7/9/2005

Pulp literatura: Antzinako jendea




Some time ago we proudly published in this blog the first (as far as we know) translation to Spanish of a relatively unknown short story by H.P. Lovecraft involving Vascones, Pompaelo and of course, unspeakable horrors Man-was-not-meant-to-discover (but usually did at his peril). Now, thanks to my own relentless insistence and the literary skills of our friend Odei ("cloud", an ancient Basque God of skies... or something close to that) it is the Basque version of this tale we are offering. English original follows afterwards.


Enjoy and tremble.




Pulp literatura: Antzinako jendea

H. P. Lovecraft-en ipuina, euskaraz argitaratugabea

1927ko azaroaren 3an, ostegunean, "Melmoth-i" (Donald Wandrei-ri) idatzitako gutunekoa

Ilunabar gartsu batean gertatu zen Pompaelum probintzi-hiri txikian, Pirinioen oinetan, Hispania Citeriorren. Urtea errepublika garaiko azkenetakoa bide zen, zeren probintzia oraindik senatu-prokonsul batek gobernatzen baitzuen eta ez Augustusen legatu pretorioak; eguna azaroko kalenden aurretiko lehena zen. Mendiak arrosa eta gorri jaikitzen ziren hiritik iparraldera, eta bitartean, eguzkia, hilzorian, mistiko eta gorri distiratzen zen hautseztatutako foruko igeltsuaren eta harri zakarrezko eraikin berrien gainean eta ekialdera zenbait distantziatara zegoen zirkuaren oholtzaren gainean. Hiritar talde batzuk --bekoki garbiko kolono erromatarrak eta adats kizkurreko erromatartutako bertakoak, denak berdin artilezko toga merkeez jantzita, eta, han-hemenka, kaskodun legionariak eta auzoko bizardun baskoi gutxi batzuk, beren janzki zakarrekin-- firin-faran zebiltzan zolatutako kale bakanetan eta foruan, zenbait egonezin adierazgaitz eta zehazgabe batek mugituta.Ni, L. Celius Rufus, ohaska batetik jaitsi berri nintzen, Calagurrisetik, Iberosez bestaldetik, hegoaldetik, iliriar ohaskaketari talde batek laster ekarrita. Probintzi-kuestorea nintzen aldetik, P. Escribonius Libon prokontsulak deitu izan ninduen, nor egun batzuk lehenago Tarracumetik heldu baitzen. Legionariak Hamabigarren Legioaren bosgarren kohortekoak ziren, Sextus Aselius tribuno militarraren agindupean. Eskualdeko legatua ere, Cneus Balbutius, Calagurrisetik, bere egoitza iraunkorretik, etorri zen halaber.Bilera hura mendietan garatzen ari zen izugarrikeriak eragin zuen. Hiritarrek, izututa, Calagurriseko kohorte baten agerpena eskatu zuten. Udazkeneko sasoi beldurgarria zen; orduan mendietako jende basatia zeremonia ikaragarrietarako maneatzen zen, zeinen zurrumurruak baino ez baitziren herrietara heltzen. Mendiez haratago bizi zen jendea zen, noren hizkuntza ebakia baskoiak ere ulertzeko gai ez baitziren. Gutxitan ikusten ziren; baina noizean behin beren mezulari txikiak, azal