To Omar Khayyam

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To Omar Khayyam  (1922) 
by Clark Ashton Smith
1922.

Omar, within thy scented garden-close,
When passed with eventide
The starward incense of the waning rose—
Too precious to abide
After the glad and golden death of spring—
Omar, thou heardest then,
Above the world of men,
The mournful rumor of an iron wing,
The sough and sigh of desolating years,
Whereof the wind is as the winds that blow
Out of a lonesome land of night and snow
Where timeless winter weeps with frozen tears;
And in thy bodeful ears
The brief and tiny lisp
Of petals curled and crisp,
Fallen at eve in Persia's mellow clime,
Was mingled with the mighty sound of time.

Omar, thou knewest well
How the fair days are sorrowful and strange
With time's inexorable mystery
And terror ineluctable of change:
Upon thine eyes the bleak and bitter spell
Of vision, thou didst see,
As in a magic glass,
The moulded mists and painted shadows pass—
The ghostly pomps we name reality;
And, lo, the level field,
With broken fane and throne
And dust of old, unfabled cities sown,
In unremembering years was made to yield,
From out the shards of Power,
The pillars frail and small
That lift for capital
The blood-like bubble of the poppy-flower;
And crowns were crumbled for the airy gold
The crocus and the daffodil should hold
As inalienable dower.
Before thy gaze the sad unvaried green
The cypresses like robes funereal wear,
Was woven on the gradual looms of air
From threadbare silk and tattered sendaline
That clothed some ancient queen;
And from the spoilt vermilion of her mouth
The myrtles rose, and from her ruined hair
And eyes that held the summer's ardent drouth
In blown, disrooted bowers;
And amber limbs and breast
Through ancient nights by sleepless love oppressed,
Or by the iron flight of loveless hours.

Knowing the weary wisdom of the years,
The empty truth of tears;
The suns of June that with some great excess
Of ardor slay the unabiding rose;
And grey-haired winter, wan and fervorless,
For whom no flower grows;
Seeing the paradisal bloom that pales
On orient snows untrod
In magic morns that grant,
Across a land of common green and grey,
The disenchanted day;
Knowing the gulf-deep veils
And walls of adamant
That ward the darkling verities of God—
Knowing these things, ah, surely thou wert wise
To kiss on ardent breast and avid mouth
Some girl whose eyes
Were golden with the sun-belovèd south—
To pluck the rose and drain the rose-red wine
In gardens half-divine;
Before the broken cup
Be filled and covered up
In dusty seas of everlasting drouth.

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.