Page:The Religion of Ancient Egypt.djvu/92

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77
EGYPTIAN CIVILIZATION.

ness and content, of liberality, humility, chastity and sobriety, of truthfulness and justice; and they show the wickedness and folly of disobedience, strife, arrogance and pride, of slothfulness, intemperance, unchastity and other vices. It is only through a lamentable misunderstanding of the text that some scholars have discovered anti-religious, epicurean or sceptical expressions.[1]

The same morality is taught in the romantic literature which sprung up at a very early period and continued to flourish down to the latest times. It is an interesting question, but one which cannot as yet be answered with certainty, whether or no the moralizing fables about animals attributed to Æsop are really of Egyptian origin? The Egyptian text of at least one of these fables is contained in a papyrus of the Leyden collection, but it is in "demotic," not in the early language of the country.

I have laid before you some of the characteristic

  1. "Let thy face be white (i.e. enjoy thyself) whilst thou livest; has there issued from the coffin (māχera chest) one who has entered therein?" This hasty translation by Mr. Goodwin (Zeitschr. 1867, p. 95) does not deserve the success it has enjoyed, and I do not believe the author of it would have published it, had his attention been called in time to such difficulties as these: 1, the Egyptian preposition en cannot stand at the end of a sentence; 2, it never means "therein;" 3, the word māχera is never found in the sense of "coffin," but in that of "chest of provisions;" 4, the sentiment in question is absurdly out of place in the context where the words occur.