Tuesday, March 31, 2020

A Sunset

Read "A Sunset" at The Eldritch Dark:


This poem from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) was originally written in French as "Un Couchant", and represented CAS' first complete poem written in a language other than his native English.  

The English version is considerably less lush in description than is typical of CAS' poetry:

The shadows of night, beyond the water,
Nest without noise in the cypress
With the tired and heavy raven.

The impressionistic nature of the language makes for a much different reading experience than one usually gets from CAS' poetry, but it is certainly not unrewarding, and represents an interesting new phase in the author's creative growth.

Monday, March 30, 2020


Read "Ode" at The Eldritch Dark:


This ode from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) presents a beautiful image of of faery splendor, all in tribute to an unnamed love.  The language is wonderfully fluid and musical, especially right in the middle of the work:

To vanish ere that sultry autumn hour
When the pale grapes are heavy with such wine
As fays of the north might drink
In elfin revelry,
Dancing beneath the ghostly, fluttered gold
Of birches...

The very first line "Your name is like the opening of a flow'r" meets a logical closure beginning with the section quoted above, making the entire a poem a tribute to the transitory memory of a dear one remembered.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

The Envoys

Read "The Envoys" at The Eldritch Dark:


One of my favorite poems by Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) is "Desert Dweller".  For this blogging project, I am reading more-or-less chronologically through CAS' poetic corpus, and thus "Desert Dweller" is still in the future, so I won't discuss it here.

That said, "The Envoys" seems to be inspired by the same sensibility that would lead to the creation of the later poem.  Here in "The Envoys", we have incredible visitors who traverse "the many-clangored mart" whose inhabitants lack the imaginative life spark necessary to comprehend that which walks in their very midst:

They strode upon the swooning pave,
They towered by the trembling spires,
Tall as apocalyptic fires
Above the peoples of the grave:
But, sightless and inveterate,
To Mammon vowed, the throng went by,
Charneled beneath an iron sky.

The drunken narrator alone bears witness to the fantastic occurrence:

I, too, bemused, inebriate,
Amort with splendor, could but stand
And see them pass, with empty hand.

"The Envoys" is less powerful than "Desert Dweller", but as an early expression of the same notion it is remarkable nonetheless, and once again speaks to the power of poetry to reveal what is right in front of us, if we are only willing to see it.

Saturday, March 28, 2020


Read "October" at The Eldritch Dark:


This dark poem from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) creates a beautiful metaphor around the onset of winter and the weight of oppressive memories:

I would the mounded snow of mountains hyperborean
Were heaped upon your latest ember, quenching it!
In some tremendous world of ice, or world marmorean,
I would entomb for aye my fevers infinite:—
Yea, well it were to lie in frozen sleep unlit
Beneath the mounded snow of mountains hyperborean.

There is an obvious sadness in these lines, but also a recognition of the beauty of the season: "Your distant vales are blue as Aidenn".  Even as I am reading "October" in March, I nonetheless recall the particular sensations of which it speaks, so familiar in the last days before winter's grip takes hold.

Friday, March 27, 2020


Read "Sandalwood" at The Eldritch Dark:


It seems that this poem from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) was originally intended as a proem to his published collection of the same name, but in the end was not included in that volume.  It certainly does seem like a perfect work to introduce a collection of verse from CAS:

My songs shall be as the perfume of sandalwood
Borne by a secret wind from form-lost irretrievable islands,
Where the hibiscus bowers of our love,
And the palaces of roseate marble,
With all their vine-caught pillars,
Were dreamt, but never builded.

The poem is addressed to "Thou, who hast chosen the world’s appointed way", thus creating something of a separation between the poet and his audience.  But CAS offers up his verse as a way to bridge that gap between reader and writer, and one can only hope that there will always bee readers ready to cross that bridge and discover the glories of which CAS writes.

Thursday, March 26, 2020


Read "Madrigal" at The Eldritch Dark:


Once again, we have a poem from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) that he attributed to the pseudonymous Christophe des Laurières.  As with the other des Laurières poems, "Madrigal" has an erotic side, but an unusual delicacy as well:

Low-lidded eyes thou hast,
But all too beautiful for love to bear:
Fain would I kiss them fast
Like tranquil flowers closing
Tired with the burden of the sunset air.

The phrase "Like tranquil flowers closing / Tired with the burden of the sunset air" is rather magical, expressing a tenderness not often seen in CAS' work.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020


Read "Interrogation" at The Eldritch Dark:


This is a dark poem of love from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS), emboldened by the narrator's unflinching observations of what lies behind the many veils.  

