Thursday, January 3, 2019

Atlantis


Read "Atlantis" at The Eldritch Dark:


This sonnet was included in The Star-Treader and Other Poems (1912), the very first published collection of poetry from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS).  Between that appearance and the later inclusion in his Selected Poems (1971), CAS edited much of the opening octet, so much so that I think it's worth comparing the two versions.

CAS also edited the closing sestet between the two appearances of this poem, but his changes there were less impactful, so I'm not commenting on them in this blog post.

Here is that first stanza as it appeared in The Star-Treader:


Above its domes the gulfs accumulate
  To where the sea-winds trumpet forth their screed;
  But here the buried waters take no heed—
Deaf, and with clos├ęd lips from press of weight
Imposed by ocean. Dim, inanimate,
  On temples of an unremembered creed
  Involved in long, slow tentacles of weed,
The dead tide lies immovable as fate.


And here is the version from Selected Poems, which is also the version available on The Eldritch Dark:


Above its domes the gulfs accumulate.
Far up, the sea-gales blare their bitter screed:
But here the buried waters take no heed—
Deaf, and with welded lips pressed down by weight
Of the upper ocean. Dim, interminate,
In cities over-webbed with sombre weed,
Where galleons crumble and the krakens breed,
The slow tide coils through sunken court and gate.


It's quite remarkable for me how CAS has subtly but significantly strengthened the wording in the later (second) version.  I think this is especially evident in the final sentence of the octet:

Early version:

Dim, inanimate,
  On temples of an unremembered creed
  Involved in long, slow tentacles of weed,
The dead tide lies immovable as fate.

Later version:

Dim, interminate,
In cities over-webbed with sombre weed,
Where galleons crumble and the krakens breed,
The slow tide coils through sunken court and gate.


A line like "Involved in long, slow tentacles of weed" is rather vague, and is updated to "Where galleons crumble and the krakens breed".  The updated line features concrete visual images, and also introduces the strong verbs "crumble" and "breed", which really animate the reading and propel the reader forward.

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