Sunday, May 31, 2020


Read "Temporality" at The Eldritch Dark:

Although this is a relatively straightforward love poem from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS), the temporal theme enhances the sense of refuge found in a lover's arms:

Though time runs on, and star nor sun may stay,
Your beauty is the maze of my delight,
Where I can lose the minutes in their flight
And know not when today is yesterday.

It's not one of CAS' best verses by any means, but the incorporation of passing time makes for an interesting take on a familiar subject.

Saturday, May 30, 2020


Read "Warning" at The Eldritch Dark:

This poem from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) appeared in the October 1928 issue of Weird Tales magazine.  The poem seems perfect for the pages of The Unique Magazine, with a mix of mystery and the supernatural at its core.  There is a beautiful sense of menace woven throughout the work, as in these wonderful lines:

Beneath the closely woven grass,
The coiling syrt, more soft and deep
Than some divan where lovers sleep,
Is fain of all who wander there;

Who but CAS could make quicksand sound so appealing?

I also appreciate the siren-like sound at the heart of the poem's allure, "more sweet than conium is, / Or honey-blended cannabis".  The image that CAS paints of a deadly swamp drawing in the unwary is both deadly and irresistible, a combination that CAS handles with a grace all his own.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Amor Autumnalis

Read "Amor Autumnalis" at The Eldritch Dark:

This is a poem that Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) did not publish in his lifetime, and it surprises me that he did include it in the omnibus Selected Poems (1971).  I think it's quite a powerful poem, and enhanced by an unusual technical device that lends it a rich aural palette.

In the opening lines, he employs adjectival phrases that create a non-rhyming refrain:

  • unfading autumn
  • unconsuming leaves
  • untended flowers
  • flown summer
  • roseless gardens

In the closing lines, he switches to using color references as a refrain:

  • sanguine-colored vine
  • golden woods and hills
  • pools of lucid bronze
  • black opal
  • amber willows
  • dreamful mauve

The poem has seventeen lines, and the two sections delineated above are each composed of eight lines, with the dividing middle line ("In a quiet valley-land") providing a natural pause in the reading of the whole.  

I think "Amor Autumnalis" represents CAS' work at its best, using thoughtful poetic technique and the riches of the English language to express exquisite ideas and images.

Thursday, May 28, 2020


Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) wrote several poems with the title "Song".  This specific poem was unpublished in his lifetime, and is not available on The Eldritch Dark, so here's the complete text:

I am grown tired of suffering,
Grief is a trite and tasteless thing,
And the dark Tyrian I have worn
Against the wind of ways forlorn,
Is faded in this deeper morn.

Ah! give me joy, to-day, tomorrow,
For I am surfeited with sorrow:
Be thou the source of memory,
And let thy bosom shut from me
All days and ways unshared with thee.

Within the grouping of romance-themed poems from CAS that I have been reading recently, this one stands out as a bit more than ordinary, both for the unusual rhyme pattern across the three final lines of each stanza, but more importantly for the deeply felt sense of attachment to the romantic partner to whom the poem is addressed.

The closing lines especially express a maturity of concept worthy of CAS' skills:

Be thou the source of memory,
And let thy bosom shut from me
All days and ways unshared with thee.

A phrase like "Be thou the source of memory" captures the depth of what a meaningful human relationship can encompass, and does so with notable economy and poetic music.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

To Antares

Read "To Antares" at The Eldritch Dark:

This poem from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) is another slight work of romantic verse, competently written but lacking any spark of real poetic imagination. 

Monday, May 25, 2020


Read "Souvenance" at The Eldritch Dark:

The French title of this poem from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) can be translated as "Recollection" or "Remembrance".  That theme is evident in its two short stanzas, which each treat a separate aspect of the remembered beloved's person.  I like the combination of visual and olfactory elements, even if it's a somewhat slight poem.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

One Evening

Read "One Evening" at The Eldrtich Dark:

This poem from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) has a slight erotic element, and is given a enhanced visual aspect by color references ("citron gold", "heavens green", "burned to rose", "white fire") in each of the three stanzas.  But somehow it's still a rather mundane work by CAS' standards.

