Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Twilight Song

Read "Twilight Song" at The Eldritch Dark:


This poem from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) does a wonderful job of establishing a temporal setting. Through the succession of each of the four stanzas, the speaker establishes the time of day:

  • First stanza: "Below the vesper star"
  • Second stanza: "On winds of sunset gone"
  • Third stanza: "Mute evening wanes in mist"
  • Fourth stanza: "O night! upon thy stream"

That last stanza sets the speaker's hope that dreams will let him reconnect with a lost love:

O night! upon thy stream
Obliviously to float
And haply find in westward-flowing dream
Her place and face remote.

CAS was writing a lot of romantic poems in the early 1940's (this one is from September 1942) and not all of those stand the test of time, but "Twilight Song" has a carefully crafted simplicity which has the plaintive quality of a melancholy love song.


  1. I absolutely love this poem.

    I'm reminded of it on an almost daily basis ever since moving from Belgrade to my family's old house in the countryside. It's a hilly region full of wonderful vistas but the view towards the west in particular is mesmerizing. Just a few days ago the twilight looked like it was painted. And I suppose it was... albeit not by mortal hands.

    This is to me another example of a love poem with a cosmic perspective and even reminds me of Jovan Dučić's "Zalazak sunca" where you also have the setting sun associated with an inexplicable longing for a mysterious woman from far away. In Dučić's poem, she sits in silence, crowned and enthroned, surrounded by a pair of sphinxes, thinking of nothing but the narrator who is no less of a mystery to her than she is to him. He ends the poem by imploring us not to tell him that it's all just his heart lying to itself. "For I would cry, I would painfully cry, and never would I find consolation".

    This longing, of course, doesn't have to be of the romantic nature, and in my case tends to manifest as a sense of communion with the universe, with other worlds, suns and twilights, just like in "Zalazak sunca" it serves as a medium between the narrator and an unknown queen of a distant land.

  2. "Twilight Song" has a deceptive simplicity, echoed by the fact that it is quite a short poem by CAS' standards. And yet it is powerfully evocative, allowing the sensitive reader to experience much more than is presented in the words themselves. It's quite a contrast with CAS' youthful verse, when he tried to capture as much as he could on the page.

    Jovan Dučić is new to me, although it appears that at least some of his work has been translated into English. I will have to try and track that down, since your description of "Zalazak sunca" sounds mesmerizing!