Saturday, November 9, 2019

To a Northern Venus

Lately I've been reading through a batch of poems from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) that were not published in his lifetime, and "To a Northern Venus" is another of these.  Since it's not available on The Eldritch Dark, I'll begin with the text itself:

I would not have you anywhere,
Save in some interspace of pines,
When the blue flame of day declines
On altars of the solemn air;

And all the woodland, warm with spice,
As from a hundred censers flown,
Hierophantic, weird, unknown,
Seems to await a sacrifice.

O, come and cast your veil aside!
No robe but does your beauty wrong:
This pilgrim Love, he hath not long
Between your foam-white breasts to bide.

Ah, paler for the shadows green
That gather your subtler form,
And waver on your lifted arm,
Like riven veils obscurely seen;

And fairer with your ashen hair
Enkindled by the sudden ray
Which is the backward glance of day
From oubliettes of burning air--

Come, child of Friga, made for love,
And let my arms your girdle be,
And give your pallid loins to me,
And all the secret fires thereof.

This poem is more erotic than has been typical of the work by CAS that I have read so far, and the invocation of Norse mythology and other references to the Scandinavian world are likewise new, although many of CAS' poems references Greek mythology.  

I'm somewhat neutral about this poem - it has some interesting imagery, but the language itself is rather pedestrian by CAS' standards, and the novel subject matter does not seem to have inspired him greatly.


  1. Interesting. I was wondering if CAS had ever written anything in reference to Norse mythology. He seemed to be almost wholly devoted to Greece. Aside from this poem and "Nightmare of the Lilliputian", did he make any other references to Norse mythology in his poems?

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  3. No, other than the two poems you mention, I've found very few references to Norse mythology in CAS' writing (whether in poetry or prose). That is quite surprising, given his particular artistic inclinations. I can only speculate that he was exposed to Greek mythology from early in his childhood, and those legends became part of his being. Perhaps he never experienced the Norse myths in such an early, immersive way.