Friday, August 9, 2019


Read "Desolation" at The Eldritch Dark:

This sonnet from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) underwent considerable revision between the original appearance in Ebony and Crystal (1922) and the subsequent publication in Selected Poems (1971).  The version posted to The Eldritch Dark is the later version, and since I think it is the better of the two, I won't focus on what changes CAS made.

After reading several good (but not great) poems by CAS over the last few days, "Desolation" marks a return to CAS at his best.  His artistic outlook is often characterized as "cosmic", and this poem certainly has echoes of that strain.  But "Desolation" adds a human element that takes it beyond the cosmic, and that yearning humanity is expressed so very beautifully in the closing lines:

                                               ...I crave
The friendly clasp of finite arms, to save
My spirit from the ravening Infinite.

Coming from an artist whose esteem for the human race could be fickle, "Desolation" is a powerful expression of a yearning for human connection in the vast bleakness of the cosmos.  And I'm not even commenting on the technical bravura demonstrated by this sonnet, which is worth a discussion of its own.  As a reader of poetry, I'm simply awed by the sheer beauty of CAS' words and the significant way in which he has refined his cosmic vision to embrace a vibrant human component.  "Desolation" easily earns a spot on my list of favorite poems (by any author)!

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