The fourth stanza is particularly interesting, with an implicit rejection of whatever the mythical heavens may hold in promise:

Know you the deeps above?
The terror and vertigo of those who gaze too long
Upon the crystal skies unclouded? Are you strong
With me to prove
Even in thought or dream the dreadful pits above?

The third line quoted above corrects a regrettable typo found in the version of this poem at The Eldritch Dark; the corrected word is bolded.

Despite the grim tone of "Interrogation", it's an impressive work of somber mood and lurid musical language.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020


Read "Minatory" at The Eldritch Dark:


This poem from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) really invokes the power of his chosen art form, rendered in quite a visceral fashion, beginning with the unambiguous title.  It's interesting that he chooses to render the world of the Muse in such stark terms:

Dim Summanus, lord of night,
Is her moiling minister,
Demogorgon toils for her
In the darkling Infinite.

It's an unsettling vision, but I appreciate the warning embedded in these lines, that those who dismiss the Muse of literature and poetry will suffer the loss of some of the genuine richness of the human experience.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Enchanted Mirrors

Read "Enchanted Mirrors" at The Eldritch Dark:


This sonnet from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) is clearly intended as an artistic manifesto: "These are enchanted mirrors that I bring, / By demons wrought from metals of the moon."

The language throughout is rich and gorgeous, but the closing sestet really packs a wallop:

Therein you shall behold unshapen dooms,
And ghoul-astounding shadows of the tombs;
Oblivion, with eyes like poppy-buds,
Or love, with blossoms plucked in Devachan,
In stillness of the santal-pillared woods;
But nevermore the moiling world of man.

It's as good an advertisement as anyone could create for CAS' body of work.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

A Prayer

Read "A Prayer" at The Eldritch Dark:


This is a rather minor poem from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS), and appropriately, it was not published in his lifetime.  With a poet as talented as CAS, there's no regret at time spent reading his lesser works, since the full scope of his output in verse is worth considering as a whole.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Dead Love

Read "Dead Love" at The Eldritch Dark:


This poem from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) was unpublished in his lifetime, and I'm not totally surprised that he chose not to include it in any of his collections of verse.  

Out of the almost four hundred poems by CAS that I have read so far, this is one of the few that is awkward in execution, particularly in the way that phrases are carried beyond line endings in a noticeably unrhythmic pattern.  It seems as though CAS forced the pacing of his words to fit the rhyme scheme, and sacrificed metrical flow in the process.

Friday, March 20, 2020


Read "Maya" at The Eldritch Dark:


This sonnet from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) takes a dim view of material reality, at least as it is experienced by most human beings:

Knowing all this a ghostly gossamer
In some eternal room of darkness spun;
A laughter of forgotten gods that were,
Echoing still in waste oblivion.

The opening octet has a sense of bitterness, but that tension is partially resolved with a more placid tone in the closing sestet:

But once again, as others, I have lent
Myself to earthly ways and earthly walls:
Illusion of illusion, fantasy
Of doubtful phantoms, nevermore to be
When slumber on the last delirium falls
And lulls the tossing shadows turbulent.

Those last few lines speak of the final escape from the mirages of earthly existence.  While release may come only from that grim exit, it is a solace nonetheless.

Thursday, March 19, 2020


Read "Concupiscence" at The Eldritch Dark:


Here we have another poem from that licentious Frenchman Christophe des Laurières, a pseudonymous creation of Clark Ashton Smith (CAS).  

In keeping with des Laurière's infamous reputation, he writes of a faun lusting for an unreachable "sea-girl" (presumably a nereid), a prize he holds more dear than his willing (and available) dryad companions:

Then, in a daylong dream, he swings and dallies
Through the close gulfs about her swirling shape
And turns not when familiar dryads come
To tickle his bowed neck with sharpening tips
Of laughter-lifted bosoms, or to snare
His nodding yerd with loops of noon-warm hair:—

It's a classic case of "the grass is always greener", but rendered with enough wit and charm to make "Concupiscence" a fresh take on a familiar theme.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020


Read "Loss" at The Eldritch Dark:


As with many of the pieces that Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) included in his published collection Sandalwood (1925), "Loss" is a poem of romance and remembrance:

Alas! I cannot find you now:
From alp to phantom alp in sleep
A phantom light they cannot keep
Goes outward to the oblivious deep,
And fades from my pursuing brow.

