Verse > Anthologies > T. R. Smith, ed. > Poetica Erotica: A Collection of Rare and Curious Amatory Verse
T. R. Smith, comp.  Poetica Erotica: Rare and Curious Amatory Verse.  1921–22.
The Golden Past
By George Sterling (1869–1926)

WITHIN the stillness of the crypt he lay—
  The vanquished tyrant, quivering and stark,
  Shackled, alone with anguish and the dark,
And conscious that the immolating day
Swept on him as a tiger on its prey,        5
  To quench with agonies the vital spark,
  When cruel eyes should gloat and laughters mark
The final shames of the tormented clay.
Astounded by atrocities of pain,
  He broke the offended silence with a moan—        10
    This offal of the rack and glowing brand—
While, as he strove at the relentless chain
  And shuddered, prostrate, on the salted stone,
    A dungeon-rat fed on his mangled hand.
But they, his conqueror and faithless queen,
  Beneath the midnight moon lay arrogant,
  Nor saw her beams on kingly marble slant,—
On jasmine and the crowding roses’ sheen,
Nor heard the fingers of the harper glean
  Harvests of sound, not heard the ceaseless chant        20
  Of voices to their godhood consonant.
For them the naked dancer swayed unseen.
For them there stood no past, nor time to be,
For whom all rapture was a tideless sea
  Wherein they dwelt beyond all sound and sight,        25
    Without a star to touch them with its ray
    Nor pulse of waves to reach them where they lay,
  Welded in dumb convulsions of delight.

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