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Old 08-17-2016   #1
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Topic Nominated Favorite Prose Poems

I enjoyed rereading this one tonight.

The Forbidden Forest
Clark Ashton Smith


The child Natha lived with his father and mother in a little house not far from the verge of the great jungle. Every day he could see the ancient trees that were taller than ebony or mahogany, and the gleaming of enormous orchids upon their matted creepers. His parents had told him that he must never venture within the jungle, for the beauty of the high palms and hanging flowers concealed a host of dreadful perils, and venomous serpents and dire monsters dwelt among them.

But Natha thought that nothing in the world could be so beautiful as the jungle; and it lured him evermore with the mystery of its infinitude, with its manifold and silent and fantastic loveliness; and he dreamt that the flowers would be fairer still, and the trees more high and stately, if he could see them near at hand. And the child Natha grew to love the jungle with a strange and fearful love.

One day, when his parents had gone on a brief journey, and had given him many parting admonitions to avoid the perilous wood, Natha left the little house, and crossed the open fields in which he was permitted to play, and drew near to the forbidden forest. His tiny heart began to beat like a drum, when the monstrous palms and liana-laden trees loomed above him. But their shadows were so cool and green and deep, and he saw so many blossoms, so many fretted ferns and lovely-shapen leaves, and so many butterflies that vanished or emerged among them, and so many saffron and scarlet and azure birds that flew away with strange cries in the emerald gloom, that he soon lost all memory of his parents' warning, and wandered further and further, following the butterflies and the birds.

And Natha was very happy for a while, and he found a million things to puzzle or fascinate or please his childish mind; and he plucked many flowers, only to drop them when he found others that were larger or brighter. And he loved the rich, inebriating perfume of the flowers, and he loved their pale and amber and opaIescent hues.

Now, after a time, Natha became tired, and he thought of his little home and his mother's care with a sudden longing. And he tried to retrace his way through the deep jungle; but he had wandered far in the emerald gloom, and all things were different and unfamiliar, and he could not find the route by which he had come. Instead, he soon lost himself among trees that were vaster and darker than any he had yet seen; and around him were pallid blossoms broad as moons, that poured forth a heavy wave of overpowering lethal fragrance. And Natha was a little frightened now; but as he wandered on, the scent of the flowers began to make him drowsy.

And the trees grew darker and taller still, and the blossoms were huge and bright as rising suns, and he seemed to drown in their perfume as in a voluptuous tide. And Natha was no longer frightened when he fell among the blossoms; and their faces receded and faded above him as he sank down to everlasting sleep.
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Old 08-17-2016   #2
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Re: Favorite Prose Poems

The Rose Garden by Arthur Machen

And afterwards she went very softly, and opened the window and looked out. Behind her the room was in a mystical semi-darkness; chairs and tables were hovering, ill-defined shapes, there was but the faintest illusory glitter from the talc moons in the rich Indian curtain which she had drawn across the door. The yellow silk draperies of the bed were but suggestions of colour, and the pillow and the white sheets glimmered as a white cloud in a far sky at twilight.

She turned from the dusky room, and with dewy tender eyes gazed out across the garden towards the lake. She could not rest nor lay herself down to sleep; though it was late, and half the night had passed, she could not rest. A sickle moon was slowly drawing upwards through certain filmy clouds that stretched in a long band from east to west, and a pallid light began to flow from the dark water, as if there also some vague star were rising. She looked with eyes insatiable for wonder; and she found a strange Eastern effect in the bordering of reeds, in their spear-like shapes, in the liquid ebony that they shadowed, in the fine inlay of pearl and silver as the moon shone free; a bright symbol in the steadfast calm of the sky.

There were faint stirring sounds heard from the fringe of reeds, and now and then the drowsy broken cry of water-fowl, for they knew that the dawn was not far off. In the centre of the lake was a carved white pedestal, and on it shone a white boy holding the double flute to his lips.

Beyond the lake the park began, and sloped gently to the verge of the wood, now but a dark cloud beneath the sickle moon. And then beyond and farther still, undiscovered hills, grey bands of cloud, and the steep pale height of the heaven. She gazed on with her tender eyes, bathing herself as it were in the deep rest of the night, veiling her soul with the half-light and the half-shadow, stretching out her delicate hands into the coolness of the misty silvered air, wondering at her hands.

And then she turned from the window, and made herself a divan of cushion on the Persian carpet, and half sat, half lay there, as motionless, as ecstatic as a poet dreaming under roses, far in Ispahan. She gazed out, after all, to assure herself that sight and the eyes showed nothing but a glimmering veil, a gauze of curious lights and figures, that in it there was no reality or substance. He had always told her that there was only one existence, one science, one religion, that the external world was but a variegated shadow, which might either conceal or reveal the truth; and now she believed.

He had shown her that bodily rapture might be the ritual and expression of the ineffable mysteries, of the world beyond sense, that must be entered by the way of sense; and now she believed. She had never much doubted any of his words, from the moment of their meeting a month before. She had looked up as she sat in the arbour, and her father was walking down between the avenue of roses bringing to her the stranger, thin and dark with a pointed beard and melancholy eyes. He murmured something to himself as they shook hands; she could hear the rich unknown words that sounded as the echo of far music. Afterwards he had told her what the lines were:

How say ye that I was lost? I wandered among roses.
Can he go astray who enters the rose garden?
The lover in the house of his Darling is not forlorn.
I wandered among roses. How say ye that I was lost?

