Nevada by Frances Fuller Victor

Sphinx, down whose rugged face

The sliding centuries their furrows cleave

By sun and frost and cloud-burst; scarce to leave

Perceptible a trace

Of age or sorrow;

Faint hints of yesterdays with no to-morrow;—

My mind regards thee with a questioning eye,

To know thy secret, high.

If Theban mystery,

With head of woman, soaring, bird-like wings

And serpent's tail on lion's trunk, were things

Puzzling in history;

And men invented

For it an origin which represented

Chimera and a monster double-headed,

By myths Phenician wedded—

Their issue being this—

This most chimerical and wonderous thing

From whose dumb mouth not even the gods could wring

Truth, nor antithesis:

Then, what I think is,

This creature—being chief among men's sphinxes—

Is eloquent, and overflows with story,

Beside thy silence hoary!

Nevada!—desert waste!

Mighty, and inhospitable, and stern;

Hiding a meaning over which we yearn

In eager, panting haste—

Grasping and losing,

Still being deluded ever by our choosing—

Answer us Sphinx: What is thy meaning double

But endless toil and trouble?

Inscrutable, men strive

To rend thy secret from thy rocky breast;

Breaking their hearts, and periling heaven's rest

For hopes that cannot thrive;

Whilst unrelenting,

Upon thy mountain throne, and unrepenting,

Thou sittest, basking in a fervid sun,

Seeing or hearing none.

I sit beneath thy stars,

The shallop moon beached on a bank of clouds—;

And see thy mountains wrapped in shadowed shrouds,

Glad that the darkness bars

The day's suggestion—

The endless repetition of one question;

Glad that thy stony face I cannot see,

Nevada—Mystery!