The Stylite

Clark Ashton Smith

Upon his pillar stands upright
The rigid anchoret: his pose,
Over the desert, toward the sky,
Prolongs the rectitude of stone,
The rising and unbroken line.

Emmets and men go by beneath.
The veering vultures fan his brow:
He sees them not: his sanctity
Enfolds him like the fuming cloud
A thousand thuribles might yield.

At evening pass in pompous file
The larvae sent by Satanas.
To mock him, on a pagan height
The ram pant sagittary stands,
Stallion of maenads half-equine;

And pulsing soft horizons fall
And swell with forms the heathen shun—
Dark sisters of the Ashtaroth
That crawl from undescended gulfs
Or slither over sliding scaurs.

With kelpy tresses wreathed with foam,
Voluptuous cold Nereides
Upon the surging desert float;
And Cypris, as from out the sea,
Rises reborn with veil nor zone.

Behind dissolving peristyles
Lithe sphinxes crouch and rear in rut;
And mincing from Gomorrah's night,
Vague-membered gods androgynous
Invert an ithyphallic sign.

The reeking shames of Sheol glow
And writhe before him. . . . Still upright
The saint exalts the columned stone
With folden arms and changeless eyes—
In chastity long ankylosed.

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