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."
It fell in the ancient periods
Which the brooding soul surveys,
Or ever the wild Time coined itself
Into calendar months and days.
This was the lapse of Uriel,
Which in Paradise befell.
Once, among the Pleiads walking,
Seyd overheard the young gods talking;
And the treason, too long pent,
To his ears was evident.
The young deities discussed
Laws of form, and meter just,
Orb, quintessence, and sunbeams,
What subsisteth, and what seems.
One, with low tones that decide,
And doubt and reverend use defied,
With a look that solved the sphere,
And stirred the devils everywhere,
Gave his sentiment divine
Against the being of a line.
"Line in nature is not found;
Unit and universe are round;
In vain produced, all rays return;
Evil will bless, and ice will burn."
As Uriel spoke with piercing eye,
A shudder ran around the sky;
The stern old war-gods shook their heads,
The seraphs frowned from myrtle-beds;
Seemed to the holy festival
The rash word boded ill to all;
The balance-beam of Fate was bent;
The bounds of good and ill were rent;
Strong Hades could not keep his own,
But all slid to confusion.
A sad self-knowledge, withering, fell
On the beauty of Uriel;
In heaven once eminent, the god
Withdrew, that hour, into his cloud;
Whether doomed to long gyration
In the sea of generation,
Or by knowledge grown too bright
To hit the nerve of feebler sight.
Straightway, a forgetting wind
Stole over the celestial kind,
And their lips the secret kept,
If in ashes the fire-seed slept.
But now and then, truth-speaking things
Shamed the angels' veiling wings;
And, shrilling from the solar course,
Or from fruit of chemic force,
Procession of a soul in matter,
Or the speeding change of water,
Or out of the good of evil born,
Came Uriel's voice of cherub scorn,
And a blush tinged the upper sky,
And the gods shook, they knew not why.