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Re: A closer look at the poems of Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Hespire (IP Logged)
Date: 13 August, 2020 12:14PM
Sawfish, your meticulous exploration of the poem was brilliant and easy to follow. The nightshade as an agent or ritualized object for the dark god Thasaidon rings too true with me! I think our interpretations were close in some ways, thoguh mine was far more generic. You've inspired me to follow the lines much more closely.

I've enjoyed everyone's interpretations, including Knygatin's. My only issue was that I thought I was being criticized for not following the same interpretation as another, but Knygatin cleared that up quickly. A realist or fantastic approach to these poems would be interesting. And anyway, Smith was clearly a fantasist and had an eye for realism within fantasy.

As to the subject of appreciation, I can't properly call myself an admirer of poetry, because I've only delved into the works of Poe, Baudelaire, Shelley, Keats, and Smith, with a little Milton. I would love to expand my tastes and knowledge, but for now I don't feel much difficulty in enjoying them. I may be barbaric, and I know that a true expert would understand these better than I can, but it must mean something that I can follow Smith's flow of impressions with a certain blind intuition. Perhaps I share certain philosophic or imaginative inclinations with him.

Edit: Sawfish mentioned "Tolometh." That could be a good eldritch follow-up to "Nightshade", expanding on the image of gods and altars!



Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 13 Aug 20 | 12:19PM by Hespire.

Re: A closer look at the poems of Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Oldjoe (IP Logged)
Date: 13 August, 2020 03:32PM
Sawfish Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> When I looked at OldJoe's recommended poem, I had
> to approach it as if I was approaching a piece of
> Java or C++ code that had been written by someone
> else, and I had inherited the
> maintenance/enhancement of it. I had to examine it
> minutely, and in small pieces to try to understand
> what was going on, basically.
>
> Turned out to be kinda fun, though.

You and I must both be software developers! Although these days I do my spelunking in Javacript and Python (I do miss Java sometimes...)

But your experience of having to examine a poem incrementally in order to gain an appreciation and/or understanding is not so unusual, I think. I read a fair amount of poetry, and my own approach is similar to yours. Poetry does not have to follow the rules of prose or of spoken language, so it often requires extra effort to really wrap your head around it. But for good poetry, the effort can be well worth it.

I often compare poetry to instrumental music, and think of the time I first heard Thelonious Monk playing piano. My first reaction was "What the hell?" But after a while, I began to hear where Monk was coming from, and now I love his music!

Re: A closer look at the poems of Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Noivilbo (IP Logged)
Date: 13 August, 2020 05:53PM
Ces fleurs maléfiques portent le VD. Maintenez la social distance! BTW, CAS wrote another poem "Berries of the Deadly Nightshade" in which a similar but more subtle impishness can be detected.

Re: A closer look at the poems of Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 13 August, 2020 07:58PM
Oldjoe Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Sawfish Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > When I looked at OldJoe's recommended poem, I
> had
> > to approach it as if I was approaching a piece
> of
> > Java or C++ code that had been written by
> someone
> > else, and I had inherited the
> > maintenance/enhancement of it. I had to examine
> it
> > minutely, and in small pieces to try to
> understand
> > what was going on, basically.
> >
> > Turned out to be kinda fun, though.
>
> You and I must both be software developers!

Hah!

I've been retired for nearly 7 years, however, and no messing with languages/programs.

> Although these days I do my spelunking in
> Javacript and Python (I do miss Java
> sometimes...)

Trash collection was pretty nice, as was automatic memory alloc/dealloc.

>
> But your experience of having to examine a poem
> incrementally in order to gain an appreciation
> and/or understanding is not so unusual, I think.
> I read a fair amount of poetry, and my own
> approach is similar to yours. Poetry does not have
> to follow the rules of prose or of spoken
> language, so it often requires extra effort to
> really wrap your head around it. But for good
> poetry, the effort can be well worth it.
>
> I often compare poetry to instrumental music, and
> think of the time I first heard Thelonious Monk
> playing piano. My first reaction was "What the
> hell?" But after a while, I began to hear where
> Monk was coming from, and now I love his music!

Same here.

This is a really good site!

Sawfish
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Life is a tragedy to those who feel, a comedy to those who think."

Re: A closer look at the poems of Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Oldjoe (IP Logged)
Date: 14 August, 2020 10:51AM
Noivilbo Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Ces fleurs maléfiques portent le VD. Maintenez la
> social distance! BTW, CAS wrote another poem
> "Berries of the Deadly Nightshade" in which a
> similar but more subtle impishness can be
> detected.

