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.

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