless vales”, pastoral Gothic bound in human emotion, looking forward, shadows echoes, rings and rounded, the end of a cycle, a nadir, the end of a phase, the poem is the city, the poem becomes the city, “unknown to us”, fore and aft in time, adjective vs. adverb, multiple meanings, once we “see”, a derivative meaning of cataracts, waterfall, extraordinary! extraordinary!, referring to himself, putting in vs. allowing in, this city has no name, it hath no rounded name, “Megacity 422”, a sense of gears turning, verticality and depth, this could be a clock (except for all the fire), foundry factory, uninhabitable, seeing this as astronomy, the music of the spheres, an awful sound (full of awe for us), what is a rounded name? Bubbles, Radar, the fixed stars, wandering planets, the Earth, a sublunary place, in addition, none know it now, set in Hell, Tartarus, the “Titan Woods” in Dreamland, a place and a being, Chaos and Gaia, Hesiod, an area in Hades, defeated titans, imprisoned cyclopes, the Gold, Silver, Brass, and Iron ages, the heat death of the universe, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, an absent sun, the end of the industrial world, philosophical depths, how is a height weary?, The Machine Stops by E.M. Forster, Kubla Khan; or, A Vision in a Dream: A Fragment, The Time Machine by H.G. Wells, the hell of the mechanized underworld, and the garden above (until the night comes),
In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round;
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.
sunlights and blossoms, a dream interrupted, a river ringing the city of the end of things is Omega,
And moving at unheard commands,
The abysses and vast fires between,
Flit figures that, with clanking hands,
Obey a hideous routine.
They are not flesh, they are not bone,
They see not with the human eye,
And from their iron lips is blown
A dreadful and monotonous cry.
And whoso of our mortal race
Should find that city unaware,
Lean Death would smite him face to face,
And blanch him with its venomed air;
Or, caught by the terrific spell,
Each thread of memory snapped and cut,
His soul would shrivel, and its shell
Go rattling like an empty nut.
It was not always so, but once,
In days that no man thinks upon,
Fair voices echoed from its stones,
The light above it leaped and shone.
Once there were multitudes of men
That built that city in their pride,
Until its might was made, and then
They withered, age by age, and died;
And now of that prodigious race
Three only in an iron tower,
Set like carved idols face to face,
Remain the masters of its power;
And at the city gate a fourth,
Gigantic and with dreadful eyes,
Sits looking toward the lightless north,
Beyond the reach of memories:
Fast-rooted to the lurid floor,
A bulk that never moves a jot,
In his pale body dwells no more
Or mind or soul,—an idiot!
ITS ROBOTS!, Hephaestus, automaton owls, iron lips, warehouses, dump truck, the garbage truck, automated sounds, metaphorizing the pieces of the machine, exquisite control of language, imabic tetrameter, that empty nut, a prelapsarian time, the mechanized is ultimately the problem, mysterious, people built this city, now they’re dead except for three, Jesse’s illustration, a nightmare vision, the controllers of the city?, a fourth, Dreams Of Yith by Duane W. Rimel and H.P. Lovecraft, The Night Land by William Hope Hodgson, the huge sentinel, an insane person (a nut case), vapid empty mindlessness, trapped in the iron tower, prisoners, The Technological Society by Jacques Ellul, the citizen who does not participate, the three and the one, we’ve done this to ourselves, human perfection as an oxymoron, mortal races, who did the setting?, an exclusion, the idiot remains,
But some time in the end those three
Shall perish and their hands be still,
And with the masters’ touch shall flee
Their incommunicable skill.
A stillness, absolute as death,
Along the slacking wheels shall lie,
And, flagging at a single breath,
The fires shall smoulder out and die.
The roar shall vanish at its height,
And over that tremendous town
The silence of eternal night
Shall gather close and settle down.
All its grim grandeur, tower and hall,
Shall be abandoned utterly,
And into rust and dust shall fall
From century to century.
Nor ever living thing shall grow,
Or trunk of tree or blade of grass;
No drop shall fall, no wind shall blow,
Nor sound of any foot shall pass.
