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Epitaph for the Earth
Posted by: Dr. W.C. Farmer (IP Logged)
Date: 8 July, 2002 12:47PM
On Ron Hilger's recommendation I am posting a transcription of
"Epitaph for the Earth" -- copied exactly as written in form and
markings from the manuscript. I am sure CAS would have made some
revision in form for publication, had his impetus to write not
abated in this last years. The upper right corner has a note in
pencil for me - 1912 "or something like that" CAS
The manuscript was inserted in the front of the copy of Sandalwood
he gave me c.1958/9. This copy was #48 of the original 250
printed by the Auburn Journal in 1925, with textual corrections
by CAS and signed at the time of publication.(I just discovered
I cannot selectively underline - therefore, if you print a copy,
the words Epitaph and Earth are underlined, and the phrase
in the poem "the future sequences of Change" as well. As to
why the latter is underlined and the word Change capitalized
one may only surmize.)

Epitaph for the Earth


Somewhere in Space the disunited dust
That formed a visible comparted world,
Floats in unnoticed formlessness, nor mars
With stain or fleck the ethereal claritude
Of vacancy; nor with monads
driven,
Seperate, irrelevant, athwart the
suns,
Impedes the tangled multitudinous
passage
Of rays that cross each other like the
thrust
Of unrelenting swords. To touch
the tombs that
With granite mouths successive glut of
Life
At last are not distinguished from the
lips
Of earlier - crumbled earth. And man
himself -
An evanescent peak of foam that pointed
One wave, subsided now of matters' tide
Leaves but bequest of stories that he took
From forms long antecedent, that
were not -
As he; that shall not thus combine
again
In all the future sequences of Change.
With hope of some far-off, supernal
goal,
Changeless, and independent of the
years
He strove on low and shifting ways
and sent
Love's uninspired dreams ethereal-wing'd
before.
On summits that Achievements' laggard
feet
Scarcely approached; till on one lesser
peak
He knew his own futility at last -
Himself an immaterial trick of
Chance.

This manuscript provides an interesting look at the very young
CAS, and is a good example of his earlier handwriting: while not
as laborious and careful as his signature in Ebony and Crystal,
nevertheless retains the more vertical form which gave way to
the rapid and slanted form of his later writing. Some of the
capital letters at the beginning of lines are careful and somewhat
artistic, and differ from the same letter within the context of
the poem. How like many an adolescent nihilist who sees only
empty blackness ahead, yet is painfully concerned about good
penmanship, perhaps remembering the ruler across the knuckles
subconsciously.
Even now, sitting at the computer completing this little
exercise for you all(a Texanism!), my memories of Clark are
poignant and he, in a strange sense, is very present to me.

Re: Epitaph for the Earth
Posted by: Ron Hilger (IP Logged)
Date: 10 July, 2002 12:59AM
Many thanks for this great poem! It reminds me of the much shorter poem "The Motes", as follows:

I saw a universe today:
Through a disclosing bar of light
The motes were whirled in gleaming flight
That briefly dawned and sank away.

Each had its swift and tiny noon;
In orbit streams I marked them flit,
Successively revealed and lit.
The sunlight paled and shifted soon.

Man's inconsequence in the cosmic arena: one of CAS' favorite themes!

-Ron

Re: Epitaph for the Earth
Posted by: Dr. W.C. Farmer (IP Logged)
Date: 10 July, 2002 02:49PM

Thanks for responding Ron, I had begun to despair that anyone
was reading it or cared. I received a great amount of stuff
from Don yesterday in the mail, and will peruse it when I can.
As time allows, and if I see that more people are interested
in seeing these smaller works that I have, I may post another.

