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Ralph Waldo Emerson - The Sphinx

The Sphinx is drowsy, 
Her wings are furled: 
Her ear is heavy, 
She broods on the world. 
"Who'll tell me my secret, 
The ages have kept?__ 
I awaited the seer 
While they slumbered and slept:__ 
"The fate of the man-child, 
The meaning of man; 
Known fruit of the unknown; 
Daedalian plan; 
Out of sleeping a waking, 
Out of waking a sleep; 
Life death overtaking; 
Deep underneath deep? 

:Erect as a sunbeam, 
Upspringeth the palm; 
The elephant browses, 
Undaunted and calm; 
In beautiful motion 
The thrush plies his wings; 
Kind leaves of his covert, 
Your silence he sings. 

"The waves, unashaméd, 
In difference sweet, 
Play glad with the breezes, 
Old playfellows meet; 
The journeying atoms,  
Primordial wholes, 
Firmly draw, firmly drive, 
By their animate poles. 

"Sea, earth, air, sound, silence, 
Plant, quadruped, bird, 
By one music enchanted, 
One deity stirred,-- 
Each the other adorning, 
Accompany still; 
Night veileth the morning, 
The vapor the hill. 

"The babe by its mother 
Lies bathéd in joy; 
Glide its hours uncounted,-- 
The sun is its toy; 
Shines the peace of all being, 
Without cloud, in its eyes; 
And the sum of the world 
In soft miniature lies. 

"But man crouches and blushes, 
Absconds and conceals; 
He creepeth and peepeth, 
He palters and steals; 
Infirm, melancholy, 
Jealous glancing around, 
An oaf, an accomplice, 
He poisons the ground. 

"Out spoke the great mother, 
Beholding his fear;-- 
At the sound of her accents 
Cold shuddered the sphere:-- 
'Who has drugged my boy's cup? 
Who has mixed my boy's bread? 
Who, with sadness and madness, 
Has turned my child's head? 

I heard a poet answer 
Aloud and cheerfully, 
"Say on, sweet Sphinx! thy dirges 
Are pleasant songs to me. 
Deep love lieth under 
These pictures of time; 
They fade in the light of 
Their meaning sublime. 

"The fiend that man harries 
Is love of the Best; 
Yawns the pit of the Dragon, 
Lit by rays from the Blest. 
The lethe of Nature 
Can't trance him again, 
Whose soul sees the perfect, 
Which his eyes seek in vain. 

"To vision profounder, 
Man's spirit must dive; 
His aye-rolling orb 
At no goal will arrive; 
The heavens that now draw him 
With sweetness untold, 
Once found,--for new heavens 
He spurneth the old. 

"Pride ruined the angels, 
Their shame them restores; 
Lurks the joy that is sweetest 
In stings of remorse. 
Have I a lover  
Who is noble and free?-- 
I would he were nobler 
Than to love me. 

"Eterne alternation 
Now follows, now flies; 
And under pain, pleasure,-- 
Under pleasure, pain lies. 
Love works at the center, 
Heart-heaving alway; 
Forth speed the strong pulses 
To the borders of day. 

"Dull Sphinx, Jove keep thy five wits' 
Thy sight is growing blear; 
Rue, myrrh and cummin for the Sphinx, 
Her muddy eyes to clear!" 
The old Sphinx bit her thick lip,-- 
Said, "Who taught thee me to name? 
I am thy spirit, yoke-fellow; 
Of thine eye I am eyebeam. 

"Thou art the unanswered question; 
Couldst see thy proper eye, 
Alway it asketh, asketh; 
And each answer is a lie. 
So take thy question through nature, 
It through thousand natures ply; 
Ask on, thou clothed eternity; 
Time is the false reply. 

Uprose the merry Sphinx, 
And crouched no more in stone; 
She melted into purple cloud, 
She silvered in the moon; 
She spired into a yellow flame; 
She flowered in blossoms red; 
She flowed into a foaming wave: 
She stood Monadnoc's head. 

Through a thousand voices 
Spoke the universal dame 
"Who telleth one of my meanings 
Is master of all I am."

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Added: Jan 31 2004 | Viewed: 3322 times | Comments and analysis of The Sphinx by Ralph Waldo Emerson Comments (124)

The Sphinx - Comments and Information

Poet: Ralph Waldo Emerson
Poem: The Sphinx
Poem of the Day: Nov 10 2000

Comment 124 of 124, added on October 17th, 2017 at 5:03 PM.

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Comment 123 of 124, added on May 10th, 2017 at 11:05 AM.

y1OBS7 topic, made me personally consider it from numerous various

jake jilennanal from Nigeria
Comment 122 of 124, added on May 10th, 2017 at 8:04 AM.

oeysrN Major thanks for the article.Really thank you! Will read on

jeremy abrams from Ireland

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