Adalbert is a forum for me, to post ephemera, photography, poetry, occasional travel notes, and various spontaneous motions. Cover photo: Parsonage where my great-grandfather spent his early years. Taken near Liegnitz, Silesia, ca. 1870. The "xothique" portion of the web address is a nod to Clark Ashton Smith's fictional continent of Zothique.
Over several previous months this year I read William Hope Hodgson'sThe Night Land (1912). As with M.P. Shiel's The Purple Cloud, of which I wrote in a previous post, The Night Land possesses a framework in which the central story is presented as a series of dreams or visions. The protracted march of the readers's eyes, brain, and hands through the lengthy book (if you read it in analog form, as I did) mimics the vastness of the desolate, cryptic landscapes, as the hero voyages across a future sun-less earth (someone once made a similar parallel with War and Peace). No matter how many times I read many of the sentences, I had difficulty grasping their meaning. "But of you I ask kind understanding, and to call me not a thing of conceit because that I did understand; for truly I knew my faults, even so well as you, that do know all of my going" (p. 280). Is there a clearer way to phrase this? Repetitions in language and incident abound. The quote, which I have referenced before, from Dr. Johnson, about Paradise Lost, also applies to Hodgson's work: "None ever wished it longer than it is." The Night Land is at the same time a stunning and brooding evocation of a moribund planet. Certain descriptions of the monsters and forces who haunt the Night Land, the hypnotic repetition of words such as "Monstruwacans," the suggestiveness of the journey "Down the mighty slope," the strange implications of multiple lives lived simultaneously, the Ballard-like ruin of a flying machine, all demonstrate Hodgson's curious genius.
Out of the amniotic past seeped spring summer wind,
inchoate in the breath of a comet. As if from outside machinery I observe myself
in the late 1960s in our backyard, blurred lawn at my feet. My sister bore a
stick, approaching the hive of hornets, in memory in a tree, honeycomb
sibilant, bugs rattling in crawlspaces, compound eyes with bad vision, venom
darning all. A swollen limb, scoriac and teeming, held the nest of the insects,
a root skinned to the teeth, white paper like britches.
Once Dad came home when I was in a nap – he offered
me a red hand in a toy globe, a hypnagogic trinket.
“Don’t hit the tree.We’re not supposed to hit the tree,” my mandible working. As sure as the
seasons fly through space, my sister marched on the nest and whacked.Sting marks reddening as the beasts erupted,
we screamed toward the sliding door.
I took the above photograph in August 1975 in Yellowstone Park, one of the first photos I ever took. The scene looks a little bit like ancient Mars painted by John Martin.
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