The Spell of Egypt
Robert Hichens

Part 1 out of 2

Etext prepared by Dagny,
and John Bickers,


This text was prepared from a 1911 edition, published by The
Century Co., New York.

The Spell of Egypt

by Robert Hichens





Why do you come to Egypt? Do you come to gain a dream, or to regain
lost dreams of old; to gild your life with the drowsy gold of romance,
to lose a creeping sorrow, to forget that too many of your hours are
sullen, grey, bereft? What do you wish of Egypt?

The Sphinx will not ask you, will not care. The Pyramids, lifting
their unnumbered stones to the clear and wonderful skies, have held,
still hold, their secrets; but they do not seek for yours. The
terrific temples, the hot, mysterious tombs, odorous of the dead
desires of men, crouching in and under the immeasurable sands, will
muck you with their brooding silence, with their dim and sombre
repose. The brown children of the Nile, the toilers who sing their
antique songs by the shadoof and the sakieh, the dragomans, the
smiling goblin merchants, the Bedouins who lead your camel into the
pale recesses of the dunes--these will not trouble themselves about
your deep desires, your perhaps yearning hunger of the heart and the

Yet Egypt is not unresponsive.

I came back to her with dread, after fourteen years of absence--years
filled for me with the rumors of her changes. And on the very day of
my arrival she calmly reassured me. She told me in her supremely
magical way that all was well with her. She taught me once more a
lesson I had not quite forgotten, but that I was glad to learn again--
the lesson that Egypt owes her most subtle, most inner beauty to
Kheper, although she owes her marvels to men; that when he created the
sun which shines upon her, he gave her the lustre of her life, and
that those who come to her must be sun-worshippers if they would truly
and intimately understand the treasure or romance that lies heaped
within her bosom.

Thoth, says the old legend, travelled in the Boat of the Sun. If you
would love Egypt rightly, you, too, must be a traveller in that bark.
You must not fear to steep yourself in the mystery of gold, in the
mystery of heat, in the mystery of silence that seems softly showered
out of the sun. The sacred white lotus must be your emblem, and Horus,
the hawk-headed, merged in Ra, your special deity. Scarcely had I set
foot once more in Egypt before Thoth lifted me into the Boat of the
sun and soothed my fears to sleep.

I arrived in Cairo. I saw new and vast hotels; I saw crowded streets;
brilliant shops; English officials driving importantly in victorias,
surely to pay dreadful calls of ceremony; women in gigantic hats, with
Niagaras of veil, waving white gloves as they talked of--I guess--the
latest Cairene scandal. I perceived on the right hand and on the left
waiters created in Switzerland, hall porters made in Germany,
Levantine touts, determined Jews holding false antiquities in their
lean fingers, an English Baptist minister, in a white helmet, drinking
chocolate on a terrace, with a guide-book in one fist, a ticket to
visit monuments in the other. I heard Scottish soldiers playing, "I'll
be in Scotland before ye!" and something within me, a lurking hope, I
suppose, seemed to founder and collapse--but only for a moment. It was
after four in the afternoon. Soon day would be declining. And I seemed
to remember that the decline of day in Egypt had moved me long ago--
moved me as few, rare things have ever done. Within half an hour I was
alone, far up the long road--Ismail's road--that leads from the
suburbs of Cairo to the Pyramids. And then Egypt took me like a child
by the hand and reassured me.

It was the first week of November, high Nile had not subsided, and all
the land here, between the river and the sand where the Sphinx keeps
watch, was hidden beneath the vast and tranquil waters of what seemed
a tideless sea--a sea fringed with dense masses of date-palms, girdled
in the far distance by palm-trees that kept the white and the brown
houses in their feathery embrace. Above these isolated houses pigeons
circled. In the distance the lateen sails of boats glided, sometimes
behind the palms, coming into view, vanishing and mysteriously
reappearing among their narrow trunks. Here and there a living thing
moved slowly, wading homeward through this sea: a camel from the sands
of Ghizeh, a buffalo, two donkeys, followed by boys who held with
brown hands their dark blue skirts near their faces, a Bedouin leaning
forward upon the neck of his quickly stepping horse. At one moment I
seemed to look upon the lagoons of Venice, a watery vision full of a
glassy calm. Then the palm-trees in the water, and growing to its
edge, the pale sands that, far as the eyes could see, from Ghizeh to
Sakkara and beyond, fringed it toward the west, made me think of the
Pacific, of palmy islands, of a paradise where men grow drowsy in
well-being, and dream away the years. And then I looked farther,
beyond the pallid line of the sands, and I saw a Pyramid of gold, the
wonder Khufu had built. As a golden wonder it saluted me after all my
years of absence. Later I was to see it grey as grey sands, sulphur
color in the afternoon from very near at hand, black as a monument
draped in funereal velvet for a mourning under the stars at night,
white as a monstrous marble tomb soon after dawn from the sand-dunes
between it and Sakkara. But as a golden thing it greeted me, as a
golden miracle I shall remember it.

Slowly the sun went down. The second Pyramid seemed also made of gold.
Drowsily splendid it and its greater brother looked set on the golden
sands beneath the golden sky. And now the gold came traveling down
from the desert to the water, turning it surely to a wine like the
wine of gold that flowed down Midas's throat; then, as the magic grew,
to a Pactolus, and at last to a great surface that resembled golden
ice, hard, glittering, unbroken by any ruffling wave. The islands
rising from this golden ice were jet black, the houses black, the
palms and their shadows that fell upon the marvel black. Black were
the birds that flew low from roof to roof, black the wading camels,
black the meeting leaves of the tall lebbek-trees that formed a tunnel
from where I stood to Mena House. And presently a huge black Pyramid
lay supine on the gold, and near it a shadowy brother seemed more
humble than it, but scarcely less mysterious. The gold deepened,
glowed more fiercely. In the sky above the Pyramids hung tiny cloud
wreaths of rose red, delicate and airy as the gossamers of Tunis. As I
turned, far off in Cairo I saw the first lights glittering across the
fields of doura, silvery white, like diamonds. But the silver did not
call me. My imagination was held captive by the gold. I was summoned
by the gold, and I went on, under the black lebbek-trees, on Ismail's
road, toward it. And I dwelt in it many days.

The wonders of Egypt man has made seem to increase in stature before
the spirits' eyes as man learns to know them better, to tower up ever
higher till the imagination is almost stricken by their looming
greatness. Climb the great Pyramid, spend a day with Abou on its
summit, come down, penetrate into its recesses, stand in the king's
chamber, listen to the silence there, feel it with your hands--is it
not tangible in this hot fastness of incorruptible death?--creep, like
the surreptitious midget you feel yourself to be, up those long and
steep inclines of polished stone, watching the gloomy darkness of the
narrow walls, the far-off pinpoint of light borne by the Bedouin who
guides you, hear the twitter of the bats that have their dwelling in
this monstrous gloom that man has made to shelter the thing whose
ambition could never be embalmed, though that, of all qualities,
should have been given here, in the land it dowered, a life perpetual.
Now you know the Great Pyramid. You know that you can climb it, that
you can enter it. You have seen it from all sides, under all aspects.
It is familiar to you.

No, it can never be that. With its more wonderful comrade, the Sphinx,
it has the power peculiar, so it seems to me, to certain of the rock
and stone monuments of Egypt, of holding itself ever aloof, almost
like the soul of man which can retreat at will, like the Bedouin
retreating from you into the blackness of the Pyramid, far up, or far
down, where the pursuing stranger, unaided, cannot follow.



One day at sunset I saw a bird trying to play with the Sphinx--a bird
like a swallow, but with a ruddy brown on its breast, a gleam of blue
somewhere on its wings. When I came to the edge of the sand basin
where perhaps Khufu saw it lying nearly four thousand years before the
birth of Christ, the Sphinx and the bird were quite alone. The bird
flew near the Sphinx, whimsically turning this way and that, flying
now low, now high, but ever returning to the magnet which drew it,
which held it, from which it surely longed to extract some sign of
recognition. It twittered, it posed itself in the golden air, with its
bright eyes fixed upon those eyes of stone which gazed beyond it,
beyond the land of Egypt, beyond the world of men, beyond the centre
of the sun to the last verges of eternity. And presently it alighted
on the head of the Sphinx, then on its ear, then on its breast; and
over the breast it tripped jerkily, with tiny, elastic steps, looking
upward, its whole body quivering apparently with a desire for
comprehension--a desire for some manifestation of friendship. Then
suddenly it spread its wings, and, straight as an arrow, it flew away
over the sands and the waters toward the doura-fields and Cairo.

And the sunset waned, and the afterglow flamed and faded, and the
clear, soft African night fell. The pilgrims who day by day visit the
Sphinx, like the bird, had gone back to Cairo. They had come, as the
bird had come; as those who have conquered Egypt came; as the Greeks
came, Alexander of Macedon, and the Ptolemies; as the Romans came; as
the Mamelukes, the Turks, the French, the English came.

They had come--and gone.

And that enormous face, with the stains of stormy red still adhering
to its cheeks, grew dark as the darkness closed in, turned brown as a
fellah's face, as the face of that fellah who whispered his secret in
the sphinx's ear, but learnt no secret in return; turned black almost
as a Nubian's face. The night accentuated its appearance of terrible
repose, of super-human indifference to whatever might befall. In the
night I seemed to hear the footsteps of the dead--of all the dead
warriors and the steeds they rode, defiling over the sand before the
unconquerable thing they perhaps thought that they had conquered. At
last the footsteps died away. There was a silence. Then, coming down
from the Great Pyramid, surely I heard the light patter of a donkey's
feet. They went to the Sphinx and ceased. The silence was profound.
And I remembered the legend that Mary, Joseph, and the Holy Child once
halted here on their long journey, and that Mary laid the tired Christ
between the paws of the Sphinx to sleep. Yet even of the Christ the
soul within that body could take no heed at all.

It is, I think, one of the most astounding facts in the history of man
that a man was able to contain within his mind, to conceive, the
conception of the Sphinx. That he could carry it out in the stone is
amazing. But how much more amazing it is that before there was the
Sphinx he was able to see it with his imagination! One may criticize
the Sphinx. One may say impertinent things that are true about it:
that seen from behind at a distance its head looks like an enormous
mushroom growing in the sand, that its cheeks are swelled
inordinately, that its thick-lipped mouth is legal, that from certain
places it bears a resemblance to a prize bull-dog. All this does not
matter at all. What does matter is that into the conception and
execution of the Sphinx has been poured a supreme imaginative power.
He who created it looked beyond Egypt, beyond the life of man. He
grasped the conception of Eternity, and realized the nothingness of
Time, and he rendered it in stone.

I can imagine the most determined atheist looking at the Sphinx and,
in a flash, not merely believing, but feeling that he had before him
proof of the life of the soul beyond the grave, of the life of the
soul of Khufu beyond the tomb of his Pyramid. Always as you return to
the Sphinx you wonder at it more, you adore more strangely its repose,
you steep yourself more intimately in the aloof peace that seems to
emanate from it as light emanates from the sun. And as you look on it
at last perhaps you understand the infinite; you understand where is
the bourne to which the finite flows with all its greatness, as the
great Nile flows from beyond Victoria Nyanza to the sea.

And as the wonder of the Sphinx takes possession of you gradually, so
gradually do you learn to feel the majesty of the Pyramids of Ghizeh.
Unlike the Step Pyramid of Sakkara, which, even when one is near it,
looks like a small mountain, part of the land on which it rests, the
Pyramids of Ghizeh look what they are--artificial excrescences,
invented and carried out by man, expressions of man's greatness.
Exquisite as they are as features of the drowsy golden landscape at
the setting of the sun, I think they look most wonderful at night,
when they are black beneath the stars. On many nights I have sat in
the sand at a distance and looked at them, and always, and
increasingly, they have stirred my imagination. Their profound calm,
their classical simplicity, are greatly emphasized when no detail can
be seen, when they are but black shapes towering to the stars. They
seem to aspire then like prayers prayed by one who has said, "God does
not need any prayers, but I need them." In their simplicity they
suggest a crowd of thoughts and of desires. Guy de Maupassant has said
that of all the arts architecture is perhaps the most aesthetic, the
most mysterious, and the most nourished by ideas. How true this is you
feel as you look at the Great Pyramid by night. It seems to breathe
out mystery. The immense base recalls to you the labyrinth within; the
long descent from the tiny slit that gives you entrance, your
uncertain steps in its hot, eternal night, your falls on the ice-like
surfaces of its polished blocks of stone, the crushing weight that
seemed to lie on your heart as you stole uncertainly on, summoned
almost as by the desert; your sensation of being for ever imprisoned,
taken and hidden by a monster from Egypt's wonderful light, as you
stood in the central chamber, and realized the stone ocean into whose
depths, like some intrepid diver, you had dared deliberately to come.
And then your eyes travel up the slowly shrinking walls till they
reach the dark point which is the top. There you stood with Abou, who
spends half his life on the highest stone, hostages of the sun, bathed
in light and air that perhaps came to you from the Gold Coast. And you
saw men and camels like flies, and Cairo like a grey blur, and the
Mokattam hills almost as a higher ridge of the sands. The mosque of
Mohammed Ali was like a cup turned over. Far below slept the dead in
that graveyard of the Sphinx, with its pale stones, its sand, its
palm, its "Sycamores of the South," once worshipped and regarded as
Hathor's living body. And beyond them on one side were the sleeping
waters, with islands small, surely, as delicate Egyptian hands, and on
the other the great desert that stretches, so the Bedouins say, on and
on "for a march of a thousand days."

