I am writing this under an appreciable mental strain, since by tonight I shall be no more. Penniless, and at the end of my supply of the drug which alone makes life endurable, I can bear the torture no longer; and shall cast myself from this garret window into the squalid street below.

Dagon is great Lovecraft story that was apparently written around the same time as The Tomb but has a lot more features which tie it to Lovecraft’s later stories. In many ways I like this a lot more than The Tomb.

We begin, of course, with a first-person narrator. This time he informs us that he is going to tell us a tale and then kill himself. The Tomb began similarly with its narrator explaining that he is in an insane asylum and, by the end of the story, that is where the narrator wound up.  Are we to expect the same from Dagon?  Will our narrator kill himself in the end?

First things first. The tale involves a man who is captured at sea by the Germans.  He escapes his captors and sets out in a small boat, a plan which does not bode well as it’s a very big ocean.

When at last I awaked, it was to discover myself half sucked into a slimy expanse of hellish black mire which extended about me in monotonous undulations as far as I could see, and in which my boat lay grounded some distance away.

We are never told what happened here, only that “the change happened whilst I slept.” How did the narrator get out of his boat without waking up? Nevermind that. He waits a couple of days until the mire dries a bit and then he leaves his boat and begins walking toward a mound in the distance. He eventually reaches it several nights later and climbs to the top.

I felt myself on the edge of the world; peering over the rim into a fathomless chaos of eternal night.

The sentence is notable as it seems to encapsulate both this story as well as many of Lovecraft’s later stories.  A mere mortal finds himself face to face with something far deeper and darker than he was prepared for. He teeters on the edge, usually of sanity.

At the top of the summit, he looks down into a valley and sees below him a gigantic monolith covered in hieroglyphics and sculptures depicting some sort of fish-men the size of whales.  As he’s pondering this, a “vast… loathsome” thing emerges from the waters and embraces the monolith. The fish-men are real. The narrator tells us he thinks he “went mad” at that point.

He escapes the situation, finds his way back to his boat and is picked up by a ship and taken to America. He finds no one who would believe his horrible story so he turns to morphine to provide relief.

I dream of a day when they may rise above the billows to drag down in their reeking talons the remnants of puny, war-exhausted mankind – of a day when the land shall sink and the dark ocean floor shall ascend amidst universal pandemonium.

Back where we started now, the narrator hears a noise at the door and believes it is a creature coming for him. “It shall not find me. God, that hand! The window! The window!”

There is so much to like about this very short story.  We have a morphine-addicted, suicidal narrator.  A tale of a castaway on some hellish, slimy land. A race of giant fish-men, presumably waiting for the right moment to overthrow humanity and unleash their slimy dominion. And the only one who knows the truth of what is really out there will never be able to find anyone to believe him.

In many ways it is a perfect introduction to Lovecraft for someone unfamiliar with his style and themes. Much of what we see here will expand and mature in future stories.