Thursday, November 26, 2020


Read "Moly" at The Eldritch Dark:

This poem from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) is named for the legendary plant that plays an important role in Book X of Homer's Odyssey.  As the hero Odysseus seeks to free his men from the sorceries of the enchantress Circe, the god Hermes (aka Mercury) comes to his aid with a magic herb:

This said, he gave his antidote to me,
Which from the earth he pluck’d, and told me all
The virtue of it, with what Deities call
The name it bears; and Moly they impose
For name to it. The root is hard to loose
From hold of earth by mortals; but God’s pow’r
Can all things do.

The English translation quoted above is that of George Chapman from 1614.

In line with with Homer's contention that mere mortals cannot harvest this botanical countermeasure, CAS' poem suggests that it is out-of-reach to those living in the earthly realm:

Seek no more! seek no more!
Not on mountain, moor or shore,
Not by noon, nor under moon,
Blows the plant of magic boon,
Not with eyes shall any find it
Nor with fingers pluck and wind it:
From the dust of limbs and heart
Shall the roots of moly start,
Over thy forgetful grave
Shall the flower of moly wave.

I read CAS' "Moly" as an allegory for the inability of the heterosexual male of the species to resist the charms of the fair ladies; for while moly is the "Flower that wards the flesh and heart / From beguileful Circe's art" it is unobtainable to those within the mortal coil. 

The author's use of short lines with near-perfect end rhymes enhances the prophetic nature of this poem ("Seek no more! seek no more!") and makes it a real pleasure to read.

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