Wednesday, August 5, 2020

In Slumber

Read "In Slumber" at The Eldritch Dark:

This poem from Clark Ashton Smith was originally published in the August 1934 issue of Weird Tales magazine, which featured a dramatic Margaret Brundage cover image illustrating a story by Robert E. Howard.  And the poem itself fits that context perfectly, presenting a cascading set of images made of pure nightmare:

                                                       By such light
As shows the newly damned their dolorous plight,
I trod the shuddering soil of that demesne
Whence larvae swarmed, malignant and obscene,
Like writhen mists from some Maremma reeking:
Through the gross air, fell incubi went seeking

Although the poem is little more than a collection of horrible hallucinations, that very over-the-top nature really does capture the feeling of a nightmare, making it great fodder for the pages of The Unique Magazine!


  1. "Then, from an outmost circle of that hell,
    The tumbling harpies came, detestable,
    With beaks that in long tatters tore my breast
    And wove from these their crimson, wattled nest."

    I shuddered when I reached that image, seeing all too clearly the trickling blood and the merciless stare of the harpy... The Divine Comedy couldn't frighten or repulse me nearly this much (and that's saying something, with its horrific visions like the dragon merging with human flesh)! But what amazes me more than anything is how Smith can depict such infernal and violent imagery without making it feel either tasteless or pretentious. It really feels like a wild dream of dark depths rather than a mere attempt at titillating the adrenaline junkies.

  2. Totally agreed! This poem is a great example of why CAS was such a genuine poetic talent, as he was able to work with familiar images and subjects, but handle them with a rare skill and a total command of language that few other writers have mastered.