A new post on the Lovecraftian Science blog, “Smith and Lovecraft’s Use of the Asteroid Belt in their Fiction”. Here’s the actual Lovecraft quote, not given by the LS blog…
It came to me that this was the language used by a captive mind I had known slightly in my dreams — a mind from a large asteroid on which had survived much of the archaic life and lore of the primal planet whereof it formed a fragment. At the same time I recalled that this level of the archives was devoted to volumes dealing with the non-terrestrial planets [meaning, the gas-giant planets in our outer solar system].” (H.P. Lovecraft, from “The Shadow out of Time”)
The name of the “primal planet” was Phaëton, in the ‘the Belt is the remains of an exploded planet’ hypothesis then current. This then perhaps gives a new twist to the understanding of Lovecraft’s poem “On Receiving a Picture of Swans” (1916)…
With pensive grace the melancholy Swan
Mourns o’er the tomb of luckless Phaëton;
On grassy banks the weeping poplars wave,
And guard with tender care the wat’ry grave.
Would that I might, should I too proudly claim
An Heav’nly parent, or a Godlike fame,
When flown too high, and dash’d to depths below,
Receive such tribute as a Cygnus’ woe!
The faithful bird, that dumbly floats along,
Sighs all the deeper for his want of song.
Cygnus (the Swan) is a key constellation in astronomy. Thus the poem might be understood as lightly bearing a secondary underlying meaning, that of an astronomical picture of the constellation of Cygnus seen rising over the asteroid belt. Apparently there is a huge “Veil Nebula” which “sprawls across southern Cygnus”, and one wonders if this might evoke weeping willow trees in leaf? Can any visual astronomers out there say if such a picture is possible in astronomy: Cygnus and the Veil Nebula rising above the Asteroid Belt?
Lovecraft also wrote a poem titled “Phaeton” in August 1918, but sadly I don’t have access to that.