Within the shadowy and arcane dominions of cosmic literature lies a story of such profound and chilling nature that it dares to traverse the confines of the waking world, delving into the enigmas of dreams and the labyrinthian complexities of time itself. This tale, entitled "Polaris," stands as a testament to the unparalleled imagination of the esteemed Howard Phillips Lovecraft, the masterful architect of countless horrors that lurk beyond the realm of human comprehension.
"Polaris" deftly weaves a narrative transcending the limitations of space and time, transporting its reader to an ancient era under the foreboding and unearthly illumination of the titular star. This sinister celestial body casts its malevolent radiance upon a realm fraught with ineffable mysteries and the chilling premonitions of impending doom.
As the protagonist, ensnared within the ethereal grasp of a dreamlike state, embarks upon a harrowing journey through the annals of time, he is confronted by the stark realization that the world he once knew is but a fading memory, a mere figment of his tortured psyche. The protagonist's descent into the abyss of despair is rendered all the more poignant by Lovecraft's masterful command of language, which conjures images of cosmic despair and the inexorable march of fate.
The tale invokes imagery of dreamlike landscapes, otherworldly celestial bodies, and ancient, unfamiliar architecture. Visual representations evoked feature a hauntingly beautiful yet desolate landscape, bathed in the eerie light of the star Polaris. Depictions of cyclopean structures with intricate carvings and inscriptions could also be incorporated, evoking a sense of an ancient, alien civilization long forgotten. The celestial imagery of the night sky, with Polaris prominently featured, would help to convey the protagonist's fixation on the star and its connection to his dreams and destiny.
The protagonist's story arc in "Polaris" can be characterized as a descent into the depths of despair and uncertainty, with an increasing detachment from reality. Initially, the protagonist experiences vivid dreams of a lost city, where he assumes the role of a watchman in times of great strife. As the tale unfolds, the boundary between the protagonist's dreams and waking life becomes increasingly blurred. He becomes haunted by the notion that he failed in his duty as a watchman in his dream world, which led to the destruction of the city.
This sense of woe and responsibility intensifies, ultimately culminating in a profound disconnection from the waking world and a deepening immersion into the dream realm. The protagonist's story arc explores themes of fate, cosmic despair, and the fragility of human perception, as he grapples with the unsettling realization that his reality may be nothing more than an ephemeral illusion.
When juxtaposed against the broader corpus of Lovecraft's work, "Polaris" emerges as a distinctive and evocative tale, a precursor to his later explorations of the dreamlands and the interplay between the realms of sleep and waking reality. Scholars such as S.T. Joshi and Robert M. Price have praised Lovecraft's ability to evoke a sense of cosmic dread and isolation, qualities which are undeniably present in "Polaris" and contribute to its lasting resonance within the annals of weird fiction.
In conclusion, "Polaris" stands as a testament to the extraordinary imagination and literary prowess of H.P. Lovecraft, a tale that defies the boundaries of conventional storytelling and transports its reader into the uncharted realms of the macabre and the cosmic. As a harbinger of Lovecraft's later explorations of dreams and the fathomless depths of time, "Polaris" serves as a tantalizing glimpse into the boundless creativity that would come to define one of the most influential and enduring voices in the pantheon of weird fiction.
- Joshi, S.T. (2001). A Dreamer and a Visionary: H.P. Lovecraft in His Time. Liverpool University Press.
- Price, Robert M. (Ed.). (1995). The Nyarlathotep Cycle: Tales of the God of a Thousand Forms. Chaosium Inc.
Note: The works of H.P. Lovecraft are in the public domain.
By H. P. Lovecraft
Into the north window of my chamber glows the Pole Star with uncanny light. All through the long hellish hours of blackness it shines there. And in the autumn of the year, when the winds from the north curse and whine, and the red-leaved trees of the swamp mutter things to one another in the small hours of the morning under the horned waning moon, I sit by the casement and watch that star. Down from the heights reels the glittering Cassiopeia as the hours wear on, while Charles’ Wain lumbers up from behind the vapour-soaked swamp trees that sway in the night-wind. Just before dawn Arcturus winks ruddily from above the cemetery on the low hillock, and Coma Berenices shimmers weirdly afar off in the mysterious east; but still the Pole Star leers down from the same place in the black vault, winking hideously like an insane watching eye which strives to convey some strange message, yet recalls nothing save that it once had a message to convey. Sometimes, when it is cloudy, I can sleep.
Well do I remember the night of the great Aurora, when over the swamp played the shocking coruscations of the daemon-light. After the beams came clouds, and then I slept.
And it was under a horned waning moon that I saw the city for the first time. Still and somnolent did it lie, on a strange plateau in a hollow betwixt strange peaks. Of ghastly marble were its walls and its towers, its columns, domes, and pavements. In the marble streets were marble pillars, the upper parts of which were carven into the images of grave bearded men. The air was warm and stirred not. And overhead, scarce ten degrees from the zenith, glowed that watching Pole Star. Long did I gaze on the city, but the day came not. When the red Aldebaran, which blinked low in the sky but never set, had crawled a quarter of the way around the horizon, I saw light and motion in the houses and the streets. Forms strangely robed, but at once noble and familiar, walked abroad, and under the horned waning moon men talked wisdom in a tongue which I understood, though it was unlike any language I had ever known. And when the red Aldebaran had crawled more than half way around the horizon, there were again darkness and silence.
