Oh! the image and the fable of the Sphynx!
What lessons do they teach,
What sermons do they preach
Of the riddle and the mystery of life!
‘Tis a union of brute force and love sublime.
A female face and head
To a lioness form are wed,
Embodying strength and purity divine.
The lioness, a symbol of wild might;
The peerless head and face,
And bust of female grace,
Are types of pure affection and delight.
In each one lies this dual element:
That well might master be,
If not o’er-ruled by strict fidelity.
And the all-powerful conquering light of love,
Which, blessing those who give
No less than who receive,
Makes bliss on earth, as God’s laws clearly prove.
In crowning thus the Sphynx with love’s sweet worth,
We have for us the old,
Sweet gospel ever told
That love in peerless might should rule the world.
Shall then our path o’er life’s uncertain way
Be led by a true heart,
Acting pure love’s kind part,
Or by fierce guidance of a beast of prey?
To what heroic heights mortals may climb,
Humanity to serve,
With loving heart and nerve,
Are seen in Buddha, and in Florence Nightingale.
And to what depths of leonine lust and crime
A cruel man may go,
Scattering fear, ruin, woe,
Witness fierce Nero and Caligula!
In each these possible heights and depths betide,
All, then, may freely choose,
None can the choice refuse,
Between the higher and the lower guide.
Where selfishness and unchecked passions stray
As ruling motives sole,
To reach a tinselled goal,
There crouches the ferocious beast of prey.
Shall life to us be crowned with blessings sure,
As noblest woman’s life,
Harmonious ‘mid all strife,
Or blurred with bestial appetites impure?
Surely the answer should be prompt and plain,
That we, at any cost,
Will not be so far lost
As to permit the beast o’er love to reign.
The purport of the dual female form,
Shrines the grand truth, that Might
Should bravely nourish Right,
Life’s checkered pathway sweetly to adorn.
‘Tis said the Sphynx in ancient Afric’ stood
Upon the great highway,
Beckoning all to stay,
Who passed, to guess life’s riddle if they could,
Which if they failed in, she devoured them there,
As she believed that they
Who would not learn life’s way,
Were not entitled its best joys to share.
But Oedipus, a wiser man than most
Passing, the riddle guessed,
That gave the Sphynx sweet rest,
And forthwith she descended from her post.
Knowing her secret, once devined, would be
Learned by all thinkers, then
Proclaimed by them to men,
Her mission o’er, she vanished ‘neath the sea.
The axiom of “Man, know thyself” is worth
The pains it costs to learn,
E’en through long labours stern,
Since ’tis the key that opes rich joys on earth.
Pure knowledge entereth through struggles fierce,
And only to the few
Who sternly seek the true,
Is given to solve the mystery of the Sphynx.
(Hannah S Battersby)
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Based on Keywords: oedipus, tinselled, leonine, axiom, caligula, entereth, sphynx, embodying, er-ruled