Sunday, November 15, 2020

The Hill of Dionysus

Read "The Hill of Dionysus" at The Eldritch Dark:

This poem from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) provided the title for a collection planned late in his life, but published only after his death.  The Hill of Dionysus: A Selection (1962) brought together his verses commemorating his friendship with the poet Eric Barker and the dancer Madelynne Greene.  

As an aside, I'm lucky enough to own a copy of that letterpress volume, purchased from the one and only Scott Connors.  The publication was prepared by Roy Squires and Clyde Beck, and is a wonderful example of the bookmaker's art.

The poem itself is wonderfully lyrical, and full of the Dionysian pleasures that the title implies.  CAS gives us the taste of the "Dionysian wine" and the music of "a broken flute", but more than that, his verse evokes the celebratory and seasonal rites associated with the god Dionysus:

These things have happened even thus of yore,
These things are part of all futurity;
And she and I and he,
Returning as before,
Participate in some unfinished mystery.

This provides a beautiful continuity from the "fabled years and presences of Eld" to "things forevermore to be".  For a writer sometimes (wrongly!) labeled a misanthrope, this exaltation shows that CAS could revel in the company of his fellow human beings, and see the through line initiated in mythology and carried forth through all the ages of human existence.

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