horiskakoak eta begiurratuak (eskiten antzekoak), igortzen zituzten, merkatariekin, keinuz, tratatzeko, eta udaberri eta udazkenero beren erritu zitalak ospatzen zituzten mendi gailurretan. Aldareetako uluek eta suek ikara eragiten zuten herrixketan. Beti data berberetan, maiatzako eta azaroko kalenden aurretiko gauean. Pertsona batzuk desagertu egiten ziren gau haien aurretik hain zuzen eta ez zen besterik jakiten haiei buruz. Eta ez omen zuten artzain eta nekazari guztiek antzinako jendea gaizki begiratzen, eta etxola bat baino gehiago hutsik geratzen omen zen akelarre ikaragarri haien ospakizunean.Urte hartan ikara handiagoa zen, zeren populazioak bazekien antzinako jendearen haserrea Ponpaelumen aurka bideratuko zela. Hiru hilabete lehenago, bost tratulari begiurratu txiki mendietatik jaitsi eta haietako hiru hilda suertatu ziren merkatuko liskar batean. Bizirik irten zirenak beren mendietara itzuli ziren isilik eta udazken honetan ez zen pertsona bat ere desagertu izan. Mehatxua zelatan zegoen itxurazko segurtasunaren atzean, ez baitzirudien litekeena bat-batean antzinako jendeak akelarre odolgabeak ospatzerik. Ederregia zen egia izateko, eta hiritarrak beldurtuta zeuden.Gau askotan danborrak entzun ziren mendietan eta, azkenik, Tiberius Anneus Estilpus zinegotzia (erdi bertakoa bera) Calagurrisera igorri zuten Balbutiusi kohorte bat eskatzera akelarrearen ospakizuna zapaltzeko. Balbutiusek artagabeki errefusatu egin zuen eskaera, hiritarren beldurrak funtsagabeak zirela argudiatuz, eta gainera, mendietako jendearen errituak ez zirela Erromaren kontua hiritar erromatarren beraien kontrako mehatxurik ez zekarten bitartean. Nik neuk, Balbutiusen lagun mina, neure ezadostasuna azaldu nuen, debekatutako arte beltzak sakonki ikasi nituela esetsiz eta, nire ustez, antzinako jendea hiria izengabeko izugarrikeriez madarikatzeko gauza zela, eta hiri hura, azken finean, gure aberkide batzuk bizi ziren erromatar asentamendua zela. Igorritako zinegotziaren beraren ama, Helvia, jatorri garbiko erromatarra zen eta M. Helvius Cinnaren alaba, lurralde hauetara Escipioren armadarekin heldu zena. Berarekin ados, gutun bat bidali nion prokontsulari esklabu batez, Antipatros izeneko greziar txiki eta bizkorraz, eta Escriboniusek azkenik nire erreguari jaramon egin zion, Balbutiusi bere bosgarren kohortea, Aseliusen agindupean, Pompaelusera bidaltzeko aginduz, azaroko kalenden bezperako ilunabarrean mendietara abiatzeko eta, gupidarik gabe, topa zitzakeen izengabeko orgiak zapaltzeko eta, azkenik, hartutako preso guztiak Tarracusera, propretorearen epaitegira, bidaltzeko. Hain hitz gogorrez idatzi izan nuen prokontsularentzako neure gutuna, non erabat interesatu baitzen, halako izugarrikeria hark berak ikertzea erabakiz.