That base and that summit--what suggestion and what mystery in their
contrast! What sober, eternal beauty in the dark line which unites
them, now sharply, yet softly, defined against the night, which is
purple as the one garment of the fellah! That line leads the soul
irresistibly from earth to the stars.



It was the "Little Christmas" of the Egyptians as I rode to Sakkara,
after seeing a wonderful feat, the ascent and descent of the second
Pyramid in nineteen minutes by a young Bedouin called Mohammed Ali who
very seriously informed me that the only Roumi who had ever reached
the top was an "American gentlemens" called Mark Twain, on his first
visit to Egypt. On his second visit, Ali said, Mr. Twain had a bad
foot, and declared he could not be bothered with the second Pyramid.
He had been up and down without a guide; he had disturbed the jackal
which lives near its summit, and which I saw running in the sunshine
as Ali drew near its lair, and he was satisfied to rest on his
immortal laurels. To the Bedouins of the Pyramids Mark Twain's world-
wide celebrity is owing to one fact alone: he is the only Roumi who
has climbed the second Pyramid. That is why his name is known to every

It was the "Little Christmas," and from the villages in the plain the
Egyptians came pouring out to visit their dead in the desert
cemeteries as I passed by to visit the dead in the tombs far off on
the horizon. Women, swathed in black, gathered in groups and jumped
monotonously up and down, to the accompaniment of stained hands
clapping, and strange and weary songs. Tiny children blew furiously
into tin trumpets, emitting sounds that were terribly European. Men
strode seriously by, or stood in knots among the graves, talking
vivaciously of the things of this life. As the sun rose higher in the
heavens, this visit to the dead became a carnival of the living.
Laughter and shrill cries of merriment betokened the resignation of
the mourners. The sand-dunes were black with running figures, racing,
leaping, chasing one another, rolling over and over in the warm and
golden grains. Some sat among the graves and ate. Some sang. Some
danced. I saw no one praying, after the sun was up. The Great Pyramid
of Ghizeh was transformed in this morning hour, and gleamed like a
marble mountain, or like the hill covered with salt at El-Outaya, in
Algeria. As we went on it sank down into the sands, until at last I
could see only a small section with its top, which looked almost as
pointed as a gigantic needle. Abou was there on the hot stones in the
golden eye of the sun--Abou who lives to respect his Pyramid, and to
serve Turkish coffee to those who are determined enough to climb it.
Before me the Step Pyramid rose, brown almost as bronze, out of the
sands here desolate and pallid. Soon I was in the house of Marriette,
between the little sphinxes.

Near Cairo, although the desert is real desert, it does not give, to
me, at any rate, the immense impression of naked sterility, of almost
brassy, sun-baked fierceness, which often strikes one in the Sahara to
the south of Algeria, where at midday one sometimes has a feeling of
being lost upon a waste of metal, gleaming, angry, tigerish in color.
Here, in Egypt, both the people and the desert seem gentler, safer,
more amiable. Yet these tombs of Sakkara are hidden in a desolation of
the sands, peculiarly blanched and mournful; and as you wander from
tomb to tomb, descending and ascending, stealing through great
galleries beneath the sands, creeping through tubes of stone,
crouching almost on hands and knees in the sultry chambers of the
dead, the awfulness of the passing away of dynasties and of race
comes, like a cloud, upon your spirit. But this cloud lifts and floats
from you in the cheerful tomb of Thi, that royal councillor, that
scribe and confidant, whose life must have been passed in a round of
serene activities, amid a sneering, though doubtless admiring,

Into this tomb of white, vivacious figures, gay almost, though never
wholly frivolous--for these men were full of purpose, full of an ardor
that seduces even where it seems grotesque--I took with me a child of
ten called Ali, from the village of Kafiah; and as I looked from him
to the walls around us, rather than the passing away of the races, I
realized the persistence of type. For everywhere I saw the face of
little Ali, with every feature exactly reproduced. Here he was bending
over a sacrifice, leading a sacred bull, feeding geese from a cup,
roasting a chicken, pulling a boat, carpentering, polishing,
conducting a monkey for a walk, or merely sitting bolt upright and
sneering. There were lines of little Alis with their hands held to
their breasts, their faces in profile, their knees rigid, in the happy
tomb of Thi; but he glanced at them unheeding, did not recognize his
ancestors. And he did not care to penetrate into the tombs of Mera and
Meri-Ra-ankh, into the Serapeum and the Mestaba of Ptah-hotep. Perhaps
he was right. The Serapeum is grand in its vastness, with its long and
high galleries and its mighty vaults containing the huge granite
sarcophagi of the sacred bulls of Apis; Mera, red and white, welcomes
you from an elevated niche benignly; Ptah-hotep, priest of the fifth
dynasty, receives you, seated at a table that resembles a rake with
long, yellow teeth standing on its handle, and drinking stiffly a cup
of wine. You see upon the wall near by, with sympathy, a patient being
plied by a naked and evidently an unyielding physician with medicine
from a jar that might have been visited by Morgiana, a musician
playing upon an instrument like a huge and stringless harp. But it is
the happy tomb of Thi that lingers in your memory. In that tomb one
sees proclaimed with a marvellous ingenuity and expressiveness the joy
and the activity of life. Thi must have loved life; loved prayer and
sacrifice, loved sport and war, loved feasting and gaiety, labor of
the hands and of the head, loved the arts, the music of flute and
harp, singing by the lingering and plaintive voices which seem to
express the essence of the east, loved sweet odors, loved sweet women
--do we not see him sitting to receive offerings with his wife beside
him?--loved the clear nights and the radiant days that in Egypt make
glad the heart of man. He must have loved the splendid gift of life,
and used it completely. And so little Ali had very right to make his
sole obeisance at Thi's delicious tomb, from which death itself seems
banished by the soft and embracing radiance of the almost living

This delicate cheerfulness, a quite airy gaiety of life, is often
combined in Egypt, and most beautifully and happily combined, with
tremendous solidity, heavy impressiveness, a hugeness that is well-
nigh tragic; and it supplies a relief to eye, to mind, to soul, that
is sweet and refreshing as the trickle of a tarantella from a reed
flute heard under the shadows of a temple of Hercules. Life showers us
with contrasts. Art, which gives to us a second and a more withdrawn
life, opening to us a door through which we pass to our dreams, may
well imitate life in this.



Through a long and golden noontide, and on into an afternoon whose
opulence of warmth and light it seemed could never wane, I sat alone,
or wandered gently quite alone, in the Temple of Seti I. at Abydos.
Here again I was in a place of the dead. In Egypt one ever seeks the
dead in the sunshine, black vaults in the land of the gold. But here
in Abydos I was accompanied by whiteness. The general effect of Seti's
mighty temple is that it is a white temple when seen in full sunshine
and beneath a sky of blinding blue. In an arid place it stands, just
beyond an Egyptian village that is a maze of dust, of children, of
animals, and flies. The last blind houses of the village, brown as
brown paper, confront it on a mound, and as I came toward it a girl-
child swathed in purple with ear-rings, and a twist of orange
handkerchief above her eyes, full of cloud and fire, leaned from a
roof, sinuously as a young snake, to watch me. On each side,
descending, were white, ruined walls, stretched out like defaced white
arms of the temple to receive me. I stood still for a moment and
looked at the narrow, severely simple doorway, at the twelve broken
columns advanced on either side, white and greyish white with their
right angles, their once painted figures now almost wholly colorless.

Here lay the Osirians, those blessed dead of the land of Egypt, who
worshipped the Judge of the Dead, the Lord of the Underworld, and who
hoped for immortality through him--Osiris, husband of Isis, Osiris,
receiver of prayers. Osiris the sun who will not be conquered by
night, but eternally rises again, and so is the symbol of the
resurrection of the soul. It is said that Set, the power of Evil, tore
the body of Osiris into fourteen fragments and scattered them over the
land. But multitudes of worshippers of Osiris believed him buried near
Abydos and, like those who loved the sweet songs of Hafiz, they
desired to be buried near him whom they adored; and so this place
became a place of the dead, a place of many prayers, a white place of
many longings.

I was glad to be alone there. The guardian left me in perfect peace. I
happily forgot him. I sat down in the shadow of a column upon its
mighty projecting base. The sky was blinding blue. Great bees hummed,
like bourdons, through the silence, deepening the almost heavy calm.
These columns, architraves, doorways, how mighty, how grandly strong
they were! And yet soon I began to be aware that even here, where
surely one should read only the Book of the Dead, or bend down to the
hot ground to listen if perchance one might hear the dead themselves
murmuring over the chapters of Beatification far down in their hidden
tombs, there was a likeness, a gentle gaiety of life, as in the tomb
of Thi. The effect of solidity was immense. These columns bulged,
almost like great fruits swollen out by their heady strength of blood.
They towered up in crowds. The heavy roof, broken in places most
mercifully to show squares and oblongs of that perfect, calling blue,
was like a frowning brow. And yet I was with grace, with gentleness,
with lightness, because in the place of the dead I was again with the
happy, living walls. Above me, on the roof, there was a gleam of
palest blue, like the blue I have sometimes seen at morning on the
Ionian sea just where it meets the shore. The double rows of gigantic
columns stretched away, tall almost as forest trees, to right of me
and to left, and were shut in by massive walls, strong as the walls of
a fortress. And on these columns, and on these walls, dead painters
and gravers had breathed the sweet breath of life. Here in the sun,
for me alone, as it seemed, a population followed their occupations.
Men walked, and kneeled, and stood, some white and clothed, some nude,
some red as the red man's child that leaped beyond the sea. And here
was the lotus-flower held in reverent hands, not the rose-lotus, but
the blossom that typified the rising again of the sun, and that, worn
as an amulet, signified the gift of eternal youth. And here was hawk-
faced Horus, and here a priest offering sacrifice to a god, belief in
whom has long since passed away. A king revealed himself to me,
adoring Ptah, "Father of the beginnings," who established upon earth,
my figures thought, the everlasting justice, and again at the knees of
Amen burning incense in his honor. Isis and Osiris stood together, and
sacrifice was made before their sacred bark. And Seti worshipped them,
and Seshta, goddess of learning, wrote in the book of eternity the
name of the king.

The great bees hummed, moving slowly in the golden air among the
mighty columns, passing slowly among these records of lives long over,
but which seemed still to be. And I looked at the lotus-flowers which
the little grotesque hands were holding, had been holding for how many
years--the flowers that typified the rising again of the sun and the
divine gift of eternal youth. And I thought of the bird and the
Sphinx, the thing that was whimsical wooing the thing that was mighty.
And I gazed at the immense columns and at the light and little figures
all about me. Bird and Sphinx, delicate whimsicality, calm and
terrific power! In Egypt the dead men have combined them, and the
combination has an irresistible fascination, weaves a spell that
entrances you in the sunshine and beneath the blinding blue. At Abydos
I knew it. And I loved the columns that seemed blown out with
exuberant strength, and I loved the delicate white walls that, like
the lotus-flower, give to the world a youth that seems eternal--a
youth that is never frivolous, but that is full of the divine, and yet
pathetic, animation of happy life.

