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The Spike: or, Victoria University College Review October, 1920

The Secret of the Sphinx

The Secret of the Sphinx

Mystic, inscrutable, brooding, the Great Sphinx looks over the endless sands. Her lips are calm and almost smiling, her quiet eyes muse passionless and dark. She has pierced to the secret of the heart of life, and it is graven deep upon the Tablets of the Ages that whoso reads the Secret of the Sphinx has grasped the Ultimate. But never yet, the sages say, has man come forth to read the riddle locked behind those lips of stone. Yet they are wrong. For there was once a man who read the secret of the Sphinx.

It fell in times long past, when men sought wisdom eagerly, that once there dwelt in the Isle of Cyprus the Wisest of All Wise Men. The cause of all things did he know with the least effect which flowed from each. Space held no mystery for him save the one Great Mystery, the final question hid behind all laws.

That he might know all things without exception he rose from his couch of ease and sought the Great Sphinx: for it is written that the Last Question only the Sphinx shall answer.

The Wisest of all the Wise Men reached the Sphinx in the rose and violet dawn.

"Tell me your secret, 0 Sphinx!" he cried.

"Behold, there is nothing beneath the sun that I do not know, of Things and of the Seeming of Things. Yet behind Things lies the Secret as it lies behind your brow. Tell me the Secret, O Sphinx!"

But the Sphinx still gazed across the silent sands, with eyes omniscient, and lips that almost smiled.

Yet the Wisest of All the Wise Men knew that into a true quest Time does not enter. And so he stayed in a corner of the Temple that is between the Sphinx's paws, and ever he sought the secret of the stone.

The years rolled by. He was old until he could grow no older, yet seeing that his was a true quest Death held aloof. And the angels of Set brushed him with their wings and jackal-headed Anubis roamed the desert sands. Morning and night the Wise Man's cry rose ever:

"Tell me your Secret, O Sphinx!" And the Sphinx looked on him with a kindlier gaze, as though long centuries of comradeship had lit a spark of friendship in the stony heart.

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One night the Wise, Man sat beneath a lambent moon upon the burnished sands. His lips moved softly, in the habit of a thousand years.

"Tell me your Secret, 0 Sphinx! What is behind the Seeming of Things?"

And the Sphinx spoke softly in the moonlight:

"Faithful seeker, you shall know my secret. Ask what you will."

The heavens swam before the gaze of the Wise Man. His lips stumbled with reverence as he spoke:

"What is the Secret of the Universe, O Sphinx?"

And the Sphinx answered calmly:

"I do not know."

It was as though an icy hand had clutched at the heart of the Wise Man. His ardent quest of centuries was in vain. His voice came feebly:

"At least, O Sphinx, tell me your own secret."

And the Sphinx answered him calmly:

"I have revealed my secret. I have no secret to reveal."

The Wisest of All the Wise Men groaned in the bitterness of his heart.

"Be of good cheer, O Seeker," comforted the Sphinx. "The quest has not been in vain. At last you know the Secret of the Universe; you know what lies behind the Seeming of Things."

Chas. Quentin Pope.