Honela joan zen Pompaelumera bere litoreekin eta jarraigo osoarekin; han neurri handiz harritzeko eta kezkatzeko adina zurrumurru entzun zuen, eta honela akelarreak behin betiko deuseztatzeko iritzian berbaieztatu zen. Ikerketa hura gaia sakonki ikasi zuen norbaitekin egiteko irrikan, Aseliusen kohortea laguntzeko agindu zidan. Balbutius ere etorri zen bere aurkako iritzia entzunarazteko, zeren zinez sinesten baitzuen edozein neurri militar gogorrek egonezin sentimendu arriskutsua sortuko zuela baskoien artean, bai finkatuetan, bai tribukideetan.Beraz, han geunden, mendien arteko ilunabar misteriotsu hartan: Escribonius Libon agurea, bere toga pretestuaz jantzita, argi urrekara distiratsu beraren burusoilean eta belatz-aurpegi zimurtuan; Balbutius, bere kasko eta bularreko leinurutsuekin, beraren begitarte bizargabea uzkurtuta, aurkako keinu aproposean; Aselius gaztea, bere greba leunduekin eta nagusitasun airearekin; eta hiritar, legionari, bertako, nekazari, litore, esklabu eta otseinen masa jakingura. Ni neu ere toga arrunta janzten nuen, eta ez ninduen ñabardura edo ezaugarri batek ere bereizten besteengandik. Eta, nonnahi, ikara hedatzen zen. Hiritarrak eta nekazariak nekez ausartzen ziren ozen mintzatzera eta Libonen jarraigoko gizonak, bertan astebete eman izan zutenak, neurri batez izu esanezin hartaz kutsatu izan ziren nonbait. Escribonius bera ere kezka handi aire batek hartu zuen, eta etorri berri guztion ahotsek desegokitasun nabarmeneko kutsua hartzen zuten, hildakoen saindutegi batean edo jainko mistiko baten tenpluan bageunde bezala.Pretorioan sartu ginen eta batzar garrantzitsua izan genuen. Balbutiusek bere eragozpenak aurkeztu zituen, Aseliusek lagunduta, nork, antza, nola bertakoak erabat mezprezatu, hala beraiek zirikatzea zentzu gutxikotzat jotzen baitzuen. Bi militarren ustez, zuhurragoa zen ezer ez egiteagatik kolono eta bertako zibilizatuen gutxiengoaren ezinikusiari aurre egitea, haien erritu gorrotagarriak debekatzeagatik tribukide eta nekazarien gehiengo posiblearenari baino.Nik, neure aldetik, ekiteko neure eskaerak berretsi nituen eta neure burua eskaini nuen kohortea laguntzeko erabaki zitekeen edozein espediziotan. Neure iritzia adierazi nuen, barbaro baskoiak, gutxienez, iskanbilatsuak eta fidagaitzak direla, eta kasu zehatz honetan har genezakeen erabakia gora behera, haiekiko gatazka saihestezina izango zela lehenago edo geroago; gainera, iraganean ez ziren agertu izan arriskutsutzat gure legioetarako eta, beste aldetik, ez neritzon egoki Herri Erromatarren ordezkariek barbaroen interferentziak onartzeari justiziak eta Errepublikaren prestigioak erantzun aproposa eskatzen zuten kontu batean. Gainera, probintzia baten kudeaketa zuzena lehenbizi populazioaren estratu zibilizatuaren segurtasunean eta borondate onean zetzan. Beraien bizkar zegoen bertako merkataritza eta oparotasuna, eta beraien zainetan gure geure italiar odolaren kopuru handia zebilen. Oro har gutxiengo baziren ere, elementu egonkorra ziren, noren fideltasunaz fida baikintezkeen eta noren lankidetzak probintzia eta Senatu eta Herri Erromatarraren arteko loturarik estuenak ezartzen baitzituen. Hiritar erromatarrei beharreko babesa bermatzea, beharra ez ezik, aukera ere bazen, (eta hemen begirada sarkastikoa bidali nien Balbutius eta Aseliusi) zenbait arazo eta urduritasunagatik eta Calagurriseko kanpamenduko jokoa eta oilar-ausken etenaldi labur batengatik ere. Neure ikasketek ez zidaten zalantza izpirik uzten Pompaelo eta bere biztanleak zeuden arriskua erreala zela. Pergamino siriar eta egiptoar ugari irakurri izan nituen, baita Etruriako hiri misteriotsuetakoak ere; Diana Aricinaren sazerdote ankerrarekin solasean izan nintzen bere tenpluan, Nemorense antziraren ertzeko basoetan. Baziren benetan akelarreetan mendietatik jaistaraz zitezkeen madarikazio ikaragarriak, Herri Erromatarraren lurraldeen mugen barruan izan beharko ez zuketen madarikazioak. Gainera, A. Postumus kontsularen garaian bakanaletan parte hartzeagatik hainbat hiritar erromatar exekutatu ziren, oroitzapen iraunkorreko kontua Bakanaleen gainean senatukontsultuan, brontzez grabatuta eta guztien begibistan, eta ez zegokien exekutatzaile haien ondorengoei halako orgiak onartzea. Garaiz aurre eginda, errituen progresioak pilum erromatarraren gaitasunaren gaindiko zerbait deitu ahal izan aurretik, akelarre bat ez zen kohorte baten kapazitatearen gaindiko mehatxua. Nahikoa izango zen partehartzaile aktiboak atxilotzea, hainbat ikusleren barkamenak bertakoek zenti zezaketen samina leuntzeko moduan.
Laburbilduz: nola printzipioek, hala politikak eskatzen zuten ekintza erabakiorra; eta ez nuen zalantzan jartzen Publius Escriboniusek, bere beharrei eta Herri Erromatarraren duintasunari adi, kohortea nik lagunduta bidaltzeko plan hau onartuko zuela Balbutius eta Aseliusen eragozpenengatik ere, nor kontu honi buruz, erromatarrak baino gehiago, probintziarrak bezala mintzatzen baitziren.

