Sunday, September 17, 2023

First Verse

Although he did not receive credit in the table of contents, Clark Ashton Smith had, in the issue of July/August 1923, the first verse in Weird Tales. The first of his two poems in that issue is entitled "The Red Moon." You will find it on page 48.

The Red Moon
by Clark Ashton Smith

The hills, a-throng with swarthy pine,
Press up the pale and hollow sky,
And the squat cypresses on high
Reach from the lit horizon-line.

They reach, they reach, with gnarled hands--
Malignant hags, obscene and dark--
While the red moon, a demons'-ark,
Is borne along the mystic lands.

The second, a sonnet, appearing on page 68, is entitled "The Garden of Evil":

The Garden of Evil
by Clark Ashton Smith

Thy soul is like a secret garden-close.
Where the cleft roots of mandragores enwreathe;
Where lilies and where fumitories breathe,
And ivy winds its flower with the rose;

The lolling weeds of Lethe, green or wan,
Exhale their fatal languors on the light;
From out infernal grails of aconite.
Poisons and dews are proffered to the dawn.

There, when the moon's phantasmal fingers grope
To find the marbles of a hidden tomb.
In cypress-covert sings the nightingale;

And all the silver-bellied serpents pale
Their ruby eyes among the blossoms ope,
To lift and listen in the ghostly gloom.

There were three poems in the January 1924 issue of Weird Tales, "Hops" by Preston Langley Hickey, "Solution" by Clark Ashton Smith, and "The Cataleptic" by Charles Layng. Mary Sharon had the first poem by a women. Hers was called "The Ghost," and it appeared in the February 1924 issue:

The Ghost
by Mary Sharon

There is a ghost that walks for me,
     A Presence that I dread;
The Spirit of the Youth I was
     Before my dreams were dead.

I sit before my study fire,
     While shadows writhe along the wall,
And Spirit hands rap on the door,
     And ghostly feet glide down the hall.

Outside my window, lifeless trees
     Lift fleshless fingers to the sky;
The night wind whistles eerily,
     Its moaning echoes will not die.

This ghost of mine will not be laid,
    Time cannot set me free; 
It is the wraith of dear dead days,
    That comes to torture me.

Note the similarity in imagery between Smith's poem "The Red Moon":

They [the cypresses] reach, they reach, with gnarled hands--

And Mary Sharon's lines:

Outside my window, lifeless trees
     Lift fleshless fingers to the sky;

Should we take that as a swipe? An inspiration of one author to another? Or two minds arriving independently at the same image?

There were six poems in the issue of March 1924 but only one in the issue of April. That one, called "Nemesis," was by H.P. Lovecraft.

I will soon have more on the first of Lovecraft in Weird Tales, including lines of verse he inserted in his letters to "The Eyrie."

Original text copyright 2023 Terence E. Hanley

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