Clark Ashton Smith

January 13, 1893 – August 14, 1961

The Old Water-Wheel

Often, on homeward ways, I come
To a deserted orchard, old and lone,
Unplowed, untrod, with wilding grasses grown
Through rows of pear and plum.

There, in a never-ceasing round,
In the slow stream, by noon, by night, by dawn,
An ancient, hidden water-wheel turns on
With a sad, reiterant sound.

Most eerily it comes and dies,
And comes again, when on the horizon's breast
The ruby of Antares seems to rest,
Fallen from star-fraught skies:

A dolent, drear, complaining note
Whose all-monotonous cadence haunts the air
Like the recurrent moan of a despair
Some heart has learned by rote.

Heavy, and ill to hear for one
Within whose breast, today, tonight, tomorrow,
Like the slow wheel, an ancient, darkling sorrow
Turns, and is never done.
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