Eguzkia orain oso baxu zegoen ortzemugaren gainean eta zurrumurruz betetako hiri hark enkantamendu gaizto eta irreal batez estalita zirudien. Une hartan P. Escriboniusek nire hitzak bere onespenaz berretsi zituen eta behin-behinean kohortera esleitu ninduen primipilus zenturioi mailaz; Balbutius eta Aseliusek baietsi egin zuten, bigarrenak, baina, lehenak baino grazia handiagoz. Ilunabarra udazkeneko mendi basatien gainean erakan zegoen bitartean, urrunetik danbor arrotzen jotze erritmotsu eta izugarria irten zen melodia ikaragarria sortuz. Legionari batzuek beren egonezina agertu zuten, baina agindu zorrotz andana batek berriro ordena ezarri zuen beraien artean eta, ondorioz, hortik gutxira kohorte osoa desfilatzen zebilen zirkutik ekialderako lautadan. Bai Libon, bai Balbutius, tropa laguntzeko tematu ziren, baina zailtasunik handiena mendi bideetarantz eramango gintuen bertako gidari bat lortzea izan zen. Azkenik, Vercelius izeneko gazte bat, jatorri garbiko erromatarren semea, gutxienez mendien oinetaraino laguntzeko onartu zuen. Iluntzean hasi genuen martxa, ilberriaren zilar koloreko igitai mehea dardarka gure ezkerretako basoen gainean. Gehien urduritzen gintuena akelarrea nola edo hala ospatuko zela zen. Kohortearen etorreraren berria mendietara heldu behar izan zen eta, behin-betiko erabakirik gabe ere, gure etorreraren zurrumurruak asaldagarriak izan beharko zatekeen. Eta hala ere han zeuden danbor gaizto haiek, akelarrearen partehartzaileek arduragabe agertzeko arrazoirik balute bezala, Herri Erromatarreren indarrak beraien aurka bideratuko ziren edo ez. Doinua indartu egin zen mendien arteko pasabide bat gurutzatu genuen orduko, gure bide estuaren bi aldeetan malda zuhaitsuak eta gure zuzi dardartien argira fantasiazko itxurak hartzen zituzten zuhaitzak zeudelarik. Talde osoa oinez zebilen, Libon, Balbutius, Aselius, bizpahiru zenturioi eta neu izan ezik, eta azkenean bidexka hain estu eta malkartsu bilakatu zen, non geure zaldiak alde batera utzi behar izan baikenituen, erretagoardian hamar gizoneko talde bat uzten beraiek gordetzeko, nahiz eta halako gau izugarrian lapurrik ekitera ausartzea oso litekeena ez iruditu. Noizbehinka alboko basoetan izkutatzen zen forma bat ikusiten genuela iruditzen zitzaigun eta, ordu erdiko igoeraren ostean, bidearen zakartasunak eta estutasunak talde osoaren aurrerapena (guztira hirurehun lagunena baino gehiagorena) lar lan neketsu eta zail bihurtu zuten. Orduan, bat-batean eta izugarri, behetiko doinu ikaragarri bat entzun genuen. Lotutako zaldiak ziren: garrasi egin zuten, ez irrintzirik, garrasi baizik... eta ez zen han argirik distiratzen, ezta