Monday, January 18, 2016

Alienation by Clark Ashton Smith

As part of researching Canadian fanzines for my upcoming book The Great Fright North, I've been delving into Supramundane Stories, which was Canada's first SF fanzine created by this country's first true genre fan, Nils Helmer Frome. He only published two issues, which primarily contained science fiction content; yet some of the work bled into the realm of weird fiction, the supernatural, and the macabre.

The second issue (Spring 1938) includes "Alienation," a 12-stanza poem by Clark Ashton Smith. Smith was a contemporary of H.P. Lovecraft, and is well-known for his short stories and poems that ran the gamut of science fiction, fantasy, and horror.

This poem was written in 1935, and reprinted elsewhere with the title "The Outer Land."


by Clark Ashton Smith (1938)

From the close valleys of thy love,
Where flowers of white and coral are,
And the soft gloom of cave and grove,
How have I wandered, spent and far,
By fell and mountain thence forbanned,
Into this lamia-haunted land?

I could not know the coiling path,
Pebbled with sard and lazuli,
Would lead me to the desert's wrath,
The rancor of the glaring sky,
The tarns that like stirred serpents hiss,
The dens of drake and cockatrice.

I roam a limbo long abhorred, 
Whose dread horizons flame and flow
Like iron from a furnace poured:
A bournless realm of sterile woe,
Where mad mirages fill the dawn
With roses lost and fountains gone.

O land where dolent monsters mate!
I know the lusts that howl and run
When the red stones reverberate
The red, intolerable sun:
The soot-black lecheries that wail
From Hinnom to the moons of bale.

What desert naiads, amorous,
Have drawn me to their sunken strand!
How many a desert succubus
Has clasped me on her couch of sand!
What liches foul, with breast nor face,
Have seemed to bear thy beauty's grace!

What voices have besought me here
With sweet illusion of thine own,
Luring me, rapt and unaware, 
To pits where wounded demons moan!
What marble limbs have gleamed as thine--
Slow-sinking into sand or brine!

Briefly in desolate hermitages,
I have lain down in my despair.
Dreaming to sleep as slept the sages:
But unseen lust oppressed the air,
And crimson drams of incubi,
And thirst of anthropophagi.


Entire, from mountains scaled at noon,
I scan the realm of my duress:
Deep-cleaven plain and nippled dune;
Like to some sleeping giantess,
Pale and supine, by gods desired
With hearts deliriously fired.

Still without respite, I must follow
Where the faint, exile rills bequeath
Their bitterness to gulf and hollow.
Still the blown dusts of ruin breathe
Fretting my face. My feet return
By salt-bright shores that blind and burn.

Silence immeasurable creeps
Across my path...My sharpened ears
Are dinned with tumult from the deeps, 
Are frayed by whispers of the sphere;
And direly, in the sepulcher,
I hear the strident dead confer.

Gnawed by unceasing solitude,
The secret veils of sight grow thin:
High domes that dazzle and elude,
Columns of darkling god and djinn,
Appear; and things forbidden seem
Unsealed as in some awful dream.

My heart, consumed yet unconsuming,
Burns like a dreadful ardent sun,
The horror of strange nights illuming:
Shall yet I find the ways foregone,
And speak, before the heart of thee, 
The still-remembered Sesame?


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