When I awaked, I was not as I had been. Upon my memory was graven the vision of the city, and within my soul had arisen another and vaguer recollection, of whose nature I was not then certain. Thereafter, on the cloudy nights when I could sleep, I saw the city often; sometimes under that horned waning moon, and sometimes under the hot yellow rays of a sun which did not set, but which wheeled low around the horizon. And on the clear nights the Pole Star leered as never before.
Gradually I came to wonder what might be my place in that city on the strange plateau betwixt strange peaks. At first content to view the scene as an all-observant uncorporeal presence, I now desired to define my relation to it, and to speak my mind amongst the grave men who conversed each day in the public squares. I said to myself, “This is no dream, for by what means can I prove the greater reality of that other life in the house of stone and brick south of the sinister swamp and the cemetery on the low hillock, where the Pole Star peers into my north window each night?”
One night as I listened to the discourse in the large square containing many statues, I felt a change; and perceived that I had at last a bodily form. Nor was I a stranger in the streets of Olathoë, which lies on the plateau of Sarkis, betwixt the peaks Noton and Kadiphonek. It was my friend Alos who spoke, and his speech was one that pleased my soul, for it was the speech of a true man and patriot. That night had the news come of Daikos’ fall, and of the advance of the Inutos; squat, hellish, yellow fiends who five years ago had appeared out of the unknown west to ravage the confines of our kingdom, and finally to besiege our towns. Having taken the fortified places at the foot of the mountains, their way now lay open to the plateau, unless every citizen could resist with the strength of ten men. For the squat creatures were mighty in the arts of war, and knew not the scruples of honour which held back our tall, grey-eyed men of Lomar from ruthless conquest.
Alos, my friend, was commander of all the forces on the plateau, and in him lay the last hope of our country. On this occasion he spoke of the perils to be faced, and exhorted the men of Olathoë, bravest of the Lomarians, to sustain the traditions of their ancestors, who when forced to move southward from Zobna before the advance of the great ice-sheet (even as our descendants must some day flee from the land of Lomar), valiantly and victoriously swept aside the hairy, long-armed, cannibal Gnophkehs that stood in their way. To me Alos denied a warrior’s part, for I was feeble and given to strange faintings when subjected to stress and hardships. But my eyes were the keenest in the city, despite the long hours I gave each day to the study of the Pnakotic manuscripts and the wisdom of the Zobnarian Fathers; so my friend, desiring not to doom me to inaction, rewarded me with that duty which was second to nothing in importance. To the watch-tower of Thapnen he sent me, there to serve as the eyes of our army. Should the Inutos attempt to gain the citadel by the narrow pass behind the peak Noton, and thereby surprise the garrison, I was to give the signal of fire which would warn the waiting soldiers and save the town from immediate disaster.
Alone I mounted the tower, for every man of stout body was needed in the passes below. My brain was sore dazed with excitement and fatigue, for I had not slept in many days; yet was my purpose firm, for I loved my native land of Lomar, and the marble city of Olathoë that lies betwixt the peaks of Noton and Kadiphonek.
But as I stood in the tower’s topmost chamber, I beheld the horned waning moon, red and sinister, quivering through the vapours that hovered over the distant valley of Banof. And through an opening in the roof glittered the pale Pole Star, fluttering as if alive, and leering like a fiend and tempter. Methought its spirit whispered evil counsel, soothing me to traitorous somnolence with a damnable rhythmical promise which it repeated over and over:
“Slumber, watcher, till the spheres
Six and twenty thousand years
Have revolv’d, and I return
To the spot where now I burn.
Other stars anon shall rise
To the axis of the skies;
Stars that soothe and stars that bless
With a sweet forgetfulness:
Only when my round is o’er
Shall the past disturb thy door.”
Vainly did I struggle with my drowsiness, seeking to connect these strange words with some lore of the skies which I had learnt from the Pnakotic manuscripts. My head, heavy and reeling, drooped to my breast, and when next I looked up it was in a dream; with the Pole Star grinning at me through a window from over the horrible swaying trees of a dream-swamp. And I am still dreaming.
In my shame and despair I sometimes scream frantically, begging the dream-creatures around me to waken me ere the Inutos steal up the pass behind the peak Noton and take the citadel by surprise; but these creatures are daemons, for they laugh at me and tell me I am not dreaming. They mock me whilst I sleep, and whilst the squat yellow foe may be creeping silently upon us. I have failed in my duty and betrayed the marble city of Olathoë; I have proven false to Alos, my friend and commander. But still these shadows of my dream deride me. They say there is no land of Lomar, save in my nocturnal imaginings; that in those realms where the Pole Star shines high and red Aldebaran crawls low around the horizon, there has been naught save ice and snow for thousands of years, and never a man save squat yellow creatures, blighted by the cold, whom they call “Esquimaux”.
And as I writhe in my guilty agony, frantic to save the city whose peril every moment grows, and vainly striving to shake off this unnatural dream of a house of stone and brick south of a sinister swamp and a cemetery on a low hillock; the Pole Star, evil and monstrous, leers down from the black vault, winking hideously like an insane watching eye which strives to convey some strange message, yet recalls nothing save that it once had a message to convey.