I now arrive at the hypostyle of the temple of Amen, and a sensation of fear makes me hesitate at first on the threshold. To find himself in the dead of night before such a place might well make a man falter. It seems like some hall for Titans, a remnant of fabulous ages, which has maintained itself, during its long duration, by force of its very massiveness, like the mountains. Nothing human is so vast. Nowhere on earth have men conceived such dwellings. Columns after columns, higher and more massive than towers, follow one another so closely, in an excess of accumulation, that they produce a feeling almost of suffocation. They mount into the clear sky and sustain there traverses of stone which you scarcely dare to contemplate. One hesitates to advance; a feeling comes over you that you are become infinitesimally small and as easy to crush as an insect. The silence grows preternaturally solemn. The stars through all the gaps in the fearful ceilings seem to send their scintillations to you in an abyss. It is cold and clear and blue.
The central bay of this hypostyle is in the same line as the road I have been following since I left the hall of Thothmes. It prolongs and magnifies as in an apotheosis that same long avenue, for the gods and kings, which was the glory of Thebes, and which in the succession of the ages nothing has contrived to equal. The columns which border it are so gigantic[*] that their tops, formed of mysterious full-blown petals, high up above the ground on which we crawl, are completely bathed in the diffuse clearness of the sky. And enclosing this kind of nave on either side, like a terrible forest, is another mass of columns—monster columns, of an earlier style, of which the capitals close instead of opening, imitating the buds of some flower which will never blossom. Sixty to the right, sixty to the left, too close together for their size, they grow thick like a forest of baobabs that wanted space: they induce a feeling of oppression without possible deliverance, of massive and mournful eternity.
[*] About 30 feet in
circumference and 75 feet in height
including the capital.
And this, forsooth, was the place that I had wished to traverse alone, without even the Bedouin guard, who at night believes it his duty to follow the visitors. But now it grows lighter and lighter. Too light even, for a blue phosphorescence, coming from the eastern horizon, begins to filter through the opacity of the colonnades on the right, outlines the monstrous shafts, and details them by vague glimmerings on their edges. The full moon is risen, alas! and my hours of solitude are nearly over.