Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Black Enchantment

Here's another poem unpublished during the lifetime of Clark Ashton Smith (CAS), so I'll begin with the text itself:


In forest-deeps wherefrom the toiling rose,
A client ghost with thinnest cerement pale,
Disquieted, to walk the winds' repose
Above the tranced irremeable dale
O'er woods pervaded of one nightingale,
Where late the dreaming sunset was, I found
The dell of lilies, each one whitest grail
Of peace and pallid vision, the the ground
Uplifted for the quest of air, and light, and sound.

On all except the nightingale's swift song,
Each cup the charm├Ęd silence holier,
Had poured, it seemed, the wavering light was long.
Till lo! What change grotesquely sinister,
With darkness poured as from a sepluchre!
An owl that hooted at the nightingale;
Lean mists that walkt the glades where no winds were,
And mid the lilies, flowers of swarthy dale--
These things I saw ere yet the fluttering light could fail.

A night within the night was opened out--
Some iron bubble of enormous dread
From Death's abysm: Dwindled to a doubt,
The visible live world for me was fled;
Alone with all the immemorial dead,--
Sharing that burden with the breathless gloom--
I sensed the unheard intolerable tread
Of those unnumbered legions of the tomb.


This poem has a stronger element of the supernatural than other early poems by CAS that I have read so far.  The "dell of lilies" is a key image, since that particular floral genus is traditionally associated with funerals.

The last stanza is particularly strong since CAS introduces a darker tone, exemplified by these lines:


A night within the night was opened out--
Some iron bubble of enormous dread
From Death's abysm: Dwindled to a doubt,
The visible live world for me was fled;
Alone with all the immemorial dead,--


The image of an "iron bubble" representing the "night within the night" is very powerful, and really sets the stage for the last two lines of the poem, where the "Black Enchantment" of the title begins to make a dreaded entry.

No comments:

Post a Comment