I saw it from that hidden, silent place
Where the old wood half shuts the meadow in.
It shone through all the sunset’s glories—thin
At first, but with a slowly brightening face.
Night came, and that lone beacon, amber-hued,
Beat on my sight as never it did of old;
The evening star—but grown a thousandfold
More haunting in this hush and solitude.
It traced strange pictures on the quivering air—
Half-memories that had always filled my eyes—
Vast towers and gardens; curious seas and skies
Of some dim life—I never could tell where.
But now I knew that through the cosmic dome
Those rays were calling from my far, lost home.
DESCRIPTION: In his poem “Evening Star,” Lovecraft describes the vague memories of life on an alien plant that the sight of the Evening Star evokes.
CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “Evening Star.” The Ancient Track: The Complete Poetical Works of H. P. Lovecraft. Edited by S. T. Joshi, Hippocampus Press, 2013, p. 94.
Ten miles from Arkham I had struck the trail
That rides the cliff-edge over Boynton Beach,
And hoped that just at sunset I could reach
The crest that looks on Innsmouth in the vale.
Far out at sea was a retreating sail,
White as hard years of ancient winds could bleach,
But evil with some portent beyond speech,
So that I did not wave my hand or hail.
Sails out of lnnsmouth! echoing old renown
Of long-dead times. But now a too-swift night
Is closing in, and I have reached the height
Whence I so often scan the distant town.
The spires and roofs are there—but look! The gloom
Sinks on dark lanes, as lightless as the tomb!
DESCRIPTION: In his poem “The Port,” Lovecraft describes the strange fate of Innsmouth, the imaginary city that appears in several of his fictional works.
CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “The Port.” The Ancient Track: The Complete Poetical Works of H. P. Lovecraft. Edited by S. T. Joshi, Hippocampus Press, 2013, p. 83.
I spent the five-hour journey reading Dunsany and peering at way-stations. New-London is a dingy little burg—a Victorian relic. New-Haven seems alert and metropolitan from the station angle. Ditto for Bridgeport. Shortly before three p.m., the train reached the lofty and colossal Harlem River viaduct (Only by chance did I secure the unique panorama—because the train was a Washington, D.C. express. Ordinary N.Y. trains go by a tamer route and into the Grand Central Station), and saw for the first time the Cyclopean outlines of New-York. It was a mystical sight in the gold sun of late afternoon; a dream-thing of faint grey, outlined against a sky of faint grey smoke. City and sky were so alike that one could hardly be sure that there was a city—that the fancied towers and pinnacles were not the merest illusions. It was ten miles away, approximately—that is, the skyscraper region was. Actually, the train had crossed to Long Island, there to move south till a tunnel should take it under the East River and the streets of Manhattan to the Pennsylvania Station.
DESCRIPTION: In a letter to his friend Maurice W. Moe, Lovecraft describes his first impressions of New York, a city that he would grow to despise.
CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “To Maurice W. Moe.” 18 May 1922. H. P. Lovecraft: Letters from New York. Edited by S. T. Joshi and David E. Schultz, Night Shade Books, 2005, pp. 1-16.
They cut it down, and where the pitch-black aisles
Of forest night had hid eternal things,
They scal’d the sky with tow’rs and marble piles
To make a city for their revellings.
White and amazing to the lands around
That wondrous wealth of domes and turrets rose;
Crystal and ivory, sublimely crown’d
With pinnacles that bore unmelting snows.
And through its halls the pipe and sistrum rang,
While wine and riot brought their scarlet stains;
Never a voice of elder marvels sang,
Nor any eye call’d up the hills and plains.
Thus down the years, till on one purple night
A drunken minstrel in his careless verse
Spoke the vile words that should not see the light,
And stirr’d the shadows of an ancient curse.
Forests may fall, but not the dusk they shield;
So on the spot where that proud city stood,
The shuddering dawn no single stone reveal’d,
But fled the blackness of a primal wood.
DESCRIPTION: In his poem “The Wood,” Lovecraft describes how a mysterious forest takes revenge on the hedonistic city that cut down its trees.
CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “The Wood.” The Ancient Track: The Complete Poetical Works of H. P. Lovecraft. Edited by S. T. Joshi, Hippocampus Press, 2013, p. 77.
My reason for writing stories is to give myself the satisfaction of visualising more clearly and detailedly and stably the vague, elusive, fragmentary impressions of wonder, beauty, and adventurous expectancy which are conveyed to me by certain sights (scenic, architectural, atmospheric, etc.), ideas, occurrences, and images encountered in art and literature. I choose weird stories because they suit my inclination best—one of my strongest and most persistent wishes being to achieve, momentarily, the illusion of some strange suspension or violation of the galling limitations of time, space, and natural law which for ever imprison us and frustrate our curiosity about the infinite cosmic spaces beyond the radius of our sight and analysis. These stories frequently emphasise the element of horror because fear is our deepest and strongest emotion, and the one which best lends itself to the creation of nature-defying illusions. Horror and the unknown or the strange are always closely connected, so that it is hard to create a convincing picture of shattered natural law or cosmic alienage or “outsideness” without laying stress on the emotion of fear. The reason why time plays a great part in so many of my tales is that this element looms up in my mind as the most profoundly dramatic and grimly terrible thing in the universe. Conflict with time seems to me the most potent and fruitful theme in all human expression.
