Thursday, January 12, 2006

Lovecraft Rides with Charlemagne!

Well not exactly, but here's another glimpse into Lovecraft's vast mind.

In elder days, astronomers and astrologers referred to our Big Dipper Constellation as Charlemagne's Wagon - that is his chariot. This was more colloquially known as Charles' Wain, where a wain is a wagon - Old English 'woegen'. For instance, a wainwright or Cartwright (shades of the Ponderosa) repaired wagons.

As far back as 1918, in Polaris (the North Star)Lovecraft speaks of Ursa Major - the Big Dipper - by it's antique name, Charles' Wain. "Into the North Window of my chamber glows the Pole Star ... in the small hours of the morning under the horned waning moon, I sit by the casement and watch ... the glittering Cassiopeia ... while Charles' Wain lumbers up from behind the vapour-soaked swamp trees that sway in the night wind."

In late 1926, HPL penned in The Strange Case of Charles Dexter Ward, "...And the night came with gorgeous stars, and the dark ship steered for Charles' Wain and the Little Bear as they swung slowly round the pole. And the sailors sang strange songs of unknown places..."

It so happens that the North Star is a part of the Big Dipper. In astrologers' imaginations, the great French king rode the skies rutting the heavens with his chariot.

So, in March 1927, HPL puns, "That July ... were hot, and Nahum worked hard at his haying ... his rattling wain wearing deep ruts in the shadowy lanes...".

One might also compare Shakepeare, Henry IV, Part I, Act II, Scene I, First Carrier, "Heigh-ho! an it be not four by the day, I’ll be hanged: Charles’ wain is over the new chimney, and yet our horse not packed. What, ostler!" [i.e., hostler, stableboy].

My imagination soars, sometimes. I imagine Lovecraft chuckling over Shakespeare, imagining himself walking in the highways of his beloved Britain and thinking lofty astronomical thoughts.

One more coincidence. In July 1927, 13 year old John Bell Benton designed the Alaska flag for the territory of Alaska using the constellation of the Big Dipper and Polaris against a blue field.

Lovecraft was a voracious reader, maybe he smiled when he read of that in his copy of the Providence Journal.

No comments:


Blog Archive


Google Analytics