Temple Of The Sphinx.
What thrills one as he stands upon the soil of Egypt rich beyond computation with the spoils of time, - is the mysterious conception that it gives of all the unknown Past which must have here preceded Memphis and the Pyramids. The progress of the race in different lands from barbarism to a state of advanced civilization, has always been a slow and painful one. Unless the Egyptians, therefore, were a notable exception to this rule, they must have existed here for tens of centuries before attaining the degree of culture which was evidently theirs more than six thousand years ago. From manuscripts discovered in their tombs and temples, we learn that every kind of literature, save the dramatic, was composed by them. Astronomy, philosophy, religion, architecture, sculpture, painting, imposing rituals for the dead, a learned priesthood and elaborate systems of theology, society, and government then flourished in the valley of the Nile, and prove the existence of a still earlier civilization, of which we know, and shall probably continue to know, absolutely nothing.
* The famous archaeologist, Maspero, recently said: " Egypt is far from being exhausted. Its soil contains enough to occupy twenty centuries of workers; for what has come to light is comparatively nothing."
Close by the temple is the Sphinx itself, crouching in silence by the sea of sand, as if to guard the royal mausoleums. This monster, whose human head and lion's body typified a union of intelligence and strength, was hewn out of the natural rock on the edge of the desert, and only in places where the stone could not adapt itself to the desired form was it pieced out with masonry. From the crown of its head to the paved platform on which rest its outspread paws, it measures sixty-four feet. The sand has long since encroached upon this space, but formerly it was kept free from all incursions of the desert, and between its huge limbs stood an altar dedicated to the Rising Sun, before which must have knelt unnumbered thousands of adoring worshipers.
Sphinx And Pyramid.
To-day the Sphinx appears as calm and imperturbable as it did six thousand years ago. It is probably the oldest relic of human workmanship that the world knows - the silent witness of the greatest fortunes and the greatest calamities of time. Its eyes, wide open and fixed, have gazed dreamily out over the drifting sands, while empires, dynasties, religions, and entire races have risen and passed away. If its stony lips could speak, they might truthfully utter the words "Before Abraham was, I am." It was, indeed, probably two thousand years old when Abraham was born.
It is the antiquity of the Sphinx which thrills us as we look upon it, for in itself it has no charms. The desert's waves have risen to its breast, as if to wrap the monster in a winding-sheet of gold. The face and head have been mutilated by Moslem fanatics. The mouth, the beauty of whose lips was once admired, is now expressionless. Yet grand in its loneliness, - veiled in the mystery of unnumbered ages,- this relic of Egyptian antiquity stands solemn and silent in the presence of the awful desert - symbol of eternity. Here it disputes with Time the empire of the past; forever gazing on and on into a future which will still be distant when we, like all who have preceded us and looked upon its face, have lived our little lives and disappeared.
O sleepless Sphinx! Thy sadly patient eyes, Thus mutely gazing o'er the shifting sands, Have watched earth's countless dynasties arise, Stalk forth like spectres waving gory hands, Then fade away with scarce a lasting trace To mark the secret of their dwelling-place: O sleepless Sphinx!
O changeless Sphinx! In the fair dawn of time So grandly sculptured from the living rock;
Still bears thy face its primal look sublime, Surviving all the hoary ages' shock;
Still art thou royal in thy proud repose As when the sun on tuneful Memnon rose: O changeless Sphinx!
O voiceless Sphinx! Thy solemn lips are dumb; Time's awful secrets hold'st thou in thy breast; Age follows age, - revering pilgrims come From every clime to urge the same request,That thou wilt speak. Poor creatures of a day, In calm disdain thou seest them die away: O voiceless Sphinx!