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Full text of "The Legacy Of Egypt"

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j6                     Writing and Literature
which open up new perspectives. The Tale of Cheops and the
Magicians perhaps dates from the Hyksos period. Like the
stories of Ramesside times, among which the best-known
are the Tale of the Two Brothers and that of the Doomed
Prince, it is simpler in expression than the works of the Middle
Kingdom; both the best and the worst features of that sophisti-
cated age have been discarded. It is in the hymns of the
Akhenaton period that the compositions of the New Kingdom
attain their highest level, always excepting the papyrus record-
ing the misadventures of Wenamun in Syria and some lyrical
poetry to be mentioned later. The story of Wenamun is a
puzzle. It dates from the very end of the Twentieth Dynasty,
an epoch otherwise appearing completely destitute of real
literary talent. We cannot tell for certain whether this story
is history or fiction. It deals with the times when Herihor had
just climbed into sacerdotal power at Thebes, and when the
credit of Egypt was at its lowest in Syria. Wenamun had been
dispatched to fetch wood to construct the sacred barque of
Amun, and the narrative tells how he was robbed at Dor,
snubbed by the prince of Byblus, and mobbed at a port to which
his ship had been driven by a storm. And with it all the
Egyptian envoy retains his pompous self-possession, the very
image of a little effendi such as one might encounter in the
streets of Cairo to-day. This tale is worthy to rank with the
Story of Sinuhe.
The most extensive literary papyri which we possess from the
New Kingdom are miscellanies containing model letters, and
short compositions of various kinds. It is impossible to char-
acterize or criticize these here, but in brief we may state that
their interest is more psychological and cultural than literary.
One effusion that gained great popularity in Ramesside times
took the form of a satirical letter in which one scribe twits
another for his incompetence, inventing various situations, in-
cluding a voyage to Syria, wherein that incompetence is mani-