Insight into the world of butterflies
O wonderful and wingèd flow'r,
That hoverest in the garden-close,
Finding in mazes of the rose,
The beauty of a Summer hour!
O symbol of Impermanence,
Thou art a word of Beauty's tongue,
A word that in her song is sung,
Appealing to the inner sense!
Of that great mystic harmony,
All lovely things are notes and words -
The trees, the flow'rs, the songful birds,
The flame-white stars, the surging sea,
The aureate light of sudden dawn,
The sunset's crimson afterglow,
The summer clouds, the dazzling snow,
The brooks, the moonlight chaste and wan.
Lacking (who knows?) a cloud, a tree,
A streamlet's purl, the ocean's roar
From Nature's multitudinous store -
Imperfect were the melody!
O Beauty, why so sad my heart?
Why stirs in me a nameless pain
Which seems like some remembered strain,
As on this product of thine art
Enraptured, marvelling I gaze,
And note how airily 'tis wrought -
A wingèd dream, a bodied thought,
The spirit of the summer days?
Thy beauty opes, O Butterfly,
The doors of being, with subtle sense
Of Beauty's frail impermanence,
And grief of knowing it must die.
Again I seem to know the tears
Of other lives, the woe and pain
Of days that died; resurgent wane
The moons of countless bygone years.
On other worlds, on other stars,
To us but tiny points of light,
Or lost in distances of night
Beyond our system's farthest bars,
A priest to Beauty's service sworn,
I sought and served her all my days,
With music and with hymns of praise.
In sunset and the fires of morn,
With thrilling heart her form I knew,
And in the stars she whitely gleamed,
And all the face of Nature seemed
Expression of her shape and hue.
I grieved to watch the summers pass
With all their gorgeous shows of bloom,
And sterner autumn months assume
Their realm with withered leaves and grass.
Mine was the grief of Change and Death,
Of fair things gone beyond recall,
The paling light of dawns, and all
The flowers' vanished hues and breath.
From out the web of former lives,
The ancient catenated chain
Of joy and sorrow, loss and gain,
One certain truth my heart derives: -
Though Beauty passes, this I know,
From Change and Death, this verity:
Her spirit lives eternally -
'Tis but her forms that come and go.
Lo! I am Beauty's constant thrall,
Must ever on her voice await,
And follow through the maze of Fate
Her luring, strange and mystical.
Obedient to her summonings,
Forever must my soul aspire,
And seek, on wings of lyric fire,
To penetrate the Heart of Things,
Wherein she sits, augustly throned,
In loveliness that renders dumb -
The Essence and the final Sum -
With peril and with wonder zoned
What though I fail, my duller sense
Baffled as by a wall of stone?
The high desire, the search alone
Are their own prize and recompense.
By Clark Ashton Smith (1893-1961)