Saturday, December 8, 2018

A Live-Oak Leaf

Read "A Live-Oak Leaf" at The Eldritch Dark:

In this poem, I assume that Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) is describing a leaf from Quercus wislizeni, or the interior live oak (shown in the picture above), which is native to the Sierra Nevada foothills of California.

Allow this is a very short poem, it's quite poignant, with the second stanza being so impressive that I'll repeat it here:

In all the hidden toil of earth,
Which is the more laborious part-
To rear the oak's enormous girth,
Or shape its leaves with poignant art?

I love the way that CAS draws the contrast between the totality of the tree's growth ("the oak's enormous girth") and one of its smaller parts (an individual leaf).  It seems that the narrator has settled on the "poignant art" of the leaf as the thing which really captures his attention, and this ability to see the beauty in small things so easily ignored gives the poem its power. 

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