Monday, December 18, 2023

Isle of the Shipwrecked

This poem by Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) was apparently first written in Spanish with the title "La Isla del náufrago".  The Spanish version is available on The Eldritch Dark:

That version of the poem is accompanied by an English translation rendered by Ramón Cabrales.

Neither of CAS' original versions were published in his lifetime, so here's the complete English version:

Orphan of shipwreck,
I am in a gardenless terrain
with no tilled fields, an isle
which the volcano has desolated,
in part, and savages have invaded,
holding now the greater half,
the fruits and the caught fish their booty--
they besiege me, and they keep me
afar from the bananas and the sea:
Of this domain,
I have only the leafless rock
in which will grow 
one day the lichens with their leaves
and with their semblances of flora
that all the mornings cannot wither....

No sail 
whitens the dark green seas....
In such an islet,
can I outlive the other islanders?

This is a surprisingly mundane poem to emerge from CAS' pen, reading more like an outline of a short story than a work in verse.  It feels to me like some sort of exercise, as though CAS was mentoring a younger poet on the basics of the form, leading to the inclusion of odd juxtapositions, such as the speaker's lament that the "savages" are keeping him "afar from the bananas and the sea".  It's no surprise that CAS did not publish "Isle of the Shipwrecked" in his lifetime, as it's little more than a curiosity.

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