Sunday, December 23, 2018


Read "Saturn" at The Eldritch Dark:

Among the early poems by Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) that I have read so far, I've felt that the longer works (such as "Ode to the Abyss" and "The Star-Treader") have not been entirely successful.  But "Saturn" is something else: this long poem is a tour de force, a solid demonstration of CAS' considerable poetic abilities, and apparently written before his twentieth birthday.   

In this poem, CAS describes events from the mythical Titanomachy, when the Olympian gods warred with, and ultimately defeated, the Titans.  Like John Keats before him, CAS includes Enceladus among the Titans, although he is usually considered to have been one of the Giants from Greek mythology.  

And speaking of Keats, there are obvious parallels between CAS' "Saturn" and Keats' long (but unfinished) poem "Hyperion", which presents a similar scenario, and also features the Titan Saturn as a central character.  And of course, it's hard to read "Saturn" without thinking of Book I of John Milton's Paradise Lost.

Despite these obvious influences, "Saturn" is a strong work on its now merits, and there is some truly beautiful music in these lines, such as:

His sword, whereon the shadows lay like rust,
He took, and dipping it within the moon
Made clean its length of blade and from it cast
Swift flickerings at the stars.

Moreover, there is a truly thrilling narrative in this poem, vividly describing battle between the Titans and the usurping Olympians.  CAS' description of the clash of arms is quite as lively and engaging as anything that Robert E. Howard wrote in his many tales of deadly combat.  

There are at least a couple more poems that CAS wrote about the Titanomachy ("The Return of Hyperion" and "The Titans in Tartarus") which I will be reading soon, and I've very much looking forward to them.  "Saturn" is really a stunning work, and I'm eager to see how CAS handles the same theme when he revisits it.

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