Since I'm reading through CAS' poetry in chronological order, I had not yet gotten to his works in the haiku form. But after reading your message, I was prompted to do so, and your phrase "subtle impishness" really captures what CAS accomplished in those three short lines.

Here's the link to "Berries of the Deadly Nightshade" for those that need a dose of impishness!

[www.eldritchdark.com]

Re: A closer look at the poems of Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 16 August, 2020 04:02PM
Personally I think a poem is often closer to a painting than to music (unless it is a narrative poem). Music is always connected with time, for music cannot be experienced without the medium of time. A poem like "To the Nightshade" or shorter, in which the first line and last line connect (and every line in between), forming a whole unit than can be experienced in an instant, is beyond time; once you got all the lines sorted and placed down in your head, the lines blend into an alchemic essence of singular insight.

I really enjoyed the discussion of "To the Nightshade", several interesting viewpoints that enriched the poem for me. This must be one of the finest topic initiatives and threads in the history of Eldritch Dark. Gutår! Cheers! to ye all Bacchi and Apollonian acolytes! Boyd must be proud of us all today, to see the enlighted aftermath of his legacy.

I eagerly await the opening premiere of "Tolometh", and to dive down into the Atlantean depths. Or perhaps some less demanding challenge, or whatever poem suits the moment. I expect that every one of CAS's poems will eventually find their ways into this thread, down the decades and centuries.

Re: A closer look at the poems of Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Noivilbo (IP Logged)
Date: 16 August, 2020 06:19PM
I share your thoughts on the painterly quality of his poems, Knygatin. Reading them in a series can be like strolling through a gallery. The music in the museum is always present but is sometimes incidental to the imagery.

Re: A closer look at the poems of Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Noivilbo (IP Logged)
Date: 16 August, 2020 06:34PM
In discussing "Tolometh" it might be worthwhile to also consider "Ougabalys", an earlier version of the poem.

Re: A closer look at the poems of Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Oldjoe (IP Logged)
Date: 22 August, 2020 12:12PM
Great suggestion Noivilbo about discussing "Ougabalys" and "Tolometh" together, since they represent two versions of essentially the same work. I blogged about "Ougabalys" a little earlier this year:

[www.desertdweller.net]

It is quite interesting to see how CAS improved the poem when he re-wrote it as "Tolometh". He expanded it with a sixth stanza, but also discarded the weakest stanza from "Ougabalys", so "Tolometh" has two stanzas that are completely new.

The abandoned stanza from "Ougabalys" is this one:

Before me, many a chorister
Made offering of alien myrrh,
And copper-bearded sailors brought,
From isles of ever-foaming seas,
Enormous lumps of ambergris
And corals intricately wrought.


It's not bad as such, but doesn't really add anything new compared to the preceding stanza, which also detailed the parade of supplicants before the throne.

What's especially interesting is the different endings between the two works. In "Ougabalys", the poem ends with the drowned dreams of the mighty god, giving that poem the theme of "all things must pass."

"Tolometh" ends on quite a different note:

And yet, in ways outpassing thought,
Men worship me that know me not.
They work my will. I shall arise
In that last dawn of atom-fire,
To stand upon the planet's pyre
And cast my shadow on the skies.


That's a different theme altogether: now we are warned of the coming resurrection of the drowned god. The consequences of that rebirth will be grim indeed, with Tolometh standing "upon the planet's pyre" and rising up to "cast my shadow on the skies."

It's fascinating to see how CAS took a good poem ("Ougabalys") and turned it into a great poem ("Tolometh") while retaining about 80% of the original content.

Re: A closer look at the poems of Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 22 August, 2020 12:44PM
This is terrific! A fun comparison!

There are two additions that stick out and really change the tone...

Ougabalys, while apparently a menacing-looking god, what with three horns and one eye, is nowhere identified directly with evil; however, Tolometh is:

The star-born evil that I brought
Through all the ancient land was wrought:
All women took my yoke of shame;
I reared, through sumless centuries,
The thrones of hell-black wizardries,


So this is a *very bad* god, indeed.

But, inexplicably, he goes under with Poseidonis...

The final stanza is very, very appealing to the mid 20thC reader. I can remember being scared witless over a full-up nuclear exchange--pretty much everyone was and few talked about it, treating it with the same fearful reticence as cancer. I even have a very funny anecdote from the late 70s, when I was living near Vandenberg AFB.

So what CAS very effectively does is sort of amp up the notion of undying evil: a formerly potent god focused entirely on evil, again senses himself recharged by the political situation of the mid 20th C, with the possible/probable result of Tolometh's resurrection and apotheosis during a cataclysmic nuclear exchange--which, as mentioned, was on everyone's mind.

