Friday, July 31, 2020

An Old Theme

Read "An Old Theme" at The Eldritch Dark:

This is another poem that Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) attributed to the pseudonym Christophe des Laurières.  That naughty Frenchman certainly has his share of pick-up lines:

Give me thy mouth to kiss,
Give me thy breasts to hold
Ere love's desire and love's delight grow old
And the last sun go down upon the last abyss.

Taken as a whole, the poems attributed to des Laurières are quite good.  It would be interesting to see them published together as a standalone collection.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020


This poem from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) was published in the Golden Atom science fiction fanzine in 1959, although evidently it was written in the early 1930's.  It's not available on The Eldritch Dark, so here's the complete text: 

Are you to blame, or I, if round you twine 
The wanton tendrils of the heart's wild vine?
Ah, suffer them to live, and in your heart
Permit the scioned love to mount with mine.

Vainly I strove against it, half afraid
Of the mad cast that destiny had made:
Vainly I strove...and must I love in vain
When two might share the arbor's clustered shade?

Purer and sweeter than any poet's rhyme,
From out the clement Cytherean clime,
The lyric voice of Cypris calls to us
Across the dismal dissonance of time.

Harken, and heed, and let the hateful din
Fail to an insect's fretting far and thin.
Though others prate of shame and wrong, we shall
Maintain the pagan purity of sin.

Oh, heed, and follow: in autumn forests lone,
Again the immemorial doves make moan,
And flashing waters beckon like white hands
Where all the wings of all the loves have flown.

It's not a bad poem, but neither is it CAS at his best, so I'm not surprised it found a published home in a fanzine.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Madrigal of Evanescence

Read "Madrigal of Evanescence" at The Eldritch Dark:

This love poem from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) is rather humdrum, not one of his best efforts by any measure.

Monday, July 27, 2020

Jungle Twilight

Read "Jungle Twilight" at The Eldritch Dark:

This poem from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) was published in the Summer 1932 issue of Oriental Stories magazine, which at the time was edited by Farnsworth Wright (who also edited Weird Tales magazine).

While the poem itself emerges from a strain of jungle-themed exoticism, CAS manages to imbue it with his characteristic flair for the weird:

Narcotic silence, opiate gloom:
The painted parakeets are gone,
The blazoned butterflies withdrawn.
Nocturnal blossoms, weird and wan,
Like phantom wings and faces bloom.

Better yet, the closing lines manage to inject forgotten gods and a dangerous critter into the mix:

And, winding on the toppled wall
Where carven gods hold carnival,
The cobra couples with his bride.

Considering that Oriental Stories was a classic pulp magazine, CAS manages to deliver a thematically appropriate poem that contains just enough of his verbal magic to elevate it beyond what one would expect from the pages in which it appeared.  

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Song At Evenfall

Read "Song At Evenfall" at The Eldritch Dark:

This is another of Clark Ashton Smith's rather forgettable love poems.  It's not a terrible poem, but very workmanlike and somewhat uninspired verse from a poet who was capable of much more.

Saturday, July 25, 2020


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

The brief and piteous loves of yore--
Canst not forget them, or forgive?
All that I have to give, I give;
Ask not if it be less or more
For glad or mournful loves of yore.

The blood in all my veins is thine;
My pouring pulses flow to thee
As vernal torrents tow'rds the sea.
Love is the winepress and the wine:
The blood in all my veins is thine.

Content thee; for I find or lose
No breast but thine in any dream;
I hear thy name at night's extreme--
'Tis mine own whisper; dawn renews
No other love to find or lose.

I make this love my calendar;
Thine arms, thy lips, are termini
To mete the bourn of memory:
All else is doubtful, dim, and far.
I make this love my calendar.

If others loved me ill or well,
It was as in a legend old;
Their love is now a story told,
And ours alone remains to tell:
Therefore, be wise! and love me well.

As with other love poems that CAS was writing around the same period (late 1920's through early 1930's) this one is rather uninspired, and reads like something of a draft, so it's no surprise that CAS chose not to publish it in this form.

