Ode on Imagination

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Ode on Imagination  (1912) 
by Clark Ashton Smith

Imagination's eyes
Outreach and distance far
The vision of the greatest star
That measures instantaneously—
Enisled therein as in a sea—
Its cincture of the system-laden skies.
Abysses closed about with night
A tribute yield
To her retardless sight;
And Matter's walls reveal the candent ores
Rock-held in furnaces of planet-cores.
She penetrates the sun's transplendent shield,
And through that inner vastness, sphered and dire,
Pierces his dreadful heart, whose gurge of fire
Heaves outward, riven by Titanic throes,
And fills his frame with tide and cataract
Of thunder-pulsing, incandescent streams.
Her eyes exact
From the Moon-Sphinx that wanes and grows
In wastes celestial, alien dreams
Brought down on wings of spectral beams.
Adown the clefts of under-space,
She rides, her steed a falling star,
To seek, where void and vagueness are,
Some mark or certainty of place.
Upon their heavenly precipice,
The gathered suns shrink back aghast
From that interminate abyss,
And threat of sightless anarchs vast.

She stands endued
With supermundane crown, and vestitures
Of emperies that include
All underworlds and overworlds of dream—
Domains with shadow bound,
Cimmerian and profound,
And heights of some Himalaya supreme
Where moon-transcending light endures.
She roams in grey, fantasmal lands, where grow
In scarce-discernèd fields and closes blind,
Faint blossoms stirred by wings of eidolons;
Or wanders all bemused and slow
In woods where only nameless echoes go
And wraiths of ancient wind:
In twilight there she shuns
The strident day, while ecstasy and grief
Speak only in vague whispers like the leaf.

Upon some supersensual eminence
She hears the fragments of a thunder loud,
Where lightnings of ulterior Truth intense
Flame through the walls of hollow cloud.
But these she may not wholly grasp
With unsupernal clasp.
Her eyes inevitably see,
'Neath rounds and changes of exterior things,
The movements of Essentiality—
Of ageless principles—that alter not
To temporal alterings—
Unswerved by shattered worlds upbuilt once more,
And stars no longer hot;
Or broken constellations strewn
Like coals about the heavenly floor,
And rush of night upon the noon
Of their lost worlds, unsphered retrievelessly
In icy deserts of the sky.
From the beginning of the spheres,
When systems nebulous out-thrown
Drove back the brinks
Of nullity with limitary marks,
Till end of suns and sunless death of years,
To her are known
The unevident inseparable links
That bind all deeps, all suns, all days and darks.

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.