Thursday, November 5, 2020

Future Pastoral

Read "Future Pastoral" at The Eldritch Dark:

This is a charming poem from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) that almost reads like a letter to a beloved.  The speaker's enthusiasm for "A lonely spot, such as we two have loved", and his wish to share it with his partner ripples with the joy of a new discovery.  

CAS uses alliteration and assonance to subtly transform that discovery into something more akin to a revelation, especially in the second stanza:

A green and gentle fell
That steepens to a rugged canyon's rim,
Where voices of vague waters fall and swell
And pines far down in sky-blue dimness swim.

Written in February 1942, "Future Pastoral" is an excellent of example of CAS' maturing poetic skills one year shy of his fiftieth birthday.  There is nothing incredibly dramatic in this poem, but it has a seductive beauty and a vivid appreciation for life and love that speaks to some of the best characteristics of the poetic arts.


  1. Funny you should say it reads like a letter since those are the exact words I've used whenever I would mention it to someone.

    It's also funny when you think about how much effort has been spent throughout the centuries on writing love poems, and then this guy shows up, writes a letter in verse, and makes it sound more honest, genuine, authentic, and thus beautiful, than any of them.

    To be more specific, I always understood it as a letter by an old man to his dearly departed wife. I'm actually almost surprised to hear it wasn't written much later than 1942.

  2. It would be interesting to know if CAS did in fact write this poem with a specific recipient in mind. I suspect the answer must be "yes", simply because the words are so genuinely heartfelt. But who that recipient may have been, I have no idea!

  3. I struggle to imagine something like this being written to a living person, to be honest.

    The way I understand the title is that it refers to afterlife rather than an actual physical location.

    The fourth stanza at least seems to indicate that, even more so if you combine it with the fifth.

    Strange, that my wandering feet,
    In all the years, had never known this place,
    Where beauty, with a glamor wild and sweet,
    Awaits the final witchcraft of your face.

    Upon this secret hill
    I gave my dark bereavement to the sun,
    My sorrow to the flowing air . . . until
    Your tresses and the grass were somehow one,