Monday, December 20, 2021

If Winter Remain

Read "If Winter Remain" at The Eldritch Dark:

This poem from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) really hits the mark for me, as it incorporates a light narrative quality, very reminiscent of CAS' excellent work in the prose poetry form.  The imagery throughout the poem is bold and striking, as evidenced from the very beginning in the first stanza:

Hateful, and most abhorred,
about us the season
of sleet, of snow and of frost
reaches, and seems unending
as plains whereon
lashed prisoners go,
chained, and enforced
to labor in glacial mines,
digging the baubles of greybeard kings,
of bleak Polarian lords.

Here CAS gives us not just a simple winter landscape, but one that is enriched by the vision of those "lashed prisoners" toiling in the service of "bleak Polarian lords." This landscape isn't just freezing; it's unremittingly cruel.

The speaker then dreams of warmer, bountiful times where it was possible to idle while "drinking the candent flame / with lips unsered, unsated".  But such halcyon days cannot last forever: in the final stanza, the hammer falls as the reality of the situation begins to sink in:

But. . . . if summer should come no more,
and winter remain
a stark colossus
bestriding the years?

All of this inevitably reminds me of Game of Thrones, with its frequent refrain of "Winter is coming."  But "If Winter Remain" is something more, a dramatic lyric memento of better times, with only a grim future to contemplate on the near horizon.  CAS brings all of his considerable talents to work in this poem, and it's a knockout.

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