Wednesday, April 3, 2019

The Ghoul

This early poem by Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) was unpublished in his lifetime, and is not available on The Eldritch Dark, so here's the complete text:

He seemed, in implicit deeper night
          Of cypress, and the glade of cedarn gloom,
          A shadow come from catacomb or tomb,
The shade of midnight's subterranean might
Upthrown to strengthen darkness, and affright,
          Light's rear and remnant, and defer the doom
          Of phantoms--ere the haled dawn relume
The woodland fanes of Hecatean rite.

When half the conclave of the glooms was gone, 
          Gigantical I saw his form define,
                    and sombre on the sun's eternal ways;
And fantoms languid in the night's decline,
          Were, thinnest mist-ranks paling tow'rd the dawn,
                    O'er the black tarns of his abhorrent gaze.

CAS is sometimes accused of using a vocabulary that leans towards the archaic and the obscure.  In general, I disagree with that assessment, since it seeks to deny the rich possibilities of the English language, a vein that CAS usually exploited with outstanding results.

However, the "The Ghoul" is a case where CAS did indeed go a bit over the edge.  A phrase like "haled dawn relume" is just awkward, and despite the lush vocabulary, the image that CAS paints of this ghoul is rather vague at best.  So I can't say I'm surprised that CAS chose not to publish these particular lines.

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