In the realm of spectral literature, one would be hard-pressed to find a piece more hauntingly evocative than "What the Moon Brings" by the ineffable master of cosmic horror, Howard Phillips Lovecraft. Imbued with all the somber elegance and macabre imagery for which Lovecraft is lauded, this tantalizingly brief narrative serves as a vivid canvas of his singular style.
One can hardly overlook the significance of the moon in Lovecraft's pantheon of motifs. In this tale, the moon assumes an almost sentient role, casting an ethereal light upon an eldritch dreamscape which unfolds into an increasingly disquieting tableaux of otherworldly beauty and abhorrence. Lovecraft's linguistic prowess conjures vivid and abstract illustrations, the moonlight revealing flora of unnatural color and peculiar tombstones inscribed with unfamiliar glyphs.
This tale is a grand display of Lovecraft's penchant for cosmic horror and the embodiment of the unknown. "What the Moon Brings" deviates from the more intricate mythos-infused narratives like "The Call of Cthulhu" or "At the Mountains of Madness." It is instead an example of Lovecraft's unique ability to generate an oppressive atmosphere of dread and beauty in a constrained format, echoing the approach of his revered Edgar Allan Poe.
Renowned Lovecraft scholar S.T. Joshi, in his critical analysis of Lovecraft's work, attributes Lovecraft's singular ability to interweave the dreamlike and the dreadful as crucial to his overall literary impact. "What the Moon Brings," in its brevity and potency, is an exemplar of Lovecraft's power to prompt contemplation of the wider cosmos and our diminutive place within it.
In conclusion, "What the Moon Brings" stands as an impactful microcosm within Lovecraft's larger corpus. Despite its brevity, or perhaps because of it, the story encapsulates the sense of cosmic insignificance and inherent terror that are the hallmarks of Lovecraft's oeuvre.
- Joshi, S.T. "H.P. Lovecraft: The Decline of the West". Wildside Press LLC, 1990.
- Lovecraft, H.P. "The Annotated Supernatural Horror in Literature". Hippocampus Press, 2000.
Note 1: The works of H.P. Lovecraft are in the public domain.
Note 2: The definition of 'lotos' may be needed by some readers:
- A fruit (in Greek mythology) that induces forgetfulness and a dreamy languor in those who eat it.
- The plant bearing this fruit, thought to be the jujube, the date, or any of various other plants.
What the Moon Brings
By H. P. Lovecraft
I hate the moon—I am afraid of it—for when it shines on certain scenes familiar and loved it sometimes makes them unfamiliar and hideous.
It was in the spectral summer when the moon shone down on the old garden where I wandered; the spectral summer of narcotic flowers and humid seas of foliage that bring wild and many-coloured dreams. And as I walked by the shallow crystal stream I saw unwonted ripples tipped with yellow light, as if those placid waters were drawn on in resistless currents to strange oceans that are not in the world. Silent and sparkling, bright and baleful, those moon-cursed waters hurried I knew not whither; whilst from the embowered banks white lotos blossoms fluttered one by one in the opiate night-wind and dropped despairingly into the stream, swirling away horribly under the arched, carven bridge, and staring back with the sinister resignation of calm, dead faces.
And as I ran along the shore, crushing sleeping flowers with heedless feet and maddened ever by the fear of unknown things and the lure of the dead faces, I saw that the garden had no end under that moon; for where by day the walls were, there stretched now only new vistas of trees and paths, flowers and shrubs, stone idols and pagodas, and bendings of the yellow-litten stream past grassy banks and under grotesque bridges of marble. And the lips of the dead lotos-faces whispered sadly, and bade me follow, nor did I cease my steps till the stream became a river, and joined amidst marshes of swaying reeds and beaches of gleaming sand the shore of a vast and nameless sea.
Upon that sea the hateful moon shone, and over its unvocal waves weird perfumes brooded. And as I saw therein the lotos-faces vanish, I longed for nets that I might capture them and learn from them the secrets which the moon had brought upon the night. But when the moon went over to the west and the still tide ebbed from the sullen shore, I saw in that light old spires that the waves almost uncovered, and white columns gay with festoons of green seaweed. And knowing that to this sunken place all the dead had come, I trembled and did not wish again to speak with the lotos-faces.
Yet when I saw afar out in the sea a black condor descend from the sky to seek rest on a vast reef, I would fain have questioned him, and asked him of those whom I had known when they were alive. This I would have asked him had he not been so far away, but he was very far, and could not be seen at all when he drew nigh that gigantic reef.
So I watched the tide go out under that sinking moon, and saw gleaming the spires, the towers, and the roofs of that dead, dripping city. And as I watched, my nostrils tried to close against the perfume-conquering stench of the world’s dead; for truly, in this unplaced and forgotten spot had all the flesh of the churchyards gathered for puffy sea-worms to gnaw and glut upon.
Over those horrors the evil moon now hung very low, but the puffy worms of the sea need no moon to feed by. And as I watched the ripples that told of the writhing of worms beneath, I felt a new chill from afar out whither the condor had flown, as if my flesh had caught a horror before my eyes had seen it.
Nor had my flesh trembled without cause, for when I raised my eyes I saw that the waters had ebbed very low, shewing much of the vast reef whose rim I had seen before. And when I saw that this reef was but the black basalt crown of a shocking eikon whose monstrous forehead now shone in the dim moonlight and whose vile hooves must paw the hellish ooze miles below, I shrieked and shrieked lest the hidden face rise above the waters, and lest the hidden eyes look at me after the slinking away of that leering and treacherous yellow moon.
And to escape this relentless thing I plunged gladly and unhesitatingly into the stinking shallows where amidst weedy walls and sunken streets fat sea-worms feast upon the world’s dead.