‘On August 9, we espied the ocean floor, and sent a powerful beam from the searchlight over it. It was a vast undulating plain, mostly covered with seaweed, and strewn with the shells of small mollusks.’
I first got interested in H.P. Lovecraft’s weird fiction when I was in my early teens. Like most readers, I started off reading a volume which contained a selection of his more popular stories. This journey into Arkham horror began with a copy of “Omnibus 3: The Haunter of the Dark” which includes The Rats In The Walls, The Call Of Cthulhu, The Haunter Of The Dark, Pickman’s Model, and The Lurking Fear. These are some of Lovecraft’s most famous tales. (I’ve never forgotten this cover illustration by Tim White!)
Recently, I was looking for some lesser-known gems by the author and I came across this one. It’s called “The Temple” and was published in issue 24 of Weird Tales back in 1925. It is dated as being written in 1920. I read it in the Delphi Classics kindle edition of the Complete Works of H.P. Lovecraft, which I highly recommend.
The Temple (1920) by H. P. Lovecraft
A German U-boat crew finds the dead body of a sailor clinging to their vessel when they surface. In his pocket is a small piece of ivory ‘carved to represent a youth’s head crowned with laurel’. After they toss his body overboard, some of the crew begin to report strange sightings in the water beyond the portholes.
Well, what a surprise! This Lovecraft story is free of his (in)famous purple prose. It’s also well written. There is a tangible sense of wonder as the story unfolds and the U-boat explores deeper parts of the ocean. Lovecraft has created a solid character in the U-boat commander. He is a strongly patriotic German who is proud of his race and approaches the unfolding events with a determined–if rather zealous–logic. Not so his closest companion Kienze who utters this fine quote as he loses his grip on his sanity:
“If I am mad, it is mercy. May the gods pity the man who in his callousness can remain sane to the hideous end!”
Recommended for readers looking for a lesser-known yet entertaining Lovecraft story. Underwater madness awaits!