Goto Thread: PreviousNext
Goto:  Message ListNew TopicSearchLog In
A closer look at the poems of Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Oldjoe (IP Logged)
Date: 11 August, 2020 05:11PM
In another thread on this forum, several folks expressed interest in diving deeper into a discussion of CAS' wonderful poetry. So let's do it!

The aim is not so much to dwell on technical aspects of the poetry (meter, rhyme, and other principles of versification), but more to respond to the subjects, images, and the rich language that CAS handled with such mastery.

Let's start with "To the Nightshade":

[www.eldritchdark.com]

Surprisingly, this early poem from CAS wasn't collected until after his death, in one of Roy Squires' letterpress editions (The Palace of Jewels). But it's a great poem, and well worth reading and discussing!

Re: A closer look at the poems of Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Oldjoe (IP Logged)
Date: 11 August, 2020 05:30PM
I blogged about this poem a couple of years ago:

[www.desertdweller.net]

In that post, I noted the wonderful phrase "A hideous and fruitful wedlock", which seems to play on the fact that the fruit of the Atropa belladonna is toxic to humans.

I also find resonance in the very last words of the poem: "some place of sacrifice to monstrous gods". That phrase expands the scope of the poem to incorporate the powers of the divine, but in a decidedly baleful manner. It's a dark poem for sure, but CAS' ability to shift the mere description of a poisonous plant into the broader frame of the superhuman injects the poem with a powerful malevolence which is both thrilling and horrifying!

Re: A closer look at the poems of Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 11 August, 2020 06:10PM
Yes, I have read it twice now. Never saw it before. I don't have time for a longer comment, ... but it is an intense poem alright. Chilling and beautiful at the same time. It feels many-layered and subtly convoluted in cycles. I am sure it can be interpreted in several ways. I feel the wind of Oblivion, the horrible shall pass, terrible deeds will be completely forgotten, evaporate like it never happened. Like wasted illusions. And in its place Beauty shall rise instead ... But there will be some subtle signs still, because the past always leaves marks, sometimes inscrutable, and Creation becomes more and more refined over time in its infinite Complexity of composition. Until Beauty and Terror cannot be easily separated anymore.

Re: A closer look at the poems of Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Hespire (IP Logged)
Date: 11 August, 2020 07:33PM
Quote:
Knygatin
Until Beauty and Terror cannot be easily separated anymore.

Smith revelled in this sentiment. Many of his poems, especially this one, admire the things in nature that are inimical to our physical wellbeing. I like that amid the safe (and truly beautiful) flowers there are eerie and even dangerous mysteries to challenge our flow of thoughts, a stinging insect or a poisonous berry.

The deadly nightshade is an astounding flower, with its somber petals and its void-like berries. I can easily see the connection with sinister rituals devoted to gods beyond human worship. The flowers rise like hierophants among the other plants, without any heed for what humans want or need.

This is also one of Smith's many poems that end with the perfect climactic punch, climbing up from the plant itself to a strange and monstrous scene! Certainly this makes a good bridge from our earthly soil to the cosmic wildness of his "Hashish-Eater"!



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 11 Aug 20 | 07:39PM by Hespire.

Re: A closer look at the poems of Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 12 August, 2020 01:04AM
Hespire Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I can easily see the connection with sinister
> rituals devoted to gods beyond human worship. The
> flowers rise like hierophants among the other
> plants, without any heed for what humans want or
> need.

As a symbol, yes. But in reality, it can't suddenly rise up in shape as a result of a few sinister rituals, the nightshade must have developed slowly through evolution. I tend to analyze things down to matter of fact component parts, and I see beauty in that too, because natural things finally fall in pace in a majestic way. Because of this approach I don't always get poems like this immediately, because they work in archetypes and symbols, and mythology. I am a realist in thinking, in contrast to symbolist.

The poem is also potentially attractive as a pure fantasy, the nightshade filled with conscious evil spirit battening on sacrifice, but the poem is not constructed as a fantasy, it is more a serious expression of subtle mysticism.

