Sunday, July 28, 2019

Lunar Mystery

Read "Lunar Mystery" at The Eldritch Dark:

This poem from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) has a subtle beauty that builds slowly over the course of the seven stanzas.  What I find interesting is a transition from aural to visual diction over the course of these lines, with the break coming in the middle stanza.

For example, in the first three stanzas, we find lines such as:

  • In music leaned the languorous moon,
  • An ivory silence evermore,
  • Bemused, I saw the night's white song,

All of those lines combine the auditory with the visual, in very intriguing combinations.  But that which is being described is in fact visual, with the aural terms serving to enhance a sense of elusiveness.

In the middle (fourth) stanza, the narrator experiences an intrusion amid the serenity he has described thus far:

Then, to my spelled, reluctant ear,
A whisper louder than the light
Pierced as from alien presence near;

The whisper is described as "louder than the light", so there is a clear tension between what is heard and what is seen.

For the remaining three stanzas, the emphasis shifts to the visual, as in these examples:

  • A silver seraph of the moon
  • Save for a wind that briefly gleamed
  • And moonlight fluttering like a moth

There is a strong sense that this intruder, whatever it really is, has momentarily upset the balance of an otherwise tranquil scenario, and that intrusive (and yet elusive) "whisper" has displaced more pleasant phenomenon described in the first few stanzas.  

This poem has a real magic to it.  Nothing is ever described in concrete terms, and the beautiful descriptions with auditory attributes are intentionally illogical, and yet make perfect sense poetically.  Once again, CAS has floored me with his masterly grasp of his medium.

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