Let us consider that wonderful sign [of the resurrection] which takes place in eastern lands, that is, in Arabia and the countries round about. There is a certain bird which is called a phœnix. This is the only one of its kind, and lives five hundred years. And when the time of its dissolution draws near that it must die, it builds itself a nest of frankincense, and myrrh, and other spices, into which, when the time is fulfilled, it enters and dies. But as the flesh decays a certain kind of worm is produced, which, being nourished by the juices of the deed bird, brings forth feathers. Then, when it has acquired strength, it takes up that nest in which are the bones of its parent, and bearing these it passes from the land of Arabia into Egypt, to the city called Heliopolis. And, in open day, flying in the sight of all men, it places them on the altar of the sun, and having done this, hastens back to its former abode. The priests then inspect the registers of the dates, and find that it has returned exactly as the five hundredth year was completed.
Do we then deem it any great and wonderful thing for the Maker of all things to raise up again those that have piously served Him in the assurance of a good faith, when even by a bird He shows us the mightiness of His power to fulfil His promise?
First Epistle of Clement.
τὸ δ᾽ ἔργον τοῦτο μὴ μόνον εἶναι κατὰ τὸ μέγεθος ἀποδοχῆς ἄξιον, ἀλλὰ καὶ τῇ τέχνῃ θαυμαστὸν καὶ τῇ τοῦ λίθου φύσει διαφέρον, ὡς ἂν ἐν τηλικούτῳ μεγέθει μήτε διαφυάδος μήτε κηλῖδος μηδεμιᾶς θεωρουμένης. ἐπιγεγράφθαι δ᾽ ἐπ᾽ αὐτοῦ ‘βασιλεὺς βασιλέων Ὀσυμανδύας εἰμί. εἰ δέ τις εἰδέναι βούλεται πηλίκος εἰμὶ καὶ ποῦ κεῖμαι, νικάτω τι τῶν ἐμῶν ἔργων.’
[M]ox visit veterum Thebarum magna vestigia. Et manebant structis molibus litterae Aegyptiae, priorem opulentiam complexae: iussusque e senioribus sacerdotum patrium sermonem interpretari, referebat habitasse quondam septingenta milia aetate militari atque eo cum exercitu regem Rhamsen Libya, Aethiopia Medisque et Persis et Bactriano ac Scytha potitum quasque terras Suri Armeniique et contigui Cappadoces colunt, inde Bithynum, hinc Lycium ad mare imperio tenuisse. Legebantur et indicta gentibus tributa, pondus argenti et auri, numerus armorum equorumque et dona templis, ebur atque odores, quasque copias frumenti et omnium utensilium quaeque natio penderet, haud minus magnifica quam nunc vi Parthorum aut potentia Romana iubentur.
Tac. Ann. 2.60.
or, On A Stupendous Leg of Granite, Discovered Standing by Itself in the Deserts of Egypt, with the Inscription Inserted Below.
In Egypt’s sandy silence, all alone,
Stands a gigantic Leg, which far off throws
The only shadow that the Desert knows:—
“I am great OZYMANDIAS,” saith the stone,
“The King of Kings; this mighty City shows
“The wonders of my hand.”— The City’s gone,—
Nought but the Leg remaining to disclose
The site of this forgotten Babylon.
We wonder,—and some Hunter may express
Wonder like ours, when thro’ the wilderness
Where London stood, holding the Wolf in chace,
He meets some fragment huge, and stops to guess
What powerful but unrecorded race
Once dwelt in that annihilated place.
The Examiner, 1 February 1818.
Is it not odd that the only truly generous person I ever knew who had money enough to be generous with should be a stockbroker? He writes poetry and pastoral dramas and yet knows how to make money, and does make it, and is still generous.
Shelley on Smith.
