“The Tail” from Moby-Dick by Herman Melville

The following chapter.
Also, August 1st is the anniversary of Melville’s birth.
-The Voice before the Void

“The Tail”

from Moby-Dick; or, The Whale

Herman Melville

Other poets have warbled the praises of the soft eye of the antelope, and the lovely plumage of the bird that never alights; less celestial, I celebrate a tail. Continue reading

“The Fountain” from Moby-Dick by Herman Melville

She wanted to hear me read from Moby-Dick, so I opened the book to a random chapter.
-The Voice before the Void

“The Fountain”

from Moby-Dick; or, The Whale

Herman Melville

That for six thousand years–and no one knows how many millions of ages before–the great whales should have been spouting all over the sea, and sprinkling and mistifying the gardens of the deep, as with so many sprinkling or mistifying pots; and that for some centuries back, thousands of hunters should have been close by the fountain of the whale, watching these sprinklings and spoutings–that all this should be, and yet, Continue reading

There is Life Before Reading Moby-Dick, and There is Life After Reading Moby-Dick

Life is paradox.
-The Voice before the Void

There is Life Before Reading Moby-Dick, and There is Life After Reading Moby-Dick

Works mentioned:
Report to Greco by Nikos Kazantzakis
Moby-Dick; or, The Whale by Herman Melville
Education of a Wandering Man by Louis L’Amour
“The Fiddler” by Herman Melville
50 Great American Short Stories edited by Milton Crane
“I and My Chimney” by Herman Melville
Great Short Works of Herman Melville edited by Warner Berthoff
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
“Arma Virumque” by Ambrose Bierce
The Sermon on the Mount by Jesus
The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark by William Shakespeare
The Tragedy of Macbeth by William Shakespeare
In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick
The Sea-Wolf by Jack London
The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot

Other authors mentioned:
Homer
Mark Twain
Robert Benchley
Patrick F. McManus
Nathaniel Hawthorne
Edgar Allan Poe
H.P. Lovecraft

Into Annihilation: The Arikara Story of Custer’s March to, and the Battle of, the Little Bighorn, part 4

Warfare is inherently dramatic. In this case, the Arikara are abominably outnumbered as they ride into combat against their dread enemies the Lakota.
Must warfare exist? Can grave conflict be superintended without putting men through hell and into death?
Is hell an adventure sought by men?
⁓The Voice before the Void

Into Annihilation: The Arikara Story of Custer’s March to, and the Battle of, the Little Bighorn

from The Arikara Narrative of the Campaign against the Hostile Dakotas, June, 1876

compiled from interviews conducted by the North Dakota State Historical Society with the aged Arikara scouts in 1912 at Fort Berthold Reservation

edited by O.G. Libby and The Voice before the Void

part 4

The story of Young Hawk

The army was on the little knoll at the foot of the hill, they were met by Custer’s party from the high butte. Considerable excitement among the scouts was to be seen. They wondered what Custer would say when he heard that the Dakotas knew of his approach. The scouts from the hill had told them of the six Dakotas. When the scouts saw Custer coming down they began to group themselves according to tribes, Arikara, Crows, etc. The Arikara grouped themselves about the older men who spoke to the younger men as is the custom of the tribe. Stabbed spoke to the young men and Custer gave the instructions here to the scouts through Gerard. He said: “Boys, I want you to take the horses away from the Sioux camp.” Then Stabbed told the Arikara scouts to obey Custer’s instructions and to try and take away as many horses as possible. Custer continued: “Make up your minds to go straight to their camp and capture their horses. Boys, you are going to have a hard day, you must keep up your courage, you will get experience today.” On the top of the ridge the bugle sounded for the unfurling of the flag. This caused great excitement, all made ready, girths were tightened, loads were made light. Another bugle sounded and Custer ordered the scouts forward. They went down the dry coulee and when about half way to the high ridge at the right, Young Hawk saw a group of scouts at the lower end of the ridge peering over toward the lone tepee. The scouts he was with slowed up as the others came toward them. Then behind them they heard a call from Gerard. He said to them: “The Chief says for you to run.” At this Strikes Two gave the war-whoop and rode on. At this we all whooped and Strikes Two reached the lone tepee first and struck it with his whip. Then Young Hawk came. He got off on the north side of the tepee, took a knife from his belt, pierced the tent through and ran the knife down to the ground. Inside of the lone tepee he saw a scaffold, and upon it a dead body wrapped in a buffalo robe.