Tristan to Iseult

Read "Tristan to Iseult" at The Eldritch Dark:

Here we have another poem that Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) attributed to his pseudonym Christophe des Laurières.  This time around, the saucy Frenchman is tackling the famous medieval romance of Tristan and Iseult, and although there is plenty of romantic yearning in the poem, there is a note of grim finality as well:

Somewhere, on rose and rosemary,
On lotus red and lotus wan,
Distill the dews of Acheron:
Not yet, not yet, for you and me
To find the placid fields of death
And spend our sighs upon the breath
Of poppies of Persephone.

In the end, it's not one of CAS' better poems, but an interesting excursion into chivalric romance all the same.

Friday, May 22, 2020


Read "Venus" at The Eldritch Dark:

This short poem from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) has an emotional authenticity that is not always present in his chillier (yet still wonderful) works rendered in a more formal, grand manner.

The association of the poem's subject with a Roman goddess is nothing highly original in the realm of romantic poetry, but CAS approaches that familiar idea with fresh invention:

But now thou hast departed, many a tear
Bedims her glory when she goes upon
The ways where thou art gone—
Westward and autumnward in silence drawn.

That closing line is indelible - it captures the essences of departure, decline, and finality with breathtaking economy of diction.  

Thursday, May 21, 2020


Read "Trope" at The Eldritch Dark:

There is a significant typo in the version of this poem at The Eldritch Dark; in the second line of the second stanza "loin" is clearly out of place, and the correct reading is:

For when the lake at even
Is lorn of wind and air,
The moon lies perfect there
As in another heaven.

This poem, and that second stanza in particular, strikes me as a less-accomplished take on the same subject presented in "Simile", which I read yesterday.  Compare the stanza above to the description of a similar image in "Simile":

                                a lake, 
Lulled in to sombre crystal by sad pines
Doth hold the moon made perfect in its heart

The latter is much richer with poetic expression, and demonstrates the considerable powers of language that Clark Ashton Smith could command when he chose to.


Wednesday, May 20, 2020


Here is another poem from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) that went unpublished in his lifetime, and is not available on The Eldritch Dark, so here's the complete text:

Ah! chide me not for silence, or that I,
Who lack not love, have wanted oftentimes
Brave words wherewith to love you: as a lake, 
Lulled in to sombre crystal by sad pines
Doth hold the moon made perfect in its heart
So have I held your image perfected 
In this my sombre soul, nor troubled it
With the vain wind of words.

I am reading CAS' poetry in roughly chronological order, and have read several hundred poems to date.  Many of those earlier poems featured an ornate style of composition as well as sometimes obscure choices of diction, and CAS was undoubtedly a master of that particular grand romantic style.

"Simile" is a different kind of poem, not just in the absence of common technical devices such as end rhymes, but in an economy of language and a maturity of conception that seems to augur a new phase in the progression of CAS' poetic art.  The description of "a lake, / Lulled in to sombre crystal by sad pines" is gorgeous and expressed with exacting precision and a careful use of alliteration.  

This poem represents an exciting milestone in my journey through the corpus of CAS' poetic work, since it contains hints of evolving stylistic choices that I hope to see further explored in the poems yet to be read.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

De Consolation

"De Consolation" is a poem from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) which also exists in a French version that was unpublished in his lifetime.  It is not available at The Eldritch Dark, so here is the complete text in English:

All things are nothing, my sad heart;
To dream is the best oblivion.
Weep not the absent flesh--
The flesh is also a dream.

Keep always the Memory--
It is the most mystical delight.
All things that pass become the future
In its magical eternity.

As the title indicates, this poem is supposed to be "Of Consolation", and indeed the broad vision of transcending the transitory aspects of life provides a welcome viewpoint for reflection.

Monday, May 18, 2020

A Fable

Read "A Fable" at The Eldritch Dark:

This poem from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) was published in Weird Tales magazine in 1927, an early appearance in what would become a major market for his creative output in the coming years.

The poem's narrative of a chance discovery of something ancient and magical that will unleash dark forces is told with economy, and a pattern of cascading end rhymes accentuates the slower reading pace natural to the long lines.  

