Friday, December 29, 2023

High Surf

Read "High Surf" at The Eldritch Dark:

There are quite a few typos in the text of this poem at The Eldritch Dark, so here's a corrected version:

Loud as the trump that made the mortised walls
Of Jericho to tremble and lean and sway,
The voice of ocean sweeps this granite verge.
The cormorants today,
Back-diving through the falling walls of surge,
Float not too near the rocks;
And smoky, white haired phantoms ride the long-spined rollers
Curving across the bay
From gulfs that round Cipango, arc Cathay.

For me,
Who stand enchanted and exalt,
Seized up into a short eternity,
No anger and no sorrow that men feign
Informs the risen main:
I hear alone the impassible roar
Of years and centuries and cycles rolling
Under that solar and galactic vault,
Over the cliffs and cities, over the mountains
From shore to crumbled shore.


"Cipango" is an archaic name from the age of Marco Polo, associated with modern-day Japan (日本).

As an ode to the vast powers of nature, "High Surf" soars with all of the huge scope of Clark Ashton Smith's (CAS) imagination.  The speaker's encounter with the palpable energy of ocean waves meeting the immovable "granite verge" at land's end blooms into a broader vision of "centuries and cycles rolling / Under that solar and galactic vault".  It's a beautiful piece of poetic inspiration; further evidence that CAS was truly possessed of the spirit of the muse.

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