White-Man-Runs-Him, Hairy Moccasin, Curly, Goes-Ahead - US Army cavalry Crow scouts at Little Bighorn Battlefield ca 1913

Continue reading

Into Annihilation: The Arikara Story of Custer’s March to, and the Battle of, the Little Bighorn, part 3

Scouting forward and encountering the portents of a momentous battle to come: giant deserted camps with sun dance circles and sweat lodges, drawings in sand of dead men, drawings on hills of fighting bison, rocks painted red.
⁓The Voice before the Void

Into Annihilation: The Arikara Story of Custer’s March to, and the Battle of, the Little Bighorn

from The Arikara Narrative of the Campaign against the Hostile Dakotas, June, 1876

compiled from interviews conducted by the North Dakota State Historical Society with the aged Arikara scouts in 1912 at Fort Berthold Reservation

edited by O.G. Libby and The Voice before the Void

part 3

An interview with Custer as told by the Arikara scout named Soldier

Soldier and Bob-tailed Bull met Custer at his camp on the river bank, in his own tent, F.F. Gerard was interpreter. Custer said: “The man before me, Bob-tailed Bull, is a man of good heart, of good character. I am pleased to have him here. I am glad he has enlisted. It will be a hard expedition but we will all share the same hardships. I am very well pleased to have him in my party, and I told it at Washington. We are to live and fight together, children of one father and one mother. The great-grandfather has a plan. The Sioux camps have united and you and I must work together for the Great Father and help each other. The Great Father is well pleased that it took few words to coax Son-of-the-Star to furnish me scouts for this work we have to do and he is pleased, too, at his behavior in helping on the plan of the Great Father. I, for one, am willing to help in this all I can, and you must help too. It is this way, my brothers. If I should happen to lose any of the men Son-of-the-Star has furnished, their reward will not be forgotten by the government. Their relations will be saddened by their death but there will be some comfort in the pay that the United States government will provide.”

Bob-tailed Bull replied: “It is a good thing you say, my brother, my children and other relatives will receive my pay and other rewards. I am glad you say this for I see there is some gain even though I lose my life.”

Custer then said: “No more words need be said. Bob-tailed Bull is to be leader and Soldier second in command of the scouts.”

Clothing was issued to the two leaders, on Bob-tailed Bull’s sleeve there were three stripes, and on Soldier’s sleeve there were two. Custer called on Bob-tailed Bull to speak, and he said through Gerard, that he was not a man to change tribes all the time, that he was always an Arikara and respected their chiefs and had served under them gladly. He said: ”Yes, Long Hair, I am a member of the police and also chief, with one hand I hold the position of police among my people and with the other I hold the position of chief of the scouts. My brother, I am going to address you so, for you said we were brothers, I have had experience fighting the Sioux, and when we meet them we shall see each other’s bravery.”

Bloody Knife US Army cavalry Arikara scout 1873 Continue reading

Into Annihilation: The Arikara Story of Custer’s March to, and the Battle of, the Little Bighorn, part 2

The small society of the Arikara, in facing their age-old enemies the mighty Lakota nation, prehend a powerful ally: the United States.
⁓The Voice before the Void

Into Annihilation: The Arikara Story of Custer’s March to, and the Battle of, the Little Bighorn

from The Arikara Narrative of the Campaign against the Hostile Dakotas, June, 1876

compiled from interviews conducted by the North Dakota State Historical Society with the aged Arikara scouts in 1912 at Fort Berthold Reservation

edited by O.G. Libby and The Voice before the Void

part 2

Preface to the Arikara Narrative of the Campaign against the Hostile Dakotas

The purpose in publishing this material on the Dakota campaign of 1876 is twofold. Merely as a matter of justice to the Arikara scouts, their version of the campaign in which they played an important part should have long ago been given to the public. Nearly every other conceivable angle of this memorable campaign has received attention and study. But during the past generation, the Arikara scouts, true to their oath of fealty to the government as they understood it, have remained silent as to their own part in those eventful days. The present narrative is designed to make public the real story of the Arikara scouts who served with General Terry and under the immediate command of Colonel Custer.

