Sunday, December 31, 2023


Read "Cycles" at The Eldritch Dark:

This was the last poem that Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) wrote before his death in August 1961.  It was commissioned by Donald Sidney-Fryer for his CAS bibliography (Emperor of Dreams), although oddly enough it did not appear in that volume when it was published in 1977.

In his essay "A Memoir of Timeus Gaylord", Sidney-Fryer commented on the origin of this poem:

I...asked him (CAS) to write for the bibliography a sonnet in alexandrines which would symbolically comment on the canon of his writings.

In that vein, it's worth noting that the first three words of this poem match the title of an earlier poem by CAS, which I read a few years ago:

Back then, I read "The Sorcerer Departs" as something of a prophecy, wherein the artist speculated on the future prospects of his creations, those "cryptic runes that shall / Outblast the pestilence, outgnaw the worm".  "Cycles" is clearly thematically related to the earlier poem, but enriched with the notion of endless deaths and rebirths.  

If indeed CAS was responding to Sidney-Fryer's request that he "comment on the canon of his writings", then "Cycles" speaks to CAS' confidence that "My volumes and my philtres shall abide", but furthermore that his words would continue to resonate with readers, "to blaze with blinding glory the bored hours".  Not a bad way to close out a long and amazing poetic career.

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