THE CLIFFS

By: Charles M. Doughty
October 10, 2022

A (pro- or anti-) science-, mathematics-, technology-, space-, apocalypse-, dehumanization-, disenchantment-, and/or future-oriented poem published during sf’s emergent Radium Age (c. 1900–1935).

Berlin balloon race 1908. LOC

Charles M. Doughty’s The Cliffs (1909) and The Clouds (1912) are near-future invasion tales. Below, an excerpt from The Cliffs, Part I.

*

HOBBE. Ha, what do I hear, this humming in the air?
  (He stands and listens attentively.)
  What see I on height ? and now I hear mens’ voices.
  (An Aerostat is seen descending from the skies.)
  They’re foreign too! O what balloon-like hovering
  Thing is this, that on our sea-cliff lights?
  ’T is likest that those should mean no good by us.
  I’ll, like a skirmisher, shroud me in this briar bush.
  (HOBBE crouches in the bush: voices are heard in the air approaching.)

FIRST VOICE. Herr Baron, right beneath us wide cliff lies!

SECOND VOICE. Cliff-brow of perfide Albion! so alight.

FIRST VOICE. Avast, Hans! let down anchor on the grass.
  (The balloon is brought down. Two foreign
  militaires, with their mechanician, circumspectly alight. He
  beats in pickets, whilst they hold down the airship. They bind her
  thereto, and make all fast with ropes.)

BARON. Herr Ingenieur, we sooner than we looked for,
  Here touch to shore. I like well this first luck;
  Sailing by only compass, in the dark.

INGENIEUR. The airship, as her builder her designed,
  Flies true, though light and staunchly rides the wind.
  Not without life’s fear, was at first her course;
  Whilst low and thwart land currents hindered us;
  And somewhiles tossed.

BAR. So covert is the night,
  There’s not moonlight enough, to view this coast;
  Where our descent, which shall confound the World,
  Determined is to-morrow, to begin.

ING. (looking upon an open sheet in his hands.) This
  Staff-Karte shows, here lies much open heath.

BAR. Where stirs not even a mus ridiculus.
  Well, we must patient time: there’s naught for us,
  But sitting down, to watch the labouring moon,
  That wades this scudding wrack. We may not even
  Light strike to our Zigarren here, to refresh us.

ING. That were gainst regulations for night service.

BAR. To drive the nightlong hours we may discourse,
  At our belle aise.

ING. Shall we sit on this grass?

BAR. ’T is well enough.

  (They sit down.)

