Wednesday, January 15, 2020

The Song of Aviol

Clark Ashton Smith's (CAS) "The Song of Aviol" is one surviving piece of a projected (but uncompleted) drama called "The Fugitives".  In The Complete Poetry and Translations of Clark Ashton Smith from Hippocampus Press, the four surviving pieces of "The Fugitives" are printed together, beginning with these stage directions:

Act I. Scene I.

A grassy meadow, by a lily-laden stream, within sight of Alnephrom, the capital of Poseidonis.  Aviol, a girl of twelve, and the boy Cartha, a year or two older, approach from opposite sides of the meadow and meet at the water's edge.  Aviol sings:

("The Song of Aviol" follows)

Since each of the four pieces of "The Fugitives" is a distinct poem without obvious linkages to the other pieces, I'll be considering them one at a time, starting with "The Song of Aviol".

Aviol's description of an ideal refuge is certainly seductive:

Land that kings may not discover,
Deep within the mystic west!
Only lover comes with lover
Through the fens where dragons nest.

They that seek it, summer-hearted,
Must outwing the winter swallow—
Far too far in realms uncharted
For the jealous gods to follow.

Given that the stage directions inform us that Aviol is a child, her song of the refuge created between lovers has a yearning quality, an expectation of things to come as she enters young adulthood and (one hopes) comes to experience the ecstatic love she sings of.  

If this song was indeed intended as the opening to a longer dramatic work, it's certainly a strong beginning.  The reader can only wonder at the sort of work we might be able to read today if CAS had been able to finish "The Fugitives".

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