Thursday, July 25, 2019

Alien Memory

This sonnet from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) was unpublished in his lifetime, and not available on The Eldritch Dark, so here's the complete text:

Thy body like to rosy ivory,
          The fervours of thy beauty warm and bare,
          I knew them all, I know not when nor where, 
In lands beside an amber-foaming sea.

Ah, once I found thee, lying by a palm
          Upon thy terraces of serpentine--
          Thy breast of dreams, voluptuous and divine
All given to the winds of myrrh and balm.

We saw the sun, a molten amethyst, 
          Sink in the scented seas of foam and fire,
                    And a slow night with ruby planets rise;

And all the night was curtain for our tryst,
                    And all thine eager breast, thy burning thighs,
          And amorous arms a couch for my desire.

This poem leans more to the erotic than anything by CAS that I have read so far, and yet the "alien" aspect referenced in the title intrigues me more than the naughtiness.  CAS builds his exotic atmosphere through inclusion of nouns describing rare and precious materials, such as ivory, serpentine, myrrh, and amethyst.  

It's a simple technique that produces a significant impact, since the scattering of these nouns throughout the text successfully builds a lush, outlandish atmosphere without drawing attention to the fact that the author is doing so.

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