The White Elephant

Dim in the past from primal chaos rose
That form with mottled cloak and scaly hose
Who bade the lesser ghouls to earn their bread,
Perform dread rites, and echo what he said.
They bred the leprous tree and poison flower
And pressed dim aeons into one black hour.
Wherefore we pray, as pious pagans must,
To the white beast he shaped from fungous dust.

DESCRIPTION: In his poem “The White Elephant,” Lovecraft describes a mysterious, god-like being, who crafts an idol, a white elephant made out of “fungous dust,” for his followers to worship.

CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “The White Elephant.” The Ancient Track: The Complete Poetical Works of H. P. Lovecraft. Edited by S. T. Joshi, Hippocampus Press, 2013, p. 95.


Proficient Paul Hath So Much Language Got

Proficient Paul hath so much Language got,
That he appears a very Polyglot.
Latin and Greek he talks with equal Ease,
And daily reads ten Pages of Chinese;
Translates a Russian Sentence at a Glance,
And revels in the fluent Tongue of France.
He thinks in Sanscrit, Arabic, and Such,
And writes his Notes in Hebrew and High-Dutch.
In sweet Italian sings a soft Refrain,
And greets us in the stately Speech of Spain.
In fine, to him consummately is known
Each Language, dead or living, but his own.

DESCRIPTION: In his poem “On an Accomplished Young Linguist,” Lovecraft gently mocks Americans who, despite their ignorance of English, consider themselves linguists because they have studied foreign languages.

CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “On an Accomplished Young Linguist.” The Ancient Track: The Complete Poetical Works of H. P. Lovecraft. Edited by S. T. Joshi, Hippocampus Press, 2013, p. 266.

A Cynical Materialist

I am by nature a sceptic and analyst, hence settled early into my present general attitude of cynical materialism, subsequently changing in regard to details and degree rather than to basic ideals. The environment into which I was born was that of the average American Protestant of urban, civilised type—in theory quite orthodox, but in practice very liberal. Morals rather than faith formed the real keynote. I was instructed in the legends of the Bible and of Saint Nicholas at the age of about two, and gave to both a passive acceptance not especially distinguished either for its critical keenness or its enthusiastic comprehension. Within the next few years I added to my supernatural lore the fairy tales of Grimm and the Arabian Nights. At one time I formed a juvenile collection of Oriental pottery and objets d’art, announcing myself as a devout Mussulman and assuming the pseudonym of “Abdul Alhazred”. My first positive utterance of a skeptical nature probably occurred before my fifth birthday, when I was told what I really knew before, that “Santa Claus” is a myth. This admission caused me to ask why “God” is not equally a myth. Not long afterwards I was placed in the “infant class” at the Sunday school of the venerable First Baptist Church, an ecclesiastical landmark dating from 1775; and there resigned all vestiges of Christian belief. The absurdity of the myths I was called upon to accept, and the somber greyness of the whole faith as compared with the Eastern magnificence of Mahometanism, made me definitely an agnostic; and caused me to become so pestiferous a questioner that I was permitted to discontinue attendance. No statement of the kind-hearted and motherly preceptress had seemed to me to answer in any ways doubts I honestly and explicitly expressed, and I was fast becoming a marked “man” through my searching iconoclasm. No doubt I was regarded as a corrupter of the simple faith of the other “infants”.

DESCRIPTION: In his essay “A Confession of Unfaith,” Lovecraft describes his initial impressions of Christianity, Islam, and religion in general.

CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “A Confession of Unfaith.” Collected Essays. Edited by S. T. Joshi, vol. 5, Hippocampus Press, 2006, pp. 145-8.