Friday, July 24, 2020


Read "Refuge" at The Eldritch Dark;

This poem from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) describes finding a sanctuary in the arms of a wood nymph (second stanza) and a sea nymph (third stanza).  It's a slight poem, but an interesting example of CAS' frequent use of characters and settings from classical mythology in his verse.

Thursday, July 23, 2020


Read "Cumuli" at The Eldritch Dark:

This poem from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) captures the contemplative experience of watching the clouds drift by, although given that it is the work of CAS, it manages to take a step beyond the mundane:

Below their sun-bright passes, leading palely down
To meadows never seen,
Are fruits that star with shadowy gold the strange demesne,
The purple realms of peace that bear no tower nor town.

The last line in that stanza seems to be more than an idle fancy, as "purple realms of peace that bear no tower nor town" speaks to the ideal of a natural world free of the footprint of mankind and his ponderous creations.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

The Nightmare Tarn

Read "The Nightmare Tarn" at The Eldritch Dark:

Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) submitted this poem to Weird Tales magazine, where it was published in the issue for November 1929.  

Although the supernatural character of this work is well-defined (and certainly very appropriate for the pages of Weird Tales), the poem is weighed down by a fair amount of repetitious description, making for a dense read.  

This density is not common to CAS' verse, since he was a technically gifted poet with a vast command of the English language.  So "The Nightmare Tarn" strikes me as something of an oddity, a CAS poem that just doesn't really seem to get off the ground.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020


Read "Ineffability" at The Eldritch Dark:

For a writer such as Clark Ashton Smith (CAS), who was often focused on the grim inevitabilities of human life and ambition, this poem "Ineffability" strikes an odd note of exultation from within the cacophony:

Too readily our lips repine
For splendor lost and beauty flown:
Our speech is made of earthly moan
And not the praise of things divine.

Although the poem laments our ability to rise above our "deepest dolor", it nonetheless provides something of a hopeful (if obscure) roadmap pointing towards better outcomes in the closing lines: "... joy requires a stronger lute / Of high unshatterable string."

Monday, July 20, 2020


Read "Ougabalys" at The Eldritch Dark:

As well befits a published appearance in Weird Tales magazine (January 1930), "Ougabalys" packs a wonderful weird punch, as we find Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) really hitting his stride.  The opening stanza alone is worth the price of admission:

In billow-lost Poseidonis
I was the god Ougabalys:
My three horns were of similor
Above my double diadem,
My one eye was a moon-wan gem
Found in a monstrous meteor.

The poem may end with the drowned dreams of the mighty god, but the preceding stanzas are full alien and exotic wonder, the very sort of thing that CAS was so very good at describing (whether in verse or prose).

Sunday, July 19, 2020


Here we have another poem from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) that was published in the pages of Weird Tales magazine, in the issue for October 1930.

O ye that follow the sun,
O ye that follow the light
Of the fen-fire through the night,
Are your ways in the end not one?

Ye shall know but the single doom,
Ye shall sleep the self-same sleep,
And the trench of the trooper is deep
As the vault of an emperor's tomb.

Though dolor be yours, and dearth,
And the noon be darkness above,
Or ye know delight and love
In the pleasant places of the earth,

Though your mouths be mirthful or dumb,
When the worm has eaten them thin
Ye shall grin with the same white grin
At the death whereto ye are come.

This is not the first poem by CAS that I have read where the grim finality of human existence is front-and-center.  Even if it's not a standout poem among that group, the closing stanza has a sort of morbid humor reminiscent of some of Edgar Allan Poe's better pieces.

Saturday, July 18, 2020


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

Where the golden rose
Of autumn goes,
Love shall go:
How the petals pass
In the snow-lost grass,
No man shall know.

But heed not thou
The barren bough
And the ravening wind,
Though the flower be blown
And the leaf be flown
And the sun go blind.

For the rose that is gone
Forgotten and wan
In the death-wan snows,
Another flower
in an alien hour
Oblivious blows.

Here CAS uses the sestain poetic form with rhyme scheme aabccb.  Perhaps CAS was inspired by the common usage of the same form in the French poetry of Leconte de Lisle, given that CAS translated many of de Lisle's poems into English.