Returning now to the main building through the open screen that marks off the corridor, one may notice that the haikal proper, and the two aisle-chapels are under lofty semidomes. But the eastern wall of the haikal has the unusual form of a seven-sided apse below changing roofwards to a semicircle. The haikal-screen is ancient and good, though somewhat battered: and in each spandrel of the doorway inlaid with ivory is a remarkable design of a rude winged figure climbing among and holding a creeping plant. These figures can scarcely be meant for angels, or for mere grotesques: for that strange love of mingling the solemn and the ludicrous, the sublime and the grotesque, which seems a permanent trait in the English character, has no counterpart among the Copts; though early Byzantine churches abound in quaint ridiculous carvings and impossible figures. There is nothing in Coptic churches like our ape-headed corbels, gurgoyles, frescoes of devils, and the monstrous beasts common in mediaeval churches, where a sacred subject is treated in a jesting manner: as for instance in the church of Stanley St. Leonards, Gloucestershire, where the fall of man is represented by a splay-footed, fish-mouthed, frog-eyed, melancholy quadruped, holding in one hand an apple, and with the other pulling the tail of a heavily-moustached ape or cat, whose pursed lips and fixed averted eyes convey most amusingly the idea of shocked virtue.
In the haikal I saw three fine processional crosses of silver, each cross hung with six small bells, and on the staff a banner. The two candlesticks on the altar are fine pieces of brass-work: there is also a small oval wooden incense-box now used as a crewet (5 in. high and 4 in. across) beautifully carved with foliated scrollwork and Arabic letters in high relief. The lid unfortunately is missing.
The screen before the south aisle-chapel is new: the chapel is square, but in the east wall is a wide niche, in the north wall a large aumbry 3 ft. across and 2 ft. deep. A score of small pictures lie rotting under the orthodox quantity of dust.
Against the screen of the north aisle-chapel hangs a picture of St. Barbara and her daughter Juliana. With a palm branch in her left hand, the saint is pointing to a model of a church which she holds in her right. The church is a six-domed Byzantine-looking building with a turret and cross-capped spire–probably a purely conventional symbol, as there is no trace of tower or spire in any Coptic church near Cairo at present. A silver plate, like a crescent, nailed round St. Barbara’s head represents a nimbus. Before the picture is a stand for a bolster of relics, and a curious three-branched pricket candlestick of iron, somewhat resembling that at Abu-‘s-Sifain. The interior of the chapel is wainscoted, and over the altar is a plain baldakyn. A curious little portable tower-shaped shrine (2 ft. 3 in. high and 9 in. square) shows in front a very fine deep-shadowed painting of John the Baptist, who carries a scroll with the legend ‘Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Before the picture is a little beam or bracket for tapers. The altar is littered all over with more or less ancient books of ritual that have been flung and tumbled together. Scattered among them or tossed in heaps on the ground at random lie candles, altar-caskets, old pictures, candlesticks, incense, ostrich-eggs, and silver censers in even unusual profusion and disorder, under layers of dust immemorial.
— Description of principal sanctuaries, screens, and accoutrements of St. Barbara’s Church from Butler, Alfred Joshua, The Ancient Coptic Churches of Egypt, Oxford, 1884, pp. 238-241.
Ibrahim El-Gohary (died 31 May 1795), known by Christians as “Sultan of the Copts,” was chief scribe (prime minister) during the reign of Muhammad Bey Abu al-Dhahab, Mamluk emir and regent of Ottoman Egypt. Favoured by the Mohammedan rulers, El-Gohary was able to issue fatwas permitting Copts to rebuild churches and monasteries ruined by the Moslems. He was the first to build Saint Mark’s Coptic Orthodox Cathedral in the Azbakeya neighbourhood of Cairo. Having shown generosity to an Ottoman princess passing through Egypt on pilgrimage to Mecca, through her intercession with the Sultan, El-Gohary was issued a permit to construct the church. He died before its completion, and the building was finished by his brother Girgis El-Gohary, being consecrated by Pope John XVIII of Alexandria in 1800.
Abu Sargah is paved with hard siliceous grey limestone. The choir floor is two steps higher than the nave floor: a broad stone bench, probably answering to the solea, runs across the nave and north aisle at the foot of the choir-screen, which is of modern lattice-work. In a panel over the central choir door there is written, or rather wrought, in square Cufic-like letters of wood a short text, ‘Ya Allah al Khalas,’ i.e. ‘O God, Salvation.’ There is also a rude Coptic inscription upon the lintel of the doorway, which closes by double doors. Over the screen is a row of fifteen small paintings, and higher still nine large ones all, except the central Redeemer, nearly identical in treatment with those in the corresponding position at Abu-‘s-Sifain; and here, as there, the larger series lies between two bands adorned with golden texts in Arabic and Coptic.
