by: Ivan Turgenev (1818-1883)
- ELLOWISH-grey sand, soft at the
top, hard, grating below . . . sand without end, wherever one
- And above this sandy desert, above this sea of dead dust,
rises the immense head of the Egyptian sphinx.
- What would they say, those thick, projecting lips, those
immutable, distended, upturned nostrils, and those eyes, those
long, half-drowsy, half-watchful eyes under the double arch of
the high brows?
- Something they would say. They are speaking, truly, but only
dipus can solve the riddle and comprehend their mute speech.
- Stay, but I know those features . . . in them there is nothing
Egyptian. White, low brow, prominent cheek-bones, nose short
and straight, handsome mouth and white teeth, soft moustache
and curly beard, and those wide-set, not large eyes . . . and
on the head the cap of hair parted down the middle . . . But
it is thou, Karp, Sidor, Semyon, peasant of Yaroslav, of Ryazan,
my countryman, flesh and blood, Russian! Art thou, too, among
- Wouldst thou, too, say somewhat? Yes, and thou, too, art
- And thy eyes, those colourless, deep eyes, are speaking too
. . . and as mute and enigmatic is their speech.
- But where is thy dipus?
- Alas! it's not enough to don the peasant smock to become
thy dipus, oh Sphinx of all the Russias!
POEMS BY IVAN TURGENEV
"The Sphinx" is reprinted
from Dream Tales and Prose Poems. Ivan Turgenev. (Trans.
Constance Garnett). New York: The Macmillan Company, 1920.