Saturday, October 31, 2020

Town Lights

Read "Town Lights" at The Eldritch Dark:

This poem from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) was published during his lifetime in two of Stanton Coblentz's projects: firstly in the Winter 1943 issue of Wings: a Quarterly of Verse, and later in a hardcover anthology titled The Music Makers: an Anthology of Recent American Poetry (1945).

Although both of those publications occurred outside the narrow world of fantasy and science fiction markets, "Town Lights" nonetheless demonstrates CAS' love of  the weird, even if used in subtle fashion as the seed for an earthly feeling of melancholy:

Or strangers make oblivious cheer:
Till he that watches dimly from without
Peels as a leaf blown in the autumn's rout
From desolate trees foredoomed and sere.

Despite the sense of isolation invoked by the first few stanzas, the poem ends with an uplift:

But still he turns, and marks again
Some aureate lamp that friends have lit afar;
Some radiance, with love for inner star,
That burns behind a trellised pane;

Knowing if it were not for these,
His vagrant soul would haunt a vaster night
Lit only by the inalienable light
Of all the quenchless galaxies.

This is an interesting denouement from the same author who gave us "The Star-Treader", "The Hashish-Eater" and other verses of cosmic grandeur.  The simple humanity expressed in "Town Lights" is heartfelt, and all the more moving coming from a writer whose personality was sometimes characterized as isolated and aloof.

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