By: Clark Ashton Smith
December 14, 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.

Johannes Molzahn’s Roar of Space (1919)


A voice cried to me in a dawn of dreams,
Saying, “Make haste: the webs of death and
Are brushed away, and all the threads of
Wear to the breaking; spaceward gleams
Thine ancient pathway of the suns,
Whose flame is part of thee;
And deeps outreach immutably
Whose largeness runs
Through all thy spirit’s mystery.
Go forth, and tread unharmed the blaze
Of stars where through thou camest in old
Pierce without fear each vast
Whose hugeness crushed thee not within
     the past.
A hand strikes off the chains of Time,
A hand swings back the door of years;
Now fall earth’s bonds of gladness and of
And opens the strait dream to space


Who rides a dream, what hand shall stay!
What eye shall note or measure mete
His passage on a purpose fleet,
The thread and weaving of his way!
It caught me from the clasping world,
And swept beyond the brink of Sense,
My soul was flung, and poised, and whirled,
Like to a planet chained and hurled
With solar lightning strong and tense.
Swift as communicated rays
That leap from severed suns a gloom
Within whose waste no suns illume,
The wingèd dream fulfilled its ways.
Through years reversed and lit again
I followed that unending chain
Wherein the suns are links of light;
Retraced through lineal, ordered spheres
The twisting of the threads of years
In weavings wrought of noon and night;
Through stars and deeps I watched the
     dream unroll,
Those folds that form the raiment of the


Enkindling dawns of memory,
Each sun had radiance to relume
A sealed, disused, and darkened room
Within the soul’s immensity.
Their alien ciphers shown and lit,
I understood what each had writ
Upon my spirit’s scroll;
Again I wore mine ancient lives,
And knew the freedom and the gyves
That formed and marked my soul.


I delved in each forgotten mind,
The units that had builded me,
Whose deepnesses before were blind
And formless as infinity —
Knowing again each former world —
From planet unto planet whirled
Through gulfs that mightily divide
Like to an intervital sleep.
One world I found, where souls abide
Like winds that rest upon a rose;
Thereto they creep
To loose all burden of old woes.
And one I knew, where warp of pain
Is woven in the soul’s attire;
And one, where with new loveliness
Is strengthened Beauty’s olden chain —
Soft as a sound, and keen as fire —
In light no darkness may depress.


Where no terrestrial dreams had trod
My vision entered undismayed,
And Life her hidden realms displayed
To me as to a curious god.
Where colored suns of systems triplicate
Bestow on planets weird, ineffable,
Green light that orbs them like an outer
And large auroral noons that alternate
With skies like sunset held without abate,
Life’s touch renewed incomprehensibly
The strains of mirth and grief’s harmonious
Dead passions like to stars relit
Shone in the gloom of ways forgot;
Where crownless gods in darkness sit
The day was full on altars hot.
I heard — once more a part of it —
The central music of the Pleiades,
And to Alcyone my soul
Swayed with the stars that own her song’s
Unchallenged, glad I trod, a revenant
In worlds Edenic longly lost;
Or walked in spheres that sing to these,
O’er space no light has crossed,
Diverse as Hell’s mad antiphone uptossed
To Heaven’s angelic chant.


What vasts the dream went out to find!
I seemed beyond the world’s recall
In gulfs where darkness is a wall
To render strong Antares blind!
In unimagined spheres I found
The sequence of my being’s round —
Some life where firstling meed of Song,
The strange imperishable leaf,
Was placed on brows that starry Grief
Had crowned, and Pain anointed long;
Some avatar where Love
Sang like the last great star at morn
Ere Death filled all its sky;
Some life in fresher years unworn
Upon a world whereof
Peace was a robe like to the calms that lie
On pools aglow with latter spring:
There Life’s pellucid surface took
Clear image of all things, nor shook
Till touch of Death’s obscuring wing;
Some earlier awakening
In pristine years, when giant strife
Of forces darkly whirled
First forged the thing called Life —
Hot from the furnace of the sun s—
Upon the anvil of a world.


Thus knew I those anterior ones
Whose lives in mine were blent;
Till, lo! my dream, that held a night
Where Rigel sends no word of might,
Was emptied of the trodden stars,
And dwindled to the sun’s extent —
The brain’s familiar prison-bars,
And raiment of the sorrow and the mirth
Wrought by the shuttles intricate of earth.

— The title poem of a 1912 collection, the author’s first. (Note that HILOBROW previously published section IV of this poem as “From Planet Unto Planet Whirled.”) Smith later found success in the fantasy and horror field publishing in Weird Tales alongside Robert E. Howard and H.P. Lovecraft. (His literary friendship with Lovecraft lasted from 1922 until Lovecroft’s passing in 1937.) Smith’s “weird” stories form several cycles, called after the lands in which they are set: Averoigne, Hyperborea, Mars, Poseidonis, Zothique.

Smith said of his writing style that: “My own conscious ideal has been to delude the reader into accepting an impossibility, or series of impossibilities, by means of a sort of verbal black magic, in the achievement of which I make use of prose-rhythm, metaphor, simile, tone-color, counter-point, and other stylistic resources, like a sort of incantation.”


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