The Voice

Clark Ashton Smith

(Translated "from the French of Charles Pierre Baudelaire")

My cradle backed itself against the library, a somber Babel where myth and science and romance, the Latin cinders and Greek dust, were all commingled. I was tall as an infolio. Two voices spoke to me. One was insidious and emphatic, saying: "The Earth is a honeycomb full of sweetness, and I am able (thy pleasure in that case will be endless) to make for thee an appetite of sufficient capacity." And the other said to me: "Come, oh, come, to voyage into dreams, beyond all that is possible, beyond all that is known!" I answered: "Yes, sweet voice!" From that moment there dates the thing one might well call my curse and my fatality. Behind the decors of illimitable life, in the darkest gulfs of the abyss, I behold distinctly what singular worlds; and becoming the ecstatic victim of my own clairvoyance, I trail henceforward the hissing serpents that sting my heels. It is since that time that I, like the olden prophets, love so tenderly the desert and the sea; that I laugh at funerals and weep at feasts, and find a smooth savor in the bitterest wine; that I take often the most patent verities for lies, and with eyes upraised to heaven, stumble into pitfalls. But the Voice consoles me, saying: "Cherish thy dreams, for those of the sages are less beautiful than those of the fools and madmen."

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