Tuesday, June 30, 2020


This poem from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) was unpublished in his lifetime, and is not available on The Eldritch Dark, so here's the complete text:

Love is a rift of azure
Within the sombre ceiling of the storm.

Love is a rainbow,
Whereof one burning end is at our feet
And the other
Is lost amid the purple flowers and castles
And clouds of Faerie.

Love is a heaven
Where myrrh and cassia rise from summer lands
For an incense to the summer sun.

This is another item from a substantial body of minor love poems that CAS was writing in the late 1920's.

Monday, June 29, 2020


Read "February" at The Eldritch Dark:


While this is not a particularly notable poem by Clark Ashton Smith (CAS), the third stanza is quite potent with visual imagery:

Fragile as dreams, afloat
Between the earth and skies,
Beyond serene, remote,
Blue-folded hills the fair and moon-white mountains rise.

It's worth noting that the version of this poem at The Eldritch Dark renders the work with five-line stanzas.  In contrast, the version of the same poem in the Hippocampus Press edition of The Complete Poetry and Translations of Clark Ashton Smith presents each stanza as a quatrain, with long last lines.  Given the careful editorial work of S.T. Joshi and David E. Schultz, I suspect the latter is correct, and I've used that formatting above.

Sunday, June 28, 2020


Read "Calendar" at The Eldritch Dark:


Although I often have a lukewarm reaction to the love poems of Clark Ashton Smith (CAS), I appreciate "Calendar" and its interweaving of seasonal motifs with the celebration of shared experiences.  The description of the fall season is particularly moving:

To see with you
The goldenrod become an ashen ghost
And the rose of autumn crumble
And the leaf put on the splendor of the rose,
And the last leaf fall upon the wintry blue
In a wind from the lofty snows;

Although those lines describe the decline of vegetation in the days before winter, the focus is really on the sensation of experiencing those seasonal changes alongside a loved one, two seeing together the transformations brought on by the shortened days of autumn.

Saturday, June 27, 2020


This poem from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS), unpublished is his lifetime, is not available on The Eldritch Dark, so here's the complete text:

My love for you is tender
As flowers after snow
Amid a mountain fir-wood
Where mountain waters flow.
My love for you is tender
As flowers after snow.

My love for you is deeper
Than a mountain tarn at noon,
That lulls the ledge-flung torrents
To frame the shadowy moon.
My love for you is deeper
Than a mountain tarn at noon.

My love for you is lasting
As pines amid the spring,
As pines that bore no transient
Autumnal blazoning.
My love for you is lasting
As pines amid the spring.

While this is a slight work, the repeated lines in each stanza do lend a propulsive rhythm to the reading, enhanced by the short iambic trimeter.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020


Read "Sonnet" at The Eldritch Dark:


This is yet another poem from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) that saw publication in Weird Tales, this time in the April 1929 issue of The Unique Magazine.  

The dark Empress to whom the poem is addressed is unidentified, but clearly is a woman (or female entity) of great ambition and vision who is left to contemplate:

...what god, or ghost,
Or spacial demon for thy spirit's mate
Art fain to choose?

Whoever this person is, CAS captures the scope of her immense longing in the poem's powerful conclusion, describing what is in her heart:

The passion of the impossible, the pride
Of lust immortal for the monstrous ire
And pain of love in scarlet worlds apart.

The use of alliteration in the phrases "passion of the impossible" and "pride / Of lust immortal" injects a rhythmic urgency to those closing lines which is the highlight of the work.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020


This poem from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) was unpublished in his lifetime, and is not available on The Eldritch Dark, so here is the complete text: 

We wandered in your garden
When the broad magnolia-flowers
Took on a stranger pallor from the moon
And the rose gave up the half of all its redness.
I turned to you,
And your face was the long-expected vision,
Far-sought, but never found,
In the dark bafflement of many a dreamland maze,
Through sunless, moonless woods
And beside unflowing waters 
In the twain deserts of the waking world
And the worlds of sleep.
I saw you then,
Supremely fair, incomparably dear,
Till seeing was become a greater ecstasy
Than others know in all possession--
Till the whole of love and life was in your face
And the whole world's loveliness,
And memory was no more
Than an arabesque of shadows swept away in light,
And time and space were phantoms
Forgotten and dispersing 
To leave this ever-during instant 
This luminous parterre
Bearing the one momentous flower of your face.

While this is not a great poem overall, it seems to me as though there is a poem-within-a-poem that might have worked well all by itself:

I turned to you,
And your face was the long-expected vision,
Far-sought, but never found,
In the dark bafflement of many a dreamland maze,
Through sunless, moonless woods
And beside unflowing waters 
In the twain deserts of the waking world
And the worlds of sleep.

The complete work has the feeling of a rough draft, but the eight lines quoted directly above the heart of it.  Despite the lack of rhyme and standard meter, that extract makes for a stronger work than "Moon-Sight" taken as a whole.

Thursday, June 11, 2020


Read "Harmony" at The Eldritch Dark:


This short poem from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) is slight, but nonetheless captures the yearning for a love as perfect as a favorite natural setting:

Black pines above an opal tarn
And the grey cliff above the pines
And the clouds above the cliff,
Rose-hued with a hidden sunset ....

The cascading references to "pines" and "the cliff" provide that first stanza with refrains which lend it a musical quality.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020


Read "Connaissance" at The Eldritch Dark:


With this poem, Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) seems to have gotten back to some of the themes that informed his earliest poetry, and does so with panache:

You flow a stronger blood within my blood,
Poured from a heart whose pulses
Suffuse the veins of centaurs and of gods.
You are a thought encompassing all other thoughts,
Even as the sea enfolds the kelp and coral
And the sea-flowers and sea-monsters
And the domes of deep unsunned Atlantis.

