Thursday, February 24, 2022

Hesperian Fall

Read "Hesperian Fall" at The Eldritch Dark:

This poem from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) seems more obviously personal than much of his other verse, with its reference to Point Lobos and other indicators of a California setting.  The speaker has a melancholy tone, tinged with an acceptance of the richness of life's ups and downs:

But for awhile I spurn
The peace that comes to all or rathe or late,
And clasp the cherished pain
As one with face amid thorned blossoms pressed
Who finds them fragranter
Than those that bear no thorn.

The reflective quality of the speaker's thoughts reach an apotheosis at the end of third stanza:

Now must I muse on passions that unfold
Slow as the lichen grows,
Or swiftly as the fungus of the night;
And think on how
The many have withered but the one abides. . . .

I read these lines as coming directly from the poet himself, as he contemplates the sources of his inspiration, and of his passion for the possibilities inherent within human creativity, as expressed in the excellent outro:

Meanwhile the southward-drooping sun shines warm
On grasses pale and foliages that fade
And on the fadeless lichen of the stone;
And still, O season of Circean dreams
Preferred from long ago,
I find a music far and sorcerous
Like one who hears the dryad singing from her tree;
And still, beneath this latter sun,
Love is the freshness of your shadows, love
The flame that in your distant azure sleeps.

The second and third lines from the section quoted above perfectly capture the duality of this poem, as the "foliages that fade" are contrasted with "the fadeless lichen of the stone", acknowledging that throughout our lives the ephemeral coexists with the perpetual.

"Hesperian Fall" is an absolutely beautiful meditation on the creative journey, and the rewards thereof ("I find a music far and sorcerous") enriched by the setting within CAS' native California.  It feels like one of the most direct expressions of his own voice to be found in his poetic corpus, and richly rewards multiple readings.

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