Behold great Whitman, whose licentious line
Delights the rake, and warms the souls of swine;
Whose fever’d fancy shuns the measur’d pace,
And copies Ovid’s filth without his grace.
In his rough brain a genius might have grown,
Had he not sought to play the brute alone;
But void of shame, he let his wit run wild,
And liv’d and wrote as Adam’s bestial child.
Averse to culture, strange to humankind,
He never knew the pleasures of the mind.
Scorning the pure, the delicate, the clean,
His joys were sordid, and his morals mean.
Thro’ his gross thoughts a native vigour ran,
From which he deem’d himself the perfect man:
But want of decency his rank decreas’d,
And sunk him to the level of the beast.
Would that his Muse had dy’d before her birth,
Nor spread such foul corruption o’er the earth.
DESCRIPTION: In his poem “Fragment on Whitman,” Lovecraft criticizes Walt Whitman’s poetry for its licentiousness.
CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “Fragment on Whitman.” The Ancient Track: The Complete Poetical Works of H. P. Lovecraft. Edited by S. T. Joshi, Hippocampus Press, 2013, pp. 202-3.
The indifferentist laughs as much at irresponsible calamity-howlers and temperamental melancholiacs as he does at smirking idealists and unctuous woodrowilsonians. For example—nothing makes me more amused than the hypersensitive people who consider life as essentially an agony instead of merely a cursed bore, punctuated by occasional agony and still rarer pleasure. Life is rather depressing because pain and ennui outweigh pleasure; but the pleasure exists, none the less, and can be enjoyed now and then while it lasts. And too—many can build up a crustacean insensitiveness against the subtler forms of pain, so that many lucky individuals have their pain-quota measurably reduced. Uniform melancholy is as illogical as uniform cheer.
DESCRIPTION: In a letter to his friend James F. Morton, Lovecraft describes himself as an indifferentist, a stoic realist rather than an optimist or pessimist.
CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “To James F. Morton.” 30 Oct. 1929. Lord of a Visible World: An Autobiography in Letters. Edited by S. T. Joshi and David E. Schultz, Ohio University Press, 2000, pp. 229-31.
“Mortal, ephemeral and bold,
In mercy keep what I have told,
Yet think sometimes of what hath been,
And sights these crumbling rocks have seen;
Of sentience old ere thy weak brood
Appear’d in lesser magnitude,
And living things that yet survive,
Tho’ not to human ken alive.
I AM THE VOICE OF MOTHER EARTH,
FROM WHENCE ALL HORRORS HAVE THEIR BIRTH.”
DESCRIPTION: In his poem “Mother Earth,” Lovecraft envisions Mother Earth as a frightening entity, one capable of exposing humanity’s insignificance and impermanence.
CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “Mother Earth.” The Ancient Track: The Complete Poetical Works of H. P. Lovecraft. Edited by S. T. Joshi, Hippocampus Press, 2013, pp. 60-1.
All that I care about is the civilisation—the state of development and organisation which is capable of gratifying the complex mental-emotional-aesthetic needs of highly evolved and acutely sensitive men. Any indignation I may feel in the whole matter is not for the woes of the down-trodden, but for the threat of social unrest to the traditional institutions of the civilisation. The reformer cares only for the masses, but may make concessions to the civilisation. I care only for the civilisation, but may make concessions to the masses. Do you not see the antipodal difference between the two positions? Both the reformer and I may unite in opposing an unworkably arrogant piece of legislation, but the motivating reasons will be absolutely antithetical. He wants to give the crowd as much as can be given them without wrecking all semblance of civilisation, whereas I want to give them only as much as can be given them without even slightly impairing the level of the national culture.
DESCRIPTION: In a letter to his friend Woodburn Harris, Lovecraft claims that his political philosophy is based, not on the welfare of the populace, but on the preservation of its high culture.
CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “To Woodburn Harris.” 25 Feb. 1929. Lord of a Visible World: An Autobiography in Letters. Edited by S. T. Joshi and David E. Schultz, Ohio University Press, 2000, pp. 226-9.