Re: A closer look at the poems of Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Hespire (IP Logged)
Date: 12 August, 2020 01:25AM
You make the assumption that I'm not also a gardener and a lover of the material sciences. Biology in particular is one of my favorite subjects, and due to my obsession with learning about something as it is now and how it developed over time, I'm quite aware of the impersonal process of evolution. But I'm not just this-or-that-minded, I'm able to look at things in different ways depending on the situation. As this isn't a university biology lab, I tried instead to follow the spirit of the poem as I interpreted it. Smith himself had a tendency to downplay materialism and science in his work and private letters, and although I don't always agree with him, I usually leave all that at the door whenever I log on here.

Your interpretations and your point of view are welcome, as there's no wrong way to interpret a poem (you can absolutely view this piece as pure fantasy if that's what makes sense to you), and a realist interpretation of a potentially symbolic poem sounds interesting to me, but if I'm going to be a thorn in anybody's side because I didn't interpret something in the way they prefer, then I'd rather stop right here and enjoy these poems privately.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 12 Aug 20 | 01:27AM by Hespire.

Re: A closer look at the poems of Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 12 August, 2020 02:01AM
Hespire Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> but if I'm going to
> be a thorn in anybody's side because I didn't
> interpret something in the way they prefer, then
> I'd rather stop right here and enjoy these poems
> privately.

I am sorry, I don't understand how you came to this from my post. I was merely comparing my perspective with others' who are more used to reading poetry. I don't have a natural eye for poetry, because I was not raised with it. But I can still appreciate it in some ways.

I think it is probably better if I stand aside from this thread and simply read it. Because I make a complete fool of myself.

Re: A closer look at the poems of Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 12 August, 2020 04:33AM
Hespire Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------

> if I'm going to
> be a thorn in anybody's side ...

Not in the least. No risk of that whatsoever. Please continue the discussion.

Re: A closer look at the poems of Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Oldjoe (IP Logged)
Date: 12 August, 2020 08:28AM
Hespire Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Until Beauty and Terror cannot be easily separated
> anymore.
>
> Smith revelled in this sentiment. Many of his
> poems, especially this one, admire the things in
> nature that are inimical to our physical
> wellbeing. I like that amid the safe (and truly
> beautiful) flowers there are eerie and even
> dangerous mysteries to challenge our flow of
> thoughts, a stinging insect or a poisonous berry.


I think these comments from Knygatin and Hespire do a great job of placing "To the Nightshade" into the broader context of CAS' work as a whole, including his work in forms beyond poetry. To some degree, this touches on issues that Steve Behrends has raised in his essay "Clark Ashton Smith: Cosmicist or Misanthrope?", which can be read here on The Eldritch Dark:

[www.eldritchdark.com]

I've never completely agreed with Behrends' conclusions in that essay, summarized in his closing statement:

Quote:
Steve Behrends
In short, for the true cosmicist Lovecraft, there was the immensity of the physical universe, while for Clark Ashton Smith, only the sense of distance and isolation from his fellow men.

That conclusion does seem to make a connection to Hespire's point that "Many of his (CAS') poems, especially this one, admire the things in nature that are inimical to our physical wellbeing."

It's interesting to speculate as to exactly why CAS had such admiration, but I still feel that labelling him a misanthrope is missing the target a bit, and feels like an over-simplification.

Re: A closer look at the poems of Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 12 August, 2020 10:42AM
Maybe going line-by-line, to elicit various responses to what the words mean to our readers. It's two sentences and perhaps explaining each sentence separately, with a conclusion at the end, might work.

First, an image to work from:

Blossom:
[en.wikipedia.org]

Fruit:
[en.wikipedia.org]

Let's see...


Sullen and sinister, darkly dull of leaf,
Thou rearest amid the brighter flowers,
Like a presage of evil in dreams of joyance—
Evil of beauty thy blossoms,
And purple like the agony of Death,
And their fruit as its livid consummation.


A direct poetic address to the actual flower, itself, as it might be seen by a by-passer as s/he walks thru a garden of otherwise innocuous flowers.

The observer then links his/her knowledge about the toxic nature of the flower to a general observation of ironic comparison to a foreshadowing of jarring evil in an otherwise benevolent existence.

