Monday, August 6, 2018

To a Yellow Pine

Mature Jeffrey Pine.JPG

This is another poem not published in Clark Ashton Smith's (CAS) lifetime, and not available on The Eldritch Dark, so here's the text to begin with:

A giant tall, and arrow-straight
Alone upon a hilltop sate
O'erlooking from thy dizzy hold
A canyon deep, where far below
A mountain stream doth dashing flow
Thou art.  For years and years untold
Thou there hast stood, in e'er green mail,
Defiant of the tempest's rage
Unbowed, unharmed, from age to age,
Through rain and sun a monarch hale.

How far, magnificent thy view
For higher than they tufted head,
The eagle's flight alone is sped.
Up in the vast, unmeasured blue.
How far, how far the wooded hills
In wild and jumbled disarray,
Towards gentler lowlands stretch away,
With all their leaping streams and rills.
To east the blue Sierras lie
With heads half-hid by clouds that go
Across the sky like drifting snow
Before the southland's balmy sigh.
This is thy realm, O giant pine
Who doth watch calm the hurried years
Flee past with freight of hopes and fears
Though not for thee their fevered sign.
Thou standeth here, apart, alone,
A lord of splendid solitudes,
Where man his presence rare intrudes
And to his spoiling hand unknown.

Of the poems by CAS that I have read so far, this is probably the first one for which I'd be interested in seeing the author's original manuscript, since there are some anomalies in this text that make me wonder if it's been captured exactly as the author intended.

For starters, the poems that I have read so far have all featured very simple and regular rhyme schemes.  This poem does as well, but only if you ignore the first two lines, which don't fit the otherwise consistent abba pattern.

There is also the odd enjambment at the beginning of line six, where the words "Thou art" end a sentence with a very hard stop, and do so immediately after the end of the abba rhyme scheme in the previous lines, positioned within the sentence but outside the rhyme.  That's a curious manipulation of the poem's rhythm and atmosphere that feels out-of-place and jarring in the reading.

Outside of those curiosities, it is interesting that this is the first poem in which CAS mentions his home region ("the blue Sierras") specifically, and takes for a subject the yellow (aka Jeffrey or Ponderosa) pine which is so common to the Sierra Nevada foothills. 

Although the poem describes a tree that is on a remote hilltop, it's interesting to note that in George Haas' memoir "As I Remember Klarkash-Ton", Haas mentions that on CAS' family property near Auburn, California a single "tall Western Yellow pine" stood alone among a grove of blue oak trees.  On reading "To a Yellow Pine", I can't help but think that lone pine near his home might have inspired these lines of verse.

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