Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Builder of Deserted Hearth

Read "Builder of Deserted Hearth" at The Eldritch Dark:


This haiku from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) is obviously related to the poem I read yesterday, "Hearth on Old Cabin-Site".  The two poems make a logical pair, with this one speculating on who created the "ruined fire-place" that remains at the old cabin-site.

With "Builder of Deserted Hearth", CAS makes the title an essential part of the work, since it is the only part of the poem that clearly identifies the subject.  Interestingly, the two adjectives that CAS uses to describe the builder are "shrewd" and "morose", both of which generally have negative connotations.  This short poem seems like it could easily have served as a springboard for one of CAS' tales of dark fantasy!


  1. I took it that "shrewd" and "morose" refer to the winter, as, according to my search, "shrewd" means "piercingly cold" in its archaic sense.

    Perhaps I'm reading the poem wrong!

  2. That's a very interesting interpretation I had not considered, and I was unaware of the definition of "shrewd" that you reference. But applying that definition to this haiku does indeed change the meaning, and I think I like your interpretation better than my own, since it really gives the opening line a bite that makes the builder's situation all the more dramatic!

  3. Thank you.

    The above definition was from Oxford, but my American Heritage dictionary lists "shrewd" in its archaic sense as "sharp" or "penetrating." So basically the same thing I think. Also, I can see where the poem could be interpreted either way, but yes, I also think referencing the weather is more dramatic. I find several of his haiku to have such vivid imagery for being only 3 lines long; particularly this poem, Hearth on Old Cabin-Site, and Basin in Boulder. The latter with its "time-hollowed" basin is somehow very absorbing.