Before I began a journey to read all of CAS' poetry, I was not much aware of his non-fantastic verse, and it's been a really pleasant discovery.  So much of CAS' reputation rests on the pillars of science fiction, dark fantasy, and the weird.  And yet his creative output was so much broader in scope than the reputation suggests, and it's rewarding to discover lesser known aspects of his artistic output.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020


Read "Query" at The Eldritch Dark:


This is an extraordinarily beautiful love poem from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS), and yet it also treats of the indefinite line between love and friendship:

Fair comrade, have you found, as I,
A tremor in some troubling vein
When shoulders touch, the subtle sigh
That is not grief, that is not pain,
And vague delight in being nigh?

I'm not sure I've read a poem on this particular topic before, which is not surprising, since it's a complicated emotional space that challenges even poets.  CAS pulls it off with a wonderful sensitivity, and the device of making the middle stanzas a series of questions to the other party in the relationship is highly effective.  Further evidence that CAS was much more than a poet of the weird and fantastic!

Monday, March 16, 2020


Read "Enigma" at The Eldritch Dark:


This is a charming little poem from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS), very similar in theme to "Incognita" which I read yesterday.  It's perhaps a less substantial poem than "Incognita", but expresses the same sentiments in a more succinct fashion.

Sunday, March 15, 2020


Read "Incognita" at The Eldritch Dark:


This poem from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) is a beautiful portrait of a complex woman, and a lyrical recognition that no person can ever truly know another.  

That remote wonder is really captured in the lines "A tarnished empress on a broad doubloon, / Flame-edged and glowing."  Here CAS captures a profile of regal beauty, but by invoking a similar image embossed on a coin, he acknowledges a certain remoteness, where the observer is forever on the outside.

Saturday, March 14, 2020


Read "Apologia" at The Eldritch Dark:


This is love poem as only Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) could write.  Especially compelling are the descriptions of exotic musical instruments in the opening stanza:

O gentlest love, I have not played
For you upon the lute of jade,
Nor on that fabulous bassoon
Wrought from the horns of minotaurs,
And set with subtly changing spars
And lucid metals of the moon—

The image of a "fabulous bassoon / Wrought from the horns of minotaurs" is a bit of genuine poetic magic.

Friday, March 13, 2020

The Temptation

Read "The Temptation" at The Eldritch Dark:


This poem by Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) was unpublished in his lifetime, and perhaps it's no  surprise given the naughty nature of the content.  

"The Temptation" seems to be born of frustration of a certain kind, but for all that charged energy, it retains the full force of poetic language:

Now, with hasty gaze, I know
All the cloven Hill has hidden --
Nymphs that rutting gods have ridden
Under suns of long ago;
Givers of a gift divine
Which the Fathers deemed malign;

The frequent use of semi-colons (rather than periods) throughout this poem encourages the reader to consume it in one breathless reading, and that pacing does accentuate the emotional tornado that must have driven the creation of "The Temptation".  As dirty poems go, this is a good one!

Thursday, March 12, 2020


Read "Consolation" at The Eldritch Dark:


Certain poems from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) really seem as though they are expressions of the artist's personal views, and I think  "Consolation" falls easily into that category.  The opening stanza suggests turning away from worldly affairs:

Forget, forget, and be not sorrowful at all:
Ah, tend no more, in gardens of the terrene years,
This wormwood flowering tall with thy mellifluous tears.

The following two stanzas wash the reader in the incredible mysteries of the poet's imaginative universe, with the third stanza really packing a punch:

Be glad: though here the skies are like a leaden wall;
For still in Saturn, from their isle septentrion,
The black swans fly to seek the jungles of the sun.

That last line is a wonderful piece of poetry all by itself: "The black swans fly to seek the jungles of the sun."  That one line is so rich with the fantastic potential of language and dreams that it echoes in my mind long after my first reading of "Consolation".

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

A Catch

Read "A Catch" at The Eldritch Dark:


The is a note of bitterness in this poem from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS), and I can't say that particular voice has much appeal for me as a reader.  It strikes me as strictly a minor item from CAS' body of work.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020


Read "Estrangement" at The Eldritch Dark:


It seems that this poem from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) is a second version of the poem I read yesterday, "In Autumn".  Some of the lines from that poem show up verbatim in "Estrangement", making me suspect that the first poem was really a draft of this one.

And it's all to the good, since "Estrangement" is much the superior work, with the closing stanza particularly notable for its lyric beauty:

In vain the falling leaves caress
A lute among the roses lost;
And the frail touch of petals tossed
Will leave it mute and tremorless.

The image of the musical instrument abandoned and silent speaks volumes.