CAS expands this initial observation and association with evil amidst the ordinary--even beautiful--to the shade of the blossom, which he portrays as "funereal", and further links the appearance of the fruit to an implied physical description of being very much like postmortem lividity, or even advanced corruption.

With this developed image he now extends the metaphor...

Such a flower art thou
As might spring from the rotting of ancient sin,
Its unavoidable latter confession,
Or from the corroded altar-stone,
Now merged with the blood of its victims—
A hideous and fruitful wedlock—
In some place of sacrifice to monstrous gods.


He now compares it to the idea of primal, perhaps universal, sin, by creating the image that the flower is rooted in the very idea of sin, and hence evil. He further observes that the visual manifestation of the flower is like a stain or stigmata that is apparent to all, and hence "unavoidable" or undeniable. Like evident sin, it's out there to see, and one can "see" it for what it is.

It's worthy of note that this particular comparison to sin is intangible--comparing the flower to a concept, and not to another tangible object. This is because he goes on to form a final, concrete comparison.

He now focuses on the concept of human or animal sacrifice--although I think we can safely assume human, this being CAS, after all!--as a concrete example of sin. Here. too, CAS implies that flower is rooted in a physical manifestation of evil--this time in a sort of imagined humus of years of blood-letting onto an altar stone. And to top it off, this is no Abrahamic deity, seeking its--AHEM!--just worship, but is more along the lines of Thasaidon and his ilk.


WHEW!

OK, to me the poem is in the form of a standard poetic observation, comparison, rumination, and development of a metaphoric analogy where the the poet receives an initial impression from a fairly commonplace object and extends it for philosophic resonance.

What say ye?

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: 12 August, 2020 09:32PM
Sawfish Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> OK, to me the poem is in the form of a standard
> poetic observation, comparison, rumination, and
> development of a metaphoric analogy where the the
> poet receives an initial impression from a fairly
> commonplace object and extends it for philosophic
> resonance.

Your detailed reading of "To the Nightshade" is very illuminating Sawfish, and your analysis highlights some points I had not really considered before.

It seems to me that CAS' utilization of the commonplace to draw a larger picture incorporating philosophic elements was a technique that he used quite frequently throughout his body of poetry. I think this particular poem is notable for how elegantly he achieves that in a mere thirteen lines.

This is a great discussion - it's fascinating to see how different readers hone in on different aspects of a work. It's one of the reasons that I think both poetry and instrumental music can be so rewarding, since there is generally no absolutely correct interpretation of an individual work, and each experience of such a work can reveal new insights.

Re: A closer look at the poems of Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 12 August, 2020 10:46PM
I promise not to hammer the next poems so heavily, OldJoe! I seldom read poetry, do not feel comfortable with it, and I used that particular technique to get my mind into a poetic appreciation mode.

Could I ask to as Tolometh to the poems we might discuss at some point?

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: 12 August, 2020 11:44PM
I think “To the Nightshade” is aesthetically aligned to the Symbolists and Decadents, and that its subject is a dark and exceedingly beautiful prostitute in a brothel. Le violet est très sexy, très fleurs du mal.

Re: A closer look at the poems of Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 13 August, 2020 11:00AM
Noivilbo Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I think “To the Nightshade” is aesthetically
> aligned to the Symbolists and Decadents, and that
> its subject is a dark and exceedingly beautiful
> prostitute in a brothel. Le violet est très sexy,
> très fleurs du mal.


Oui, mais est-ce qu'elle vous tue, aussi?

;^)

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: 13 August, 2020 11:34AM
It's very difficult for me to get my head into a more receptive/appreciative mood for poetry. It is much more demanding, and looking at a very long poem is daunting, like coming upon the Great Basin in a wagon train. You are tempted to panic and go back to Kentucky, or wherever.

Do others here have this difficulty?

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.

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: 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."

