Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Description of Rare Manuscript (poem)

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At auction, a manuscript of HPL described thusly by the auction house.

Lovecraft, H[oward] P[hillips]. "ALETHEIA PHRIKODES" [poem]. TYPED MANUSCRIPT (TMs) of the central portion of "Poe-et's Nightmare," typed on rectos of seven sheets of letter-size paper. "The present typescript has several erasures and holograph corrections as well as the note 'Vagrant -- July 1918' (underneath the typed date of '1916' at the bottom), all in a hand that is probably that of R. H. Barlow, but presumably executing the instructions of Lovecraft.

The typing was probably done by Barlow as well, though it's hard to say when. 'Poe-et's Nightmare,' which was 'perhaps his most ambitious single weird poem' (Joshi, An H.P. Lovecraft Encyclopedia, p. 208), was written in 1916 and published in THE VAGRANT, No. 8 (July 1918).

It is just over 300 lines and relates a dream journey through the universe in which the poem's hero, Lucullus, comes to see the insignificance of man. The account of the nightmare journey (the Greek phrase means 'frightful truth') itself takes up the middle of the poem, running to almost 200 lines, and is definitely the meat of the poem. It is composed in blank verse, unlike the frame narrative, which consists of heroic couplets -- Miltonic thunder sandwiched in between slices of Popish irony.

Lovecraft came to see the incongruity of this pairing and instructed R. H. Barlow, who at one time was considering the publication of a collected edition of HPL's poems, to omit the frame narrative altogether. Lovecraft evidently instructed Barlow to make several other small textual changes.

'Alethia Phrikodes' was reprinted by itself in the July 1952 issue of WEIRD TALES, but using the older text (presumably taken directly from THE VAGRANT), without the several emendations found here.

The text of the present typescript is the basis for the text found in COLLECTED POEMS (Arkham House, 1963), although that version includes the original frame narrative which HPL jettisoned sometime after its appearance in THE VAGRANT. The text found in the present typescript represents the last and best judgments of its author -- and is 'perhaps HPL's first enunciation of cosmicism, predating even his early stories (e.g., "Dagon").' (ibid)

An important record of the formation of the Lovecraftian aesthetic of weird horror." - Robert Eldridge.

See Joshi I-B-iii-145.

Typed on cream-colored paper watermarked "Animation Bond." Bottom left corners bumped, faint indent at upper left from old paperclip, but fine overall. An important manuscript. (#114485) Price: $1,500.00

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