Wednesday, January 13, 2021


Read "Philtre" at The Eldritch Dark:

This haiku from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) paints an eccentric picture of large and small legendary creatures battling over a precious water source.  The incorporation of pygmies into this poem reminds me of CAS' much longer work The Hashish Eater, as the diminutive race plays a role in that extended fever dream:

I watch a war of pygmies, met by night,
With pitter of their drums of parrot's hide,
On plains with no horizon, where a god
Might lose his way for centuries...

The Hashish Eater also features a "captive giant" who has helped to build a contraption used by "lunar wizards" to capture a roc, beautifully described as a "monstrous, moonquake-throbbing bird".  

Despite its short length, "Philtre" is informed by the same sort of verbal magic that powered The Hashish Eateralbeit in a more modest form.  It's truly impressive how CAS could capture such an evocative scene in a mere fourteen words (I'm including the title in that count since it's a significant part of the complete work).

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