Re: A closer look at the poems of Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Hespire (IP Logged)
Date: 24 August, 2020 01:18AM
"Tolometh" is one of my favorites, as someone fascinated by idols and what they inspire in people. The poem contains many vivid impressions of imperial power, alien exoticism, and relentless cataclysms, and in this sense it feels, in itself, like the idol it's speaking for, small but concentrated with powerful suggestions. I get chills when reading this one, much more grim than "To The Nightshade." I never thought of it before, but this discussion's thoughts about the nuclear terror resonates well with this poem, whether or not that was CAS' intent. The mention of a last dawn and "atom-fire" is frightening to imagine, and makes Godzilla feel quaint by comparison.

Noivilbo makes an excellent point regarding CAS and the "human aquarium." While he was certainly a star-gazer through and through, his stories make it clear he had at least some interest in human psychology, politics, and history, albeit not to any great extent (he complained about the science of psychology and considered himself apolitical). I recall a few letters to August Derleth in which he complained about the Bolsheviks and the political climate of Russia, and the censorship of religion and the needless bloodshed that would ensue. He was certainly aware of his times, and I can see the possibility of Tolometh rising from this.

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

If no one objects, I'd love to delve into the poem "Sea Cycle." If "Tolometh" relates with the suggestions of evil gods in "To The Nightshade", then "Sea Cycle" is loosely related to Tolometh's suggestions of lost and sunken things. Not that there's any need to bridge one poem with the next, I just find that detail amusing.

[eldritchdark.com]

But only if anyone else feels up to it!



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 24 Aug 20 | 01:24AM by Hespire.

Re: A closer look at the poems of Clark Ashton Smith - "Sea Cycle"
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 24 August, 2020 10:27AM
Great! This is a good one!

I'll return to this with more observations, but my initial reading reveals that this has the same structure as the first poem we explored, To the Nighthade, in that it has an initial stanza that observes a natural object and expands it with poetic descriptions, and in the second stanzas creates a poetic conceit that likens the object from the first stanza to another situation that's on his mind.

Maybe this is the definition of an ode: I don't know.

Poetry is pretty difficult for me. I've confined myself to stuff like Death of the Ball Turret Gunner, or Falling. These are very visceral--huge emotional payload--but with fewer traditional poetic devices. Figuring out the poetic devices and how they are used is really kinda fun, though--puzzle-like.

Too, for those who like long-form poems, one I've been able to read--maybe twice!--is Vikram Seth's A Golden Gate. Like a Shakespearean love comedy.

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 - "Sea Cycle"
Posted by: Noivilbo (IP Logged)
Date: 24 August, 2020 07:26PM
“Sea Cycle” is a good choice because it brings together two themes that were constants in his work, from his earliest stories and poems to his last: that of return, resurrection, or a sort of reincarnation; and the theme of loss and/or a longing for the lost.

About the latter theme, I wonder if Smith at some point was in a relationship that went belly-up, which he always regretted. Or was it something opposite, a recurring pang for the “nostalgia of something unknown”? Purely speculative on my part, I know; but I have never been able to shrug the sense.

The second stanza brings both these themes together. Smith often uses the sea as a metaphor for oblivion. But for him, oblivion is not a permanent negation, because it is also the source of all things (an assimilation of Eastern mysticism)? The first stanza could then be interpreted as a contemplation of a void, from which all that has sunken into it may eventually re-emerge, in time (or as symbols from the necromantic imagination)?

Smith apparently had a deep concern for the cyclic, in the natural world and in a greater cosmic, eternal recurrence sort of way. The last poem he penned before he died was “Cycles,” a final return to the theme of return as found in “Sea Cycles” and many of his other works.

“…For Ubbo-Sathla is the source and the end… And all earthly life, it is told, shall go back at last through the great circle of time to Ubbo-Sathla.”

Re: A closer look at the poems of Clark Ashton Smith - "Sea Cycle"
Posted by: Hespire (IP Logged)
Date: 24 August, 2020 08:27PM
Both of you make excellent points, expanding on some I know and revealing new thoughts to me, such as the subtle similarity to the "Nightshade" piece.