Alone of its accurséd state
One thing the hand of Time shall spare,
For the grim Idiot at the gate
Is deathless and eternal there!
who is this grim idiot?, idiom, Time, Lean Death, playing VR games, are they the masters?, master’s, Voices Of Earth, the mechanism underneath everything, the physics underneath reality, if this is all metaphor…, emojis that look like you, emoticons, technology, part of the reason to have poetry: to communicate the incommunicable, “grim”, a haunting spirit, “the graveyard grims” giant spectral hounds that guarded cemeteries, the wheel, the Hell turns off, a science fiction poem, The Valley Of Unrest by Edgar Allan Poe,
Once it smiled a silent dell
Where the people did not dwell;
They had gone unto the wars,
Trusting to the mild-eyed stars,
Nightly, from their azure towers,
To keep watch above the flowers,
In the midst of which all day
The red sun-light lazily lay.
Now each visitor shall confess
The sad valley’s restlessness.
Nothing there is motionless —
Nothing save the airs that brood
Over the magic solitude.
Ah, by no wind are stirred those trees
That palpitate like the chill seas
Around the misty Hebrides!
Ah, by no wind those clouds are driven
That rustle through the unquiet Heaven
Uneasily, from morn till even,
Over the violets there that lie
In myriad types of the human eye —
Over three lilies there that wave
And weep above a nameless grave!
They wave: — from out their fragrant tops
Eternal dews come down in drops.
They weep: — from off their delicate stems
Perennial tears descend in gems.
Reading, Short And Deep, But who Can Replace A Man? by Brian Aldiss, a missing piece of the puzzle from the dialogue of science fiction and fantasy, City Of The Titans, City At The Edge Of Forever by Harlan Ellison, an anthology of Victorian verse, The Atlantic Monthly, March 1894, the praise of Lampman as a nature poet, The City by Ray Bradbury, inimical to man, There Will Come Soft Rains by Ray Bradbury, Sara Teasdale’s There Will Come Soft Rains, WWI,
There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;
And frogs in the pools singing at night,
And wild plum-trees in tremulous white;
Robins will wear their feathery fire
Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;
And not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done.
Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree
If mankind perished utterly;
And Spring herself, when she woke at dawn,
Would scarcely know that we were gone.
we are very dangerous for ourselves, a poet who should not be forgotten, the scholarship, so many layers, its marvelous, repeating words strategically, the theme being revealed, such a deep feeling for what it is that he’s about.
Posted by Jesse Willis
Talked about on today’s show:
19 Nocturne dot net or dot org, time-traveling, novella, Astounding Stories, June 1936, stricken strucken, the centerpoint for everything that H.P. Lovecraft writes, cats and poetry, cannibalism?, “The Dreamquest Of Unknown Political Economy”, Trantorians, Isaac Asimov, Olaf Stapledon, immense breadth of time, Doctor Who, Albert Finney?, Jack Finney, Invasion Of The Body Snatchers, Altered Carbon, the Uber economy, the HPLHS adaptation, economist, psychologist, the Foundation series, Jevons, connecting economic cycles with sunspots, cosmic horrors, the Jevons paradox, a dark insight into human nature, Malthus, eugenics, fascistic socialism, The Mound by H.P. Lovecraft and Zealia Bishop, traumatized by the wrong things, a utopia story, intellectual pursuits, laying some seeds, we wouldn’t notice anyway, 100% nerds, they’re librarians, puritans, an infinite library, Borgesian in its vastness, the spider people, the beetle people, they left their library behind?, Fahrenheit 451, cloud computing, playing around with time, curiously tenacious cellulose fabric, the things under the trap doors, Mencken’s definition of puritanism, World Of Greyhawk, adamantium stone, the Drow, stemming the tide, held at bay, very allegorical, putting down of the dark desires, strange other stories, The Outsider, seeing his form, the horror of seeing your own body, horror, science fiction, evil?, animals, Dreams Of Yith by Duane W. Rimel and H.P. Lovecraft, the rugose cone minds occupy the previous bodies, entitlement, no malice, where the horror is, a horror that nobody can even imagine, talking