The Blackness of a Primal Wood

They cut it down, and where the pitch-black aisles
Of forest night had hid eternal things,
They scal’d the sky with tow’rs and marble piles
To make a city for their revellings.

White and amazing to the lands around
That wondrous wealth of domes and turrets rose;
Crystal and ivory, sublimely crown’d
With pinnacles that bore unmelting snows.

And through its halls the pipe and sistrum rang,
While wine and riot brought their scarlet stains;
Never a voice of elder marvels sang,
Nor any eye call’d up the hills and plains.

Thus down the years, till on one purple night
A drunken minstrel in his careless verse
Spoke the vile words that should not see the light,
And stirr’d the shadows of an ancient curse.

Forests may fall, but not the dusk they shield;
So on the spot where that proud city stood,
The shuddering dawn no single stone reveal’d,
But fled the blackness of a primal wood.

DESCRIPTION: In his poem “The Wood,” Lovecraft describes how a mysterious forest takes revenge on the hedonistic city that cut down its trees.

CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “The Wood.” The Ancient Track: The Complete Poetical Works of H. P. Lovecraft. Edited by S. T. Joshi, Hippocampus Press, 2013, p. 77.


Your Task Henceforth to Sing

You haunt the lonely strand where herons hide,
And palm-framed sunsets open gates of flame;
Where marble moonbeams bridge the lapping tide
To westward shores of dream without a name.

Here, in a haze of half-remembering,
You catch faint sounds from that far, fabled beach.
The world is changed—your task henceforth to sing
Dim, beckoning wonders you could never reach.

DESCRIPTION: In his poem “To a Young Poet in Dunedin,” Lovecraft disparages the modern world, which he considers devoid of magic, and encourages his friend Allan Brownell Grayson, whom he met while visiting Henry S. Whitehead in 1931, to celebrate the “dim, beckoning wonders” that exist only in dreams.

CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “To a Young Poet in Dunedin.” The Ancient Track: The Complete Poetical Works of H. P. Lovecraft. Edited by S. T. Joshi, Hippocampus Press, 2013, p. 191.

The Voice of Mother Earth

“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.

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.

Deep in My Dream

Deep in my dream the great bird whispered queerly
Of the black cone amid the polar waste;
Pushing above the ice-sheet lone and drearly,
By storm-crazed aeons battered and defaced.
Hither no living earth-shapes take their courses,
And only pale auroras and faint suns
Glow on that pitted rock, whose primal sources
Are guessed at dimly by the Elder Ones.

If men should glimpse it, they would merely wonder
What tricky mound of Nature’s build they spied;
But the bird told of vaster parts, that under
The mile-deep ice-shroud crouch and brood and bide.
God help the dreamer whose mad visions shew
Those dead eyes set in crystal gulfs below!

DESCRIPTION: In his poem “Antarktos,” Lovecraft describes an ancient and gargantuan creature, which lies beneath the Antarctic ice.

CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “Antarktos.” The Ancient Track: The Complete Poetical Works of H. P. Lovecraft. Edited by S. T. Joshi, Hippocampus Press, 2013, p. 86.

Jaws Stretched Wide

The great hill hung close over the old town,
A precipice against the main street’s end;
Green, tall, and wooded, looking darkly down
Upon the steeple at the highway bend.
Two hundred years the whispers had been heard
About what happened on the man-shunned slope—
Tales of an oddly mangled deer or bird,
Or of lost boys whose kin had ceased to hope.

One day the mail-man found no village there,
Nor were its folk or houses seen again;
People came out from Aylesbury to stare—
Yet they all told the mail-man it was plain
That he was mad for saying he had spied
The great hill’s gluttonous eyes, and jaws stretched wide.

DESCRIPTION: In his poem “Zaman’s Hill,” Lovecraft describes a supernatural hill, which devours the village at its base.

CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “Zaman’s Hill.” The Ancient Track: The Complete Poetical Works of H. P. Lovecraft. Edited by S. T. Joshi, Hippocampus Press, 2013, p. 83.

Such Things Could Be

Gradually the country around us grew wilder and more deserted. Archaic covered bridges lingered fearsomely out of the past in pockets of the hills, and the half-abandoned railway track paralleling the river seemed to exhale a nebulously visible air of desolation. There were awesome sweeps of vivid valley where great cliffs rose, New England’s virgin granite shewing grey and austere through the verdure that scaled the crests. There were gorges where untamed streams leaped, bearing down towards the river the unimagined secrets of a thousand pathless peaks. Branching away now and then were narrow, half-concealed roads that bored their way through solid, luxuriant masses of forest among whose primal trees whole armies of elemental spirits might well lurk. As I saw these I thought of how Akeley had been molested by unseen agencies on his drives along this very route, and did not wonder that such things could be.

DESCRIPTION: In this passage from the short story “The Whisperer in Darkness” (1930), Albert N. Wilmarth describes his impressions as he journeys deeper and deeper into the state of Vermont.

CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “The Whisperer in Darkness.” The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories. Edited by S. T. Joshi, Penguin Books, 1999, pp. 200-67.

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.