Fungi from Yuggoth
"Fungi from Yuggoth" is a sequence of 36 sonnets by cosmic horror writer H. P. Lovecraft. Most of the sonnets were written between 27 December 1929 – 4 January 1930; thereafter individual sonnets appeared in Weird Tales and other genre magazines. The sequence was published complete in Beyond the Wall of Sleep (Sauk City, WI: Arkham House, 1943, 395–407) and The Ancient Track: The Complete Poetical Works of H. P. Lovecraft (San Francisco, CA: Night Shade Books, 2001, 64–79). Ballantine Books’ mass paperback edition, Fungi From Yuggoth & Other Poems (Random House, New York, 1971) was followed in 1982 by the chapbook printing of Lovecraft's sonnet cycle (Necronomicon Press, West Warwick, RI). This may have been the first time that the sequence was published in its corrected text.
The first three poems in the sequence concern a person who obtains an ancient book of esoteric knowledge that seems to allow one to travel to parallel realities or strange parts of the universe. Later poems deal more with an atmosphere of cosmic horror, or create a mood of being shut out from former felicity, and do not have a strong narrative through-line except occasionally over a couple of sonnets (e.g. 17-18). In that the book at the beginning provides 'the key' to the author's 'vague visions' (Sonnet 3) of other realities behind the everyday, it might be argued that the poems that follow, though disparate in themselves, detail a succession of such visions that a reading of it releases. With one or two exceptions, the concluding poems from "Expectancy" (28) onward seek to explain the circumstances of the narrator's sense of alienation within the present. Rather than visions themselves, these poems serve as a commentary on their source.
The sonnets see-saw between various themes in much the same way as do Lovecraft's short stories. There are references to the author's night terrors in "Recognition" (4), a potent source for his later fiction and carrying forward into dream poems related to his Dunsany manner; to intimations of an Elder Race on earth; and to nightmare beings from Beyond. That these themes often cross-fertilize each other is suggested by "Star Winds" (14), which taken purely by itself is an exercise in Dunsanian dream-lore. However, beginning in the month after finishing his sequence, Lovecraft set to work on his story The Whisperer in Darkness (1931) where Yuggoth is recreated as a planet of fungoid beings given the name Mi-go. In the sonnet, the fungi sprout in a location called Yuggoth, not on an alien planet; and in its following line Nithon is described as a world with richly flowering continents rather than, as in the story, Yuggoth's occulted moon. This is a good instance of how Lovecraft gave himself license to be self-contradictory and vary his matter according to the artistic need of the moment, of which the diversity of conflicting situations within the whole sequence of sonnets is itself an example. Or, as he himself puts it in "Star Winds",
- Yet for each dream these winds to us convey,
- A dozen more of ours they sweep away!
Fungi from Yuggoth represents a marked departure from the mannered poems Lovecraft had been writing up to this point. Sending a copy of "Recapture" (which just predates the sequence but was later incorporated into it) the poet remarks that it is 'illustrative of my efforts to practice what I preach regarding direct and unaffected diction'.
The sonnet forms used by Lovecraft veer between the Petrarchan and the Shakespearean. His multiple use there of feminine rhyme is reminiscent of A.E. Housman (e.g. in sonnets 15, 19). In addition, his sonnet 13 (Hesperia) has much the same theme as Housman's "Into my heart an air that kills" (A Shropshire Lad XL).
Varying opinions have been expressed in the critical literature on Lovecraft as to whether the poems form a continuous cycle which tells a story, or whether each individual sonnet is discrete. Phillip A. Ellis, in his essay "Unity in Diversity: Fungi from Yuggoth as a Unified Setting", discusses this problem and suggests a solution.
In addition to "The Whisperer in Darkness," the cycle references other works by Lovecraft and introduces a number of ideas that he would expand upon in later works.
- The town of Innsmouth is mentioned in sonnets VIII ("The Port") and XIX ("The Bells")
- The story told in sonnet XII ("The Howler") presages "The Dreams in the Witch House" (1932). Its description of the witch's familiar, described as "a four-pawed thing with human face," echoes the description of Brown Jenkin, a rat-like creature with a human face.
