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The Sphinx's Children

The Sphinx's Children and Other People (New York: Tickner, 1886)


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THE SPHINX'S CHILDREN 19

suffered no more. Her hour had come and gone ; her dull instinct had burnt out, her comely outline began to disintegrate, her face grew blank and stony, her features crumbled away, altars and inscriptions defaced her breast and hieroglyphed her ponderous sides, men worshipped and wondered there, and travellers from lands beyond the sun pitched their tents before her face and defiled her feet with barbaric orgies ; but she knew it no more, —her children were gone out into the world. And the world had need of them. Its rank and miasmatic civilization, — its hot-beds of sin and misery — its civil corruptions and its social lies, — its reeling, rotten principalities, — its sickly atmosphere of effeminate luxury, wherein neither justice nor judgment lived, and the solitary virtues left mere effete shadows of philanthropy and cowardly impulses called love and mercy, — needed a new race, stony and strong, unshrinking in conquest and reformation, full of zeal, and incapable of pity, to rend away the fogs that smothered truth and decency, to disperse the low-lying clouds of weak passion and maudlin luxury, to blow a reveille clear and keen as the trumpet of the north-west wind, when it sweeps down from its mountain-tops in stern exultation, and shouts its Puritanic battle-psalm across the reeking, steaming meadows of sultry August, fever-smitten and pestilent.

Such were the Sphinx's children : had they but died out with their need ! Here and there a monk, fresh from his Desert-Laura, hurtles through the eclipse-light of history like the stone from a catapult, —rules a church with iron rods, organizes, denounces, intrigues, executes, keeps an unarmed soldiery to do his behests, and hurls ecclesiastic thunders at kings and emperors



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