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The Sphinx's Children

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


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14 THE SPHINX'S CHILDREN.

a look not to be shut out with draperies as the stars are ; and even though her soul, harder than the soul of that unowned sister walking the midnight street beneath the window, since it has ceased to know the stab of sin or the choking agony of shame, — even through that world-trodden heart flashes one conscious pang, one glimpse of a possible heaven and an inevitable hell, one naked and open vision of herself.

Long had the Sphinx waited. Year after year the flocking pigeons flitted and wheeled through the sweet skies of spring, built their nests and reared their young ; tiny lizards, the new birth of the season, coiled and glittered on the hot sands like wandering jewels ; every creature, dying out of conscious life, left its perpetuated self behind it, and repeated its own youth in its young, according to its kind : but the Sphinx lived alone. Nor all-unconscious of her solitude : for he who formed that massive shape, chiselled those calm, expectant lips, and wide eyes pensive as setting moons, he had not failed to do what all true artists do in virtue of their truth, —he had shared his own life with his own creation, and it was his lonely yearning that stirred her pulseless heart. Little did he think, toiling at that stupendous figure, ages gone by, that he transfused into the stone at which he labored, like a patient ant at some stupendous burden, no little share of that creative yearning that inspired him to his task ; as little as you think, dear poet, whether poet, painter, or sculptor, — for all are one, and one is all, — that in those dreams which you write, as unconscious of your power as the transcribing stylus of its office, your own heart pulsates for a listening world, and the very linking of words that so respire their own music makes



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