Thursday, December 28, 2023

Tired Gardener

Read "Tired Gardener" at The Eldritch Dark:

In many ways, this poem from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) is simply a richer expression of the same ideas found in "Lawn-Mower", which I read yesterday.  In that work, CAS used the mythological figure of Procrustes to imagine a manicured lawn as a metaphor for humanity's fumbling attempts to create order out of the "chaos" of the natural world.  "Tired Gardener" expands significantly on the same theme, although with quite a bit more poetic flair.

The grotesque and luxuriant foliage of the first stanza seemingly exists "only to prove the old Mammonian power".  In spite of all that floral beauty, the sole object of tending those showy blooms is a pretentious exhibition of mankind's inflated self-conception.  But the tired gardener knows all too well "how soon / the lovely weeds half-disinherited / return".

And so in the second stanza, the speaker encourages the embrace of un-manipulated natural splendor, and CAS delivers incredible images such as "willows following the dark sunken channel / of marsh-lost waters toward the sea."  

But this is CAS, the poet with the vivid (and sometimes vicious) imagination, and he takes it one step further, as the "last empire" of humanity becomes little more than "a fat mandragora / uprooted by its rebel gardeners."  The poet's preference for unspoiled natural landscapes extends to a vision of the downfall of Mammon and the coarse civilizations that gave birth to it, envisioning a future in which the artifacts of those expired human realms surrender to encroachments of that which they had attempted to suppress.

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