The Dark Eidolon: A short review

“Bow down: I am the emperor of dreams;
I crown me with the million-colored sun
Of secret worlds incredible, and take
Their trailing skies for vestment when I soar,
Throned on the mounting zenith, and illume
The spaceward-flown horizons infinite.

– Clark Ashton Smith, The Hashish Eater; or the Apocalypse of Evil

Thus begins a long, brilliant, encompassing poems that should be read again and again, studied and learned from.

I spent a long time working this volume of short stories and poems. The language was dense and wordy. Clark Ashton Smith was gifted with a marvelous vocabulary and penchant for crafting short tales of horror and dark fantasy. The stories were fantastic, in every sense of the word, and some were truly scary. Smith writes of sorcerers, time travel, monsters, fantastical worlds, Mars, witches, and so much more. In terms of “cosmic horror”, it is plain to see that CAS was contemporary to Lovecraft and was a major contributor to that genre of fiction known as “Lovecraftian.” In fact, I doubt very much that we have a Cthulhu Mythos without the brilliant influence of Clark Ashton Smith.

More than once, while reading through this incredible, imposing, first-rate collection, I found myself thinking in amazement, “I’ve been missing out on something special.” Indeed, my life would have been richer had I begun reading Smith twenty years ago. This was a very slow read for me. I began mid-October and finished at the end of March. I read other books while I was working through this. The language is flowery, the prose is purple, and sometimes I felt like a I needed a respite after reading one of the stories. That statement should not deter anyone from tackling the works of Clark Ashton Smith. His writings, in my opinion, are to be savored and devoured slowly.

With that said, this collection, along with other works of CAS that I will be reading in the future, are now and forever part of my library. I will make studying these tales a part of my writing life, as there is much I can learn about crafting tales of horror, fantasy, and science fiction.

Now, a word on the contents.

The tales included in The Dark Eidolon and Other Fantasies are written masterfully. CAS is a true master of horror, fantasy, science fiction, and the not-so-simple art of crafting compelling stories. The stories included in this volume are not only worth the read but come highly recommended to any fan of “Lovecraftian” tales. They are:

–The Tale of Satampra Zeiros
–The Last Incantation
–The Devotee of Evil
–The Uncharted Isle
–The Face by the River
–The City of the Singing Flame
–The Holiness of Azédarac
–The Vaults of Yoh-Vombis
–The Double Shadow
–The Maze of the Enchanter
–Genius Loci
–The Dark Eidolon
–The Weaver in the Vault
–The Treader of the Dust
–Mother of Toads


The book is broken into three sections. Short stories, Prose poems, and Poetry. These poems are, in my opinion, nearly as good as the dark tales. They include:


Prose Poems

–The Image of Bronze and the Image of Iron
–The Memnons of the Night
–The Demon, the Angel, and Beauty
–The Corpse and the Skeleton
–A Dream of Lethe
–From the Crypts of Memory
–The Litany of the Seven Kisses
–In Cocaigne
–The Flower-Devil
–The Shadows
–The Passing of Aphrodite
–To the Daemon
–The Abomination of Desolation
–The Mirror in the Hall of Ebony
–The Touch-Stone
–The Muse of Hyperborea


–The Last Night
–Ode to the Abyss
–A Dream of Beauty
–The Star-Treader
–Retrospect and Forecast
–To the Daemon Sublimity
–Averted Malefice
–The Eldritch Dark
–Shadow of Nightmare
–Satan Unrepentant
–The Ghoul
–Desire of Vastness
–The Medusa of Despair
–The Refuge of Beauty
–The Harlot of the World
–Memnon at Midnight
–Love Malevolent
–The Crucifixion of Eros
–The Tears of Lilith
–Requiescat in Pace
–The Motes
–The Hashish-Eater; or, The Apocalypse of Evil
–A Psalm to the Best Beloved
–The Witch with Eyes of Amber
–We Shall Meet
–On Re-reading Baudelaire
–To George Sterling: A Valediction
–Anterior Life
–Hymn to Beauty
–The Remorse of the Dead
–Song of the Necromancer
–To Howard Phillips Lovecraft
–Madrigal of Memory
–The Old Water-Wheel
–The Hill of Dionysus
–If Winter Remain