Medusa

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Medusa  (1911) 
by Clark Ashton Smith
1911.

As drear and barren as the glooms of Death,
It lies, a windless land of livid dawns,
Nude to a desolate firmament, with hills
That seem the gibbous bones of the mummied Earth,
And plains whose hollow Face is rivelled deep
With gullies twisting like a serpent's track.
The leprous touch of Death is on its stones,
Where, for his token visible, the Head
Is throned upon a heap of monstrous rocks
Rough-mounded like some shattered pyramid
In a thwartly cloven hill-ravine, that seems
The unhealing scar of huge Tellurian wars.
Her lethal beauty crowned with twining snakes
That mingle with her hair, the Gorgon reigns.
Her eyes are clouds wherein black lightnings lurk,
Yet, even as men that seek the glance of Life,
The gazers come, where, coiled and serpent-swift,
Those levins wait. As round an altar-base
Her victims lie, distorted, blackened forms
Of postured horror smitten into stone—
Time caught in meshes of Eternity—
Drawn back from dust and ruin of the years,
And given to all the future of the world.
The land is claimed of Death: the daylight comes
Half-strangled in the changing webs of cloud
That unseen spiders of bewildered winds
Weave and unweave across the lurid sun
In upper air. Below, no zephyr comes
To break with life the circling spell of doom.
Long vapor-serpents twist about the moon,
And in the windy murkness of the sky
The guttering stars are wild as candle-flames
That near the socket.

Thus the land shall be,
And Death shall wait, throned in Medusa's eyes,
Till in the irremeable webs of night
The sun is snared, and the corroded moon
A dust upon the gulfs, and all the stars
Rotted and fallen like rivets from the sky,
Letting the darkness down upon all things.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1923.

The author died in 1961, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 50 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.