Tolometh is by far the better, much more powerful poem, in my opinion.

A fun topic!

Gosh. Tolometh, being from the stars, apparently, and pretty much evil through and through, is hoping to rise from the ocean floor, like HPL's You-Know-Who...

Sawfish
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Life is a tragedy to those who feel, a comedy to those who think."

Re: A closer look at the poems of Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Oldjoe (IP Logged)
Date: 23 August, 2020 11:35AM
Sawfish Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> So what CAS very effectively does is sort of amp
> up the notion of undying evil: a formerly potent
> god focused entirely on evil, again senses himself
> recharged by the political situation of the mid
> 20th C, with the possible/probable result of
> Tolometh's resurrection and apotheosis during a
> cataclysmic nuclear exchange--which, as mentioned,
> was on everyone's mind.

That's a very interesting angle that I hadn't considered. Although I can't find any information to nail down the exact date of composition, "Tolometh" first appeared in Spells & Philtres, published in 1958, so of course that places it solidly in the post-war era of atomic brinksmanship. CAS apparently invented the name Tolometh, and in doing so he may indeed have been re-birthing a maleficent divinity of nuclear chaos!

Interestingly, a simple Google search reveals that the Marvel Comics universe has a "Tolometh" character, whose origin is described thus:

Quote:
It is unknown when exactly he came into being but he was the ruler of a large city during ancient times. Somehow he was overthrown and his eye made into a mythical amulet and his city sunk deep within the sea.

Further evidence that CAS' impact on popular culture is probably much greater than he is given credit for!

Re: A closer look at the poems of Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 23 August, 2020 11:57AM
Oldjoe Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Sawfish Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > So what CAS very effectively does is sort of
> amp
> > up the notion of undying evil: a formerly
> potent
> > god focused entirely on evil, again senses
> himself
> > recharged by the political situation of the mid
> > 20th C, with the possible/probable result of
> > Tolometh's resurrection and apotheosis during a
> > cataclysmic nuclear exchange--which, as
> mentioned,
> > was on everyone's mind.
>
> That's a very interesting angle that I hadn't
> considered. Although I can't find any information
> to nail down the exact date of composition,
> "Tolometh" first appeared in Spells & Philtres,
> published in 1958, so of course that places it
> solidly in the post-war era of atomic
> brinksmanship. CAS apparently invented the name
> Tolometh, and in doing so he may indeed have been
> re-birthing a maleficent divinity of nuclear
> chaos!

Hah!

Tolometh, the God of Nuclear Exchanges...

Good one, Oldjoe!

>
> Interestingly, a simple Google search reveals that
> the Marvel Comics universe has a "Tolometh"
> character, whose origin is described thus:
>
>
> It is unknown when exactly he came into being but
> he was the ruler of a large city during ancient
> times. Somehow he was overthrown and his eye made
> into a mythical amulet and his city sunk deep
> within the sea.

I'm assuming that CAS's poem preceded the Marvel comix reference.

I don't know much about comix.

>
> Further evidence that CAS' impact on popular
> culture is probably much greater than he is given
> credit for!

Seems like.

Sawfish
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Life is a tragedy to those who feel, a comedy to those who think."

Re: A closer look at the poems of Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Noivilbo (IP Logged)
Date: 23 August, 2020 07:04PM
Yes, that last stanza of “Tolometh” is a real killer, I imagine all organic matter in the flash zone being lit up transparently by X-rays. I think it would be reasonable to say that Smith revised the poem at least before March 1957, a year ahead of publication. Oldjoe, your explication is highly lucid concerning how Smith transformed the poem. And Sawfish, I believe you raise a fascinating and important point. It is interesting to place this poem in historical context, considering it was a key time for nuclear development and proliferation. Some of the U.S. tests in the South Pacific, in the mid-’50’s, yielded far more powerful results than expected, one of which resulted in the worst radiological catastrophe in U.S. history. Poems like this make me think that Smith was more affected by what was happening in “the human aquarium” than he himself suggested.

Re: A closer look at the poems of Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 23 August, 2020 08:02PM
Excellent and thought-provoking point.

Thanks!

Sawfish
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Life is a tragedy to those who feel, a comedy to those who think."

Re: A closer look at the poems of Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 23 August, 2020 08:20PM
This poetic exploration and exchange is a lot of fun. I've never been much for poetry, but this is causing me to re-evaluate the form and more deeply explore it.

If everyone feels we're done with Tolometh, I'd be eager to see someone else's suggestion for the next poem.

Sawfish
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Life is a tragedy to those who feel, a comedy to those who think."

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