^Venus^[Aphrodite] And The Priest

Clark Ashton Smith

SCENE: The house of a village priest, at midnight. The priest himself is revealed in prayer before the crucifix, besides a table piled with Commentaries and the Lives of the Saints. His features are buried in a shadow such as Rembrandt loved to paint; but the ochre-coloured light of a dying candle gleams on his heavy hair, and on a back and shoulders to whose shapely outlines the black gown has moulded itself in supple curves. He bows head with a voiceless prayer, whose nature, perhaps, it were not well to examine over-curiously, or surmise with too much confidence. Suddenly, the austere room, and the young, attractive frame of the priest, are suffused with a glare of rosy light that emanates from the mid-air. The crucifix is seen to tremble and totter and recede, the room seems to expand, the walls to melt away; and the heavy cross, with burden, soars and diminishes to a flying mote, lost in immensities of splendor. In its place, a woman stands-a woman fair and voluptuous as the first dreams of puberty, and naked as an antique statue. Her breasts and arms are moulded in the solemn, superb, inevitable lines of a divine lasciviousness; and her hair is like morning on a waterfall; her eyes are the sapphires bathed in wine. She smiles, and in the curve of he r crescent lips ineffable lore is manifest, as if an entire kalpa of summers were epitomizes in a single rose. With open arms, she advances toward the priest, who turns in terror, and put s the table with its black-bound commentaries between himself and the apparition. She pauses, but continues to smile.

The Priest: Saint Anthony preserve us! ...Who are you?


^xxx^ xxx was added by Smith.
[xxx] xxx was deleted by Smith.

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