Wednesday, January 22, 2020


Read "Semblance" at The Eldritch Dark:

This poem from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) solicited an interesting comment from his mentor George Sterling*:

"Semblance" is another "grown-up" poem, and in your best mood.  When I note how much wiser you are than I was at your age, it makes me "smile a little sadly."  I was of slow growth, and have hardly matured yet - at least I hope I haven't!

CAS sent the poem to Sterling in 1923, when CAS was thirty years old.  Sterling was in his early fifties at the time.

Certainly Sterling's description of "Semblance" as a "grown-up" poem is not without justification, as each of these stanzas are deeply informed by the lessons of life experience:

Grief is the mirror-builded hall
Wherein you roam eternally,
Seeking the ghost you shall not see —
In sorrow half-sardonical —
And meet yourself at every wall.

Each of the five stanzas has an equal sense of gravitas, rendered with CAS' usual dazzling poetic technique.  

It is remarkable that a young man born and raised in small towns in rural California, who had limited experience of travel, should indeed demonstrate such wisdom in his verse.  For me, it reinforces the idea that CAS was a true poetic soul, an artist who devoted his life to the creative possibilities of the English language, which pursuit somehow granted him insights beyond those typical of someone his age.

*See letter #290 in The Shadow of the Unattained: The Letters of George Sterling and Clark Ashton Smith published by Hippocampus Press.

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