Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Codex Hastur - Review



I'm always pleased to receive a slim pamphlet of poetry from Cardinal Cox, because the man's on my wavelength. His latest transmission of eldritch verse harks back to the heyday of Victorian Weirdness. Hastur, as you might know, is a rural deity mentioned by Ambrose Bierce.

In a narrative series of poems Cox explains how Decadent sorcerers in London try to conjure 'the essence of the constellation of Taurus, but rather than a mirror of silvered glass, chose one of obsidian coated in blood'. What catalogue these guys got their furnishings from I dread to think. The point is that a somewhat dodgy spirit ends up wandering the earth, and down various interesting byways.

One of the best pieces is a prose-poem tribute to Bierce, 'Bayrolles the Medium'. It encapsulates the argument of Browning's 'Mr Sludge the Medium' - that those who were happy to speak to those of other races and classes in seances still shunned their 'inferiors' in the street. Bierce's bitter satirical edge is evident here.

Equally effective is 'The Harlesden Case', a nod to Machen's 'The Inmost Light', one of my favourite tales of black magical shenanigans. Very different but just as good, 'Bones Beneath the Third Republic' evokes spirits of the great Siege of Paris, and the strange literary blossoms that flowered after the fall of Louis Napoleon's stage brocade Empire.But best of all is the Wellsian 'Island of the Herds', in which the spirit - a 'star-beast' - offers solace to the orphans of Dr Moreau's House of Pain. Oh, and then the spirit's journey takes it back into space again, and to the 'world of Cottman IV'. Which I had to look up.

All in all, the poet has succeeded in weaving a strange tapestry of Decadent images and ideas. Another one for your collection, gentle reader.

Codex Hastur is available from Cardinal Cox, if you send him a C5 SAE, while stocks last. Send your SAE to:

58 Pennington
Orton Goldhay
Peterborough
PE2 5RB

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