“The Ash-tree” by M.R. James, with Digressions

Walpurgisnacht:
Vernal weird horror.
-The Voice before the Void

“The Ash-tree”

M.R. James

Everyone who has travelled over Eastern England knows the smaller country-houses with which it is studded—the rather dank little buildings, usually in the Italian style, surrounded with parks of some eighty to a hundred acres. For me they have always had a very strong attraction, with the grey paling of split oak, the noble trees, the meres with their reed-beds, and the line of distant woods. Then, I like the pillared portico—perhaps stuck on to a red-brick Queen Anne house which has been faced with stucco to bring it into line with the ‘Grecian’ taste of the end of the eighteenth century; the hall inside, going up to the roof, which hall ought always to be provided with a gallery and a small organ. I like the library, too, where you may find anything from a Psalter of the thirteenth century to a Shakespeare quarto. I like the pictures, of course; and perhaps most of all I like fancying what life in such a house was when it was first built, and in the piping times of landlords’ prosperity, and not least now, when, if money is not so plentiful, taste is more varied and life quite as interesting. I wish to have one of these houses, and enough money to keep it together and entertain my friends in it modestly.

But this is a digression. I have to tell you of a curious series of events which happened in such a house as I have tried to describe. Continue reading

“Pigeons from Hell” by Robert E. Howard, with Discussion

Walpurgisnacht:
A popular piece of pulp fiction with one hell of an ending.
-The Voice before the Void

“Pigeons from Hell”

Robert E. Howard

I. The Whistler in the Dark

Griswell awoke suddenly, every nerve tingling with a premonition of imminent peril. He stared about wildly, unable at first to remember where he was, or what he was doing there. Moonlight filtered in through the dusty windows, and the great empty room with its lofty ceiling and gaping black fireplace was spectral and unfamiliar. Then as he emerged from the clinging cobwebs of his recent sleep, he remembered where he was and how he came to be there. Continue reading

“The Moon-Slave” by Barry Pain

Walpurgisnacht. Springtime Halloween.
A famous tale… of the danger of dance.
-The Voice before the Void

“The Moon-Slave”

Barry Pain

The Princess Viola had, even in her childhood, an inevitable submission to the dance; Continue reading

“A Genuine Ghost” from The Philadelphia Press

Walpurgis Night Special:
Totally genuine; no doubt.

“A Genuine Ghost”

The Philadelphia Press

Dayton, O., 1884 March 25.—A thousand people surround the grave yard in Miamisburg, a town near here, every night to witness the antics of what appears to be a genuine ghost. There is no doubt about the existence of the apparition, as Mayor Marshall, the revenue collector and hundreds of prominent citizens all testify to having seen it. Last night several hundred people, armed with clubs and guns, assaulted the specter, which appeared to be a woman in white. Clubs, bullets and shot tore the air in which the mystic figure floated without disconcerting it in the least. A portion of the town turned out en masse to-day and began exhuming all the bodies in the cemetery…. Continue reading

“I Have a Rendezvous with Death” by Alan Seeger

World War I:
Soldier’s war poetry.

“I Have a Rendezvous with Death”

Alan Seeger

I have a rendezvous with Death
At some disputed barricade,
When Spring comes back with rustling shade
And apple-blossoms fill the air–
I have a rendezvous with Death
When Spring brings back blue days and fair.

It may be he shall take my hand
And lead me into his dark land
And close my eyes and quench my breath–
It may be I shall pass him still.
I have a rendezvous with Death
On some scarred slope of battered hill,
When Spring comes round again this year
And the first meadow-flowers appear.

God knows ’twere better to be deep
Pillowed in silk and scented down,
Where love throbs out in blissful sleep,
Pulse nigh to pulse, and breath to breath,
Where hushed awakenings are dear…
But I’ve a rendezvous with Death
At midnight in some flaming town,
When Spring trips north again this year,
And I to my pledged word am true,
I shall not fail that rendezvous.

