Verse > Anthologies > James and Mary Ford, eds. > Every Day in the Year
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James and Mary Ford, eds.  Every Day in the Year.  1902.
 
September 2
The Sphinx of the Tuileries
By John Hay (1838–1905)
 
          Louis Napoleon abdicated, September 2, 1870.

OUT of the Latin Quarter
  I came to the lofty door
Where the two marble Sphinxes guard
  The Pavilon de Flore.
Two Cockneys stood by the gate, and one        5
  Observed, as they turned to go,
“No wonder he likes that sort of thing,—
  He’s a Sphinx himself, you know.”
 
I thought as I walked where the garden glowed
  In the sunset’s level fire,        10
Of the Charlatan whom the Frenchmen loathe
  And the Cockneys all admire.
They call him a Sphinx,—it pleases him,—
  And if we narrowly read,
We will find some truth in the flunkey’s praise,—        15
  The man is a Sphinx indeed.
 
For the Sphinx with breast of woman
  And face so debonair
Had the sleek false paws of a lion,
  That could furtively seize and tear.        20
So far to the shoulders,—but if you took
  The Beast in reverse you would find
The ignoble form of a craven cur
  Was all that lay behind.
 
She lived by giving to simple folk        25
  A silly riddle to read,
And when they failed she drank their blood
  In cruel and ravenous greed.
But at last came one who knew her word,
  And she perished in pain and shame,—        30
This bastard Sphinx leads the same base life
  And his end will be the same.
 
For an Œdipus-People is coming fast
  With swelled feet limping on,
If they shout his true name once aloud        35
  His false foul power is gone.
Afraid to fight and afraid to fly,
  He cowers in an abject shiver;
The people will come to their own at last,—
  God is not mocked forever.        40
 
 
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