His voice, murmuring the strange words, had persuaded her, and now she had the rapture of the perfect knowledge. She had looked out into the silvery uncertain night in order that she might experience the sense that for her these things no longer existed. She was not any more a part of the garden, or of the lake, or of the wood, or of the life that she had led hitherto. Another line that he had quoted came to her:
The kingdom of I and We forsake, and your home in annihilation make.

It had seemed at first almost nonsense, if it had been possible for him to talk nonsense; but now she was thrilled and filled with the meaning of it. Herself was annihilated; at his bidding she had destroyed all her old feelings, and emotions, her likes and dislikes, all the inherited loves and hates that her father and mother had given her; the old life had been thrown utterly away.

It grew light, and when the dawn burned she fell asleep, murmuring:

"How say ye that I was lost?"

'I believe in what the Germans term Ehrfurcht: reverence for things one cannot understand.'
― Robert Aickman, An Essay
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Old 08-18-2016   #3
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Re: Favorite Prose Poems

Thanks, Prince James Zaleski. I was deeply moved by:

The Rose Garden by Arthur Machen

Machen's evocative, romantic prose poems should be read by more people, though perhaps the times are wrong for that.
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Old 08-21-2016   #4
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Re: Favorite Prose Poems

Ornaments in Jade is one of the three essential Machen books along with The House of Souls and The Hill of Dreams. Woefully underread.

'I believe in what the Germans term Ehrfurcht: reverence for things one cannot understand.'
― Robert Aickman, An Essay
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Old 08-21-2016   #5
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Re: Favorite Prose Poems

Prince James Zaleski wrote:

Ornaments in Jade is one of the three essential Machen books along with The House of Souls and The Hill of Dreams. Woefully underread.


Thanks, Prince James! I had long wanted to obtain a nice edition of "Ornaments in Jade," but then found it was included in the recent book from Tartarus Press, "The Cosy Room and Other Stories." Greatly enjoying the prose poems in this work, as well as the short story, "N!"

Machen: The Cosy Room

Last edited by Gnosticangel; 08-21-2016 at 03:39 PM..
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Old 08-21-2016   #6
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Re: Favorite Prose Poems

From "The Haunted Mind," by Nathaniel Hawthorne

In the depths of every heart there is a tomb and a dungeon, though the
lights, the music, and revelry above may cause us to forget their
existence, and the buried ones, or prisoners whom they hide. But
sometimes, and oftenest at midnight, these dark receptacles are flung
wide open. In an hour like this, when the mind has a passive
sensibility, but no active strength; when the imagination is a mirror,
imparting vividness to all ideas, without the power of selecting or
controlling them; then pray that your griefs may slumber, and the
brotherhood of remorse not break their chain. It is too late! A
funeral train comes gliding by your bed, in which Passion and Feeling
assume bodily shape, and things of the mind become dire spectres to
the eye. There is your earliest Sorrow, a pale young mourner, wearing
a sister's likeness to first love, sadly beautiful, with a hallowed
sweetness in her melancholy features, and grace in the flow of her
sable robe. Next appears a shade of ruined loveliness, with dust
among her golden hair, and her bright garments all faded and defaced,
stealing from your glance with drooping head, as fearful of reproach;
she was your fondest Hope, but a delusive one; so call her
Disappointment now....

Link for full text:

http://www.eldritchpress.org/nh/hmind.html
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Old 08-22-2016   #7
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Re: Favorite Prose Poems

I return again and again to this passage by Fernando Pessoa:

Funeral March For Ludwig II, King of Bavaria

Today Death, tarrying longer than ever, came to sell at my doorstep. Slower than ever, she unfolded before me the rugs, silks and linens of her oblivion and her consolation. She smiled with satisfaction at the things she showed, without caring that I saw her smile. But as soon as I felt tempted to buy them, she said they weren't for sale. She hadn't come to make me want the things she showed but, through those things, to make me want her. The rugs, she said, were the kind that graced her far-away palace; the silks were the same ones worn in her castle of darkness; and even better linens than what she had showed me draped the altarpieces of her abode in the netherworld.

She gently unravelled the ties that held me to my native, unadorned home. 'Your fireplace,' she said, 'has no fire, so why do you want a fireplace?' 'Your table,' she said, 'has no bread, so what is your table for?' 'Your life,' she said, 'has no friend or companion, so why does your life charm you?'

She said, 'I am the fire of cold fireplaces, the bread of bare tables, the faithful companion of the lonely and the misunderstood. The glory that's missing in this world is the pride of my black domain. In my kingdom love doesn't weary, for it doesn't long to possess, nor does it suffer from the frustration of never having possessed. My hand lightly rests on the hair of those who think, and they forget; those who have waited in vain lean against my breast, and finally come to trust.

