ADDRESS TO AN EGYPTIAN MUMMY*
And thou has walk‚d about (how strange a story!)
In Thebes‚ streets three thousand years ago,
When the Memnonium was in all its glory
And Time had not begun to overthrow
Those temples, palaces, and piles stupendious,
Of which the very ruins are tremendous!
Speak! for thou long enough has acted dummy;
Thou hast a tongue, come, let us hear its tune;
Thou‚rt standing on thy legs above ground mummy!
Revisiting the glimpses of the moon.
Not like thin ghosts or disembodied creatures,
But with thy bones and flesh, and limbs and features.
Tell us — for doubtless thou canst recollect —
To whom should we assign the Sphinx‚s fame?
Was Cheops or Cephrenes the architect
Of either pyramid that bears his name?
Is Pompey‚s pillar really a misnomer?
Had Thebes a hundred gates, as sung by Homer?
Perhaps thou wert a mason, and forbidden
By oath to tell the secrets of thy trade —
Then say, what secret melody was hidden
In Memnon‚s statue, which at sunrise played?
Perhaps thou wert a priest — if so my struggles
Are vain, for priestcraft never owns its juggles.
Perchance that very hand, now pinioned flat,
Has hob-a-nobbed with Pharaoh, glass to glass;
Or dropped a halfpenny in Homer‚s hat
Or doffed thine own to let Queen Dido pass,
Or held, by Solomon‚s own invitation,
A torch at the great Temple‚s dedication.
I need not ask thee if that hand, when armed,
Has any Roman soldier mauled and knuckeled,
For thou wert dead, and buried, and embalmed,
Ere Romulus and Remus had been suckled:
Antiquity appears to have begun
Long after thy primeval race was run.
Thou couldst develop, if that withered tongue
Might tell us what those sightless orbs have seen,
How the world looked when it was fresh and young,
And the great Deluge still had left it green;
Or was it then so old, that history‚s pages
Contained no record of its early ages?
Still silent, incommunicative elf!
Art sworn to secrecy? then keep thy vows,
But prithee tell us something of thyself;
Reveal the secrets of thy prison-house;
Since in the world of spirits thou hast slumbered,
What hast thou seen — what strange adventures numbered?
Since first thy form was in this box extended,
We have, above-ground, seen some strange mutations;
The Roman empire has begun and ended,
New worlds have risen — we have lost old nations,
And countless kings have into dust been humbled,
Whilst not a fragment of they flesh has crumbled.
Didst thou not hear the pother o‚er thy head,
When the great Persian conqueror, Cambyses,
Marched armies o‚er thy tomb with thundering tread,
O‚erthrew Osiris, Orus, Apis, Isis,
And shook the pyramids with fear and wonder,
When the gigantic Mennon fell asunder?
If the tomb‚s secrets may not be confessed,
The nature of thy private life unfold:
A heart has throbbed beneath that leathern breast,
And tears adown that dusky cheek have rolled:
Have children climbed those knees, and kissed that face?
What was thy name and station, age and race?
Statue of flesh — immortal of the dead!
Imperishable type of evanescence!
Posthumous man, who quitt‚st thy narrow bed,
And standest undecayed within our presence,
Thou wilt hear nothing till the Judgment morning,
When the great trump shall thrill thee with its warning.
Why should this worthless tegument endure,
If its undying guest be lost for ever?
Oh, let us keep the soul embalmed and pure
In living virtue, that, when both must sever,
Although corruption may our frame consume,
The immortal spirit in the skies may bloom.
* From Living Thoughts in Words that Burn from Poet, Sage, and Humorist, Edited by Daphne Dale; 1891] Reprinted as Classic Gems of Prose and Poetry; Chicago Star Publishing Company; [no date]; pp. 167-168.