Friday, December 15, 2023


Here's another poem unpublished in Clark Ashton Smith's (CAS) lifetime, and since it's not available on The Eldritch Dark, here's the complete text:

Four sacraments have we partaken,
four sacraments unite us.

The sacrament of mutual desire
when we were still half-strangers yet not strange
like wanderers meeting in the mist
drawn darkly to that common motherland
whose moons are borne upon Astarte's brow.

The sacrament of joy
whereof your body was the tilted chalice,
with breasts adored beneath the autumnal sun,
with limbs and loins that opened
within the room darkened against the morning
or under the secret lamps that shone not streetward.

The sacrament of mirth--
full-bellied, earthy, Rabelaisian laughters
at quips and tales the bawdy gods might relish 
after ambrosial banquets.

The sacrament of pain
when the strange illness bowed you, and your head,
nestling upon my shoulder,
slipped downward in that cryptic agony
I could not follow, could not fathom,
yet must share obscurely 
through nerves of some profound and love-wrought nexus.

Let not the sacraments be broken.

Although this does not feel like a finished work, the technical structure is solid, moving through a logical sequence of the stages in a romantic relationship: initial attraction, carnal delights at the peak, joyous fun at the point of maturity, and grief in later stages.

I can't help but be most moved by the fourth stanza focusing on "The sacrament of mirth".  At the end of the day, when physical aspects of a relationship have become familiar, a relationship can only survive for the long term if there is some version of "full-bellied, earthy, Rabelaisian laughters" to power through the challenging times.  

I don't consider "Sacraments" to be one of CAS' best efforts, but its mature sensibility is well-grounded in practical reality, something of a contrast to CAS' reputation as a poet with an imagination focused on limitless extraplanetary vistas.

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