Unplumbed Marvels

I cannot tell why some things hold for me
A sense of unplumbed marvels to befall,
Or of a rift in the horizon’s wall
Opening to worlds where only gods can be.
There is a breathless, vague expectancy,
As of vast ancient pomps I half recall,
Or wild adventures, uncorporeal,
Ecstasy-fraught, and as a day-dream free.

It is in sunsets and strange city spires,
Old villages and woods and misty downs,
South winds, the sea, low hills, and lighted towns,
Old gardens, half-heard songs, and the moon’s fires.
But though its lure alone makes life worth living,
None gains or guesses what it hints at giving.


DESCRIPTION: In his poem “Expectancy,” Lovecraft describes the sense of mystery he feels when he encounters certain scenes, such as sunsets and city spires.

CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “Expectancy.” The Ancient Track: The Complete Poetical Works of H. P. Lovecraft. Edited by S. T. Joshi, Hippocampus Press, 2013, p. 91.

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Home Again

At Break-Neck Hill Road we diverg’d to the eastward and travers’d the winding roads thro’ the exquisite sylvan stretches of Quinsnicket, or Lincoln-Woods, my favourite haunt on fine summer afternoons. It seem’d appropriate to return to my native scenes thro’ this lovely and typical part of them—and this avenue of approach set off very ably the occasional glimpses of the distant spires and domes of OLD PROVIDENCE which hilltop moments afforded. PROVIDENCE—my native land! No sensation at any stage of my travels equall’d that with which I was animated as we drew near the scene of my birth and lifelong memories. Pawtucket was a dingy interlude. Then the line of East Avenue and Hope Street—and the PROVIDENCE urban boundary at the end of Blackstone Boulevard, known to me for thirty years and more, and the scene of my choicest bicycle rides of boyhood! Again my three-corner’d hat was rais’d from the powder’d locks of my periwig. HOME! After that but a little space to Barnes Street, then a turn under shady trees, a square or two westward to where the road touches the brink of the antient hill and vanishes into the golden sunset sky betwixt old houses—and then Number Ten! My own hearthstone at last—and all the remember’d books and furniture of my youth! It was the eighteenth of May, and I had been abroad since the fourth of April! A marvellous, pleasing, and vary’d trip in all its parts, yet providing no sight more agreeable than Old Providence, or any moment so delightful as that of my return to my cherish’d doorstep.


DESCRIPTION: In his essay “Travels in the Provinces of America,” Lovecraft describes his sensations when, after a long trip abroad, he returned home to his beloved Providence.

CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “Travels in the Provinces of America.” Collected Essays. Edited by S. T. Joshi, vol. 4, Hippocampus Press, 2005, pp. 32-61.

A Sort of Frozen Hell

When the January tempest sweeps across the barren hill,
And life itself can scarce withstand the marrow-piercing chill,
When the snows drift o’er the pastures and choke the dreary dell,
Then the cold New England country seems a sort of frozen hell.

When the sky’s nocturnal splendour mocks the frigid earth below,
And Orion and the Dog-Star in the sterile silence glow,
When not all the fires in heaven can the winter’s cold dispel,
Then we eye the cruel stars in vain, and call the land a hell.

When the mad, malignant billows rage along the rocky coast,
And the ship with ice-clad rigging in the ocean storm is toss’d;
Then the anxious seaport cottagers look on the treach’rous swell,
And, thinking of the absent, call the savage clime a hell.

But when the North awakes in spring, and white gives way to green,
And crystal brooks begin to flow, and flow’rs bedeck the scene;
When rushes fringe the placid pool and leaflets shade the dell,
Then we revel in the welcome warmth, without a thought of hell.


DESCRIPTION: In his poem “New England,” Lovecraft contrasts the region’s hellish winters with its delightful summers.

CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “New England.” The Ancient Track: The Complete Poetical Works of H. P. Lovecraft. Edited by S. T. Joshi, Hippocampus Press, 2013, pp. 273-4.

 

Take Me Home

The daemon said that he would take me home
To the pale, shadowy land I half recalled
As a high place of stair and terrace, walled
With marble balustrades that sky-winds comb,
While miles below a maze of dome on dome
And tower on tower beside a sea lies sprawled.
Once more, he told me, I would stand enthralled
On those old heights, and hear the far-off foam.

All this he promised, and through sunset’s gate
He swept me, past the lapping lakes of flame,
And red-gold thrones of gods without a name
Who shriek in fear at some impending fate.
Then a black gulf with sea-sounds in the night:
“Here was your home,” he mocked, “when you had sight!”


DESCRIPTION: In his poem “Homecoming,” Lovecraft describes how his speaker was tricked by a demon, who promised to restore him to his childhood home.

CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “Homecoming.” The Ancient Track: The Complete Poetical Works of H. P. Lovecraft. Edited by S. T. Joshi, Hippocampus Press, 2013, p. 82.

Thy Sacred Ground

My Providence! What airy hosts
Turn still thy gilded vanes;
What winds of elf that with grey ghosts
People thine ancient lanes!

The chimes of evening as of old
Above thy valleys sound,
While thy stern fathers ‘neath the mould
Make blest thy sacred ground.

Thou dream’st beside the waters there,
Unchang’d by cruel years;
A spirit from an age more fair
That shines behind our tears.

Thy twinkling lights each night I see,
Tho’ time and space divide;
For thou art of the soul of me,
And always at my side!


DESCRIPTION: In his poem “Providence,” Lovecraft describes his lifelong attachment to Providence, a place which he felt transcended time.

CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “Providence.” The Ancient Track: The Complete Poetical Works of H. P. Lovecraft. Edited by S. T. Joshi, Hippocampus Press, 2013, pp. 303-5.

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.

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.

As from a Past Not Far Behind

There was no hand to hold me back
That night I found the ancient track
Over the hill, and strained to see
The fields that teased my memory.
This tree, that wall—I knew them well,
And all the roofs and orchards fell
Familiarly upon my mind
As from a past not far behind.
I knew what shadows would be cast
When the late moon came up at last
From back of Zaman’s Hill, and how
The vale would shine three hours from now.
And when the path grew steep and high,
And seemed to end against the sky,
I had no fear of what might rest
Beyond that silhouetted crest.
Straight on I walked, while all the night
Grew pale with phosphorescent light,
And wall and farmhouse gable glowed
Unearthly by the climbing road.
There was the milestone that I knew—
“Two miles to Dunwich”—now the view
Of distant spire and roofs would dawn
With ten more upward paces gone….


DESCRIPTION: In his poem “The Ancient Track,” Lovecraft describes a journey along a strangely familiar path.

CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “The Ancient Track.” The Ancient Track: The Complete Poetical Works of H. P. Lovecraft. Edited by S. T. Joshi, Hippocampus Press, 2013, pp. 79-80.

The Spires of Providence

Where bay and river tranquil blend,
And leafy hillsides rise,
The spires of Providence ascend
Against the ancient skies.

Here centuried domes of shining gold
Salute the morning’s glare,
While slanting gables, odd and old,
Are scatter’d here and there.

And in the narrow winding ways
That climb o’er slope and crest,
The magic of forgotten days
May still be found to rest.


DESCRIPTION: In his poem “Providence,” Lovecraft describes the timeless appeal of his beloved hometown.

CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “Providence.” The Ancient Track: The Complete Poetical Works of H. P. Lovecraft. Edited by S. T. Joshi, Hippocampus Press, 2013, pp. 303-5.