Monday, October 31, 2016

Hallowe'en in a Suburb

Today, this being Halloween, I figured I'd post H.P. Lovecraft's poem Hallowe'en in a Suburb. I post about the Old Gent from Providence quite a bit, sometimes exploring his racism, sometimes poking gentle fun at his tales of terror, which I often find funny because I don't share the hangups which inspired him. At any rate, here is the poem, which is a charming, slightly creepy piece:

The steeples are white in the wild moonlight,
And the trees have a silver glare;
Past the chimneys high see the vampires fly,
And the harpies of upper air,
That flutter and laugh and stare.

For the village dead to the moon outspread
Never shone in the sunset’s gleam,
But grew out of the deep that the dead years keep
Where the rivers of madness stream
Down the gulfs to a pit of dream.

A chill wind weaves thro’ the rows of sheaves
In the meadows that shimmer pale,
And comes to twine where the headstones shine
And the ghouls of the churchyard wail
For harvests that fly and fail.

Not a breath of the strange grey gods of change
That tore from the past its own
Can quicken this hour, when a spectral pow’r
Spreads sleep o’er the cosmic throne
And looses the vast unknown.

So here again stretch the vale and plain
That moons long-forgotten saw,
And the dead leap gay in the pallid ray,
Sprung out of the tomb’s black maw
To shake all the world with awe.

And all that the morn shall greet forlorn,
The ugliness and the pest
Of rows where thick rise the stones and brick,
Shall some day be with the rest,
And brood with the shades unblest.

Then wild in the dark let the lemurs bark,
And the leprous spires ascend;
For new and old alike in the fold
Of horror and death are penn’d,
For the hounds of Time to rend.

As far as suburbs which are becoming synonymous with Halloween, I present to you Sleepy Hollow, New York, a location I also post about from time to time. Sleepy Hollow is the sort of place which would haunt Lovecraft's dreams, the sort of working class village without enough work that has a population which is slightly over half Latino, with many recent immigrant residents. Lovecraft had a fear of the immigrants who were settling in his beloved New England (people like my paternal grandfather's parents, who Lovecraft would probably have characterized as the 'highest quality of Latin sorts, and have viewed their son as someone much like the 'young intelligent, and well-educated' parish priest of The Haunter of the Dark). The same nativist, fear-mongering forces that haunted Lovecraft, who I believe had started questioning many of his racist assumptions toward the end of his too-short life, are at play here in the United States. While the immigrants portrayed as a threat in Lovecraft's day have assimilated well, and now all-too-often join the ranks of modern xenophobes, the fear persists- the 'Other' is a threat to Our Way of Life. Me? Over the years, I have met, worked with, and befriended many immigrants, and have come to appreciate the gifts they bring to the culture of the United States- their values, their work ethic, their additions to the glorious patchwork that is our nation (put a taco truck on every corner, right next to the local pizzerias and Chinese takeout places). Fear is a powerful emotion, as Lovecraft himself put it:

The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown.

The true danger is that fear can drive people to perpetrate horrors. Next week, an individual who has been stoking fear for the last year has a chance, however slim, of gaining an inordinate amount of power, making a truly horrific regime a possibility. For those who have any fear, I implore them to visit Sleepy Hollow, since 1996 at true 'Hallowe'en Suburb'. The immigrants who comprise half of the populace are good people, hardworking people, and even the number one monster of the neighborhood is an immigrant.


Smut Clyde said...

here is the poem, which is a charming, slightly creepy piece:


Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

Because they had another weirdo F&SF writing their lyrics.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

I have quite a few pics from the ol' neighborhood in D.C. I haven't gotten around to putting up.

They've done Halloween up even better than my overly enthusiastic childhood memory ever recalled it.