And it is so mystical, this town of Thebes, with its dark sanctuaries, once inhabited by gods and symbols. All the sublime, fresh-minded striving of the human soul after the Unknowable is as it were petrified in these ruins, in forms diverse and immeasurably grand. And subsisting thus down to our day it puts us to shame. Compared with this people, who thought only of eternity, we are a lot of pitiful dotards, who soon will be past caring about the wherefore of life, or thought, or death. Such beginnings presaged, surely, something greater than our humanity of the present day, given over to despair, to alcohol and to explosives!
Crumbling and dust! This same sun of Thebes is in its place each day, parching, exhausting, cracking and pulverising.
On the ground where once stood so much magnificence there are fields of corn, spread out like green carpets, which tell of the return of the humble life of tillage. Above all, there is the sand, encroaching now upon the very threshold of the Pharaohs; there is the yellow desert; there is the world of reflections and of silence, which approaches like a slow submerging tide. In the distance, where the mirage trembles from morning till evening, the burying is already almost achieved. The few poor stones which still appear, barely emerging from the advancing dunes, are the remains of what men, in their superb revolts against death, had contrived to make the most massively indestructible.
And this sun, this eternal sun, which parades over Thebes the irony of its duration—for us so impossible to calculate or to conceive! Nowhere so much as here does one suffer from the dismay of knowing that all our miserable little human effervescence is only a sort of fermentation round an atom emanated from that sinister ball of fire, and that that fire itself, the wonderful sun, is no more than an ephemeral meteor, a furtive spark, thrown off during one of the innumerable cosmic transformations, in the course of times without end and without beginning.
AN AUDIENCE OF AMENOPHIS II.
King Amenophis II. has resumed his receptions, which he found himself obliged to suspend for three thousand, three hundred and some odd years, by reason of his decease. They are very well attended; court dress is not insisted upon, and the Grand Master of ceremonies is not above taking a tip. He holds them every morning in the winter from eight o’clock, in the bowels of a mountain in the desert of Libya; and if he rests himself during the remainder of the day it is only because, as soon as midday sounds, they turn off the electric light.
Happy Amenophis! Out of so many kings who tried so hard to hide for ever their mummies in the depths of impenetrable caverns he is the only one who has been left in his tomb. And he “makes the most of it” every time he opens his funeral salons.