The Caravan

Clark Ashton Smith

My dreams are like a caravan that departed long ago, with tumult of intrepid banners and spears, and the clamour of bugles and brave, adventurous songs, to seek the horizons of perilous, unknown, barbaric lands and kingdoms immense and vaguely rumoured, with cities beautiful and opulent as the cities of Paradise, and deep, Edenic vales of palm and cinnamon and myrrh, lying beneath skies of primeval azure silence. For traffic in the realms of mystery and wonder, in the marts of scarce-imaginable cities, and metropoli a million leagues away, on the last horizon of romance, my dreams departed, as a caravan with its laden camels. Since then, the years are many, the days have flown as the flocks of southering swallow; unnumbered moons have multiplied in fugitive silver, uncounted suns in irretainable gold. But, alas, the caravan has not returned. Have the swirling sands engulfed them, on a noon of storm when the desert rose like the sea, and rolled its tawny billows on the walled gardens of the green and fragrant lands? Or perished they, devoured by the crimsom demons of thirst, and the ghouls and vultures? Or live they still, as captives in alien dungeons not to be ascertained, or held by a wizard spell in palaces demon-built, and cities baroque and splendid as the cities in a tale from the Thousand and One Nights?

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