Friday, December 18, 2020

To Bacchante

This poem from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) was included as the dedicatory piece to his posthumous collection The Hill of Dionysus (1962), and was also included in the omnibus Selected Poems (1971).  However, it does not appear to be available on The Eldritch Dark, so here's the complete text:

There was a place, belovèd,
Wherein we drank of beauty and of tears,
Before the days had closed their iron circle,
Before the sullen lassitude of years.
(But who shall break the circle,
And drink again of beauty and of tears?)

Take thy war-shafts, O Cypris, and go at thy leisure to some other target; for I have not space left even for a wound.

- The Greek Anthology

The epigraph is attributed to Archias, and is taken from The Greek Anthology of ancient poetic manuscripts.  "Cypris" (Lady of Cyprus) is an alternate name for the goddess Aphrodite.

As with the poem "Bacchante", which I reviewed several weeks ago, this poem presumably celebrates CAS' friendship with the dancer Madelynne Greene.  As with that earlier work, "To Bacchante" is simple, direct, and exquisite.  The phrase "we drank of beauty and of tears" is indelible, and expresses in a handful of words a wealth of emotional experience.  

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