Oh! this midday sun, that now pours down upon the white faces of these giants, and displaces ever so slowly the shadows cast upon their breasts by their chins and Osiridean beards. To think how often in the midst of this same silence, this same ray has fallen thus, fallen from the same changeless sky, to occupy itself in this same tranquil play! Yes, I think that the fogs and rains of our winters, upon these stupendous ruins, would be less sad and less terrible than the calm of this eternal sunshine.
Suddenly a ridiculous noise begins to make the air tremble; the dynamos of the Agencies have been put in motion, and ladies in green spectacles arrive, a charming throng, with guidebooks and cameras. The tourists, in short, are come out of their hotels, at the same hour as the flies awake. And the midday peace of Luxor has come to an end.
A TWENTIETH-CENTURY EVENING AT THEBES
An impalpable dust floats in a sky which scarcely ever knows a cloud; a dust so impalpable that, even while it powders the heavens with gold, it leaves them their infinite transparency. It is a dust of remote ages, of things destroyed; a dust that is here continually—of which the gold at this moment fades to green at the zenith, but flames and glistens in the west, for it is now that magnificent hour which marks the end of the day’s decline, and the still burning globe of the sun, quite low down in the heaven, begins to light up on all sides the conflagration of the evening.
This setting sun illumines with splendour a silent chaos of granite, which is not that of the slipping of mountains, but that of ruins. And of such ruins as, to our eyes unaccustomed hereditarily to proportions so gigantic, seem superhuman. In places, huge masses of carven stone—pylons—still stand upright, rising like hills. Others are crumbling in all directions in bewildering cataracts of stone. It is difficult to conceive how these things, so massive that they might have seemed eternal, could come to suffer such an utter ruin. Fragments of columns, fragments of obelisks, broken by downfalls of which the mere imagination is awful, heads and head-dresses of giant divinities, all lie higgledy-piggledy in a disorder beyond possible redress. Nowhere surely on our earth does the sun in his daily revolution cast his light on such debris as this, on such a litter of vanished palaces and dead colossi.