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Poetry Most Indicative
Posted by: Anonymous User (IP Logged)
Date: 18 April, 2002 06:02PM
I am a student a New York University and writing a paper on the poetry of HPL and CAS. I was not quite prepared for the sheer volume of CAS poetical work available on this website; does anyone have any suggestions of poems that are particular indicative of Smith's poetic style and concerns? Or any poems that deserve special treatment? Thanks.

Re: Poetry Most Indicative
Posted by: Anonymous User (IP Logged)
Date: 18 April, 2002 07:11PM
The Hashish-Eater for CAS.

For Lovecraft, probably Fungi from Yuggoth.

Re: Poetry Most Indicative
Posted by: Boyd Pearson (IP Logged)
Date: 18 April, 2002 09:20PM
Not an easy question to answer. I agree that The Hashish-Eater is one of his best but may not be the best to examine due to its length.

The volume means that he did cover many themes over many years. It may be easier to choose a period or theme to limit the amount of material you are working with.

You can find the dates for the poems here:
http://eldritchdark.com/misc/bibliography/cas_poet.html

you can use the sites search engine to just search the writings section for key words that relate to a theme chosen

there are of course reviews on the poetry on the site also that may give you a hand:
a couple that come to mind
http://www.eldritchdark.com/bio/price_of_poetry.html
http://www.eldritchdark.com/bio/song_of_the_necomancer.html

Lastly, if your inclined you can submit your finished paper to the site.

Boyd.

Re: Poetry Most Indicative
Posted by: Jim Rockhill (IP Logged)
Date: 19 April, 2002 05:46PM
I have not read all of Smith's verse, but among the many, many poems I have read, my favorites are, in no particular order:

"The Hashish Eater"
"The Sorcerer Departs"
"Nero"
"The Star-Treader"
"Medusa"
"The Last Night"
"The Maze of Sleep"
"The Masque of Forgotten Gods"
"A Sunset"
""Nirvana"
"White Death"
"Retrospect and Forecast"
"The Song of a Comet"
"The Retribution"
"To the Darkness"
"A Dream of Beauty"
"The Medusa of the Skies"
"A Dead City"
"Lethe"
"The Winds"
"Ode on Imagination"
"A Song of Dreams"
"The Balance"
"Finis"
"Lichens"
"The Witch with Eyes of Amber"
"Lamia"
"Tolometh"
"To H. P. Lovecraft"
"Song of the Necromancer"
"A Vision of Lucifer"
"The Refuge of Beauty"
"Image"
"Laus Martis"
"The Harlot of the World"
"Amor Aeternalis"
"Memnon of Midnight"
"The Kingdom of Shadows"
"Semblance"
"You Are Not Beautiful"
"Dissidence"
"Sestet"
"Maya"
"In Thessaly"
"Indian Summer"

And these among his quintrains and haiku: "Passing of an Elder God"
"Mummy of the Flower"
"Mithridate"
"Growth of a Lichen"
"Abandoned Plum Orchard"
"Harvest Evening"
"Willow Cutting in Autumn"
"Reigning Empress"
""Nuns Walking in the Orchard"
"Folo-De-Se of the Parasite"
"Almost Anything"

Jim

Re: Poetry Most Indicative
Posted by: Ron Hilger (IP Logged)
Date: 20 April, 2002 01:58AM
Nice list, Jim. Off the top of my head I would have to add:
Amithaine
"O Golden-Tongued Romance"
Soliloquy in an Ebon Tower
The Dark Chateau
Don Quixote on Market Street
Nada
The Old Water-Wheel
The Phoenix
The Cherry-Snows
Nyctolops

But where to draw the line?
-Ron

Re: Poetry Most Indicative
Posted by: Jim Rockhill (IP Logged)
Date: 20 April, 2002 10:43AM
But where to draw the line?
-Ron

Exactly! I was trying to keep the list as short as possible, and was working mostly from SELECTED POMES, but I like all of those you mention too.

Jim

Re: Poetry Most Indicative
Posted by: Boyd Pearson (IP Logged)
Date: 31 July, 2002 03:46PM
Phillips paper is now available in the Biographies section.