back row John Buckman, Goose front row Bloody Knife, George Armstrong Custer, Little Soldier 1874 Continue reading

Into Annihilation: The Arikara Story of Custer’s March to, and the Battle of, the Little Bighorn, part 1

Battle of the Little Bighorn Anniversary Special:
One of the most mesmeric and seismic battles in world history: when the Lakota defeated utterly the United States.
⁓The Voice before the Void

Into Annihilation: The Arikara Story of Custer’s March to, and the Battle of, the Little Bighorn

from The Arikara Narrative of the Campaign against the Hostile Dakotas, June, 1876

compiled from interviews conducted by the North Dakota State Historical Society with the aged Arikara scouts in 1912 at Fort Berthold Reservation

edited by O.G. Libby and The Voice before the Void

part 1

Historical Introduction to the Battle of the Little Big Horn

In the year 1867, the United States Congress provided for a commission to treat with all the Indian tribes of the Great Plains and arrange a treaty which would grant to them definite lands. This, it was thought, would cause them to settle down and cease their war on the white man. Parts of two years were spent in visiting the scattered bands and finally, in April, 1868, an agreement was concluded which defined clearly the boundaries of the territory set apart for the Dakotas [Treaty of Fort Laramie]. This area was not large when compared with the fields over which the Dakotas had been accustomed to roam at will, but it included the Black Hills and adjacent lands which the Dakotas had cherished for a long time as a hunting ground and asylum. Consequently when gold was discovered in these hills and when the expedition commanded by Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer was sent “to reconnoiter the route from Fort Abraham Lincoln to Bear Butte,” a well known point north of the Black Hills, and “to explore the country south, southeast, and southwest of that point,” the Dakotas were much disturbed.

Charles Marion Russell - The Custer Fight - 1903

Continue reading

The Last American by John Ames Mitchell, part 6

A memorable encounter, and the climax of a voyage of discovery.
⁓The Voice before the Void

The Last American

John Ames Mitchell

part 6

3d July

We see ahead of us the ruins of a great dome, also a very high shaft. Probably they belong to the city we seek.

4th July

A date we shall not forget!

Little did I realize this morning when we left the Zlotuhb in such hilarious mood what dire events awaited us. Continue reading

The Last American by John Ames Mitchell, part 5

The story of a naval battle.
⁓The Voice before the Void

The Last American

John Ames Mitchell

part 5

20th May

An icy wind from the northeast with a violent rain. Yesterday we gasped with the hot air. To-day we are shivering in winter clothing.

2lst May

The same as yesterday. Most of us are ill. My teeth chatter and my body is both hot and cold. A storm more wicked never wailed about a ship. El-Hedyd calls it the shrieking voices of the hundred millions of Mehrikans who must have perished in similar weather. Continue reading

The Last American by John Ames Mitchell, part 4

The wonders of wandering a lost city… And apocalyptic portent of wealth disparity.
⁓The Voice before the Void

The Last American

John Ames Mitchell

part 4

17th May

To-day a scorching heat that burns the lungs. We started in the morning prepared to spend the night ashore, and explore the northern end of the city. It was a pleasant walk through the soft grass of the shady streets, but in those places unsheltered from the sun we were as fish upon a frying-pan. Other dwellings we saw, even larger and more imposing than the one we entered yesterday. We were tempted to explore them, but El-Hedyd wisely dissuaded us, saying the day was waxing hotter each hour and it could be done on our return. Continue reading

The Last American by John Ames Mitchell, part 3

Ghosts!
(Plus: 125-year-old criticism of American culture by an American writer sounds curiously familiar.)
⁓The Voice before the Void

The Last American

John Ames Mitchell

part 3

14th May

Hotter than yesterday.

