The Outer Land



From the close valleys of thy love,
Where flowers of white and coral are
And the soft gloom of cave and grove,
How have I wandered, spent and fat,
By fell and mountain thence forbanned,
Into this lamia-haunted land?

I could not know the coiling path,
Pebbled with sard and lazuli,
Would lead me to the desert’s wrath,
The rancor of the glaring sky,
The tarns that like stirred serpents hiss,
The dens of drake and cockatrice.

I roam a limbo long abhorred,
Whose dread horizons flame and flow
Like iron from a furnace poured:
A bournless realm of sterile woe,
Where mad mirages fill the dawn
With roses lost and fountains gone.

O land where dolent monsters mate!
I know the lusts that howl and run
When the red stones reverberate
The soot-black lecheries that wail
From Hinnom to the moons of bale.

What desert naiads, amorous,
Have drawn me to their sunken strand!
How many a desert succubus
Has clasped me on her couch of sand!
What liches foul, with breast nor face,
Have seemed to bear thy beauty’s grace!

What voises have besought me there
With sweet illusion of thine own,
Luring me, rapt and unaware,
To pits where dying demons moan!
What marble limbs have gleamed as thine—
Slow-sinking into sand or brine!

Briefly, in desert hermitages,
I have lain down in my despair,
Dreaming to sleep as slept the sages:
But unseen lust oppressed the air,
And crimson dreams of incubi,
And thirst of anthropophagi.


Entire, from mountains scaled at noon,
I scan the realm of my duress:
Deep-cloven plain and nippled dune,
Like to some sleeping giantess,
Pale and supine, by gods desired
With hearts deliriously fired.

Still without respite, I must follow
Where the faint, exile tills bequeath
Their bitterness to gulf and hollow.
Still the blown dusts of ruin breathe,
Fretting my face. My feet return
By salt-bright shores that blind and burn.

Silence immeasurable creeps
Across my path. . . . My sharpened ears
Are dinned with tumult from the deeps,
Are frayed by whispers of the spheres;
And darkly, in the sepulchre,
I hear the strident dead confer.

Gnawed by unceasing solitude,
The secret veils of sight grow thin:
High Domes that dazzle and elude,
Columns of darkling god and djinn
Appear; and things forbidden seem
Unsealed as in some awful dream.

My heart, consumed yet unconsuming,
Burns like a dreadful, ardent sun,
The horror of strange nights illuming:
Shall yet I find the ways foregone,
And speak, before the heart of thee,
The still-remembered Sesame?

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