I was 7-years old when my family dressed up and we went to the Capital Theater on North Street to view Cecil B. DeMille’s spectacular new film “The Ten Commandments.”  I suppose I’ve seen it no fewer than 20 times since.  Among other things, the film planted the seed that blossomed into my love and fascination with antiquity.

We frequently write about the past, often quoting Elie Wiesel, “To forget means to deny the relevance of the past.”  To live in the past is not good; to deny the past is as unhealthy.

Robert Smythe Hichens (14 November 1864 – 20 July 1950) was an English journalist, novelist, music lyricist, short story writer, and music critic, a “writer of all trades,” you might say.  I came upon his book The Spell of Egypt (1911), first published in 1908 as Egypt and Its Monuments.  At $200 or so, it’s not quite what I would consider a collector’s item, but I found his description of the Sphinx to be priceless and worth sharing on this “Awe and Wonder” page.

“It is, I think, one of the most astounding facts in the history of man that a man was able to contain within his mind, to conceive, the conception of the Sphinx. That he could carry it out in the stone is amazing. But how much more amazing it is that before there was the Sphinx he was able to see it with his imagination! One may criticize the Sphinx. One may say impertinent things that are true about it: that seen from behind at a distance its head looks like an enormous mushroom growing in the sand, that its cheeks are swelled inordinately, that its thick-lipped mouth is legal, that from certain places it bears a resemblance to a prize bull-dog. All this does not matter at all. What does matter is that into the conception and execution of the Sphinx has been poured a supreme imaginative power. He who created it looked beyond Egypt, beyond the life of man. He grasped the conception of Eternity, and realized the nothingness of Time, and he rendered it in stone.”

This excerpt is less than 200 words.  Hichens’ complete chapter on the Sphinx is only 1300words.  If you enjoyed the excerpt, you can read the complete chapter here.


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2 Responses to Sphinx

  1. Brad says:

    Unfortunately the pyramids and Sphinx are not on my list of places to see–I’ve heard from friends who’ve visited and said it’s not worth it and there is no feeling of antiquity associated with the trip anymore. Here’s what I mean: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ofissTmcsDU

    • tVM says:

      I am certain that is what many people feel when they visit Wounded Knee and other ‘special’ places. Unfortunately, that is one of the by-products of our fascination with material things. When Hichens wrote this in 1908, it is clear that his mind was on spiritual things, not material things.

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