At the first pylons I have to make a detour. They are so ruinous that their blocks, fallen down on all sides, have closed the passage. Here used to watch, on right and left, two upright giants of red granite from Syene. Long ago in times no longer precisely known, they were broken off, both of them, at the height of the loins. But their muscular legs have kept their proud, marching attitude, and each in one of the armless hands, which reach to the end of the cloth that girds their loins, clenches passionately the emblem of eternal life. And this Syenite granite is so hard that time has not altered it in the least; in the midst of the confusion of stones the thighs of these mutilated giants gleam as if they had been polished yesterday.
Farther on we come upon the second pylons, foundered also, before which stands a row of Pharaohs.
On every side the overthrown blocks display their utter confusion of gigantic things in the midst of the sand which continues patiently to bury them. And here now are the third pylons, flanked by their two marching giants, who have neither head nor shoulders. And the road, marked majestically still by the debris, continues to lead towards the desert.
And then the fourth and last pylons, which seem at first sight to mark the extremity of the ruins, the beginning of the desert nothingness. Time-worn and uncrowned, but stiff and upright still, they seem to be set there so solidly that nothing could ever overthrow them. The two colossal statues which guard them on the right and left are seated on thrones. One, that on the eastern side, has almost disappeared. But the other stands out entire and white, with the whiteness of marble, against the brown-coloured background of the enormous stretch of wall covered with hieroglyphs. His face alone has been mutilated; and he preserves still his imperious chin, his ears, his Sphinx’s headgear, one might almost say his meditative expression, before this deployment of the vast solitude which seems to begin at his very feet.
Here however was only the boundary of the quarters of the God Amen. The boundary of Thebes was much farther on, and the avenue which will lead me directly to the home of the cat-headed goddesses extends farther still to the old gates of the town; albeit you can scarcely distinguish it between the double row of Krio-sphinxes all broken and well-nigh buried.
The day falls, and the dust of Egypt, in accordance with its invariable practice every evening, begins to resemble in the distance a powder of gold. I look behind me from time to time at the giant who watches me, seated at the foot of his pylon on which the history of a Pharaoh is carved in one immense picture. Above him and above his wall, which grows each minute more rose-coloured, I see, gradually mounting in proportion as I move away from it, the great mass of the palaces of the centre, the hypostyle hall, the halls of Thothmes and the obelisks, all the entangled cluster of those things at once so grand and so dead, which have never been equalled on earth.