Monday, November 12, 2018

To a Cloud

Here is an early long poem not published in the lifetime of Clark Ashton Smith (CAS):

O cloud in the sky, 
You will and you can
Be a mountain or camel--
Why not a man?

O cloud in the sky, 
Be a castle alight for the woman I love,
With the splendour of sunset inviting the night.
Be a terrace of palms lifting crowns in the air,
Tossing kisses to stars in the ether so rare--
But holding the earth with a thousand of thongs,
And singing through centuries love-burdened songs
Because of your grip in the soil!
Be strong down below to the gentle above.

Be a chariot of fire!
Let your steed be the flame
Of the sun in his ire--
Of the sun in his sweep
From deep unto deep
In the measureless march of the limitless arch
That is lost for a name.
And there is in the heat of your fervency beat--
Beat out the crown she should wear.
Oh, crown her, and carry her far
From the hush of the noon to the still life of the star.

Oh cloud, be a boat;
And with sails a-spread, float--
Don't drive--only drift with the tide
Of a pulsating world
That rises and falls as the primal need calls
With the sensuous sweep of soft breezes at play
With her ordorous hair,
With her lips and her eyes--
Where mystery lies--
With the dark skin a-hint of the Tubal Cain tint--
With the lips which are copper-hued coffers of kisses,
Each pledge of bewildering blessing of blisses,
Oh, play with her gently, swift winds of the west,
Make her couch on that quarter-deck royal with rest.

Oh cloud, if you can be a mouse or a mountain,
Be wise! Be a man.
Touch tenderly
Ivory arms fashioned slenderly,
Caress with a palm a-promuse [sic] with passion
The rare curve of the cheek,
And bury within that adorable chin
The kisses a painter could dream but not paint.
And strip from the shoulder the drapery's ban.
Let the matchless bust dawn on the eyes of a man!
Then sweep from the sight the last vestige of light,
And wrap that warm form in the clasp of delight,
And bathe her with kisses while blessing the night.

This is something of an outlier amongst the early poems by CAS that I have been reading in my more-or-less chronological journey through his oeuvre.  So much so that if I had not encountered this work in a published collection of his poetry, I would never have guessed it was written by CAS!

It's clearly a minor item from CAS' poetic catalogue, the amusingly romantic reflection of a cloud-gazer who is clearly in love.  The reference to the biblical figure of Tubal-cain is curious, and seems a bit out-of-place in an otherwise light and breezy poem.

While this particular poem doesn't have much to offer the reader, it's interesting as a striking contrast to so much of CAS' other work in the same medium, and reinforces the idea that he was not a one-dimensional writer.

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