Clark Ashton Smith


The gradual comments in the stream attached to this post will be upon the poems published in the Penguin Classics book (2014) edited by ST Joshi and entitled ‘The Dark Eidolon and Other Fantasies’ by Clark Ashton Smith.
These represent a continuation from HERE of my comments upon the book’s stories and prose poems.

29 responses to “Clark Ashton Smith

  1. The Last Night
    “And through the air fell like a falling sky.”
    Sea and skyline and stoic anguish… Pope and Shelley merged?

    A few of my many Clacton on Sea skylines
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  2. Ode to the Abyss
    “In aeon-implicating wars / Thou tearest planets from their place; / Worlds granite-spined / To thy erodents yield / …”
    A vocative paean to a form of abyssal infinity that seems to supplement Byron’s non-vocative Darkness… but I wonder if ‘erodents’, as well as being instruments of erosion are also gnawing rats?

  3. A Dream of Beauty
    ” Blueness of sea and sky, and gold of storm / Transmuted by the sunset, and the flame / Of autumn-colored leaves,…”
    A brief poem, wholly beautiful and poignant in itself. A gem, a classic.

  4. The Star-Treader
    “Enkindling dawns of memory, / Each sun had radiance to relume / A sealed, disused, and darkened room / Within the soul’s immensity.”
    A swelling monologue, reaching towards a visible infinity and an infinite-by-being-invisible soul, a symbiosis that sits comfortably with his Phoenix-stoical ‘suicide-bomber’ stories. The enjambement does get in the way sometimes, but, in this poem, it seems to work within CASian terms. Amid the pre-Swinburne Byronesque, I do note the welcome taint of TS-Eliotian objective-correlative and pent-up obscurity plus a Baudelaire spirit that somehow seem to be in the retrocausal air that CAS breathes as he writes, “where chords of pain / With stridors […] forged anew with stranger loveliness.”

  5. Retrospect and Forecast
    Following earlier retrocausalities, this poem has the astonishing concept of life being fed by death, so that it can return the favour! This is core CAS.

  6. Nero
    “And singing of the immemorial dead, / Whose dust is loosened into vaporous wings…”
    Nero, Rome. Although resonant with Ozymandias by Shelley which poet I mentioned earlier, this poem becomes more of a Shakespearean soliloquy, as spoken by a diffident psychopath on the apparent brink of collaterally-damaged suicide, Nero to become Nemo as well as the poem’s start at its end, “This Rome”.

  7. To The Daemon Sublimity
    “Come thou, and bear me to thy chosen sun.”
    I don’t know exactly why, but that line in this short poem brought tears to my eyes.

  8. image
    Averted Malefice
    I have read this poem several times without really understanding the title. Aversion as in dislike or averting as with eyes or avoiding as a form of diversion? This story of a spellful witch with Donne’s Mandrake roots, giving a new meaning to catching a falling star by this whole book’s context so far … or averting disaster – or simply creating ‘a version’ of this poem, a meaning that does not exist? Like imagining a face that isn’t really there on this book’s fleshy cover?
    Aversion therapy as a sort of spell – also known as the ‘Mother of Toads’ syndrome?

  9. The Eldritch Dark
    “…the scythed moon impendent over all.”
    Indeed, a poem engagingly shaping the night gradually from its twilit inception, just as the picture above has its own scythed moon!
    After ‘miming the trees’, the shadows eventually become night’s gestalt…

  10. Shadow of Nightmare
    “Where darkness waits with wide, expectant lips?”
    A short swart soliloquy, this too too toad-slimy flesh of night.

  11. Satan Unrepentant
    “No more remember Him than Silence does / An ancient thunder.”
    More a Miltonic than a Shakespearean soliloquy, as Nero now becomes Satan speculating on his (small h) interface or symbiosis with Him (big H). A coddled rebellion, but one senses a subtle poignant stoicism that the big will always outweigh the small, even amid the Vigils of Omnipotence where one revels in vulnerability as in a childhood out-staring game…

  12. The Ghoul
    A dislocated choice of words in strict sonnet form that somehow manages to evoke the image of a ghoul. But why the variable use of both ‘phantoms’ and ‘fantoms’ in the same short poem?

  13. Desire of Vastness
    Another wordy-weird of a sonnet. Who else reads it as a paean to a large woman?
    “The unstayed dominions of the brazen sky–“

  14. The Medusa of Despair
    OcCasianly I see through the eyes of the Casian poet as he struggles with the phonetics and syllables and rhymes and the scanning of his sonnets, juggling the near-neologisms and clumsy phrases eventually made unclumsy or still clumsy…agonising … twisting, turning, tweaking the text, hour after hour, in “the unwaning light of Hell”, in near despair, until he is satisfied but, in this particular sonnet, ‘regressively’ unsatisfied, I fear.

