The Wheel of Omphale

Clark Ashton Smith

(From Victor Hugo)

It stands in the atrium, the fine spinning-wheel of ivory.
The nimble wheel is white, and the distaff is black,
The distaff is ebony encrusted all with lapis.
It stands in the atrium on a rich carpet.

A workman of Aegina has carved upon the base
Europa, whose complaint the god hears not.
The white bull carries her. Europa, desperately,
Cries out, and looking down, is terrified to see
The monstrous ocean kissing her rosy feet.

Thread, and needles, and half-open boxes,
The wool of Miletus, colored with purple and gold,
These fill a basket near the sleeping wheel.
Meanwhile, in the heart of that queenly palace,
Twenty misshapen and enormous phantoms,
Twenty monsters, all ensanguined, and half-seen,
Wander and throng about the sleeping wheel:
Nemea's lion, the hydra of Lerna,
Cacus, the dark brigand of the dark cavern,
The triple Geryon, and the typhons of the waters
Who breathed with a great noise at evening in the rushes;
All bear on their heads the bloody blow-marks of a mace,
And all, without approaching, pass with a terrible air,
And upon the wheel, where hangs a fine and fastened thread,
They fix from afar in the shadows their humiliated eyes.

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