Ode to the Abyss

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Ode to the Abyss  (1911) 
by Clark Ashton Smith
1911. (Listen to this poem).

O many-gulfed, unalterable one,
Whose deep sustains
Far-drifting world and sun,
Thou wast ere ever star put out on thee;
And thou shalt be
When never world remains;
When all the suns' triumphant strength and pride
Is sunk in voidness absolute,
And their majestic music wide
In vaster silence rendered mute.
And though God's will were night to dusk the blue,
And law to cancel and disperse
The tangled tissues of the universe,
His might were impotent to conquer thee,
O indivisible infinity !
Thy darks subdue
All light that treads thee down a space,
Exulting over thine archetypal deeps.
The cycles die, and lo! thy darkness reaps
The flame of mightiest stars;
In aeon-implicating wars
Thou tearest planets from their place;
Worlds granite-spined
To thine erodents yield
Their treasures centrally confined
In crypts by continental pillars sealed.
What suns and worlds have been thy prey
Through unhorizoned reaches of the past!
What spheres that now essay
Time's undimensioned vast,
Shall plunge forgotten to thy gloom at length
With life that cried its query of the Night
To ears with silence filled !
What worlds unborn shall dare thy strength,
Girt by a sun's unwearied might,
And dip to darkness when the sun is stilled!

O incontestable Abyss,
What light in thine embrace of darkness sleeps—
What blaze of a sidereal multitude
No peopled world is left to miss !
What motion is at rest within thy deeps—
What gyres of planets long become thy food—
Worlds unconstrainable
That plunged therein to peace
Like tempest-worn and crew-forsaken ships;
And suns that fell
To huge and ultimate eclipse,
And from the eternal stances found release !
What sound thy gulfs of silence hold !
Stupendous thunder of the meeting stars
And crash of orbits that diverged,
With Life's thin song are merged;
Thy quietudes enfold
Paean and threnody as one,
And battle-blare of unremembered wars
With festal songs
Sung in the Romes of ruined spheres;
And music that belongs
To undiscoverable younger years
With words of yesterday.
Ah ! who may stay
Thy soundless world-devouring tide ?
O thou whose hands pluck out the light of stars,
Are worlds but as a destined fruit for thee ?
May no sufficient bars
Nor marks inveterate abide
As shores to baffle thine unbillowing sea ?
Still and unstriving now,
What plottest thou,
Within thy universe-ulterior deeps,
Dark as the final lull of suns ?
What new advancement of the night
On citadels of stars around whose might
Thy slow encroachment runs,
And crouching silence, thunder-potent, sleeps?

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.