— Description of the choir screen in St. Sergius Church, from Butler, Alfred Joshua, The Ancient Coptic Churches of Egypt, Oxford, 1884, p. 189.
Between this point and the angle formed by the abutment of the haikal screen are some very curious early carvings in relief (F)–panels that were once no doubt framed in the leaves of a door like that of Al Mu’allakah. There are eight panels in all, each 10 1/4 in. high by 6 1/2 broad: of these, five represent sacred subjects and are probably of the eighth century, contemporary with the foundation of the church; the other three–one containing carvings of gazelles, two merely conventional scroll-work are rather later. Taking the subjects in order as they stand from left to right, we find–
(1) The Nativity. The Child lies swathed in a manger with rays of glory falling from a bow or circle above, in which are carved two faces, perhaps meant for the other persons of the Trinity. In the top background an ox on one side of the manger and an ass on the other stand gazing upon it, and behind each animal stands an angel with outspread wings. Below them, and partly concealing them, Mary is seen lying on a couch and Joseph kneeling on one knee. The lower half of the panel is occupied partly by two shepherds, indicated by their crooks and by a lamb, and partly by the magi bringing gifts. Every panel is surrounded by a very beautifully carved border, generally of scrollwork, but all different. In this case crosses are carved at the angles and in the centre of the sides. The Holy Family and the angels all wear plain nimbs.
(2) Perhaps St. Demetrius. A bearded equestrian figure clad in richly embroidered raiment: in his right hand he carries a long spear ending upwards in a cross, while the lower end is grasped by a prostrate foe whom he seems to be slaying. In the upper dexter corner an eagle is carved with folded wings. The horseman is turned full face to the spectator: a row of small circles round the brow represents curling hair or possibly a diadem. He wears a fine full glory. The horse has oriental trappings, which might be of any age.
(3) Mâri Girgis. This is another equestrian, very similar in treatment to the last: the spear-shaft, however, ends in a loop instead of a point at the bottom: there is no figure, not even a dragon, on the ground: and the eagle, here placed in the sinister top corner, is bending its head very low. The horseman’s lace is quite beardless, and the hair vaguely indicated.
(4) Abu-‘s-Sifain, or St. Mercurius. This title, like the last two, is very doubtful. The horseman is in almost precisely the same attitude as the others, the right hand carrying a long spear, the left reining the steed. But under the horse’s feet a man is seen sitting on the ground and apparently pierced with the spear. The victim, however, seems unconscious of his wound, and in his right hand is grasping a short rod which rests on a very perplexing little object in the background. I can only conjecture that it may be an oven, that the figure on the ground is heating a bar of iron, and that he represents some persecutor and torturer of the Christians being slain by their champion. The horseman is under a sort of trefoil arch: in both spandrels there are indications of curtains: in the sinister spandrel a hand is appearing, as from the clouds, holding out a crown.
(5) The Last Supper. This is an extremely interesting carving. It represents our Lord and the apostles seated round a long table which occupies the centre of the panel. The shape of the table is remarkable, the near end having square corners, the far end being rounded. On it are laid twelve small loaves, and in the centre is a large fish on a platter: there is no cup or drinking vessel. Christ in the lower dexter corner of the panel is grasping the fish. All the figures seem seated on the ground, wear nimbs, and face the spectator. The whole scene is grouped under an altar-canopy supported on two slender columns with early Arab capitals. A pair of altar curtains are seen running on rods above, but each is caught up and looped round a pillar, so as to leave a clear view of the scene below. The canopy is in the form of a circle between two triangles, all with elaborate borders. The circle encloses a fine cross, and a smaller cross stands on the apex of each triangle.
The ritual significance of this carving, which is obvious enough, has been commented upon in another part of this work. It is, I think, the only artistic monument definitely recording the early altar curtains of the Coptic ceremonial; although, as I have pointed out, there is abundance of other evidence to establish their existence. Possibly even the form of the table may have its own meaning.