teapots and singing cats, from a pre-cartoon era, The White People by Arthur Machen, evil is not wickedness, talking rosebushes, airships and submarines, privileges, intellectual adventures, inward bound, what Nathan Peasley’s doing in the age when ferns ruled the earth, meeting with secret cults, generous freaks, how we would treat animals, curiosity rules, putting our minds in a wolfpack, living like a wolf, committing suicide, exercising your rugose body, Red Dwarf’s Mindswap, an exemplary species or individual?, Beyond The Wall Of Sleep, Julie’s narration, Passengers by Robert Silverberg, juvenile delinquents, Yithian kids, we’re abused herd animals, The Roller-coaster by Alfred Bester, a Westworld-like kill-torture-sex device, dreams and books and architecture, much nicer, being possessed by a library, do they wipe the minds to protect themselves or to stop messing with the timelines?, WWI, a very different sequel, Gothic tale, haunted house, a haunted basement, where you suppress that what you fear and dread, Earth’s entire history is a Gothic story, The Thing On The Doorstep, consciousness transference, The Tomb, The Nameless City, crawling through tunnels, The Beast In The Cave, At The Mountains Of Madness, resonating with the shoggoths, two levels, more exploration, Professor Dyer, when the Doctor goes to Gallifrey, Gallifreyans are Yithians, meddling, Seeds Of Doom, Genesis Of The Daleks, their Mormon mission, a rite of passage, a fascistic library, we don’t know enough about the slug people, Hammers On Bone by Cassandra Khaw, A Song For Quiet, Weird Detective, investigating a crime, Peasley’s rider went looking for cosmic horror info, access, amnesia, the undercooked conspiracy, the long fingered foreigners, special knowledge, Nyarlathotep, the MiGo, the Cult of Hastur, the Cult of The Yellow Sign, The Repairer Of Reputations, suicide booths, family plots, a hint of a story, family drama buried deep, what must have happened, this is fascinating, my dad has become this alien sociopath, the wife’s story, the son’s story, all Lovecraft so deeply, he was ugly, visage, he’s got a wife, a surrogate child, obsessed with libraries, how the avatar of Peasley’s occupier, A Year Off, the restriction of funds, Quebec or Florida, Antarctica, New York, the love of the home and the desire to explore, how important dream is, what his dreams mean, what Lovecraft’s stuff is all about, obsessed with his dreams, Donald Trump’s twitter account,
From the moment of my strange waking my wife had regarded me with extreme horror and loathing, vowing that I was some utter alien usurping the body of her husband. In 1910 she obtained a legal divorce, nor would she ever consent to see me even after my return to normality in 1913. These feelings were shared by my elder son and my small daughter, neither of whom I have ever seen since.
Only my second son, Wingate, seemed able to conquer the terror and repulsion which my change aroused. He indeed felt that I was a stranger, but though only eight years old held fast to a faith that my proper self would return. When it did return he sought me out, and the courts gave me his custody.
the kid sought him out, there’s a whole novel in there, we have to race past it, Wingate is essentially Lovecraft, Lovecraft’s dad, the mother’s maiden name, we get rid of the women, they don’t understand us, or they understand to much, women are scary, I.N.J. Culbard’s comics adaptation, what that face looks like, drool, I had the most strange expression, a striking face, traumatizing, high on morphine, what the fuck’s going on, if you’re the wife…, the HPLHS adaptation, Al-ice, vestments, pretty amazing, the ending, almost comical, the polypous invisible horror race, an extended descent into the cellar, twist ending, a thousand Twilight Zone imitators, the weakest part of the story, The Shadow Over Innsmouth, an Inception level twist, we already knew that,
No eye had seen, no hand had touched that book since the advent of man to this planet. And yet, when I flashed my torch upon it in that frightful abyss, I saw that the queerly pigmented letters on the brittle, aeon-browned cellulose pages were not indeed any nameless hieroglyphs of earth’s youth. They were, instead, the letters of our familiar alphabet, spelling out the words of the English language in my own handwriting.