“At the Home of Poe” by Frank Belknap Long

Edgar Allan Poe’s Birthday:
A lilting story of a life.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“At the Home of Poe: A Poem in Prose”

Frank Belknap Long

To H. P. Lovecraft

The home of Poe! It is like a fairy dwelling, a gnomic palace built of the aether of dreams. It is tiny and delicate and lovely, and replete with memories of sere leaves in November and of lilies in April. It is a castle of vanished hopes, of dimly-remembered dreams, of sad memories Continue reading

“The Bad Year” by Edward William Thomson

Winter Special:
So we try to get through.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“The Bad Year”

Edward William Thomson

May, blighted by keen frosts, passed on to June;
No blooms, but many a stalk with drooping leaves,
And arid Summer wilted these full soon,
And Autumn gathered up no wealthy sheaves;
Plaintive October saddened for the year,
But wild November raged that hope was past,
Shrieking, “All days of life are made how drear —
Wild whirls of snow! and Death comes driving fast.”
Yet sane December when the winds fell low,
And cold calm light with sunshine tinkled clear,
Harkened to bells more sweet than long ago,
And meditated in a mind sincere: —

“Beneath these snows shining from yon red west
How sleep the blooms of some delighted May,
And June shall riot, lovely as the best
That flung their odors forth on all their way;
Yes, violet Spring, the balms of her soft breath,
Her birdlike voice, the child-joy in her air,
Her gentle colors” — sane December saith
“They come, they come — O heart, sigh not ‘They were.'”

“Caterpillars” by E.F. Benson

Halloween Special:
Does knowledge of the world come through dreaming or waking?
Or both?
Or neither?
⁓The Voice before the Void

“Caterpillars”

E.F. Benson

I saw a month or two ago in an Italian paper that the Villa Casana, in which I once stayed, had been pulled down, and that a manufactory of some sort was in process of erection on its site.

There is therefore no longer any reason for refraining from writing of those things which I myself saw (or imagined I saw) in a certain room and on a certain landing of the villa in question, nor from mentioning the circumstances which followed, which may or may not (according to the opinion of the reader) throw some light on or be somehow connected with this experience.

The Villa Casana was in all ways but one a perfectly delightful house, yet, if it were standing now, nothing in the world–I use the phrase in its literal sense–would induce me to set foot in it again, Continue reading

“The Call of Cthulhu” by H.P. Lovecraft

1934 May 11 sketch of statue icon of Old One Great God Cthulhu by HP Lovecraft author creator in short story The Call of CthulhuCosmic horror.
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However phantasmical his narratives may be, Lovecraft’s assertion that it is horrific to ponder what immensities in our universe must lie hidden from us oozes through as profoundly true.
/
(R’lyeh might be the capital of North Carolina.)
⁓The Voice before the Void

“The Call of Cthulhu”

H.P. Lovecraft

Of such great powers or beings there may be conceivably a survival… a survival of a hugely remote period when… consciousness was manifested, perhaps, in shapes and forms long since withdrawn before the tide of advancing humanity… forms of which poetry and legend alone have caught a flying memory and called them gods, monsters, mythical beings of all sorts and kinds…
–Algernon Blackwood

I. The Horror in Clay

The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the human mind to correlate all its contents. We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far. The sciences, each straining in its own direction, have hitherto harmed us little; but some day the piecing together of dissociated knowledge will open up such terrifying vistas of reality, and of our frightful position therein, that we shall either go mad from the revelation or flee from the light into the peace and safety of a new dark age.

Theosophists have guessed at the awesome grandeur of the cosmic cycle wherein our world and human race form transient incidents. They have hinted at strange survivals in terms which would freeze the blood if not masked by a bland optimism. But it is not from them that there came the single glimpse of forbidden eons which chills me when I think of it and maddens me when I dream of it. Continue reading

“The Repairer of Reputations” from The King in Yellow by Robert W. Chambers, part 3

