“The Acolytes” (1946) by Lilith Lorraine

The Elder Ones are stirring as the red
Stallions of chaos champ their bits with rage;
And they have sent their messengers ahead
Proud with the knowledge of their alienage.

They walk apart from men, the Acolytes,
By stagnant pools and rotting sepulchers,
Whispering of dark, delirious delights,
As young gods die among their worshippers.

They dream of dim dimensions where the towers
Of Yuggoth pierce the decomposing dome
Of skies where dead stars float like evil flowers
Afloat on tideless seas of poisoned foam.

Black tapers glow on many a ruined shrine,
The patterns coalesce – the good, the bad –
The old familiar stars no longer shine –
And I – and I – am curiously glad.
—Lilith Lorraine, “The Acolytes” in The Acolyte (Spring 1946)

Mary Maude Wright (née Dunn) wrote under a number of pseudonyms, at least three of them masculine. She wrote pulp fiction for some of the same magazines as H. P. Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith, but among early science fiction fandom she had her greatest esteem as a poet, for she was prolific and skilled. As a correspondent of August Derleth and Clark Ashton Smith, like Margaret St. Clair, she was on the fringes of the Weird Tales circle. She was likewise associated with The Acolyte, Francis T. Laney’s prominent 1940s fanzine devoted to Lovecraft and his contemporaries, sharing space with Virginia “Nanek” Anderson, Fritz Leiber, Jr., E. Hoffmann Price and other pulp fans and professional pulpsters.

Sgt. R. A. HOFFMAN. Acolyte art editor, reports from “Somewhere in Tex- Texas” on his visit to the home of Lilith Lorraine, noted poet:

…I Visited San Antonio, which I found to be a primitive, degenerate town, and telephoned Lilith Lorraine, mentioning that CAS had insisted I look her up… She and her husband met me in their car, and drove me out to their Shrine (Avalon Poetry Shrine. — eds.). As we entered the grounds, I heard the barking of what seemed to be myriad dogs, though it turned out to be only three— two of them Russian wolf and the other a crossbreed between Russian wolf and spitz. All were beautiful creatures and very friendly. Inside I was startled to find a veritable menagerie. A large parrot was quietly perched inside its huge cage which sat on the floor, and two cats were snarling at each other. They also have a monkey, but it was asleep in bed at the time, though later she brought it out.

Miss Lorraine is a most amazing person, and going out there was a most fascinating adventure. She and her husband have been married 33 years, but she says she is all the time receiving love letters from strangers. She prefers her pen-name so much that even her husband calls her Miss Lorraine sometimes! They are both native Texans, and she is complete with drawl and all. She has a charming personality and a fine sense of humor.

I had only 2 1/2 hours before my bus, and every minute was spent in incessant conversation or in listening to Lilith read us some of her verse. She read me selections from her then as yet unpublished book The Day of Judgement (Banner Press, 1944), and I was completely caught in her spell, totally swept away with them. She showed me the shrine itself, and the sunken garden, though unfortunately it was late at night, and the floodlights did not give the proper perspective we would have desired….Miss Lorraine thinks CAS the finest American poet since Poe….

Lilith Lorraine’s previous poems in The Acolyte were “On Walking in the Tomb” (Fall 1943) and “Black Cathedrals” (Spring 1944), but “The Acolytes” was a little different. It came in the final issue (#14) of the ‘zine, and is a tribute to those who contributed to the important little magazine…those who, through their efforts kept interest in H. P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard going after their death, who began the study of their work and the creation of original fiction and poetry of the Mythos.

The last lines of the poem are strangely appropriate; evocative of Lovecraft and perhaps Robert W. Chambers’. The Acolyte was extinct with this issue, but the Acolytes, that first post-Lovecraft generation of fans and scholars survived and flourished. The stars were right…and Lilith Lorraine was there, to capture a moment in verse.

The_Acolyte_14_v04n02_1946-Spring_0011


Bobby Derie is the author of Weird Talers: Essays on Robert E. Howard & Others (2019) and Sex and the Cthulhu Mythos (2014).

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