Sunday, September 6, 2020


This poem from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) was unpublished is his lifetime, and is not available on The Eldritch Dark, so here's the complete text:

O ghostly loves that come and go 
In this fantasmal autumn vale
Where stones and trees and hills remain 
Unreal, and ghostly leaves are blown:--

Bright wraiths of yestereve, and pale
Ghosts of the darkling farther past
That mingle in ambiguous dance,
Haunting again the hollow day.

Depart, depart, nor vex in vain
With shadowy lips the lips of drouth,
Nor fill my arms with shifting cloud.
But linger awhile, O fair and face,

My youngest and my latest love,
And press your cheek 
To blend the substance with the dream
In the dry cup of Tantalus.

Although no specific mention is included in these lines, the references to dry climatic conditions and the description of "my latest love" seem to suggest that this poem might have been directly inspired by real events from CAS' life in and around Auburn, California.  

The hot-summer Mediterranean climate of Placer County and the surrounding region could well inspire thoughts of Tantalus, sentenced to an eternal punishment with food and water forever close at hand, but always just out of reach. 

I love the way that CAS combines elements of the mythological and the supernatural into an earthly encounter with a lady love.  That weaving together of magical and mundane elements is a technique he used in other poems, and one that he always handled with a sly skill.

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