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Ralph Waldo Emerson - The Sphynx

The Sphynx 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 manchild,
The meaning of man;
Known fruit of the unknown,
Dædalian 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 unashamed
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 bathed 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 the manchild's head?"?

I heard a poet answer
Aloud and cheerfully,
"Say on, sweet Sphynx! 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.

Profounder, profounder,
Man's spirit must dive;
To his aye-rolling orbit
No goal will arrive.
The heavens that draw him
With sweetness untold,
Once found, ?for new heavens
He spurneth the old.

Pride ruined the angels,
Their shame them restores,
And the joy that is sweetest
Lurks 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 centre,
Heart-heaving alway;
Forth speed the strong pulses
To the borders of day.

Dull Sphynx, Jove keep thy five wits!
Thy sight is growing blear,
Rue, myrrh, and cummin for the Sphynx,
Her muddy eyes to clear."
The old Sphynx bit her thick lip,?
"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 quest through nature,
It through thousand natures ply,
Ask on, thou clothed eternity,?
Time is the false reply."

Uprose the merry Sphynx,
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.

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

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Added: May 7 2003 | Viewed: 4759 times | Comments and analysis of The Sphynx by Ralph Waldo Emerson Comments (3)

The Sphynx - Comments and Information

Poet: Ralph Waldo Emerson
Poem: The Sphynx

Comment 3 of 3, added on August 2nd, 2014 at 2:48 AM.
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IUmRXW Appreciate you sharing, great blog post.Much thanks again. Really Great.

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Comment 2 of 3, added on July 18th, 2014 at 7:53 PM.
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e1Xwin Thank you ever so for you blog post.Really thank you! Fantastic.

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Comment 1 of 3, added on April 4th, 2006 at 9:26 PM.

RW Emerson was rather fond of nature's kind tutalage over the sterner complexities of modern life, which he believed were unnecessary. His route to happiness was "simple rules are all one needs to governe" a man's life. (see spiritual laws)

This is a poem about favoring the simple/naturalistic over the the contrived and complex. So what happens when you're the Archbishop of Dublin and your daughter wants to have an abortion? What happens when you're the President of the US and you're caught in an indiscretion with an intern? How about the Prime Minister of Sweeden who embraces liberal values but who's economy relies on selling steel to dictators to make weapons? Hmmm.. life doesn't always give us simple problems for his simple naturalistic answers.

n rien from United States

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