Monday, October 7, 2019


Read "Transcendence" at The Eldritch Dark:

This sonnet from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) amounts to a significant statement, if one takes the approach (as I do) that it is informed by CAS' own personal philosophy.  The poem posits an extremely detached point-of-view, and assigns so much value to that perspective as to label it transcendence.

It's hard to say enough good things about this particular work, given its technical excellence and the lyrically confident (if world-weary) attitude expressed by the narrator.  And yet the end of the poem has a certain mystery to it:

This is to be the lord of love and grief,
O'er time's illusion and thyself supreme,
As, half-aroused in some nocturnal hour,
The dreamer knows and dominates his dream.

To say that a dream interrupted can be "dominated" by the dreamer has an element of hubris, and thus introduces a note of disbelief in all that has been stated in the previous lines.  CAS seems to be both endorsing and mocking the detached attitude expressed by narrator, which is not necessarily a contradiction.

CAS apparently wrote this sonnet in 1919, and it's worth noting that in the following years, it saw publication both in the Argosy magazine and in a couple of hardcover poetry anthologies.  These multiple publications likely gave it an unusually wide exposure for CAS' poetry, at least until he started contributing to Weird Tales magazine in later years.

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