May 15, 2012

The Island of Philae, 1833 | Walking Through Egypt

Philae, 1825
Dr. R.R. Madden
There are four recollections of a traveller, which might tempt him to live forever: the sea view of Constantinople, the sight of the Coliseum by moonlight, the prospect from the summit of Vesuvius by dawn, and the first glimpse of Philae at sunset.

Philae

Philae, 1852
Dean Arthur Penrhyn Stanley
And now, it is immediately above the roar of these rapids but still in the very centre of these colossal rockeries that emerges into sight an island lying in the river fringed with palms, and crowned with a long line of temples and colonnades. This is Philae.

The Island of Philae, 1833
Robert Curzon
Excepting the Pyramids, nothing in Egypt struck me so much as when on a bright moonlit night I first entered the court of the great temple of Philae. The colours of the paintings on the walls are as vivid in many places as they were the day they were finished: the silence and the solemn grandeur of the immense buildings around me were most imposing; and on emerging from the lofty gateway between the two towers of the propylon, as I wandered about the island, the tufts of palms, which are here of great height, with their weeping branches, seemed to be mourning over the desolation of the stately palaces and temples to which in ancient times all the illustrious of Egypt were wont to resort, and into whose inner recesses none might penetrate; for the secret and awful mysteries of the worship of Osiris were not to be revealed, nor were they even to be spoken of by those who were not initiated into the highest orders of the priesthood. Now all may wander where they choose, and speculate on the uses of the dark chambers hidden in the thickness of the walls, and trace out the plans of the courts and temples with the long lines of columns which formed the avenue of approach from the principal landing-place to the front of the great temple.

I have been three times at Philae, and indeed I had so great an admiration of the place, that on my last visit, thinking it probable that I should never again behold its wonderful ruins and extraordinary scenery, 1 determined to spend the day there alone, that I might meditate at my leisure, and wander as I chose from one well-remembered spot to another, without the incumbrance of half a dozen people staring at whatever I looked at, and following me about out of pure idleness. Greatly did I enjoy my solitary day, and whilst leaning over the parapet on the top of the great Propylon, or seated on one of the terraces which overhung the Nile, I in imagination repeopled the scene with the forms of the priests and worshippers of other days, restored the fallen temples to their former glory, and could almost think I saw the processions winding round their walls, and heard the trumpets, and the harps, and the sacred hymns in honour of the great Osiris. In the evening a native came over with a little boat to take me off the island, and I quitted with regret this strange and interesting region.

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