In the hypostyle there is a little blue shade behind the monstrous pillars, but even that shade is dusty and hot. The columns too are hot, and so are all the blocks—and yet it is winter and the nights are cold, even to the point of frost. Heat and dust; a reddish dust, which hangs like an eternal cloud over these ruins of Upper Egypt, exhaling an odour of spices and mummy.
The great heat seems to augment the retrospective sensation of fatigue which seizes you as you regard these stones—too heavy for human strength—which are massed here in mountains. One almost seems to participate in the efforts, the exhaustions and the sweating toils of that people, with their muscles of brand new steel, who in the carrying and piling of such masses had to bear the yoke for thirty centuries.
Even the stones themselves tell of fatigue—the fatigue of being crushed by one another’s weight for thousands of years; the suffering that comes of having been too exactly carved, and too nicely placed one above the other, so that they seem to be riveted together by the force of their mere weight. Oh! the poor stones of the base that bear the weight of these awful pilings!
And the ardent colour of these things surprises you. It has persisted. On the red sandstone of the hypostyle, the paintings of more than three thousand years ago are still to be seen; especially above the central chamber, almost in the sky, the capitals, in the form of great flowers, have kept the lapis blues, the greens and yellows with which their strange petals were long ago bespeckled.
Decrepitude and crumbling and dust. In broad daylight, under the magnificent splendour of the life-giving sun, one realises clearly that all here is dead, and dead since days which the imagination is scarcely able to conceive. And the ruin appears utterly irreparable. Here and there are a few impotent and almost infantine attempts at reparation, undertaken in the ancient epochs of history by the Greeks and Romans. Columns have been put together, holes have been filled with cement. But the great blocks lie in confusion, and one feels, even to the point of despair, how impossible it is ever to restore to order such a chaos of crushing, overthrown things—even with the help of legions of workers and machines, and with centuries before you in which to complete the task.
And then, what surprises and oppresses you is the want of clear space, the little room that remained for the multitudes in these halls which are nevertheless immense. The whole space between the walls was encumbered with pillars. The temples were half filled with colossal forests of stone. The men who built Thebes lived in the beginning of time, and had not yet discovered the thing which to us to-day seems so simple—namely, the vault. And yet they were marvellous pioneers, these architects. They had already succeeded in evolving out of the dark, as it were, a number of conceptions which, from the