Without being religious or all that spiritual, the subjects of reincarnation, cycles, and the mythical sea have been very intimate to my imagination, so this poem holds a special place in my mind. It begins with wistful and ambivalent descriptions of the sea, comparing its crests to both feathers and helmet-plumes of a ceaseless, ancient army. Time and the ocean are similar in that neither is merciful to humanity, but they aren't malignant either, being altogether too huge and inhuman for that. The bounty of the sea is great, and clearly admired by the narrator, but they are carried over from other times and places, so that nothing is quite what it once was. It's the perfect metaphor for memories, which also ebb and flow in the mind, and not always in the same form. In response to Noivilbo, I wouldn't be surprised if the poem was influenced by both feelings. CAS' poetry and fiction have dealt with regret for past mistakes as well as yearning for past glories!

This poem and subject make me think of something CAS said to Derleth in a letter, perhaps revealing something of his spirituality:

Quote:
Clark Ashton Smith
I am terribly curious to see the newly completed "Return of Hastur" and hope you will loan me the carbon if Wright rejects the tale. From what you say, it would seem that some remarkable inspiration, either subliminal or external, is involved. My theory (not favored by scientists!) is that some world, or many worlds, of pure mentation may exist. The individual mind may lapse into this common reservoir at death, just as the atoms of the individual body lapse into grosser elements. Therefore, no idea or image is ever lost from the universe. Living minds, subconsciously, may tap the reservoir according to their own degree and kind of receptivity. HPL would have argued that no mentation could survive the destruction of the physical brain; but against this it might be maintained that energy and matter, brain and ideation, can never quite be destroyed no matter what changes they undergo, The sea of Being persists, though the waves of individual entity rise and fall eternally, The truth about life and death is perhaps simpler and more complex than we dream.

[www.eldritchdark.com]

I also see the similarities to "Ubbo-Sathla", and on that subject of mysterious ancient god-creatures related to the void, I find it curious that CAS mentioned Nodens in this poem, even though he never mentions the god elsewhere. Nodens appeared in Lovecraft's "Strange High-House in the Mist", as the lord of the unfathomable Deep, so I wonder if there was any influence from there.



Edited 5 time(s). Last edit at 24 Aug 20 | 08:43PM by Hespire.

Re: A closer look at the poems of Clark Ashton Smith - "Sea Cycle"
Posted by: Noivilbo (IP Logged)
Date: 24 August, 2020 09:26PM
That's a really great commentary about metaphor and memory, Hespire! I think CAS is "going druid" here with this reference to Nodens, an old Celtic god of the sea (among other things). You can visit his temple in Lydney Park in Gloucestershire, a site which also attracted Tolkien's attention. And thank you for posting that great letter! I really should read more of his correspondence.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 24 Aug 20 | 09:28PM by Noivilbo.

Re: A closer look at the poems of Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 25 August, 2020 07:23AM
What does "Saturnia's iron keys" mean?

How do you visualize this? "Ebbing between the cypress and the grass?"



These last two lines I don't quite understand either:

"Again we two shall wander, and shall not stay,
Finding the golden wrack of yesterday."

The sea has brought the two lost lovers together again, and they wander on the shore. But what happens then? They don't stay there for long. And then they find (or do not find)... what? What is the final point? Do they again find the golden experiences they once had? Or just miss it? Or what is "golden wrack" seaweed a symbol of? Do they see that everything has become spoiled, and therefore it is no use to stay, so they leave?

Re: A closer look at the poems of Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Hespire (IP Logged)
Date: 25 August, 2020 11:25AM
"Saturnia" refers to a fabulous far-off continent in Greek lore. It's understandable if you didn't know that because it's such an obscure myth! In fact, I only read about it once in some old book on legendary places (so old and so obscure I can't even recall the title!). "Keys" are a type of island, and these ones in particular are made of iron, a rather strong image. CAS was evoking the effect of a place more remote and exotic than Spain.

The "ebbing" segment is the most cryptic moment for me, but it's worth noting that cypress trees used to be symbols of death and mourning, and CAS often mentioned them in that context throughout his fiction and poetry (such as the cypresses surrounding the ghoulish fane of Mordiggian), so I always felt that line referred to the tragedy of that "love-relinquished hour." One could also say that an emotionally heavy moment took place amid the grass and cypresses, a mournful and edenic setting being washed over, whether by literal waves or the waves of time. I'm no expert on poetry myself, so I'm sure someone else knows better than I do about that line.