In the afternoon we were rowed up the river and landed for a short walk. It is unsafe to brave the sun.

The more I learn of these Mehrikans the less interesting they become. Nofuhl is of much the same mind, judging from our conversation to-day, as we walked along together. It was in this wise:

Khan-li: How alike the houses! How monotonous!

Nofuhl: So, also, were the occupants. They thought alike, worked alike, ate, dressed and conversed alike. They read the same books; they fashioned their garments as directed, with no regard for the size or figure of the individual, and copied to a stitch the fashions of Europeans. Continue reading

The Last American by John Ames Mitchell, part 2

Is the target of Mitchell’s satire Western culture or Muslim culture, or both?
⁓The Voice before the Void

The Last American

John Ames Mitchell

part 2

13th May

A startling discovery this morning.

By landing higher up the river we explored a part of the city where the buildings are of a different character from those we saw yesterday. Nofuhl considers them the dwellings of the rich. In shape they are like bricks set on end, all very similar, uninteresting, and monotonous.

We noticed one where the doors and shutters were still in place, but rotting from the fantastic hinges that supported them. A few hard blows brought down the outer doors in a dusty heap, and as we stepped upon the marble floor within our eyes met an unexpected sight. Continue reading

The Last American by John Ames Mitchell, part 1

Explore an ancient, advanced, lost civilization… Lauded by connoisseurs of weird fiction, this fun tale is a superior example of a “Lost World” story.
⁓The Voice before the Void

The Last American

John Ames Mitchell

part 1

A Fragment from the journal of Khan-li, Prince of Yoo-Chur and Admiral in the Persian Navy

TO THOSE THOUGHTFUL PERSIANS WHO CAN READ A WARNING IN THE SUDDEN RISE AND SWIFT EXTINCTION OF A FOOLISH PEOPLE THIS VOLUME IS DEDICATED

A FEW WORDS BY HEDFUL
SURNAMED “THE AXIS OF WISDOM”
Curator of the Imperial Museum at Shiraz
Author of “The Celestial Conquest of Kaly-phorn-ya,” and of “Northern Mehrika under the Hy-Bernyan Rulers”

The astounding discoveries of Khan-li of Yoo-Chur have thrown floods of light upon the domestic life of the Mehrikan people. He little realized when he landed upon that sleeping continent what a service he was about to render history, or what enthusiasm his discoveries would arouse among Persian archaeologists. Continue reading

The Shunned House by H.P. Lovecraft, part 5

Witness incomprehensible horror, go home, order up a gas mask and some acid, write some poetry — then bring the thunder.
⁓The Voice before the Void

The Shunned House

H.P. Lovecraft

part 5

I had been lying with my face away from my uncle’s chair, so that in this sudden flash of awakening I saw only the door to the street, the more northerly window, and the wall and floor and ceiling toward the north of the room, all photographed with morbid vividness on my brain in a light brighter than the glow of the fungi or the rays from the street outside. It was not a strong or even a fairly strong light; certainly not nearly strong enough to read an average book by. But it cast a shadow of myself and the cot on the floor, and had a yellowish, penetrating force that hinted at things more potent than luminosity. This I perceived with unhealthy sharpness despite the fact that two of my other senses were violently assailed. For on my ears rang the reverberations of that shocking scream, while my nostrils revolted at the stench which filled the place. My mind, as alert as my senses, recognised the gravely unusual; and almost automatically I leaped up and turned about to grasp the destructive instruments which we had left trained on the mouldy spot before the fireplace. As I turned, I dreaded what I was to see; for the scream had been in my uncle’s voice, and I knew not against what menace I should have to defend him and myself.

