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.

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Ode to Dunsany

The hours of night unheeded fly,
And in the grate the embers fade;
Vast shadows one by one pass by
In silent daemon cavalcade.

But still the magic volume holds
The raptur’d eye in realms apart,
And fulgent sorcery enfolds
The willing mind and eager heart.

The lonely room no more is there—
For to the sight in pomp appear
Temples and cities pois’d in air,
And blazing glories—sphere on sphere.


DESCRIPTION: In his poem “On Reading Lord Dunsany’s Book of Wonder,” Lovecraft describes the sense of awe he experiences when reading Lord Dunsany’s works.

CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “On Reading Lord Dunsany’s Book of Wonder.” The Ancient Track: The Complete Poetical Works of H. P. Lovecraft. Edited by S. T. Joshi, Hippocampus Press, 2013, pp. 70-1.

A Finer Man than I

In prideful scorn I watch’d the farmer stride
With step uncouth o’er road and mossy lane;
How could I help but distantly deride
The churlish, callous’d, coarse-clad country swain?

Upon his lips a mumbled ballad stirr’d
The evening air with dull cacophony;
In cold contempt, I shudder’d as I heard,
And held myself no kin to such as he.

But as he leap’d the stile and gain’d the field
Where star-fac’d blossoms twinkled thro’ the hay,
His lumb’ring footfalls oftentimes would yield,
To spare the flow’rs that bloom’d along the way.

And while I gaz’d, my spirit swell’d apace;
With the crude swain I own’d the human tie;
The tend’rest impulse of a noble race
Had prov’d the boor a finer man than I!


DESCRIPTION: In his poem “Brotherhood,” Lovecraft describes his impressions of a man he, initially, assumes to be a country boor.

CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “Brotherhood.” The Ancient Track: The Complete Poetical Works of H. P. Lovecraft. Edited by S. T. Joshi, Hippocampus Press, 2013, p. 119.

Adam’s Bestial Child

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.

Lovecraft’s Odyssey

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.

When the Star-Wind Pours

It is a certain hour of twilight glooms,
Mostly in autumn, when the star-wind pours
Down hilltop streets, deserted out-of-doors,
But shewing early lamplight from snug rooms.
The dead leaves rush in strange, fantastic twists,
And chimney-smoke whirls round with alien grace,
Heeding geometries of outer space,
While Fomalhaut peers in through southward mists.

This is the hour when moonstruck poets know
What fungi sprout in Yuggoth, and what scents
And tints of flowers fill Nithon’s continents,
Such as in no poor earthly garden blow.
Yet for each dream these winds to us convey,
A dozen more of ours they sweep away!


DESCRIPTION: In his poem “Star-Winds,” Lovecraft describes how a sense of cosmic awe can be aroused by seemingly everyday phenomena.

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

The Hack

The modern bard restrains poetic rage,
To fit his couplets to a quarter-page.
Who now regards his skill, or taste, or strength,
When verse is writ and printed for its length?
His soaring sentiments he needs must pinch,
And sing his Amaryllis by the inch.
The art is easy when the artist tries
Not for Parnassus, but alone for size.
He wastes no care on polish, wit, or grace,
Who rhymes to fill an idle bit of space.
None heeds his worth; his listless lines are bought
Because some favour’d story is too short.
No critic’s sneer his honest ire incites,
For none, forsooth, peruses what he writes!


DESCRIPTION: In his poem “The Magazine Poet,” Lovecraft mocks the commercialism of modern magazines and the poets who write for them.

CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “The Magazine Poet.” The Ancient Track: The Complete Poetical Works of H. P. Lovecraft. Edited by S. T. Joshi, Hippocampus Press, 2013, pp. 225-6.

Gifted Browning

Thy lyrics, gifted Browning, charm the ear,
And ev’ry mark of classic polish bear.
With subtle raptures they enchain the heart;
To soul and mind a mystic thrill impart:
Yet would their rhythmic magic be more keen,
If we could but discover what they mean!


DESCRIPTION: In his poem “On Robert Browning,” Lovecraft praises the poet for his verse while simultaneously lamenting its obscurity.

CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “On Robert Browning.” The Ancient Track: The Complete Poetical Works of H. P. Lovecraft. Edited by S. T. Joshi, Hippocampus Press, 2013, p. 203.

Skies That Now Are Dark Were Beaming

O’er the midnight moorlands crying,
Thro’ the cypress forests sighing,
In the night-wind madly flying,
Hellish forms with streaming hair;
In the barren branches creaking,
By the stagnant swamp-pools speaking,
Past the shore-cliffs ever shrieking;
Damn’d daemons of despair.

Once, I think I half remember,
Ere the grey skies of November
Quench’d my youth’s aspiring ember,
Liv’d there such a thing as bliss;
Skies that now are dark were beaming,
Gold and azure, splendid seeming
Till I learn’d it all was dreaming—
Deadly drowsiness of Dis.

But the stream of Time, swift flowing,
Brings the torment of half-knowing—
Dimly rushing, blindly going
Past the never-trodden lea;
And the voyager, repining,
Sees the grisly death-fires shining,
Hears the wicked petrel’s whining
As he helpless drifts to sea.


DESCRIPTION: In his poem “Despair,” which was written shortly after his mother’s nervous breakdown, Lovecraft uses weird imagery to symbolize his feelings of hopelessness.

CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “Despair.” The Ancient Track: The Complete Poetical Works of H. P. Lovecraft. Edited by S. T. Joshi, Hippocampus Press, 2013, pp. 61-2.

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.