Friday, February 12, 2010

The Nostalgia of Things Unknown

The nostalgia of things unknown, of lands forgotten or unfound, is upon me at times. Often I long for the gleam of yellow suns upon terraces of translucent azure marble, mocking the windless waters of lakes unfathomably calm; for lost, legendary palaces of serpentine, silver and ebony, whose columns are green stalactites; for the pillars of fallen temples, standing in the vast purpureal sunset of a land of lost and marvellous romance. I sigh for the dark-green depths of cedar forests, through whose fantastically woven boughs, one sees at intervals an unknown tropic ocean, like gleams of blue diamond; for isles of palm and coral, that fret an amber morning, somewhere beyond Cathay or Taprobane; for the strange and hidden cities of the desert, with burning brazen domes and slender pinnacles of gold and copper, that pierce a heaven of heated lazuli.

--Clark Ashton Smith

13 comments:

  1. who is the painter. I love this type of work when thinking about NPCs.

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  2. It's a watercolor painting by CAS himself.

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  3. This is an inspired nostalgia that I understand only too well. Thanks for posting it James it finally got me to read one of Smith's short stories and I loved it. From a quick look at his works it seems there is a wealth of inspiration there for demonic monsters and dark adventures. Fantastic!

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  4. Nice, that touches the drive and inspiration in all of us gamer folks that makes us want to play these games of fantasy. I betcha he would have been rolling some d20's had he been born in the right decade.

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  5. My favorite quote, from my favorite writer.

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  6. Totally unrelated, but I know how you like to be a rpg historian. You should read this thread:
    http://forum.rpg.net/showthread.php?t=499108

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  7. James,

    CAS uses the colour amber repeatedly throughout his short stories (the Averoigne tales particularly). I noticed it again in the quote. Do you know where this comes from? Moldvay followed suit throughout Castle Amber.

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  8. Very evocative quote. Simply conjures pure adventure in less that 150 words. Thanks James.

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  9. CAS is fond of colors of all sorts and uses them frequently in his writings. It's true that amber does appear a lot, but I can't say as to why that might be.

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  10. "Purpureal prose at its best!"

    Dag-blast it! That was the exact bad joke I was going to use Duglas.

    I think the use of many and varied terms for colour is one of the defining characteristics of Smith's writings. To me it evokes very well the visual style of Orientalist and Symbolist paintings of the late 19th century. I am sure that this is no coincidence as Smith's aesthetic and philosophical sensibilities seem to constitute a continuation of that tradition.

    I'm fairly sure there's a CAS quote somewhere where he describes his intent to enchant, entrance or hypnotise the reader with his prose. I think this is an excellent illustration of that process.

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  11. I not only share Smith's nostalgia, I firmly believe that such nostalgia has an object in reality.

    After all, a man does not grow hungry for what cannot be eaten. He does not thirst for what cannot be drunk.

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