“A Vintage from Atlantis”

This week’s bit of weird fiction being discussed by the Deep Ones over at LibraryThing is a Clark Ashton Smith story I haven’t reviewed before.

Review: “A Vintage from Atlantis”, Clark Ashton Smith, 1933.

Cover by Jason Van Hollander

Scott Connors and Ron Hilger, in their notes for this story in A Vintage from Atlantis, state that several of Smith’s stories for Weird Tales were specifically written as “fillers”, usually less than 3,000 words in length, between longer stories. 

This is one though Weird Tales editor Farnsworth Wright rejected it twice before finally printing it. 

It has a simple plot. 

Recounted by a Stephen Magbane – oddly enough, a Puritan, it’s a tale of pirates and not set in one of Smith’s fictional worlds of the past or future. 

On an island ideally suited to keep their vast loot, the crew of Captain Barnaby Dwale notice a peculiar large jar – seemingly something like an ancient amphora – that has washed up on shore.  Dwale is a man of some learning and notes its similarity between old earthen wine jars and pronounces it a “rare vintage” from Atlantis. 

He decides to sample it. 

After scrapping off the many barnacles on it and breaking the neck off, the wine is served.

Magbane does not drink alcohol and notes that this wine doesn’t seem to produce the usual effects drink does on the pirates. They just sit and stare intently. 

Being something of a perverse sort, Dwale forces Magbane to drink some ot it. Magbane sees startling images of an ancient city and a fane that seems to call to the people he sees. And they don’t emerge again from that temple.

He notices his crewmates start to walk towards it. However, since he drank less than the others, the effects of the Atlantean wine fade quicker for him. 

He sees the other pirates actually walking into the sea. Magbane gets back to civilization because some of the pirates were kept onboard to keep watch and didn’t drink the wine.

The story opens with Magbane in a tavern warning about the effects of drink. 

The descriptions of Atlantis are, of course, well done by Smith, and this is another story of his theme of people under a compulsion of self-destruction. The most famous example, of course, is his ”The City of the Singing Flame”.

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