Herbert West, Re-animator—A 1922 Novella of Horror by H. P. Lovecraft in Six Parts…

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Herbert West, Re-animator

H. P. Lovecraft, 1922


Part 1: From the Dark

Of Herbert West, who was my friend in college and in after life, I can speak only with extreme terror. This terror is not due altogether to the sinister manner of his recent disappearance, but was engendered by the whole nature of his life-work, and first gained its acute form more than seventeen years ago, when we were in the third year of our course at the Miskatonic University Medical School in Arkham. While he was with me, the wonder and diabolism of his experiments fascinated me utterly, and I was his closest companion. Now that he is gone and the spell is broken, the actual fear is greater. Memories and possibilities are ever more hideous than realities.

The first horrible incident of our acquaintance was the greatest shock I ever experienced, and it is only with reluctance that I repeat it. As I have said, it happened when we were in the medical school where West had already made himself notorious through his wild theories on the nature of death and the possibility of overcoming it artificially. His views, which were widely ridiculed by the faculty and by his fellow-students, hinged on the essentially mechanistic nature of life; and concerned means for operating the organic machinery of mankind by calculated chemical action after the failure of natural processes. In his experiments with various animating solutions, he had killed and treated immense numbers of rabbits, guinea-pigs, cats, dogs, and monkeys, till he had become the prime nuisance of the college. Several times he had actually obtained signs of life in animals supposedly dead; in many cases violent signs but he soon saw that the perfection of his process, if indeed possible, would necessarily involve a lifetime of research. It likewise became clear that, since the same solution never worked alike on different organic species, he would require human subjects for further and more specialised progress. It was here that he first came into conflict with the college authorities, and was debarred from future experiments by no less a dignitary than the dean of the medical school himself — the learned and benevolent Dr. Allan Halsey, whose work in behalf of the stricken is recalled by every old resident of Arkham.

I had always been exceptionally tolerant of West’s pursuits, and we frequently discussed his theories, whose ramifications and corollaries were almost infinite. Holding with Haeckel that all life is a chemical and physical process, and that the so-called “soul” is a myth, my friend believed that artificial reanimation of the dead can depend only on the condition of the tissues; and that unless actual decomposition has set in, a corpse fully equipped with organs may with suitable measures be set going again in the peculiar fashion known as life. That the psychic or intellectual life might be impaired by the slight deterioration of sensitive brain-cells which even a short period of death would be apt to cause, West fully realised. It had at first been his hope to find a reagent which would restore vitality before the actual advent of death, and only repeated failures on animals had shewn him that the natural and artificial life-motions were incompatible. He then sought extreme freshness in his specimens, injecting his solutions into the blood immediately after the extinction of life. It was this circumstance which made the professors so carelessly sceptical, for they felt that true death had not occurred in any case. They did not stop to view the matter closely and reasoningly.

It was not long after the faculty had interdicted his work that West confided to me his resolution to get fresh human bodies in some manner, and continue in secret the experiments he could no longer perform openly. To hear him discussing ways and means was rather ghastly, for at the college we had never procured anatomical specimens ourselves. Whenever the morgue proved inadequate, two local negroes attended to this matter, and they were seldom questioned. West was then a small, slender, spectacled youth with delicate features, yellow hair, pale blue eyes, and a soft voice, and it was uncanny to hear him dwelling on the relative merits of Christchurch Cemetery and the potter’s field. We finally decided on the potter’s field, because practically every body in Christchurch was embalmed; a thing of course ruinous to West’s researches.

I was by this time his active and enthralled assistant, and helped him make all his decisions, not only concerning the source of bodies but concerning a suitable place for our loathsome work. It was I who thought of the deserted Chapman farmhouse beyond Meadow Hill, where we fitted up on the ground floor an operating room and a laboratory, each with dark curtains to conceal our midnight doings. The place was far from any road, and in sight of no other house, yet precautions were none the less necessary; since rumours of strange lights, started by chance nocturnal roamers, would soon bring disaster on our enterprise. It was agreed to call the whole thing a chemical laboratory if discovery should occur. Gradually we equipped our sinister haunt of science with materials either purchased in Boston or quietly borrowed from the college — materials carefully made unrecognisable save to expert eyes — and provided spades and picks for the many burials we should have to make in the cellar. At the college we used an incinerator, but the apparatus was too costly for our unauthorised laboratory. Bodies were always a nuisance — even the small guinea-pig bodies from the slight clandestine experiments in West’s room at the boarding-house.

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The Love of Boys—A Poem about Men & Love from The Poems of Tibullus & Sulpicia, ca. 55-19 BC

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(trans. by AS Kline)

