"Strange thoughts like these, bizarre fancies, borne I know not whence, found lodgement in my mind as I stood listening. What, I thought, if, after all, these crouching willows proved to be alive; if suddenly they should rise up, like a swarm of living creatures, marshaled by the gods whose territory we had invaded, sweep towards us off the vast swamps, booming overhead in the night - and then settle down!"
Algernon Blackwood, "The Willows"
The third story in The Weird is one I only recently read for the first time. Having long been a Lovecraft fan (more on Howard later), I'm surprised that it's taken me so long to catch onto Blackwood, since "The Willows" was one of HPL's favourite stories.
"The Willows" is by turn deeply unsettling and deeply moving. There is a sense of transcendence to the story's atmosphere, likely due to the part that Nature plays as a backdrop to the events that take place.
Blackwood is more sublime than Lovecraft when he addresses the cosmic, as well as less damning. The story uses Nature as an entry-point to the supranatural, the latter both a force that equally attracts and repels. Weird factor - 4/5. Trees are creepy. When they happen to be willows, extra creepy. And men waving warnings in boats, crossing themselves. Get. AWAY.
Reviewed from The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stories, Eds. Anne and Jeff Vandermeer