Thursday, December 17, 2020

The Pursuer

Read "The Pursuer" at The Eldritch Dark:

This is the later, published version of a much earlier draft by CAS using the same title.  I blogged about the earlier version (manuscript dated May 1912) two years ago:

CAS is known to have revised many of his verses as part of the preparation of the omnibus Selected Poems (1971), and "The Pursuer" appears to be one of the works that underwent this treatment.

And it's undeniable that this later version of "The Pursuer" is quite an improvement, losing some of the awkward diction that marred the original, while retaining the better lines from the older draft.  Focusing solely on the opening tercet, the improvement is dramatic:

1912 version:

Ascendant from what dead profundity,
          Of lives that Death, methought, had compassed round--
          Sealed with the night of suns, forever bound

Later version (probably 1946 or 1947):

Climbing from out what nadir-fountained sea,
From nether incarnations none may sound—
Sealed with the night of suns, forever bound

Even for The Star-Treader himself, "Ascendant" is a horribly awkward word with which to open a sonnet.  Likewise, the use of the word "methought" as a caesura (or pause) in the second line of the original is rhythmically off, while the revised line "From nether incarnations none may sound" flows smoothly into the third line, which is common to both versions.

It's fascinating to see how CAS' poetic voice changed over the years, and how his mature style is both subtler and more technically effective than his youthful technique.

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