To Nora May French (II)

Clark Ashton Smith

Importunate, the lion-throated sea,
Blind with the mounting foam of winter, mourns
To cliffs where cling the wrenched and labored roots
Of cypresses, and blossoms granite-grown
Lose in the gale their tattered petals, cast
On bleak, tumultous cauldrons of the tide
Where fell thine ashes. Past the cobalt bay
The morning dunes a Just of marble seem—
Wrought from primeval fanes to Beauty reared,
And shattered by some vandal Titan's mace
To more than time's own ruin. Woods of pine
Above the dunes in Gothic gloom recede,
And climb the ridge that arches to the north
Long as a lolling dragon's chine. The gulls,
Like ashen leaves far off upon the wind,
Flutter above the broad and smouldering sea
That lightens with the fire-white foam. But thou,
Of whom the sea is urn and sepulcher,
Who hast thereof a blown tumultuous sleep
And stormy peace in gulfs impacable—
What carest thou if Beauty loiter there,
Clad with the crystal noon? What carest thou
If sharp and sudden balsams of the pine
Mingle for her in the air's bright thurible
With keener fragrance proffered by the deep
From riven gulfs resounding ? . . . Knowest thou
What solemn shores of crocus-colored light,
Reared by the sunset in its realm of change,
Will mock the dream-lost isles that sirens ward,
And charm the icy emerald of the seas
To unabiding iris ? Knowest thou
The waxing of the wan December foam—
A thunder-cloven veil that climbs and falls
Upon the cliffs forevermore ?

Thou art still
As they that sleep in the eldest pyramid-
Or mounded with Mesopotamia
And immemorial deserts! Thou hast part
In the wordless, dumb conspiracy of death—
Silence wherein the warrior kings accord
And all the wrangling seers ! If now thy voice
In any wise return, and word of thee,
It is a lost, incognizable sigh
Upon the wind's oblivious woe, or blown,
Antiphonal, from wave to plangent wave,
In the vast unhuman sorrow of the main
On tides that lave the city-laden shores
Of lands wherein the eternal vanities
Are served at many altars; tides that wash
Lemuria's unfathomable walls,
And idly sway the weed-involvèd oars
Rotting amid the moles of orichalchum
In deep Atlantis; tides resurgent ever
From coral-coffered bones of all the drowned,
And sunless tombs of pearl that krakens guard.

II

As none shall roam the sad Leucadian rock
Above the sea's immitigable moan,
But in his heart a song that Sappho sang,
And flame-like murmur of the muted lyres
That time has not extinguished, and the cry
Of nightingales two thousand years ago
Shall mix with those remorseful chords that break
To endless foam and thunder; and he learn
The unsleeping woe that lives in Mytelene
Till wave and deep arc dumb with ice, and rime
Has paled the rose for ever—even thus,
Daughter of Sappho, passion-souled and fair,
Whose face the lutes of Lesbos would have sung
And white Erinna followed—even thus
The western wave is eloquent of thee,
And half the wine-like fragrance of the foam
Is attar of thy spirit, and the pines,
From breasts of darkling, melancholy green,
Release remembered echoes of thy song
To airs importunate. No wraith of fog,
Twice-ghostly with the Hecatean moon,
Nor rack of blown, phantasmal spume shall rise,
But I will dream thy spirit walks the sea,
Unpacifed with Lethe. Thou art grown
A part of alt sad beauty, and my soul
Has found thy buried sorrow in its own,
Inseparable for ever. Moons that pass
Immaculate, to solemn pyres of snow,
And meres whereon the broken lotus dies,
Are kin to thee, as wine-lipped autumn is,
With suns of swift irreparable change,
And lucid evenings eager-starred. Of thee
The pearlèd fountains tell, and winds that take
In one white swirl the petals of the plum
And leave the branches lonely. Royal blooms
Of the magnolia, pale as beauty's brow,
And foam-white myrtles, and the fiery, bright
Pomegranate-flowers, will subtly speak of thee
While spring has speech and meaning. Music has
Her fugitive and uncommanded chords,
That thrill with tremors of thy mystery,
Or turn the void thy fleeing soul has left
To murmurs inenarrable, that hold
Epiphanies of blind, conceiveless vision,
And things we dare not know, and dare not dream.

Printed from: www.eldritchdark.com/writings/poetry/593
Printed on: November 20, 2017