Wednesday, July 24, 2019


Read "Exotique" at The Eldritch Dark:

This lovely sonnet from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) contains good examples of the poet's use of alliteration and internal rhyme, as with these examples:

  • Whence perfume and whence poison rise unseen
  • Thy warm white limbs, thy loins of tropic snow—
  • For love and sleep and slow voluptuousness,

This poem also makes use of more conventional end rhymes. But for me as a reader, I find that CAS' use of additional rhymes within individual lines to be a powerful technique, since it avoids the problem of end rhymes having a distracting effect on the reader. 

I've mentioned on this blog before that in the hands of a lesser poet, the sing-songy nature of end rhymes can, especially when a poem is read alone, invoke the cadence of a nursery rhyme, which has the habit of shifting the focus of the poem to the sound of words, and away from any meaning the poet has tried to invest those words with.

Of course, the shift to the sound of words can often be an intentional aim of the poet.  But ideally, the writer should be able to find a balance between those approaches, such as Edgar Allan Poe did so famously in "The Raven".  I think CAS has accomplished something similar in "Exotique", where the careful pacing of rhymes enhances the musical nature of the work, while avoiding a complete shift towards the song form.

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