Tuesday, February 19, 2019

The Summer Moon

Read "The Summer Moon" at The Eldritch Dark:

This is another poem from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) which was subtly altered between its original publication in The Star-Treader and Other Poems (1912) and the later inclusion in the career-spanning Selected Poems (1971).

The revised version of the complete poem (from Selected Poems) is as follows, with line numbers indicated in brackets at the end of each line:

How is it, O moon, that melting.    (1)
Unstintedly, prodigally,     (2)
On the peaks' hard majesty,     (3)
Till they seem diaphanous      (4)
And fluctuant as a veil,     (5)
And pouring thy rapturous light.    (6)
Through pine and oak and laurel,     (7)
Till the summer-sharpened green,     (8)
Softening and tremulous,     (9)
Is a luster of liquid silver—     (10)
How is it that I find,     (11)
When I turn again to thee,     (12)
That thy lost and wasted light.    (13)
Is regained in one magic breath?     (14)

The change is in one line only, line number 10, describing moonlight.  In The Star-Treader, the line is rendered as:

Is a lustrous miracle—

Decades later, the same line in Selected Poems read as:

Is a luster of liquid silver—

The edit is modest in scope, but significant in impact.  The lines preceding 10 contain rich adjectives such as "diaphanous", "rapturous", and "tremulous", which are echoed in the original version of line 10 by the word "lustrous".  

In the later version of the same line, the harmonious adjective "lustrous" is gone, and the moonlight is now "a luster of liquid silver".  The use of the adjective "liquid" echoes two earlier phrases: "How is it, O moon, that melting" (line 1) and "pouring thy rapturous light" (line 6).  Thus the moonlight which has previously been "melting" and "pouring" is now described as having the luster of "liquid silver", continuing the idea of the moonlight having fluid properties.

As I say, a small edit overall, but one that essentially completes a thought and an image that CAS set up at the very beginning of the poem, giving a pleasing structure to those first ten lines that was missing in the original version.

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