Clouds Without Water: I. The Augur
Look! Look! upon the tripod through the smoke
Of slain things kindled, and fine frankincense.
Look— deep beyond the phantoms these evoke
Are sightless halls where spirit stifles sense.
There do I open the old book of Fate
Wherein They pictured my delight and me
Flushed with the dawn of rapture laureate
And leaping with the laughter of ecstasy.
Mine eyes grow aged with that hieroglyph
Of doom that I have sought: the fatal end.
That which is written is written, even if
Great Zeus himself— great Zeus!— were to befriend.
Even in the spring of the first floral kiss:
“No happy end the gods have given for this.”
Save death alone! I see no happy end,
No happy end for this divine beginning.
Child! let us front a fate too ill to mend,
Take joy in suffering for the sake of sinning.
Ay! from your lips I pluck the purple seed
Of that pomegranate sleek Persephone
Tasted in hell; the irrevocable deed
I do, and it is done. Naught else could be
For us, the chosen of so severe a god
To act so high a tragedy, the elect
To suffer so, and so rejoice, the rod
And scourge of our own shame, the gilt and decked
Oxen that go to our own sacrifice
At our own consecrated shrine of vice.
Over the desert ocean of distress
We reach pale eager hands that quiver and bleed
With life of these our hearts that surge and stress
In agony of the meditated deed.
For in the little coppice by the gate
Wherein I drew you shy and sly, and kissed
Your lips, your hushed “I love you” smooth and straight
Sweeping to wrap us in the glittering mist
Of hell that holds us— even there I heard
The lacerating laugh of fate ring out,
The dog-faced god pronounce the mantic word,
And saw the avengers gather round about
Our love. The Moirae neither break nor bend;
The Erinyes hunt us to— no happy end.
Our love is like a glittering sabre bloodied
With lives of men; upsoared the sudden sun;
The choral heaven woke; the aethyr flooded
All space with joy that you and I were one.
But in the dark and splendid dens of death
Arose an echo of that jewelled song:
There swept a savour of polluted breath
From the lost souls, the unsubstantial throng
That tasted once a shadow of our glory
And turn them in the evil house to adore
The godhead of our sin, the tragic story
We have set ourselves to write, the sombre score
Our daggers carve with poesy sublime
Upon the roof tree of despair and crime!
As we read Love and Death in each other’s eyes,
We see the cool mild splendour of the dawn
Damned by some tragic throw of murderous dice
To slash like lightning over lea and lawn
Jagged and horrible across the curtain
Of heaven, writing ruin, ruin— we see
Our certain joy marred with a doubly certain
Soul-shattering anguish.— Bah! To you and me
Such loathing, such despair are little things.
We are afloat on the flood-tide of lust—
A lust more spiritual than life, that stings
Till death and hell dissolve i’ the aftergust.
So? But the Gods avert their faces, bend
Their holy brows, and see— no happy end.
Thus shall men write upon our cenotaphs:
“Traitor and lecher! murderess and whore!”
The rat-faced god that lurks in heaven laughs;
There is rejoicing on the immortal shore.
The angels deem us hurled from the above,
Burnt out of bliss, blasted from sense and thought,
Barred from the beauties of celestial love
And branded with the annihilating Naught.
O! pallid triumph! empty victory!
When we sit smiling on the infernal thrones
Starred with our utmost gems of infamy,
Builded with tears, and cushioned with the groans
Of these the victims of our joys immense—
Child! I aspire to that bad eminence!
Hell hath no queen! But, o thou red mouth curving
In kisses that bring blood, shall I be alone?
What of the accomplice of these deeds unswerving?
Will not your dead hot hisses match mine own?
As here your ardours brand me bone and marrow
Biting like fire and poison in my veins,
Shall you not there still ply your nameless harrow,
Mingle a cup from those our common pains
To intoxicate us with an extreme pleasure
Keener than life’s, more dolorous than death’s,
Till these infernal blisses pass the measure
Of heaven’s imagined by the tremulous breaths
Of silly saints and silly sinners, swaying
From scraps of blasphemy to scraps of praying?
You love me! trite and idle word to darken
(With all its glow) the splendour of our sun!
No soul of heaven or hell may hearken
The unbearable device that we have done.