Compared to other poems from CAS that I have read recently, such as "Canticle" and "Fantaisie D'antan" the extended line metrics of "A Fable" play much better to CAS' strengths as a writer, and this poem is a welcome return to form.

Sunday, May 17, 2020


Read "Canticle" at The Eldritch Dark:

As with "Fantaisie D'antan", which I read yesterday, "Canticle" seems a rather middling poem by the standards of Clark Ashton Smith (CAS).  As is common to his other work in verse, there is a dash of fantasy and a dash of romance, but somehow the pieces just don't come together to form a memorable whole.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Fantaisie D'antan

Read "Fantaisie D'antan" at The Eldritch Dark:

This is another poem from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) that saw publication in the legendary Weird Tales magazine.  The saucy cover image was likely not illustrating this poem!

In general, I've always found CAS' use of an extended English vocabulary to be a strength, something that he generally employs with discretion and precision.  Alas, I don't feel that this is the case with "Fantaisie D'antan", as in the opening lines:

Lost and alien lie the leas,
Purfled all with euphrasies,
Where the lunar unicorn
Breasts an amber-pouring morn
Risen from hesperian seas
Of a main that has no bourn.

I can't read a line like "Purfled all with euphrasies" in anything other than an awkward manner, although the intended meaning is clear enough.  This is a rare poem from CAS that seems to emphasize a somewhat exaggerated technique over real poetry, and is thus one of a very small number of verses from his pen that is entirely forgettable.

Friday, May 15, 2020

The Nevermore-To-Be

Read "The Nevermore-To-Be" at The Eldritch Dark:

This poem from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) is a darkly beautiful paean to a (presumably) brief dalliance:

Lady, let us pluck delight
Only from a forfeit night,
From the bedded myrtles strewn
'Neath a never-risen moon.

The use of tetrameter with strong end rhymes reminds me of the witches' chants from Macbeth ("Double, double, toil and trouble; / Fire burn and cauldron bubble.").  That association, along with the repetition of the word "sorcery" in the first and last stanzas,  lends "The Nevermore-To-Be" a touch of the supernatural, giving it CAS' own distinct artistic stamp.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020


This item of juvenilia from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) is no great poetry, but interesting when the author's youth is taken into consideration:

Whate'er may be my destined lot or fate,
Whate'er the future life, I calmly wait;
What use to fret or fear--the end of man
Unchanging is, and cometh soon or late!

The title "Resignation" certainly captures the sentiment expressed in those lines, and represents a more fatalistic outlook than one typically expects from a teenager, although perhaps my own advancing years have simply distanced me from what it was like to be that age!

Having now read a generous sampling of CAS' mature poetry, I find it notable that even at a young age he could express such an acquiescent viewpoint, and apparently maintain it well into his adult years. 

Sunday, May 3, 2020

The Burning Ghauts

As I'm reading through the juvenile poetry of Clark Ashton Smith (CAS), I occasionally come across a work that rises a bit above the norm, and demonstrates early stirrings of the talent to come.  "The Burning Ghauts" is one such, and here is the complete text:

Black loom the Ghauts against the evening sky,
In columns dark I watch the smoke arise.
Red flare the flames of fagots, leaping high -
Red flare the flames o'er yon dark sacrifice.

Down the the Burning Ghauts I see them bear
A priest, revered in all this earthly life.
Down on the Ghauts I see the torches flare--
Silence and flames, and the end of human strife.

Watch that procession wending, mournful, slow,
Dark against the red and setting sun.
On the black pyre they lay the Rajah low,
Silent, impassive--for his work is done.

High leap the flames above the looming pyre,
The shades of Indian night are falling fast.
High leap the flames--then sinks the fagot fire,
Dying slow--all things must end at last.

Although this is a fairly simple poem, there is an interesting repetition of words and images between the first and last stanzas (i.e. "Red flare the flames of fagots, leaping high" and "High leap the flames above the looming pyre") that lends a unity to the work as a whole. 

While the oriental exoticism of "The Burning Ghauts" is typical of CAS' juvenilia, it is also more technically interesting than other works of his youth, and contains seeds of greater works yet to come.