Weirdness and crime and insanity come to a head of horror.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“The Repairer of Reputations”

from The King in Yellow

Robert W. Chambers

part 3

III

One morning early in May I stood before the steel safe in my bedroom, trying on the golden jewelled crown. The diamonds flashed fire as I turned to the mirror, and the heavy beaten gold burned like a halo about my head. I remembered Camilla’s agonized scream and the awful words echoing through the dim streets of Carcosa. They were the last lines in the first act, and I dared not think of what followed—dared not, even in the spring sunshine, there in my own room, surrounded with familiar objects, reassured by the bustle from the street and the voices of the servants in the hallway outside. For those poisoned words had dropped slowly into my heart, as death-sweat drops upon a bed-sheet and is absorbed. Trembling, I put the diadem from my head and wiped my forehead, but I thought of Hastur and of my own rightful ambition, Continue reading

“The Repairer of Reputations” from The King in Yellow by Robert W. Chambers, part 2

A portrait of weirdness and insanity and horror, indulgence and love, the city in springtime, forbidden knowledge, foreboding.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“The Repairer of Reputations”

from The King in Yellow

Robert W. Chambers

part 2

II

I climbed the three dilapidated flights of stairs, which I had so often climbed before, and knocked at a small door at the end of the corridor. Mr. Wilde opened the door and I walked in. Continue reading

“The Repairer of Reputations” from The King in Yellow by Robert W. Chambers, part 1

Walpurgis Night Special:
A story unique and masterfully weird… and our world’s introduction to the King in Yellow.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“The Repairer of Reputations”

from The King in Yellow

Robert W. Chambers

part 1

Along the shore the cloud waves break,
The twin suns sink beneath the lake,
The shadows lengthen
In Carcosa.

Strange is the night where black stars rise,
And strange moons circle through the skies
But stranger still is
Lost Carcosa.

Songs that the Hyades shall sing,
Where flap the tatters of the King,
Must die unheard in
Dim Carcosa.

Song of my soul, my voice is dead;
Die thou, unsung, as tears unshed
Shall dry and die in
Lost Carcosa.

Cassilda’s Song in “The King in Yellow,” Act i, Scene 2.

The Repairer of Reputations

I

“Ne raillons pas les fous; leur folie dure plus longtemps que la nôtre…. Voila toute la différence.”

Toward the end of the year 1920 the Government of the United States had practically completed the programme, adopted during the last months of President Winthrop’s administration. The country was apparently tranquil. Everybody knows how the Tariff and Labour questions were settled. The war with Germany, incident on that country’s seizure of the Samoan Islands, had left no visible scars upon the republic, and the temporary occupation of Norfolk by the invading army had been forgotten in the joy over repeated naval victories, and the subsequent ridiculous plight of General Von Gartenlaube’s forces in the State of New Jersey. The Cuban and Hawaiian investments had paid one hundred per cent and Continue reading

“Of Withered Apples” by Philip K. Dick

Walpurgis Night Special:
From autumn into spring, perfect weirdness from the regent of reality-challenging stories, Philip K. Dick.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“Of Withered Apples”

Philip K. Dick

Something was tapping on the window. Blowing up against the pane, again and again. Carried by the wind. Tapping faintly, insistently.

Lori, sitting on the couch, pretended not to hear. She gripped her book tightly and turned a page. The tapping came again, louder and more imperative. It could not be ignored.

“Darn!” Lori said, throwing her book down on the coffee table and hurrying to the window. She grasped the heavy brass handles and lifted.

For a moment the window resisted. Then, with a protesting groan, it reluctantly rose. Cold autumn air, rushed into the room. The bit of leaf ceased tapping and swirled against the woman’s throat, dancing to the floor.

Lori picked the leaf up. It was old and brown. Her heart skipped a beat as she slipped the leaf into the pocket of her jeans. Against her loins the leaf cut and tingled, a little hard point piercing her smooth skin and sending exciting shudders up and down her spine. She stood at the open window a moment, sniffing the air. The air was full of the presence of trees and rocks, of great boulders and remote places. It was time—time to go again. She touched the leaf. She was wanted. Continue reading

“Song of a Second April” by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Springtime Special:
Gone and gone for evermore.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“Song of a Second April”

Edna St. Vincent Millay

April this year, not otherwise
Than April of a year ago,
Is full of whispers, full of sighs,
Of dazzling mud and dingy snow;
Hepaticas that pleased you so
Are here again, and butterflies.