The "golden wrack" could refer to seaweed, but I always saw the wrack as a shipwreck, which is another one of its definitions. I think this part is the most up to interpretation, so I can't imagine any wrong answer. Your idea was plenty good. I saw it as a description of how they'll enjoy those golden experiences again, or something like it (it's a wrack now, not a ship), and will leave that moment just as before.

Your questions and interpretations were excellent, forcing myself to think even more carefully than before; do keep it up if you feel like delving into other poems!



Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 25 Aug 20 | 11:36AM by Hespire.

Re: A closer look at the poems of Clark Ashton Smith - "Sea Cycle"
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 25 August, 2020 11:29AM
For a while I had Nodens confused with one of the "sleep elves" that they tell kids about at bed time...you know, Winklen, Blinken, and Nodens.

This really confused me about HPL's intent, until I got it sorted out.

...

;^)

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 - "Sea Cycle"
Posted by: Hespire (IP Logged)
Date: 25 August, 2020 11:53AM
Thanks Noivilbo! I never knew Nodens was an actual god! I thought he was simply another of HPL's eldritch god-creatures! My knowledge of Celtic mythology is beyond scant, but I do recall CAS mentioning druids more than once in his work.

A sleep elf? Ha! It must have been such a strange moment at first, to read HPL's lengthy description of that oceanic pomp and splendor, only for it all to introduce a diminutive elf! Or the idea that the crawling chaos Nyarlathotep's greatest foe is such a creature, this little elf riding the Night Gaunts! Though there is a folkloric charm to it all.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 25 Aug 20 | 11:54AM by Hespire.

Re: A closer look at the poems of Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 25 August, 2020 11:58AM
Thank you very much, Hespire.

Yes, "golden wreck" as shipwreck makes sense, then they sail away in the dream ship of yesterday.

I saw the "golden wreck" as once beautiful yellow seaweed swaying in the currents, or simply glistening golden on the beach. But it's a bit hard to see that as symbol of something precious and valuable. Shipwreck it likely is.

Re: A closer look at the poems of Clark Ashton Smith - "Sea Cycle"
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 25 August, 2020 12:35PM
I've read that the model for Nyarlathotep, at least as imagined in the prose poem of he same name, was Tesla.

Maybe I read that here.

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: Hespire (IP Logged)
Date: 31 August, 2020 12:05PM
I was waiting to see if OldJoe had any thoughts on "Sea Cycle", or if he was going to suggest the next poem, but since he appears to be busy, I thought I'd ask about this weird little piece next. And when I say weird I mean weirder than weird fiction:

[eldritchdark.com]

Any thoughts on what the heck any of this means?!



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 31 Aug 20 | 12:06PM by Hespire.

Re: A closer look at the poems of Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 31 August, 2020 06:42PM
Could it be a hoax, written by somebody pretending to be Klarkash-Ton?

Re: A closer look at the poems of Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Noivilbo (IP Logged)
Date: 31 August, 2020 08:43PM
It's authentic, recorded as being written June 23, 1952. Done in the drunken master style? Or maybe a parody of Surrealism (he wrote a few such parodies)? It probably belongs on the "stinker" thread! :-)



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 31 Aug 20 | 09:39PM by Noivilbo.

Re: A closer look at the poems of Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 1 September, 2020 03:17PM
Well, OK. First I need to figure out what he is talking about...

Quote:
I am that saint uncanonized,who saw
the copulation of the toad-like stones
and spawning of the seer, sun-mumbled bones
to golden efts and flowers without flaw.

The narrative voice makes the general claim to have witnessed something like a miracle: stones that looked like toads, mating, followed by the apparent birth of salamanders and flawless flowers from dry and sun-bleached bones.

Also, "the seer" of the title, I suppose.

Gosh.

Quote:
The clouds were squared to temples of the Law,
the clouds were sphered to pandemonian thrones.

OK, this seems to be an implied allusion to the act of "squaring the circle"--which is another way of saying doing the very difficult, if not impossible.