gertakizun horren zergatia azalduko zigun giza doinurik entzun ere. Une berean suak piztu ziren inguruko tontor guztietan, izugarrikeria gure aurrean zein atzean zelatan zegoela zirudielarik. Gure gidaria, Vercelius gaztea, bilatu orduko, murru bat besterik ez genuen topatu odol putzu baten erdian. Eskuan ezpata labur bat zeukan, D. Vibulanus zenturioiordearen gerritik hartuta; beraren aurpegiak hain espresio ikaratua erakusten zuen, non ikustean beterano gogortuenak ere zurbildu baitziren. Antza, bere burua hil zuen zaldiak garrasika hasi zirenean... bera, eskualde honetan jaio eta bizi izan zena eta gizonek mendi haiek aipatzen zituztenean zeri buruz marmaratzen zuten bazekiena. Zuzi guztiak itzaltzen hasi ziren eta izututako legionarien oihuak lotutako zaldien garrasi etengabeekin nahasi ziren. Airea nabarmen hoztu zen, azaroko gau batean ohikoa dena baino askoz areago, eta haize izugarriek irabiatuta zirudien, nire irudimenean hegal erraldoiek eraginda. Kohortea geldi eta isilik zegoen eta, zuziak amatatzen ziren bitartean, neure irudimenean fantasiazko siluetak zirena ikusi ahal izan nuen zeruan Esne Bidearen argitasunagatik Perseus, Casiopea, Cefeus eta Cignusen zehar. Orduan, bat-batean, izar guztiak ezagertu egin ziren ortzitik, baita Deneb eta Vega distiratsuak gure aurrean eta Altair eta Fomalhaut bakartiak atzean ere. Zuziak erabat itzaltzen ziren bitartean, gailurretako su zital eta izugarriek baino ez zuen argitzen ikaratutako kohortea, beraren gainean jauzten ari ziren izengabeko piztien itxura erogarri eta erraldoiak marraztuz, kanpaniar sorgin edo frigiar sazerdotek bere kontakizunik ausarteen eta isilenetan inoiz marmaratu ere egin ez zituen piztiak. Gizon eta zaldien ikara oihuen gainean deabruzko danbor jotze hura jaiki zen orduan, kontzientzia gaiztoko haize izoztu bat tontor debekatu haietatik jaitsi eta gizon guztien inguruan kiribiltzen zen bitartean, harik eta kohorte osoa iluntasunean debatitzen eta garrasika egon zen arte, Laokoon eta bere semeen patua imitatzen bezala. Escribonius agureak baino ez zirudien etsita. Garrasi haien artean oraindik nire belarrietan durunditzen diren hitz batzuk marmartzen ari zen: "Malitia vetus... malitia vetus est... venit... tandem venit..." (1)Eta orduan esnatu egin nintzen. Urteetan izan dudan ametsik biziena izan zen, denbora luzean alde batera utzitako eta ahaztutako inkontzienteko usinetatik irtenda. Kohortearen patuaren gainean ez du datuk iraun, baina hiria behinzat salbatu egin zen, zeren entziklopediek Pompaelum hiriaren orain arteko iraupenaz hitz egiten digute, edo, bere euskarazko izen modernoaz, Iruñearenaz...


