(Translated into English)
When first among the amateurs I fell,
I blush’d in shame because I could not spell.
Tho’ skill’d in numbers, and at ease in prose,
My letters I could never well dispose.
Thoughts came abundant, language was the same;
Yet none the less I scarce could spell my name!
The kindly printer (with an eye for trade)
A clumsy care for all my work display’d:
Indiff’rent as I was, I us’d his art
Till critics cry’d, “My printer should be shot!”
Thus boldly censur’d, I began to seek
A means to thwart the rude reviewers’ clique:
My fever’d eye in rage I cast around,
When all at once the wish’d-for plan I found.
It happen’d on a summer’s holiday,
That past a madhouse gate I took my way.
Within that bedlam was a sage confin’d,
Who had from too much study lost his mind.
Now strolling out, in watchful keeper’s care,
With childish sounds the madman fill’d the air.
Still dreaming of his letter’s days of yore,
His ravings on remember’d subjects bore:
Dim came the thoughts of what he us’d to teach,
And he began to curse our English speech.
“Aha!” quoth he, “the men that made our tongue
Were arrant rogues, and I shall have them hung.
For long-establish’d customs what care we?
Come, let us tear down etymology.
Let spelling fly, and naught but sound remain;
The world is mad, and I alone am sane!”
Thus rav’d the sage; inventing, as he walk’d,
A hundred ways to spell our words as talk’d.
He simplify’d until his fancy bred
A system quite as simple as his head.
In scholarship disastrous change he wrought,
And alter’d, as he went, for want of thought.
But I, attentive, heard with joyful ear
The wild distortions, and perversions queer.
Why could not I defend my ill-spell’d page
In progress’ name, and with reformer’s rage?
With hope renew’d, I hasten’d home to write,
And passing wondrous was my work that night;
For classic purity I sought no more,
But strove to make worse blunders than before.
O fickle fortune! In a week my name
From scholars’ praise attain’d immortal fame,
Whilst other scribes with vague orthography
Siez’d on the clever ruse, and copy’d me.
Today in ev’ry Skateville Amateur
Amorphous letters pass as language pure,
And when some pompous pedant dares to raise
A voice remonstrant ‘gainst our foolish ways,
We never fail the apt retort to give,
But damn him as a blind CONSERVATIVE.
Yet why on us your angry hand or wrath use?
We do but ape Professor B———— M————!
DESCRIPTION: In his poem “The Simple Speller’s Tale,” which mentions literary critic Brander Matthews by name, Lovecraft uses eighteenth-century forms to mock advocates of simplified spelling.
CITATION: Lovecraft, H. P. “The Simple Speller’s Tale.” The Ancient Track: The Complete Poetical Works of H. P. Lovecraft. Edited by S. T. Joshi, Hippocampus Press, 2013, pp. 214-5.