The Sphinx is drowsy, The 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, 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. "Outspoke 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 man-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 fad 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 trace 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 now 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 flied; 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 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 they 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 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."
Ralph Waldo Emerson - 1803-1882
Song of Nature
Mine are the night and morning, The pits of air, the gulf of space, The sportive sun, the gibbous moon, The innumerable days. I hid in the solar glory, I am dumb in the pealing song, I rest on the pitch of the torrent, In slumber I am strong. No numbers have counted my tallies, No tribes my house can fill, I sit by the shining Fount of Life, And pour the deluge still; And ever by delicate powers Gathering along the centuries From race on race the rarest flowers, My wreath shall nothing miss. And many a thousand summers My apples ripened well, And light from meliorating stars With firmer glory fell. I wrote the past in characters Of rock and fire the scroll, The building in the coral sea, The planting of the coal. And thefts from satellites and rings And broken stars I drew, And out of spent and aged things I formed the world anew; What time the gods kept carnival, Tricked out in star and flower, And in cramp elf and saurian forms They swathed their too much power. Time and Thought were my surveyors, They laid their courses well, They boiled the sea, and baked the layers Or granite, marl, and shell. But he, the man-child glorious,-- Where tarries he the while? The rainbow shines his harbinger, The sunset gleams his smile. My boreal lights leap upward, Forthright my planets roll, And still the man-child is not born, The summit of the whole. Must time and tide forever run? Will never my winds go sleep in the west? Will never my wheels which whirl the sun And satellites have rest? Too much of donning and doffing, Too slow the rainbow fades, I weary of my robe of snow, My leaves and my cascades; I tire of globes and races, Too long the game is played; What without him is summer's pomp, Or winter's frozen shade? I travail in pain for him, My creatures travail and wait; His couriers come by squadrons, He comes not to the gate. Twice I have moulded an image, And thrice outstretched my hand, Made one of day, and one of night, And one of the salt sea-sand. One in a Judaean manger, And one by Avon stream, One over against the mouths of Nile, And one in the Academe. I moulded kings and saviours, And bards o'er kings to rule;-- But fell the starry influence short, The cup was never full. Yet whirl the glowing wheels once more, And mix the bowl again; Seethe, fate! the ancient elements, Heat, cold, wet, dry, and peace, and pain. Let war and trade and creeds and song Blend, ripen race on race, The sunburnt world a man shall breed Of all the zones, and countless days. No ray is dimmed, no atom worn, My oldest force is good as new, And the fresh rose on yonder thorn Gives back the bending heavens in dew.