The skill’d Apelles, by his Prince decreed
To paint with living line the panting steed,
Employ’d in vain each trick and study’d grace,
The likeness of the charger’s foam to trace.
At length, in pique, his dripping brush he flung
Against the canvas horse before him hung—
When lo! by chance there spatter’d o’er each part
The painted lather that defy’d his art!
Thus the wild cubists of a later age
With freakish toil their fancies seek to cage,
Tho’ their poor daubings all would nobler be
Should they splash paint as aimlessly as he!
DESCRIPTION: In his poem “Futurist Art,” Lovecraft lampoons Cubism, which he derides as less artistic than the efforts of Apelles of Kos, the Greek painter who, according to legend, actually improved his picture of a “panting steed” by splashing paint on it.
CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “Futurist Art.” The Ancient Track: The Complete Poetical Works of H. P. Lovecraft. Edited by S. T. Joshi, Hippocampus Press, 2013, p. 231.
When about seven or eight I was a genuine pagan, so intoxictated with the beauty of Greece that I acquired a half-sincere belief in the old gods and Nature-spirits. I have in literal truth built altars to Pan, Apollo, Diana, and Athena, and have watched for dryads and satyrs in the woods and fields at dusk. Once I firmly thought I beheld some of these sylvan creatures dancing under autumnal oaks; a kind of “religious experience” as true in its way as the subjective ecstasies of any Christian.
DESCRIPTION: In his essay “A Confession of Unfaith,” Lovecraft claims that, when he was a child, he once saw dryads and satyrs in the woods near his home.
CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “A Confession of Unfaith.” Collected Essays. Edited by S. T. Joshi, vol. 5, Hippocampus Press, 2006, pp. 145-8.
The nighte was darke! O readers, Hark!
And see Ulysses’ fleet!
From trumpets sound back homeward bound
He hopes his spouse to greet.
Long he hath fought, put Troy to naught
And levelled down its walls.
But Neptune’s wrath obstructs his path
And into snares he falls.
DESCRIPTION: In his poem “The Poem of Ulysses, or The Odyssey,” Lovecraft, who was only seven when he wrote it, retells the story of Ulysses in verse.
CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “The Poem of Ulysses, or The Odyssey.” The Ancient Track: The Complete Poetical Works of H. P. Lovecraft. Edited by S. T. Joshi, Hippocampus Press, 2013, pp. 23-5.
Olympian Gods! How can I let ye go
And pin my faith to this new Christian creed?
Can I resign the deities I know
For him who on a cross for man did bleed?
How in my weakness can my hopes depend
On one lone God, though mighty be his pow’r?
Why can Jove’s host no more assistance lend,
To soothe my pains, and cheer my troubled hour?
Are there no Dryads on these wooded mounts
O’er which I oft in desolation roam?
Are there no Naiads in these crystal founts?
Nor Nereids upon the Ocean foam?
DESCRIPTION: In his poem “To the Old Pagan Religion,” Lovecraft laments the passing of paganism and the ascension of Christianity.
CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “To the Old Pagan Religion.” The Ancient Track: The Complete Poetical Works of H. P. Lovecraft. Edited by S. T. Joshi, Hippocampus Press, 2013, p. 31.
Prof. McDonald believes, if we are to accept his verdict literally, that amateurdom’s attempts to attain a classical level of expression are the result of a misconception of our province. Averse to the thought that we should perfect ourselves in those tasteful modes of utterance which are eternal and universal in the conservative world outside, he urges that our papers descend to a realm of more intimate subjectivity and personality; including, to quote his own words, “more of the human and American.”
Not for a moment can this plea be permitted to pass unchallenged, since it is so likely to affect the multitude of crude and youthful writers who need little to discourage them from the pursuit of urbane scholarship. But in challenging it, one need not impugn in any way the contention that informal and subjective expression is desirable or even necessary in amateurdom. It will be sufficient to insist that such expression belongs solely to the epistolary branch of our activities, leaving our printed publications free for more ambitious experiments in the formation of a real style and a real kinship with standard literature.
DESCRIPTION: In his essay “The Case for Classicism,” Lovecraft responds to an essay by Philip B. McDonald, a professor at the University of Colorado, who claims that amateur journalists should stop imitating classical forms.
CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “The Case for Classicism.” Collected Essays. Edited by S. T. Joshi, vol. 2, Hippocampus Press, 2004, pp. 36-8.
Anacreon had a red nose, so they say;
But what’s a red nose if ye’re happy and gay?
Gad split me! I’d rather be red whilst I’m here,
Than white as a lily—and dead half a year!
So Betty, my miss,
Come give me a kiss;
In hell there’s no innkeeper’s daughter like this!
DESCRIPTION: In this passage from the short story “The Tomb” (1917), Jervas Dudley recites the eighteenth-century drinking song that he sang in front of his family at breakfast.
CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “The Tomb.” The Thing on the Doorstep and Other Weird Stories. Edited by S. T. Joshi, Penguin Books, 2001, pp. 1-10.
When, long ago, the Gods created Earth,
In Jove’s fair image Man was shap’d at birth.
The beasts for lesser parts were next design’d;
Yet were they too remote from humankind.
To fill this gap, and join the rest to man,
Th’ Olympian host conceiv’d a clever plan.
A beast they wrought, in semi-human figure,
Fill’d it with vice, and call’d the thing a NIGGER.
DESCRIPTION: In his poem “On the Creation of Niggers,” Lovecraft describes, using racist language, the mythological creation of African peoples, depicting them as less than human.
CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “On the Creation of Niggers.” The Ancient Track: The Complete Poetical Works of H. P. Lovecraft. Edited by S. T. Joshi, Hippocampus Press, 2013, p. 389.
But nothing good can be said of that cancerous machine-culture itself. It is not a true civilisation, and has nothing in it to satisfy a mature and fully developed human mind. It is attuned to the mentality and imagination of the galley-slave and the moron, and crushes relentlessly with disapproval, ridicule, and economic annihilation, any sign of actually independent thought and civilised feeling which chances to rise above its sodden level. It is a treadmill, squirrel-trap culture—drugged and frenzied with the hasheesh of industrial servitude and material luxury. It is wholly a material body-culture, and its symbol is the tiled bathroom and steam radiator rather than the Doric portico and the temple of philosophy. Its denizens do not live or know how to live.
DESCRIPTION: In a letter to his friend Woodburn Harris, Lovecraft claims that industrialization and consumerism have contributed to a “machine culture,” which is devoid of either aesthetic or artistic merit.
CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “To Woodburn Harris.” 1 Mar. 1929. Selected Letters. Edited by August Derleth and Donald Wandrei, vol. 2, Arkham House, 1968, pp. 287-314.