The great bees hummed more drowsily. I sat quite still in the sun. And
then presently, moved by some prompting instinct, I turned my head,
and, far off, through the narrow portal of the temple, I saw the girl-
child swathed in purple still lying, sinuously as a young snake, upon
the palm-wood roof above the brown earth wall to watch me with her
eyes of cloud and fire.

And upon me, like cloud and fire--cloud of the tombs and the great
temple columns, fire of the brilliant life painted and engraved upon
them--there stole the spell of Egypt.



I do not find in Egypt any more the strangeness that once amazed, and
at first almost bewildered me. Stranger by far is Morocco, stranger
the country beyond Biskra, near Mogar, round Touggourt, even about El
Kantara. There I feel very far away, as a child feels distance from
dear, familiar things. I look to the horizon expectant of I know not
what magical occurrences, what mysteries. I am aware of the summons to
advance to marvellous lands, where marvellous things must happen. I am
taken by that sensation of almost trembling magic which came to me
when first I saw a mirage far out in the Sahara. But Egypt, though it
contains so many marvels, has no longer for me the marvellous
atmosphere. Its keynote is seductiveness.

In Egypt one feels very safe. Smiling policemen in clothes of spotless
white--emblematic, surely, of their innocence!--seem to be everywhere,
standing calmly in the sun. Very gentle, very tender, although perhaps
not very true, are the Bedouins at the Pyramids. Up the Nile the
fellaheen smile as kindly as the policemen, smile protectingly upon
you, as if they would say, "Allah has placed us here to take care of
the confiding stranger." No ferocious demands for money fall upon my
ears; only an occasional suggestion is subtly conveyed to me that even
the poor must live and that I am immensely rich. An amiable, an almost
enticing seductiveness seems emanating from the fertile soil, shining
in the golden air, gleaming softly in the amber sands, dimpling in the
brown, the mauve, the silver eddies of the Nile. It steals upon one.
It ripples over one. It laps one as if with warm and scented waves. A
sort of lustrous languor overtakes one. In physical well-being one
sinks down, and with wide eyes one gazes and listens and enjoys, and
thinks not of the morrow.

The dahabiyeh--her very name, the /Loulia/, has a gentle, seductive,
cooing sound--drifts broadside to the current with furled sails, or
glides smoothly on before an amiable north wind with sails unfurled.
Upon the bloomy banks, rich brown in color, the brown men stoop and
straighten themselves, and stoop again, and sing. The sun gleams on
their copper skins, which look polished and metallic. Crouched in his
net behind the drowsy oxen, the little boy circles the livelong day
with the sakieh. And the sakieh raises its wailing, wayward voice and
sings to the shadoof; and the shadoof sings to the sakieh; and the
lifted water falls and flows away into the green wilderness of doura
that, like a miniature forest, spreads on every hand to the low
mountains, which do not perturb the spirit, as do the iron mountains
of Algeria. And always the sun is shining, and the body is drinking in
its warmth, and the soul is drinking in its gold. And always the ears
are full of warm and drowsy and monotonous music. And always the eyes
see the lines of brown bodies, on the brown river-banks above the
brown waters, bending, straightening, bending, straightening, with an
exquisitely precise monotony. And always the /Loulia/ seems to be
drifting, so quietly she slips up, or down, the level waterway.

And one drifts, too; one can but drift, happily, sleepily, forgetting
every care. From Abydos to Denderah one drifts, and from Denderah to
Karnak, to Luxor, to all the marvels on the western shore; and on to
Edfu, to Kom Ombos, to Assuan, and perhaps even into Nubia, to Abu-
Simbel, and to Wadi-Halfa. Life on the Nile is a long dream, golden
and sweet as honey of Hymettus. For I let the "divine serpent," who at
Philae may be seen issuing from her charmed cavern, take me very
quietly to see the abodes of the dead, the halls of the vanished, upon
her green and sterile shores. I know nothing of the bustling,
shrieking steamer that defies her, churning into angry waves her
waters for the edification of those who would "do" Egypt and be gone
before they know her.

If you are in a hurry, do not come to Egypt. To hurry in Egypt is as
wrong as to fall asleep in Wall street, or to sit in the Greek Theatre
at Taormina, reading "How to Make a Fortune with a Capital of Fifty



From Abydos, home of the cult of Osiris, Judge of the Dead, I came to
Denderah, the great temple of the "Lady of the Underworld," as the
goddess Hathor was sometimes called, though she was usually worshipped
as the Egyptian Aphrodite, goddess of joy, goddess of love and
loveliness. It was early morning when I went ashore. The sun was above
the eastern hills, and a boy, clad in a rope of plaited grass, sent me
half shyly the greeting, "May your day be happy!"

Youth is, perhaps, the most divine of all the gifts of the gods, as
those who wore the lotus-blossom amulet believed thousands of years
ago, and Denderah, appropriately, is a very young Egyptian temple,
probably, indeed, the youngest of all the temples on the Nile. Its
youthfulness--it is only about two thousand years of age--identifies
it happily with the happiness and beauty of its presiding deity, and
as I rode toward it on the canal-bank in the young freshness of the
morning, I thought of the goddess Safekh and of the sacred Persea-
tree. When Safekh inscribed upon a leaf of the Persea-tree the name of
king or conqueror, he gained everlasting life. Was it the life of
youth? An everlasting life of middle age might be a doubtful benefit.
And then mentally I added, "unless one lived in Egypt." For here the
years drop from one, and every golden hour brings to one surely
another drop of the wondrous essence that sets time at defiance and
charms sad thoughts away.

Unlike White Abydos, White Denderah stands apart from habitations, in
a still solitude upon a blackened mound. From far off I saw the
fašade, large, bare, and sober, rising, in a nakedness as complete as
that of Aphrodite rising from the wave, out of the plain of brown,
alluvial soil that was broken here and there by a sharp green of
growing things. There was something of sadness in the scene, and again
I thought of Hathor as the "Lady of the Underworld," some deep-eyed
being, with a pale brow, hair like the night, and yearning, wistful
hands stretched out in supplication. There was a hush upon this place.
The loud and vehement cry of the shadoof-man died away. The sakieh
droned in my ears no more like distant Sicilian pipes playing at
Natale. I felt a breath from the desert. And, indeed, the desert was
near--that realistic desert which suggests to the traveller approaches
to the sea, so that beyond each pallid dune, as he draws near it, he
half expects to hear the lapping of the waves. Presently, when, having
ascended that marvellous staircase of the New Year, walking in
procession with the priests upon its walls toward the rays of Ra, I
came out upon the temple roof, and looked upon the desert--upon sheeny
sands, almost like slopes of satin shining in the sun, upon paler
sands in the distance, holding an Arab /campo santo/, in which rose
the little creamy cupolas of a sheikh's tomb, surrounded by a creamy
wall, those little cupolas gave to me a feeling of the real, the
irresistible Africa such as I had not known since I had been in Egypt;
and I thought I heard in the distance the ceaseless hum of praying and
praising voices.

"God hath rewarded the faithful with gardens through which flow
rivulets. They shall be for ever therein, and that is the reward of
the virtuous."

The sensation of solemnity which overtook me as I approached the
temple deepened when I drew close to it, when I stood within it. In
the first hall, mighty, magnificent, full of enormous columns from
which faces of Hathor once looked to the four points of the compass, I
found only one face almost complete, saved from the fury of fanatics
by the protection of the goddess of chance, in whom the modern
Egyptian so implicitly believes. In shape it was a delicate oval. In
the long eyes, about the brow, the cheeks, there was a strained
expression that suggested to me more than a gravity--almost an anguish
--of spirit. As I looked at it, I thought of Eleanora Duse. Was this
the ideal of joy in the time of the Ptolemies? Joy may be rapturous,
or it may be serene; but could it ever be like this? The pale,
delicious blue that here and there, in tiny sections, broke the almost
haggard, greyish whiteness of this first hall with the roof of black,
like bits of an evening sky seen through tiny window-slits in a sombre
room, suggested joy, was joy summed up in color. But Hathor's face was
weariful and sad.

From the gloom of the inner halls came a sound, loud, angry, menacing,
as I walked on, a sound of menace and an odor, heavy and deathlike.
Only in the first hall had those builders and decorators of two
thousand years ago been moved by their conception of the goddess to
hail her, to worship her, with the purity of white, with the sweet
gaiety of turquoise. Or so it seems to-day, when the passion of
Christianity against Hathor has spent itself and died. Now Christians
come to seek what Christian Copts destroyed; wander through the
deserted courts, desirous of looking upon the faces that have long
since been hacked to pieces. A more benign spirit informs our world,
but, alas! Hathor has been sacrificed to deviltries of old. And it is
well, perhaps, that her temple should be sad, like a place of silent
waiting for the glories that are gone.

With every step my melancholy grew. Encompassed by gloomy odors,
assailed by the clamour of gigantic bats, which flew furiously among
the monstrous pillars near a roof ominous as a storm-cloud, my spirit
was haunted by the sad eyes of Hathor, which gaze for ever from that
column in the first hall. Were they always like that? Once that face
dwelt with a crowd of worship. And all the other faces have gone, and
all the glory has passed. And, like so many of the living, the goddess
has paid for her splendors. The pendulum swung, and where men adored,
men hated her--her the goddess of love and loveliness. And as the
human face changes when terror and sorrow come, I felt as if Hathor's
face of stone had changed upon its column, looking toward the Nile, in
obedience to the anguish in her heart; I felt as if Denderah were a
majestic house of grief. So I must always think of it, dark, tragic,
and superb. The Egyptians once believed that when death came to a man,
the soul of him, which they called the Ba, winged its way to the gods,
but that, moved by a sweet unselfishness, it returned sometimes to his
tomb, to give comfort to the poor, deserted mummy. Upon the lids of
sarcophagi it is sometimes represented as a bird, flying down to, or
resting upon, the mummy. As I went onward in the darkness, among the
columns, over the blocks of stone that form the pavements, seeing
vaguely the sacred boats upon the walls, Horus and Thoth, the king
before Osiris; as I mounted and descended with the priests to roof and
floor, I longed, instead of the clamour of the bats, to hear the light
flutter of the soft wings of the Ba of Hathor, flying from Paradise to
this sad temple of the desert to bring her comfort in the gloom. I
thought of her as a poor woman, suffering as only women can in

In the museum of Cairo there is the mummy of "the lady Amanit,
priestess of Hathor." She lies there upon her back, with her thin body
slightly turned toward the left side, as if in an effort to change her
position. Her head is completely turned to the same side. Her mouth is
wide open, showing all the teeth. The tongue is lolling out. Upon the
head the thin, brown hair makes a line above the little ear, and is
mingled at the back of the head with false tresses. Round the neck is
a mass of ornaments, of amulets and beads. The right arm and hand lie
along the body. The expression of "the lady Amanit" is very strange,
and very subtle; for it combines horror--which implies activity--with
a profound, an impenetrable repose, far beyond the reach of all
disturbance. In the temple of Denderah I fancied the lady Amanit
ministering sadly, even terribly, to a lonely goddess, moving in fear
through an eternal gloom, dying at last there, overwhelmed by tasks
too heavy for that tiny body, the ultra-sensitive spirit that
inhabited it. And now she sleeps--one feels that, as one gazes at the
mummy--very profoundly, though not yet very calmly, the lady Amanit.
But her goddess--still she wakes upon her column.

When I came out at last into the sunlight of the growing day, I
circled the temple, skirting its gigantic, corniced walls, from which
at intervals the heads and paws of resting lions protrude, to see
another woman whose fame for loveliness and seduction is almost as
legendary as Aphrodite's. It is fitting enough that Cleopatra's form
should be graven upon the temple of Hathor; fitting, also, that though
I found her in the presence of deities, and in the company of her son,
Caesarion, her face, which is in profile, should have nothing of
Hathor's sad impressiveness. This, no doubt, is not the real
Cleopatra. Nevertheless, this face suggests a certain self-complacent
cruelty and sensuality essentially human, and utterly detached from
all divinity, whereas in the face of the goddess there is a something
remote, and even distantly intellectual, which calls the imagination
to "the fields beyond."

As I rode back toward the river, I saw again the boy clad in the rope
of plaited grass, and again he said, less shyly, "May your day be
happy!" It was a kindly wish. In the dawn I had felt it to be almost a
prophecy. But now I was haunted by the face of the goddess of
Denderah, and I remembered the legend of the lovely Lais, who, when
she began to age, covered herself from the eyes of men with a veil,
and went every day at evening to look upon her statue, in which the
genius of Praxiteles had rendered permanent the beauty the woman could
not keep. One evening, hanging to the statue's pedestal by a garland
of red roses, the sculptor found a mirror, upon the polished disk of
which were traced these words:

"Lais, O Goddess, consecrates to thee her mirror: no longer able to
see there what she was, she will not see there what she has become."