Yrs nagusitasun gotikoagatik -

C . IVLIVS . VERVS . MAXIMINVS.

(1) "Antzinako gaizkia... antzinako gaizkia da... gertatu egin zen... azkenik, gertatu egin zen..."


(c) of the translation: Odei





The Very Old Folk
by H. P. Lovecraft
From a letter written to "Melmoth" (Donald Wandrei) on Thursday, November 3, 1927

It was a flaming sunset or late afternoon in the tiny provincial town of Pompelo, at the foot of the Pyrenees in Hispania Citerior. The year must have been in the late republic, for the province was still ruled by a senatorial proconsul instead of a prætorian legate of Augustus, and the day was the first before the Kalends of November. The hills rose scarlet and gold to the north of the little town, and the westering sun shone ruddily and mystically on the crude new stone and plaster buildings of the dusty forum and the wooden walls of the circus some distance to the east. Groups of citizens - broad-browed Roman colonists and coarse-haired Romanised natives, together with obvious hybrids of the two strains, alike clad in cheap woollen togas - and sprinklings of helmeted legionaries and coarse-mantled, black-bearded tribesmen of the circumambient Vascones - all thronged the few paved streets and forum; moved by some vague and ill-defined uneasiness.


I myself had just alighted from a litter, which the Illyrian bearers seemed to have brought in some haste from Calagurris, across the Iberus to the southward. It appeared that I was a provincial quæstor named L. Cælius Rufus, and that I had been summoned by the proconsul, P. Scribonius Libo, who had come from Tarraco some days before. The soldiers were the fifth cohort of the XIIth legion, under the military tribune Sex. Asellius; and the legatus of the whole region, Cn. Balbutius, had also come from Calagurris, where the permanent station was.
The cause of the conference was a horror that brooded on the hills. All the townsfolk were frightened, and had begged the presence of a cohort from Calagurris. It was the Terrible Season of the autumn, and the wild people in the mountains were preparing for the frightful ceremonies which only rumour told of in the towns. They were the very old folk who dwelt higher up in the hills and spoke a choppy language which the Vascones could not understand. One seldom saw them; but a few times a year they sent down little yellow, squint-eyed messengers (who looked like Scythians) to trade with the merchants by means of gestures, and every spring and autumn they held the infamous rites on the peaks, their howlings and altar-fires throwing terror into the villages. Always the same - the night before the Kalends of Maius and the night before the Kalends of November. Townsfolk would disappear just before these nights, and would never be heard of again. And there were whispers that the native shepherds and farmers were not ill-disposed toward the very old folk - that more than one thatched hut was vacant before midnight on the two hideous Sabbaths.


This year the horror was very great, for the people knew that the wrath of the very old folk was upon Pompelo. Three months previously five of the little squint-eyed traders had come down from the hills, and in a market brawl three of them had been killed. The remaining two had gone back wordlessly to their mountains - and this autumn not a single villager had disappeared. There was menace in this immunity. It was not like the very old folk to spare their victims at the Sabbath. It was too good to be normal, and the villagers were afraid.


For many nights there had been a hollow drumming on the hills, and at last the ædile Tib. Annæus Stilpo (half native in blood) had sent to Balbutius at Calagurris for a cohort to stamp out the Sabbath on the terrible night. Balbutius had carelessly refused, on the ground that the villagers' fears were empty, and that the loathsome rites of hill folk were of no concern to the Roman People unless our own citizens were menaced. I, however, who seemed to be a close friend of Balbutius, had disagreed with him; averring that I had studied deeply in the black forbidden lore, and that I believed the very old folk capable of visiting almost any nameless doom upon the town, which after all was a Roman settlement and contained a great number of our citizens. The complaining ædile's own mother Helvia was a pure Roman, the daughter of M. Helvius Cinna, who had come over with Scipio's army. Accordingly I had sent a slave - a nimble little Greek called Antipater - to the proconsul with letters, and Scribonius had heeded my plea and ordered Balbutius to send his fifth cohort, under Asellius, to Pompelo; entering the hills at dusk on the eve of November's Kalends and stamping out whatever nameless orgies he might find - bringing such prisoners as he might take to Tarraco for the next proprætor's court. Balbutius, however, had protested, so that more correspondence had ensued. I had written so much to the proconsul that he had become gravely interested, and had resolved to make a personal inquiry into the horror.


He had at length proceeded to Pompelo with his lictors and attendants; there hearing enough rumours to be greatly impressed and disturbed, and standing firmly by his order for the Sabbath's extirpation. Desirous of conferring with one who had studied the subject, he ordered me to accompany Asellius' cohort - and Balbutius had also come along to press his adverse advice, for he honestly believed that drastic military action would stir up a dangerous sentiment of unrest amongst the Vascones both tribal and settled.


So here we all were in the mystic sunset of the autumn hills - old Scribonius Libo in his toga prætexta, the golden light glancing on his shiny bald head and wrinkled hawk face, Balbutius with his gleaming helmet and breastplate, blue-shaven lips compressed in conscientiously dogged opposition, young Asellius with his polished greaves and superior sneer, and the curious throng of townsfolk, legionaries, tribesmen, peasants, lictors, slaves, and attendants. I myself seemed to wear a common toga, and to have no especially distinguishing characteristic. And everywhere horror brooded. The town and country folk scarcely dared speak aloud, and the men of Libo's entourage, who had been there nearly a week, seemed to have caught something of the nameless dread. Old Scribonius himself looked very grave, and the sharp voices of us later comers seemed to hold something of curious inappropriateness, as in a place of death or the temple of some mystic god.


