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APPROACH TO THE PYRAMIDS.
No noisy rap
the ages upon ages they have there remained. turous expression of surprise or wonder breaks from the traveller; no hastening forward to rush into the interior ; with me, at least, it was a calm, subdued, speechless, but elevated and lasting feeling of awe and admiration, which took possession o my very soul. Could I embody all the overwhelming thoughts that rushed across my mind, I would say that the uppermost was that of time—time, standing as a particle of eternity, is written on these edifices, the greatest human industry ever reared, or human pride or vanity can boast of.
A line of camels slowly pacing across the dreary waste on which they stand, or a Bedawee careering his horse beside the base of one of them, give, by the comparison, some faint idea of their stupendous size ; and an Arab pirouetting his char on the sphinx* afforded me the desired contrast, at the same time that it showed me what was the magnitude of that emblem of Egyptian reverence and superstition.
I found my friends from Cairo had arrived early in the morning, and had just returned from the ascent of the larger pyramid of Cheops, and were now waiting for me to join their pic-nic, one
* The sand has again accumulated so much on the back of the sphinx, that it is easy to ride to the top.
of the pleasantest and most exciting I ever partook of. Our table was spread in the facade of one of the rock-tombs, at the foot of the great pyramid, commanding a prospect of the lovely verdant country beneath, and shadowed by the mass of masonry some four hundred and fifty feet above us. Several foreigners, travellers like ourselves, or residents at Cairo, had accompanied us; and in the variety of their costumes, and the diversity of their languages, formed as motley a group as ever visited the sepulchres of the ancient kings of Egypt, or made these vaults resound with the toasts and songs of their native lands. How time rolls, and spins from its distaff;—this sepulchre was once the scene of some priestly mystery ; the habitation of some noble body, perhaps that of the progenitor of kings in times long, long before the countries, its present occupants acknowledged, were ever heard of.
While my friends remained to rest themselves, I engaged two of the Arabs to conduct me to the summit of the pyramid. My object was explained to them by an interpreter ; but whether from not understanding it, or their supposing that I had formed one of the party, which had been already on the top of the more accessible one of Cheops, and wished to attempt the second, I know not, but off we set, the men leading towards the second pyramid, and crying out “Hareem Belzoni,” at the foot of which, pear the eastern corner, we presently stood. This pyramid, supposed to have been erected by Chephrenes, it will be recollected, was originally somewhat lower than the neighbouring one of Cheops; but it is now nearly of the same height, as it stood upon higher ground; and the coating, or outer layer of stones, is perfect for about one hundred and forty feet below the top, which is nearly as complete now as when it originally ended in an apex of a single stone. I was totally unaware of the difficulty and danger of this ascent, and of its having been undertaken by but five or six travellers of late years ; the natives themselves never scaling it but for some reward. Had I been acquainted with the difficulties to be encountered, much doubt whether my enthusiasm would have induced me to venture up.
This, like the others, was first built in steps, or courses of enormous stones, each row placed the breadth of itself within the course beneath. Some stones in the base of this pyramid are larger than those of Cheops, and from four to five feet in depth,
A PERILOUS POSITION.
