Hesperian Fall

Clark Ashton Smith

The season brings but little gold,
And only rusty gules and sanguines dull
To these rude hills with darkling lava cored
And with thick, sombre rocks embossed
That yield small pasture to the mordant sun;
And leaves of toneless brown and fawn
Cluster the glaucous foliage of blue-oaks
Amid the fallow grasses leonine;
And the live-oaks' grave and winter-waiting green
And the dim greys and dusky verdures of the pines
Seem to turn darker with October's heat.
In lowland and ravine
By dwindled nil and narrowed river, willow
And poplar and wild grape
Will burn to purer yellows,
To ruddier or more empurpled stains;
And in the rows of fruit-plucked orchard trees
Exotic pomp, deciduous splendor royal-hued
Of other climes and orient autumns flame:
But here the desiccate and sun-struck fells
No similar gauds assume.

Watching the tardy portents of slow change
Prolonged unnotably through changeless days,
I walk in solitude
Where memories return
That die not with a single season's leaves
But still delay the blind nepenthean doom,
And gather stranger hues
Than these that clothe the tree
Or fold the autumnal earth.
Love walks with me, a spectre beautiful
With fallen seasons and with suns that were,
And on the ground our linkèd shadows run
Together, and her heavy hair is blown,
The invisible sending of a witch's web,
On winds from off the sea
Whose autumn shore we followed long ago;
And ecstasy and teen
Wild as the spray of combers reaching us
On crags that held the perilous paths of love,
Return to haunt these uplands calm and sere;
And wafts of cypress-balsam, keen and sweet,
From the sped years blow over me,
And Lobos rises like a granite ghost
To crown the sealess wold.

Thus conscious and remembering,
I move across a land
That seems oblivion's self—
A land whose primal languors drowse the will,
Whose sleepy light and dim-horizoned air
Proffer the earth's antique forgetfulness.
But for awhile I spurn
The peace that comes to all or rathe or late,
And clasp the cherished pain
As one with face amid thorned blossoms pressed
Who finds them fragranter
Than those that bear no thorn.
Now, where the stones lie still
And taciturn and secret and withdrawn
In that dark entity we cannot share,
And where the pines their level branches swing
Lightly in gusts that rise and pass,
But stir not ever from their rooted stance,
I hear a voice that sings
Some old-world measure magical and clear,
Or catch the glimmer of a girl's white feet
Moving in moonlit saraband.
O voice none other hears, that sings for me!
Now must I muse on passions that unfold
Slow as the lichen grows,
Or swiftly as the fungus of the night;
And think on how
The many have withered but the one abides. . . .

The shadow of a cloud
Falls on the gnarled and boulder-buttressed oak
Beneath whose boughs I pause,
Noting the mistletoe
Already pearled with wintry berries white
'Mid leaves of mottled bronze and feuillemort.
Haply the days draw nigh
When dark-toothed wind and tempest will assail
Such spare, sad splendor as these hills put on,
And wildly strew
Green leaves and sere together to that doom
Which waits for all.
Meanwhile the southward-drooping sun shines warm
On grasses pale and foliages that fade
And on the fadeless lichen of the stone;
And still, O season of Circean dreams
Preferred from long ago,
I find a music far and sorcerous
Like one who hears the dryad singing from her tree;
And still, beneath this latter sun,
Love is the freshness of your shadows, love
The flame that in your distant azure sleeps.

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