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so strong a natural affection to anything that is old, that he may truly say to dust and worms, You are my father, and to rottenness, Thou art my mother." He has no providence nor foresight, for all his contemplations look backward upon the days of old, and his brains are turned with them, as if he walked backwards. He had rather interpret one obscure word in any old, senseless discourse than be author of the most ingenious new one; and, with Scaliger, would sell the empire of Germany (if it were in his power) for an old song. He devours an old manuscript with greater relish than worms and moths do, and, though there be nothing in it, values. it above anything printed, which he accounts but a novelty. When he happens to cure a small botch in an old author, he is as proud of it as if he had got the philosopher's stone and could cure all the diseases of mankind. He values things wrongfully upon their antiquity, forgetting that the most modern are really the most ancient of all things in the world, like those that reckon their pounds before their shillings and pence, of which they are made up. He esteems no customs but such as have outlived themselves and are long since out of use, as the Catholics allow of no saints but such as are dead, and the fanatics, in opposition, of none but the living.
LITTLE feet! that such long years
O little hands! that, weak or strong,
Have still so long to give or ask ; I, who so much with book and pen Have toil'd among my fellow-men,
Am weary, thinking of your task.
O little hearts! that throb and beat
Such limitless and strong desires;
Now covers and conceals its fires.
O little souls! as pure and white
Direct from heaven, their source divine;
How lurid looks this soul of mine!
THE CONFLICT BETWEEN THE NILE AND THE DESERT.
NOWHERE is the original constitution of the earth so strikingly
influential on the character of its inhabitants as in Egypt. There, everything depends-life itself and all that it includes-on the state of the unintermitting conflict between the Nile and the Desert. The world has seen many struggles; but no other so pertinacious, so perdurable, and so sublime as the conflict of these two great powers. The Nile, ever young, because perpetually renewing its youth, appears to the inexperienced eye to have no chance, with its stripling force, against the great old Goliath, the Desert, whose might has never relaxed, from the earliest days till now; but the giant has not conquered yet. Now and then he has prevailed for a season, and the tremblers whose destiny hung on the event have cried out that all was over; but he has once more been driven back, and Nilus has risen up again, to do what we see him doing in the sculptures-bind up his water plants about the throne of Egypt..
From the beginning, the people of Egypt have had everything to hope from the river, nothing from the desert; much to fear from the desert, and little from the river. What their fear may reasonably be, any one may know who looks upon a hillocky expanse of sand, where the little jerboa burrows, and the hyena prowls at night. Under these hillocks lie temples and palaces, and under the level sands a whole city. The enemy has come in from behind, and stifled and buried it. What is the hope of the people from the river, any one may witness, who, at the regular season, sees the people grouped on the eminences, watching the advancing waters, and listening for the voice of the crier or the boom of the cannon, which is to tell the prospect or event of the inundation of the year. Who can estimate the effect on a nation's mind and character, of a perpetual vigilance against the desert, (see what it is in Holland of a similar vigilance against the sea,) and of an annual mood of hope in regard to the Nile? Who cannot see what a stimulating and enlivening influence this periodical anxiety and relief must exercise on the character of a nation? And then, there is the effect on their ideas. The Nile was naturally deified by the old inhabitants. It was a god to the mass, and at least one of the manifestations of deity
to the priestly class. As it was the immediate cause of all they had, and all they hoped for-the creative power regularly at work before their eyes, usually conquering, though occasionally checked, it was to them the good power; and the desert was the evil one. Hence came a main part of their faith, embodied in the allegory of the burial of Osiris in the sacred stream, whence he rose, once a year, to scatter blessings over the earth. Then, the structure of their country originated or modified their ideas of death and life. As to the disposal of their dead, they could not dream of consigning their dead to the waters which were too sacred to receive any meaner body than the incorruptible one of Osiris; nor must any other be placed within reach of its waters, or in the way of the pure production of the valley. There were the boundary rocks, with the limits afforded by their caves. These became sacred to the dead. After the accumulation of a few generations of corpses, it became clear how much more extensive was the world of the dead than that of the living; and as the proportion of the living to the dead became, before men's eyes, smaller and smaller, the state of the dead became a subject of proportionate importance to them, till their faith and practice grew into what we see them in the records of the temples and tombs-engrossed with the idea of death, and in preparation for it. The unseen world became all in all to them; and the visible world and present life of little more importance than as the necessary introduction to the higher and greater. The imagery before their eyes perpetually sustained these modes of thought. Everywhere they had in presence the symbols of the worlds of death and life; the limited scene of production, activity and change; the valley with its verdure, its floods, and its busy multitudes, who were all incessantly passing away to be succeeded by their like; while as a boundary to this scene of life, lay the region of death, to their view unlimited, and everlastingly silent to the human ear. Their imagery of death was wholly suggested by the scenery of their abode. Our reception of this is much injured by our having been familiarised with it first through the ignorant and vulgarised Greek adoption of it, in their imagery of Charon, Styx, Cerberus, and Radamanthus but if we can forget these, and look upon the older records with fresh eyes, it is inexpressibly interesting to contemplate the symbolical representations of death by the oldest of the Egyptians, before Greek or Persian was heard of in the world; the passage of the dead across the river or lake of the valley, attended by the con
ductor of souls, the god Anubis; the formidable dog, the guardian of the mansion of Osiris, (or the divine abode ;) the balance in which the heart or deeds of the deceased are weighed against the symbol of integrity; the infant Harpocrates-the emblem of a new life seated before the throne of the judge; the range of assessors who are to pronounce on the life of the being come up to judgment; and finally the judge himself, whose suspended sceptre is to give the sign of acceptance-or condemnation. Here the deceased has crossed the living valley and river; and in the caves of the death region where the howl of the wild dog is heard by night, is this process of judgment going forward and none but those who have seen the contrasts of the region with their own eyes, none who have received the idea through the borrowed imagery of the Greeks, or the traditions of any other people, can have any adequate notion how the mortuary ideas of the primitive Egyptians, and through them, of the civilised world at large, have been originated by the everlasting conflict of the Nile and the Desert. Harriet Martineau.