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Notes on ''Celephais''

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1. ''In a dream it was also that he came by his name of Kuranes, for when awake he was called by another name.'' – In ''The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath'' we meet Kuranes again (King Kuranes, who in Carter’s latter dreams had reigned alternately in the rose-crystal Palace of the Seventy Delights at Celephaïs and in the turreted cloud-castle of sky-floating Serannian.... a monarch in the land of dream).


''He had been dreaming of the house where he was born; the great stone house covered with ivy, where thirteen generations of his ancestors had lived, and where he had hoped to die.'' This house is identical with the Trevor Towers alluded to later in the text, see ''Kadath'' (There he dwelt in a grey Gothic manor-house of stone looking on the sea, and tried to think it was ancient Trevor Towers, where he was born and where thirteen generations of his forefathers had first seen the light.)


There is a parallel between Kuranes and Lovecraft himself – illustrated in the following quotation from a letter by H.P.L. :  When I was 14 my grandfather died; and in the financial chaos ensuing, my birthplace had to be sold. This dual deprivation gave me a tinge of melancholy which had hard work wearing off; for I have very strong geographical attachments, and worshiped every inch of the rambling house and park-like grounds and quaint foundations and shadowy stable where my youth had been spent. It was long my hope to buy back the home "when I became rich" - but before many years I saw that I utterly lack the acquisitive instincts and ability needful for monetary success.


Commercialism and I can't get on speaking terms, and since that gloomy year of 1904 my history has been one of increasing constriction and retrenchment.


Both Kuranes and Lovecraft are gentlemen deprived of their birthright, reduced to shabby-genteel poverty, but possessing an intense yearning for the old beauties of memory and imaginative association; as well as a fine, supremely sensitive mind to appreciate them in all their shades of impression, of light and dark, of sorrow and joy, of yearning melancholy and exulting remembrance.


2. ''Caparisoned'' – of a horse, decked with cloth ''garments'', often worn over padding or even full armour (''barding''), often covering the entire horse  and equivalent to the surcoat of an armoured knight.


3. ''Celephaïs in the Valley of Ooth-Nargai beyond the Tanarian Hills'' – the city of Celephaïs is alluded  passim in ''Kadath'', at least once by the form given – cf. Homeric epithet, the repetition of a phrase of weight and dignity again and again.


4. ''the Tanarian Hills'' – cf. ''Kadath'' (Then rose the green gentle hills behind the town, with their groves and gardens of asphodels and the small shrines and cottages upon them; and far in the background the purple ridge of the Tanarians, potent and mystical, behind which lay forbidden ways into the waking world and toward other regions of dream.)


5. ''ginkgo trees'' – Ginkgo or Gingko biloba, the maidenhair tree, a primitive and elegant plant and a ''living fossil'',  the sole surviving member of the division Ginkgophyta.


6. ''Mount Aran'' – cf. ''Kadath'' (there loomed up ahead the snowy peak of Aran)


7. ''the orchid-wreathed priests told him that there is no time in Ooth-Nargai, but only perpetual youth.'' – cf.  the following passage in ''Kadath'': Ever new seemed this deathless city of vision, for here time has no power to tarnish or destroy. As it has always been is still the turquoise of Nath-Horthath, and the eighty orchid-wreathed priests are the same who builded it ten thousand years ago. Shining still is the bronze of the great gates, nor are the onyx pavements ever worn or broken. And the great bronze statues on the walls look down on merchants and camel drivers older than fable, yet without one grey hair in their forked beards.


8. ''the Cerenerian Sea'' – In ''Kadath'', Randolph Carter first tries to take a galleon from Thran to Celephaïs across the Cerenerian Sea, but is seized by the night-gaunts. Latterly he comes to the ''thousand gilded spires'' of Thran and successfully takes ship thither (Two nights and two days the galleon sailed over the Cerenerian Sea, sighting no land and speaking but one other vessel. Then near sunset of the second day there loomed up ahead the snowy peak of Aran with its gingko-trees swaying on the lower slopes, and Carter knew that they were come to the land of Ooth-Nargai and the marvellous city of Celephaïs.)


9. ''Serannian'' – the cloud-city of Serannian is alluded to passim in ''Kadath'' as a part of the domain of King Kuranes, (e.g. the marble cloud-city of Serannian, that lies in ethereal space beyond where the sea meets the sky).


10 ''the high-priest not to be described, which wears a yellow silken mask over its face and dwells all alone in a prehistoric stone monastery on the cold desert plateau of Leng.'' – the high-priest not to be described and the hideous plateau of Leng occur passim in ''Kadath'', (e.g. This man was reputed to trade with the horrible stone villages on the icy desert plateau of Leng, which no healthy folk visit and whose evil fires are seen at night from afar. He was even rumoured to have dealt with that high-priest not to be described, which wears a yellow silken mask over its face and dwells all alone in a prehistoric stone monastery.). I refer to this as the dream-Leng.


In ''The Hound''  allusion is made to ''the corpse eating cult of inaccessible Leng, in Central Asia''. In ''The Whisperer in Darkness'' Leng is given as a name with ''hideous connexions''  and again in a ritual in honour of Shub-Niggurath, alluding to ''the gifts of the men of Leng''. I refer to this as the east-Leng.


In ''At the Mountains of Madness'' the east-Leng is alluded to, but it is also suggested that the Antarctic plateau may be the plateau of Leng (I felt, too, another wave of uneasy consciousness of Archaean mythical resemblances; of how disturbingly this lethal realm corresponded to the evilly famed plateau of Leng in the primal writings. Mythologists have placed Leng in Central Asia; but the racial memory of man—or of his predecessors—is long, and it may well be that certain tales have come down from lands and mountains and temples of horror earlier than Asia and earlier than any human world we know.)


