Poems in Tribute to GS

By Clark Ashton Smith

Below are the five poems Clark Ashton Smith wrote in trbute to his friend and mentor.

To George Sterling

    And I too found the seaward way
    —Venus Letalis.

Deep are the chasmal years and lustrums long
Since, following that dark Venus of thy dream,
Thou camest to the lulling foams's extreme. . . .

But, safely builded beyond change and wrong,
And past "the fleeting plaudits of the throng,"
With blazons blown on some ethereal stream
In crystal and in haliotis gleam,
Crag-founded, thine aeolian domes of song.

Yet, ah! the vanished voice we shall not hear!
Alas! thy footsteps ending on the sand
By doubtful seas and skies not understood. . . .
Strange shells are found along that silent strand:
Thou too hast often held them to thine ear
And heard the baffled murmur of thy blood.

(To George Sterling, Roy A. Squires 1970)

 

To George Sterling

What questioners have met the gaze of Time,
  Whose searchless eyes unyielding theirs denied,
  Till sank the casual monarch's baseless pride,
And transitory fames of sword or rhyme!
What fames from gulfs monotonous shall climb,
  Whose eyes ephemeral, unverified,
  Shall that enduring scrutiny abide
As men that face the noontide sun sublime!

One after one the searchers stare and fall,
  Abased before its unabated scorn,
But this thy fame, in days eventual,
  'Mid ruins desolate shall stand unworn,
Confronting Time in vastness musical,
  Like Memnon's statue staring at the morn.

(To George Sterling, Roy A. Squires 1970)

 

To George Sterling

His song shall waken the dull-sleeping throng
  That dreams of sullen and of earth-bound things;
  He soars with Beauty where the Eternal sings,
And the Deep's insuperable chants prolong
The everlasting sovereignties of Song—
  Where caverned thunder from the mountains flings
  Its dirge o'er the dust of crumbled thrones and kings,
He stands defiant of Oblivion's wrong.

But ampler Liberty, divine and strange,
  Hums in the song of his Promethean lyre,
    An echo of lost Time's immortal ones;
The tangled webs of mortal Death and Change
  Perish before his chanting lyric fire
    That gleams in the paling light of sinking suns.

(To George Sterling, Roy A. Squires 1970)

 

To George Sterling

High priest of this our latter Song,
  Whose voice sustains her empery
  Far-fled beside the western sea,
With ocean-tones thy voice is strong;

And as the spirit of a height,
  Whose calm, majestic eyes behold
  The lower hills like waves outrolled,
And watch from vantages of light

The abysmal surge of heavenly wars,
  And know sidereal mirth and pain,
  Thou call'st to me, who may not gain
Thy vast horizon of the stars.

Yet though I breathe a fainter tone,
  And bring to Beauty's deathless shrine
  A lesser offering than thine,
Whose blooms in loftier soil are grown,

Mayhap the note that I have sung,
  Obedient to the Muse's call,
  Is not in vain; the coronal
Of fragile flowers not voidly flung.

And this the recompense I find:
  To pass, a cadence of her lyre—
  A flame to feed her alter-fire—
And breath on some supernal wind.

(To George Sterling, Roy A. Squires 1970)]

 

To George Sterling: A Valediction

                I

Farewell, a late farewell! Tearless and unforgetting,
Alone, aloof, I twine
Cypress and golden rose, plucked at the chill sunsetting,
Laurel, amaracus, and dark December vine
Into a garland wove not too unworthily
For thee who seekest now an asphodel divine.
Though immaterial the leaf and blossom he,
Haply they shall outlinger these the seasons bring,
The seasons take, and tell of mortal monody
Through many a mortal spring.

                II

Once more, farewell! Naught is to do, naught is to say,
Naught is to sing but sorrow!
For grievous is the night, and dolorous the day
In this one hell of all the damned we wander thorough.
Thou hast departed—and the dog and swine abide,
The fetid-fingered ghouls will delve, on many a morrow
In charnel, urn and grave: the sun shall lantern these,
Oblivious, till they too have faltered and have died,
And are no more than pestilential breath that flees
On air unwalled and wide.

                III

Let ape and pig maintain their council and cabal:
In ashes gulfward hurled,
Thou art gone forth with all of loveliness, with all
Of glory long withdrawn from a desertless world.
Now let the loathlier vultures of the soul convene:
They have no wings to follow thee, whose flight is furled
Upon oblivion's nadir, or some lost demesne
Of the pagan dead, vaulted with perfume and with fire,
Where blossoms immarcescible in vespertine
Strange amber air suspire.

                IV

Peace, peace! for grief and bitterness avails not ever,
And sorrow wrongs thy sleep:
Better it is to be as thou, who art forever
As part and parcel of the infinite fair deep—
Who dwellest now in mystery, with days hesternal
And time that is not time: we have no need to weep,
For woe may not befall, where thou in ways supernal
Hast found the perfect love that is oblivion,
The poppy-tender lips of her that reigns, eternal,
In realms not of the sun.

                V

Peace, peace! Idle is our procrastinating praise,
Hollow the harps of laud;
And not necessitous the half-begrudgèd bays
To thee, whose song forecrowned thee for a lyric god,
Whose name shall linger strangely, in the sunset years,
As music from a more enchanted period—
An echo flown upon the changing hemispheres,
Re-shaped with breath of alien maiden, alien boy,
Re-sung in future cities, mixed with future tears,
And with remoter joy.

                VI

From Aphrodite thou hast turned to Proserpine:
No treason hast thou done,
For neither goddess is a goddess more divine,
And verily, my brother, are the twain not one?
We too, as thou, with hushed desire and silent paean,
Beyond the risen dark, beyond the fallen sun,
Shall follow her, whose pallid breasts, on shores Lethean,
Are favorable phares to barges of the world;
And we shall find her there, even as the Cytherean,
In love and slumber furled.

(Selected Poems, Arkham House 1971)