Howard Phillips Lovecraft - Polaris (72.0 Kb)
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"Polaris" is a short story by H. P. Lovecraft, written in 1918 and first published in the December 1920 issue of the amateur journal the Philosopher. It is noteworthy as the story that introduces Lovecraft's fictional Pnakotic Manuscripts, the first of his arcane tomes. Critic William Fulwiler writes that "'Polaris' is one of Lovecraft's most autobiographical stories, reflecting his feelings of guilt, frustration, and uselessness during World War I. Like the narrator, HPL was 'denied a warrior's part', for he 'was feeble and... More >>>
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"Polaris" is a short story by H. P. Lovecraft, written in 1918 and first published in the December 1920 issue of the amateur journal the Philosopher. It is noteworthy as the story that introduces Lovecraft's fictional Pnakotic Manuscripts, the first of his arcane tomes.
Critic William Fulwiler writes that "'Polaris' is one of Lovecraft's most autobiographical stories, reflecting his feelings of guilt, frustration, and uselessness during World War I. Like the narrator, HPL was 'denied a warrior's part', for he 'was feeble and given to strange faintings when subjected to stress and hardships'".
Like many Lovecraft stories, "Polaris" was in part inspired by a dream, which he described in a letter: "Several nights ago I had a strange dream of a strange city--a city of many palaces and gilded domes, lying in a hollow betwixt ranges of grey, horrible hills.... I was, as I said, aware of this city visually. I was in it and around it. But certainly I had no corporeal existence."
Lovecraft remarked on the peculiar similarity of the story's style to that of Lord Dunsany, whose work he would not read for another year. An H. P. Lovecraft Encyclopedia suggests that Lovecraft and Dunsany were both influenced by the prose poems of Edgar Allan Poe.
The story begins with the narrator describing the night sky as observed over long sleepless nights from his window, in particular that of the Pole Star - Polaris, which he describes as "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".
He then describes the night of the aurora over his house in the swamp and how on this night he first dreamt of a city of marble lying on plateau between two peaks, with Polaris ever watching in the night sky. The narrator describes after a while observing motion within the houses and seeing men beginning to populate the streets, conversing to each other in language he had never heard before but strangely understood. However, before he could learn any more of this city, he awoke.
Many times more would he dream of the city and the men who dwelt within. After a while the narrator tired of merely existing as an incorporeal observer and began to desire to establish his place within the city, simultaneously beginning to question his conceptualization of what constituted reality, and thus whether this was just a dream or whether it was real.
Then one night, while listening to discourses of those who populate the city, the narrator obtains a physical form--not as a stranger, but as an inhabitant of the city, which he now knew as Olathoe, lying on the plateau of Sarkis in the land of Lomar, which was besieged by an enemy known as the Inutos. While the other men within the city engage in combat with Inutos, the narrator is sent to a watchtower to signal if the Inutos gain access to the city itself. Within the tower, he notices Polaris in the sky and senses it as a malign presence, hearing a rhyme which appears to be spoken by the star:
"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."
Uncertain as to its meaning, he drifts off to sleep, thus failing in his duty to guard Olathoe. Upon awakening, the narrator finds himself back in the house by the swamp, except now the narrator is convinced that this life is not real but a dream from which he cannot awaken.
Howard Phillips Lovecraft (August 20, 1890 - March 15, 1937) was an American author of horror, fantasy, and science fiction, known then simply as weird fiction.
HP Lovecraft was one of the early exponents of horror fantasy, best known for the series of works known collectively as the Cthulhu Mythos. He peppered his books with references to an occult work called The Necronomicon, and, as his fame grew, he was besieged by readers asking where they could find a copy of it. But the truth was that Lovecraft had invented the book and its title. He wrote in a letter of 1937: 'The name Necronomicon (necros, corpse; nomos, law; eikon, image = An Image of the Law of the Dead) occurred to me in the course of a dream, although the etymology is perfectly sound.' So the title came before everything else, and substituted, perfectly reasonably, for the work itself.
This is a game that many writers have played, and the history of literature is full of references to books that don't, in fact, exist. Margaret Atwood, AS Byatt, Dorothy L Sayers, Frank Herbert, Martin Amis, Arthur Conan Doyle and many, many others have all joined in. Some of my favourite fictional titles are from Kurt Vonnegut, who, as Kilgore Trout, writes non-existent works such as The Barring-Gaffner of Bagnialto, or This Year's Masterpiece, which are usually accompanied by helpful plot summaries. Perhaps the most notorious fictional-book-inventors have been writers such as Umberto Eco and Jorge Luis Borges; naturally enough, since their writing often draws attention to literature as itself an artefact.
With the Necronomicon there was a difference, however. Other writers began to treat it as if it really did exist, quoting from the nonexistent work and even composing large sections of it; several Necronomicons were in fact later published, by hoaxers including L. Sprague De Camp and Colin Wilson.
Lovecraft's major inspiration and invention was cosmic horror, the idea that life is incomprehensible to human minds and that the universe is fundamentally alien. Those who genuinely reason, like his protagonists, gamble with sanity. Lovecraft has developed a cult following for his Cthulhu Mythos, a series of loosely interconnected fiction featuring a pantheon of human-nullifying entities, as well as the Necronomicon, a fictional grimoire of magical rites and forbidden lore. His works were deeply pessimistic and cynical, challenging the values of the Enlightenment, Romanticism, and Christian humanism. Lovecraft's protagonists usually achieve the mirror-opposite of traditional gnosis and mysticism by momentarily glimpsing the horror of ultimate reality.
Although Lovecraft's readership was limited during his life, his reputation has grown over the decades, and he is now commonly regarded as one of the most influential horror writers of the 20th century, who together with Edgar Allan Poe has exerted "an incalculable influence on succeeding generations of writers of horror fiction". Stephen King has called Lovecraft "the twentieth century's greatest practitioner of the classic horror tale.