Monday, October 19, 2020


Read "Bond" at The Eldritch Dark:

This poem from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) is a refreshing dose of the legendary and the weird, themes that CAS could handle like no other:

In Druid towers of ocean-founded Ys;
By every cup of wine in Naishapur
We drank by turns even to the purple lees;

The work is further emboldened by the presence of erotic and supernatural elements, including a stanza that must mark one of CAS' boldest invocations of the former:

By nights of searing ecstasy and moan;
The night-wet bosoms in Pompeii bared,
And the pale breasts and limbs in Lesbos known;

On a technical level, the third stanza is particularly intriguing:

By dreams and deities and dolors shared
Before the Olympian glory passed from Greece;
By sharp and secret raptures that we dared

Here CAS uses alliteration in the first and last lines, but pulls off an interesting trick by swapping the alliterative value of the last word, so that "shared" ends the first line which otherwise alliterates on the letter "d", and the reverse occurs in the third line.

This is no empty technical gesture, since when read out loud, this stanza does have an "incomplete" feel until the reader arrives at the final word "dared".  At that point, the reading prompts a significant pause before moving on to the following stanza.

While it's interesting that CAS did not use this pattern of alliteration throughout the entire poem, I think it was a wise decision, since verses that have very strong repeating sounds (alliteration, assonance, rhyme, etc) often acquire a "sing-songy" character when read aloud, so much so that the sound can distract from the meaning.  By employing a restricted form of alliteration, "Bond" acquires an enhanced reading while avoiding the potential negative impact of the chosen technique.

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