Re: Epitaph for the Earth
Posted by: Kyberean (IP Logged)
Date: 10 July, 2002 04:09PM
Dr. Farmer:

Although there may not always be prompt replies to your posts, I am certain that there is and will always be immense gratitude for, and interest in, your contributions to this forum. For my part, I cannot express adequately my appreciation for your having made "Epitaph for the Earth" available. To my mind, only Keats and Beddoes equal CAS's extraordinary precocity. Although I love CAS's tales, I think that his verses are his greatest achievement, and I welcome anything further that you can contribute in this vein. I'm especially delighted to see another instance of CAS's cosmic verse. I agree with Lovecraft (and I'm paraphrasing here) that, although CAS's amatory poetry is charming and well wrought, it is his cosmic, non-anthropocentric vision that makes him a truly unique poet in the annals of the English language.

Re: Epitaph for the Earth
Posted by: Dr. W.C. Farmer (IP Logged)
Date: 10 July, 2002 05:56PM

Mr. Shelton,

Thank you for your interest. If you have read some of the
other posts, you know that I knew Clark very, very well his
last years. I too greatly admire his "Star-Treader" persona;
However, I hold his "amatory" verses in higher regard than
did Lovecraft. First of all, because they are an existential
expression of Clark's life, and substantially biographical.
Only the most effete love poetry is not experiential - Shakespeare's
earthiest sonnets mock the poet who writes an ode "to his
mistress eyebrow" -- and secondly, there are some wonderful,
memorable lines -- "...where time shall have none other
pendulum than the remembered pulsings of thy heart."-- is,
for my taste one of the finest lines written by anyone.
Give it another look, I think it will reward you -- of course,
it is helpful if the reader is already an experienced
and ardent lover, aware of both the heights and depths
of passion: C.S. Lewis Uncle Screwtape advises Wormwood
of the importance of not allowing his patient to have
extreme experiences, St. Paul wishes folk were either
hot or cold - the wishy-washy live lives of "silent
desperation." The passion in your response to epitaph
suggests to me that you are well qualified to re-read
the love poetry. You might want to take a look at
Dr. Lewis' great scholarly work, "The Allegory of Love".
Regrettably for the layman, the Anglo-Saxon, Greek, Latin,
Italian, German etc. quotes are not translated in the
footnotes, but it is still a source of considerable insight.

Re: Epitaph for the Earth
Posted by: Francis D'Eramo (IP Logged)
Date: 11 July, 2002 11:23AM
Dr. Farmer, I also want to say how much I appreciate your posting of Epitaph for the Earth, and how I look forward to more revelations from your hoard of CASiana.

Re: Epitaph for the Earth
Posted by: Scott Connors (IP Logged)
Date: 11 July, 2002 10:42PM
"Epitaph for the Earth" is certainly a unique find. It may possibly represent one of his earliest strivings towards the cosmic in poetry. According to a letter to Sterling (May 21, 1911), CAS had not previously tried his hand at this theme: "I've been trying my hand at some cosmic verse lately, and a month's work, and a lot of spoiled paper have led me to the conclusion that your 'Testimony of the Suns' is about the last word in that line, and that the subject is too big for me to handle, anyway. I'd better stick to butterflies and roses, etc. (I don't mean that these subjects are less worthy) instead of trying to wipe out half the constellations (on paper) and put the rest askew. This is about what I've done in four poems, varying in length from 112 to 56 lines." One of these poems was "Ode to the Abyss," which was subsequently highly praised by Ambrose Bierce. He does not refer to it in his letters to Sterling, so it may represent that work which he was dissatisfied with and largely destroyed between THE STAR-TREADER and EBONY AND CRYSTAL.
Best,
Scott Connors

Re: Epitaph for the Earth
Posted by: Kyberean (IP Logged)
Date: 12 July, 2002 09:47PM
Dr. Farmer:

Thank you for your reply and for the reading suggestions. The only general study of the phenomenon of love that I have read is Denis de Rougemont's Love in the Western World, and that was some time ago.

I did not mean to disdain Ashton Smith's non-cosmic poetry, and particularly not his amatory verses. I intended merely to state my preference for his more cosmic-minded efforts, as well as my belief that this is where his greatest originality lies. I do deeply enjoy most anything that flows from CAS's pen, even his more sublunary efforts. Of the love poems, I have several favorites, of which "Semblance", "A Valediction", and "Interrogation" come most readily to mind.



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