Lord Houghton endeavoured to give expression to the feelings of one who sees for the first time these wondrous, these incomprehensible creations in the following lines:
After the fantasies
of many a night,
After the deep desires of many a day,
Rejoicing as an ancient Eremite
Upon the desert’s edge at last I lay:
Before me rose, in wonderful array,
Those works where man has rivalled Nature most,
Those Pyramids, that fear no more decay
Than waves inflict upon the rockiest coast,
Or winds on mountain-steeps, and like endurance boast.
deluge of old Time has left
Behind in its subsidence—long long walls
Of cities of their very names bereft,—
Lone columns, remnants of majestic halls,
Rich traceried chambers, where the night-dew falls,—
All have I seen with feelings due, I trow,
Yet not with such as these memorials
Of the great unremembered, that can show
The mass and shape they wore four thousand years ago.
The Egyptian idea of a pyramid was that of a structure on a square base, with four inclining sides, each one of which should be an equilateral triangle, all meeting in a point at the top. The structure might be solid, and in that case might be either of hewn stone throughout, or consist of a mass of rubble merely held together by an external casing of stone; or it might contain chambers and passages, in which case the employment of rubble was scarcely possible. It has been demonstrated by actual excavation, that all the great pyramids of Egypt were of the latter character that they were built for the express purpose of containing chambers and passages, and of preserving those chambers and passages intact. They required, therefore, to be, and in most cases are, of a good construction throughout.
There are from sixty to seventy pyramids in Egypt, chiefly in the neighbourhood of Memphis. Some of them are nearly perfect, some more or less in ruins, but most of them still preserving their ancient shape, when seen from afar. Two of them greatly exceed all the others in their dimensions, and are appropriately designated as “the Great Pyramid” and “the Second Pyramid.” A third in their immediate vicinity is of very inferior size, and scarcely deserves the pre-eminence which has been conceded to it by the designation of “the Third Pyramid.”