Monday, February 22, 2010


‘Now I’ve angered you,’ said Amaury. ‘And yet, I said but true.’

As a wren twinkles in and out in a hedge-row, the demurest soft shadow of laughter came and went in Lessingham’s swift grey eyes. ‘What, were you reading me good counsel? Forgive me, dear Amaury: I lost the thread on’t. You were talking of my cousin, and the great King, and might-a-beens; but I was fallen a-dreaming, and marked you not.’

——Mistress of Mistresses

Much like the wanderer Lessingham, the prose of E.R. Eddison takes me fallen a-dreaming. With much of his works, I read each paragraph through at least twice; once to enjoy the beauty of the prose, and again to take in the meaning before moving on. Eddison is, by far, my favorite author, but most of his works have been out of print for some time.

I recently acquired the Ballantine edition of the Zimiamvian trilogy (1967 — 1969). I will be sharing short excerpts on occasion as the mood strikes.

A Vision of Zimiamvia

I will have gold and silver for my delight:
      Hangings of red silk, purfled and work’d in gold
With mantichores and what worse shapes of fright
      Terror Antiquus spawn’d in the days of old.

I will have columns of Parian vein’d with gems,
      Their capitals by Pheidias’ self design’d,
By his hand carv’d, for flowers with strong smooth stems,
      Nepenthe, Elysian Amaranth, and their kind.

I will have night: and the taste of a field well fought,
      And a golden bed made wide for luxury;
And there,— since else were all things else prov’d naught,—
      Bestower and hallower of all things: I will have Thee.

—Thee, and hawthorn time. For in that new birth though all
      Change, you I will have unchang’d: even that dress,
So fall’n to your hips as lapping waves should fall:
      You, cloth’d upon with your beauty’s nakedness.

The line of your flank: so lily-pure and warm:
      The globéd wonder of splendid breasts laid bare:
The gleam, like cymbals a-clash, when you lift your arm;
      And the faun leaps out with the sweetness of red-gold hair.

My dear,— my tongue is broken: I cannot see:
      A sudden subtle fire beneath my skin
Runs, and an inward thunder deafens me,
      Drowning mine ears: I tremble. — O unpin

Those pins of anachite diamond, and unbraid
      Those strings of margery-pearls, and so let fall
Your python tresses in their deep cascade
      To be your misty robe imperial. —

The beating of wings, the gallop, the wild spate,
      Die down. A hush resumes all Being, which you
Do with your starry presence consecrate,
      And peace of moon-trod gardens and falling dew.

Two are our bodies: two are our minds, but wed.
      On your dear shoulder, like a child asleep,
I let my shut lids press, while round my head
      Your gracious hands their benediction keep.

Mistress of my delights; and Mistress of Peace:
      O ever changing, never changing, You:
Dear pledge of our true love’s unending lease,
      Since true to you means to mine own self true.—

I will have gold and jewels for my delight:
      Hyacinth, ruby, and smaragd, and curtains work’d in gold
With mantichores and what worse shapes of fright
      Terror Antiquus spawn’d in the days of old.

Earth I will have, and the deep sky’s ornament:
      Lordship, and hardship, and peril by land and sea.—
And still, about cock-shut time, to pay for my banishment,
      Safe in the lowe of the firelight I will have Thee.

——E.R. Eddison