Monday, April 29, 2019

Desire of Vastness

Read "Desire of Vastness" at The Eldritch Dark:

This sonnet by Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) does a wonderful job of articulating the vast scope of the writer's imagination, and making obvious why his outlook and artistic concerns are so often described as "cosmic".

The noticeable use of internal rhyming within individual lines works very well in "Desire of Vastness", and in this example the internal rhyme is continued to a following line:

What central sea with plume-plucked midnight strewn,
Plangent to what enormous plenilune

What interests me even more is that this poem is another example where CAS made changes between the original appearance (in Ebony and Crystal (1922)) and the later publication in his career-spanning Selected Poems (1971).  In the original publication, the second stanza begins:

The brazen comprehension of the waste,
The waste inclusion of the brazen sky--

In those two lines, CAS uses creates interesting effects with the repetition of the words "brazen" and "waste".  However, those same lines were changed to:

The brazen empire of the bournless waste,
The unstayed dominions of the brazen sky—

The revised version of the first line strikes me as much more powerful, replacing the awkward and unpoetic word "comprehension" with the striking phrase "the bournless waste".  Likewise, in the second line the vague phrase "waste inclusion" gives way to "unstayed dominions", a much more concrete and musical phrase.

Being able to compare early and later versions of poems by CAS is valuable, since it allows the reader a glimpse into the author's evolving sense of craft.  I have quite a few different editions of the poems of CAS, and I can't say I regret a single purchase!  

No comments:

Post a Comment