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Birds of Passage
Songs of the Orient and Occident
by Mathilde Blind
Chatto & Windus, Piccadilly, London 1895
"The Bird of Time has but a little way
To flutter--and the bird is on the wing."
Notes(by Mathilde Blind)
- "Nahârak Saîd": "May thy day be happy."
- "Sphinx-Money": Small fossil shells or ammonites, frequently found in some parts of the desert.
- "Bab-el-Moulouk": The Gate of the Kinds. The entrance to the rocky tombs, most of which belong to the eighteenth and nineteenth Dynasties.
- "Tuat": The depth of the grave.
- "While Thoth holds the trembling balance, weighs the heart and seals its fate." Perhaps of all Egyptian beliefs, none is so widely known as "The Judgment of the Dead." It is frequently represented on tombs and temples, and there is a remarkable wall-painting of it in the beautiful little temple of Dêr-el-Medîneh. After Osiris, Judge of the under world, Thoth plays the chief part in this impressive ceremony. He is the Moon-god, generally represented as an Ibis or Baboon. "The soul first advanced to the foot of the throne, carrying on its outstretched hands the image of its heart or of its eyes, agents and accomplices of its vices and virtues. It humbly 'smelt the earth,' then arose, and with uplifted hands recited its profession of faith. In the middle of the hall its acts were weighed by the assessors. Like all objects belonging to the gods, the balance is magic. Truth
squats upon one of the scales; Thoth places the heart upon the other, and, always merciful, bears upon the side of Truth, that judgment may be favourably inclined. He affirms that the heart is light of offence, inscribes the results of the proceeding upon a wooden tablet, and pronounces the verdict aloud."--"The Dawn of Civilization" by G. Maspero.
- "In the Sunboat and the Moonboat.": The chief barks of Râ, the Sun-god, were called Saktît and Mazît. He entered one on his rising in the East, which carried him along the celestial river; and the other about the middle of his course, which bore him to the land of Manû, which is at the entrance of Hades.
- "Horus.": Horus, the Egyptian Apollo, son of Osiris and Isis, and avenger of his
murdered father. He is chiefly associated with the victoriously rising sun, and a slayer of the Serpent, like all Sun-gods. He is generally depicted with the
side-lock of infancy, or as hawk-headed, or simply as a great golden Sparrow-Hawk, who puts all other birds to flight.
- "Nuit": One of the names for the primæval night of Egyptian mythology. She is described as follows in an inscription cut on the floor of the mummy-case of Mykerinos, the builder of the third great Pyramid: "Thy Mother Nuit has spread herself out over thee in her name of Mystery of the Heavens."
- "Egyptian Theosophy." The Egyptian imagination was extremely fertile in inventing myths of the creation. "One amongst many was that Sibû was concealed under the form of a colossal gander, whose mate once laid the Sun-Egg, and perhaps still laid it daily. From the piercing cries wherewith he congratulated her, and announced the good news to all who cared to hear it--after the manner of his kind--he had received the flattering epithet of Ngagu-oirû, the Great Cackler. Other versions repudiated the goose in favour of a vigorous bull, the father of gods and men, whose companion was a cow, a large-eyed Hâthor, of beautiful countenance."--"The Dawn of Civilization" by G. Maspero.
- "The Moon of Ramadân." The month of Ramadân is the month of fasting, which begins as soon as a Muslim declares that he has seen the new moon. From daybreak to sunset, throughout the month, eating and drinking are absolutely prohibited, but the
faithful indemnify themselves by feasting and smoking throughout a great part of the night.
- "And brought his gods for offering Mountains of severed hands." The Pharaohs used to cut off the hands of their conquered enemies, and make them an offering to their gods. The
subject is depicted in a striking wall-painting of the Temple at Medinet Haboo.
- "The Beautiful Beeshareen Boy." The Beeshareens are a wandering desert tribe of Upper Egypt, reminding one of our Gypsies. Many of them are remarkably handsome, more particularly in childhood. The grace of their movements and charm of manner must
strike all travellers on the Nile. The children haunt the shore where boats land, and set up an incessant cry for "backsheesh," and there are few who can resist the winning smiles with which they sweeten their importunities. Conspicuous among the crowd was a lovely boy of sixteen, who attracted the attention of artists and photographers two or three winters ago. He had the elegant proportions of a Tanagra statuette, and was so constantly asked to sit for his portrait that he must have thought that that was the end and aim of all tourists. Finally, he was carried off to the World's Fair with other curiosities of Egypt. When the Beeshareens returned to Assouan he was not amongst them, and rumour says that he got as far as Marseilles, where he utterly vanished. This tribe dress their profuse black hair in quite an extraordinary fashion. It is worn in countless little plaits, with a high, fuzzy bunch in the centre. I have heard it said that they wear it thus in memory of their descent from one of the lost tribes of Israel.
- "A human form, indeed, but stone: A cold, colossal Man!" This unfinished Colossus of red granite was discovered by two English officers while riding in the desert round Assouan. The scene is one of extraordinary desolation. The ash-coloured sand, broken by blue-black ridges, is a chaos of scattered stones and boulders which might be part of a landscape in the moon. The statue is believed to be that of Amenhotep III., to whom we owe the two Colossi of the Plain, of which one is the famous "Vocal Memnon." He was also the Egyptian Nimrod, and on one of his lion-hunting expeditions to the South is said to have met a beautiful young maiden, whom he married, though she was neither Egyptian nor of royal race. She was that famous Queen Thi who introduced the worship of the Sun's disk into Egypt.
- "Scarabæus." The beetle was the emblem of the principle of life and creative power, which the Egyptians worshipped under such manifold forms. It was supposed to have no female, and to roll the eggs which produce its offspring into a kind of ball, sparing no effort to place them in safety.
- "The Sâkiyeh": The ancient Egyptian water-wheel, still in use. It is
made of a notch-wheel, fixed vertically on a horizontal axle, and a long chain of earthenware vessels brings the water either from the river itself or from some little branch canal, and empties it into a system of troughs and reservoirs.
Poets' Corner .
H O M E .