My Hathor of Denderah, the sad-eyed dweller on the column in the first
hall, had she a mirror, would surely hang it, as Lais hung hers, at
the foot of the pedestal of the Egyptian Aphrodite; had she a veil,
would surely cover the face that, solitary among the cruel evidences
of Christian ferocity, silently says to the gloomy courts, to the
shining desert and the Nile:

"Once I was worshipped, but I am worshipped no longer."



Buildings have personalities. Some fascinate as beautiful women
fascinate; some charm as a child may charm, naively, simply, but
irresistibly. Some, like conquerors, men of blood and iron, without
bowels of mercy, pitiless and determined, strike awe to the soul,
mingled with the almost gasping admiration that power wakes in man.
Some bring a sense of heavenly peace to the heart. Some, like certain
temples of the Greeks, by their immense dignity, speak to the nature
almost as music speaks, and change anxiety to trust. Some tug at the
hidden chords of romance and rouse a trembling response. Some seem to
be mingling their tears with the tears of the dead; some their
laughter with the laughter of the living. The traveller, sailing up
the Nile, holds intercourse with many of these different
personalities. He is sad, perhaps, as I was with Denderah; dreams in
the sun with Abydos; muses with Luxor beneath the little tapering
minaret whence the call to prayer drops down to be answered by the
angelus bell; falls into a reverie in the "thinking place" of Rameses
II., near to the giant that was once the mightiest of all Egyptian
statues; eagerly wakes to the fascination of record at Deir-el-Bahari;
worships in Edfu; by Philae is carried into a realm of delicate magic,
where engineers are not. Each prompts him to a different mood, each
wakes in his nature a different response. And at Karnak what is he?
What mood enfolds him there? Is he sad, thoughtful, awed, or gay?

An old lady in a helmet, and other things considered no doubt by her
as suited to Egypt rather than to herself, remarked in my hearing,
with a Scotch accent and an air of summing up, that Karnak was "very
nice indeed." There she was wrong--Scotch and wrong. Karnak is not
nice. No temple that I have seen upon the banks of the Nile is nice.
And Karnak cannot be summed up in a phrase or in many phrases; cannot
even be adequately described in few or many words.

Long ago I saw it lighted up with colored fires one night for the
Khedive, its ravaged magnificence tinted with rose and livid green and
blue, its pylons glittering with artificial gold, its population of
statues, its obelisks, and columns, changing from things of dreams to
things of day, from twilight marvels to shadowy specters, and from
these to hard and piercing realities at the cruel will of pigmies
crouching by its walls. Now, after many years, I saw it first quietly
by moonlight after watching the sunset from the summit of the great
pylon. That was a pageant worth more than the Khedive's.

I was in the air; had something of the released feeling I have often
known upon the tower of Biskra, looking out toward evening to the
Sahara spaces. But here I was not confronted with an immensity of
nature, but with a gleaming river and an immensity of man. Beneath me
was the native village, in the heart of daylight dusty and unkempt,
but now becoming charged with velvety beauty, with the soft and heavy
mystery that at evening is born among great palm-trees. Along the path
that led from it, coming toward the avenue of sphinxes with ram's-
heads that watch for ever before the temple door, a great white camel
stepped, its rider a tiny child with a close, white cap upon his head.
The child was singing to the glory of the sunset, or was it to the
glory of Amun, "the hidden one," once the local god of Thebes, to whom
the grandest temple in the world was dedicated? I listen to the
childish, quavering voice, twittering almost like a bird, and one word
alone came up to me--the word one hears in Egypt from all the lips
that speak and sing: from the Nubians round their fires at night, from
the little boatmen of the lower reaches of the Nile, from the Bedouins
of the desert, and the donkey boys of the villages, from the sheikh
who reads one's future in water spilt on a plate, and the Bisharin
with buttered curls who runs to sell one beads from his tent among the

"Allah!" the child was singing as he passed upon his way.

Pigeons circled above their pretty towers. The bats came out, as if
they knew how precious is their black at evening against the ethereal
lemon color, the orange and the red. The little obelisk beyond the
last sphinx on the left began to change, as in Egypt all things change
at sunset--pylon and dusty bush, colossus and baked earth hovel,
sycamore, and tamarisk, statue and trotting donkey. It looked like a
mysterious finger pointed in warning toward the sky. The Nile began to
gleam. Upon its steel and silver torches of amber flame were lighted.
The Libyan mountains became spectral beyond the tombs of the kings.
The tiny, rough cupolas that mark a grave close to the sphinxes, in
daytime dingy and poor, now seemed made of some splendid material
worthy to roof the mummy of a king. Far off a pool of the Nile, that
from here looked like a little palm-fringed lake, turned ruby-red. The
flags from the standard of Luxor, among the minarets, flew out
straight against a sky that was pale as a primrose almost cold in its
amazing delicacy.

I turned, and behind me the moon was risen. Already its silver rays
fell upon the ruins of Karnak; upon the thickets of lotus columns;
upon solitary gateways that now give entrance to no courts; upon the
sacred lake, with its reeds, where the black water-fowl were asleep;
upon sloping walls, shored up by enormous stanchions, like ribs of
some prehistoric leviathan; upon small chambers; upon fallen blocks of
masonry, fragments of architrave and pavement, of capital and cornice;
and upon the people of Karnak--those fascinating people who still
cling to their habitation in the ruins, faithful through misfortune,
affectionate with a steadfastness that defies the cruelty of Time;
upon the little, lonely white sphinx with the woman's face and the
downward-sloping eyes full of sleepy seduction; upon Rameses II., with
the face of a kindly child, not of a king; upon the Sphinx, bereft of
its companion, which crouches before the kiosk of Taharga, the King of
Ethiopia; upon those two who stand together as if devoted, yet by
their attitudes seem to express characters diametrically opposed, grey
men and vivid, the one with folded arms calling to Peace, the other
with arms stretched down in a gesture of crude determination,
summoning War, as if from the underworld; upon the granite foot and
ankle in the temple of Rameses III., which in their perfection, like
the headless Victory in Paris, and the Niobide Chiaramonti in the
Vatican, suggest a great personality that once met with is not to be
forgotten: upon these and their companions, who would not forsake the
halls and courts where once they dwelt with splendor, where now they
dwell with ruin that attracts the gaping world. The moon was risen,
but the west was still full of color and light. It faded. There was a
pause. Only a bar of dull red, holding a hint of brown, by where the
sun had sunk. And minutes passed--minutes for me full of silent
expectation, while the moonlight grew a little stronger, a few more
silver rays slipped down upon the ruins. I turned toward the east. And
then came that curious crescendo of color and of light which, in
Egypt, succeeds the diminuendo of color and of light that is the
prelude to the pause before the afterglow. Everything seemed to be in
subtle movement, heaving as a breast heaves with the breath; swelling
slightly, as if in an effort to be more, to attract attention, to gain
in significance. Pale things became livid, holding apparently some
under-brightness which partly penetrated its envelope, but a
brightness that was white and almost frightful. Black things seemed to
glow with blackness. The air quivered. Its silence surely thrilled
with sound--with sound that grew ever louder.

In the east I saw an effect. To the west I turned for the cause. The
sunset light was returning. Horus would not permit Tum to reign even
for a few brief moments, and Khuns, the sacred god of the moon, would
be witness of a conflict in that lovely western region of the ocean of
the sky where the bark of the sun had floated away beneath the
mountain rim upon the red-and-orange tides. The afterglow was like an
exquisite spasm, is always like an exquisite spasm, a beautiful,
almost desperate effort ending in the quiet darkness of defeat. And
through that spasmodic effort a world lived for some minutes with a
life that seemed unreal, startling, magical. Color returned to the sky
--color ethereal, trembling as if it knew it ought not to return. Yet
it stayed for a while and even glowed, though it looked always
strangely purified, and full of a crystal coldness. The birds that
flew against it were no longer birds, but dark, moving ornaments,
devised surely by a supreme artist to heighten here and there the
beauty of the sky. Everything that moved against the afterglow--man,
woman, child, camel and donkey, dog and goat, languishing buffalo, and
plunging horse--became at once an ornament, invented, I fancied, by a
genius to emphasize, by relieving it, the color in which the sky was
drowned. And Khuns watched serenely, as if he knew the end. And almost
suddenly the miraculous effort failed. Things again revealed their
truth, whether commonplace or not. That pool of the Nile was no more a
red jewel set in a feathery pattern of strange design, but only water
fading from my sight beyond a group of palms. And that below me was
only a camel going homeward, and that a child leading a bronze-colored
sheep with a curly coat, and that a dusty, flat-roofed hovel, not the
fairy home of jinn, or the abode of some magician working marvels with
the sun-rays he had gathered in his net. The air was no longer
thrilling with music. The breast that had heaved with a divine breath
was still as the breast of a corpse.

And Khuns reigned quietly over the plains of Karnak.

Karnak has no distinctive personality. Built under many kings, its
ruins are as complex as were probably once its completed temples, with
their shrines, their towers, their courts, their hypo-style halls. As
I looked down that evening in the moonlight I saw, softened and made
more touching than in day-time, those alluring complexities, brought
by the night and Khuns into a unity that was both tender and superb.
Masses of masonry lay jumbled in shadow and in silver; gigantic walls
cast sharply defined gloom; obelisks pointed significantly to the sky,
seeming, as they always do, to be murmuring a message; huge doorways
stood up like giants unafraid of their loneliness and yet pathetic in
it; here was a watching statue, there one that seemed to sleep, seen
from afar. Yonder Queen Hatshepsu, who wrought wonders at Deir-el-
Bahari, and who is more familiar perhaps as Hatasu, had left there
traces, and nearer, to the right, Rameses III. had made a temple,
surely for the birds, so fond they are of it, so pertinaciously they
haunt it. Rameses II., mutilated and immense, stood on guard before
the terrific hall of Seti I.; and between him and my platform in the
air rose the solitary lotus column that prepares you for the wonder of
Seti's hall, which otherwise might almost overwhelm you--unless you
are a Scotch lady in a helmet. And Khuns had his temple here by the
Sphinx of the twelfth Rameses, and Ptah, who created "the sun egg and
the moon egg," and who was said--only said, alas!--to have established
on earth the "everlasting justice," had his, and still their stones
receive the silver moon-rays and wake the wonder of men. Thothmes
III., Thothmes I., Shishak, who smote the kneeling prisoners and
vanquished Jeroboam, Medamut and Mut, Amenhotep I., and Amenhotep II.
--all have left their records or been celebrated at Karnak. Purposely
I mingled them in my mind--did not attempt to put them in their proper
order, or even to disentangle gods and goddesses from conquerors and
kings. In the warm and seductive night Khuns whispered to me: "As long
ago at Bekhten I exorcised the demon from the suffering Princess, so
now I exorcise from these ruins all spirits but my own. To-night these
ruins shall suggest nothing but majesty, tranquillity, and beauty.
Their records are for Ra, and must be studied by his rays. In mine
they shall speak not to the intellectual, but only to the emotions and
the soul."

And presently I went down, and yielding a complete and happy obedience
to Khuns, I wandered along through the stupendous vestiges of past
eras, dead ambitions, vanished glory, and long-outworn belief, and I
ignored eras, ambitions, glory, and belief, and thought only of form,
and height, of the miracle of blackness against silver, and of the
pathos of statues whose ever-open eyes at night, when one is near
them, suggest the working of some evil spell, perpetual watchfulness,
combined with eternal inactivity, the unslumbering mind caged in the
body that is paralysed.

