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‘I Seized Her Veil’
Moon Mockery by Robert E. Howard
Formerly published as ‘As Down I Came,’ reposted here with revisions
Reading from the Horror Stories of Robert E. Howard, 2008, Del Ray, NY, page 42
“I walked in Tara’s Wood one summer night,
And saw, amid the still, star-haunted skies,
A slender moon in silver mist arise,
And hover on the hill as if in fright.
Burning, I seized her veil and held her tight:
An instant all her glow was in my eyes;
Then she was gone, swift as a white bird flies,
And I went down the hill in opal light.
And soon I was aware, as down I came,
That all was strange and new on every side;
Strange people went about me to and fro,
And when I spoke with trembling mine own name
They turned away, but one man said: 'He died
In Tara Wood, a hundred years ago.'"
Moon Mockery is as close to a straight ghost story as we will get from Howard. However, all that is required for this to be a blood memory story would be to render it as a dream from whence a protagonist awakens, having learned something of his ancestral past through the upwelling of a not yet extinguished ego from his biology into his dream space. This does bring into question the nature of dream space as very possibly a biological projection—a very limited sphere—as opposed to the ghostly multi-sphere most shamanistic cults have assumed.
The transcendental element depicted in the nighttime ascension, in which the ghostly narrator takes on the light of the moon in death, could be tied in with the ideal of freedom in death that appeals to some of the female characters in Howard’s prose. The more I reread these two verses in light of his pros, I tend toward the opinion that Moon Mockery is concerned as much with an afterlife as with haunting and might be an attempt to address the two concepts together.
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