Of course CAS says "sphere" not circle, and this could be a mixed metaphor, since there is also the concept of cubing the sphere, also very challenging.

But his two operations, the squaring of the clouds and the "sphering" of the clouds yield conceptually opposing outcomes--the squaring to Law; the "sphering" to what might be another way to say Chaos, so who knows what the intent actually was?

Quote:
Out of the beaked and feathered telephones
There came the falcon s cry, the raven s caw.

So a "beaked and feathered telephome" is either a direct metaphor for a bird, or else a surrealistic image designed to further disorient the reader.

Again, hard to say what CAS intended.

Quote:
Riding the inland sunset rose anew
triremes of Carthage and Columbian sails
convoyed by sirens with their fan-like fins.

More dissonant and contradictory imagery...

Here we have a sunset, but not just any sunset: and inland sunset--but then we have both ancient (Carthaginian) and early modern (Columbus era) watercraft being escorted by mythical beings.

Quote:
Over the mountains a mad tortoise flew,
spouted upon by levitating whales
that in the zenith hung like Zeppelins.

The mad tortoise is difficult to pin down, but the spouting "levitating whales" that hung over the highest part of the (sky?), sure seems to me to refer to the way that ancient maps were detailed with fanciful artwork.

So taken altogether, what in the world does this whole thing mean?

But you know, the entire 2nd stanza looks to me like a description of an ancient map, what with the illustration of old ships, perhaps superimposed over the land masses, being escorted by sirens and flying tortoises and spouting whales in other parts of the map.

So...

CAS was an early experimenter in psychedelia, huh? ;^)

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



Edited 4 time(s). Last edit at 1 Sep 20 | 04:07PM by Sawfish.

Re: A closer look at the poems of Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Hespire (IP Logged)
Date: 2 September, 2020 02:08AM
As usual Sawfish makes a great analysis of every detail, but this time I still can't make up my mind! It's easily the most psychedelic thing CAS has ever written, to my memory, and I almost want to say the "uncanonized saint" must be some kind of drug user! If Abhoth had moved to Yondo, and its progeny mated with the native daemons, they still wouldn't produce anything as bizarre as this. Though if it's one of CAS's surreal parodies, as Noivilbo said, then perhaps the answer is a little more simple. I never knew he made anything surreal in the artistic sense, but surely with an imagination as wild as his it would be easy seeing anything appear from nothing.

Though it is true that the last stanza brings ancient maps to mind, with their richly decorated embellishments, and I wouldn't be surprised if CAS liked that sort of thing, given his interest in medieval travelogues.



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 2 Sep 20 | 02:11AM by Hespire.

Re: A closer look at the poems of Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 2 September, 2020 10:07AM
Hespire Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> As usual Sawfish makes a great analysis of every
> detail, but this time I still can't make up my
> mind! It's easily the most psychedelic thing CAS
> has ever written, to my memory, and I almost want
> to say the "uncanonized saint" must be some kind
> of drug user!

WHOA!

You may be onto something, Hespire!

Lessee...

I think you are being overly generous in complimenting my break-down--I got to thinking last night and I believe that I really mauled the first stanza re-interpetation. I got the grammar wrong, to the point that it affects the eventual meaning, and a bunch of other stuff.

However, the longer I thought about the second stanza, the more I thought that it is, indeed, a poetic description of an old map.

> If Abhoth had moved to Yondo, and
> its progeny mated with the native daemons, they
> still wouldn't produce anything as bizarre as
> this. Though if it's one of CAS's surreal
> parodies, as Noivilbo said, then perhaps the
> answer is a little more simple. I never knew he
> made anything surreal in the artistic sense, but
> surely with an imagination as wild as his it would
> be easy seeing anything appear from nothing.
>
> Though it is true that the last stanza brings
> ancient maps to mind, with their richly decorated
> embellishments, and I wouldn't be surprised if CAS
> liked that sort of thing, given his interest in
> medieval travelogues.

Hah!

