Sunday, October 27, 2019

The Ghoul And the Seraph

Read "The Ghoul And the Seraph" at The Eldritch Dark:

There are unfortunately quite a few typos in the version of this poem at The Eldritch Dark, so read with caution (and refer to a printed text if available).

Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) described this poetic dialogue in a letter to his mentor George Sterling*:

I enclose a philosophical fantasy "The Ghoul And the Seraph."  Bender complains of the "pessimism" in it--which I can't "see."  The philosophical thesis is a plain statement of scientific fact--the immortality of matter, and the evanescence of and commutation of its forms.

It's hard to sympathize much with the peevish character of the Seraph in this dialogue, given that heavenly messenger first addresses the Ghoul with words such as:

                                       ..thy hands,
Like roots of cypresses uptorn in storm
That still retain their grisly provender,
Make the glad wine and manna of the skies
Turn to a qualmish sickness in my veins.

Luckily for the reader, the Ghoul can give as good as he gets:

And who art thou?— some white-faced fool of God,
With wings that emulate the giddy bird,
And bloodless mouth for ever filled with psalms
In lieu of honest victuals! 

CAS' philosophical goals for this text are beautifully articulated by the lyrical Ghoul:

                                                 ...for all is change—
Change, that hath wrought the chancre and the rose,
And wrought the star, and wrought the sapphire-stone,
And lit great altars, and the eyes of lions—
Change, that hath made the very gods from slime
Drawn from the pits of Python, and will fling
Gods and their builded heavens back again
To slime.

The Ghoul is wise, witty, and articulate, while the Seraph is alternately whiny and boastful.  I know whose side I'm on!

*See letter #216 in The Shadow of the Unattained: The Letters of George Sterling and Clark Ashton Smith published by Hippocampus Press.

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