Sir William Ashbless


William Ashbless appears in nearly every Powers book. He is either alluded to as a poet (The Skies Discrowned, The Stress of Her Regard), or his poetry or translations appear at chapter beginnings. And, of course, he is the main character in The Anubis Gates.

But William Ashbless doesn't belong to Powers alone. James Blaylock also makes use of the fictitious poet.

William Ashbless was a penname that Powers and Blaylock used to publish cowritten poetry in college. When they both needed a name for a poet character in their books, they independently used the same name. After this had been pointed out to them by their editor, they got together and added details to make it look it was the same guy.

Powers and Blaylock produced Offering the Bicentennial Edition of the Complete Twelve Hours of the Night: 1785-1985 (1985) [CB] [hoax prospectus of a William Ashbless collection, with a sample poem, signed by Powers & Blaylock (one signing "William" and the other signing "Ashbless")]

Below are some bits of Ashbless poetry from Powers' books.

"If but we Christians have our beer,
Nothing's to fear."

"…They move in dark, old places of the world:
Like mariners, once healthy and clear-eyed,
Who, when their ship was holed, could not admit
Ruin and the necessity of flight,
But chose instead to ride their cherished wreck
Down into darkness; there not quite to drown,
But ever on continue plying sails
Against the midnight currents of the depths,
Moving from pit to pit to lightless crag
In hopeless search for some ascent to shore;
And who, in their decayed, slow voyaging
Do presently lose all desire for light
And air and living company-from here
Their search is only for the deepest groves,
Those farthest from the nigh-forgotten sun.. ."

He whispered, "And a river lies
Between the dusk and dawning skies,
And hours are distance, measured wide
Along that transnocturnal tide--
Too doomed to fear, lost to all need,
These voyagers blackward fast recede
Where darkness shines like dazzling light
Throughout the Twelve Hours of the Night."

"...And unmoor'd souls may drift on stranger tides
Than those men know of, and be overthrown
By winds that would not even stir a hair..."

I watched her fly away for Vegas,
I waved the plane out of sight,
Then I tried to drive home without stopping at a bar,
but I
Didn't make it, quite.
And sitting with those blue-jeaned shadows there, that
Been there all night,
I found myseld shivering over my chilly drink,
Half dead of fright.

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