Friday, August 23, 2019

A Vision of Lucifer

Read "A Vision of Lucifer" at The Eldritch Dark:

It's worth pointing out a significant typo in the version of this poem at The Eldritch Dark.  Line 13 as captured there reads: "A column of clear tame, in lands extreme", but Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) actually wrote: "A column of clear flame, in lands extreme".  The latter version, of course, makes much more sense contextually!

In reading "A Vision of Lucifer", I am immediately reminded of the long poem "Satan Unrepentant" by the same author.  That poem was strongly influenced by the work of John Milton, and "A Vision of Lucifer" shares the same theme, and does so powerfully in the shorter form of a sonnet.

As I mentioned in my commentary on "Satan Unrepentant", the character of Satan as defined by Milton in Paradise Lost seems to hold a particular fascination for CAS, not just as a fictional character, but also as a philosopher.  And I think the closing sestet of "A Vision of Lucifer" expresses CAS' attitude towards this character with crystal clarity:

And straight I knew him for the mystic one
That is the brother, born of human dream,
Of man rebellious at an unknown rod;
The mind's ideal, and the spirit's sun;
A column of clear flame, in lands extreme,
Set opposite the darkness that is God.

That's as perfect a piece of poetry as you're likely to find anywhere in the English language.  And I think there is no mistaking CAS' own viewpoint as reflected in the character of Satan, given how boldly the poet closes this work with the lines "A column of clear flame, in lands extreme, / Set opposite the darkness that is God."

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