tentacle-writing, a massive letter to his son, a long boat trip, Starmaker by Olaf Stapledon, abandoning his son, is he going to kill himself?, just fleeing?, everything he imagined actually did happen, the heart of this story, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, reproduction without women, back to the text, self mutilation, giving up everything you’ve been looking for, bad idea, Australia, the biggest spider, am I mistaken in thinking the star headed vegetable carnivores of Antarctica are pretty nice folks?, people is people, racism, discrepancies, how many gay friends, he hates foreigners, anybody he hasn’t met, fear, fear of the unknown, raised so isolated, he is literally The Outsider, a night walk, to clear his mind, seeing people inside having a gay party in a familiar building, he is the horror, a professor of economy who becomes a professor of psychology, a sign of bad character, Darkest Of The Hillside Thickets‘ The Shadow Out Of Tim, a marine biologist, made vs. suggested, no Sotho, Nug-soth, we’re going to get magicians back, filed under revisions, a pocket-sized version of Fungi From Yuggoth, high weird, panoramic and picaresque, Ramsey Campbell’s early mythos stories, visions, Campbellian weirdness, surrealism, a giant rolling head, a progression of imagery, the lidded bulbs close heavily once more, somebody’s guarding, the third stanza, a stream of putrefaction, hovering mist, those dead gates, the silver gates of Yith, is Yith the city or the planet, the machines, the secret that would bring the dwellers back, a mirror of what we’re seeing on Earth, another planet, the glowing dome, Lovecraftian key, The Book, at last the key is mine, unseal the lid, they have to do this repression, what does human mean?, eyeless huge and bloated head, striking imagery, Soth = Smith, caged by the great race, whistling horrors, the 9th stanza, carrion eaters, high in the even sky, the beings of Yith, waiting to be eaten, bat winged beings, snouted winged folk, who is doing the dreaming?, is it Peasley?, distilling the lovely imagery of delving, 150 million years ago, the blocky ruins of Interstate State Park, very Yithian, all the gardens, tables and pens and standing desks, their technology, weird mechanical contraption, convex mirrors, the keyboard hasn’t been invented, a clicking conversation, a horror, David Lindsay’s A Voyage To Arcturus, the sense, they possessed many senses, they can’t smell, of the body, more primal, smell seeds and swamps, taste is too close, not intellectual enough, hey all look like they’re wearing dresses, low and body-like, pleasure senses, chocolate, honey makes babies happy, a utopia dystopia based on reading and writing, being able to taste things, mashed potatoes, a secret favourite, he wanted to try everything, no wonder his wife left him, the ideal consumer for British food, a strange story, almost plotless, Neal Stephenson, a mystery at a distance, Jesse was struck, how he found out all his information, he reconstructs the journeys, he goes to all the places, visiting all the libraries, reliving his life, Sweden, he’s done things, two fans, more Lovecraft coming, The Dreams In The Witch-house, Inssmouth, Dunwich, the differnt adaptations, the 1972 Skull Comics adaptation, cute Yithians, the ship’s doctor, action, different ways to do things, Julie’s going to mess people up, told from the women’s point of view, Red Hook, The Music Of Erich Zann, racism, six pages and an eternity, a lot of streetwalking, one of the two Yithian senses.
Posted by Jesse Willis
The SFFaudio Podcast #472 – The Shadow Out Of Time by H.P. Lovecraft, read by Julie Hoverson.
This UNABRIDGED AUDIOBOOK (3 Hours 52 Minutes) is followed by a related poem entitled Dreams Of Yith by H.P. Lovecraft and Duane W. Rimel (6 Minutes). It read by Mr Jim Moon.
A PDF, made from the first publication in Astounding Stories, June 1936, is available on our PDF Page
We will discuss both The Shadow Out Of Time and Dreams Of Yith next week.
Posted by Jesse Willis