The bolded word in the second-to-last line is correction to a typo in the version of this poem at The Eldritch Dark.

CAS' poetry always seems to work best when it is a swirl of his original conceptions bolstered by ideas and images borrowed from myth and fable, and "Connaissance" draws its strength from those very energies.

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Winter Moonlight

Read "Winter Moonlight" at The Eldritch Dark:


Although this poem from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) is hardly among his best, his technical command of poetic language is still on display, as in these lines:

Departed loath and laggardly
Into the icy, luminous, immense white night.

Both lines demonstrate the use of alliteration, and the second of those lines combines alliteration with internal rhyme ("white night").  

That second line especially has a strong rhythmic pulse, and the use of the internal rhyme immediately before a period gives the reading a natural pause.  Even in a poem that does not represent CAS at his very best, there is much to admire about his command of the English language in verse.

Monday, June 8, 2020


Read "Exorcism" at The Eldritch Dark:


At the title suggests, this poem from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) is swirling with tendrils of the supernatural:

The mists of the valley reach with wavering, slow,
Malignant arms from pine to pine, and climb the hill
As fatal memories climb
To assail some heart benighted and bewitched. . . .

Compared to some of the more humdrum love poems CAS was writing around the same time (late 1920's), "Exorcism" plays to his particular strengths, incorporating dark romance with ghostly metaphors.  

This poem seems like it would have been right at home in the pages of Weird Tales magazine, making me wonder if CAS ever submitted it to that publication (although we do know for certain that it never appeared in those pages).

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Chanson de Novembre

This poem from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) exists in both English and French versions.  Neither of those was published in the author's lifetime, and they are not available on The Eldritch Dark, so here's the complete English text:

The blazoned and superb tops of the wood 
Whisper long while in the wind of the mournful month:
Or brown or saffron or purple or crimson,
At length each tree must cast afar its olden leaves,
That come to rest on the water, or among the reeds,
Or in the green shade of the autumnal firs.

For me, their sound immingles with the sigh of branches
Of trees in mine own heart, with saffron leaves,
Or purple or brown or crimson leaves, which make
The magic forest of my love profound...
But always in my heart these foliages remain--
They shall not ever fall from the whispering boughs.

This is another in a large group of love poems that CAS wrote in the late 1920's, most of which are fairly forgettable.

Friday, June 5, 2020


Read "November" at The Eldritch Dark:


This is another romantic poem from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS), perfectly competent but of no particular note in the grand scheme of his poetic corpus.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

On A Chinese Vase

Read "On A Chinese Vase" at The Eldritch Dark:


This poem from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) inevitably brings to mind John Keats' "Ode on a Grecian Urn", even if the two works are quite different in form and content.  

CAS' work is notable for the use of repeated words that occur throughout the poem, a technique that is not common to his poetry in general.  The following words are each repeated twice (I'm ignoring articles and other common words such as "the"):

  • spring
  • suns
  • Ming
  • herons
  • peer
  • bloom
  • porcelain

In addition, some related word forms (such as "bloomless") occur, and two lines in each stanza end with the same word.

I'm not much for statistical analysis of literary texts, but in this case it is interesting to observe that of the eighty-eight words in "On A Chinese Vase", fourteen (or 15% of the total) are duplicated (as listed above).

That high occurrence of repeated words seems to me like an intentional strategy on CAS' part, in order to reflect the hermetic world of the vase he is describing.  Given that repeated words bring the reader back to a conceptual place that he or she has already visited, a reading of "On A Chinese Vase" mirrors the act of observing such an artifact and the bounded physical space that it inhabits.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

The Autumn Lake

Read "The Autumn Lake" at The Eldritch Dark:


Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) wrote both English and French versions of this poem, the latter with the title "Le Lac d'automne".  It's a beautiful remembrance of a visit to a montane setting, simple but rendered with the lush appreciation of an experience of nature:

To dwell with you, and know the mountain seasons,
The fleeing cloud, the cliff and pine eternal,
The fall of leaf and snow and blossom vernal
Upon your placid waters.

I appreciate CAS' ability as a poet to render grand, sweeping vistas (as with "Nero", "The Hashish-Eater", etc) but also to write of the small (but essential) experiences of everyday life.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020


Here is another poem from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) that was never published in his lifetime.  Likewise, it is not available on The Eldritch Dark, so here's the complete text:

Two things alone are good: to love, and to forget
All else but love and love's divine forgetfulness.
Vain is the world, and vain is all thine old distress.
All tears but love's are idle, idle is all regret.

There are no other sins than these: to put love by,
Or let the world be lord and arbiter of love: 
Give me thy lips, thy heart, and all the sweets thereof--
And we shall drain the draught of Lethe ere we die.

It's a minor poem from CAS' large collection of love poems, and I can't say I'm surprised that he chose not to publish this one.

Monday, June 1, 2020


Read "Chansonette" at The Eldritch Dark:


Here we have another poem from that naughty Frenchman Christophe des Laurières, a pseudonym of Clark Ashton Smith (CAS).  Versions of the poem exist in both English and French.

It's a fairly standard love poem, with the added dash of sauciness that often seemed to flow from the pen of des Laurières:

My kisses' road from knees to mouth
Is all I know of north and south,
Thy rounding bosom endlessly
Shall still my sought horizon be,
My bravest dream a bird that flies
In the warm heaven of thine eyes.

For CAS, it's a rather routine work, but as with all of the poems attributed to des Laurières, a little touch of the erotic manages to add some additional interest.