Friday, November 29, 2019

A diversion: S.T. Joshi on The Hashish-Eater

As I'm coming to terms with Clark Ashton Smith's (CAS) mighty poem The Hashish-Eater, I've found an excellent introduction in S.T. Joshi's essay What Happens in The Hashish-Eater?*

As the title implies, Joshi's essay is a search for a coherent narrative thread in this epic poem, and he finds it by breaking down the text into four distinct sections (in the quote below, I've left out some references to CAS' "Argument" of The Hashish-Eater since I already covered that in my previous post):

  1. A general description of the narrator's visions (lines 1-171) 
  2. The narrator enters his visions and becomes a participant in them (lines 171-242)
  3. The narrator perceives an intruder into his visions (lines 242-283) and is pursued by a series of horrors (lines 283-476), including the monsters in those regions "that knew my trespassing" (line 417)
  4. Fleeing, the narrator nows falls into some strange realm (lines 476-582); the poem ends on a half-line to convey this sense of the narrator's absorption into this realm.

This strikes me as a reasonable approach to reading the poem while paying particular attention to its narrative aspects, and I'm planning to do that re-reading today.

*Available in The Freedom of Fantastic Things: Selected Criticism on Clark Ashton Smith from Hippocampus Press.

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