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Thro’ the ghoul-guarded gateways of slumber,

Past the wan-moon’d abysses of night,

I have liv’d o’er my lives without number,

I have sounded all things with my sight;

And I struggle and shriek ere the daybreak, being driven to madness with fright.

I have whirl’d with the earth at the dawning,

When the sky was a vaporous flame;

I have seen the dark universe yawning,

Where the black planets roll without aim;

Where they roll in their horror unheeded, without knowledge or lustre or name.

I had drifted o’er seas without ending,

Under sinister grey-clouded skies

That the many-fork’d lightning is rending,

That resound with hysterical cries;

With the moans of invisible daemons that out of the green waters rise.

I have plung’d like a deer thro’ the arches

Of the hoary primordial grove,

Where the oaks feel the presence that marches

And stalks on where no spirit dares rove;

And I flee from a thing that surrounds me, and leers thro’ dead branches above.

I have stumbled by cave-ridden mountains

That rise barren and bleak from the plain,

I have drunk of the fog-foetid fountains

That ooze down to the marsh and the main;

And in hot cursed tarns I have seen things I care not to gaze on again.

I have scann’d the vast ivy-clad palace,

I have trod its untenanted hall,

Where the moon writhing up from the valleys

Shews the tapestried things on the wall;

Strange figures discordantly woven, which I cannot endure to recall.

I have peer’d from the casement in wonder

At the mouldering meadows around,

At the many-roof’d village laid under

The curse of a grave-girdled ground;

And from rows of white urn-carven marble I listen intently for sound.

I have haunted the tombs of the ages,

I have flown on the pinions of fear

Where the smoke-belching Erebus rages,

Where the jokulls loom snow-clad and drear:

And in realms where the sun of the desert consumes what it never can cheer.

I was old when the Pharaohs first mounted

The jewel-deck’d throne by the Nile;

I was old in those epochs uncounted

When I, and I only, was vile;

And Man, yet untainted and happy, dwelt in bliss on the far Arctic isle.

Oh, great was the sin of my spirit,

And great is the reach of its doom;

Not the pity of Heaven can cheer it,

Nor can respite be found in the tomb:

Down the infinite aeons come beating the wings of unmerciful gloom.

Thro’ the ghoul-guarded gateways of slumber,

Past the wan-moon’d abysses of night,

I have liv’d o’er my lives without number,

I have sounded all things with my sight;

And I struggle and shriek ere the daybreak, being driven to madness with fright.


IX - The Courtyard

It was the city I had known before;

The ancient, leprous town where mongrel throngs

Chant to strange gods, and beat unhallowed gongs

In crypts beneath foul alleys near the shore.

The rotting, fish-eyed houses leered at me

From where they leaned, drunk and half-animate,

As edging through the filth I passed the gate

To the 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

Into wild light, and swarmed with dancing men:

Mad, soundless revels of the dragging dead—

And not a corpse had either hands or head!

XX - Night-Gaunts

Out of what crypt they crawl, I cannot tell,

But every night I see the rubbery things,

Black, horned, and slender, with membranous wings,

They come in legions on the north wind’s swell

With obscene clutch that titillates and stings,

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

Where the puffed shoggoths splash in doubtful sleep.

But ho! If only they would make some sound,

Or wear a face where faces should be found!

XXVI – The Familiars

John Whately lived about a mile from town,

Up where the hills began 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,

Till 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

Went 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.

XXX. Background

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

To 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,

Cannot but loose the hold of flimsier wraiths

That flit with shifting ways and muddled faiths

Across the changeless walls of earth and heaven.

They cut the moment’s thongs and leave me free

To stand alone before eternity.

XXXII – Alienation

His solid flesh had never been away,

For each dawn found him in his usual place,

But every night his spirit loved to race

Through 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

That beckoning 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—

False, phantom trifles of some vaster plan.

His folk and friends are now an alien throng

To which he struggles vainly to belong.

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 -

Half-memories that had always filled my eyes -

Vast towers and gardens; curious seas and skies

Of some dim life - I never could tell where.

But I knew that through the cosmic dome

Those rays were calling from my far, lost home.