We entered the prætorium and held grave converse. Balbutius pressed his objections, and was sustained by Asellius, who appeared to hold all the natives in extreme contempt while at the same time deeming it inadvisable to excite them. Both soldiers maintained that we could better afford to antagonise the minority of colonists and civilised natives by inaction, than to antagonise a probable majority of tribesmen and cottagers by stamping out the dread rites.
I, on the other hand, renewed my demand for action, and offered to accompany the cohort on any expedition it might undertake. I pointed out that the barbarous Vascones were at best turbulent and uncertain, so that skirmishes with them were inevitable sooner or later whichever course we might take; that they had not in the past proved dangerous adversaries to our legions, and that it would ill become the representatives of the Roman People to suffer barbarians to interfere with a course which the justice and prestige of the Republic demanded. That, on the other hand, the successful administration of a province depended primarily upon the safety and good-will of the civilised element in whose hands the local machinery of commerce and prosperity reposed, and in whose veins a large mixture of our own Italian blood coursed. These, though in numbers they might form a minority, were the stable element whose constancy might be relied on, and whose cooperation would most firmly bind the province to the Imperium of the Senate and the Roman People. It was at once a duty and an advantage to afford them the protection due to Roman citizens; even (and here I shot a sarcastic look at Balbutius and Asellius) at the expense of a little trouble and activity, and of a slight interruption of the draught-playing and cock-fighting at the camp in Calagurris. That the danger to the town and inhabitants of Pompelo was a real one, I could not from my studies doubt. I had read many scrolls out of Syria and Ægyptus, and the cryptic towns of Etruria, and had talked at length with the bloodthirsty priest of Diana Aricina in his temple in the woods bordering Lacus Nemorensis. There were shocking dooms that might be called out of the hills on the Sabbaths; dooms which ought not to exist within the territories of the Roman People; and to permit orgies of the kind known to prevail at Sabbaths would be but little in consonance with the customs of those whose forefathers, A. Postumius being consul, had executed so many Roman citizens for the practice of the Bacchanalia - a matter kept ever in memory by the Senatus Consultum de Bacchanalibus, graven upon bronze and set open to every eye. Checked in time, before the progress of the rites might evoke anything with which the iron of a Roman pilum might not be able to deal, the Sabbath would not be too much for the powers of a single cohort. Only participants need be apprehended, and the sparing of a great number of mere spectators would considerably lessen the resentment which any of the sympathising country folk might feel. In short, both principle and policy demanded stern action; and I could not doubt but that Publius Scribonius, bearing in mind the dignity and obligations of the Roman People, would adhere to his plan of despatching the cohort, me accompanying, despite such objections as Balbutius and Asellius - speaking indeed more like provincials than Romans - might see fit to offer and multiply.


