1919 The White Ship

"A Voyage To The Moon", Gustave Doré, 1868.
Written in October, 1919, published in The United Amateur 1919.11, professionally in Weird Tales 1927.03.

Opening Statement:
     I am Basil Elton, keeper of the North Point light that my father and grandfather kept before me. Far from the shore stands the gray lighthouse, above sunken slimy rocks that are seen when the tide is low, but unseen when the tide is high. Past that beacon for a century have swept the majestic barques of the seven seas.
What in Brown Jenkin's Name..?
     The narrator goes on a "dream journey" which ends in a shipwreck. When he wakes up, he finds out that his dream journey has resulted in a real-life calamity.
     A lighthouse keeper boards a mystical white ship which only appears on a full moon (he reaches the deck by way of a moonbeam). They explore mystical, unearthly islands, including Zar, Thalarion, Akariel, etc., while following an azure bird. In search of a paradise called Cathuria, the ship falls off the edge of the world to its doom. The lighthouse keeper wakes up to see a ship crashing against the rocks (due the unattended light going out at his lighthouse). He later finds a dead azure bird and wreckage from a white ship.
From Dr. Armitage's Notes:
  • 1st story influenced by Lord Dunsany.
  • The dream cities are later revisited in “The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath” and there Carter mentions the lighthouse keeper as a “fellow dreamer”.
  • Some Visited Cities of the Dream Lands:
    • Zar:
     Up from the sea rose lordly terraces of verdure, tree-studded, and shewing here and there the gleaming white roofs and colonnades of strange temples. As we drew nearer the green shore the bearded man told me of that land, the land of Zar, where dwell all the dreams and thoughts of beauty that come to men once and then are forgotten.
    •  Thalarion
     “This is Thalarion, the City of a Thousand Wonders, wherein reside all those mysteries that man has striven in vain to fathom.” And I looked again, at closer range, and saw that the city was greater than any city I had known or dreamed of before. Into the sky the spires of its temples reached, so that no man might behold their peaks; and far back beyond the horizon stretched the grim, gray walls, over which one might spy only a few roofs, weird and ominous, yet adorned with rich friezes and alluring sculptures. I yearned mightily to enter this fascinating yet repellent city, and besought the bearded man to land me at the stone pier by the huge carven gate Akariel; but he gently denied my wish, saying, “Into Thalarion, the City of a Thousand Wonders, many have passed but none returned. Therein walk only daemons and mad things that are no longer men, and the streets are white with the unburied bones of those who have looked upon the eidolon Lathi, that reigns over the city.”
    • Xura
    Then came we to a pleasant coast gay with blossoms of every hue, where as far inland as we could see basked lovely groves and radiant arbors beneath a meridian sun. From bowers beyond our view came bursts of song and snatches of lyric harmony, interspersed with faint laughter so delicious that I urged the rowers onward in my eagerness to reach the scene. And the bearded man spoke no word, but watched me as we approached the lily-lined shore. Suddenly a wind blowing from over the flowery meadows and leafy woods brought a scent at which I trembled. The wind grew stronger, and the air was filled with the lethal, charnel odor of plague-stricken towns and uncovered cemeteries. And as we sailed madly away from that damnable coast the bearded man spoke at last, saying, "This is Xura, the Land of Pleasures Unattained.”.
    • Sona-Nyl
     In the Land of Sona-Nyl there is neither time nor space, neither suffering nor death; and there I dwelt for many aeons. Green are the groves and pastures, bright and fragrant the flowers, blue and musical the streams, clear and cool the fountains, and stately and gorgeous the temples, castles, and cities of Sona-Nyl. Of that land there is no bound, for beyond each vista of beauty rises another more beautiful.
    • Cathuria
     In my mind I would often picture the unknown Land of Cathuria with its splendid groves and palaces, and would wonder what new delights there awaited me. “Cathuria,” I would say to myself, “is the abode of gods and the land of unnumbered cities of gold. Its forests are of aloe and sandalwood, even as the fragrant groves of Camorin, and among the trees flutter gay birds sweet with song. On the green and flowery mountains of Cathuria stand temples of pink marble, rich with carven and painted glories, and having in their courtyards cool fountains of silver, where purr with ravishing music the scented waters that come from the grotto-born river Narg. And the cities of Cathuria are cinctured with golden walls, and their pavements also are of gold. In the gardens of these cities are strange orchids, and perfumed lakes whose beds are of coral and amber. At night the streets and the gardens are lit with gay lanterns fashioned from the three-colored shell of the tortoise, and here resound the soft notes of the singer and the lutenist. And the houses of the cities of Cathuria are all palaces, each built over a fragrant canal bearing the waters of the sacred Narg....
     Thus would I speak to myself of Cathuria, but ever would the bearded man warn me to turn back...
 * * * * * 
     ...when the music ceased and the mist lifted, we beheld not the Land of Cathuria, but a swift-rushing resistless sea, over which our helpless barque was borne toward some unknown goal. Soon to our ears came the distant thunder of falling waters, and to our eyes appeared on the far horizon ahead the titanic spray of a monstrous cataract, wherein the oceans of the world drop down to abysmal nothingness.

The Horrible Conclusion:
     And thereafter the ocean told me its secrets no more; and though many times since has the moon shone full and high in the heavens, the White Ship from the South came never again.
Read it here.

Follow'd by "The Doom That Came To Sarnath".
Weird Tales 1927.03