Page images

water failed; it is also, as I saw on this day, its mist, its rain, its fog. In the dim distance rose the two isolated mountains on the southern horizon, which mark the way to Dongola. The Second Cataract is, geographically speaking and historically, of but little significance in the Valley of the Nile: it stops the navigation, that is all: the Desert has begun before, and continues afterwards.

One feature of the Nile I must here add to what I have already said. Every one knows that the only mode of communication is the river: but the voyage up the Nile requires and possesses the consent of another power besides that of the stream ; namely, the wind. It is a remarkable provision that the north wind which blows for nine months in the year, and especially during the floods when the stream is strongest, acts as a corrective to enable navigation upwards when else it would be impossible. Hence the plausibility of the ancient conjecture that the inundation was caused by the “yearly winds.” So fixed, so regular a part of the economy of the river do they form, that it was natural to imagine that they actually prevented the waters of the river from entering the sea. And thus when we look at the boats with their white sails scudding before the breeze along the broad stream, we see how Egypt and Ethiopia might be fitly called "a land shadowing with wings!."

15. DENDERA 2.

Dendera is the only perfect Temple left besides those in Nubia that is, the only one perfect, not as an excavation from the rock, but as a building. But its interest is like Philæ, not from its antiquity, but its novelty. Its oldest portion was built by Cleopatra ; its finest part by Tiberius. Here, as at Hermonthis, is yet to be seen that famous form and face. She is here sculptured in colossal proportions, so that the fat full features are well brought out, and, being like those at Hermonthis, give the impression that it must be a likeness. Immediately before her stands, equally colossal and with the royal crown of Egypt, her son, by Cæsar.

These must be the latest sculptures of the independent sovereigns of Egypt. The interior is filled with the usual ovals for the names of kings—now blank-for before Cleopatra had time to fill them Actium was fought, and Egypt had passed into the hands of Rome, and accordingly the splendid portico is the work of Tiberius. It is in these great porticoes that you trace the real spirit of Roman architecture in Egypt. The interior of the Temple, though very large, is but a tedious and commonplace copy of the most formal plan of an old temple; but the portico has something of its own, which is only seen here and in the corresponding portico at Esneh, and of which the whole effect, though on a gigantic scale and with curious capitals of human faces, is like that of the colonnade in front of the Pantheon.

Isa. xviii. 1. (Ewald.). 2 These three last letters are, for con

venience of their contents, arranged not in order of place, but of time.


Memphis was the second capital of Egypt—sometimes the firstand there the Pharaohs lived at the time of the Exodus; and there, if its monuments had remained, might have been found the

es of the Israelites, which we seek in vain elsewhere. Historically and religiously it ought to be as interesting as Thebes. Yet Thebes still remains quite unrivalled. There was never anything at Memphis like that glorious circle of hills--there is now nothing like those glorious ruins. Still it is a striking place. Imagine a wide green plain, greener than anything else I have seen in Egypt. A vast succession of palm-groves, almost like the Ravenna pineforest in extent, runs along the river-side, springing in many spots from green turf. Behind these palm-forests—behind the plainrises the white back of the African range ; and behind that again,

even as the hills stand round about Jerusulem," so stand the Pyramids round about Memphis. These are to Memphis as the Royal tombs to Thebes, that is, the sepulchres of the Kings of Lower, as those of Upper, Egypt. And such as the view now is, such it must have been as far back as history extends. They are not actually as old as the hills, but they are the oldest monuments of Egypt and of the world, and such as we see them in that distant outline, each group rising at successive intervals--Dashur, Sakara, Abou-Sir, and Ghizeh—such they seemed to Moses, to Joseph, perhaps to Abraham. They are the sepulchres of the kings, and in the sand. hills at their feet are the sepulchres of the ordinary inhabitants of Memphis.

For miles you walk through layers of bones and skulls and mummy-swathings, extending from the sand, or deep down in shaftlike mummy pits; and amongst these mummy-pits are vast galleries filled with mummies of Ibises, in red jars, once filled, but now gradually despoiled. And lastly-only discovered recently—are long galleries hewn in the rock, and opening from time to timesay every fifty yards—into high arched vaults, under each of which reposes the most magnificent black marble sarcophagus that can be conceived a chamber rather than a coffin-smooth and sculptured within and without; grander by far than even the granite sarcophagi of the Theban kings—how much grander than any human sepulchres anywhere else. And all for the successive corpses of the bull Apis! These galleries formed part of the great temple of Serapis, in which the Apis mummies were deposited; and here they lay, not in royal, but in divine state. The walls of the entrances are covered with ex-votos. In one porch there is a painting at full length, black and white, of the Bull himself as he was in life.

One other trace remains of the old Memphis. It had its own great temple, as magnificent as that of Ammon at Karnac, dedicated to the Egyptian Vulcan, Pthah. Of this not a vestige remains. But Herodotus describes that Sesostris, that is Rameses, built a colossal statue of himself in front of the great gateway. And there accordingly—as it is usually seen by travellers, is the last memorial of that wonderful King, to be borne away in their recollections of Egypt. Deep in the forest of palms before described, in a little pool of water left by the inundations, which year by year always cover the spot, lies a gigantic trunk, its back upwards. The name of Rameses is on the belt. The face lies downwards, but is visible in profile and quite perfect, and the very same as at Ipsambul, with the only exception that the features are more feminine and more beautiful, and the peculiar hang of the lip is not there. ...

