The Dark Chateau

Clark Ashton Smith

The mysteries of your former dust,
Your lives declined from solar light—
These would you know, or these surmise?
Beneath a swathed and mummied sun,
Descend where dayless dials rust,
Where the, void hourglass fills with night;
And seeing with still-living eyes
Dim Acherontic rivers run,

Follow where shrouded barges float
And fall, in regions of the dead,
Into the sable-foaming depths.
Then over ghostland mountains go
To find, beyond a bridgeless moat,
What stairs with shadow carpeted
Crumble behind the climber's steps
In some foreknown forlorn chateau.

Where exile ghosts of gales that blew
At eve from vintages antique
Still stir the blurring tapestries,
And empty armor guards the rooms
By rotting portraits that were you,
Pass on. From airless cupboards bleak
Startle memorial spiceries
And plagues adrowse in attared glooms.

By oriels charged with stifled stains,
With night-blent purples, gules embrowned,
And spring's lost verdure, graver now
Than cypress at the set of day,
Pause, and look forth: no ghost remains
Save you to gaze on that dim ground
Where once the budding almond-bough
Waved, and the oleander-spray.

Hoar silence is the seneschal
Of court and keep, of niche and coigne.
With drumless ear no lute annoys,
Nor clang from farring jambarts drawn,
Death, with dlulled arrasses for pall,
Waits whitely there; and none will join
Your quest, nor ever any voice
Speak from. the chambered epochs gone:

Till from the vaults with shadows brimmed
Shall come a cowled lampadephore,
holding his lamp, by no breath blown,
To mirrors moony-clear and still
Where never living face is limned,
But wan reflections fixed of yore—
Long-mouldered shapes that were your own—
Graven in glass, unchanged and chill.

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