Thursday, June 4, 2020

On A Chinese Vase

Read "On A Chinese Vase" at The Eldritch Dark:

This poem from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) inevitably brings to mind John Keats' "Ode on a Grecian Urn", even if the two works are quite different in form and content.  

CAS' work is notable for the use of repeated words that occur throughout the poem, a technique that is not common to his poetry in general.  The following words are each repeated twice (I'm ignoring articles and other common words such as "the"):

  • spring
  • suns
  • Ming
  • herons
  • peer
  • bloom
  • porcelain

In addition, some related word forms (such as "bloomless") occur, and two lines in each stanza end with the same word.

I'm not much for statistical analysis of literary texts, but in this case it is interesting to observe that of the eighty-eight words in "On A Chinese Vase", fourteen (or 15% of the total) are duplicated (as listed above).

That high occurrence of repeated words seems to me like an intentional strategy on CAS' part, in order to reflect the hermetic world of the vase he is describing.  Given that repeated words bring the reader back to a conceptual place that he or she has already visited, a reading of "On A Chinese Vase" mirrors the act of observing such an artifact and the bounded physical space that it inhabits.

No comments:

Post a Comment