I derived the most extreme pleasure from my toys—of which I had profuse variety, since our really straitened circumstances date only from 1904. My favourite toys were very small ones, which would permit of their arrangement in widely extensive scenes. My mode of play was to devote an entire table-top to a scene, which I would proceed to develop as a broad landscape . . . . helped by occasional trays of earth or clay. I had all sorts of toy villages with small wooded or cardboard houses, and by combining several of them would often construct cities of considerable extent and intricacy. (Do they make these toy villages now? There were even steepled churches!) Toy trees—of which I had an infinite number—were used with varying effect to form parts of the landscape . . . . even forests (or the suggested edges of forests). Certain kinds of blocks made walls and hedges, and I also used blocks in constructing large public buildings.
DESCRIPTION: In a letter to his friend J. Vernon Shea, Lovecraft describes how, as a child, he would build elaborate cities out of wooden blocks and other small toys.
CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “To J. Vernon Shea.” 8 Nov. 1933. Lord of a Visible World: An Autobiography in Letters. Edited by S. T. Joshi and David E. Schultz, Ohio University Press, 2000, pp. 18-24.
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.
Over old roofs and past decaying spires
The harbour whistles chant all through the night;
Throats from strange ports, and beaches far and white,
And fabulous oceans, ranged in motley choirs.
Each to the other alien and unknown,
Yet all, by some obscurely focussed force
From brooding gulfs beyond the Zodiac’s course,
Fused into one mysterious cosmic drone.
Through shadowy dreams they send a marching line
Of still more shadowy shapes and hints and views;
Echoes from outer voids, and subtle clues
To things which they themselves cannot define.
And always in that chorus, faintly blent,
We catch some notes no earth-ship ever sent.
DESCRIPTION: In his poem “Harbour Whistles,” Lovecraft describes the eerie sounds of the harbor, which evoke vague images of foreign lands and other worlds.
CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “Harbour Whistles.” The Ancient Track: The Complete Poetical Works of H. P. Lovecraft. Edited by S. T. Joshi, Hippocampus Press, 2013, p. 93.
Somewhere in dream there is an evil place
Where tall, deserted buildings crowd along
A deep, black, narrow channel, reeking strong
Of frightful things whence oily currents race.
Lanes with old walls half meeting overhead
Wind off to streets one may or may not know,
And feeble moonlight sheds a spectral glow
Over long rows of windows, dark and dead.
There are no footfalls, and the one soft sound
Is of the oily water as it glides
Under stone bridges, and along the sides
Of its deep flume, to some vague ocean bound.
None lives to tell when that stream washed away
Its dream-lost region from the world of clay.
DESCRIPTION: In his poem “The Canal,” Lovecraft describes a nightmarish city, through which a foul channel runs.
CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “The Canal.” The Ancient Track: The Complete Poetical Works of H. P. Lovecraft. Edited by S. T. Joshi, Hippocampus Press, 2013, p. 90.
They took me slumming, where gaunt walls of brick
Bulge outward with a viscous stored-up evil,
And twisted faces, thronging foul and thick,
Wink messages to alien god and devil.
A million fires were blazing in the streets,
And from flat roofs a furtive few would fly
Bedraggled birds into the yawning sky
While hidden drums droned on with measured beats.
I knew those fires were brewing monstrous things,
And that those birds of space had been Outside—
I guessed to what dark planet’s crypts they plied,
And what they brought from Thog beneath their wings.
The others laughed—till struck too mute to speak
By what they glimpsed in one bird’s evil beak.
DESCRIPTION: In his poem “The Pigeon-Flyers,” Lovecraft describes an urban slum, whose evil residents practice occult rituals.
CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “The Pigeon-Flyers.” The Ancient Track: The Complete Poetical Works of H. P. Lovecraft. Edited by S. T. Joshi, Hippocampus Press, 2013, p. 84.
“Beware St. Toad’s cracked chimes!” I heard him scream
As I plunged into those mad lanes that wind
In labyrinths obscure and undefined
South of the river where old centuries dream.
He was a furtive figure, bent and ragged,
And in a flash had staggered out of sight,
So still I burrowed onward in the night
Toward where more roof-lines rose, malign and jagged.
No guide-book told of what was lurking here—
But now I heard another old man shriek:
“Beware St. Toad’s cracked chimes!” And growing weak,
I paused, when a third greybeard croaked in fear:
“Beware St. Toad’s cracked chimes!” Aghast, I fled—
Till suddenly that black spire loomed ahead.
DESCRIPTION: In his poem “St. Toad’s,” Lovecraft describes a nightmarish church, which the speaker cannot seem to avoid.
CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “St. Toad’s.” The Ancient Track: The Complete Poetical Works of H. P. Lovecraft. Edited by S. T. Joshi, Hippocampus Press, 2013, p. 90.
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.
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.
It was the city I had known before;
The ancient, leprous town where mongrel throngs
Chant to strange gods, and beat unhallowed gongs
In crypts beneath foul alleys near the shore.
The rotting, fish-eyed houses leered at me
From where they leaned, drunk and half-animate,
As edging through the filth I passed the gate
To the black courtyard where the man would be.
The dark walls closed me in, and loud I cursed
That ever I had come to such a den,
When suddenly a score of windows burst
Into wild light, and swarmed with dancing men:
Mad, soundless revels of the dragging dead—
And not a corpse had either hands or head!
DESCRIPTION: In his poem “The Courtyard,” Lovecraft describes a slum inhabited by the living dead.
CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “The Courtyard.” The Ancient Track: The Complete Poetical Works of H. P. Lovecraft. Edited by S. T. Joshi, Hippocampus Press, 2013, p. 84.
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.