'The love that souls have for me is free of the passion that consumes, of the jealousy that deranges, of the forgetfulness that tarnishes. To love me is as calm as a summer night, when beggars sleep in the open air and look like rocks on the side of the road. My lips utter no song like the sirens' nor any melody like that of the trees and fountains, but my silence welcomes like a faint music, and my stillness soothes like the torpor of a breeze.

'What do you have,' she said, 'that binds you to life? Love doesn't follow you, glory doesn't seek you, and power doesn't find you. The house that you inherited was in ruins. The lands you received had already lost their first fruits to frost, and the sun had withered their promises. You have never found water in your farm's well. And before you ever saw them, the leaves had all rotted in your pools; weeds covered the paths and walkways where your feet had never trod.

'But in my domain, where only the night reigns, you will be consoled, for your hopes will have ceased; you'll be able to forget, for your desire will have died; you will finally rest, for you'll have no life.'

"Tell me how you want to die, and I'll tell you who you are. In other words, how do you fill out an empty life? With women, books, or worldly ambitions? No matter what you do, the starting point is boredom, and the end self-destruction. The emblem of our fate: the sky teeming with worms. Baudelaire taught me that life is the ecstasy of worms in the sun, and happiness the dance of worms."
---Tears and Saints, E. M. Cioran
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Old 1 Week Ago   #8
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Re: Favorite Prose Poems

From the Crypts of Memory
Clark Ashton Smith
Text taken from Ebony and Crystal

Aeons of aeons ago, in an epoch whose marvelous worlds have crumbled, and whose mighty suns are less than shadow, I dwelt in a star whose course, decadent from the high, irremeable heavens of the past, was even then verging upon the abyss in which, said astronomers, its immemorial cycle should find a dark and disastrous close.
Ah, strange was that gulf-forgotten star - how stranger than any dreams of dreamers in the spheres of to-day, or than any vision that hath soared upon visionaries, in their retrospection of the sideral past! There, through cycles of history whose piled and bronze-writ records were hopeless of tabulation, the dead had come to outnumber infinitely the living. And built of a stone that was indestructible save in the furnace of suns, their cities rose beside those of the living like the prodigious metropoli of Titans, with walls that overgloom the vicinal villages. And over all was the black funereal vault of the cryptic heavens-a dome ol infinite shadows, where the dismal sun, suspended like a sole, enormous lamp, failed to illumine, and drawing back its fires from the face of the irresolvable a baffled and despairing beam on the vague remote horizons, and shrouded vistas illimitable of the visionary land.

We were a sombre, secret, many-sorrowed people-we who dwelt beneath that sky of eternal twilight, pierced by the towering tombs and obelisks of the past. In our blood was the chill of the ancient night of time; and our pulses flagged with a creeping prescience of the lentor of Lethe. Over our courts and fields, like invisible sluggish vampires born of mausoleums, rose and hovered the black hours, with wings that distilled a malefic languor made from the shadowy woe and despair of perished cycles. The very skies were fraught with oppression, and we breathed beneath them as in a sepulcher, forever sealed with all its stagnancies of corruption and slow decay, and darkness impenetrable save to the fretting worm.

Vaguely we lived, and loved as in dreams-the dim and mystic dreams that hover upon the verge of fathomless sleep. We felt for our women, with their pale and spectral beauty, the same desire that the dead may feel for the phantom lilies of Hadean meads. Our days were spent in roaming through the ruins of lone and immemorial cities, whose palaces of fretted copper, and streets that ran between lines of carven golden obelisks, lay dim and ghastly with the dead light, or were drowned forever in seas of stagnant shadow; cities whose vast and iron-builded fanes preserved their gloom of primordial mystery and awe, from which the simulacra of century- forgotten gods looked forth with unalterable eyes to the hopeless heavens, and saw the ulterior night, the ultimate oblivion. Languidly we kept our gardens, whose grey lilies concealed a necromantic perfume, that had power to evoke for us the dead and spectral dreams of the past. Or, wandering through ashen fields of perennial autumn, we sought the rare and mystic immorteles, with sombre leaves and pallid petals, that bloomed beneath willows of wan and veil-like foliage: or swept with a sweet and nepenthe-laden dew by the flowing silence of Acherontic waters.

And one by one we died and were lost in the dust of accumulated time. We knew the years as a passing of shadows, and death itself as the yielding of twilight unto night.

“All human thought, all science, all religion, is the holding of a candle to the night of the universe.” –Clark Ashton Smith
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Old 1 Week Ago   #9
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Re: Favorite Prose Poems

THE CRATE

Midway between cage and cachot, or cell, the French has cageot, a simple little open-slatted crate devoted to the transport of fruit that is sure to sicken at the slightest hint of suffocation. Devised in such a way that after use it can easily be broken down, it never serves twice. Thus its life-span is shorter even than that of the perishables it encloses.
So, at the corners of every street leading to the market, it gleams with the unassuming lustre of slivered pine. Still brand new and somewhat aghast at the awkward situation, dumped irretrievably on the public thoroughfare, this object is most appealing, on the whole — yet one whose fate doesn't warrant our overlong attention.

Francis Ponge
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