(From a 1911 edition, published by The Century Co., New York.)
COLOSSI OF MEMNON
THE TOMBS OF THE KINGS
Why do you come to Egypt? Do you come to gain a dream, or to regain
lost dreams of old; to gild your life with the drowsy gold of romance,
to lose a creeping sorrow, to forget that too many of your hours are
sullen, grey, bereft? What do you wish of Egypt?
The Sphinx will not ask you, will not care. The Pyramids, lifting
their unnumbered stones to the clear and wonderful skies, have held,
still hold, their secrets; but they do not seek for yours. The
terrific temples, the hot, mysterious tombs, odorous of the dead
desires of men, crouching in and under the immeasurable sands, will
muck you with their brooding silence, with their dim and sombre
repose. The brown children of the Nile, the toilers who sing their
antique songs by the shadoof and the sakieh, the dragomans, the
smiling goblin merchants, the Bedouins who lead your camel into the
pale recesses of the dunes--these will not trouble themselves about
your deep desires, your perhaps yearning hunger of the heart and the
Yet Egypt is not unresponsive.
I came back to her with dread, after fourteen years of absence--years
filled for me with the rumors of her changes. And on the very day of
my arrival she calmly reassured me. She told me in her supremely
magical way that all was well with her. She taught me once more a
lesson I had not quite forgotten, but that I was glad to learn again -
the lesson that Egypt owes her most subtle, most inner beauty to
Kheper, although she owes her marvels to men; that when he created the
sun which shines upon her, he gave her the lustre of her life, and
that those who come to her must be sun-worshippers if they would truly
and intimately understand the treasure or romance that lies heaped
within her bosom.
Thoth, says the old legend, travelled in the Boat of the Sun. If you
would love Egypt rightly, you, too, must be a traveller in that bark.
You must not fear to steep yourself in the mystery of gold, in the
mystery of heat, in the mystery of silence that seems softly showered
out of the sun. The sacred white lotus must be your emblem, and Horus,
the hawk-headed, merged in Ra, your special deity. Scarcely had I set
foot once more in Egypt before Thoth lifted me into the Boat of the
sun and soothed my fears to sleep.
I arrived in Cairo. I saw new and vast hotels; I saw crowded streets;
brilliant shops; English officials driving importantly in victorias,
surely to pay dreadful calls of ceremony; women in gigantic hats, with
Niagaras of veil, waving white gloves as they talked of - I guess - the
latest Cairene scandal.