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    by Ralph Waldo Emerson
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    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."
    If you're writing a Sphynx essay and need some advice, post your Ralph Waldo Emerson essay question on our Facebook page where fellow bookworms are always glad to help!

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