To Nora May French (I)

Clark Ashton Smith

Importunate, the lion-throated sea,
Blind with the mounting foam of winter, mourns
To cliffs where cling the wrenched and laboured roots
Of cypresses, and blossoms granite-grown
Lose in the gale their tattered petals, cast
On bleak, tumultuous cauldrons of the tide,
Where fell thy molten ashes. Past the bay,
The morning dunes a dust 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,
For whom the sea is urn and sepulchre,
Who hast thereof a blown, tumultuous sleep,
And stormy peace in gulfs implacable,
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-coloured 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 art one
With the wordless dumb conspiracy of death—

Silence wherein the warrior kings accord,
And all the wrangling sages! If thy voice
In any wise return, and word of thee,
It is a lost, incognizable sigh,
??t of 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-involved oars
???wharves of old Atlantis; tides that rise
From coral-coffered bones of all the drowned,
And sunless tombs of pearl that krakens guard.

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 soft murmer of the muted lyres
That time hath 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 are dumb with ice, and rime
Hath paled the rose forever—even thus,
Daughter of Sappho, sad and passion-souled,
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 they spirit, and the pines,
From breasts of secret, 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, fantasmal spume shall rise,
But I will dream thy spirit walks the sea,
Unpacified with Lethe. Thou art grown
A part of all sad beauty, and my soul
Hath found thy buried sorrow in its own,
Inseparable forever. 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 pearled 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 softly speak of thee,
While spring hath speech and meaning. Music hath
Her fugitive and uncommanded chords,
That thrill with tremors of thy mystery,
Or turn the void thy fleeing soul hath left
To murmurs inenarrable, that hold
Epiphanies of blind, conceiveless vision,
And things we dare not know, and dare not dream.

Lines which contain differences from the published version are emphasised.
The text of this poem was supplied by John Lafler. The manuscript, from which the text was taken, was discovered while doing research on Henry Anderson Lafler.

Printed from: www.eldritchdark.com/writings/poetry/594
Printed on: November 20, 2017