Wednesday, October 17, 2018

A diversion: philosophy and The Dark Age

I recently read the short story "The Dark Age" by Clark Ashton Smith (CAS).  While this blog is focused on CAS' poetry, I am also interested in understanding how the body of creative work may reflect the author's personal philosophy.  Hence the last paragraph of "The Dark Age" is very intriguing:

Still, though he knew it not in his sorrow and frustration, there remained other things: the clean, sweet lips of the simple hill-girl who would bear his children; the wild, free life of man, warring on equal terms with nature and maintaining her laws obediently; the sun and stars unclouded by the vapors of man's making; the air untainted by his seething cities.

The story deals with humanity's descent into a new dark age, with an accompanying loss of scientific and technological capability and know-how.  The "he" referred to in the paragraph above is the protagonist Torquane.  In preceding events of the story's narrative, Torquane had come very close to recovering lost knowledge that might have enabled his people to advance beyond their stone age existence.  That opportunity slipped from his grasp in a violent and dramatic fashion.

What is compelling about the final paragraph quoted above is the narrator's suggestion that Torquane and the members of his tribe might in fact have been better off to have missed that particular opportunity.  This echoes ideas expressed in some of the poems by CAS that I have read so far, and thus provides a fascinating alternate look into the author's approach to life and existence.  

The complete text of the story is available on The Eldritch Dark:

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