You know, it could have been as simple as he smoked some cannabis (he seems like the kind of guy who would do this on occasion) and was thinking, looking at an old map, and considered himself "the seer"--just a brief mind trip....

Great discussion!

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: 9 September, 2020 10:52AM
I'm late to this conversation about "Seer of the Cycles", but fascinated by the comments posted so far, since this is an odd poem indeed...

One slight problem with the version of this poem on The Eldritch Dark is a typo in the third line, where the word "seer" is actually supposed to be "sere", which makes more sense since the context requires an adjective, in this case meaning "dry" or "withered".

While this work certainly is a strange item from CAS' poetic canon, it is also a sonnet, so rooted in a traditional form of metrical poetry. Sonnets are usually considered to present a proposition in the opening stanza (the octet) and a resolution in the closing stanza (the sestet).

Thinking in those terms, it seems as though the first stanza of "Seer of the Cycles" describes a sort of sorcerous landscape, an environment rife with thaumaturgic potential.

In the second stanza, it seems as though we are witnessing the outcome of that potential, with bizarre overflights from "a mad tortoise" and those ungainly "levitating whales".

But that's certainly not a definitive interpretation, and to my mind doesn't quite square with the title of the poem. Perhaps Sawfish is right, that "Seer of the Cycles" is more of a mind trip than anything else!



Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 9 Sep 20 | 10:59AM by Oldjoe.

Re: A closer look at the poems of Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 9 September, 2020 11:57AM
Oldjoe Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> I'm late to this conversation about "Seer of the
> Cycles", but fascinated by the comments posted so
> far, since this is an odd poem indeed...
>
> One slight problem with the version of this poem
> on The Eldritch Dark is a typo in the third line,
> where the word "seer" is actually supposed to be
> "sere", which makes more sense since the context
> requires an adjective, in this case meaning "dry"
> or "withered".

Aha! I thought so...!

Makes better sense that way, doesn't it, where you have a series of images conjuring up dryness (one coherent image, dried, beached bones), or else you name "the seer" followed by dried images (two disparate images: seer + bleached bones).

>
> While this work certainly is a strange item from
> CAS' poetic canon, it is also a sonnet, so rooted
> in a traditional form of metrical poetry. Sonnets
> are usually considered to present a proposition in
> the opening stanza (the octet) and a resolution in
> the closing stanza (the sestet).
>
> Thinking in those terms, it seems as though the
> first stanza of "Seer of the Cycles" describes a
> sort of sorcerous landscape, an environment rife
> with thaumaturgic potential.
>
> In the second stanza, it seems as though we are
> witnessing the outcome of that potential, with
> bizarre overflights from "a mad tortoise" and
> those ungainly "levitating whales".
>
> But that's certainly not a definitive
> interpretation,

No one has one, Oldjoe! :^)

> and to my mind doesn't quite
> square with the title of the poem. Perhaps
> Sawfish is right, that "Seer of the Cycles" is
> more of a mind trip than anything else!

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: 14 September, 2020 11:08PM
I sure wouldn't mind discussing another poem, if someone will suggest one.

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: 20 September, 2020 12:55PM
How about "The Voice in the Pines"?

[www.eldritchdark.com]

This is a subtle poem, but one that is rich with aural description, particularly striking at the end of the first stanza:

The fainter sorrows of the past, that roll
In undertones no ear nor thought defines.


The phrase "undertones no ear nor thought defines" is a wonderful description of sound that exists only at the very edge of human hearing.

CAS is certainly not the only poet who has mused on the passing of Beauty from the world, but his use of aural metaphors is uniquely powerful, such as right at the end of the poem, where the wilting of flowers is associated with a dirge:

Or for the flowers, that, shed
But yesternoon, find now their threnody,
After the dews which were thy silent tears?


Also of note is that CAS downplays the weird and the supernatural in this poem, and yet the merest hints of those elements are present throughout. I think it's a great example of CAS' range as a poet, something quite different than the more boldly fantastic work that he is best known for.

Re: A closer look at the poems of Clark Ashton Smith
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 20 September, 2020 02:09PM
OK!

I will get started on it soon...

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



Sorry, only registered users may post in this forum.
Top of Page