Tuesday, January 18, 2022


This poem from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) was unpublished in his lifetime, and is not available on The Eldritch Dark, so here's the complete text:

At the foot of Parnassus
from pasture to pasture roam the herds
of she-kids, of sheep
and of swine
rooting and ruminating 
in the fens and moorlands
full of mud
that their herders have discovered.

But, elevating it summits
filled with flowers and clouds,
with buds and jewels,
the mountain of the Muses,
still unclimbed,
soars immaculate and lone
in a zenith held
by the golden hawks.

CAS also wrote a Spanish-language version of this poem entitled "Parnaso".

Given that Mount Parnassus (in central Greece) is the mythological home of the Muses, one can easily read CAS' own sympathies in this poem.  "At the foot of Parnassus" he presents "swine / rooting" in "mud / that their herders have discovered."

But up on the summits where the goddesses of music and poetry dwell, we find a land of "flowers and clouds, / with buds and jewels".  The drab ordinariness of lives led down below is easily forgotten amongst the peaks "held / by the golden hawks."  

The spirit of the Muses infused everything that CAS created, whether in words or in visual media.  In his case, this went beyond the usual workings of the creative self into an almost polemic belief in the primacy of the creative life over that of industry, the marketplace, and the professional world.  Mount Parnassus is referenced not infrequently in his poetry, and provides a notable metaphor for his own values as a person and an artist.

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