The phenomenon of transiency is found in many of CAS' poems, and "Evanescence" builds upon that theme with the uplifting notion of renewal:

For the rose that is gone
Forgotten and wan
In the death-wan snows,
Another flower
in an alien hour
Oblivious blows.

That nod to the cycles of the natural world lends "Evanescence" a quality that elevates it above much of the other poetry that CAS was writing around the same time.

Friday, July 17, 2020


Read "Shadows" at The Eldritch Dark:

Here we have another poem from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) that was published in the pages of Weird Tales magazine (February 1930).  And it feels like something of a return to CAS' earlier poetry, where the cosmic and the weird were more prominent, as in these sample lines:

They shall move on the primal plains
In the broken thunder and rains;
They shall haply reel and soar
Where the red volcanoes roar
From the peaks of a blackening sun;

All of the rich description in this poem refers to shadows moving across the remnants of past civilizations and "the towns of a doomèd race".  Writing from such a cold, remote perspective is something CAS did brilliantly, and ultimately feels truer to his character than his generally lukewarm romantic verses.

Thursday, July 16, 2020


Read "September" at The Eldritch Dark:

I can't identify the poetic form that Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) is using here (at a superficial level it's reminiscent of a limerick).  It's an aabbaa rhyme scheme where two "a" lines in each stanza have end rhymes on the same word.  The third stanza is where this unusual rhyme scheme really shines:

Embers from a dreamland hearth,
Glow the leaves in croft and garth;
Vines within the willows drawn
Relume the gold of visions gone;
Darkly burn, in croft and garth,
Embers from a dreamland hearth.

The pattern of refrain used in the opening and closing couplets of each stanza lends a chant-like cadence to the reading of "September", which seems quite appropriate for a poem that revels in the diminishing sunlight of the autumn season.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

The Dragon-Fly

Read "The Dragon-Fly" at The Eldritch Dark:

In the run of Clark Ashton Smith's (CAS) romantic poems of the late 1920's, this one stands out for a more ecstatic expression of amour:

And love and beauty burn within me
Like the piled leaves of blood and amber
That burn at autumn's ending.

Given that the same poem acknowledges "the transiency of days", there is a certain intensity to "The Dragon-Fly" that is missing from many of CAS' works in the same vein.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Le Miroir Des Blanches Fleurs

This poem from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) exists in both English and French versions.  The title translated into English could be rendered as "The Mirror of White Flowers".

The poem was unpublished in CAS' lifetime, and is not available on the Eldritch Dark, so here is the complete text:

Remember thou the tarn whose water once allured us
In happy mornings,
See thou the tarn, encinct with mountain bushes,
Where the whiteness of the tiny flowers was mirrored
In a green depth darkened by the shadow of the fire.

It was a faery place, a place enchanted 
By the charms of olden time;
Here one had thought to see, from the elfin wood,
From the forest of romaunts, a queen emerge
Mounted on a pale palfray with mirific trappings.

The lofty rocks afar, the lofty trees nearby,
The silence of the waters
And the dark silence weighing down the branches, 
All seemed as if brought over from far spaces
Endrowsed by a white spell in the time of ballads.

Oh! in what chronicle, oh! in what legend 
Long hidden from our age,
Was this place haply pictured? ...Flowers of the little shore,
Have you not bloomed about the old-world waters?
How are you transported to this new altitude? ...

We lingered there, in our souls the sentiment
Of other times, of other scences:
The charm so potent was, and magical,
That an elfin king, coming full valorously
Had not surprised our hearts with his sweet horn.

--And thou, in whose loved eye the landscape was redoubled,
Of what high and stately dame
Hast thou borne for a little while the legendary pallor?
And of what troubadour, far-roaming in the boscage,
Have I known the love, the songs, and the chimera?

This is a much more "high fantasy" setting than is typical of CAS' work, reminiscent of Edmund Spenser's epic poem The Faerie Queene.  CAS' work is not a particularly memorable poem, but it is interesting to see him take on a subject and tone that is quite different from his more typical verse.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Spectral Life

Read "Spectral Life" at The Eldritch Dark:

Although the subject matter of "Spectral Life" is a natural fit for the talents of Clark Ashton Smith (CAS), the poem itself lacks any particular spark of language or imagination.  It was unpublished in CAS' lifetime, and I suspect he recognized the limitations of this work himself.

