The Flight of Azrael

Clark Ashton Smith

Scene: an immense and darkling plain, remotely lit by the sunset of the last day. Two demons, passing from the interstellar deep, have paused on an isolated hill-top.

First Demon

What world is this, all desolate and dim
Under the lone, phantasmagoric heavens
Great with the hanging night? Yon luminance
Is lurid as the Furnace-glare of hell,
Seen from the contiguity of gloom
Of a Cimmerian region. All the air
Flags heavily, as beneath the weight of wings
Invisible and evil-from the plain
No movement, save of shadows mustering
Behind the heels of day.

Second Demon

                     It is the Earth,
A hoary planet, old in wrath and woe
As any hell. Red pestilence and war
Have now refunded to the usuring wind
The breath of all its peoples; Azrael,
Delivering now the town and necropole
To one decay in night's abysmal vault,
Prepares him for departure. From afar,
Seest thou not the towering of his wings,
Like thunder on the sunset? Widening,
Those vans involve and stifle half the light
With bat-like folds and ribs: on the further stars,
Or worlds unknown of the outer infinite,
He now intends the darkness of his course;
On Algol's planets haply poised, he will
Make permanent the sable sun's eclipse,
Or round some vast Antarean satellite
His shadowed arc will broaden to a sphere,
Oblivion's black and perfect globe. . . . On Earth
He comes no more: the very worms have died
In the scarce-nibbled carrion; the thin wind
Will write man's epitaph in shifting sand,
And the pale unfading arabesques of frost
Adorn and fret his ghoul-forgotten tomb.

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