Re: Poetry Most Indicative
Posted by: Dr. W.C. Farmer (IP Logged)
Date: 2 August, 2002 05:51PM

It is pleasant to see a young person take an interest in CAS.
Having graded thousands of these types of papers, it is
somewhat nostalgic for me to see the sophomoric efforts
at scholarship in action again. I do not mean that in
a pejorative way in any sense whatsoever. It would have
informed your thought to have read "Schizoid Creator" even
though it is not a poem. Ashton's thought was not nihilistic,
though is was often dark. He was, if one must find a label,
closer to Zoroastrian dualism in his perceptions than
perhaps any other recognized philosophy/religion.
The existence of the demonic was an existential fact to
CAS - and therefore some opposite force must also exist.
The concept is known as dualism: Ahura-Mazda, the entity
which emanates light; Ahriman, the entity which emanates
darkness. CAS had not thought through the essential
flaw in this concept. Write me if you wish to know more.
You mention in your paper that "Almost Anything" was not
published in his lifetime. I do not believe that is correct.
I have very distinct memorys of CAS glee at my reading of
this poem, and I am sure I read it from a published text.
I can't find my copy at the moment to verify my memory, but
I believe it was in "Spells and Philtres". Also, to jog
my memory, I checked the text as it appears on the
web-site, and it contains an error. The correct reading
is - "redolent as a room where a cat was shut in by mistake."
Whoever supplied the altered line has it wrong, the
alliteration is essential, and, Ashton considered it
the funniest line in the piece - particularly as I read
it in imitation of T.S. Eliot's rather arch and nasal
london accent. Once again, congratulations on your
effort, and thanks to the webmaster for this opportunity
to shake the dust off old, but fond and vivid memories.

Re: Poetry Most Indicative
Posted by: Scott Connors (IP Logged)
Date: 3 August, 2002 11:42PM
I would also add "Town Lights," which is archetypal CAS in its depiction of the profoundly isolated individual who is alienated from his society but not necessarily by his own choice.
Dr Farmer makes some excellent points, as always, regarding CAS's philosophical stance. Some of the poems in THE STAR-TREADER and EBONY AND CRYSTAL, particularly "Saturn", show traces of gnostic thought in their depiction of the material universe created by a mad demiurge. Likewise, in the short story "The Devotee of Evil" (originally called "The Manicheanean" (sp?), further reinforcing Dr. Farmer's point), he suggests the existence of a source of ultimate evil radiating its black light throughout the universe, a satanic counterpart to the suns illuminating the cosmos. Of course, in "Nyctalops" we are told that the seers in darkness have seen "the black suns/pouring forth the night." Some of this imagery was used in his unfinished serial "The Infernal Star."
Best, Scott Connors

Re: Poetry Most Indicative
Posted by: Kyberean (IP Logged)
Date: 8 August, 2002 09:58PM
With all due respect to two very estimable commentators, I cannot agree that Ashton Smith's personal philosophy or world-view had any truck with Manicheism or any form of dualism (By the way, I believe that another rejected title for "The Devotee of Evil" was "The Satanist").

I see CAS's world-view as being a highly original amalgam of Romanticism, Idealism, nihilism, Swiftian irony, and, above all, cosmicism. If I were to search for evidence of these perspectives, then I think that the last place I would seek them would be in his tales (For instance, I tend to agree with Brian Stableford that "Schizoid Creator" is something of a simple jeu d'esprit). I see far clearer evidence of CAS's serious and deeply held personal views in his poetry and essays. In sum, it seems to me that, if ever anyone transcended dualistic perception, and, in particular, a moralistic, (and thus merely human) interpretation of phenomena, then such a man was Clark Ashton Smith! The following two passages represent the quintessence of CAS's perspective as I understand it:

"Her speech is not of good or evil, nor of anything that is desired or conceived or believed by the termites of earth; and the air she breathes, and the lands wherein she roams, would blast like the utter cold of sidereal space; and her eyes would blind the vision of men like suns; [...]". ("The Muse of Hyperborea")

"Many thinkers who lived before Freud, and some who live contemporaneously with him, have maintained that the world itself is a fantasy; or, in De Casseres' phrase, a 'superstition of the senses'. [...] Truth is what we desire it to be, and the facts of life are a masquerade in which we imagine that we have identified the maskers. The highest intellects have always delighted in poetic fancy and philosophic paradox, knowing well that the universe itself is multiform fantasy and paradox, and that everything perceived or conceived as actuality is merely one phase of that which has or may have innumerable aspects. In this phantom whirl of the infinite, among these veils of Maya that are sevenfold behind sevenfold, nothing is too absurd, too lovely, or dreadful to be impossible". ("On Fantasy")

Re: Poetry Most Indicative
Posted by: Dr. W.C. Farmer (IP Logged)
Date: 9 August, 2002 10:03AM

Kevin,
The suggestion of Schizoid Creator was relevant only to
Philip's paper, of course it is a romp. However, it is an
error to imagine that Ashton's thought was static, or that
his philosophy (more precisely, his "weltanschaung") was
static. That which one finds in the 30's is not the
same as the 40's etc. The dark and brooding, but romantic
little outcast of 1912 moved a great distance in his thought.
Before adding further comments, I would suggest some readings
in Zoroaster and in the Cabala (not too much, they will
either bore you to death, or swallow you whole). CAS writings
are not the source of my understanding of him, as he often
wrote in contrast and contradistinction to his own views by
way of reverse reflection. Those who did not know him are
necessarily limited in that regard. T.S. Eliot once said in
a talk I heard that he was amazed at what his interpreters
found in his writings that he was completely unaware of.
Having gone through the tedious rigors of undergraduate
English lit classes one comes to realize that Spenser
for example, did not consciously set out to put "x"
number of references to "Light" in the 4th Canto of the
"Faerie Queene" just so someone centuries later could get
his PhD counting them.

