Lovecraft's 1912 poem, his first published, "Providence in 2000 A.D."

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Summary: Someone asked to the see the text of Providence 2000 A.D., so I figured I would type it up. Mildly humorous, in a generally racist way, it shows a 22-year-old Lovecraft's take on non-English Americans. And it was his first published!

BLOT: (04 Apr 2015 - 09:40:05 AM)

Lovecraft's 1912 poem, his first published, "Providence in 2000 A.D."

Over on /r/Lovecraft, someone asked to see the full-text of "Providence 2000 A.D.", a poem the redditor described as "HPL's early xenophobic writing", which, spoiler, is a damned apt way to describe it. You can read it, in print, in the 2001 The Ancient Track, put out by Nightshade Books and edited by Joshi. It is the first poem under section IV - Satire - and shows up on page 191. Or, you know, you can read it, below. I said to the redditor I would type it up when I had time, and I had some time this morning.

Some precursor notes, the text below is taken from the 2001 edition in all cases but the superscripts and the footnotes. The paranthetical introduction is, I assume, part of the original. I typed this in by hand and have done a couple of pass-throughs. I might have a typo here or there, but I think I've caught most of them.

"Providence in 2000 A.D.", by Howard Phillips Lovecraft1

(It is announced in the Providence Journal that the Italians desire to alter the name of Atwell's Avenue to "Columbus Avenue".)

For years I'd sav'd my few and hard-earn'd pence To cross the seas and visit Providence. For tho' by birth an Englishman am I, My forbears dwelt in undersiz'd R.I. Until, prest hard by foreign immigrations, Oblig'd they were to leave the old Plantations, And seek a life of quiet and repose On British soil, whence our fam'ly rose. When on my trip I ventur'd to embark, I stepp'd aboard a swift and pond'rous ark Which swimm'd the waves, and in a single day2 Attain'd its port in Narragansett Bay. I left the ship, and with astonish'd eyes Survey'd a city fill'd with foreign cries. No word of discourse could I understand, For English was unknown throughought the land. I went ashore at Sao Miguel's Cape, Where cluster'd men of ev'ry hue and shape. They say, this place as "Fox Point" once was known, But negro Bravas have that name o'erthrown. Upon a shaky street-car, north I flew,3 Swift borne along O'Murphy's Avenue. Long, long ago, this street was call'd "South Main", But such plain titles Erin's sons disdain. At Goldstein's Court I quit the lumb'ring car, And trod the pave that once was "Market Square". At the east end, close by a tow'ring hill, There stands the ruin of a brick-built pile: The ancient "Board of Trade", the people say, Left from the times before the Hebrew's sway. Across a bridge, where fragrant waters run, I shap'd my journey toward the setting sun. A curving junction first engag'd my gaze; My guide-book calls it "Finklestein's Cross-ways",4 But in a note historical 'tis said, That the old English nam'd the spot "Turk's Head". A few yards south, I saw a building old; A stone Post Office, waiting to be sold. My course now lay along a narrow street, Up which I tramp'd with sore and weary feet. Its name is Svenson's Lane, for by the Swede "Westminster Street" was alter'd thus to read. I next climb'd on a car northwestward bound, And soon 'mid swarthy men myself I found On La Collina Federale's brow, Near Il Passagio di Colombo. I then return'd and rode direclty north; On rusty rails the car humm'd o'er the earth. Loud near my seat a man in scorn decry'd And easy plan for reaching the East Side.5 Thro' New Jerusalem we swiftly pass'd; Beheld the wealth that Israel amass'd, And quick arriv'd within New Dublin Town, A city large from small "Pawtucket" grown. From there I wander'd toward Nouvelle Paris, Which in the past, "Woonsocket" us'd to be Before the Gaul from Canada pour'd in To swell the fact'ries, and increase their din. Soon I return'd to Providence, and then Went west to beard the Polack in his den. At what was once call'd "Olneyville" I saw A street sign painted: Wsjzxypq$?&%$ ladislaw.6 With terror struck, I sought the warf once more, But as my steamboat's whistle 'gan to roar, A shrivell'd form, half crouching 'twixt the freight, Seiz'd on my arm, and halted short my gait. "Who art though, Sirrah?" I in wonder cry'd; "A monstrous prodigy," the fellow sigh'd: "Last of my kind, a lone unhappy man, My name is Smith! I'm an American!"7


[1] According to Joshi's notes in The Ancient Track, this poem was Lovecraft's first published poem, and was in Providence's Evening Journal on 4 March 1912 [Section 2, page 6].

[2] In the year 2000, giant ships will travel across the Atlantic ocean in a single day! This is one of the rare cases of "future tech" showing up in Lovecraft's writings.

[3] This is the first of a handful of descriptions that this "Non-English" Providence is starting to crumble.

[4] For those keeping score, the poem comes across as slightly more racist against Jews than others, linking them with the destruction of the "Board of Trade" and having them amass wealth in New Jerusalem. By the way, unlike the other places, New Jerusalem is not linked with renaming something else, but based on the travel descriptions, seems to either be part of Providence itself or a renaming of North Providence.

[5] I feel like the "passage to the East Side" is a reference to something, but I do not know it.

[6] Yes, those characters are in the original. Tee hee.

[7] A later poem, "On an Accomplished Young Linguist", has a sort of similar vibe, as a young polyglot who can speak many languages, including classical ones, is chided for not knowing proper English.



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