Ships of Tarshish  (Inspired by the poems of Clark Ashton Smith) 

Ofttimes I walked through vaulted halls,

On marbled paths past golden walls

Where columns soared, met painted skies,

A dome of topaz-spangled eyes

Beneath whose gaze the favoured few

Wafted silks of Tyrian hue,

Brushed through the incense-laden shrines,

Plucked the burgeoning frescoed vines

In perfumed groves where peacocks waft

Their gold-flecked turquoise fans aloft,

Or trail their opal pearl-white trains, 

Apeing opulent jewelled chains.

I made my way towards the sea,

Neath cedar-scented canopy

Of lofty trees which lined my way

Where silk trees bow and date palms sway,

On satin cushions, litter-borne,

In cool Aurora's pink flushed dawn,

Where cyan waters wash the sand

And pour forth wealth from every land;

From Ships of Tarshish sweet rosewood

And ebony, sard and coral wood,

Jasper, lapis, rich pantheons

O'erflowed the tow’ring galleons.

When summoned by the calling horns

Where the tamarisk bloom adorns,

Under the spreading ostrich fans

I went to meet the caravans

And trains of desert ships in line

From Ophir's fabled land divine,

Which sway beneath their precious loads

On endless sun-dried desert roads;

Drank deep of scented, spicy fare,

Inhaled the aromatic air

Of priceless treasures from afar,

Sent just for me by Balthazar,

With gold and frankincense and myrrh,

And bitter threads of saffron fleur.

But oft throughout those gilded days,

Burning memories stayed ablaze

Of scentless words, within my heart,

Sent to me by a horse and cart,

Those silent words which plucked and stole

The very essence of my soul.

I gazed upon the midnight court

Where stars their King and Queen escort

In deep blue caerulean space

And Luna glows in Sol's embrace.

So musing now on Phoenix' fate, 

Through a horn and ivory gate 

I passed into the land of dream,

Sailing down the Morphean Stream,

But stood upon the selfsame spot,

Now in a land which time forgot.

I roamed amongst the ruined halls

Wrapped in gloomy Stygian palls,

Which choked the life on every side,

So even insects fought to hide

Themselves from dusty desert storms,

Which in their savage rage transform

This opulence, this newborn Troy

Where carcassed shipwrecks now enjoy

Silence in their graveyard station,

Decking lands of desolation.

Inside the bleak and silent fane,

Where broken gods now sought in vain

From whitened bones with empty eyes,

The blind devotion fate denies,

I wandered in the peristyle,

Saw muddy parchments from the Nile.

Then stood Winged Kairos on the sand,

With single lock and scales in hand;

In one pan weighted to the ground,

My Golden City jewel-crowned;

The other, weightless, held a scroll

With scentless words upon the roll.

"The choice is thine", the young god said,

"Sed Tempus Fugit", then he sped

And as he fled I snatched away

The faded page without delay;

I broke the seal and straight away,

Arose like dawn at break of day,

From dark horizon, twinkling rays

Which pierced the silent, muffled ways,

Then ever upwards rising high,

The Evening Star from pitchy sky

Illumed the words upon the scroll,

A lantern for my weary soul.

The winds sprang up in disarray,

Boisterous Anemoi at play,

And shining lights now sailing free

Didst plough the dark blue Midnight Sea;

The Argo Navis, Pyxis nigh,

Comes sailing onwards full and by,

Trailing fragrant Jacob's ladders

In her wake of sky-blue flowers.

Along the Milky Way she stopped

Wherever Glaucus anchor dropped

Which, long-forgotten, being wise,

The Centaur sent from southern skies.

So starry guests now disembarked

Who, glittering in the void, sparked

Renewal of that stellar dance

Which heralds still the old romance;

Soon constellations bent the knee

As, gliding through the Velvet Sea,

The Queen of Night in silvered thread

Serenely hovered overhead

And dressed the ruined temple scene

Translucent alabaster sheen

Which every day with Sol aflush,

Glows with a graceful rosy blush

Then, casting loose in floating streams,

Unfurled radiant limpid beams,

And spilling down each moonlit slide

A swarm of baby stars did glide,

Who tumbling round in playful mirth,

Showered their stardust o'er the earth.

Far-flung sounds of distant thunder,

Eastern skies were torn asunder,

Chariot horses darting fire,

Healing Phoebus galloped higher,

Igniting heaven's sapphire blue,

Scattering sunstones as heflew

Which, falling on the barren ground,

Didst sow new seeds of life around,

Revived the bleak foresaken realm;

The poppy goddess took the helm.

Jasmine, rose and morning glory

Weave around the frangipani

Whilst Bacchus cloaks the fields with vine

Preparing for the sweet white wine;

The air vibrates with songbird calls,

And honeysuckle wreathes the walls

Aglow with birds of paradise,

Hibiscus hummingbirds entice.

I walked into the temple square

Where golden scrolls lay by a chair,

And choosing one I read its prose,

Now sat beneath the Damask rose

Who, gently bowing head down low,

Shed scented tears on words below;

An Attar-perfumed petalled fan,

A princely Rose from Ispahan.

Intoxicated by its scent,

I closed my eyes and once more dreamt;

I was the Moon whom, beaming bright,

The star-struck court salutes each night,

Whom Helios, checking flaming steed,

In rose-flecked swirling dance did lead

And then, the Evening Star dismissed,

Caressed at dawn and gently kissed.


©  Heloisa Hodierna


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This work by Heloisa Hodierna, Francisca Parva is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.