Wednesday, November 11, 2020


Read "Supplication" at The Eldritch Dark:

The version of this poem by Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) at The Eldritch Dark has a significant typo in line 15; the last word of that line should be "hold" (not "bold").

There are several references to narcotic and poisonous plants throughout the poem:

  • mandragore (aka mandrake)
  • poppy
  • hemlock
  • dwale (an infusion of Atropa belladonna, aka deadly nightshade)

Taken together, these give the proceedings a malodorous edge, which is further enhanced by the apocalyptic tone of the middle stanza:

Tender thou art, and kind:
Unto thy place we came
Through dolorous realms by roads of dust and flame:
Our eyes, in twilight sweetly lost,
Are shut like poppy-buds against the wind
From heavens of holocaust.

Escaping from that tumult, the speaker makes an ultimate request:

With deadliest dwale bedew thy kiss
To leave a Stygian stillness in the heart
That begs no later bliss.

Thus it seems the "supplication" referred to in the poem's title is an appeal for transcendence beyond the mortal realm.  

This poem plays to all of CAS' strengths as a writer, with its stately but foreboding mix of the lethal and the turbulent, so carefully constructed that the verse itself almost becomes the "poppied vintage" that it invokes.  Great stuff!

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