In a dim corner of my room for longer than my fancy thinks,
A beautiful and silent Sphinx has watched me through the shifting gloom.
Inviolate and immobile she does not rise she does not stir
For silver moons are nought to her and nought to her the suns that reel.
Red follows grey across the air, the waves of moonlight ebb and flow
But with the Dawn she does not go and in the night-time she is there.
Dawn follows Dawn and Nights grow old and all the while this curious cat
Lies couching on the Chinese mat with eyes of satin rimmed with gold.
Upon the mat she lies and leers and on the tawny throat of her
Flutters the soft and fur or ripples to her pointed ears.
Come forth my lovely seneschal! so somnolent, so statuesque!
Come forth you exquisite grotesque! half woman and half animal!
Come forth my lovely languorous Sphinx! and put your head upon my knee!
And let me stroke your throat and see your body spotted like the Lynx!
And let me touch those curving claws Of yellow ivory and grasp
The tail that like a monstrous Asp coils round your heavy velvet paws!
A thousand weary centuries are thine while I have hardly seen
Some twenty summers cast their green for Autumn's gaudy liveries.
But you can read the Hieroglyphs on the great sand-stone obelisks,
And you have talked with Basilisks, and you have looked on Hippogriffs.
O tell me, were you standing by when Isis to Osiris knelt?
And did you watch the Egyptian melt her union for Anthony
And drink the jewel-drunken wine and bend her head in mimic awe
To see the huge proconsul draw the salted tunny from the brine?
And did you mark the Cyprian kiss with Adon on his catafalque?
And did you follow Amenalk the god of Heliopolis?
And did you talk with Thoth, and did you hear the moon-horned Io weep?
And know the painted kings who sleep beneath the wedge-shaped Pyramid?
Lift up your large black satin eyes which are like cushions where one sinks!
Fawn at my feet, fantastic Sphinx! And sing me all your memories!
Sing to me of the Jewish maid who wandered with the Holy Child,
And how you led them through the wild, and how they slept beneath your shade.
Sing to me of that odorous green eve when crouching by the marge
You heard from Adrian's gilded barge the laughter of Antinous
And lapped the stream and fed your drouth and watched with hot and hungry stare
The ivory body of that rare young slave with his pomegranate mouth!
Sing to me of the Labyrinth in which the two-formed bull was stalled!
Sing to me of the night you crawled across the temple's granite plinth
When through the purple corridors the screaming scarlet Ibis flew
In terror, and a horrid dew dripped from the moaning Mandragores,
And the great torpid crocodile within the tank shed slimy tears,
And tare the jewels from his ears and staggered back into the Nile,
And the Priests cursed you with shrill psalms as in your claws you seized their snake
And crept away with it to slake your passion by the shuddering palms.