Re: Poetry Most Indicative
Posted by: Dr. W.C. Farmer (IP Logged)
Date: 9 August, 2002 12:31PM

This last reminded me of an Edwin Markham poem Clark was
fond of - I have not been able to find a Markhan collection
to verify my memory of it, but I'm sure this is pretty
close:
Outcast, Pariah, a thing
to flout,
They drew a circle,
that shut me out.

But love and I had the wit
to win,
We drew a circle,
that took them in.

Re: Poetry Most Indicative
Posted by: Kyberean (IP Logged)
Date: 9 August, 2002 05:00PM
Dr. Farmer,

I appreciate your comments. I certainly agree that no one's perspective is static, least of all that of an intellect of CAS's caliber. Perhaps we would both be more accurate to speak of a writer's philosophy or world-view at a given period. I "know" best the CAS of the period from approximately 1912-1937. Rightly or wrongly, I do feel confident that, based upon the written information at my disposal, the influences and perspectives that I cited, above, better reflect the essence of CAS's thought at that time than that of Zoroaster or the authors of the Cabala, for instance. Since that period is also the one most relevant to the works discussed in Philip Gelatt's paper, I confined my brief supporting quotations to that time, as well.

Of course, you're quite right that my not having known CAS personally places me at a disadavantage when discussing the evolution of his thought as a whole, as does the fact that his published writings from the 1940's onward are comparatively sparse. I do, however, find it difficult to believe that any seismic upheavals occurred in his thought during that period. I (and others, I'm sure) would, however, be fascinated to hear any further information that you may have on this subject, since you are, indeed, uniquely well qualified to speak of these matters from that time period.

As to the silliness of much literary criticism, you'll get no argument from me. I have no sympathy for Eliot, however, since his calculated cultivation of obscurity encouraged the activities of such scholarly mosquitoes. I also find it regrettable that Philip Gelatt appears to accept (unconsciously, I imagine) the notion that Modernism forms a sort of transcendent meta-perspective by which all other perspectives should be judged. The implication is that the writings of CAS and Lovecraft can be legitimized only by forcing them into the maw of Modernism, despite themselves. I could hardly disagree more. His reference to CAS and HPL as being comparatively "unimportant" writers leaves a sour taste in my mouth, as well, although it is certainly the sort of phrase that makes many literary critics and professors happy. I always ask, "important to whom?" The works of CAS and HPL are far more important to me than the works of Eliot, Joyce, or Pound, for instance. What this silly term really seems to mean is that certain writers are historically more influential than others. Since that is what such critics appear to mean, then that is what they ought to write. Greater "importance" implies greater "quality", and anyone who believes that the cream invariably rises should take a closer look at Ashton Smith's poetry and compare it to that of the "canonized" Modernist and Post-Modernist poetasters of our benighted century. As Gray wrote in his famous elegy, there are many mute, inglorious Miltons, indeed.

Re. Edwin Markham: I don't have a copy of the poem handy, either, but your recollection of it seems substantially accurate, at least according to my memory. By the way, if you or anyone else could point me to a link to, or otherwise provide, a copy of Markham's "Ballad of the Gallows", then I would be very grateful.

Re: Poetry Most Indicative
Posted by: Dr. W.C. Farmer (IP Logged)
Date: 9 August, 2002 05:37PM

I prefer to be gentle with a youngster just
finding his way into the "sacred mysteries" of
which Univ. professors are most decidely not
the High Priests. I agree absoloutely regarding
writers like Eliot et al, I quoted him as having
expressed a lament I have heard from many a poet.
On the other hand, it is also true that one of the
"genii loci" of poetry is that when filtered
through the mind and experience of another,
vistas undreamt by the poet may indeed emerge.
This, however, seems unlikely in the mental
mausolea of academe. Yet the kid must pay his
dues.
I have been unable for some time to locate
any Markham outside the ubiquitous presence
of "Man with a Hoe" in every Freshman Eng.
text.
I might add, that while Markham was commenting
on how he gained acceptance after initial
difficulty up in Coloma, calif. as a teacher,
CAS enjoyed the double entendre of "took them in."

yours, for great sport!
Dr. F



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