In ''The Horror in the Museum'' (ghostwritten or revised by Lovecraft for Hazel Heald),  reference is made to ''Dhol chants attributed to malign and non-human Leng''. It is unsure whether the Asian Leng, the Antarctic Leng or the dream-Leng is referred to. 


Even assuming I had the required data, I would be ill inclined to embark on a programme of systematisation of the Plateau of Leng – both because it gains immeasurably in horror as a dim whisper of evil, and as I believe Lovecraft was not a  world-builder, but rather an artist concerned first and last with atmospheres of fear – all else is secondary and freely malleable and adaptable to artistic effect.


11. ''Hasheesh'' – Arabic ''hay, dried herb'', applied to the leaves of the Indian hemp plant (Cannabis sativa forma indica, or more loosely C. sativa), so dried for smoking. Also applied to the more powerfully intoxicating resin secreted by the glandular trichomes (hollow extrusions of the cell-wall of the epidermis-cells, rather akin to very fine tubes)  of C. sativa forma indica, also smoked, ritually or otherwise, among the Arabs, in the Indian subcontinent and generally in the East. It was known in the United States at least as early as 1857, principally in the latter sense, in ''The Hasheesh Eater'' by F.H. Ludlow, a kind of analogue to the ''Confessions'' of de Quincey.


12. ''[Hasheesh] once sent him to a part of space where form does not exist, but where glowing gases study the secrets of existence. And a violet-coloured gas told him that this part of space was outside what he had called infinity. The gas had not heard of planets and organisms before, but identified Kuranes merely as one from the infinity where matter, energy, and gravitation exist.'' – this is alluded to in ''Kadath'' (He [Kuranes] had learned much of the Other Gods in distant parts of space, especially in that region where form does not exist, and coloured gases study the innermost secrets. The violet gas S’ngac had told him terrible things of the crawling chaos Nyarlathotep, and had warned him never to approach the central void where the daemon-sultan Azathoth gnaws hungrily in the dark.)


13. ''Innsmouth'' – not the notorious town upon the Manuxet, but an invented English village – perhaps that through which  Kuranes stole in his dreams of his childhood home ( It was moonlight, and he had stolen out into the fragrant summer night, through the gardens, down the terraces, past the great oaks of the park, and along the long white road to the village. The village seemed very old, eaten away at the edge like the moon which had commenced to wane, and Kuranes wondered whether the peaked roofs of the small houses hid sleep or death. In the streets were spears of long grass, and the window-panes on either side were either broken or filmily staring. ) and for which he mourns in ''Kadath''.




It ought to be noted there is no happiness for Kuranes, for though he reigns in Celephaïs and Serannian, we learn in ''Kadath'' he finds neither peace nor satisfaction in the Oriental pomp of a god-potentate in the lands of dream: 


He could no more find content in those places, but had formed a mighty longing for the English cliffs and downlands of his boyhood; where in little dreaming villages England’s old songs hover at evening behind lattice windows, and where grey church towers peep lovely through the verdure of distant valleys. He could not go back to these things in the waking world because his body was dead; but he had done the next best thing and dreamed a small tract of such countryside in the region east of the city, where meadows roll gracefully up from the sea-cliffs to the foot of the Tanarian Hills. There he dwelt in a grey Gothic manor-house of stone looking on the sea, and tried to think it was ancient Trevor Towers, where he was born and where thirteen generations of his forefathers had first seen the light. And on the coast nearby he had built a little Cornish fishing village with steep cobbled ways, settling therein such people as had the most English faces, and seeking ever to teach them the dear remembered accents of old Cornwall fishers. And in a valley not far off he had reared a great Norman Abbey whose tower he could see from his window, placing around it in the churchyard grey stones with the names of his ancestors carved thereon, and with a moss somewhat like Old England’s moss. For though Kuranes was a monarch in the land of dream, with all imagined pomps and marvels, splendours and beauties, ecstacies and delights, novelties and excitements at his command, he would gladly have resigned forever the whole of his power and luxury and freedom for one blessed day as a simple boy in that pure and quiet England, that ancient, beloved England which had moulded his being and of which he must always be immutably a part


...Kuranes, Lord of Ooth-Nargai and the Sky around Serannian, sat pensive in a chair by the window looking on his little sea-coast village and wishing that his old nurse would come in and scold him because he was not ready for that hateful lawn-party at the vicar’s, with the carriage waiting and his mother nearly out of patience.


I have quoted this passage at such length as it is some of the very finest of Lovecraft's prose – gentle poignancy and a deep love of dear remembered scenes of old, and of the nonsense of gaudy, garish happiness and the vileness of existence, even as a lord of dream, there is only the melancholy pleasure of regret, in all its shades of sweetness, the dear gay memories of childhood (even I,  have sun-dappled lawns and smooth-boled trees and my aunt in green velvet, smelling of dust, and scent, and her beloved cigarettes, different shades and tints of groves of memories I walk), now violet-tinged with sadness, now weepingly joyful, now hopelessly yearning, and drawn into a regret tortured into an eternity without even oblivion for release.

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While the Kuranes passages in "Kadath" are fine in themselves, I've always felt it unfortunate that they undermine the happy(ish) ending of "Celephaïs". The latter story would stand stronger without the former, IMHO.


In the fourth paragraph of point 10, you have "Arctic" for "Antarctic".

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While the Kuranes passages in "Kadath" are fine in themselves, I've always felt it unfortunate that they undermine the happy(ish) ending of "Celephaïs". The latter story would stand stronger without the former, IMHO.


In the fourth paragraph of point 10, you have "Arctic" for "Antarctic".


Many thanks for the erratum. I politely disagree, but de coloribus et gustibus non est disputandum! I would be interested very much to read a longer post on why -- perhaps melancholy remembering is simply a trait of mine.

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