20 THE SPHINX'S CHILDREN.
with the grand audacity of a commission presumedly divine, while Greeks cringe, and Jews blaspheme, and heathen flee into, or away from, conversion ; and the church itself canonizes this spiritual father, this Sphinx-son of an instinct and a stone!
Or an Emperor exalted himself above the legions and the populace of Rome, banqueted his enemies and be-headed them at table, drank in the sight of blood and the sound of human shrieks as if they were his natural light and air, tormented God's creatures and cursed his kind, kindled a fire among the miserable myriads of his own city, and, exulting in a safe height, mixed the leaping, frantic discords of his own music with the horrid sounds of the hell's tragedy below him ; seething in crime, steeped in murder, black with blasphemy, the horror and the hate of men, death gaped for his coming, and he went! Men revile him through all posterior ages ; women shudder at the legend of his deeds ; but the Sphinx stands unconscious in the Desert, — she knew not her child!
Or a Reformer springs up. High above his birth-place the snowy Alps paint themselves against the sky, an aerial dream of beauty, softened by the tender hues of dawn and sunset, serenely fair through the rift of the tempest ; even their white death takes a nameless grace from distance and atmosphere, clothing itself in beauty as a spirit in clay, and tempting wanderers to their graves : but no such beauty clothes the man whose daily vision beholds them ; hard, clamorous, disputatious, with one hand he rends the rotten splendors of Rome from its tottering image, and with the other plunges baby-souls to inevitable damnation; strong and fiercely rigid, full of burning and slaughter