78 Writing and Literature
And his heart is set upon hearing it;
An envoy for whom all the stables have been requisitioned,
And he has horses at the resting-places,
And the chariot stands harnessed in its place,
Nor is there any breathing-space for him upon the road.
He hath reached the house of the beloved,
And his heart jubilates.
In quite another vein is a poem in praise of death from the
wall of a Theban tomb, where it faces the famous Song of the
Harper, the gist of which is: Eat, drink, and be merry, for to-
morrow we die.
I have heard those songs that are in the ancient tombs, and what
they tell extolling life on earth and belittling the region of the dead.
Wherefore do they thus concerning the land of eternity, the just and
fair, which has no terrors ? Wrangling is its abhorrence, and no man
there girds himself against his fellow. It is a land against which none
can rebel; all our kinsfolk rest within it since the earliest day of time.
The offspring of millions are come hither, every one. For none may
tarry in the land of Egypt, none there is who has not passed yonder.
The span of earthly things is as a dream; but a fair welcome is given
to him who has reached the West.
A people that could write thus can surely lay claim to an
honourable place in the fellowship of letters, even when judged
by universal standards. But this is not the only value Egyptian
literature has for us. The widened perspective that has been
opened out by the labours of scholars is of no little intellectual
importance. We can now trace the first gropings after beauty
of diction, admire their achievements and regret their short-
comings. A new measure is thereby obtained for estimating our
own classics and for recognizing at once how little and how
great our progress has been. Egyptological research will not
have been in vain, if the general reader can derive from a state-
ment of its results some part of the mental stimulus of which
its adepts are conscious.
ALAN H. GARDINER