Elder Lore at Little Cost

The place was dark and dusty and half-lost
In tangles of old alleys near the quays,
Reeking of strange things brought in from the seas,
And with queer curls of fog that west winds tossed.
Small lozenge panes, obscured by smoke and frost,
Just shewed the books, in piles like twisted trees,
Rotting from floor to roof—congeries
Of crumbling elder lore at little cost.

I entered, charmed, and from a cobwebbed heap
Took up the nearest tome and thumbed it through,
Trembling at curious words that seemed to keep
Some secret, monstrous if one only knew.
Then, looking for some seller old in craft,
I could find nothing but a voice that laughed.


DESCRIPTION: In his poem “The Book,” Lovecraft describes a curious bookstore and its ghostly owner.

CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “The Book.” The Ancient Track: The Complete Poetical Works of H. P. Lovecraft. Edited by S. T. Joshi, Hippocampus Press, 2013, pp. 80-1.

Advertisements

A Nightmare Whirring and Flapping

In my tortured ears there sounds unceasingly a nightmare whirring and flapping, and a faint, distant baying as of some gigantic hound. It is not dream—it is not, I fear, even madness—for too much has already happened to give me these merciful doubts. St. John is a mangled corpse; I alone know why, and such is my knowledge that I am about to blow out my brains for fear I shall be mangled in the same way. Down unlit and illimitable corridors of eldritch phantasy sweeps the black, shapeless Nemesis that drives me to self-annihilation.


DESCRIPTION: In this passage from the short story “The Hound” (1922), the narrator, who threatens to commit suicide, claims that a “gigantic hound” is haunting him.

CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “The Hound.” The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories. Edited by S. T. Joshi, Penguin Books, 1999, pp. 81-8.

Squalor and Alienage

But success and happiness were not to be. Garish daylight shewed only squalor and alienage and the noxious elephantiasis of climbing, spreading stone where the moon had hinted of loveliness and elder magic; and the throngs of people that seethed through the flume-like streets were squat, swarthy strangers with hardened faces and narrow eyes, shrewd strangers without dreams and without kinship to the scenes about them, who could never mean aught to a blue-eyed man of the old folk, with the loves of fair green lanes and white New England village steeples in his heart.


DESCRIPTION: In a passage from the short story “He” (1925), Lovecraft describes, in racist terms, the sense of alienation he experienced while living in New York City.

CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “He.” The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories. Edited by S. T. Joshi, Penguin Books, 1999, pp. 119-29.

The Harlem Smoke

For that visitor was neither Italian nor policeman. Looming hideously against the spectral moon was a gigantic misshapen thing not to be imagined save in nightmares—a glass-eyed, ink-black apparition nearly on all fours, covered with bits of mould, leaves, and vines, foul with caked blood, and having between its glistening teeth a snow-white, terrible, cylindrical object terminating in a tiny hand.


DESCRIPTION: In a passage from the short story “Herbert West—Reanimator” (1922), Lovecraft describes, in racist terms, the resurrected corpse of an African-American boxer.

CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “Herbert West—Reanimator.” The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories. Edited by S. T. Joshi, Penguin Books, 1999, pp. 50-80.

Defending Poetry

Lack of appreciation of verse can be attributed to nothing save defective aesthetic perception. Poetry, with its delicate blend of imagination and melody, fulfils a natural and definite artistic function, and could not be replaced by any other species of expression. To cavil at the grammatical licence of the bard is to display much ignorance of the art in question; for the latitude allowed to versifiers is by no means considerable, and is governed by rules as rigid as those which govern prose composition.


 DESCRIPTION: In his essay “Poesy,” Lovecraft defends poetry from its critics, claiming that it cannot be replaced by any other mode of expression.

CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “Poesy.” Collected Essays. Edited by S. T. Joshi, vol. 2, Hippocampus Press, 2004, p. 21.

Some Unknown, Ethereal World

Blake’s study, a large southwest chamber, overlooked the front garden on one side, while its west windows—before one of which he had his desk—faced off from the brow of the hill and commanded a splendid view of the lower town’s outspread roofs and of the mystical sunsets that flamed behind them. On the far horizon were the open countryside’s purple slopes. Against these, some two miles away, rose the spectral hump of Federal Hill, bristling with huddled roofs and steeples whose remote outlines wavered mysteriously, taking fantastic forms as the smoke of the city swirled up and enmeshed them. Blake had a curious sense that he was looking upon some unknown, ethereal world which might or might not vanish in dream if ever he tried to seek it out and enter it in person.


DESCRIPTION: In this passage from the short story “The Haunter of the Dark” (1935), the narrator describes the view of Providence from Robert Blake’s study.

CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “The Haunter of the Dark.” The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories. Edited by S. T. Joshi, Penguin Books, 1999, pp. 336-60.