Ralph
Waldo
Emerson
Texts

 


Sphynx

Home
Up
Texts
Search
Look Up Word
Discuss
Site Map
Transcendentalism
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Contact

Emerson Poems: A-C
Emerson Poems: D-G
Emerson Poems: H-O
Emerson Poems: P-Z

Painting and Sculpture
The Park
The Problem
The Rhodora
Saadi
The Snow-Storm
Sphynx
"Sursum Corda"
"Suum Cuique"
Tact
Threnody
To Ellen, At the South
To Eva
To J.W.
To Rhea
Uriel
The Visit
Wood Notes I
Wood Notes II
The World-Soul
Xenophanes


Texts : Early Emerson Poems : Emerson Poems: P-Z : SPHYNX
A selection of Ralph Waldo Emerson's writings for searching and browsing

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."

from: Emerson, Ralph Waldo.  Early Poems of Ralph Waldo Emerson. New York, Boston, Thomas Y. Crowell & Company: 1899. Introduction by Nathan Haskell Dole. 

Home ] Up ] Painting and Sculpture ] The Park ] The Problem ] The Rhodora ] Saadi ] The Snow-Storm ] [ Sphynx ] "Sursum Corda" ] "Suum Cuique" ] Tact ] Threnody ] To Ellen, At the South ] To Eva ] To J.W. ] To Rhea ] Uriel ] The Visit ] Wood Notes I ] Wood Notes II ] The World-Soul ] Xenophanes ] Emerson Poems: A-C ] Emerson Poems: D-G ] Emerson Poems: H-O ] Emerson Poems: P-Z ]

Click Here!

 

© 1996-2001
Jone Johnson
Lewis.
All rights
reserved.

Contact us
for reprint
permission.

Previous Home Up Next
 

Emerson Texts: a search site. 
Use keywords or phrases to search for a concept, quotation, or idea.

How to cite this page: Plagiarism, Copyright and Citing Online Sources
 Site or page last update and this page's URL:
Site editor's credentials

To email the webmaster about typos or corrections to this page,  include this URL: