Page:The Religion of Ancient Egypt.djvu/75

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60
LECTURE II.

periods of the greatest glory of Egypt. It is evident that prose sentences like those of Plato, Demosthenes, Cicero or Burke, or poetical ones like those of Sophocles, Euripides or Horace (not to mention any other names), are as impossible in Egyptian as they are in Hebrew or Arabic. Whatever beauty there is in Egyptian composition (and there often is considerable beauty) is derived either from the thought itself or from the simplicity of the expression, not from the artistic variety or structure of its periods. M. Renan[1] has made very similar remarks upon the structure of the Semitic sentence (which, however, admits of much greater variety than the Egyptian, and does not suffer in narratives from the perpetual repetition of the same auxiliary verb), and he has inferred from it the inferiority of the Semitic mind to the European with reference to certain branches of intellectual development. I have little doubt that M. Renan is right to this extent, that certain languages as vehicles of thought are inferior to others, and that as long as men are confined to the inferior vehicle of thought, they are unable to raise themselves to the level of others who enjoy a more efficient instrument. It is difficult to conceive the Egyptians as otherwise than incapacitated by their language from profound philosophy. It is hardly pos-

  1. "Histoire Générale et système comparé des langues Sémitiques," livre i. chap. i. p. 21. The whole chapter is to the point.