There is a temple at Karnak that I love, and I scarcely know why I
care for it so much. It is on the right of the solitary lotus column
before you come to the terrific hall of Seti. Some people pass it by,
having but little time, and being hypnotized, it seems, by the more
astounding ruin that lies beyond it. And perhaps it would be well, on
a first visit, to enter it last; to let its influence be the final one
to rest upon your spirit. This is the temple of Rameses III., a brown
place of calm and retirement, an ineffable place of peace. Yes, though
the birds love it and fill it often with their voices, it is a
sanctuary of peace. Upon the floor the soft sand lies, placing silence
beneath your footsteps. The pale brown of walls and columns, almost
yellow in the sunshine, is delicate and soothing, and inclines the
heart to calm. Delicious, suggestive of a beautiful tapestry, rich and
ornate, yet always quiet, are the brown reliefs upon the stone. What
are they? Does it matter? They soften the walls, make them more
personal, more tender. That surely is their mission. This temple holds
for me a spell. As soon as I enter it, I feel the touch of the lotus,
as if an invisible and kindly hand swept a blossom lightly across my
face and downward to my heart. This courtyard, these small chambers
beyond it, that last doorway framing a lovely darkness, soothe me even
more than the terra-cotta hermitages of the Certosa of Pavia. And all
the statues here are calm with an irrevocable calmness, faithful
through passing years with a very sober faithfulness to the temple
they adorn. In no other place, one feels it, could they be thus at
peace, with hands crossed for ever upon their breasts, which are torn
by no anxieties, thrilled by no joys. As one stands among them or
sitting on the base of a column in the chamber that lies beyond them,
looks on them from a little distance, their attitude is like a summons
to men to contend no more, to be still, to enter into rest.

Come to this temple when you leave the hall of Seti. There you are in
a place of triumph. Scarlet, some say, is the color of a great note
sounded on a bugle. This hall is like a bugle-call of the past,
thrilling even now down all the ages with a triumph that is surely
greater than any other triumphs. It suggests blaze--blaze of scarlet,
blaze of bugle, blaze of glory, blaze of life and time, of ambition
and achievement. In these columns, in the putting up of them, dead men
sought to climb to sun and stars, limitless in desire, limitless in
industry, limitless in will. And at the tops of the columns blooms the
lotus, the symbol of rising. What a triumph in stone this hall was
once, what a triumph in stone its ruin is to-day! Perhaps, among
temples, it is the most wondrous thing in all Egypt, as it was, no
doubt, the most wondrous temple in the world; among temples I say, for
the Sphinx is of all the marvels of Egypt by far the most marvellous.
The grandeur of this hall almost moves one to tears, like the marching
past of conquerors, stirs the heart with leaping thrills at the
capacities of men. Through the thicket of columns, tall as forest
trees, the intense blue of the African sky stares down, and their
great shadows lie along the warm and sunlit ground. Listen! There are
voices chanting. Men are working here--working as men worked how many
thousands of years ago. But these are calling upon the Mohammedan's
god as they slowly drag to the appointed places the mighty blocks of
stone. And it is to-day a Frenchman who oversees them.

"Help! Help! Allah give us help!
Help! Help! Allah give us help!"

The dust flies up about their naked feet. Triumph and work; work
succeeded by the triumph all can see. I like to hear the workmen's
voices within the hall of Seti. I like to see the dust stirred by
their tramping feet.

And then I like to go once more to the little temple, to enter through
its defaced gateway, to stand alone in its silence between the rows of
statues with their arms folded upon their quiet breasts, to gaze into
the tender darkness beyond--the darkness that looks consecrated--to
feel that peace is more wonderful than triumph, that the end of things
is peace.

Triumph and deathless peace, the bugle-call and silence--these are the
notes of Karnak.



Upon the wall of the great court of Amenhotep III. in the temple of
Luxor there is a delicious dancing procession in honor of Rameses II.
It is very funny and very happy; full of the joy of life--a sort of
radiant cake-walk of old Egyptian days. How supple are these dancers!
They seem to have no bones. One after another they come in line upon
the mighty wall, and each one bends backward to the knees of the one
who follows. As I stood and looked at them for the first time, almost
I heard the twitter of flutes, the rustic wail of the African hautboy,
the monotonous boom of the derabukkeh, cries of a far-off gaiety such
as one often hears from the Nile by night. But these cries came down
the long avenues of the centuries; this gaiety was distant in the
vasty halls of the long-dead years. Never can I think of Luxor without
thinking of those happy dancers, without thinking of the life that
goes in the sun on dancing feet.

There are a few places in the world that one associates with
happiness, that one remembers always with a smile, a little thrill at
the heart that whispers "There joy is." Of these few places Luxor is
one--Luxor the home of sunshine, the suave abode of light, of warmth,
of the sweet days of gold and sheeny, golden sunsets, of silver,
shimmering nights through which the songs of the boatmen of the Nile
go floating to the courts and the tombs of Thebes. The roses bloom in
Luxor under the mighty palms. Always surely beneath the palms there
are the roses. And the lateen-sails come up the Nile, looking like
white-winged promises of future golden days. And at dawn one wakes
with hope and hears the songs of the dawn; and at noon one dreams of
the happiness to come; and at sunset one is swept away on the gold
into the heart of the golden world; and at night one looks at the
stars, and each star is a twinkling hope. Soft are the airs of Luxor;
there is no harshness in the wind that stirs the leaves of the palms.
And the land is steeped in light. From Luxor one goes with regret. One
returns to it with joy on dancing feet.

One day I sat in the temple, in the huge court with the great double
row of columns that stands on the banks of the Nile and looks so
splendid from it. The pale brown of the stone became almost yellow in
the sunshine. From the river, hidden from me stole up the songs of the
boatmen. Nearer at hand I heard pigeons cooing, cooing in the sun, as
if almost too glad, and seeking to manifest their gladness. Behind me,
through the columns, peeped some houses of the village: the white home
of Ibrahim Ayyad, the perfect dragoman, grandson of Mustapha Aga, who
entertained me years ago, and whose house stood actually within the
precincts of the temple; houses of other fortunate dwellers in Luxor
whose names I do not know. For the village of Luxor crowds boldly
about the temple, and the children play in the dust almost at the foot
of the obelisks and statues. High on a brown hump of earth a buffalo
stood alone, languishing serenely in the sun, gazing at me through the
columns with light eyes that were full of a sort of folly of
contentment. Some goats tripped by, brown against the brown stone--the
dark brown earth of the native houses. Intimate life was here,
striking the note of coziness of Luxor. Here was none of the sadness
and the majesty of Denderah. Grand are the ruins of Luxor, noble is
the line of columns that boldly fronts the Nile, but Time has given
them naked to the air and to the sun, to children and to animals.
Instead of bats, the pigeons fly about them. There is no dreadful
darkness in their sanctuaries. Before them the life of the river,
behind them the life of the village flows and stirs. Upon them looks
down the Minaret of Abu Haggag; and as I sat in the sunshine, the
warmth of which began to lessen, I saw upon its lofty circular balcony
the figure of the muezzin. He leaned over, bending toward the temple
and the statues of Rameses II. and the happy dancers on the wall. He
opened his lips and cried to them:

"God is great. God is great . . . I bear witness that there is no god
but God. . . . I bear witness that Mohammed is the Apostle of God.
. . . Come to prayer! Come to prayer! . . . God is great. God is
great. There is no god but God."

He circled round the minaret. He cried to the Nile. He cried to the
Colossi sitting in their plain, and to the yellow precipices of the
mountains of Libya. He cried to Egypt:

"Come to prayer! Come to prayer! There is no god but God. There is no
god but God."

The days of the gods were dead, and their ruined temple echoed with
the proclamation of the one god of the Moslem world. "Come to prayer!
Come to prayer!" The sun began to sink.

"Sunset and evening star, and one clear call for me."

The voice of the muezzin died away. There was a silence; and then, as
if in answer to the cry from the minaret, I heard the chime of the
angelus bell from the Catholic church of Luxor.

"Twilight and evening bell, and after that the dark."

I sat very still. The light was fading; all the yellow was fading,
too, from the columns and the temple walls. I stayed till it was dark;
and with the dark the old gods seemed to resume their interrupted
sway. And surely they, too, called to prayer. For do not these ruins
of old Egypt, like the muezzin upon the minaret, like the angelus bell
in the church tower, call one to prayer in the night? So wonderful are
they under stars and moon that they stir the fleshly and the worldly
desires that lie like drifted leaves about the reverence and the
aspiration that are the hidden core of the heart. And it is released
from its burden; and it awakes and prays.

Amun-Ra, Mut, and Khuns, the king of the gods, his wife, mother of
gods, and the moon god, were the Theban triad to whom the holy
buildings of Thebes on the two banks of the Nile were dedicated; and
this temple of Luxor, the "House of Amun in the Southern Apt," was
built fifteen hundred years before Christ by Amenhotep III. Rameses
II., that vehement builder, added to it immensely. One walks among his
traces when one walks in Luxor. And here, as at Denderah, Christians
have let loose the fury that should have had no place in their
religion. Churches for their worship they made in different parts of
the temple, and when they were not praying, they broke in pieces
statues, defaced bas-reliefs, and smashed up shrines with a vigor
quite as great as that displayed in preservation by Christians of
to-day. Now time has called a truce. Safe are the statues that are
left. And day by day two great religions, almost as if in happy
brotherly love, send forth their summons by the temple walls. And just
beyond those walls, upon the hill, there is a Coptic church. Peace
reigns in happy Luxor. The lion lies down with the lamb, and the
child, if it will, may harmlessly put its hand into the cockatrice's

Perhaps because it is so surrounded, so haunted by life and familiar
things, because the pigeons fly about it, the buffalo stares into it,
the goats stir up the dust beside its columns, the twittering voices
of women make a music near its courts, many people pay little heed to
this great temple, gain but a small impression from it. It decorates
the bank of the Nile. You can see it from the dahabiyehs. For many
that is enough. Yet the temple is a noble one, and, for me, it gains a
definite attraction all its own from the busy life about it, the
cheerful hum and stir. And if you want fully to realize its dignity,
you can always visit it by night. Then the cries from the village are
hushed. The houses show no lights. Only the voices from the Nile steal
up to the obelisk of Rameses, to the pylon from which the flags of
Thebes once flew on festal days, to the shrine of Alexander the Great,
with its vultures and its stars, and to the red granite statues of
Rameses and his wives.

These last are as expressive as and of course more definite than my
dancers. They are full of character. They seem to breathe out the
essence of a vanished domesticity. Colossal are the statues of the
king, solid, powerful, and tremendous, boldly facing the world with
the calm of one who was thought, and possibly thought himself, to be
not much less than a deity. And upon each pedestal, shrinking
delicately back, was once a little wife. Some little wives are left.
They are delicious in their modesty. Each stands away from the king,
shyly, respectfully. Each is so small as to be below his down-
stretched arm. Each, with a surely furtive gesture, reaches out her
right hand, and attains the swelling calf of her noble husband's leg.
Plump are their little faces, but not bad-looking. One cannot pity the
king. Nor does one pity them. For these were not "Les desenchantees,"
the restless, sad-hearted women of an Eastern world that knows too
much. Their longings surely cannot have been very great. Their world
was probably bounded by the calf of Rameses's leg. That was "the far
horizon" of the little plump-faced wives.

The happy dancers and the humble wives, they always come before me
with the temple of Luxor--joy and discretion side by side. And with
them, to my ears, the two voices seem to come, muezzin and angelus
bell, mingling not in war, but peace. When I think of this temple, I
think of its joy and peace far less than of its majesty.

And yet it is majestic. Look at it, as I have often done, toward
sunset from the western bank of the Nile, or climb the mound beyond
its northern end, where stands the grand entrance, and you realize at
once its nobility and solemn splendor. From the /Loulia's/ deck it was
a procession of great columns; that was all. But the decorative effect
of these columns, soaring above the river and its vivid life, is fine.

By day all is turmoil on the river-bank. Barges are unloading,
steamers are arriving, and throngs of donkey-boys and dragomans go
down in haste to meet them. Servants run to and fro on errands from
the many dahabiyehs. Bathers leap into the brown waters. The native
craft pass by with their enormous sails outspread to catch the wind,
bearing serried mobs of men, and black-robed women, and laughing,
singing children. The boatmen of the hotels sing monotonously as they
lounge in the big, white boats waiting for travellers to Medinet-Abu,
to the Ramesseum, to Kurna, and the tombs. And just above them rise
the long lines of columns, ancient, tranquil, and remote--infinitely
remote, for all their nearness, casting down upon the sunlit gaiety
the long shadow of the past.

From the edge of the mound where stands the native village the effect
of the temple is much less decorative, but its detailed grandeur can
be better grasped from there; for from there one sees the great towers
of the propylon, two rows of mighty columns, the red granite Obelisk
of Rameses the great, and the black granite statues of the king. On
the right of the entrance a giant stands, on the left one is seated,
and a little farther away a third emerges from the ground, which
reaches to its mighty breast.

