Page images
PDF
EPUB
[graphic]

THE TEMPLE OF PTAH AT KARNAK, WHERE THE MOON SHINES ON THE IMAGE OF THE GODDESS SEKKET.

This is the image which the fellahin think is an ogre who devours children.

(p. 310

[graphic]

A NILE VILLAGE. All the way up the Nile one sees reflected in its waters palm groves and pigeon-towers and the white tombs of saints. p. 311]

sight of a human habitation, hardly for a minute without the presence of human beings.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

Before we mounted our asses again to ride home we climbed the ramp to the top of the great pylon of Karnak. The view from it by moonlight was incomparable. At our feet lay the vasty ruins of Amon-Ra's temple-the most gigantic of all the houses which men have built for gods since the beginning of the world, with line after line of columns to mark successive courts and buildings. In the Hall of the Columns two white-robed watchmen had built a fire of blazing sticks in the silvery sand, which lit up the story of the myths of eld with its ruddy glare. In the moonlight the pylons and groves of the Temple of Mût seemed as if they would never end till Luxor with its modern civilisation cried Halt!

The long line of the Nile gleamed like a mirror ; the edge of the Sahara beyond the templed plain of Thebes was a faint pearly line against the lantern-hung sky. The dogs barked in untiring chorus, broken once by the thunder of a train which tore past, breathing fire all along its line of carriages. The ruins of the Pharaonic city below were dwarfed. But I reflected that once they were full of people like us, to whom this Karnak in the moon meant so much more than ever it could to us.

We gazed and gazed, and then went down very quickly, and bestowing piastres on the patient watchmen, passed out between those sleek, gleaming Sphinxes of the Avenue of the Dead, and mounted our white asses, and rode through the palm groves to Luxor--some of us laughing and talking with the exuberance of people coming out from church; others, like myself, dropped behind for silence, to let our thoughts travel down the long avenues of the forty centuries of Karnak.

I much regret that the wonderful presentation of False Gods, by Sir H. Beerbohm Tree, at His Majesty's Theatre, did not take place before I went to Karnak. I should have grasped its significance better; the great scene, in which the Hall of the Columns in the Temple of Amon-Ra (which typifies Lourdes in the original French play) is filled with the diseased and paralytic crying out for a miracle, brought back, with marvellous realism, to me the days when the ancient religion was

in full swing in the temples of Karnak. It is so difficult to grasp that a temple like Amon-Ra's at Karnak could ever have been crowded : the impression of emptiness is so profound when you stand in it to-day. The scene-painting of the Egyptian buildings was so fine that they seemed to stand before me again.

The impression of a service conveyed was, of course, quite incorrect; neither dramatist nor actor would claim that Egyptian services were anything like what they presented. But seeing that play peopled the temple in my imagination. Before this the ruins of Karnak were like the dry bones of the Vision of Ezekiel to me.

CHAPTER XXX

The Tombs of the Pharaohs at Thebes

HE tombs of the Pharaohs at Thebes are as wonderful THI

in their way as the Pyramids. What we call Thebes to-day was only the City of the Dead in ancient Thebes, though the Pharaohs had palaces and parks on the outskirts. The pavilion in the Temple of Medinet Habû is the most complete example we have of the dwelling of a Pharaoh ; and south of it are the remains of a pleasure-lake and a pleasurehouse of the great Queen. But most of hundred-pyloned Thebes is on the east bank among the ruins which we call Karnak and Luxor now. Thebes, as we know it to-day, has no multitude of pylons, but Karnak has half a hundred still.

The City of the Dead was twofold ; there were no tombs in what we may call the rich Memnonian plain, where the two colossal images look down now on the waving fields of wheat. The Egyptians were so accustomed to bury treasure with their dead, so haunted by the fear of tombrobbers, that they tunnelled their tombs in the rocks on the edge of the desert and concealed their entrances in a manner which would have been impossible on the open and annually submerged plain. They only built the temples which served the royal tombs out on the plain, where the ground was above the flood-mark; many of them are standing, little injured, to-day; and there were others of which we know, though they have perished, like the temple of which the Colossigiven an importance not their own by the Greeks and Romans-were mere adjuncts. The Temple of Der-el-Bahari, cut almost like a Greek

« PreviousContinue »