The City

It was golden and splendid,
That City of light;
A vision suspended
In deeps of the night;
A region of wonder and glory, whose temples were marble and white.

I remember the season
It dawn’d on my gaze;
The mad time of unreason,
The brain-numbing days
When Winter, white-sheeted and ghastly, stalks onward to torture and craze.

More lovely than Zion
It shone in the sky,
When the beams of Orion
Beclouded my eye,
Bringing sleep that was fill’d with dim mem’ries of moments obscure and gone by.

Its mansions were stately
With carvings made fair,
Each rising sedately
On terraces rare,
And the gardens were fragrant and bright with strange miracles blossoming there.

The avenues lur’d me
With vistas sublime;
Tall arches assur’d me
That once on a time
I had wander’d in rapture beneath them, and bask’d in the Halcyon clime.

On the plazas were standing
A sculptur’d array;
Long-bearded, commanding,
Grave men in their day—
But one stood dismantled and broken, its bearded face batter’d away.

In that city effulgent
No mortal I saw;
But my fancy, indulgent
To memory’s law,
Linger’d long on the forms in the plazas, and eyed their stone features with awe.

I fann’d the faint ember
That glow’d in my mind,
And strove to remember
The aeons behind;
To rove thro’ infinity freely, and visit the past unconfin’d.

Then the horrible warning
Upon my soul sped
Like the ominous morning
That rises in red,
And in panic I flew from the knowledge of terrors forgotten and dead.

DESCRIPTION: In his poem “The City,” Lovecraft describes a fantastic, otherworldly metropolis, an ancient “City of light,” which simultaneously captivates and terrifies the poem’s speaker.

CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “The City.” The Ancient Track: The Complete Poetical Works of H. P. Lovecraft. Edited by S. T. Joshi, Hippocampus Press, 2013, pp. 65-6.


A Grove-Circled Dwelling

‘Tis a grove-circled dwelling
Set close to a hill,
Where the branches are telling
Strange legends of ill;
Over timbers so old
That they breathe of the dead,
Crawl the vines, green and cold,
By strange nourishment fed;
And no man knows the juices they suck from the depths of their dank slimy bed.

In the gardens are growing
Tall blossoms and far,
Each pallid bloom throwing
Perfume on the air;
But the afternoon sun
With its red slanting rays
Makes the picture loom dun
On the curious gaze,
And above the sweet scent of the blossoms rise odours of numberless days.

The rank grasses are waving
On terrace and lawn,
Dim memories sav’ring
Of things that have gone;
The stones of the walks
Are encrusted and wet,
And a strange spirit stalks
When the red sun has set,
And the soul of the watcher is fill’d with faint pictures he fain would forget.

It was in the hot Junetime
I stood by that scene,
When the gold rays of noontime
Beat bright on the green.
But I shiver’d with cold,
Groping feebly for light,
As a picture unroll’d—
And my age-spanning sight
Saw the time I had been there before flash like fulgury out of the night.

DESCRIPTION: In his poem “The House,” Lovecraft describes an ancient, sinister abode, which fills the speaker with a familiar sense of dread.

CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “The House.” The Ancient Track: The Complete Poetical Works of H. P. Lovecraft. Edited by S. T. Joshi, Hippocampus Press, 2013, p. 64.

Gifted Browning

Thy lyrics, gifted Browning, charm the ear,
And ev’ry mark of classic polish bear.
With subtle raptures they enchain the heart;
To soul and mind a mystic thrill impart:
Yet would their rhythmic magic be more keen,
If we could but discover what they mean!

DESCRIPTION: In his poem “On Robert Browning,” Lovecraft praises the poet for his verse while simultaneously lamenting its obscurity.

CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “On Robert Browning.” The Ancient Track: The Complete Poetical Works of H. P. Lovecraft. Edited by S. T. Joshi, Hippocampus Press, 2013, p. 203.

The Source and Focus of Our Civilisation

It is difficult to describe the sensations afforded by a first sight of the Old World’s misty shores. Dreams seem to be taking a tangible form, and legend to be crystallising into fact. The ancient cliffs of England breathe a homecoming, and we feel close to the source and focus of our civilisation. Southampton remains in memory as a scene of bustle and excitement—of customs inspection, and of embarkation on the London-bound train, so tiny to American eyes. From the train-window one might see the delectable English landscape outspread in rich summer greenness—the fields, hills, and hedgerows of that Mother Land which shapes our thoughts and imaginations through centuries of continuous life. Here and there a graceful country seat or village spire was glimpsed amid the hills or caught outlined against the sky, and one could not but note the many vestiges of mediaevalism inherent in the aspect of the cottages and in the fortress-like architecture of the older manor-houses.

DESCRIPTION: In his essay “European Glimpses,” which recounts a trip his ex-wife, Sonia H. Greene, took in 1932, Lovecraft describes how an American tourist might feel upon arriving in England, a country the author loved and admired.

CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “European Glimpses.” Collected Essays. Edited by S. T. Joshi, vol. 4, Hippocampus Press, 2005, pp. 232-52.