Thursday, January 4, 2024

Ballad of a Lost Soul

This unpublished poem from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) exists as a manuscript in the John Hay Library at Brown University, and has a notation of "unfinished" written on the bottom of the manuscript.

Unseen, without a sound, were closed
    The irremeable doors of clay;
Debarred from earth, to space exposed
    The spirit took her outward way.

She rose, at first on cautious wings--
    New to the freedom of the sky,
E'en a wind, from wanderings 
    In devious forests thick and high

Coming into the day at last
    But soon, upon ascended heights,
A sense of barriers overpassed 
Came on her, and she met the vast 
    Swiftening unto its wider flights.

To her, with backward gaze, 
    The earth was shaken from its place,
And flung returnless, unredeemed,
    In gulfs that closed without a trace;

Where the precipitated moon 
    A glittering pebble followed swift;
And shot the sun, that dwindled soon--
    A plummet in an endless rift.

"As to the vortices of dread
    That wast beyond the nether bars
They fell," said she, above her head--
    A night that bristled with its stars.

"Methinks that yonder suns, in rows
    Serried, innumerable, shine
As the angels where disclose
    The portals of the place divine."

Tow'rd eyries of the clustered spheres--
    Their vantages remotely seen--
She soared apace, nor thought to face 
    The gulfs that drave between:

By night resistless pushed apart,
    The systems, on each side
Divided swift, and through the rift 
    She saw the blackness wide 
Field of ulterior suns, that stood
    In far-assembled pride.

Although much of the diction in this poem feels strained, it's a fascinating idea to trace the path of a spirit emerging after the death of a physical being in a journey to  "The portals of the place divine."

I don't know when CAS wrote this poem, but it certainly feels like a early effort akin to the work that led up to his first published volume of poetry (The Star-Treader and Other Poems).  In reading "Ballad of a Lost Soul", I can't help but recall CAS' later epic poem "The Hashish Eater, or The Apocalypse of Evil", which traces a similar journey of cosmic proportions, although following a much less conventional course!

Tuesday, January 2, 2024

An end, but not The End

I started this blog almost six years ago.  I have not been able to contribute to it every day, so there have been some gaps between posts, but with my last post previous to this one I reached something of a milestone: I've now read through the entire corpus of Clark Ashton Smith's published and completed poetry, as documented in The Complete Poetry and Translations of Clark Ashton Smith (in three volumes) from Hippocampus Press.

The same three volumes contain two more sub-collections of CAS' poetry: the "Fragments and Untitled Poems", and an entire volume of his translations into English of verse from other poets (such as Charles Baudelaire).  I intend to continue reading through (and blogging about) the first of those groupings.  I am not yet sure about the translations, since those are not wholely the work of CAS, but I'll tackle that when I get there!