  15. The Refuge of Beauty
    “Trembling before some nameless imminence;”
    Or ‘immanence’?
    This seems provokingly to deal with ‘beauty in the eye of the beholder’ both literally and metaphorically. Cf ‘Mother of Toads’ and ‘Desire of Vastness’.

  16. The Harlot of the World
    An evocative vocative addressed to Life as itself a living force that the poet ends up seeing through to the Worm that works it like the Wizard behind the screen in Oz. But is the poet or Life the harlot?

  17. Memnon at Midnight
    “…waters flowed like sleep forevermore.”
    There is something wonderful about this theme and variations on Ozymandias. O able stone!

  18. Love Malevolent
    “And vipers, born and nurstled in a tomb,”
    A rich Baudelairean effusion of dark love.

  19. The Crucifixion of Eros
    This should be a famous poem. It just has that feel of being a multi-anthologised poem, although this is probably a rare outing.

  20. The Tears of Lilith
    “Hemlock and hydromel and gall,”
    Addressed to a lovely demon, this poem itself is another lovely demon. The words roll off the tongue as rare unction would.

  21. Requiescat In Pace M.L.M.
    “Whose fire-soft lips are not / Recalled by any sorcery of song.”
    A pure Casian and Cathrian elegy of death as ‘gladder breath’, where the bracketing of exactly the same stanza at start and finish further strengthens its blissful pangs.

  22. The Motes
    A mote of a poem in a tome universe.

  23. The Hashish-Eater; Or, The Apocalypse of Evil
    “And sung by moons and motes;”
    Motes and atoms of infused imagination that form a dense ritual of recurrent hypnotic endless-seeming meandering clauses of a journey in mind and place. You will never again read a poem quite like this one, nor have you ever read a poem in the past like this one. A culmination of visionary sumptuousness and succulent words and mythic clusters and dark forebodings and aeonic mind-stretching…and the final vision of self that exceeds all these things in even further degrees of what they are. (Is “wyvers” at line 551 a typo for “wyverns”?)

    My first reading-aloud of this poem today: OR

    [ My other readings aloud over the years: ]

  24. A Psalm To The Best Beloved
    A Casian love poem the last two quotable lines of which are highly memorable.

  25. The Witch With Eyes Of Amber
    A heady cocktail of love and then love turned to stone – which is a coincidence as a few minutes ago here I finished reading a story as part of a simultaneous review that complements this poem and vice versa.

  26. We Shall Meet
    “And my dreaming / Heart where fallen autumns stir”
    A stoic elegy to thou with whom I poignantly share a love unrequited.

  27. On Re-Reading Baudelaire
    “Await funereal autumn and its fears”
    I do, I do, forever.

    To George Sterling: A Valediction
    A perfect elegy to one who “Hast found the perfect love that is oblivion,…”

    Anterior Life
    “Fantastic love to tease my weary woe.”
    That seems to be the perfect summary of the Casian literary and personal ethos.

    As is, too..
    Hymn to Beauty
    “The ephemera flies to hail thee, candle of all our night, / And flaming dies, in adoration of its doom;”
    But shouldn’t that be ‘fly’ rather than ‘flies’ because ‘ephemera’ is plural, ‘ephemeron’ being its singular?

    The Remorse of the Dead
    A remarkable poem of a “brothel with the dead,–“!

    Memories of ‘you’ make phantoms harmless… You who read this, making retrocausal memories for me even while you read my words?

    Donne could well have written this, while in unmetaphysical, Byronic mood.

  28. Outlanders
    An oblique poem about ‘strange wars’ – resonating with today’s world by retrocausal osmosis back toward CAS still writing it?

    …a hypothesis that is reinforced by,..
    Song of the Necromancer
    “And spectres terrible and fair
    Shall walk the riven world at noon.”

    To Howard Phillips Lovecraft
    And even this wonderful (famous?) poem has that undercurrent of Cathrianism amid the breathless poignancy of a new KADATH and Cthulhu. Old Ones stirring in their sleep.
    “For us the grief, for us the mystery…”

    Madrigal of Memory
    Sexual love pangs amid “covens of lost dreamers…”

    Meanwhile… The Old Water Wheel endlessly turns in dreary, tired dread. A dark Koyaanisqatsi…

    The Hill of Dionysus
    “These things are part of all futurity; / And she and I and he, / Returning as before, / Participate in some unfinished mystery.”
    And I near-wept at that, at all that is happening around us. A perfect storm, if still a calm stoical Casian one. Still eased by alcohol and forgetful fitful lazy entertainment and desperate gestalt seeking.

    …further “out-ringed by the far-flung / orbit of death.” If Winter Remain and most of this poem’s lines uniquely fail to start with upper case letters. A subtle message to us today. We have lost our nobility.

    Then a ‘doom-preparing’ refrain of Amithaine

    And I shall now read STJ’s material in this book, material which I am sure will give me more food for thought and information that I do not yet know. Thanks to him for this book.

    This seems to convey all I have said in this review. I at least have that to hang onto.
    “The sorcerer departs…”


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