And there the children play perpetually. And there the Egyptians sing
their serenades, making the pipes wail and striking the derabukkeh;
and there the women gossip and twitter like the birds. And the buffalo
comes to take his sun-bath; and the goats and the curly, brown sheep
pass in sprightly and calm processions. The obelisk there, like its
brother in Paris, presides over a cheerfulness of life; but it is a
life that seems akin to it, not alien from it. And the king watches
the simplicity of this keen existence of Egypt of to-day far up the
Nile with a calm that one does not fear may be broken by unsympathetic
outrage, or by any vision of too perpetual foreign life. For the
tourists each year are but an episode in Upper Egypt. Still the
shadoof-man sings his ancient song, violent and pathetic, bold as the
burning sun-rays. Still the fellaheen plough with the camel yoked with
the ox. Still the women are covered with protective amulets and hold
their black draperies in their mouths. The intimate life of the Nile
remains the same. And that life obelisk and king have known for how
many, many years!

And so I love to think of this intimacy of life about the temple of
the happy dancers and the humble little wives, and it seems to me to
strike the keynote of the golden coziness of Luxor.



Nevertheless, sometimes one likes to escape from the thing one loves,
and there are hours when the gay voices of Luxor fatigue the ears,
when one desires a great calm. Then there are silent voices that
summon one across the river, when the dawn is breaking over the hills
of the Arabian desert, or when the sun is declining toward the Libyan
mountains--voices issuing from lips of stone, from the twilight of
sanctuaries, from the depths of rock-hewn tombs.

The peace of the plain of Thebes in the early morning is very rare and
very exquisite. It is not the peace of the desert, but rather,
perhaps, the peace of the prairie--an atmosphere tender, delicately
thrilling, softly bright, hopeful in its gleaming calm. Often and
often have I left the /Loulia/ very early moored against the long sand
islet that faces Luxor when the Nile has not subsided, I have rowed
across the quiet water that divided me from the western bank, and,
with a happy heart, I have entered into the lovely peace of the great
spaces that stretch from the Colossi of Memnon to the Nile, to the
mountains, southward toward Armant, northward to Kerekten, to Danfik,
to Gueziret-Meteira. Think of the color of young clover, of young
barley, of young wheat; think of the timbre of the reed flute's voice,
thin, clear, and frail with the frailty of dewdrops; think of the
torrents of spring rushing through the veins of a great, wide land,
and growing almost still at last on their journey. Spring, you will
say, perhaps, and high Nile not yet subsided! But Egypt is the favored
land of a spring that is already alert at the end of November, and in
December is pushing forth its green. The Nile has sunk away from the
feet of the Colossi that it has bathed through many days. It has freed
the plain to the fellaheen, though still it keeps my island in its
clasp. And Hapi, or Kam-wra, the "Great Extender," and Ra, have made
this wonderful spring to bloom on the dark earth before the
Christian's Christmas.

What a pastoral it is, this plain of Thebes, in the dawn of day! Think
of the reed flute, I have said, not because you will hear it, as you
ride toward the mountains, but because its voice would be utterly in
place here, in this arcady of Egypt, playing no tarantella, but one of
those songs, half bird-like, and half sadly, mysteriously human, which
come from the soul of the East. Instead of it, you may catch distant
cries from the bank of the river, where the shadoof-man toils, lifting
ever the water and his voice, the one to earth, the other, it seems,
to sky; and the creaking lay of the water-wheel, which pervades Upper
Egypt like an atmosphere, and which, though perhaps at first it
irritates, at last seems to you the sound of the soul of the river, of
the sunshine, and the soil.

Much of the land looks painted. So flat is it, so young are the
growing crops, that they are like a coating of green paint spread over
a mighty canvas. But the doura rises higher than the heads of the
naked children who stand among it to watch you canter past. And in the
far distance you see dim groups of trees--sycamores and acacias,
tamarisks and palms. Beyond them is the very heart of this "land of
sand and ruins and gold"; Medinet-Abu, the Ramesseum, Deir-el Medinet,
Kurna, Deir-el-Bahari, the tombs of the kings, the tombs of the queens
and of the princes. In the strip of bare land at the foot of those
hard, and yet poetic mountains, have been dug up treasures the fame of
which has gone to the ends of the world. But this plain, where the
fellaheen are stooping to the soil, and the women are carrying the
water-jars, and the children are playing in the doura, and the oxen
and the camels are working with ploughs that look like relics of far-
off days, is the possession of the two great presiding beings whom you
see from an enormous distance, the Colossi of Memnon. Amenhotep III.
put them where they are. So we are told. But in this early morning it
is not possible to think of them as being brought to any place.
Seated, the one beside the other, facing the Nile and the home of the
rising sun, their immense aspect of patience suggests will, calmly,
steadily exercised, suggests choice; that, for some reason, as yet
unknown, they chose to come to this plain, that they choose solemnly
to remain there, waiting, while the harvests grow and are gathered
about their feet, while the Nile rises and subsides, while the years
and the generations come, like the harvests, and are stored away in
the granaries of the past. Their calm broods over this plain, gives to
it a personal atmosphere which sets it quite apart from every other
flat space of the world. There is no place that I know on the earth
which has the peculiar, bright, ineffable calm of the plain of these
Colossi. It takes you into its breast, and you lie there in the
growing sunshine almost as if you were a child laid in the lap of one
of them. That legend of the singing at dawn of the "vocal Memnon," how
could it have arisen? How could such calmness sing, such patience ever
find a voice? Unlike the Sphinx, which becomes ever more impressive as
you draw near to it, and is most impressive when you sit almost at its
feet, the Colossi lose in personality as you approach them and can see
how they have been defaced.

From afar one feels their minds, their strange, unearthly temperaments
commanding this pastoral. When you are beside them, this feeling
disappears. Their features are gone, and though in their attitudes
there is power, and there is something that awakens awe, they are more
wonderful as a far-off feature of the plain. They gain in grandeur
from the night in strangeness from the moonrise, perhaps specially
when the Nile comes to their feet. More than three thousand years old,
they look less eternal than the Sphinx. Like them, the Sphinx is
waiting, but with a greater purpose. The Sphinx reduces man really to
nothingness. The Colossi leave him some remnants of individuality. One
can conceive of Strabo and AElius Gallus, of Hadrian and Sabina, of
others who came over the sunlit land to hear the unearthly song in the
dawn, being of some--not much, but still of some--importance here.
Before the Sphinx no one is important. But in the distance of the
plain the Colossi shed a real magic of calm and solemn personality,
and subtly seem to mingle their spirit with the flat, green world, so
wide, so still, so fecund, and so peaceful; with the soft airs that
are surely scented with an eternal springtime, and with the light that
the morning rains down on wheat and clover, on Indian corn and barley,
and on brown men laboring, who, perhaps, from the patience of the
Colossi in repose have drawn a patience in labor that has in it
something not less sublime.

From the Colossi one goes onward toward the trees and the mountains,
and very soon one comes to the edge of that strange and fascinating
strip of barren land which is strewn with temples and honeycombed with
tombs. The sun burns down on it. The heat seems thrown back upon it by
the wall of tawny mountains that bounds it on the west. It is dusty,
it is arid; it is haunted by swarms of flies, by the guardians of the
ruins, and by men and boys trying to sell enormous scarabs and
necklaces and amulets, made yesterday, and the day before, in the
manufactory of Kurna. From many points it looks not unlike a strangely
prolonged rubbish-heap in which busy giants have been digging with
huge spades, making mounds and pits, caverns and trenches, piling up
here a monstrous heap of stones, casting down there a mighty statue.
But how it fascinates! Of curse one knows what it means. One knows
that on this strip of land Naville dug out at Deir-el-Bahari the
temple of Mentu-hotep, and discovered later, in her shrine, Hathor,
the cow-goddess, with the lotus-plants streaming from her sacred
forehead to her feet; that long before him Mariette here brought to
the light at Drah-abu'l-Neggah the treasures of kings of the twelfth
and thirteenth dynasties; that at the foot of those tiger-colored
precipices Theodore M. Davis the American found the sepulcher of Queen
Hatshepsu, the Queen Elizabeth of the old Egyptian world, and, later,
the tomb of Yuaa and Thuaa, the parents of Queen Thiy, containing
mummy-cases covered with gold, jars of oil and wine, gold, silver, and
alabaster boxes, a bed decorated with gilded ivory a chair with gilded
plaster reliefs, chairs of state, and a chariot; that here Maspero,
Victor Loret, Brugsch Bey, and other patient workers gave to the world
tombs that had been hidden and unknown for centuries; that there to
the north is the temple of Kurna, and over there the Ramesseum; that
those rows of little pillars close under the mountain, and looking
strangely modern, are the pillars of Hatshepsu's temple, which bears
upon its walls the pictures of the expedition to the historic land of
Punt; that the kings were buried there, and there the queens and the
princes of the vanished dynasties; that beyond to the west is the
temple of Deir-el-Medinet with its judgment of the dead; that here by
the native village is Medinet-Abu. One knows that, and so the
imagination is awake, ready to paint the lily and to gild the beaten
gold. But even if one did not know, I think one would be fascinated.
This turmoil of sun-baked earth and rock, grey, yellow, pink, orange,
and red, awakens the curiosity, summons the love of the strange,
suggests that it holds secrets to charm the souls of men.



At the entrance to the temple of Medinet-Abu, near the small groups of
palms and the few brown houses, often have I turned and looked back
across the plain before entering through the first beautiful doorway,
to see the patient backs and right sides of the Colossi, the far-off,
dreamy mountains beyond Karnak and the Nile. And again, when I have
entered and walked a little distance, I have looked back at the almost
magical picture framed in the doorway; at the bottom of the picture a
layer of brown earth, then a strip of sharp green--the cultivated
ground--then a blur of pale yellow, then a darkness of trees, and just
the hint of a hill far, very far away. And always, in looking, I have
thought of the "Sposalizio" of Raphael in the Brera at Milan, of the
tiny dream of blue country framed by the temple doorway beyond the
Virgin and Saint Joseph. The doorways of the temples of Egypt are very
noble, and nowhere have I been more struck by their nobility than in
Medinet-Abu. Set in huge walls of massive masonry, which rise slightly
above them on each side, with a projecting cornice, in their
simplicity they look extraordinarily classical, in their sobriety
mysterious, and in their great solidity quite wonderfully elegant. And
they always suggest to me that they are giving access to courts and
chambers which still, even in our times, are dedicated to secret cults
--to the cults of Isis, of Hathor, and of Osiris.

Close to the right of the front of Medinet-Abu there are trees covered
with yellow flowers; beyond are fields of doura. Behind the temple is
a sterility which makes one think of metal. A great calm enfolds the
place. The buildings are of the same color as the Colossi. When I
speak of the buildings, I include the great temple, the pavilion of
Rameses III., and the little temple, which together may be said to
form Medinet-Abu. Whereas the temple of Luxor seems to open its arms
to life, and the great fascination of the Ramesseum comes partly from
its invasion by every traveling air and happy sun-ray, its openness
and freedom, Medinet-Abu impresses by its colossal air of secrecy, by
its fortress-like seclusion. Its walls are immensely thick, and are
covered with figures the same color as the walls, some of them very
tall. Thick-set, massive, heavy, almost warlike it is. Two seated
statues within, statues with animals' faces, steel-colored, or perhaps
a little darker than that, look like savage warders ready to repel

Passing between them, delicately as Agag, one enters an open space
with ruins, upon the right of which is a low, small temple, grey in
hue, and covered with inscriptions, which looks almost bowed under its
tremendous weight of years. From this dignified, though tiny, veteran
there comes a perpetual sound of birds. The birds in Egypt have no
reverence for age. Never have I seen them more restless, more gay, or
more impertinent, than in the immemorial ruins of the ancient land.
Beyond is an enormous portal, on the lofty ceiling of which still
linger traces of faded red and blue, which gives access to a great
hall with rows of mighty columns, those on the left hand round, those
on the right square, and almost terribly massive. There is in these no
grace, as in the giant lotus columns of Karnak. Prodigious, heavy,
barbaric, they are like a hymn in stone to Strength. There is
something brutal in their aspect, which again makes one think of war,
of assaults repelled, hordes beaten back like waves by a sea-wall. And
still another great hall, with more gigantic columns, lies in the sun
beyond, and a doorway through which seems to stare fiercely the edge
of a hard and fiery mountain. Although one is roofed by the sky, there
is something oppressive here; an imprisoned feeling comes over one. I
could never be fond of Medinet-Abu, as I am fond of Luxor, of parts of
Karnak, of the whole of delicious, poetical Philae. The big pylons,
with their great walls sloping inward, sand-colored, and glowing with
very pale yellow in the sun, the resistant walls, the brutal columns,
the huge and almost savage scale of everything, always remind me of
the violence in men, and also--I scarcely know why--make me think of
the North, of sullen Northern castles by the sea, in places where
skies are grey, and the white of foam and snow is married in angry

