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Writing and Literature                    75
There are extant from the Middle Kingdom only two more
stories of any length, the Shipwrecked Sailor and the Eloquent
Peasant, the former relating how a sailor was thrown on a
desert island, where he conversed with a gigantic serpent, and
the latter containing the long and tedious complaints of a
peasant who had been robbed of his merchandise. A character-
istic genre of the earlier part of this period is the pessimistic
literature, among which the already mentioned dialogue of a
disappointed man with his soul is the most interesting specimen.
Another composition of the kind, the Admonitions of an
Egyptian Sage, describes a topsy-turvy world in which every-
thing is awry, the poor usurping the place of the rich, foreigners
invading the land, no respect and no virtue anywhere; yet a
redeemer is at hand. This is poor stuff from the literary point
of view, but is interesting early evidence of the cyclic re-
currence of revolutionary reversals of fortune. There are two
royal 'Teachings' of King Merikare and King Ammenemes I
respectively—they might be described as political testaments.
The latter is of some beauty and has a dignity of its own, but
unhappily portions are too corrupt and otherwise unintelligible
for us to fathom their literary worth. Reference has been made
above to the Satire of the Trades. This concludes pretty well
all that has survived from the Middle Kingdom, except the
panegyric of a king and some fragments of songs and hymns.
How much we are at the mercy of chance for our knowledge
of Egyptian literature is shown by the fact that hardly any
original composition of the flourishing Eighteenth Dynasty has
survived. The fragments of a tale on the insatiable greed of the
sea suggests that we have lost things of real merit, and there are
unpublished scraps of a book on the joys of fishing and fowling
'Semiramis Hotel, Cairo, Feb. 20, 29. Dear Mr. Gardiner, Thank you ever
so much for the book of Egyptian literature, and I quite agree with you as to
your estimate of the tale you specially admire. Very sincerely yours, Rudyard