Monday, July 6, 2020

L'Amour Supreme

Read "L'Amour Supreme" at The Eldritch Dark:

Given that Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) wrote this poem while he was in his thirties, it has a somber tone that seems derived of greater age and experience.  The second stanza is practically gothic:

Otherwise, all is dead, all is grown dark and frore;
But, by this proud flambeau, magistral and supreme,
One sees the withered woods, clear-lined on a pale heaven,
And the thunder-blasted walls of a sunken kingdom.

The phrase "thunder-blasted walls of a sunken kingdom" has a wonderful, lyrical magic that only CAS could verbalize!

Sunday, July 5, 2020

The Hill-Top

Read "The Hill-Top" at The Eldritch Dark:

This poem from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) is a rather minor effort, pleasant enough but rather unremarkable from a poet who was capable of much more.  

Some of the imagery is well-drawn, as in the third stanza:

The pale fantastic lichens
Make patterns on the stone,
And the oaks are old and dwarfèd
With golden mosses grown.

But in the end, CAS handled similar themes much more powerfully in other poems (such as "Lichens"), leaving "The Hill-Top" as little more than a footnote in his poetic career.

Saturday, July 4, 2020


Read "Nyctalops" at The Eldritch Dark:

This poem marks a return to Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) at his very best, combining elements of mythology, nature, and the supernatural.  Not surprisingly, this poem saw publication in Weird Tales magazine in October 1929.

Each stanza of "Nyctalops" could stand on its own as a short poem, with the fifth stanza being a great example:

We have seen the satyrs
Their ancient loves renew
With moon-white nymphs of cypress,
Pale dryads of the yew,
In the tall grass of graveyards
Weighed down with evening's dew.

Nonetheless, the poem works brilliantly as a series of vistas available only to those with true night vision, and ends with a powerful couplet that only CAS could deliver:

We have seen the black suns

Pouring forth the night.

Friday, July 3, 2020


Read "Vaticinations" at The Eldritch Dark:

This is a small poem from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) with a title that required me to do a dictionary look-up.  According to the OED, a vaticination is "a prediction of an oracular or inspired nature" or "the action or power of making prophecies".

With that in mind, each of these two stanzas take on an ominous cast, warning that "You shall he torn and blown as we (the leaves) are" and "you shall be calm as we (the boulders) are / And as tranquil and as still."

It's not a pleasant set of forecasts, but has the harsh note of fatalistic reality that CAS liked to inject into his writings, even those that dealt with alien worlds and fantastic settings of the imagination. 

Thursday, July 2, 2020


Read "Lichens" at The Eldritch Dark:

This poem from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) really plays to the author's strengths, combining a close observation of nature with invocations of the weird and the fantastic:

Old too they seem and with the stones coeval—
Fraught with the stillness and the mystery
Of time not known to man;
Like runes and pentacles of a primeval
Unhuman wizardry
That none may use nor scan.

CAS' ability to see the inherent magic in the lowly (and easily-ignored) lichens speaks to both his sensitivity to the natural world and his ability to express what is prompted by that sensitivity.  Great stuff all around!

Wednesday, July 1, 2020


Read "Sufficiency" at The Eldritch Dark:

This love poem from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) plays more to his strengths than other works in a similar vein that he wrote in the late 1920's.  The first stanza brings a flavor of the exotic:

We long for an alcove
Curtained against the dawn in Ispahan,
Or some Algerian roof, whereon
At eventide to lie
And watch the fiery passing of the sky;

The second stanza then brings things down to a prosaic level, and yet the poet revels in love's ability to transform the mundane into the extraordinary:

And yet,
In this one little room, this homely place,
Have we not known enough of time and space?

A little sprinkling the alien and the cosmic allows "Sufficiency" to become something greater than a routine love poem, and who better than CAS to inject those particular ingredients?