Wednesday, May 29, 2019

The Medusa of Despair

Read "The Medusa of Despair" at The Eldritch Dark:

The first stanza of this sonnet by Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) changed considerably between the initial publication in Ebony and Crystal (1922) and the later inclusion in Selected Poems (1971), including a change to the rhyme scheme.  But the overall meaning and impact of the poem did not change, as CAS once again draws on the well-known mythological figure of Medusa.  

In using this figure to embody the experience of despair, CAS draws an interesting portrait of a narrator unable to forestall a reckoning with this most troubling of emotions.  But in weaving his considerable powers of description in bold, mythic terms (one hesitates to say "cosmic", and yet with CAS that scope is always somewhat present), this poem doesn't quite hit the mark for me, since despair is inevitably a very personal and localized experience, which doesn't mesh with the apocalyptic hue with which CAS paints it.