Egypt (La Mort de Philae) eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 193 pages of information about Egypt (La Mort de Philae).
for the lunch bell calls them to the neighbouring tables d’hote; and while I wait till they shall be gone, I occupy myself in following the bas-reliefs which are displayed for a length of more than a hundred yards along the base of the walls.  It is one long row of people moving in their thousands all in the same direction—­the ritual procession of the God Amen.  With the care which characterised the Egyptians to draw everything from life so as to render it eternal, there are represented here the smallest details of a day of festival three or four thousand years ago.  And how like it is to a holiday of the people of to-day!  Along the route of the procession are ranged jugglers and sellers of drinks and fruits, and negro acrobats who walk on their hands and twist themselves into all kinds of contortions.  But the procession itself was evidently of a magnificence such as we no longer know.  The number of musicians and priests, of corporations, of emblems and banners, is quite bewildering.  The God Amen himself came by water, on the river, in his golden barge with its raised prow, followed by the barques of all the other gods and goddesses of his heaven.  The reddish stone, carved with minute care, tells me all this, as it has already told it to so many dead generations, so that I seem almost to see it.

And now everybody has gone:  the colonnades are empty and the noise of the dynamos has ceased.  Midday approaches with its torpor.  The whole temple seems to be ablaze with rays, and I watch the clear-cut shadows cast by this forest of stone gradually shortening on the ground.  The sun, which just now shone, all smiles and gaiety, upon the quay of the new town amid the uproar of the stall-keepers, the donkey drivers and the cosmopolitan passengers, casts here a sullen, impassive and consuming fire.  And meanwhile the shadows shorten—­and just as they do every day, beneath this sky which is never overcast, just as they have done for five and thirty centuries, these columns, these friezes and this temple itself, like a mysterious and solemn sundial, record patiently on the ground the slow passing of the hours.  Verily for us, the ephemerae of thought, this unbroken continuity of the sun of Egypt has more of melancholy even than the changing, overcast skies of our climate.

And now, at last, the temple is restored to solitude and all noise in the neighbourhood has ceased.

An avenue bordered by very high columns, of which the capitals are in the form of the full-blown flowers of the papyrus, leads me to a place shut in and almost terrible, where is massed an assembly of colossi.  Two, who, if they were standing, would be quite ten yards in height, are seated on thrones on either side of the entrance.  The others, ranged on the three sides of the courtyard, stand upright behind colonnades, but look as if they were about to issue thence and to stride rapidly towards me.  Some broken and battered, have lost their faces and preserve only their intimidating attitude.  Those that remain intact—­white faces beneath their Sphinx’s headgear—­open their eyes wide and smile.

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Egypt (La Mort de Philae) from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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