Voices of Earlier English: H.P. Lovecraft's Only Good Poem

An attempt to give an idea of what Lovecraft's reading voice and accent might have been like, using the few contemporary descriptions of Lovecraft's speech, as well as his social background, his upbringing, his linguistic self-conceptions, and the regional dialect history of American English. A few things are all but certain, such as the fact that his speech would have been non-rhotic, would have the TRAP-BATH vowel split, would have diphthong raising, would have had non-velarized pre-vocalic /l/, and a couple dozen other features. Others are more tenuous.

The Messenger (p. 1929)
By H. P. Lovecraft

To Bertrand K. Hart, Esq.

The thing, he said, would come that night at three
From the old churchyard on the hill below;
But crouching by an oak fire’s wholesome glow,
I tried to tell myself it could not be.
Surely, I mused, it was a pleasantry
Devised by one who did not truly know
The Elder Sign, bequeathed from long ago,
That sets the fumbling forms of darkness free.

He had not meant it—no—but still I lit
Another lamp as starry Leo climbed
Out of the Seekonk, and a steeple chimed
Three—and the firelight faded, bit by bit.
Then at the door that cautious rattling came—
And the mad truth devoured me like a flame!


  1. A fascinating reconstruction! But I can't entirely agree with your dismissal of one other Lovecraft poem: an eight-line memorial to a kitten, "Little Sam Perkins". A masterpiece it may not be, but its last two lines are poignant indeed!

    The ancient garden seems tonight
    A deeper gloom to bear,
    As if some silent shadow’s blight
    Were hov’ring in the air.

    With hidden griefs the grasses sway,
    Unable quite to word them—
    Remembering from yesterday
    The little paws that stirr’d them.