By: Clark Ashton Smith
November 12, 2023

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). Research and selection by Joshua Glenn.

The Spirit of Our Time – Mechanical Head, Raoul Hausmann (1919)


There is a silence in the world
Since we have said farewell;
And beauty with an alien speech
An alien tale would tell.

There is a silence in the world,
Which is not peace nor quiet:
Ever I seek to flee therefrom,
And walk the ways of riot.

But when I hear the music moan
In rooms of thronging laughter,
A tongueless demon drives me forth,
And silence follows after.

— Smith is best known to sf historians as the author of tales of the far future — sometimes set on other planets, sometimes here on Earth — in which evolution has run amuck and the end of the world is nigh. (See his Zothique stories, for example.) He concentrated mainly on poetry for some years, publishing some sf-tinged poems in his first book, The Star-Treader and Other Poems (collected 1912). This poem, which was first published in Auburn Journal (16 August, 1923), and recently reprinted in in Sense of Wonder: A Century of Science Fiction (ed. Leigh Grossman.), doesn’t have to be read as sf at all… but in the context of the author’s sf stories, it feels sf-ish…


RADIUM AGE PROTO-SF POETRY: Stephen Spender’s THE PYLONS | George Sterling’s THE TESTIMONY OF THE SUNS | Archibald MacLeish’s EINSTEIN | Thomas Thornely’s THE ATOM | C.S. Lewis’s DYMER | Stephen Vincent Benét’s METROPOLITAN NIGHTMARE | Robert Frost’s FIRE AND ICE | Aldous Huxley’s FIFTH PHILOSOPHER’S SONG | Sara Teasdale’s “THERE WILL COME SOFT RAINS” | Edith Södergran’s ON FOOT I HAD TO… | Robert Graves’s WELSH INCIDENT | Nancy Cunard’s ZEPPELINS | D.H. Lawrence’s WELLSIAN FUTURES | & many more.


Poetry, Radium Age SF