The Witch in the Graveyard

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
The Witch in the Graveyard  (1922) 
by Clark Ashton Smith
1922.

Scene: A forsaken graveyard, by moonlight. Enter two witches.

First Witch

Sit, sister, now that haggish Hecate
Appropriate and ghastly favor sheds,
And with will light forwards our enterprise;
And watch the weighted eyelids of each grave,
As never mother watched her babe, to mark,
At zenith of the necromantic moon,
The stir of that disquiet, when the dead,
From suckling nightmares of the charnel dark
Or long insomnia on a mouldy couch,
Impelled like wan somnambulists, arise—
Constrained to emerge and walk, or seated each
On his own tombstone, shrouded council hold,
Or commerce with the sooty wings of hell.
All omens of this influential hour
When all dark powers, thronging to the dark,
Promote enchantment with their wavèd wings,
And brim the wind with potency malign—
A dew of dread to aid our cauldron-these
Observe thou closely, while I seek afield
All requisite swart herbs of venefice
And evil roots unto our usance ripe.

(The first witch departs, leaving the other among the tombs, and returns after a time, in the course of her search.)

First Witch

Sister, what seest or what hearest thou ?

Second Witch

I see
The moonlight, and the slowly moving gleam
That westers hour by hour on tomb and stone;
And shrivelled lilies, tossed i' the winter's breath
With their attenuate shadows, as might dance
Phantom with flaffing phantom; at my side,
The white and shuddering grasses of the grave,
With nettles, and the parching fumitory,
Whose leaves, root-trellised on the bones of death,
Will rasp and bristle to the lightest wind.

(The first witch moves on, and approaches again, after an interval.)

First Witch

Sister, what seest or what hearest thou ?

Second Witch

I see
The mound-stretched gossamers, cradles to the dew;
Moon-wefted briers, and the cypress-trees
With shadow swathed, or cerements of the moon;
And corpse-lights borne from aisle to secret aisle
Within the footless forest. . . .

Now I hear
The lich-owl, shrieking lethal prophecy;
And whimpering winds, the children of the air,
Lost in the glades of mystery and gloom.

(The first witch disappears, and passes again shortly.)

First Witch

Sister, what seest or what hearest thou ?

Second Witch

I see
The ghost-white owl, with huge, sulphureous eyes,
That veers in prone, unwhispered flight, and hear
The small shriek of the moon-adventuring mole,
Griped in mid-graveyard. . . . And I see
Where some wild shadow shakes, though the pale wind
Of midnight stirs far off . . . and hear
Curst mandragores that gibber to the moon,
Though no man treads anigh. . . .
(After an interval)
Some predal hand doth halt the wandering air;
Now dies the throttled wind with rattling breath,
And round about a breathing Silence prowls.
(After another interval)
I hear the cheeping of the bat-lipped ghouls,
Aroused beneath the vaulted cypresses
Far off; and lipless muttering of tombs,
With clash of bones bestirred in ancient charnels
Beneath their shroud of unclean light that crawls. . . .
Earth shudders, and rank odours 'gin to rise
From tombs a-crack: and shaken out all at once
From mid-air, and directly 'neath the moon,
Meseems what hanging wing divides the light,
Like a black film of mist, or thickest shadow:
But on the tombs there is no shadow !

First Witch

Enough ! 'twill be a prosperous night, methinks,
For commerce of the demons with the dead,
And for us too, when every omen's good,
And fraight with promise of a potent brew.

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.