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The Sphinx's Children

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

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turbans and gleaming sabres, their skill at massacre and their fiendish tortures ; Italy, fair and sad, woman country," droops shuddering at sight of their Austrian uniforms ; and the Brahmin sees them in scarlet, blood-dyed, hurling from the cannon's mouth helpless captives, killing, not converting.

Wherever, all the wide world over, a nation shrinks from its oppressors, or a slave from its master, wherever a child flees from the face of a parent who knows neither justice nor mercy, or a wife goes mad under the secret tyranny of her inevitable fate, wherever pity and mercy and love veil their faces and wring their hands outside the threshold, there abide the Sphinx's children.

For this she longed and hoped and waited in the desert ! for this she envied the red fox and the ostrich ! for this her dumb lips parted, in their struggle after speech, to ask of earth and air some solace to her soli- tude ! for this, for these, she poured out her dim life in one strong, wilful aspiration!

Happy Sphinx, to be left even of that dull existence ! blessedly unconscious of that granted desire ! moulder- ing away in the curling sand-hills, the prey of hostile elements, the mysterious symbol of a secret yearning and a vain desire ! Not for thee the bitterness of suc- cess ! not for thee the conscious agony of penitence, the falling temple of the will crushing its idolater ! No wild voices in the wind reproach the wilder pulses of a slow-breaking heart; no keen words of taunt sting thee into madness ; Memory hurls at thee no flying javelins ; broken-winged Hope flutters about thee no more ! Thy day is over, thine hour is past!

"Wherefore I praised the dead which are already dead, more than the living which are yet alive!"

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