Reference > Fiction > Nonfiction > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
Cæsar, the Sphinx, and Cleopatra
By George Bernard Shaw (1856–1950)
From ‘Cæsar and Cleopatra’

[The youthful Cleopatra, unseen by Cæsar, is sitting asleep between the knees of the Sphinx.]

JULIUS CÆSAR—Hail, Sphinx: salutation from Julius Cæsar! I have wandered in many lands, seeking the lost regions from which my birth into this world exiled me, and the company of creatures, such as I myself. I have found flocks and pastures, men and cities but no other Cæsar, no air native to me, no man kindred to me, none who can do my day’s deed, and think my night’s thought. In the little world yonder, Sphinx, my place is as high as yours in this great desert; only I wander, and you sit still; I conquer, and you endure; I work and wonder, you watch and wait; I look up and am dazzled, look down and am darkened, look round and am puzzled, whilst your eyes never turn from looking out—out of the world—to the lost region—the home from which we have strayed. Sphinx, you and I, strangers to the race of men, are no strangers to one another: have I not been conscious of you and of this place since I was born? Rome is a madman’s dream: this is my Reality. These starry lamps of yours I have seen from afar in Gaul, in Britain, in Spain, in Thessaly, signaling great secrets to some eternal sentinel below, whose post I never could find. And here at last is their sentinel—an image of the constant and immortal part of my life, silent, full of thoughts, alone in the silver desert. Sphinx, Sphinx: I have climbed mountains at night to hear in the distance the stealthy footfall of the winds that chase your sands in forbidden play—our invisible children, O Sphinx, laughing in whispers. My way hither was the way of destiny; for I am he of whose genius you are the symbol: part brute, part woman, and part God—nothing of man in me at all. Have I read your riddle, Sphinx?  1
  Cleopatra  [who has wakened, and peeped cautiously from her nest to see who is speaking]—Old gentleman!  2
  Cæsar  [starting violently, and clutching his sword]—Immortal gods!  3
  Cleopatra—Old gentleman: don’t run away.  4
  Cæsar  [stupefied]—“Old gentleman: don’t run away!!!” This! to Julius Cæsar!  5
  Cleopatra  [urgently]—Old gentleman.  6
  Cæsar—Sphinx: you presume on your centuries. I am younger than you, though your voice is but a girl’s voice as yet.  7
  Cleopatra—Climb up here, quickly; or the Romans will come and eat you.  8
  Cæsar  [running forward past the Sphinx’s shoulder, and seeing her]—A child at its breast! divine child!  9
  Cleopatra—Come up quickly. You must get up at its side and creep round.  10
  Cæsar  [amazed]—Who are you?  11
  Cleopatra—Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt.  12
  Cæsar—Queen of the Gypsies, you mean.  13

Shakespeare · Bible · Strunk · Anatomy · Nonfiction · Quotations · Reference · Fiction · Poetry
© 1993–2015 · [Top 150] · Subjects · Titles · Authors · World Lit.