Yet after all, the sight was worse than I had dreaded. There are horrors beyond horrors, and this was one of those nuclei of all dreamable hideousness which the cosmos saves to blast an accursed and unhappy few. Out of the fungous-ridden earth Continue reading

The Shunned House by H.P. Lovecraft, part 4

Real ghosthunters pack flamethrowers.
⁓The Voice before the Void

The Shunned House

H.P. Lovecraft

part 4

On Wednesday, June 25, 1919, after a proper notification of Carrington Harris which did not include surmises as to what we expected to find, my uncle and I conveyed to the shunned house two camp chairs and a folding camp cot, together with some scientific mechanism of greater weight and intricacy. These we placed in the cellar during the day, screening the windows with paper and planning to return in the evening for our first vigil. We had locked the door from the cellar to the ground floor; and having a key to the outside cellar door, we were prepared to leave our expensive and delicate apparatus – which we had obtained secretly and at great cost – as many days as our vigil might need to be protracted. It was our design to sit up together till very late, and then watch singly till dawn in two-hour stretches, myself first and then my companion; the inactive member resting on the cot.

The natural leadership with which my uncle procured the instruments from the laboratories of Brown University and the Cranston Street Armory, and instinctively assumed direction of our venture, was a marvellous commentary on the potential vitality and resilience of a man of eighty-one. Elihu Whipple had lived according to the hygienic laws he had preached as a physician, and but for what happened later would be here in full vigour today. Only two persons suspect what did happen – Carrington Harris and myself. I had to tell Harris because he owned the house and deserved to know Continue reading

The Shunned House by H.P. Lovecraft, part 3

Nothing matches Lovecraft’s delight in macabre and mysterious historiography, piecing hints together into a horror better left unperceived.
⁓The Voice before the Void

The Shunned House

H.P. Lovecraft

part 3

It may well be imagined how powerfully I was affected by the annals of the Harrises. In this continuous record there seemed to me to brood a persistent evil beyond anything in nature as I had known it; an evil clearly connected with the house and not with the family. This impression was confirmed by my uncle’s less systematic array of miscellaneous data – legends transcribed from servant gossip, cuttings from the papers, copies of death certificates by fellow physicians, and the like. All of this material I cannot hope to give, for my uncle was a tireless antiquarian and very deeply interested in the shunned house; but I may refer to several dominant points which earn notice by their recurrence through many reports from diverse sources. For example, the servant gossip was practically unanimous in attributing to the fungous and malodorous cellar of the house a vast supremacy in evil influence. There had been servants – Ann White especially – who would not use the cellar kitchen, and at least three well-defined legends bore upon the queer quasi-human or diabolic outlines assumed by tree-roots and patches of mould in that region. These latter narratives interested me profoundly, Continue reading

The Shunned House by H.P. Lovecraft, part 2

Family history is all portent…
⁓The Voice before the Void

The Shunned House

H.P. Lovecraft

part 2

Not till my adult years did my uncle set before me the notes and data which he had collected concerning the shunned house. Dr. Whipple was a sane, conservative physician of the old school, and for all his interest in the place was not eager to encourage young thoughts toward the abnormal. His own view, postulating simply a building and location of markedly unsanitary qualities, had nothing to do with abnormality; but he realized that the very picturesqueness which aroused his own interest would in a boy’s fanciful mind take on all manner of gruesome imaginative associations. Continue reading

The Shunned House by H.P. Lovecraft, part 1

Lovecraft begins his particular version of a haunted house story with description of architecture; the description is precise, and real, and lulls us for what is to come…
⁓The Voice before the Void

The Shunned House

H.P. Lovecraft

part 1

From even the greatest of horrors irony is seldom absent. Some times it enters directly into the composition of the events, while sometimes it relates only to their fortuitous position among persons and places. The latter sort is splendidly exemplified by a case in the ancient city of Providence, where in the late forties Edgar Allan Poe used to sojourn often during his unsuccessful wooing of the gifted poetess, Mrs. Whitman. Poe generally stopped at the Mansion House in Benefit Street – the renamed Golden Ball Inn whose roof has sheltered Washington, Jefferson, and Lafayette – and his favourite walk led northward along the same street to Mrs. Whitman’s home and the neighbouring hillside churchyard of St. John’s whose hidden expanse of eighteenth-century gravestones had for him a peculiar fascination.

