Wednesday, January 5, 2022

The Isle of Saturn

Read "The Isle of Saturn" at The Eldritch Dark:

In his younger days, Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) wrote several poems regarding the mythological Titanomachy, the war between the Titans and the Olympians which ended in victory for Zeus (aka Jupiter) and his peers.  "The Isle of Saturn" marks a late return to that subject, and is imbued with a theme found in much of CAS' mature poetry: nostalgia for the glories of the Classical Age.

(You can click the "Titanomachy" tag at the bottom of this post to see my comments on other related poems from CAS).

This poem in particular seems to be inspired by John Keats' unfinished epic poem "Hyperion", which concerns the defeated Titans and their desire for revenge.  The sixth stanza of "The Isle of Saturn" beautifully expresses those great hopes, while simultaneously capturing the remoteness of their realization:

Darkly, in the gaunt and gleamless mountain-sides,
Drowse the metals for the mail of gods rewakened;
And the trees of savage forests hold on high
Still-unshapen hafts of Titan battle-maces
To be wielded in vast wars.

Ultimately, CAS' vision does not seem to bode well for the king of the Titans, who is not alone, for "Others there are sleeping":

Gods who rose and reigned and died before the Titans,
Lying in topless tombs undomed.

I've often pondered CAS' interest in the Titanomachy, with its sweeping narrative of a war that came close to destroying the universe.  Of course, it also represented a fundamental displacement of the existing order of that same universe, with the emergence of an entirely new pantheon of gods.  

I suspect that such a "clean sweep" on a cosmic scale spoke to CAS on a number of levels, not least in respect to his dissatisfaction with the modern industrial society in which he found himself living.  More importantly, CAS the romantic found himself born into an age that seemed little concerned with lyric beauty, and one suspects that the poet yearned for a epic change to the universal order, one which would displace the values of Mammon in favor of those of Apollo.

No comments:

Post a Comment