Friday, July 26, 2019

Fire of Snow

Read "Fire of Snow" at The Eldritch Dark:

Each of the two stanzas in this sonnet from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) begin with the line "Pale fire of snow had lit the dusk for me".  The phrase "Pale fire" invokes the name of a well-known novel by Vladimir Nabokov, but of course that novel was written several decades after CAS' poem.

This poem plays to some of CAS' greatest strengths, as he builds a sense of mystery and foreboding in the opening octet, anchored by the narrator's statement "Astray with mind half-consciously intent".  The very vagueness of that statement indicates that even our narrator is experiencing an enigma and a sense of dislocation in these dark woods.

In the closing sestet, the trees have taken on the character of prison walls, and we get the sense that the narrator has reached something akin to the end of a journey, as he comes face-to-face with "the silence of a time-slain dream".

Although these lines have suggestions of the supernatural, nothing is explicit.  There are no sorcerers, mummies, or alien worlds.  And yet "Fire of Snow" fits comfortably into the tradition of weird poetry, without leaning on the clich├ęs  associated with that genre to achieve its impact.  Great stuff all around!

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