Monday, September 2, 2019


Read "Haunting" at The Eldritch Dark:

Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) revised this poem between its original appearance in Ebony and Crystal (1922) and a much later publication in Selected Poems (1971).  I'm always interested in comparing versions of poems by CAS in order to try and understand how his thinking about his work changed over time.

In this case, I'm most interested in the very last line of the poem, which compares as follows:

  • From Ebony and Crystal: "Sweet with your tears, and warm with savour of your kiss?"
  • From Selected Poems: "Salt with your tears, and sweet with savor of your kiss?"

In this one line, by moving the word "sweet" to the middle of the line, CAS enhanced an internal rhyme on the letter "s" and more importantly, strengthened the poem's closing image, which in context reads:

Shall I not find the very draught that Lethe gives
Salt with your tears, and sweet with savor of your kiss?

Describing "your tears" as having the taste of salt (rather than sweetness) works much better, and adds a note of bitterness to the close of the poem to contrast with the "sweet...savor of your kiss".  Even in such a small edit, CAS significantly improved the final version of "Haunting".

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