May 6, 2012

Abu’l Haul, the Sphinx, c. 1200 | Walking Through Egypt

Abu’l Haul, the Sphinx, c. 1200 
Abd al-Latif al-Baghdadi

Sphinx
A little more than a bowshot from these pyramids is a colossal figure of a head and neck projecting from the earth. The name of this is Abu’l Haul [the Sphinx] and the body to which the head pertains is said to be buried under the earth. To judge from the dimensions of the head, its length must be more than seventy cubits. On the face is a reddish tint, and a red varnish as bright as if freshly put on. The face is remarkably handsome, and the mouth expresses much grace and beauty: one might fancy it smiling gracefully.

A sensible man enquiring of me as to what, of all I had seen in Egypt, had most excited my admiration, I answered: “The nicety of proportion of the head of the Sphinx.” In fact, between the different parts of this head, the nose, for example, the eyes, and the ears, the same proportion is remarked as is observed by nature in her works. Thus, the nose of a child is suitable to its stature, and proportioned to the rest of its frame, while if it belonged to the face of a full-grown man it would be reckoned a deformity. The nose of a grown man on the visage of a child would be an equal disfigurement. The same holds good with respect to all the other members. There are none but should have a certain form and dimension in order to bear such relation to such and such a face, and where these proportions are not observed, the face is spoiled. Hence the wonder that in a face of such colossal size the sculptor should have been able to preserve the exact proportion of every part, seeing that nature presented him with no model of a similar colossus or any at all comparable.




The Sphinx, 1852
Dean Arthur Penrhyn Stanley
... if . . . the Sphinx was the giant representative of Royalty, then it fittingly guards the greatest of Royal sepulchres, and, with its half human, half animal form, is the best welcome and the best farewell to the history and religion of Egypt.

The Sphinx and the Sepulchres, 1882
Samuel Cox
We alight amid the sandy heaps, and look down into the rock-cut taverns, and up to the half-hid genius of the Unknown.

The Sphinx is sunk in the lime rock. It is a part of it. The tombs about it are lined with immense granite blocks, laid imperfect courses, and with joints as true and handsome as any modern masonry. These blocks come from the cataract eight hundred miles above. They form an antique cemetery, covered by forty feet of sand. The temple is thirty feet beneath the level of the sand. From it a roadway, paved with white flagstones, leads up to the pyramids. They seem to have been connected religiously. The nose of the Sphinx is broken or worn off. It detracts from his dignity. It is a mistake to call the Sphinx her. His head-dress is partly demolished. Once the head was crowned with the royal helmet of Egypt; but his feet and form remain for solution. Let its Oedipus stand forth! There is no satisfactory guess yet as to any of these gods of Egypt. Only one thing is surmised, that in the gods we see the men who made them. We read in their calm features aspirations after the other world Immortality!

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