Tuesday, December 12, 2023

I Shall Not Greatly Grieve

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

Is it your final wish that I forget
Your cool sweet kisses in the fervent eve?
Upon my lips their savor lingers.  Yet,
Though the blood chafe, I shall not greatly grieve
If these, the first, remain a scented score--

Chary lest passion, like a Sirian noon,
Bring not your fruit to sweetness at the core,
But haply mar or ripen oversoon.

What ardors wake, what fears restrain your blood,
Where Christus wars with pagan gods?  I guess
In you the untamed falcon's fretful mood,
The immature green orchard's earthliness.

Love has no will to harm you.  I shall stand
With empty arms, and find a strange delight: 
The unplucked apples hanging closer at hand;
The leashless veering of the wild hawk's flight.

Apparently at least one draft of this poem survives with the alternate title "Haply I Shall Not Greatly Grieve".  

CAS wrote many verses dedicated to love and passion, and these lines addressed to a lover wary of complete abandon to ardor read convincingly as the product of a real-life experience.  

What most captures my attention is the use of avian metaphors in the last two stanzas: "the untamed falcon's fretful mood" and "The leashless veering of the wild hawk's flight."  These are skillfully intertwined with images of "The immature green orchard's earthliness" and "The unplucked apples hanging closer at hand".  Taken together, these are powerful suggestions of a lover who turns away from the wild call of unrestrained passion.  The obviousness of the metaphors in no way detracts from their effectiveness, and demonstrates CAS' preference for clarity over obscurity in his use of literary devices.

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