Now the irony is this. In this walk, so many times repeated, the world’s greatest master of the terrible and the bizarre was obliged to pass a particular house on the eastern side of the street; a dingy, antiquated structure perched on the abruptly rising side hill, Continue reading

The Willows by Algernon Blackwood, part 8

Horror.
⁓The Voice before the Void

The Willows

Algernon Blackwood

part 8

It was my firm intention to lie awake all night and watch, but the exhaustion of nerves and body decreed otherwise, and sleep after a while came over me with a welcome blanket of oblivion. The fact that my companion also slept quickened its approach. At first he fidgeted and constantly sat up, asking me if I “heard this” or “heard that.” He tossed about on his cork mattress, and said the tent was moving and the river had risen over the point of the island; but each time I went out to look I returned with the report that all was well, and finally he grew calmer and lay still. Then at length his breathing became regular and I heard unmistakable sounds of snoring—the first and only time in my life when snoring has been a welcome and calming influence.

This, I remember, was the last thought in my mind before dozing off.

A difficulty in breathing woke me, Continue reading

The Willows by Algernon Blackwood, part 7

Climax.
⁓The Voice before the Void

The Willows

Algernon Blackwood

part 7

He had turned ashen white under the tan. He stood bolt upright in front of the fire, stiff as a rod, staring at me.

“After that,” he said in a sort of helpless, frantic way, “we must go! We can’t stay now; we must strike camp this very instant and go on—down the river.”

He was talking, I saw, quite wildly, his words dictated by abject terror—the terror he had resisted so long, but which had caught him at last.

“In the dark?” I exclaimed, shaking with fear after my hysterical outburst, but still realizing Continue reading

The Willows by Algernon Blackwood, part 6

Once you are under Blackwood’s spell, escape is impossible.
⁓The Voice before the Void

The Willows

Algernon Blackwood

part 6

“But you’re quite right about one thing,” he added, before the subject passed, “and that is that we’re wiser not to talk about it, or even to think about it, because what one thinks finds expression in words, and what one says, happens.”

That afternoon, while the canoe dried and hardened, Continue reading

The Willows by Algernon Blackwood, part 5

It is not that some things are unexplainable; it is that the explanations for some things are cognitively unacceptable.
⁓The Voice before the Void

The Willows

Algernon Blackwood

part 5

The sun was high in the heavens when my companion woke me from a heavy sleep and announced that the porridge was cooked and there was just time to bathe. The grateful smell of frizzling bacon entered the tent door.

“River still rising,” he said, “and several islands out in midstream have disappeared altogether. Our own island’s much smaller.” Continue reading

The Willows by Algernon Blackwood, part 4

Things get even weirder on the island in the Danube. Blackwood’s natural world seems wholesome, and his horror — at this point — seems mystical and entrancing.
⁓The Voice before the Void

The Willows

Algernon Blackwood

part 4

As though further to convince me that I had not been dreaming, I remember that it was a long time before I fell again into a troubled and restless sleep; and even then only the upper crust of me slept, and underneath there was something that never quite lost consciousness, but lay alert and on the watch.

But this second time I jumped up with a genuine start of terror. It was neither the wind nor the river that woke me, but the slow approach of something that Continue reading

The Willows by Algernon Blackwood, part 3

Things get weird on the island in the Danube.
⁓The Voice before the Void

The Willows

Algernon Blackwood

part 3

Suddenly I found myself lying awake, peering from my sandy mattress through the door of the tent. I looked at my watch pinned against the canvas, and saw by the bright moonlight that it was past twelve o’clock—the threshold of a new day—and I had therefore slept a couple of hours. The Swede was asleep still beside me; the wind howled as before; something plucked at my heart and made me feel afraid. There was a sense of disturbance in my immediate neighborhood.

I sat up quickly and looked out. Continue reading

The Willows by Algernon Blackwood, part 2

A summer adventure in a canoe down the Danube River…
⁓The Voice before the Void

The Willows

Algernon Blackwood

part 2

The feeling, however, though it refused to yield its meaning entirely to analysis, did not at the time trouble me by passing into menace. Yet it never left me quite, even during the very practical business of putting up the tent in a hurricane of wind and building a fire for the stew-pot. It remained, just enough to bother and perplex, and to rob a most delightful camping-ground of a good portion of its charm. To my companion, however, I said nothing, Continue reading