Kenneth Hite (princeofcairo) wrote,

[Tour de Lovecraft] Nyarlathotep

Although we get bits of it in "Dagon":
I dream of a day when they may rise above the billows to drag down in their reeking talons the remnants of puny, war-exhausted mankind -- of a day when the land shall sink, and the dark ocean floor shall ascend amidst universal pandemonium.

and a hint in "Arthur Jermyn":
Science, already oppressive with its shocking revelations, will perhaps be the ultimate exterminator of our human species ... for its reserve of unguessed horrors could never be borne by mortal brains if loosed upon the world.

it's in "Nyarlathotep" that we get Lovecraft's full-blown Apocalypse. Like "Dagon," "Statement," and "Celephaïs" written from a dream, this prose-poem doesn't even pretend to have a plot. It's all incident. The parallels to the Book of Revelation are obvious -- we have the turmoil of war and weather, and a harbinger figure emerges (out of Egypt, not Babylon -- but then Christ came "out of Egypt" at least once) for his Second Coming, spreading an almost literally Antichrist-like gospel of technology and nightmare. He "opens the seals" and shows a vision of the end of the world, which then happens, leaving the New Heaven and Earth unified in Him. It's really, really good, and repays re-reading both for under-emphasized tropes in HPL (as in "He" and "Shadow Out of Time," the Yellow Peril conquers the world in the future) and for language and theme. Only Castro's ranting apocalypse from "Call of Cthulhu" is its equal, and it's distanced by being placed in another voice.

****

I will lose my eliptonist's license if I don't note that pulp scholar Will Murray has theorized that Lovecraft based this story on the "electrical showman" tours conducted by Nikola Tesla around the turn of the century. Speaking in my skeptic's voice, I don't believe it -- there's no evidence -- but I'd accept the notion that Tesla put some of the flavor into the atmosphere that Lovecraft drew on for Nyarlathotep's atmospherics: "Then the sparks played amazingly around the head of the spectators" certainly sounds Tesla-ish, but the rest is just wishful thinking of the sort I heartily endorse.

NEXT: "The Picture in the House"
Tags: tour de lovecraft
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