And yet in Medinet-Abu there reigns a splendid calm--a calm that
sometimes seems massive, resistant, as the columns and the walls.
Peace is certainly inclosed by the stones that call up thoughts of
war, as if, perhaps, their purpose had been achieved many centuries
ago, and they were quit of enemies for ever. Rameses III. is connected
with Medinet-Abu. He was one of the greatest of the Egyptian kings,
and has been called the "last of the great sovereigns of Egypt." He
ruled for thirty-one years, and when, after a first visit to Medinet-
Abu, I looked into his records, I was interested to find that his
conquests and his wars had "a character essentially defensive." This
defensive spirit is incarnated in the stones of these ruins. One reads
in them something of the soul of this king who lived twelve hundred
years before Christ, and who desired, "in remembrance of his Syrian
victories," to give to his memorial temple an outward military aspect.
I noticed a military aspect at once inside this temple; but if you
circle the buildings outside it is more unmistakable. For the east
front has a battlemented wall, and the battlements are shield-shaped.
This fortress, or migdol, a name which the ancient Egyptians borrowed
from the nomadic tribes of Syria, is called the "Pavilion of Rameses
III.," and his principal battles are represented upon its walls. The
monarch does not hesitate to speak of himself in terms of praise,
suggesting that he was like the God Mentu, who was the Egyptian war
god, and whose cult at Thebes was at one period more important even
than was the cult of Amun, and also plainly hinting that he was a
brave fellow. "I, Rameses the King," he murmurs, "behaved as a hero
who knows his worth." If hieroglyphs are to be trusted, various
Egyptian kings of ancient times seem to have had some vague suspicion
of their own value, and the walls of Medinet-Abu are, to speak
sincerely, one mighty boast. In his later years the king lived in
peace and luxury, surrounded by a vicious and intriguing Court,
haunted by magicians, hags, and mystery-mongers. Dealers in magic may
still be found on the other side of the river, in happy Luxor. I made
the acquaintance of two when I was there, one of whom offered for a
couple of pounds to provide me with a preservative against all such
dangers as beset the traveller in wild places. In order to prove its
efficacy he asked me to come to his house by night, bringing a dog and
my revolver with me. He would hang the charm about the dog's neck, and
I was then to put six shots into the animal's body. He positively
assured me that the dog would be uninjured. I half-promised to come
and, when night began to fall, looked vaguely about for a dog. At last
I found one, but it howled so dismally when I asked Ibrahim Ayyad to
take possession of it for experimental purposes, that I weakly gave up
the project, and left the magician clamoring for his hundred and
ninety-five piastres.

Its warlike aspect gives a special personality to Medinet-Abu. The
shield-shaped battlements; the courtyards, with their brutal columns,
narrowing as they recede towards the mountains; the heavy gateways,
with superimposed chambers; the towers; quadrangular bastion to
protect, inclined basement to resist the attacks of sappers and cause
projectiles to rebound--all these things contribute to this very
definite effect.

I have heard travelers on the Nile speak piteously of the confusion
wakened in their minds by a hurried survey of many temples, statues,
monuments, and tombs. But if one stays long enough this confusion
fades happily away, and one differentiates between the antique
personalities of Ancient Egypt almost as easily as one differentiates
between the personalities of one's familiar friends. Among these
personalities Medinet-Abu is the warrior, standing like Mentu, with
the solar disk, and the two plumes erect above his head of a hawk,
firmly planted at the foot of the Theban mountains, ready to repel all
enemies, to beat back all assaults, strong and determined, powerful
and brutally serene.



"This, my lord, is the thinking-place of Rameses the Great."

So said Ibrahim Ayyad to me one morning--Ibrahim, who is almost as
prolific in the abrupt creation of peers as if he were a democratic

I looked about me. We stood in a ruined hall with columns, architraves
covered with inscriptions, segments of flat roof. Here and there
traces of painting, dull-red, pale, ethereal blue--the "love-color" of
Egypt, as the Egyptians often call it--still adhered to the stone.
This hall, dignified, grand, but happy, was open on all sides to the
sun and air. From it I could see tamarisk- and acacia-trees, and far-
off shadowy mountains beyond the eastern verge of the Nile. And the
trees were still as carven things in an atmosphere that was a miracle
of clearness and of purity. Behind me, and near, the hard Libyan
mountains gleamed in the sun. Somewhere a boy was singing; and
suddenly his singing died away. And I thought of the "Lay of the
Harper" which is inscribed upon the tombs of Thebes--those tombs under
those gleaming mountains:

"For no one carries away his goods with him;
Yea, no one returns again who has gone thither."

It took the place of the song that had died as I thought of the great
king's glory; that he had been here, and had long since passed away.

"The thinking-place of Rameses the Great!"


"You must leave me alone here, Ibrahim."

I watched his gold-colored robe vanish into the gold of the sun
through the copper color of the columns. And I was quite alone in the
"thinking-place" of Rameses. It was a brilliant day, the sky dark
sapphire blue, without even the spectre of a cloud, or any airy,
vaporous veil; the heat already intense in the full sunshine, but
delicious if one slid into a shadow. I slid into a shadow, and sat
down on a warm block of stone. And the silence flowed upon me--the
silence of the Ramesseum.

Was /Horbehutet/, the winged disk, with crowned /uroei/, ever set up
above this temple's principal door to keep it from destruction? I do
not know. But, if he was, he failed perfectly to fulfil his mission.
And I am glad he failed. I am glad of the ruin that is here, glad that
walls have crumbled or been overthrown, that columns have been cast
down, and ceilings torn off from the pillars that supported them,
letting in the sky. I would have nothing different in the thinking-
place of Rameses.

Like a cloud, a great golden cloud, a glory impending that will not,
cannot, be dissolved into the ether, he loomed over the Egypt that is
dead, he looms over the Egypt of to-day. Everywhere you meet his
traces, everywhere you hear his name. You say to a tall young
Egyptian: "How big you are growing, Hassan!"

He answers, "Come back next year, my gentleman, and I shall be like
Rameses the Great."

Or you ask of the boatman who rows you, "How can you pull all day
against the current of the Nile?" And he smiles, and lifting his brown
arm, he says to you: "Look! I am strong as Rameses the great."

This familiar fame comes down through some twenty years. Carved upon
limestone and granite, now it seems engraven also on every Egyptian
heart that beats not only with the movement of shadoof, or is not
buried in the black soil fertilized by Hapi. Thus can inordinate
vanity prolong the true triumph of genius, and impress its own view of
itself upon the minds of millions. This Rameses is believed to be the
Pharaoh who oppressed the children of Israel.

As I sat in the Ramesseum that morning, I recalled his face--the face
of an artist and a dreamer rather than that of a warrior and
oppressor; Asiatic, handsome, not insensitive, not cruel, but subtle,
aristocratic, and refined. I could imagine it bending above the little
serpents of the sistrum as they lifted their melodious voices to bid
Typhon depart, or watching the dancing women's rhythmic movements, or
smiling half kindly, half with irony, upon the lovelorn maiden who
made her plaint:

"What is sweet to the mouth, to me is as the gall of birds;
Thy breath alone can comfort my heart."

And I could imagine it looking profoundly grave, not sad, among the
columns with their opening lotus flowers. For it is the hall of lotus
columns that Ibrahim calls the thinking-place of the king.

There is something both lovely and touching to me in the lotus columns
of Egypt, in the tall masses of stone opening out into flowers near
the sun. Near the sun! Yes; only that obvious falsehood will convey to
those who have not seen them the effect of some of the hypostyle
halls, the columns of which seem literally soaring to the sky. And
flowers of stone, you will say, rudely carved and rugged! That does
not matter. There was poetry in the minds that conceived them, in the
thought that directed the hands which shaped them and placed them
where they are. In Egypt perpetually one feels how the ancient
Egyptians loved the /Nymphaea lotus/, which is the white lotus, and
the /Nymphaea coeruloea/, the lotus that is blue. Did they not place
Horus in its cup, and upon the head of Nefer-Tum, the nature god, who
represented in their mythology the heat of the rising sun, and who
seems to have been credited with power to grant life in the world to
come, set it as a sort of regal ornament? To Seti I., when he returned
in glory from his triumphs over the Syrians, were given bouquets of
lotus-blossoms by the great officers of his household. The tiny column
of green feldspar ending in the lotus typified eternal youth, even as
the carnelian buckle typified the blood of Isis, which washed away all
sin. Kohl pots were fashioned in the form of the lotus, cartouches
sprang from it, wine flowed from cups shaped like it. The lotus was
part of the very life of Egypt, as the rose, the American Beauty rose,
is part of our social life of to-day. And here, in the Ramesseum, I
found campaniform, or lotus-flower capitals on the columns--here where
Rameses once perhaps dreamed of his Syrian campaigns, or of that
famous combat when, "like Baal in his fury," he fought single-handed
against the host of the Hittites massed in two thousand, five hundred
chariots to overthrow him.

The Ramesseum is a temple not of winds, but of soft and kindly airs.
There comes Zephyrus, whispering love to Flora incarnate in the Lotus.
To every sunbeam, to every little breeze, the ruins stretch out arms.
They adore the deep-blue sky, the shining, sifted sand, untrammeled
nature, all that whispers, "Freedom."

So I felt that day when Ibrahim left me, so I feel always when I sit
in the Ramesseum, that exultant victim of Time's here not sacrilegious

All strong souls cry out secretly for liberty as for a sacred
necessity of life. Liberty seems to drench the Ramesseum. And all
strong souls must exult there. The sun has taken it as a beloved
possession. No massy walls keep him out. No shield-shaped battlements
rear themselves up against the outer world as at Medinet-Abu. No huge
pylons cast down upon the ground their forms in darkness. The stone
glows with the sun, seems almost to have a soul glowing with the
sense, the sun-ray sense, of freedom. The heart leaps up in the
Ramesseum, not frivolously, but with a strange, sudden knowledge of
the depths of passionate joy there are in life and in bountiful,
glorious nature. Instead of the strength of a prison one feels the
ecstasy of space; instead of the safety of inclosure, the rapture of
naked publicity. But the public to whom this place of the great king
is consigned is a public of Theban hills; of the sunbeams striking
from them over the wide world toward the east; of light airs, of
drifting sand grains, of singing birds, and of butterflies with pure
white wings. If you have ever ridden an Arab horse, mounted in the
heart of an oasis, to the verge of the great desert, you will remember
the bound, thrilling with fiery animation, which he gives when he sets
his feet on the sand beyond the last tall date-palms. A bound like
that the soul gives when you sit in the Ramesseum, and see the
crowding sunbeams, the far-off groves of palm-trees, and the drowsy
mountains, like shadows, that sleep beyond the Nile. And you look up,
perhaps, as I looked that morning, and upon a lotus column near you,
relieved, you perceive the figure of a young man singing.

A young man singing! Let him be the tutelary god of this place,
whoever he be, whether only some humble, happy slave, or the
"superintendent of song and of the recreation of the king." Rather
even than Amun-Ra let him be the god. For there is something nobly
joyous in this architecture, a dignity that sings.

It has been said, but not established, that Rameses the Great was
buried in the Ramesseum, and when first I entered it the "Lay of the
Harper" came to my mind, with the sadness that attends the passing
away of glory into the shades of death. But an optimism almost as
determined as Emerson's was quickly bred in me there. I could not be
sad, though I could be happily thoughtful, in the light of the
Ramesseum. And even when I left the thinking-place, and, coming down
the central aisle, saw in the immersing sunshine of the Osiride Court
the fallen colossus of the king, I was not struck to sadness.

