Saturday, June 5, 2021

Slaughter-House in Spring

Read "Slaughter-House in Spring" at The Eldritch Dark:

This is the first in a series of haiku that Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) wrote about the abattoir located not far from his home in Auburn, California.  Living close to such a grim enterprise clearly had an impact on the poet, as abattoirs are mentioned multiple times throughout his literary corpus, notably in these starkly beautiful lines from scene III of his verse play The Dead will Cuckold You (1951):

A toothless vampire tugs and mumbles
Some ancient trot's whitleather hide,
But he'll fly soon to the abattoir
And the pooling blood where the stuck pig died.

"Slaughter-House in Spring" feels spiritually related to the lines quoted above, as the grisly phenomena of the opening line are characterized as a "Taint" whose corruption fouls the "flowers and mossy stones."  Probably few human beings truly love abattoirs, but CAS views them as a source of iniquity, despoilers of beauty and nature. 


  1. Based off your commentary on unpublished poems, I'm assuming you also own the 3-volume complete poetry & translations from Hippocampus Press. It's really a lovely set, though I am hopeful for a 3rd ed. someday, since the revised paperback still has a few errors -- or what I perceive as such -- present.

    Not sure if you've read Smith's mentor, George Sterling, but they also have a 3-volume set of his poetry, which I enjoyed. Some similarities with Smith, but pretty different on the whole.

  2. Yes indeed, I am reading through the 3-volume Hippocampus edition of the complete poetry. It does have some errors, but given the extensive notes on sources, the editors do a good job of pointing the reader to alternate versions of each poem text (which I often do look at, since I have other editions of CAS' verse).

    I haven't read all of George Sterling's poetry, but I have read "The Testimony of the Suns" and some of his other verse in anthologies. While I like some of Sterling's work, I generally find it to be inferior to CAS' own work: the latter was capable of working in the "grand romantic" style without sacrificing vigor and musicality, whereas Sterling's work often strikes me as stiff and overly concerned with form over content.

    I'd be curious if you have individual favorite poems from Sterling's corpus? Perhaps I simply haven't read the best of his work.