Monday, January 10, 2022

The Poet Talks with the Biographers

Read "The Poet Talks with the Biographers" at The Eldritch Dark:

This poem from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) also exists in a French version, titled "Le poète parle avec ses biographes".

Although I normally focus more on content than technical form in this blog, there is an intriguing structure to this poem that I can't ignore.  Each of the five stanzas is constructed as a question and answer, and the end of the reply always echoes the last word of the question.  For example, in the second stanza, the question is posed in the first two lines:

O diggers all so diligent, O sapient ghouls,
What have you found in your prodigious toils?

The last word of the question ("toils") repeats in the answer, which comprises the last three lines of the same stanza:

—We have exhumed with all their antique evils
Thy loves, with features gutted by the worms,
In our enormous toils.

That perfect repetition of line-ending words within each stanza creates the sort of strong aural cadence often associated with the work of Edgar Allan Poe, and fits perfectly with the back-and-forth character of "The Poet Talks with the Biographers".  It's an easy technique to overuse, and CAS thus used it rarely in his poetic corpus, but I think it's a very effective approach for this particular poem.

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