Friday, November 26, 2010

The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath

Three times Randolph Carter dreamed of the marvelous city, and three times was
he snatched away while still he paused on the high terrace above it. All golden
and lovely it blazed in the sunset, with walls, temples, colonnades and arched
bridges of veined marble, silver-basined fountains of prismatic spray in broad
squares and perfumed gardens, and wide streets marching between delicate trees
and blossom-laden urns and ivory statues in gleaming rows; while on steep
northward slopes climbed tiers of red roofs and old peaked gables harbouring
little lanes of grassy cobbles. h was a fever of the gods, a fanfare of supernal
trumpets and a clash of immortal cymbals. Mystery hung about it as clouds about
a fabulous unvisited mountain; and as Carter stood breathless and expectant on
that balustraded parapet there swept up to him the poignancy and suspense of
almost-vanished memory, the pain of lost things and the maddening need to place
again what once had been an awesome and momentous place.

He knew that for him its meaning must once have been supreme; though in what
cycle or incarnation he had known it, or whether in dream or in waking, he could
not tell. Vaguely it called up glimpses of a far forgotten first youth, when
wonder and pleasure lay in all the mystery of days, and dawn and dusk alike
strode forth prophetic to the eager sound of lutes and song, unclosing fiery
gates toward further and surprising marvels. But each night as he stood on that
high marble terrace with the curious urns and carven rail and looked off over
that hushed sunset city of beauty and unearthly immanence he felt the bondage of
dream's tyrannous gods; for in no wise could he leave that lofty spot, or
descend the wide marmoreal fights flung endlessly down to where those streets of
elder witchery lay outspread and beckoning.

When for the third time he awakened with those flights still undescended and
those hushed sunset streets still untraversed, he prayed long and earnestly to
the hidden gods of dream that brood capricious above the clouds on unknown
Kadath, in the cold waste where no man treads. But the gods made no answer and
shewed no relenting, nor did they give any favouring sign when he prayed to them
in dream, and invoked them sacrificially through the bearded priests of Nasht
and Kaman-Thah, whose cavern-temple with its pillar of flame lies not far from
the gates of the waking world. It seemed, however, that his prayers must have
been adversely heard, for after even the first of them he ceased wholly to
behold the marvellous city; as if his three glimpses from afar had been mere
accidents or oversights, and against some hidden plan or wish of the gods.
At length, sick with longing for those glittering sunset streets and cryptical

hill lanes among ancient tiled roofs, nor able sleeping or waking to drive them
from his mind, Carter resolved to go with bold entreaty whither no man had gone
before, and dare the icy deserts through the dark to where unknown Kadath,
veiled in cloud and crowned with unimagined stars, holds secret and nocturnal
the onyx castle of the Great Ones.