— Description of carvings in St. Sergius Church, from Butler, Alfred Joshua, The Ancient Coptic Churches of Egypt, Oxford, 1884, pp. 190-194.
They tell the fabulous story that, when she was bathing, an eagle snatched one of her sandals from her maid and carried it to Memphis; and while the king was administering justice in the open air, the eagle, when it arrived above his head, flung the sandal into his lap; and the king, stirred both by the beautiful shape of the sandal and by the strangeness of the occurrence, sent men in all directions into the country in quest of the woman who wore the sandal; and when she was found in the city of Naucratis, she was brought up to Memphis, became the wife of the king…
Strabo, Geographica, Book 17, 33.
CINDERELLA.– The mention of ladies attending assemblies in slippers, and of pumpkins and lizards being found in the garden, makes it probable this story came from the East. Chindee is Hindoo word for ragged clothing, and Ella a not uncommon woman’s name in India. The story of Catskin, in Mr. Halliwell’s Nursery Rhymes of England, very like that of Cinderella, is to be of Eastern origin. The main incident in the story of Cinderella has a parallel in history. Strabo relates that an eagle let fall the slipper of Rhodopis into the bosom of a king of Egypt, who was so struck with the smallness of it, that made proclamation he would marry the female to whom it belonged. In the Fairy Tales of the Countess of D’Anois, Cinderella appears under the name of Finetta — a name not unlike the Tamil word Punetta, meaning Little Kitten, and used by Hindoo women when addressing their children. Pussy (pusei) is also a Tamil name for a cat. The Tamil belongs to the Turanian family of languages, of which the Lap, Fin, and Turkish are members. What is the generally accepted derivation of our word pussy? H.C.
— Notes and Queries, 3rd S. IX. Jan. 6, ’66.
And this, too: What of Israel? Thrice forfeit Israel like the rest, and forfeit once again, that for a debt, though it were but the price of a pair of shoes, will make slaves of poor, honest folk. Ground in the dust, the poor man’s rights, shouldered aside, the claim of the unbefriended! See where father and son, to my name’s dishonour, bed with one maid! See where they lie feasting beside the altar, at the very shrine of their God, no cloak there but is some borrower’s pledge, no stoup of wine but is some debtor’s forfeit!
Was it for such men as these I exterminated the Amorrhites, a race tall as the cedar, hardy as the oak, root and fruit of them doomed to destruction? These are the men I rescued from Egypt, guided them, all those forty years, through the wilderness, to make the domain of the Amorrhites theirs! Tell me, men of Israel, the Lord says, what avails it that I should call sons of yours, from their boyhood’s days, to serve me as prophets and Nazirites? Ever you tempt the Nazirites with wine, ever you forbid the prophet to raise his voice in prophecy. Henceforth, you shall seek my help in vain; waggon-axle overladen with sheaves groans not so reluctant as I! Speed shall be no profit to the speedy, strength to the strong; warrior shall not escape, nor bowman stand firm; the fleet of foot, nay, the very horseman shall have no deliverance; a day is coming, the Lord says, when tried valour shall be fain to throw arms away, and take flight.
— Amos ii. 6-16.
And Moses went up from the plains of Moab unto the mountain of Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, that is over against Jericho. And the Lord shewed him all the land of Gilead, unto Dan, and all Naphtali, and the land of Ephraim, and Manasseh, and all the land of Judah, unto the utmost sea, and the south, and the plain of the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees, unto Zoar. And the Lord said unto him, This is the land which I sware unto Abraham, unto Isaac, and unto Jacob, saying, I will give it unto thy seed: I have caused thee to see it with thine eyes, but thou shalt not go over thither. So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord. And he buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, over against Bethpeor: but no man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day. And Moses was an hundred and twenty years old when he died: his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated. And the children of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days: so the days of weeping and mourning for Moses were ended. And Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom; for Moses had laid his hands upon him: and the children of Israel hearkened unto him, and did as the Lord commanded Moses. And there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face, in all the signs and the wonders, which the Lord sent him to do in the land of Egypt to Pharaoh, and to all his servants, and to all his land. And in all that mighty hand, and in all the great terror which Moses shewed in the sight of all Israel.