- Sonnet XXVI references events preceding those in "The Dunwich Horror."
- Sonnets XXI and XXII, respectively, are named for and concern the Outer Gods Nyarlathotep and Azathoth.
- Boerem, R., “The Continuity of the Fungi from Yuggoth” in S. T. Joshi (ed.), H. P. Lovecraft: Four Decades of Criticism (Athens : Ohio University Press, 1980): 222-225.
- Boerem, R., “On the Fungi from Yuggoth” Dark Brotherhood Journal 1:1 (June 1971): 2-5.
- Bradley, Marion Zimmer, and Robert Carson, “Lovecraftian Sonnetry” Astra's Tower 2 (December 1947).
- Burleson, Donald R., “Notes on Lovecraft's 'The Bells': a Carillon” Lovecraft Studies 17 (Fall 1988): 34-35.
- Burleson, Donald R., “On Lovecraft's 'Harbour Whistles'” Crypt of Cthulhu 74 (Lammas 1990): 12-13.
- Burleson, Donald R., “Scansion Problems in Lovecraft's 'Mirage'” Lovecraft Studies 24 (Spring 1991): 18-19, 21.
- Clore, Dan, “Metonyms of Alterity: a Semiotic Interpretation of Fungi from Yuggoth” Lovecraft Studies 30 (Spring 1994): 21-32.
- Coffmann, Frank, “H.P. Lovecraft and the Fungi from Yuggoth Sonnets (part one)” Calenture 2:1 (September 2006).
- D'Ammassa, Don, ""Review"" Science Fiction Chronicle 5:7 (April 1984): 33.
- Ellis, Phillip A., “The Fungi from Yuggoth: a Concordance” Calenture 3:3 (May 2008).
- Ellis, Phillip A., “Unity in Diversity: Fungi from Yuggoth as a Unified Setting” Lovecraft Annual 1 (2007): 84-90.
- Murray, Will, “Illuminating 'The Elder Pharos'” Crypt of Cthulhu 20 (Eastertide 1984): 17-19.
- Oakes, David A., “This Is the Way the World Ends: Modernism in 'The Hollow Man' and Fungi from Yuggoth” Lovecraft Studies 40 (Fall 1998): 33-36, 28.
- Price, Robert M., “St. Toad's Hagiography” Crypt of Cthulhu 9 (Hallowmas 1982): 21.
- Price, Robert M., “St. Toad's Revisited” Crypt of Cthulhu 20 (Eastertide 1984): 21;
- Price, Robert M., “Second Thoughts on the Fungi from Yuggoth” Crypt of Cthulhu 78 (St. John's Eve 1991): 3-8.
- Schultz, David E., “H. P. Lovecraft's Fungi from Yuggoth” Crypt of Cthulhu 20 (Eastertide 1984): 3-7.
- Schultz, David E., “The Lack of Continuity in Fungi from Yuggoth” Crypt of Cthulhu 20 (Eastertide 1984): 12-16.
- Sinha-Morey, Bobbi, “Fungi: the Poetry of H.P. Lovecraft” Calenture 2:2 (January 2007).
- Vaughan, Ralph E., “The Story in Fungi from Yuggoth” Crypt of Cthulhu 20 (Eastertide 1984): 9-11.
- Waugh, Robert H., “The Structural and Thematic Unity of Fungi from Yuggoth” Lovecraft Studies 26 (Spring 1992): 2-14.
- S. T. Joshi, David E. Schultz, An H.P. Lovecraft Encyclopedia, Westport CT 2001, pp 95-6
- The question is discussed in Jim Moon, "Fungi from Yuggoth II: a tour of Yuggoth"
- Encyclopedia of World Biography, Gale Group 2010
- Online text
- David Szolloskei, Creating Real Fiction: Analysis of the Lovecraftian Prose-Fiction, VDM Verlag 2008
- Themodernword.com S. T. Joshi, H. P. Lovecraft
- Lovecraft Annual 1, 2007, pp.84-90
Works related to Fungi from Yuggoth at Wikisource