[blocks in formation]

The approach to the Pyramids is first a rich green plain, and then the Desert; that is, they are just at the beginning of the Desert, on a ridge, which of itself gives them a lift above the valley of the Nile. It is impossible not to feel a thrill as one finds oneself drawing nearer to the greatest and the most ancient monuments in the world, to see them coming out stone by stone into view, and the dark bead of the Sphinx peering over the lower sandhills. Yet the usual accounts are correct which represent this nearer sight as not impressive—their size diminishes, and the clearness with which you see their several stones strips them of their awful or mysterious character. It is not till you are close under the great Pyramid, and look up at the huge blocks rising above you into the sky, that the consciousness is forced upon you that this is the nearest approach to a mountain that the art of man has produced. ,

The view from the top has the same vivid contrast of Life and Death which makes all wide views in Egypt striking—the Desert and the green plain : ly, the view over the Desert-the African Desert-being much more extensive here than elsewhere, one gathers in better the notion of the wide heaving ocean of sandy billows which hovers on the edge of the Valley of the Nile. The white line of the minarets of Cairo is also a peculiar feature-peculiar, because it is strange to see a modern Egyptian city which is a grace instead of a deformity to the view. You also see the strip of Desert running into the green plain on the east of the Nile, which marke Heliopolis and Goshen...

The strangest feature in the view is the platform on which the Pyramids stand. It completely dispels the involuntary notion that one has formed of the solitary abruptness of the Three Pyra. mids. Not to speak of the groups, in the distance, of Abou-Sir, Sakara, and Dashur—the whole platform of this greatest of them all is a maze of Pyramids and Tombs. Three little ones stand beside the first, three also beside the third. The second and third are each surrounded by traces of square enclosures, and their eastern faces are approached through enormous masses of ruins as if of some great temple ; whilst the first is enclosed on three sides by long rows of massive tombs, on which you look down from the top as on the plats of a stone-garden. You see in short that it is the most sacred and frequented part of that vast cemetery which extends all along the Western ridge for twenty miles behind Memphis.

It is only by going round the whole place in detail that the contrast between its present and its ancient state is disclosed. One is inclined to imagine that the Pyramids are immutable, and that such as you see them now such they were always. Of distant views this is true, but taking them near at hand it is more easy from the existing ruins to conceive Karnac as it was, than it is to conceive the Pyramidal platform as it was. The smooth casing of part of the top of the Second Pyramid, and the magnificent granite blocks which form the lower stages of the third, serve to show what they must have been all, from top to bottom; the first and second, brilliant white or yellow limestone, smooth from top to bottom, instead of those rude disjointed masses which their stripped sides now present; the third, all glowing with the red granite from the First Cataract. As it is, they have the barbarous look of Stonehenge ; but then they must have shone with the polish of an age already rich with civilisation, and that the more remarkable when it is remembered that these granite blocks which furnished the outside of the third, and inside of the first, must have come all the way from the First Cataract. It also seems, from Herodotus and others, that these smooth outsides were covered with sculptures. Then you must build up or uncover the massive tombs, now broken or choked with sand, so as to restore the aspect of vast streets of tombs, like those on the Appian Way, out of which the Great Pyramid would rise like a cathedral above smaller churches. Lastly, you must enclose the two other Pyramids with stone precincts and gigantic gateways, and above all you must restore the Sphinx, as he (for it must never be forgotten that a female Sphinx was almost unknown) was in the days of his glory.

Even now, after all that we have seen of colossal statues, there was something stupendous in the sight of that enormous head-its vast projecting wig, its great ears, its open eyes, the red colour still visible on its cheek, the immense projection of the whole lower part of its face. Yet what must it have been when on its head there was the royal helmet of Egypt; on its chin the royal beard ; when the stone pavement, by which men approached the Pyramids, ran up between its paws; when immediately under its breast an altar stood, from which the smoke went up into the gigantic nostrils of that nose, now vanished from the face, never to be conceived again! All this is known with certainty from the remains which actually exist deep under the sand on which you stand, as you


up distance into the broken but still expressive features.

And for what purpose was this Sphinx of Sphinxes called into being—as much greater than all other Sphinxes as the Pyramids are greater than all other temples or tombs? If, as is likely, he lay couched at the entrance, now deep in sand, of the vast approach to the second, that is, the Central Pyramid, so as to form an essential part of this immense group; still more, if, as seems possible, there was once intended to be (according to the usual arrangement which never left a solitary Sphinx any more than a solitary obelisk) a brother Sphinx on the Northern side, as this on the Southern side of the approach, its situation and significance was worthy of its grandeur. And if, further, the Sphinx was the giant representative of Royalty, then it fitly guards the greatest of Royal sepulchres ; and, with its half-human, half-animal form, is the best welcome and the best farewell to the history and religion of Egypt.

from a

« EelmineJätka »