A Song from Hell

Clark Ashton Smith

This song I got me from the nether pits,
Where, as a witches' cauldron-brew, that blends
Envenomed roots and herbs malingly foul,
With poison-essence drawn from charnel things,
And carrion found by night, the various damned
Bubble and seethe with their own agony,
And cry yo upward firmamental gulfs
(Reddened with blotching flame as though with stars)
A chant that rears like some distillment weird,
Atwist with urge of pain from writhing lips: -

We are the damned - the strain and moil
That Death has washed from earthly time;
Drawn down by tides of Hell, we boil
Like toads within a torrid slime.

Our sins were great - a deadly charge -
And yet less heavythan our fate:
We pour through Hell's alembic large,
Each soul transformed to vital hate;

The good that in our hearts remained
By sin untainted, now is one
With vileness cankeringly ingrained;
By earth and Hell we stand undone -

For that which earth unfinished left,
The consummation of the pit.
From out the insuperable cleft,
To where its lords presiding sit,

And watch with contestless sight,
We burn, by double test refined
To clearest evil - purg├ęd quite
Of good or mercy from the mind.

Our souls are linked to vast despair,
As to some nadir-founded rock,
Where never hope descends to mock
Beyond the dip of terrene air.

We heighten to a hate that beats
In rage all impotently strong
Against the worlds that league with wrong,
Whose pain each other's pain completes.

Ah, would our hate were hands to draw
The lords of earth and hell beneath!
Ah, would our hate were venomed teeth
To rend them through their mail of law!

Ah, would that we might cleave with hate
The roof, and base, and walls of Hell -
Wrench at its pillars till they fell
With ruin indiscriminate!

Immovably it stands, with springs
Of fire to tear its inward glooms,
Wherefrom, ascending high, our fumes
Are breath of incense to its kings.

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