AI-assisted illustration by HILOBROW

***

RADIUM AGE PROTO-SF POETRY: H.D.’s STARS WHEEL IN PURPLE | Clark Ashton Smith’s FROM PLANET UNTO PLANET WHIRLED | Anonymous’s ASTRONOMIC JOSH | Rudyard Kipling’s THE SECRET OF THE MACHINES | Randolph Bourne’s SABOTAGE | Stephen Spender’s THE PYLONS | Ford Madox Ford’s GREY MATTER | W.E. Henley’s A SONG OF SPEED | H.L. Mencken’s A BALLAD OF LOOKING | George Sterling’s THE TESTIMONY OF THE SUNS | Vachel Lindsay’s THE SCIENTIFIC ASPIRATION | Thomas Hardy’s EPITAPH FOR G.K. CHESTERTON | Archibald MacLeish’s EINSTEIN | Thomas Thornely’s THE ATOM | Charles M. Doughty’s THE CLIFFS | William Butler Yeats’s THE SECOND COMING | Guillaume Apollinaire’s THE LITTLE CAR | Archibald MacLeish’s MAN! | Max Beerbohm’s A SEQUELULA TO “THE DYNASTS” | C.S. Lewis’s DYMER | Stephen Vincent Benét’s METROPOLITAN NIGHTMARE | Michael Roberts’s NOTE ON Θ, Φ, and Ψ | D.H. Lawrence’s FUTURE WAR | Laurence Binyon’s NUMBERS | Frederik Pohl’s ELEGY TO A DEAD PLANET: LUNA | F.V. Branford’s FAREWELL TO MATHEMATICS | D.H. Lawrence’s THE EVENING LAND | Carl Sandburg’s MANUAL SYSTEM | Robert Frost’s FIRE AND ICE | D.H. Lawrence’s THE REVOLUTIONARY | Blaise Cendrar’s ORION | Aldous Huxley’s FIFTH PHILOSOPHER’S SONG | Charles Buxton Going’s THE SONG OF STEEL | D.H. Lawrence’s UNDERNEATH | Sara Teasdale’s “THERE WILL COME SOFT RAINS” | Edith Södergran’s ON FOOT I HAD TO… | Louis Untermeyer’s PORTRAIT OF A MACHINE | D.H. Lawrence’s BOMBARDMENT | Robert Graves’s WELSH INCIDENT | D.H. Lawrence’s TO LET GO OR TO HOLD ON —? | Nancy Cunard’s ZEPPELINS | W.J. Turner’s MISS AMERICA | Julian Huxley’s TO A DANCER | W.B. Yeats’s SAILING TO BYZANTIUM | John Collings Squire’s THE SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST | D.H. Lawrence’s WELLSIAN FUTURES | Julian Huxley’s COSMIC DEATH | Robinson Jeffers’s SCIENCE | D.H. Lawrence’s SUBURBS ON A HAZY DAY | A.S. Eddington’s ONE THING IS CERTAIN | Rudyard Kipling’s THE TRADE | Emil Raymond’s TWINKLE, TWINKLE, LITTLE STAR | D.H. Lawrence’s THE TRIUMPH OF THE MACHINE | Marianne Moore’s IN THE DAYS OF PRISMATIC COLOR | Vachel Lindsay’s EUCLID | D.H. Lawrence’s GIVE US GODS | Alfred Noyes’s WATCHERS OF THE SKY | Edna St. Vincent Millay’s EUCLID ALONE | W.J. Turner’s IN TIME LIKE GLASS | Emma Rounds’s PLANE GEOMETRY | Robert Grant’s THE SUPERMAN | D.H. Lawrence’s THE THIRD THING | Ralph Milne Farley’s THE END OF THE WORLD | Robinson Jeffers’s ROAN STALLION | A.S. Eddington’s INFINITY | Karel Čapek’s WHAT OUR AGE HAS DONE | D.H. Lawrence’s ROBOT POEMS | Mina Loy’s LUNAR BAEDEKER | John Lehmann’s THIS EXCELLENT MACHINE | Jean Toomer’s HER LIPS ARE COPPER WIRE | D.H. Lawrence’s RELATIVITY | Clark Ashton Smith’s AFTERWARDS | D.H. Lawrence’s SPACE | Ronald Ross’s THE ANNIVERSARY | Rudyard Kipling’s MACDONOUGH’S SONG | Robert Bridges’ THE TESTAMENT OF BEAUTY | Clark Ashton Smith’s THE STAR-TREADER | Archibald MacLeish’s EPISTLE TO BE LEFT TO THE EARTH | D.H. Lawrence’s LET US BE MEN | Michael Roberts’s MIDNIGHT | William Stanley Braithwaite’s DEL CASCAR | F.V. Branford’s THE MOON | A.S. Eddington’s “THERE ONCE WAS A BREATHY BABOON” | Michael Roberts’s PERSPECTIVE | Arthur Schnitzler’s LEINBACH’S PROOF | Michael Roberts’s ROCKS ARE IMMUTABLE | F.V. Branford’s MASTER CELLS | Clark Ashton Smith’s THE NEMESIS OF SUNS | D.H. Lawrence’s DARK SATANIC MILLS | William Empson’s LETTER I | Amy Lowell’s MIDDAY AND AFTERNOON | D.H. Lawrence’s THE GULF | Wallace Stevens’s FABLIAU OF FLORIDA | Kenneth Rexroth’s “HEAVEN IS FULL OF DEFINITE STARS…” | Leslie Pinckney Hill’s ARMAGEDDON | William Stanley Braithwaite’s DISTANCES | Lucian B. Watkins’s SAN FRANCISCO’S 18th OF APRIL (1906) | D.H. Lawrence’s HOLD BACK! | C. Day Lewis’s TRANSITIONAL POEM | Wallace Stevens’s THE IDEA OF A COLONY | D.H. Lawrence’s MEN LIKE GODS | Valery Bryusov’s THE DAYS SHALL COME OF FINAL DESOLATION | Amy Lowell’s A COMPARISON | D.H. Lawrence’s MEN AND MACHINES | Herbert Read’s MUTATIONS OF THE PHŒNIX | T.E. Hulme’s CINDERS | T.S. Eliot’s THE WASTE LAND | Hugh MacDiarmid’s STONY LIMITS | Herbert Read’s THE RETREAT | D.H. Lawrence’s SOULS TO SAVE | Laurence Binyon’s THE ZEPPELIN.

Categories

Poetry, Radium Age SF