There rings a hammering all day,
And shingles lie about the doors;
In orchards near and far away
The grey wood-pecker taps and bores;
The men are merry at their chores,
And children earnest at their play.

The larger streams run still and deep,
Noisy and swift the small brooks run.
Among the mullein stalks the sheep
Go up the hillside in the sun,
Pensively, —only you are gone,
You that alone I cared to keep.

“Joy of the Morning” by Edwin Markham

Springtime Special:
A poet’s everlasting lament.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“Joy of the Morning”

Edwin Markham

I hear you, little bird,
Shouting a-swing above the broken wall.
Shout louder yet: no song can tell it all.
Sing to my soul in the deep, still wood:
‘Tis wonderful beyond the wildest word:
I’d tell it, too, if I could.

Oft when the white, still dawn
Lifted the skies and pushed the hills apart,
I’ve felt it like a glory in my heart–
(The world’s mysterious stir)
But had no throat like yours, my bird,
Nor such a listener.

“Biking in the Spring” by Steve Kosbab

Springtime Special:
The arrival of spring is ever of note.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“Biking in the Spring”

Steve Kosbab

Rolling out the wheels after a winter’s rest,
Inspecting all to make sure it is right.
Jumping on the seat,
Gripping the handlebars, testing the brakes.
Then, wow!
I’m off, like a dragracer or derby horse just
Out of the gate.
The wind in my face, the fresh spring air
Through my lungs.
The sun on my back.
Speeding, swaying, swerving
Right into a puddle, and down. Continue reading

“Requiescat” by Oscar Wilde

To live is to lose.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“Requiescat”

Oscar Wilde

Tread lightly, she is near
Under the snow,
Speak gently, she can hear
The daisies grow. Continue reading

“Four Little Foxes” by Lew Sarett

Spring Equinox Special:
Forbear, March.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“Four Little Foxes”

Lew Sarett

Speak gently, Spring, and make no sudden sound;
For in my windy valley, yesterday I found
New-born foxes squirming on the ground —
Speak gently.

Walk softly, March, forbear the bitter blow;
Her feet within a trap, her blood upon the snow,
The four little foxes saw their mother go —
Walk softly. Continue reading

“The Mermaid” by Ben King

International Women’s Day Special:
Glorious romance, if a bit fishy.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“The Mermaid”

Ben King

Sweet mermaid of the incomparable eyes,
Surpassing glimpses of the April skies.
Thy form, ah, maid of the billowy deep!
So rare and fair, but to possess I’d creep
Where the old octopus deep in his briny haunts
Comes forth to feed on anything he wants;
Where mollusks crawl and cuttlefish entwine,
There on crustaceans be content to dine.
What ecstacies in some calcareous valley,
Had I but scales like thee ’tis there we’d dally,
There seek each peak and let no other bliss
Be more enchanting than one salt-sea kiss;
There sit and bask in love, and sigh, and feel
Each other’s fins throb, Continue reading

“If Only” by Nina Farley Wishek

Winter Special:
We are deep in January.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“If Only”

Nina Farley Wishek

If only the snow-drifts were melted away,
And roses were budding and nodding and gay;
If grasses were growing more vivid each day,
And the time were only the season of May;
I think it would help me–my grief might allay.
If only the snow-drifts were melted away.

If only the flowers were bright in the land,
And children were playing in shimmering sand,
So happy and care-free, a rollicking band–
I think I might better my sorrow withstand,
And walk with it bravely, hand laid within hand,
If only the flowers were bright in the land.

