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

    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,

    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,—

    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.

    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

    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,—

    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

    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.