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WONDER if there are others like myself, who carry
Thebes printed on their brain without remembering in detail a single courtyard of its archipelago of temples ? I rode many times to Thebes ; I listened attentively to guides and famous Egyptologists ; I took notes and photographs innumerable; yet I carried away only impressions, the blossoms of knowledge instead of the fruit.
I never loved Thebes as I loved Karnak; it is not so mysterious; there are no avenues of sphinxes leading to it through dark groves; it does not come upon you suddenly in forests of palms; it has no little shrines lurking in thickets; it has not the mountainous grandeur.
But Thebes has a charm of its own: it has, though after a high Nile it is richly cultivated, the desolation of the desert and the grave. It has a lordly spaciousness; its groups of temples are a long canter from each other on the wide plain, which stretches from the Nile to the Sahara.
Every day at sunset every eye in Luxor is turned on the ' It is easy for any one to picture Thebes, for the chief monuments have been so felicitously depicted by Mr. Walter Tyndall in his “Below the Cataracts." (Heinemann.) To mention only a few, the Ramesseum is depicted to the life in the picture called after it ; “Der-el-Bahari” shows the long colonnades of Queen Hatasu's Temple, as emphatic as the colonnades of St. Peter's, standing out against the pink cliff which is the eastern edge of the Sahara ; the “Colossi at Thebes" gives a picture, which will always live in my memory, of the musical image of Memnon and his twin giant as they rise from the plain of Thebes, like the Daibutsu of Japan, and the “ Temple of Seti I. at Gurna," between the tall lebbek trees and the pink rocks which guard the entrance to the Valley of the Kings, is perhaps the most faithful picture in a volume, which has caught the spirit of Egypt in its illustrations more than any book I know.
flushed horizon which towers into the air behind Thebes. Those rose-tinted precipices are not mountains. When you have toiled up the rock path behind Der-el-Bahari, and stand on their tops, you are only on another plain—the plateau of the Sahara, looking, like Moses, on the Promised Land.
Thebes was effort; Karnak was repose. From where we lived at Luxor we could saunter into the very heart of Karnak in a short half hour. But Thebes meant crossing the Nile at an hour when one would be sitting down to breakfast in England, and a long day's riding in the sun, broken, for an hour or two at a time, at each fresh group of temples.
It had an exhilarating effect on me. We had the same swift asses, the same keen, enthusiastic donkey-boys for all our expeditions. We contracted with an eighteen-year-old, one Joseph, the brother of two noted dragomans, qualifying to follow in their footsteps. The boat of his friend the fisherman was waiting, where the watersellers filled their skins, and the tall gyassas discharged their cargoes of clay bottles, to sail us across the Nile. Lovely-Sweet, Gingerbread, and Minehaha were waiting for us at the water's edge when we reached the other side. In a minute we were mounted, and galloping over the thousand acres of sand, where no wheat would wave in that year of a sullen Nile.
We galloped until we came to the shallow pool, which was the broken promise of the inundation. The donkeys slowed down to splash through it, and broke into a canter to breast the little hill between it and the irrigation canal.
Here stood the country-house which fired my imagination, for it had an orchard which the birds loved ; the bronzewinged, emerald-bodied bee-eaters were never tired of it; the green kingfishers down in the canal below fled to it if the donkey-boys stoned them. And more than that, it had the most magnificent pair of pigeon-towers I ever saw, with a kind of barn behind them. The great temple of Edfu might have been imitated from it, or it might have imitated Edfu. Who could doubt the identity of pigeon-towers and pylons after seeing this ?
Here we crossed the canal, and the donkeys cantered up
the lofty farther bank, and continued their canter until it was time to descend to the causeway which ran across the rich plain of Thebes. When first we nt to Thebes there was a wide lake on each side of this causeway ; but the wheat stood high where the face of the waters had been ere we sorrowfully rode to Thebes for the last time. Halfway along that causeway was one of the wonders of the world-the famous image of Memnon, which pilgrims visited and poets hymned before Christianity was born. To the Greeks and Romans this image, the less perfect of a pair of giants which rise higher than the great Buddha of Japan, was Memnon, Prince of the Ethiopians, who was killed at Troy, and sang to his mother Aurora, as the rays of the rising sun fell on his statue. To the rationalists of succeeding ages, the great image was so cunningly constructed that the wind whistling through it made melody. By the moderns the failure of the melody is blamed on the African Emperor, Septimius Severus, who repaired it by walling up the breaches—an eternal eyesore which might well be set right by the Department of Antiquities : for as you approach it, this takes away the dignity of the statue, which is so marvellously impressive from a distance, whether it looks down on the waters of the inundation or the waving green of spring. I do not know which way I like the giants best, though their effect, reflected on the waters, with the halo of the Egyptian sunset round them, is ineffably wonderful. In one respect they are unique even in this land of colossi, for their lower portions are sculptured again with figures in bas-relief, which play no part in their composition. In another respect they are not so extraordinary as they seem, for when King Amenophis III., whose name was corrupted into Memnon, erected them in the fifteenth century B.C. in his own image, they were not solitary in the midst of wide tilth or waters, but stood between the obelisks and pylons of the greatest temple constructed in his reign-the mortuary shrine for his tomb in the Valley of the Kings. The temple has disappeared
1 The best idea of the colossi is conveyed by a picture in Walter Tyndale's “ Below the Cataracts." (Heinemann.)
THE STATUE OF MEMNON AT THEBES.
THE VALI.EY OF THE TOMBS OF THE KINGS AT THEBES. The rocks of the exterior, with their noble architectural effects, are little less marvellous than the tombs, some of them as long as a great cathedral, hown into the heart of the close white limestone, as finely grained as marble, and frescoed from end to end with the elaborate imagery of the Book of the Dead. P. 327)