Monday, March 9, 2020

In Autumn

This poem from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) was not published in his lifetime, and is not available on The Eldritch Dark, so here's the complete text:

Erstwhile, for beauty's tattered gold,
          I have the forfeit tear,
          But now the orchard-lighting year 
Has found a heart forlorn and cold.

Though poplars take the passing flame,
          And fling it on the windy skies,
          I listen, hushed with lone surmise,
To hear a half-remembered name.

I've recently read several autumn-themed poems by CAS, and this one seems like a rather minor entry in that vein.  

Sunday, March 8, 2020


Read "Immortelle" at The Eldritch Dark:


This poem of a remembered love features an interesting color contrast between the two stanzas.  In the opening stanza, Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) describes "red leaves, loosened hour by hour".  In the second and last stanza, he focuses on "the white memory of her".

That "white memory" has an almost searing quality, cutting through "all dead dreams of yesterday", reflecting the eternal symbolism of the plant referenced in the poem's title.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

To the Chimera

Read "To the Chimera" at The Eldritch Dark:


This sonnet of yearning for the fantastic feels like a deeply personal expression from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS):

Unknown chimera, take us, for we tire
Amid the known monotony of things!

This poem could almost serve as a manifesto for his later entry into the world of weird fiction, a creative phase that was still several years in the future at the time that we wrote "To the Chimera".  

Appropriately, this poem was published in a 1948 issue of Weird Tales magazine.

Friday, March 6, 2020

The Last Oblivion

Read "The Last Oblivion" at The Eldritch Dark:


This sonnet from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) brings together many of the best elements of his work in verse, combining strands of dark romance, alien exoticism, and the enormous scope of a cosmic imagination.

The poem's narrative provides an interesting twist, as the narrator initially expresses a ready willingness to forget a past love:

But haply wandering, worlds and cycles hence,
Through unforeseen fantastic avatars,
I shall forget you in the future stars,
And take of time an alien recompense.

In the closing sestet, he imagines a future incident wherein he catches the scent of an "unsuspected bloom / That lifts again the scarlet of your kiss;" the merest suggestion of that which once was.

I like the idea that a relationship readily abandoned is never without echoes throughout our lives, and to render that truism with such lyrical beauty is CAS' particular talent.

Thursday, March 5, 2020


This short poem from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) was published in his hometown newspaper in 1924, but never included in any of his published collections of verse.   Likewise, it's not available on The Eldritch Dark, so here is the complete text:

Slowly the sorrow of the fallen leaf
Turns to desire for some undreamt-of blossom;
So love's implacable and sullen grief
Dies on an alien bosom.

There is sadness in these four lines that CAS deftly weaves with the imagery of "the fallen leaf" anticipating the death of a love "on an alien bosom."  It's a small poem, but has a core of emotional rawness that is quite powerful.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020


Read "Adventure" at The Eldritch Dark:


"Adventure" re-visits a theme that has been common to several poems by Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) that I have read recently: two lovers escaping from an unpleasant reality into a new realm of their own creation.

Ever leave regret and rue
To the dutiful and jealous
Fools that are not near to tell us
All the things we should not do.

It's a theme that many readers can probably identify with, and although it doesn't inform much of CAS' best work, it certainly feels like he managed to express a circumstance that he well knew from personal experience.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

A Meeting

Read "A Meeting" at The Eldritch Dark:


This melancholy poem from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) is perhaps not one of his best, and yet there is still a touch of magic within:

But not too heavily the burden weighs,
While your sweet gaze
Lingers upon me like a tranquil light,
And all the murmured music of your voice
Becomes an echo for the songless days.

It's a powerful romantic theme, rendered in muted colors.  Even one of CAS' less notable poems has its rewards.

Monday, March 2, 2020

The Pagan

Read "The Pagan" at The Eldritch Dark:


Here is another entry in the series of poems authored by Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) that he attributed to his pseudonym Christophe des Laurières.  This one presents a jaunty romp through classical mythology, with a touch of sauciness that CAS seemed to feel most comfortable associating with a pen-name! 

Sunday, March 1, 2020


Read "December" at The Eldritch Dark:


This poem of the passing seasons is colored with the grim beauty that Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) could express so well.  The closing stanza is practically a complete poem in itself:

For here no zephyr grieves
To tell the year's dead dream;
And down the pine-lulled stream
Lost memories drift and loiter with the leaves.

The very last line of that stanza (and of the entire poem) repeats the image of leaves that was introduced in the first line: "From the sad leaves withdrawn," providing a circular reference that gives the poem a certain ongoing animation that lasts beyond the words themselves.