Saturday, November 24, 2018

Antony to Cleopatra

Here is another early poem from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) that was never published during his lifetime:

Lie still: the sultry, large, Egyptian moon,
An amber face with hair of trailing flame,
Hath found the breasted hills beyond the Nile,
And rests a little.  Let thy royal head
Upon my bosom find a kindred peace,
This interim of languor-laden dreams,
Which is the truce of passion: Turn thy lips,
Flower-like, and lay them on thy weary flesh,
And veins o'erworn of pleasure; let thy hair,
Enwound about our mingled arms, run on,
Nor disentwine the happy knees and thighs
Our long delight hath wedded...We shall lie
And deep within subsiding pulses feel
A drowsy joy that is not ecstasy
And wakeful peace, more dear than Lethe's draught
Like welling from out the central fount of Love,
A wine with poppies laden, while we dream
Of blissful nights that were, and things to be.
Star by star
The splendid night of our desire goes down
To join the nights of Babylon and Ur,
And stately worlds forgotten; Dawn shall rise,
A hueless nenuphar in heavenly pools, 
With Tyrian shores of cloud land circled round.
And flames ardent and crimson, opening
Its wide and magic petals, measureless,
Whose perfume is the balmy wind that blows
From Syria, and the Persian incense-bearing shores
Of all the royal East. 

The languid sensuality of this poem is intoxicating, as the author sets a stately pace imbued with a narcotic sensibility.  He plays up the romantic legend of the famous classical lovers, saturated with all the indolence and luxury of their unique station.  The lovers seem to have found a brief respite from their turbulent lives, and CAS captures all the sultry glory of the moment.

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