Imagine the greatest figure in the world--such a figure as this
Rameses was in his day--with all might, all glory, all climbing power,
all vigor, tenacity of purpose, and granite strength of will
concentrated within it, struck suddenly down, and falling backward in
a collapse of which the thunder might shake the vitals of the earth,
and you have this prostrate colossus. Even now one seems to hear it
fall, to feel the warm soil trembling beneath one's feet as one
approaches it. A row of statues of enormous size, with arms crossed as
if in resignation, glowing in the sun, in color not gold or amber, but
a delicate, desert yellow, watch near it like servants of the dead. On
a slightly lower level than there it lies, and a little nearer the
Nile. Only the upper half of the figure is left, but its size is
really terrific. This colossus was fifty-seven feet high. It weighed
eight hundred tons. Eight hundred tons of syenite went to its making,
and across the shoulders its breadth is, or was, over twenty-two feet.
But one does not think of measurements as one looks upon it. It is
stupendous. That is obvious and that is enough. Nor does one think of
its finish, of its beautiful, rich color, of any of its details. One
thinks of it as a tremendous personage laid low, as the mightiest of
the mighty fallen. One thinks of it as the dead Rameses whose glory
still looms over Egypt like a golden cloud that will not disperse. One
thinks of it as the soul that commanded, and lo! there rose up above
the sands, at the foot of the hills of Thebes, the exultant Ramesseum.



Place for Queen Hatshepsu! Surely she comes to a sound of flutes, a
merry noise of thin, bright music, backed by a clashing of barbaric
cymbals, along the corridors of the past; this queen who is shown upon
Egyptian walls dressed as a man, who is said to have worn a beard, and
who sent to the land of Punt the famous expedition which covered her
with glory and brought gold to the god Amun. To me most feminine she
seemed when I saw her temple at Deir-el-Bahari, with its brightness
and its suavity; its pretty shallowness and sunshine; its white, and
blue, and yellow, and red, and green and orange; all very trim and
fanciful, all very smart and delicate; full of finesse and laughter,
and breathing out to me of the twentieth century the coquetry of a
woman in 1500 B.C. After the terrific masculinity of Medinet-Abu,
after the great freedom of the Ramesseum, and the grandeur of its
colossus, the manhood of all the ages concentrated in granite, the
temple at Deir-el-Bahari came upon me like a delicate woman, perfumed
and arranged, clothed in a creation of white and blue and orange,
standing--ever so knowingly--against a background of orange and pink,
of red and of brown-red, a smiling coquette of the mountain, a gay and
sweet enchantress who knew her pretty powers and meant to exercise

Hatshepsu with a beard! Never will I believe it. Or if she ever seemed
to wear one, I will swear it was only the tattooed ornament with which
all the lovely women of the Fayum decorate their chins to-day,
throwing into relief the smiling, soft lips, the delicate noses, the
liquid eyes, and leading one from it step by step to the beauties it

Mr. Wallis Budge says in his book on the antiquities of Egypt: "It
would be unjust to the memory of a great man and a loyal servant of
Hatshepsu, if we omitted to mention the name of Senmut, the architect
and overseer of works at Deir-el-Bahari." By all means let Senmut be
mentioned, and then let him be utterly forgotten. A radiant queen
reigns here--a queen of fantasy and splendor, and of that divine
shallowness--refined frivolity literally cut into the mountain--which
is the note of Deir-el-Bahari. And what a clever background! Oh,
Hatshepsu knew what she was doing when she built her temple here. It
was not the solemn Senmut (he wore a beard, I'm sure) who chose that
background, if I know anything of women.

Long before I visited Deir-el-Bahari I had looked at it from afar. My
eyes had been drawn to it merely from its situation right underneath
the mountains. I had asked: "What do those little pillars mean? And
are those little doors?" I had promised myself to go there, as one
promises oneself a /bonne bouche/ to finish a happy banquet. And I had
realized the subtlety, essentially feminine, that had placed a temple
there. And Menu-Hotep's temple, perhaps you say, was it not there
before the queen's? Then he must have possessed a subtlety purely
feminine, or have been advised by one of his wives in his building
operations, or by some favorite female slave. Blundering, unsubtle man
would probably think that the best way to attract and to fix attention
on any object was to make it much bigger than things near and around
it, to set up a giant among dwarfs.

Not so Queen Hatshepsu. More artful in her generation, she set her
long but little temple against the precipices of Libya. And what is
the result? Simply that whenever one looks toward them one says, "What
are those little pillars?" Or if one is more instructed, one thinks
about Queen Hatshepsu. The precipices are as nothing. A woman's wile
has blotted them out.

And yet how grand they are! I have called them tiger-colored
precipices. And they suggest tawny wild beasts, fierce, bred in a land
that is the prey of the sun. Every shade of orange and yellow glows
and grows pale on their bosses, in their clefts. They shoot out
turrets of rock that blaze like flames in the day. They show great
teeth, like the tiger when any one draws near. And, like the tiger,
they seem perpetually informed by a spirit that is angry. Blake wrote
of the tiger:

"Tiger, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night."

These tiger-precipices of Libya are burning things, avid like beasts
of prey. But the restored apricot-colored pillars are not afraid of
their impending fury--fury of a beast baffled by a tricky little
woman, almost it seems to me; and still less afraid are the white
pillars, and the brilliant paintings that decorate the walls within.

As many people in the sad but lovely islands off the coast of Scotland
believe in "doubles," as the old classic writers believed in man's
"genius," so the ancient Egyptian believed in his "Ka," or separate
entity, a sort of spiritual other self, to be propitiated and
ministered to, presented with gifts, and served with energy and ardor.
On this temple of Deir-el-Bahari is the scene of the birth of
Hatshepsu, and there are two babies, the princess and her Ka. For this
imagined Ka, when a great queen, long after, she built this temple, or
chapel, that offerings might be made there on certain appointed days.
Fortunate Ka of Hatshepsu to have had so cheerful a dwelling!
Liveliness pervades Deir-el-Bahari. I remember, when I was on my first
visit to Egypt, lunching at Thebes with Monsieur Naville and Mr.
Hogarth, and afterward going with them to watch the digging away of
the masses of sand and rubbish which concealed this gracious building.
I remember the songs of the half-naked workmen toiling and sweating in
the sun. and I remember seeing a white temple wall come up into the
light with all the painted figures surely dancing with joy upon it.
And they are surely dancing still.

Here you may see, brilliant as yesterday's picture anywhere,
fascinatingly decorative trees growing bravely in little pots, red
people offering incense which is piled up on mounds like mountains,
Ptah-Seket, Osiris receiving a royal gift of wine, the queen in the
company of various divinities, and the terrible ordeal of the cows.
The cows are being weighed in scales. There are three of them. One is
a philosopher, and reposes with an air that says, "Even this last
indignity of being weighed against my will cannot perturb my soaring
spirit." But the other two sitting up, look as apprehensive as old
ladies in a rocking express, expectant of an accident. The vividness
of the colors in this temple is quite wonderful. And much of its great
attraction comes rather from its position, and from them, than
essentially from itself. At Deir-el-Bahari, what the long shell
contains--its happy murmur of life--is more fascinating than the
shell. There, instead of being uplifted or overawed by form, we are
rejoiced by color, by the high vivacity of arrested movement, by the
story that color and movement tell. And over all there is the bright,
blue, painted sky, studded, almost distractedly studded, with a
plethora of the yellow stars the Egyptians made like starfish.

The restored apricot-colored columns outside look unhappily suburban
when you are near them. The white columns with their architraves are
more pleasant to the eyes. The niches full of bright hues, the arched
chapels, the small white steps leading upward to shallow sanctuaries,
the small black foxes facing each other on little yellow pedestals--
attract one like the details and amusing ornaments of a clever woman's
boudoir. Through this most characteristic temple one roves in a gaily
attentive mood, feeling all the time Hatshepsu's fascination.

You may see her, if you will, a little lady on the wall, with a face
decidedly sensual--a long, straight nose, thick lips, an expression
rather determined than agreeable. Her mother looks as Semitic as a Jew
moneylender in Brick Lane, London. Her husband, Thothmes II., has a
weak and poor-spirited countenance--decidedly an accomplished
performer on the second violin. The mother wears on her head a snake,
no doubt a cobra-di-capello, the symbol of her sovereignty. Thothmes
is clad in a loin-cloth. And a god, with a sleepy expression and a
very fish-like head, appears in this group of personages to offer the
key of life. Another painting of the queen shows her on her knees
drinking milk from the sacred cow, with an intent and greedy figure,
and an extraordinarily sensual and expressive face. That she was well
guarded is surely proved by a brave display of her soldiers--red men
on a white wall. Full of life and gaiety all in a row they come,
holding weapons, and, apparently, branches, and advancing with a gait
of triumph that tells of "spacious days." And at their head is an
officer, who looks back, much like a modern drill sergeant, to see how
his men are marching.

In the southern shrine of the temple, cut in the rock as is the
northern shrine, once more I found traces of the "Lady of the Under-
World." For this shrine was dedicated to Hathor, though the whole
temple was sacred to the Theban god Amun. Upon a column were the
remains of the goddess's face, with a broad brow and long, large eyes.
Some fanatic had hacked away the mouth.

The tomb of Hatshepsu was found by Mr. Theodore M. Davis, and the
famous /Vache/ of Deir-el-Bahari by Monsieur Naville as lately as
1905. It stands in the museum at Cairo, but for ever it will be
connected in the minds of men with the tiger-colored precipices and
the Colonnades of Thebes. Behind the ruins of the temple of Mentu-
Hotep III., in a chapel of painted rock, the Vache-Hathor was found.

It is not easy to convey by any description the impression this
marvellous statue makes. Many of us love our dogs, our horses, some of
us adore our cats; but which of us can think, without a smile, of
worshipping a cow? Yet the cow was the Egyptian Aphrodite's sacred
animal. Under the form of a cow she was often represented. And in the
statue she is presented to us as a limestone cow. And positively this
cow is to be worshipped.

She is shown in the act apparently of stepping gravely forward out of
a small arched shrine, the walls of which are decorated with brilliant
paintings. Her color is red and yellowish red, and is covered with
dark blotches of a very dark green, which look almost black. Only one
or two are of a bluish color. Her height is moderate. I stand about
five foot nine, and I found that on her pedestal the line of her back
was about level with my chest. The lower part of the body, much of
which is concealed by the under block of limestone, is white, tinged
with yellow. The tail is red. Above the head, open and closed lotus-
flowers form a head-dress, with the lunar disk and two feathers. And
the long lotus-stalks flow down on each side of the neck toward the
ground. At the back of this head-dress are a scarab and a cartouche.
The goddess is advancing solemnly and gently. A wonderful calm, a
matchless, serene dignity, enfold her.

In the body of this cow one is able, indeed one is almost obliged, to
feel the soul of a goddess. The incredible is accomplished. The dead
Egyptian makes the ironic, the skeptical modern world feel deity in a
limestone cow. How is it done? I know not; but it is done. Genius can
do nearly everything, it seems. Under the chin of the cow there is a
standing statue of the King Mentu-Hotep, and beneath her the king
kneels as a boy. Wonderfully expressive and solemnly refined is the
cow's face, which is of dark color, like the color of almost black
earth--earth fertilized by the Nile. Dignified, dominating, almost but
just not stern, strongly intelligent, and, through its beautiful
intelligence, entirely sympathetic ("to understand all, is to pardon
all"), this face, once thoroughly seen, completely noticed, can never
be forgotten. This is one of the most beautiful statues in the world.

When I was at Deir-el-Bahari I thought of it and wished that it still
stood there near the Colonnades of Thebes under the tiger-colored
precipices. And then I thought of Hatshepsu. Surely she would not
brook a rival to-day near the temple which she made--a rival long lost
and long forgotten. Is not her influence still there upon the terraced
platforms, among the apricot and the white columns, near the paintings
of the land of Punt? Did it not whisper to the antiquaries, even to
the soldiers from Cairo, who guarded the Vache-Hathor in the night, to
make haste to take her away far from the hills of Thebes and from the
Nile's long southern reaches, that the great queen might once more
reign alone? They obeyed. Hatshepsu was appeased. And, like a delicate
woman, perfumed and arranged, clothed in a creation of white and blue
and orange, standing ever so knowingly against a background of orange
and pink, of red and of brown-red, she rules at Deir-el-Bahari.



On the way to the tombs of the kings I went to the temple of Kurna,
that lonely cenotaph, with its sand-colored massive fašade, its heaps
of fallen stone, its wide and ruined doorway, its thick, almost rough,
columns recalling Medinet-Abu. There is not very much to see, but from
there one has a fine view of other temples--of the Ramesseum, looking


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