Wednesday, August 12, 2020


This poem from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) was unpublished in his lifetime.  CAS originally wrote it in French with the title "Rêvasserie", and later translated it into this English version.

Neither version of the poem is available on The Eldritch Dark, so here is the complete English text:

Here, in the olden wood,
The world is a mirage
More wan and dim
Than the pool wherein is mirrored
In the profound of another sphere
The strange nenuphar

Scarcely I remember, 
I forget my pain:
From this verdant twilight, 
I see depart, alike futile
Beneath their varying masks
Both love and death.

Athwart the foliage,
The sunlit lake
Drowses my dazzled eye
Like a crystal from which passes
The flame of an ecstasy
To the swooning mage.

The incredible oblivion
Plucks at me, ineffable,
From the depth of its lurking place.
I lose myself, I brush
The thing that takes flight
Too vast of the spirit.

I know not if the oak
Suspires with my breath
Of if I draw air therein;
Sometimes I am the poppy,
And sometimes the mace-reed
Whose down is scattered on the clear stream.

For me, all thought
Is leafed and woodlike
And mingles itself with the elders:
It flows with the sap,
It ripens the berry,
And spreads out with the branches.

The contents of the poem are true to the title, presenting a somewhat random set of images that do indeed have a dream-like quality.  I think the third stanza is the most effective of them all:

Athwart the foliage,
The sunlit lake
Drowses my dazzled eye
Like a crystal from which passes
The flame of an ecstasy
To the swooning mage.

On one level, "Day-Dream" feels somewhat like a draft, featuring an irregular meter and the use of blank verse.  But given that title, the unpolished nature of the poem fits the subject matter perfectly.


  1. This is one of my favorites of his unpublished poems, at least of the few that I've read. It sounds to me like a somber trip through some enchanted forest, such as fabulous Broceliande, where, like the wizard Merlin, the narrator is slowly enchanted and merged with his surroundings. When the world is more of an illusion ("mirage") than a pool's reflection, wistful feelings can make one seep into their natural surroundings, and it seems that's what CAS is going through here. This is a very healing poem, unless I am reading this wrong.

    1. That's a very interesting interpretation. To tell the truth, I had never heard of Brocéliande before reading your comment, and after doing a little research, I can see the possible connection to this poem.

    2. That's interesting, because in his Black Book, CAS had written what appears to be an early draft of a poem, and it was titled "Broceliande." It went like this:

      As a child. I wandered beside a fen Where the sunset, falling through cloudless air. ((Stained)) Stained with scarlet the still and sedgy pools. There I entered a silent evening wood (Knowing not that ((it was)) the wood was Broceliande.) Then, in the twilight of / great oaks, a voice that I / heard and yet heard not / seemed to dictate un- / known words, and I, / constrained by some weird / power, repeated them aloud. .... In the same sunset (or / was it haply in another?) / I came forth again from / the wood beside the / fenland where the / ((pools)) tarns and ponds were still crimson / with a ((the))
      afterglowing. / And peering into a / pool, I saw not the / face of a child neglected, / but the hoar and / many-wrinkled visage of / the ancient warlock Merlin!