Verse > Anthologies > Alfred H. Miles, ed. > Women Poets of the Nineteenth Century
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Alfred H. Miles, ed.  Women Poets of the Nineteenth Century.  1907.
 
The Bird-Bride: A Volume of Ballads and Sonnets (1889)
II. The Smile of All-Wisdom
By Graham R. Thomson (Rosamund Marriott Watson) (1860–1911)
 
SEEKING the Smile of All-Wisdom one wandered afar
  (He that first fashioned the Sphinx, in the dust of the past):
Looked on the faces of sages, of heroes of war;
Looked on the lips of the lords of the uttermost star,
  Magi, and kings of the earth—nor had found it at last,        5
 
Save for the word of a slave, hoary-headed and weak,
  Trembling, that clung to the hem of his garment, and said,
‘Master, the least of your servants has found what you seek:
  (Pardon, O Master, if all without wisdom I speak!)
Sculpture the smile of your Sphinx from the lips of the Dead!’        10
 
Rising, he followed the slave to a hovel anear;
  Lifted the mat from the doorway and looked on the bed.
‘Nay, thou hast spoken aright, thou hast nothing to fear:
That which I sought thou hast found, Friend; for, lo, it is here!—
  Surely the Smile of the Sphinx is the Smile of the Dead!’        15
 
Aye, on the stone lips of old, on the clay of to-day,
  Tranquil, inscrutable, sweet with a quiet disdain,
Lingers the Smile of All-Wisdom, still seeming to say,
‘Fret not, O Friend, at the turmoil—it passeth away;
  Waste not the Now in the search of a Then that is vain:        20
 
‘Hushed in the infinite dusk at the end shall ye be,
  Feverish, questioning spirits that travail and yearn,
Quenched in the fulness of knowledge and peaceful as we:
  Lo, we have lifted the veil—there was nothing to see!
Lo, we have looked on the scroll—there was nothing to learn!’        25
 
 
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