IV The Love of Boys

“So the protective shadows might be yours,
and your head not be harmed by sun or snow,
Priapus, what skill of yours captivates lovely lads?
For sure, you’ve no shining beard, or well-groomed hair:
naked you fulfil your role in the cold of cloudy winter,
naked too in the dry time of the Dog-Star’s heat.”
So I: then the rustic child of Bacchus answered me, so,
the god who’s armed with the curving hook.
“Oh beware of trusting the crowd of tender boys:
since they always offer a true cause for love.
This one pleases, that keeps a tight rein on his horse:
that one breaks the still waters with his snowy breast:
this one for his audacious bravery: while that one’s
virgin modesty mantles his tender cheeks.
But don’t let boredom seize you, if at first he denies you
fiercely: gradually his neck will yield to the yoke.
Length of time has taught lions to comply with man,
with length of time soft water wears away rock:
time ripens the grapes on the sunny slopes,
time drives the bright constellations on their sure course.
Don’t be afraid to swear: the winds bear vain oaths of love
over the lands and over the surface of the sea.
Huge thanks to Jove: the Father himself denied their power,
so that foolish Love might swear anything in passion:
and Diana lets you swear by her arrows with impunity
and Minerva lets you swear by her hair.
But if you linger you’re lost: how swift time flies!
The day does not stand idle or return.
How quickly the earth loses its rich purple hues,
how quickly the high poplar its lovely leaves.
How the horse is despised when weak old age’s fate
arrives, he who once shot from the starting gate at Elis.
I’ve seen a young man on whom later years now pressed
mourning his foolishness in days gone by.
Cruel gods! The snake renewed sheds his years:
but fate grants no delays to beauty.
Only for Bacchus and Phoebus is youth eternal:
and unshorn hair is fitting for both those gods.
You’ll yield to your boy in whatever he wants to try:
love always wins the most by deference.
You’ll not refuse to go, though he intends long journeys,
and the Dog-Star bakes the earth with parching drought,
though the brimming rainbow, threatens coming storm,
painting the heavens with its purple hues.
If he wants to sail the blue waves in a boat, with the oar
drive the light vessel through the waves yourself.
Don’t complain at submitting yourself to hard labour
or roughening your hands unused to work:
while you still please, if he wants to trap deep valleys,
don’t let your shoulders refuse to bear the hunting nets.
If he wants to fight, try to play at it with a light hand:
often leave your flank exposed so he can win.
Then he’ll be gentle with you, then you may snatch
that precious kiss: he’ll struggle but let you take it.
At first he’ll let you snatch it, later he’ll bring it himself
when asked, and then even want to hang about your neck.
Sadly alas these times now produce wretched arts:
now tender boys are accustomed to wanting gifts.
You, whoever you are, who first taught the sale of love
may a fateful stone press down on your bones.
Boys, love the Muses and the learned poets,
let no golden gifts outweigh the Muses.
Through poetry Nisus’s lock of hair’s still purple,
without verse no ivory gleams on Pelop’s shoulder.
He the Muses name, shall live, while earth bears oaks,
while heaven bears stars, while rivers carry water.
But he who cannot hear the Muses, he who sells love,
let him follow the chariot of Idaean Ops, and traverse
three hundred cities with his wanderings,
and cut at his worthless limbs, in the Phrygian way.
Venus wants room for blandishments: she favours
complaining suppliants and wretched weeping.”
These things the god’s mouth told me, to sing to Titius:
but Titius’s wife forbids him to remember them.
Let him listen to her: but you praise me as master,
you whom sadly a wily boy possesses, by wicked art.
Each has his own glory: let despised lovers consult me:
my doors are open wide to everyone.
A time will come when a loyal crowd of young men
shall lead my aged self along, carrying the laws of Venus.
Alas how Marathus torments me with love’s delay!
…’

Tonight’s Read: “The Haunting of Shawley Rectory” by Ruth Rendell (Tales from the Dead of Night: 13 Classic Ghost stories, ed. Cecily Gaylord, 2018 (TOC & Link)

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Get the book here!

 

Until the day I die…

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When someone asks you Do you have any heros? And you are about to say No. Because you don’t. You never have. And you’ve never gone deep on that point. But the truth is you haven’t been an easy person to understand, by your own self, let alone by others. You think no one could know your crazy heart, not because it’s complicated, just the opposite, in fact. A little anachronistic for sure. You don’t want anyone in that space. A hero? Maybe some runner ups. Faces of free spirits float in and out of your mind. People who would know why you can’t just belong to someone, something….when you belong to everything else. It would have to be someone you would like to meet, sync with, save from being gone too soon…someone you would be proud being and being with. Then it hits you. And you’d never even thought of it before that moment.

Gypsy steal my heart.

Sing my soul, hippie queen.

Lose the shoes; live your blues.

Flower Power.

And why not, Mama?

Why not. ♡

“…and I’ll be yours, until the rivers all run dry. Yours, until the poets run out of rhyme. In other words…”

—Image: “Mama” Cass Elliott, ca. 1960s

from “The Crown Derby Plate”—A Vintage Ghost Story by Marjorie Bowen, 1931

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“Very unpleasant,” said Martha Pym, undisturbed.

This ghost seemed too elusive for her to track down; she would have to be content if she could recover the Crown Derby plate; for that at least she was determined to make a try and also to satisfy that faint tingling of curiosity roused in her by this talk about “Hartleys” and the remembrance of that day, so long ago, when she had gone to the auction sale at the lonely old house.

So the first free afternoon, while Mabel and Clara were comfortably taking their afternoon repose, Martha Pym, who was of a more lively habit, got out her little governess cart and dashed away across the Essex flats.

She had taken minute directions with her, but she had soon lost her way.

Under the wintry sky, which looked as grey and hard as metal, the marshes stretched bleakly to the horizon, the olive-brown broken reeds were harsh as scars on the saffron-tinted bogs, where the sluggish waters that rose so high in winter were filmed over with the first stillness of a frost; the air was cold but not keen, everything was damp; faintest of mists blurred the black outlines of trees that rose stark from the ridges above the stagnant dykes; the flooded fields were haunted by black birds and white birds, gulls and crows, whining above the long ditch grass and wintry wastes.

Miss Pym stopped the little horse and surveyed this spectral scene, which had a certain relish about it to one sure to return to a homely village, a cheerful house and good company.

A withered and bleached old man, in color like the dun landscape, came along the road between the sparse alders.

Miss Pym, buttoning up her coat, asked the way to “Hartley” as he passed her; he told her, straight on, and she proceeded, straight indeed across the road that went with undeviating length across the marshes.

“Of course,” thought Miss Pym, “if you live in a place like this, you are bound to invent ghosts.”

***

“The Crown Derby Plate” was first published in 1931 in Grace Latouche and the Warringtons.

Read the entire story online, here:

http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks06/0607711h.html