Read "Bacchante" at The Eldritch Dark:
This poem from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) was first published in the December 1939 issue of Weird Tales magazine, featuring wonderful cover artwork from Hannes Bok.
As the title suggests, "Bacchante" is inspired by classical mythology, particularly the legend of the ecstatic female followers of Bacchus (aka Dionysus). The poem is part of a cycle titled The Hill of Dionysus, which originated from CAS' friendship with the poet Eric Barker and his wife, the dancer Madelynne Greene.
Roy Squires published a selection from the The Hill of Dionysus shortly after CAS' passing, and that edition is dedicated "To Bacchante". Eric Barker confirms that the "Bacchante" of that dedication is Madelynne Greene, as detailed is his essay "Clark Ashton Smith - In Memory Of A Great Friendship".
The second stanza of the poem provides a beautiful description of the artist's muse:
We have felt the thrilling presence of the god,
And you, Bacchante, shod
With moonfire, and with moonfire all enfolden,
Have danced upon the mystery-haunted sod.
CAS wrote many poems informed by mythology, but "Bacchante" is uniquely vital among that group, animated by a livelier vision of "The ancient madness and the ancient glory." As a tribute and a remembrance of a friendship, it's really quite moving, and powerfully expresses a different sort of emotion than I have come to expect from CAS' verse.
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