DESCRIPTION: In his essay “Notes on Writing Weird Fiction,” Lovecraft states that he writes supernatural horror because he finds the limitations of natural law “galling” and thus enjoys exploring an alternative reality in which they have been suspended.
CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “Notes on Writing Weird Fiction.” Collected Essays. Edited by S. T. Joshi, vol. 2, Hippocampus Press, 2004, pp. 175-8.
Perhaps it was natural for him to dream a new name; for he was the last of his family, and alone among the indifferent millions of London, so there were not many to speak to him and remind him who he had been. His money and lands were gone, and he did not care for the ways of people about him, but preferred to dream and write of his dreams. What he wrote was laughed at by those to whom he shewed it, so that after a time he kept his writings to himself, and finally ceased to write. The more he withdrew from the world about him, the more wonderful became his dreams; and it would have been quite futile to try to describe them on paper. Kuranes was not modern, and did not think like others who wrote. Whilst they strove to strip from life its embroidered robes of myth, and to shew in naked ugliness the foul thing that is reality, Kuranes sought for beauty alone. When truth and experience failed to reveal it, he sought it in fancy and illusion, and found it on his very doorstep, amid the nebulous memories of childhood tales and dreams.
DESCRIPTION: In this passage from the short story “Celephaïs” (1920), the narrator describes how Kuranes, by distancing himself from modern civilization, finds beauty and meaning in his dreams.
CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “Celephaïs.” The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories. Edited by S. T. Joshi, Penguin Books, 1999, pp. 24-30.
For although nepenthe has calmed me, I know always that I am an outsider; a stranger in this century and among those who are still men. This I have known ever since I stretched out my fingers to the abomination within that great gilded frame; stretched out my fingers and touched a cold and unyielding surface of polished glass.
DESCRIPTION: In a passage from the short story “The Outsider” (1921), the narrator sees himself in a mirror for the first time and realizes that he is monstrous.
CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “The Outsider.” The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories. Edited by S. T. Joshi, Penguin Books, 1999, pp. 43-9.
When Lake had satisfied the first keen edge of his curiosity he scribbled a message in his notebook and had young Moulton run back to the camp to dispatch it by wireless. This was my first word of the discovery, and it told of the identification of early shells, bones of ganoids and placoderms, remnants of labyrinthodonts and thecodonts, great mososaur skull fragments, dinosaur vertebrae and armour-plates, pterodactyl teeth and wing-bones, archaeopteryx debris, Miocene sharks’ teeth, primitive bird-skulls, and skulls, vertebrae, and other bones of archaic mammals such as palaeotheres, xiphodons, dinocerases, eohippi, oreodons, and titanotheres. There was nothing as recent as a mastodon, elephant, true camel, deer, or bovine animal; hence Lake concluded that the last deposits had occurred during the Oligocene age, and that the hollowed stratum had lain in its present dried, dead, and inaccessible state for at least thirty million years.
DESCRIPTION: In a passage from the novella At the Mountains of Madness (1931), Lovecraft describes, using scientific terminology, Lake’s discoveries in Antarctica.
CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “At the Mountains of Madness.” The Thing on the Doorstep and Other Weird Stories. Edited by S. T. Joshi, Penguin Books, 2001, pp. 246-340.
The past is real—it is all there is. The present is only a trivial and momentary boundary-line—whilst the future, though wholly determinate, is too essentially unknown and landmarkless to possess any hold upon our sense of concrete aesthetic imagery. It is, too, liable to involve shifts and contrasts repugnant to our emotions and fancy; since we cannot study it as a unified whole and become accustomed to its internal variations as we can study and grow accustomed to the vary’d past. There is nothing in the future to tie one’s loyalties and affections to—it can mean nothing to us, because it involves noe of those mnemonic association-links upon which the illusion of meaning is based. So I, for one, prefer Old New England and Old Virginia to the unknown mechanised barbarism that stretches out ahead of us—as meaningless and alien to men of our heritage and memories as the cultures of China or Abyssinia or ancient Carthage or the planet Saturn.
DESCRIPTION: In a letter to his friend James F. Morton, Lovecraft defends his attachment to the past and his dismissal of the future.
CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “To James F. Morton.” 19 Oct. 1929. Selected Letters. Edited by August Derleth and Donald Wandrei, vol. 3, Arkham House, 1971, pp. 31-5.
When the evening shadows come
Then my fancies they do roam
Round the dear old rustic cottage by the lane,
Where in days that are no more
Liv’d the maid I did adore,
Liv’d my own beloved sweetheart, darling Jane!
O my dearest, sweetest pride,
Thou couldst never be my bride,
For the angels snatch’d you up one summer day;
Yet my heart is ever true,
And I love you yes I do,
And I’ll mourn for you until I pine away!
I—pine—a—away (by 1st Tenor).
DESCRIPTION: In his poem “My Lost Love,” Lovecraft parodies the romantic poetry of his fellow amateur James Laurence Crowley.
CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “My Lost Love.” The Ancient Track: The Complete Poetical Works of H. P. Lovecraft. Edited by S. T. Joshi, Hippocampus Press, 2013, pp. 226-7.