The slanting sun was now very low, and the whole hushed town seemed draped in an unreal and malign glamour. Then P. Scribonius the proconsul signified his approval of my words, and stationed me with the cohort in the provisional capacity of a centurio primipilus; Balbutius and Asellius assenting, the former with better grace than the latter. As twilight fell on the wild autumnal slopes, a measured, hideous beating of strange drums floated down from afar in terrible rhythm. Some few of the legionarii shewed timidity, but sharp commands brought them into line, and the whole cohort was soon drawn up on the open plain east of the circus. Libo himself, as well as Balbutius, insisted on accompanying the cohort; but great difficulty was suffered in getting a native guide to point out the paths up the mountain. Finally a young man named Vercellius, the son of pure Roman parents, agreed to take us at least past the foothills. We began to march in the new dusk, with the thin silver sickle of a young moon trembling over the woods on our left. That which disquieted us most was the fact that the Sabbath was to be held at all. Reports of the coming cohort must have reached the hills, and even the lack of a final decision could not make the rumour less alarming - yet there were the sinister drums as of yore, as if the celebrants had some peculiar reason to be indifferent whether or not the forces of the Roman People marched against them. The sound grew louder as we entered a rising gap in the hills, steep wooded banks enclosing us narrowly on either side, and displaying curiously fantastic tree-trunks in the light of our bobbing torches. All were afoot save Libo, Balbutius, Asellius, two or three of the centuriones, and myself, and at length the way became so steep and narrow that those who had horses were forced to leave them; a squad of ten men being left to guard them, though robber bands were not likely to be abroad on such a night of terror. Once in a while it seemed as though we detected a skulking form in the woods nearby, and after a half-hour's climb the steepness and narrowness of the way made the advance of so great a body of men - over 300, all told - exceedingly cumbrous and difficult. Then with utter and horrifying suddenness we heard a frightful sound from below. It was from the tethered horses - they had screamed, not neighed, but screamed... and there was no light down there, nor the sound of any human thing, to shew why they had done so. At the same moment bonfires blazed out on all the peaks ahead, so that terror seemed to lurk equally well before and behind us. Looking for the youth Vercellius, our guide, we found only a crumpled heap weltering in a pool of blood. In his hand was a short sword snatched from the belt of D. Vibulanus, a subcenturio, and on his face was such a look of terror that the stoutest veterans turned pale at the sight. He had killed himself when the horses screamed... he, who had been born and lived all his life in that region, and knew what men whispered about the hills. All the torches now began to dim, and the cries of frightened legionaries mingled with the unceasing screams of the tethered horses. The air grew perceptibly colder, more suddenly so than is usual at November's brink, and seemed stirred by terrible undulations which I could not help connecting with the beating of huge wings. The whole cohort now remained at a standstill, and as the torches faded I watched what I thought were fantastic shadows outlined in the sky by the spectral luminosity of the Via Lactea as it flowed through Perseus, Cassiopeia, Cepheus, and Cygnus. Then suddenly all the stars were blotted from the sky - even bright Deneb and Vega ahead, and the lone Altair and Fomalhaut behind us. And as the torches died out altogether, there remained above the stricken and shrieking cohort only the noxious and horrible altar-flames on the towering peaks; hellish and red, and now silhouetting the mad, leaping, and colossal forms of such nameless beasts as had never a Phrygian priest or Campanian grandam whispered of in the wildest of furtive tales. And above the nighted screaming of men and horses that dæmonic drumming rose to louder pitch, whilst an ice-cold wind of shocking sentience and deliberateness swept down from those forbidden heights and coiled about each man separately, till all the cohort was struggling and screaming in the dark, as if acting out the fate of Laocoön and his sons. Only old Scribonius Libo seemed resigned. He uttered words amidst the screaming, and they echo still in my ears. "Malitia vetus - malitia vetus est ... venit ... tandem venit ..."1


And then I waked. It was the most vivid dream in years, drawing upon wells of the subconscious long untouched and forgotten. Of the fate of that cohort no record exists, but the town at least was saved - for encyclopædias tell of the survival of Pompelo to this day, under the modern Spanish name of Pompelona...


Yrs for Gothick Supremacy -
C . IVLIVS . VERVS . MAXIMINVS.

1"Wickness of old ... it is wickeness of old ... happened ... happened at last ..."




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2 comentarios:

hartza dijo...

To think that some people have accussed Lovecraft of racist attitudes...

The Selected Letters Of H.P.Lovecraft was published by Arkham House Publishers in 1965.

Letter #9. Nov. 25, 1915

"I can sympathize with Morton in many ways. I am not an orthodox disciple of religion, but I deem it dangerous to tamper with any system so manifestly beneficial to morality. Whatever may be the faults of the church, it has never yet been surpassed or nearly equalled as an agent for the promotion of virtue. And the same thing applies to our present social system. It has its defects, but is evidently a natural growth, and better fitted to preserve an approximate civilization than any Utopian scheme conjured up over night by some artificially thinking radical. As to races, I deem it most proper to recognise the divisions into which nature has grouped mankind. Science shows us the infinite superiority of the Teutonic Aryan over all others, and it therefore becomes us to see that his ascendancy shall remain undisputed. Any racial mixture can but lower the result.

The Teutonic race, whether in Scandinavia, other parts of the continent, England, or America, the cream of humanity, and its wanton and deliberate adulteration with baser material is even more repulsive to consider than the elaborately staged racial suicide now being conducted, wherein Germanic and Britannic Teutons are striving to annihilate each other instead of uniting against the Mongol-tainted Slav or menacing Oriental.

Sometimes I think of racial combinations as chemical reactions; for instance, I believe that certain stocks have greater assimilative powers than others. The Gallo-Basque stock with Latin infusion, which constitutes the bulk of the French population, is much more receptive to alien blood than is our colder and more Teutonic stock."

silmarillion dijo...

As to races, I deem it most proper to recognise the divisions into which nature has grouped mankind.

Astonishing!!!!