so that we had to clamber over them on our hands; but in this, I was assisted by the guides, one an old man, the other aged about forty, and both of a mould, which, for combination of strength and agility, I do not think I ever saw surpassed. We soon turned to the north, and finally reached the outer casing on the west side. All this was very laborious to be sure, though not very dangerous ; but here was an obstacle that I knew not how they themselves could surmount, much less how I could possibly master ; for above our heads jutted out like an eave, or coping, the lower stones of the coating which still remain, and retain a smooth polished surface. As considerable precaution was necessary, the men made me take off my hat, coat, and shoes at this place; the younger then placed his raised and extended hands against the projecting edge of the lower stone, which reached to above his chin; and the elder, taking me in his arms, as I would a child, placed my feet on the other's shoulder, and my body flat on the smooth surface of the stone ; in this position we formed an angle with each other, and here I remained for upwards of two minutes, till the older man went round, and by some other means contrived to get over the projection, when creeping along the line of junction of the casing, he took my hands, drew me up to where he was above me, and then letting down his girdle, assisted to mount up the younger, but less active, and less daring climber of the two. We then proceeded much as follows :-One of them got on the shoulders of the other, and so gained the joining of the stone above, which was often five feet from that beneath ; the upper man then helped me in a similar action, while the lower pushed me up by the feet. Having gained this row, we had often to creep for some way along the joining, to where another opportunity of ascending was afforded. In this way we proceeded to the summit, and some idea may be formed of my feelings, when it is recollected, that all these stones of such a span are highly polished, are set at an angle less than 45', and that the places we had to grip with our hands and feet, were often not two inches wide, and their height above the ground upwards of four hundred feet! a single slip of the foot, or a slight gust of wind, and, from our position, we must all three have been dashed to atoms, long before reaching the ground. On gaining the top my guides gave vent to sundry demonstrations of satisfaction, clapping me on the back, patting my head, kissing my hands, and
SUMMIT OF THE PYRAMID.
uttering a low growl, which presently rose into the more audible, and, to my ears, less musical cry of “buckshese !" From all this I began to suspect that something wonderful had been achieved ; and some idea of my perilous situation broke upon me, as I saw my friends beneath waving their hats, and looking up, no doubt with astonishment, as we sat perched upon the top, which is not more than six feet square. The apex stone has been removed, and the top now consists of the four outer slabs, and one in the centre, which is raised upon its end, and leans to the eastward. I do not think that human hands could have raised it thus from its bed, on account of its size, and the confined space on which they would have to work. I am inclined to think the top was struck with lightning, and the position thus altered by it. The three of us had just room to sit upon the place. I saw two or three names scratched
the central slab, to which of course I added my own : and as a memento of the spot, collected some bones of the jerbil, which lay scattered about us. At first, I imagined these might have been carried up by hawks, but I soon heard the living animals squeeling under where I sat. I could not discover the Arabic inscription mentioned by Wilkinson, on any of the stones; but I had far more interesting and absorbing objects to attract my attention, for the grandeur and extent of the picture that now presented itself from this giddy height, was almost as intoxicating as the ascent I had just completed. Around me lay the vast plain of interminable sand, that marked the Lybian and African deserts, the scorching, echoless wilderness, which mingled with the clear blue of the atmosphere at the horizon. In a sloping vale, bounded by massive rocks, the unvaried hue of barrenness was enlivened by what appeared to me a narrow silver ribbon, that wound its tortuous course for miles and miles, as it seemed to rise out of the junction of sand and sky above, and was lost to vision as it sunk into it in a similar manner below. Its banks were green and verdant, with the richest foliage, and groves of waving palms were now and then relieved by the gleam of noonday light, that glanced from the snow-white minaret, or the stately dome of a marabut. This ribbon was the river Nile—its banks, the land of Egypt.
The thousand pinnacles of the mosques of Cairo rose to view beyond the goodly land ; the white sail of the kanghia looked but as a sea-bird's wing, and the drove of camels, as a black dotted line upon the plain beneath. The whole of the pyramids
VIEW FROM THE GREAT PYRAMID.
were below me, and appeared almost at my feet. What remembrances—what inexpressible emotions must not the traveller ever feel, while viewing such an exciting picture, where the shadows of the past, and the realities of the present, rush together on his senses! Memphis and Heliopolis stood within my view; but these are gone, as are the people that raised those stupendous sepulchres themselves. Battles have been fought round their base; the storms of above three thousand years have played harmlessly upon them ; men, the most renowned the world ever saw, heroes and philosophers of every age and from every land, have come to wonder at their greatness ; dynasties and kingdoms have passed away; the very bodies of the persons for whose use they were erected, were most likely ransacked for the bit of gold that may have ornamented them ; and the earth itself has changed much of its external form since they were built ; yet, there they stand, as if waiting for the dawning of another transformation of our planet.
This view of the pyramid of Chephrenes was taken from the platform on the top of the great pyramid of Cheops—the figures are sitting on the second step.