The midnight hour is close at hand:
Beneath the shrouded moonless night, in darkness deep and still,
Where shadows whisper secrets dark, and winds whirl cold and chill,
There lies a realm of grief and woe, where debts are paid with dread,
A place of eerie echoed sound where spirits, restless, tread.
In chambers hidden from the light, where silence screams unseen,
The accounts of the damned are kept, a nightmare-seeker's dream,
A ledger bound in human skin, with ink of crimson hue,
It tallies every sin and vice, each debt that's overdue.
The master of this ghastly place, a specter gaunt and pale,
With hollow eyes and bony hands, recounts each haunting tale,
He tallies debts of sorrow deep, of promises unkept,
And with a voice like a funeral dirge, murmurs, "Time has crept."
For in this realm, the cost is high, the currency is fear,
And every debt must be repaid, with interest dark and clear,
The souls who wander through this land, in torment ever roam,
Their anguish paid in full each night, as they atone alone.
The payment due in whispered cries, in agonizing moans,
As wretches weep their bitter tears, and wail their mournful tones,
For in this place of endless woe, where debts are never forgiven,
The toll is paid in restless souls, in a nightmare realm, unshriven.
So heed this warning, mortal soul, be wary of your debts,
For in the shadows down below, the collector ne'er forgets,
And when the hour of reckoning comes, you'll join the ghostly crew,
In depths of darkness where payments are made from below, for you.
In reading the haunted verses of "Payments are made from below," one cannot help but initially notice similarities to not only Greek (or Roman) mythology but also to the works of Edgar Allan Poe, a master of macabre and gothic fiction. One would not be wrong as the poem delves into the dark recesses of the human psyche, where debts and sins are accounted for in a realm beyond mortal comprehension. But it also resonates deeply with the themes of cosmic horror that often permeate the tales of H. P. Lovecraft, as shall be explored.
The poem introduces us to a realm of chilling despair that mirrors the nightmarish landscapes of Lovecraft's narratives. It speaks of a shadowy domain where debts are settled with a currency of fear, a concept that is all too familiar to those who have encountered Lovecraftian or Lovecraftesque horrors. The dark, atmospheric imagery, such as "moonless night," "shadows whispering secrets," and "winds blow cold and chill," invokes a sense of foreboding and dread; great fear in view of impending evil; fearful apprehension of danger; the anticipatory terror that Lovecraft himself employed.
The central figure in the poem, the "master of this ghastly place," resembles the enigmatic and otherworldly beings that populate Lovecraft's stories. This spectral entity keeps a ledger of sins, written in blood on human skin, a grotesque image that would fit seamlessly within the mythos of Cthulhu. The concept of unforgivable debts and the torment of restless souls resonates with Lovecraft's recurring theme of humanity's insignificance in the face of incomprehensible cosmic forces. Escape while you still can.
Furthermore, the poem's exploration of time as a relentless and unforgiving force aligns with Lovecraft's obsession with the insignificance of human existence in the universe's the grand scheme of things; the ubiquitous transience of all things. The notion that time "creeps" and that debts must be repaid in a nightmarish afterlife underscores the idea that mortals are mere pawns in a cosmic game far beyond their comprehension. The angst of the unknown should be palpable.
In summary, while seemingly derivative, "Payments are made from below" draws on Lovecraft's work's grim and depressing atmosphere for inspiration. It explores themes of cosmic horror, existential dread, and the inexorable passage of time, all of which are hallmarks of Lovecraft's unique literary style. This poem could easily find a home in Lovecraft's universe, serving as a chilling and haunting addition to his portfolio of cosmic horror tales or at least adjacent thereto.
Demons, devils, witches, too
Flock to me, both old and new.
They make their marks upon my breast
Then lay with me at night to rest.
Nameless here for evermore.
Ah, when thou shalt slumber, my darkling love,
Beneath a black marble-made statuette,
And when thou'lt have nought for thy house or alcove,
But a cavernous den and a damp oubliette.
When the tomb-stone, oppressing thy timorous breast,
And thy hips drooping sweetly with listless decay,
The pulse and desires of mine heart shall arrest,
And thy feet from pursuing their adventurous way,
Then the grave, that dark friend of my limitless dreams
(For the grave ever readeth the poet aright),
Amid those long nights, which no slumber redeems
'Twill query—"What use to thee, incomplete spright
That thou ne'er hast unfathomed the tears of the dead"?—
Then the worms will gnaw deep at thy body, like Dread.
a Cyril Scott translation of Charles Baudelaire
Dread, like Time, marches on . . .
much like Debt.