Wednesday, March 23, 2022

In Time of Absence

Here's another poem from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) that was unpublished in his lifetime, and is not available on The Eldritch Dark, so here's the complete text:

Why come you not, as formerly you came, 
Bringing the wine-jug and the loaf of bread?
Have you forgot the kisses without stint,
The hair disheveled, and the tumbled bed?

What is it comes between and keeps you far,
While the stars change and chapless moons grow old,
While the green grasses whiten, and their seeds
Fall pale and parching on the rainless wold?

Silence and sunderance, with serpent fangs,
Would put their furtive poison in my blood;
I tear distorted masks of doubt, that fold
Your image with a false similitude.

I know the stifling horror of loneliness --
A horror that you too, my dear, have known:
In the dusty path conducting to my door
There are no other footprints than my own.

Among many poems of love that CAS wrote over his career, this one stands out for its stark recollection of the good days past and the darker days of the present.  A passionate affair is recalled in the first stanza, only for the rest of the poem to give way to regrets over what once was, but is no more.  The closing lines are particularly devastating:

In the dusty path conducting to my door
There are no other footprints than my own.

Although the beauty of "In Time of Absence" has a melancholy nature, it is nonetheless a remarkably effective poem.  I cannot help but be surprised that CAS did not choose to include this one in either of the Arkham House collections of his poetry that were published during his lifetime.

No comments:

Post a Comment