Thursday, August 23, 2018

Ode to Matter

Read "Ode to Matter" at The Eldritch Dark:

Among the early poems by Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) that I have read so far, this item seems like the strongest evidence of the cosmic outlook that CAS is famous for, and would develop to a greater extent in later poems.

The very idea of writing an ode to matter seems quite audacious, and CAS does include some truly grand passages:

Thine atoms pour
Through moulds of many worlds and suns,
As they have passed
In years beyond all memory and lore;
As they shall flee while Time his orbit runs,
Along abysmal aeons cast.

In the last stanza, CAS brings his sweeping cosmic vision down to earth, as he contemplates the position of our home and ourselves in the order of things:

Ah! dare we dream
That thou shalt dream no fairer thing than man,
No higher world than this?

For me as a reader, the poem loses some of its magic in these final lines, as the immense scope of this ode to cosmic matter is suddenly made humble by local and mundane concerns.  

One of the reasons that I am fascinated by CAS the poet (as opposed to his better known identify as a writer of short fiction) is his ability to address themes of huge scope, without the need to articulate an anthropocentric point-of-view.  "Ode to Matter" feels like an early attempt to address a cosmic theme that didn't quite hit the mark that CAS would develop in his later, more mature poems on similar subjects.

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