Wednesday, August 19, 2020


Here we have another poem from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) that went unpublished in his lifetime, and since it's not available on The Eldritch Dark, here's the complete text:

Truth is a soundless gong
By an altar black and cold;
Life is a tale half-told,
Love is a broken song;
Beauty, besought so long,
Is a legend lost and old.

This is a dark little verse, but what captures my attention is the strong ABBAAB end rhyme scheme, a sort of variant of the more familiar enclosed rhyme pattern ABBA.  All of the rhyming words at the end the lines have a single syllable (in "half-told" only the word after the hyphen is rhymed), which encourages the reader to place a strong beat on each of those words.

When read aloud, "Simile"  has a rich sonority, and the combination of alliteration (primarily using the letters B, L, and T) with the end rhymes noted above allows the music in these lines to flow.

Although I don't often dwell on principles of versification on this blog, every once in a while it's worth noting CAS' technical mastery of those principles, demonstrating that his skill as a poet was no accident: he possessed a strong command of the tools of his trade.

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