Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Classic Reminiscence

Read "Classic Reminiscence" at The Eldritch Dark:

This haiku from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) refers to the Sicilian poet who is credited as the originator of Ancient Greek pastoral poetry.  The scene that CAS describes could easily have been drawn from Theocritus' own work, as in this translated excerpt from "The Death of Daphnis":

Pray, by the Nymphs, pray, Goatherd, seat thee here
Against this hill-slope in the tamarisk shade,
And pipe me somewhat, while I guard thy goats.

I know very little about CAS' reading of the ancient classics, but many of his poems refer to works that seem to reflect a deep knowledge that goes well beyond the familiar works of Homer and Ovid.  I suppose we'll never know, but it would certainly be interesting to learn just how extensive CAS' knowledge of classical literature really was.


  1. Theocritus in particular seems to have left quite an impression on Smith.

    He is mentioned both here and in Amor Hesternalis while his sorceress Simaetha is not only mentioned in Soliloquy in an Ebon Tower but even earned the prestigious honor of having one of Smith's cats named after her.

  2. Although I've read some of the volumes of CAS' letters, I've come across few mentions of Theocritus therein. At the same time, CAS often makes casual allusions to the works of the great Greek and Latin classical writers, indicating that his knowledge of the subject was extensive, even if he didn't often delve into it deeply in his correspondence.

    But as you've noted with those multiple references Theocritus in CAS' poetry, and given the author's autodidactic nature, it wouldn't surprise me if his knowledge of the classics was truly deep and comprehensive.