Monday, April 6, 2020

Idylle paîenne

This poem from Clark Ashton Smith (CAS) was unpublished in his lifetime, and is not available on The Eldritch Dark, so here's the complete text:

I know an ancient land,
Where the feignèd birds, long dreamt of us, 
Float all alone in the pagan water;
Where the wind is oftentime so gentle
That it sows not to the idle wave 
The frail flowers of the bushes green
That grow above the seas
From the height of the massive shore.

It is a land where the olden gods
Have flown not toward other skies;
Where famishing lamias
Allure us to their hidden covert;
Where drowsy dryads
Lie in the shade that is touched 
By a golden sun through the willow-wood;
Where the siren in the bay
From the glaucous gulf profound
Swims indolently at full noon.

There are no crumbled shrines,
There are no broken laurel-trees:
Here one shall find the by-gone days
And the nights long flowed away.
For us, who come full tardily
Unto its vales, unto its groves,
This land remains imperishable,
Sleeping a sleep chimerical
And bathed by the enchantment
Of its never-failing yellow dawn.

A rough English translation of the poem's title would be "Pagan idyll", which certainly is a match for the wistful contents.  I love the lines "It is a land where the olden gods / Have flown not toward other skies", with its clear intimation that those same gods have indeed fled the world we know.

It's hard not to feel the same yearnings that CAS expresses in these lines - magic and wonder are not absent from our earthly reality, but they are strangers here, and often unwelcome in our public life.  So much the sadder for us!

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