Sunday, December 2, 2018

Ode to the Abyss

Read "Ode to the Abyss" at The Eldritch Dark:

This poem has been included in several published collections of poetry by Clark Ashton Smith (CAS), including his very first published volume, The Star-Treader and Other Poems (1912).

It also attracted praise from George Sterling and Ambrose Bierce, both of whom were lineal mentors to the young CAS.

So it's with some regret that I can't really connect with "Ode to the Abyss".  Much like "Ode to Music" (which I read a few days ago), I find this ode to be somewhat rambling, with quite a lot of repeated ideas that don't really seem to build upon each other.  However, there is some great poetry contained within the whole, particularly in these lines from the second stanza:

What sound thy gulfs of silence hold!
Stupendous thunder of the meeting stars
And crash of orbits that diverged,
With Life's thin song are merged;
Thy quietudes enfold
Paean and threnody as one,
And battle-blare of unremembered wars
With festal songs
Sung in the Romes of ruined spheres;
And music that belongs
To undiscoverable younger years
With words of yesterday.

I think this would have been a stronger ode if those twelve lines were the majority of the text, with a few choice lines preceding to "introduce" the abyss as the subject of the poem. 

Long poems in English are difficult to pull off.  John Keats achieved the feat several times in his brief career, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge's lasting reputation is built on a couple of lengthy poetic works.  In having read just over one hundred poems so far by the young CAS, I don't feel that at this stage his art was quite up to the task, with the notable exception of "Nero", which I'll be musing on soon.

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