“Trapped by a War Party” by Theodore Roosevelt

Regrettable and complex, Roosevelt’s attitude toward Native Americans is reflective of his entire nation’s attitude toward Native Americans.
Here, Roosevelt goads his reluctant friend into relating one of the most desperate struggles of his friend’s life, because the event also happened to be one of the most famous gunfights of the American West.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“Trapped by a War Party”

from The Wilderness Hunter

Theodore Roosevelt

Accidents are common. Men break their collar-bones, arms, or legs by falling when riding at speed over dangerous ground, when cutting cattle or trying to control a stampeded herd, or by being thrown or rolled on by bucking or rearing horses; or their horses, and on rare occasion even they themselves, are gored by fighting steers. Death by storm or in flood, death in striving to master a wild and vicious horse, or in handling maddened cattle, and too often death in brutal conflict with one of his own fellows–any one of these is the not unnatural end of the life of the dweller on the plains or in the mountains.

But a few years ago other risks had to be run from savage beasts, and from the Indians. Continue reading

“How Cowboys Die in North Dakota” by Theodore Roosevelt

“How Cowboys Die in North Dakota”

from The Wilderness Hunter

Theodore Roosevelt

Last spring one of the Three-Seven riders, a magnificent horseman, was killed on the round-up near Belfield, his horse bucking and falling on him. “It was accounted a plumb gentle horse too,” said my informant, “only it sometimes sulked and acted a little mean when it was cinched up behind.” The unfortunate rider did not know of this failing of the “plumb gentle horse,” and as soon as he was in the saddle it threw itself over sideways with a great bound, and he fell on his head, and never spoke again.

Such accidents are too common in the wild country to attract very much attention; the men accept them with grim quiet, as inevitable in such lives as theirs–lives that are harsh and narrow in their toil and their pleasure Continue reading

“Hunting a Horse-thief” by Theodore Roosevelt

An ethical dilemma on the wild frontier.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“Hunting a Horse-thief”

from The Wilderness Hunter

Theodore Roosevelt

Early one spring, now nearly ten years ago, I was out hunting some lost horses. They had strayed from the range three months before, and we had in a roundabout way heard that they were ranging near some broken country, where a man named Brophy had a ranch, nearly fifty miles from my own. When I started thither the weather was warm, but the second day out it grew colder and a heavy snowstorm came on. Fortunately I was able to reach the ranch all right, finding there one of the sons of a Little Beaver ranchman, and a young cowpuncher belonging to a Texas outfit, whom I knew very well. After putting my horse into the corral and throwing him down some hay I strode into the low hut, made partly of turf and partly of cottonwood logs, and speedily warmed myself before the fire. We had a good warm supper, of bread, potatoes, fried venison, and tea. My two companions grew very sociable and began to talk freely over their pipes. There were two bunks one above the other. I climbed into the upper, leaving my friends, who occupied the lower, sitting together on a bench recounting different incidents in the careers of themselves and their cronies during the winter that had just passed. Soon one of them asked the other what had become of a certain horse, Continue reading

“The Gray Wolf” by George MacDonald

Walpurgis Night Special:
It’s Walpurgisnacht, and everybody enjoys a werewolf story.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“The Gray Wolf”

George MacDonald

One evening-twilight in spring, a young English student, who had wandered northwards as far as the outlying fragments of Scotland called the Orkney and Shetland Islands, found himself on a small island of the latter group, caught in a storm of wind and hail, which had come on suddenly. It was in vain to look about for any shelter; for not only did the storm entirely obscure the landscape, but there was nothing around him save a desert moss.

At length, however, as he walked on for mere walking’s sake, he found himself on the verge of a cliff, and saw, over the brow of it, a few feet below him, a ledge of rock, where he might find some shelter from the blast, which blew from behind. Letting himself down by his hands, he alighted upon something that crunched beneath his tread, and found the bones of many small animals scattered about in front of a little cave in the rock Continue reading

“There Will Come Soft Rains” by Sara Teasdale

ANZAC Day Special:
In commemoration of World War I
All the truth and the bleakness.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“There Will Come Soft Rains”

Sara Teasdale

There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground,
And swallows circling with their shimmering sound;

And frogs in the pool singing at night,
And wild plum trees in tremulous white;

Robins will wear their feathery fire,
Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire;

And not one will know of the war, not one
Will care at last when it is done.

Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree,
If mankind perished utterly;

And Spring herself when she woke at dawn
Would scarcely know that we were gone.