Egypt (La Mort de Philae) eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 163 pages of information about Egypt (La Mort de Philae).

I approach at length the temple of the Ogress.  These stones which now appear, whitish in the night, this secret-looking dwelling near the boundary wall of Thebes, proclaim the spot, and verily at such an hour as this it has an evil aspect.  Ptolemaic columns, little vestibules, little courtyards where a dim blue light enables you to find your way.  Nothing moves; not even the flight of a night bird:  an absolute silence, magnified awfully by the presence of the desert which you feel encompasses you beyond these walls.  And beyond, at the bottom, three chambers made of massive stone, each with its separate entrance.  I know that the first two are empty.  It is in the third that the Ogress dwells, unless, indeed, she has already set out upon her nocturnal hunt for human flesh.  Pitch darkness reigns within and I have to grope my way.  Quickly I light a match.  Yes, there she is indeed, alone and upright, almost part of the end wall, on which my little light makes the horrible shadow of her head dance.  The match goes out—­irreverently I light many more under her chin, under that heavy, man-eating jaw.  In very sooth, she is terrifying.  Of black granite—­like her sisters, seated on the margin of the mournful lake—­but much taller than they, from six to eight feet in height, she has a woman’s body, exquisitely slim and young, with the breasts of a virgin.  Very chaste in attitude, she holds in her hand a long-stemmed lotus flower, but by a contrast that nonplusses and paralyses you the delicate shoulders support the monstrosity of a huge lioness’ head.  The lappets of her bonnet fall on either side of her ears almost down to her breast, and surmounting the bonnet, by way of addition to the mysterious pomp, is a large moon disc.  Her dead stare gives to the ferocity of her visage something unreasoning and fatal; an irresponsible ogress, without pity as without pleasure, devouring after the manner of Nature and of Time.  And it was so perhaps that she was understood by the initiated of ancient Egypt, who symbolised everything for the people in the figures of gods.

In the dark retreat, enclosed with defaced stones, in the little temple where she stands, alone, upright and grand, with her enormous head and thrust-out chin and tall goddess’ headdress—­one is necessarily quite close to her.  In touching her, at night, you are astonished to find that she is less cold than the air; she becomes somebody, and the intolerable dead stare seems to weigh you down.

During the tete-a-tete, one thinks involuntarily of the surroundings, of these ruins in the desert, of the prevailing nothingness, of the cold beneath the stars.  And, now, that summation of doubt and despair and terror, which such an assemblage of things inspires in you, is confirmed, if one may say so, by the meeting with this divinity-symbol, which awaits you at the end of the journey, to receive ironically all human prayer; a rigid horror of granite, with an implacable smile and a devouring jaw.

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Egypt (La Mort de Philae) from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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