Nor may Justine nor Borgia understand
Nor Messalina nor Maria guess
The infernal chorus swelling darkly grand
That echoed us our everlasting “Yes!”
Nor shall the Gods perceive to damn or praise
The deed that shakes their essence into dust,
Disrupts their dreams, divides their dreary days.
Supreme, abominable, rides our lust
Armed in the panoply of brazen youth
And strength, since, if we are Hell’s, Hell’s worm is Truth.
We are still young enough to take delight
In wickedness for wickedness’ sole sake.
Eve did not fall because she knew aright
The fruit an apple, but the snake a snake.
Nor shall we sink among the foolish throng
That seek an end, but rise among the few
Who do the strong thing because they are strong
And care not why they do, so that they do.
Therefore we wear our dread iniquity
Even as an aureole, therefore we attain
Measureless heights of nameless ecstasy,
Measureless depths of unimagined pain
Mingled in one initiating kiss
That those dissolve in the athanor of this.
We tread on earth in our divine disdain
And crush its blood out into purple wine,
Staining our feet with hot and amorous stain,
The foam involving all the sensual shrine
Of love whose godhead dwells upon your mouth
Wherein the kisses clustering overflow
With brimming ardour of the new sin’s growth
Till round us all the poisonous blossoms blow,
And all the cruel things and hideous forms
Of night awake and revel in our revel,
While in us rage the devastating storms
Whose dam is Luxury and their sire the devil...
It is well seen, however things intend,
The Gods have given for this— no happy end.
Crown me with poppy and hibiscus! crown
These brows with nightshade, monkshood and vervain!
Let us anoint us with the unguents brown
That waft our wizard bodies to the plain
Where in the circle of unholy stones
The unconsecrated Sabbath is at height;
Where the grim goat rattling his skulls and bones
Makes music that dissolves the dusk of night
Into a ruddy fervour from the abyss
Such as I see (when cunning can surprise
Our Argus foe and give us leave to kiss)
Within your deep, your damned, your darling eyes.
Ay! to the Sabbath where the crowned worm
Exults, with twisted yard and slime-cold sperm.
There gods descend; there devils rise. We dance,
Dance to the madness of the waning moon,
Write centuries of murder in a glance,
Chiliads of rape in one unearthly tune.
There is the sacrament of sin unveiled
And there the abortion of Demeter eaten,
The potion of black Dione distilled,
The measure of Pan by whirling women beaten.
These are but symbols, and our souls the truth;
These sacraments, and we the gods of them;
The sabbath incense curls to us to soothe
Our spleen, engarlands us, a diadem
For that unutterable deed that hurled
Us, flaming thunderbolts! against the world.
There needs not ask the obscure oracle
Whereto these dire imaginations tend.
We read this sigil in the dust of Hell:
“The Gods have given for this no happy end.”
What end should we desire, who grasp the gain
We have despoiled from everlasting time,
Who gather sunshine from the iciest rain
And turn the dullest prose to rhythm and rime?
Think you we cannot warm our hands and laugh
Even at the fire that scatheth adamant?
Think you we shall not knead the utmost chaff
Into a bread worth Heaven’s high sacrament
And from the bitter dregs of Hell’s own wine
Distil a liquor utterly divine?
Behold! I have said. The destiny obscure
Of this our deed obscure we shall not skry.
We know “no happy end!”— but we endure,
Abiding as the Pole Star in the sky.
You mix your life in mine— then soul in soul
We shoot forth, meteors, travelling on and on
Far beyond Space to some dark-glimmering goal
Where never a sun or star hath risen or shone;
Where we shall be the evil light beyond time,
Beyond space, beyond thought, supreme in deathless pang;
Nor shall a sound invade that hall of crime,
Only the champing of the insatiate fang
Of the undying worm our love, fast wed
Unto— no happy end. Behold! I have said.
They.— The Fates or
The dog-faced god.— Anubis, the
Threshold-Guardian of the “Gods” of Egypt. Mantic means
Child.— The unhappy girl was at
this time but 17 years old.
Justine.— The virtuous but
victimized heroine of the infamous novel of the Marquis de Sade.
Sabbath.— Consult Payne Knight:
“Essays on the worship of Priapus”, Eliphas Lévi:
“Dogma et rituel de la haute Magie” and others.
XIII. 12. 13.