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" Whoever goes through this passage alone, and without looking behind him, shall be purified by fire, by water, and by air ; and, if he can vanquish the fears of death, he shall return from the bowels of the earth, he shall see light again, and he shall be entitled to the privilege of preparing his mind for the revelation of the mysteries of the great goddess Isis."
“ The first matter of astonishment to those who persisted in their design was the length of the way, for they were obliged to walk more than a league in this subterranean passage without seeing any thing new. At last they observed in the wall on the right hand, or on the south side, a small iron door shut, and two paces beyond it three men having helmets on, upon which was the head of Anubis. This gave occasion to Orpheus to make of these three men the three heads of the dog Cerberus, which admitted persons into hell, but suffered none to come out again. One of these three men said to the candidate, “ We are not posted here to stop your passage : go on, if the gods have given you the courage ; but, if you be so unfortunate as to return, we shall then stop your passage. As yet, you may go back; but from this moment you will never get out of this place, unless you go on without turning or looking back. If the candidate was not shocked at these words he was suffered to pass, and the three men followed him at a distance. A moment afterwards the candidate perceived, at the end of this passage, the light of a very white but lively flame, just kindled. Sethos mended his pace to come at it. At the end of this passage was a vaulted room, of above one hundred feet square. At the entrance into it were, on the right and on the left, two piles of wood, or rather pales of wood planted in the ground upright, and very near to one another, twined about like vines, with branches of Arabian palm, Egyptian thorn, and tamarinds—three sorts of wood very pliant, fragrant, and combustible. The smoke went out through long pipes made for that purpose; but this flame, which easily reached to the top of the vault, and bore down again in waves, gave the space it possessed all the resemblance of a burning furnace. But, what was yet more terrible, Sethos observed upon the ground, between the two piles, a grate of red-hot iron, eight feet broad and thirty feet long. This grate was formed of bars, which were so close to one another, that there was only room for a man to set one foot between them. He perceived there was no other passage but this, and he went through it with as much agility as circumspection. Sethos, having, with joy, passed this trial, saw at some paces distant a canal of more than fifty feet broad, which came in on one side of this subterraneous room through grates of iron, and went out again in the same manner on the other side. This canal, which came out of the Nile, before it entered through the grates made a great noise, as of a waterfall, which Sethos mistook for the noise of the flames he had just escaped. By the light of these flames, though they were considerably lowered, he perceived on the other side of the canal an arch, in the inside of which were steps, the highest whereof were involved in darkness. Sethos imagined there was the gate through which he was to pass into the open air, and the rather because the passage was marked out in the canal by two bal
lustrades of iron, which arose from the bottom of the water, on the right and on the left. Being apprehensive that the light of the flames might fail him before he reached the other side, he made use of one of the firebrands to light up his lamp, which the rarefaction of the air had extinguished amidst the flames. He undressed himself, put his clothes upon his head, and tied them with a girdle, which passed under his arms, across his breast. In this manner he swam across the canal, holding his lamp burning in one hand. He quickly got his clothes on again, and, ascending the steps of the arch which was before him, he came to a landing-place six feet long and three broad. The bottom was a draw-bridge, which hung by very strong irons to rings fastened to the uppermost step of the arch; so that this draw-bridge seemed to be let down to receive him. The walls on each side of him were of brass, and served as supporters for the naves of two great wheels, of the same metal; one on the right, and the other on the left. The lower half of them went down behind the walls ; and on the upper parts, which were in sight, lay a great iron chain. The top or roof of the landing-place discovered, at the height of fifteen feet, three dark concavities, which resembled the inside of three large hollow statues, looked into from below. Before him was a door covered all over with the whitest ivory, adorned in the middle with two mouldings of gold; which shewed that this door, that had no scutcheons on the outside, opened inwards with two leaves. Sethos, having set his lamp on the floor, tried twice or thrice in vain to push open this door, which had resisted the force of much stronger men than he : but to the lintel of the door, which was raised about seven feet above the threshold, and to which the ends of the draw-bridge seemed to be suspended by two strong chains, were fastened two great rings of polished steel, which by the light of the lamp shone like the finest diamond. The candidate could not avoid laying hold of them, to try if by this means he might open the door: and here began his last trial, the most difficult for an astonished imagination; for the very first motion which he gave to these rings raised the triggers of the two wheels, which, being turned by a prodigious weight hanging to their chains, produced several very frightful effects. The draw-bridge began to raise itself at that end which was nearest the door; so that the candidate was obliged either to recover the steps, and so turn back again, contrary to the law prescribed him, or to hold fast by the rings: but the very lintel of the door was likewise raised up, with the candidate hanging at it. The lamp, which slid upon the draw-bridge, was soon overset, and left him in the dark, in the midst of a horrid noise made by the two wheels; such, that the most courageous would hardly forbear thinking that a hundred machines of iron and brass were breaking in pieces about his ears. This motion, which lasted almost a minute, raised the candidate to the height of a quarter of a circle: but lest the lintel, which was then loosened from the great wheels, might fall again with too great violence, being borne downwards by its own weight and that of the candidate, it was fastened with ropes, which went through several pullies, to another wheel, made up of flies or fanes of iron plates, which broke the fall, and prevented the candidate from being hurt. But at the same time this wheel, which was placed opposite to him in a large open place above the ivory doors, by its motion made him feel a violent agitation of the air. The candidate being in this manner let down again to the place from whence the machine had lifted him up, the two leaves of the ivory door opened by the motion of the lowermost trigger, and presented to his view a place where it was broad day, or, it in the night-time, was illuminated with lamps, which caused a light equal to it."
When Sethos thus emerged from what was in fact the hollow pedestal of the triple statue of Osiris, Isis, and Horus, he was received by the high priest, who administers to him the waters of forgetfulness and the draught of Mnemosyne, and then solemnly consecrates him to the great goddess of the Egyptians. After this his mental trials commence, which last fourscore and one days, during which he is obliged to observe a fast, in different degrees of austerity. This probation is described as severe enough; but in all its varieties, in solitude or society, in observing an enjoined silence or answering proposed questions, Sethos acquits himself to admiration. He is then instructed in the esoteric doctrines, and taught that there is but one First Cause; though, “ to comply with the frailty of mankind, they were allowed to adore the different attributes of his essence, and the different effects of his goodness, under the symbols of the stars, as the sun and the planets; of renowned personages, as Osiris, Jupiter, Mercury; and even of terrestrial bodies, as animals and plants ;" and the physical and historical origins of these secondary deities are explained to him. At length his curiosity is fully satisfied by a discovery of the sacred mysteries of the Egyptian priesthood; and, after a tremendous oath of secresy, he visits their subterraneous mansions, gardens, and temples, or, in classical language, descends into hell. Here he beholds the original Tartarus, where a mortal Sisyphus rolled his stone, living Danaides drew water, and vultures gnawed the heart of the Prometheus who had divulged their secrets. Here too he walked in Elysian fields, open to the day, but on which their depth made the light fall weak and softened, while the lofty wall that fenced the opening above seemed to support the heavens on its entablature. And here was the Pantheon of Egypt, where the priests and initiates performed their holiest ceremonies. The induction being now complete, the new initiate is exhibited in a public procession through the city, in which is borne in state the tabernacle of Isis, “a large coffer, covered with a veil of white silk, embroidered with hieroglyphics in gold, over which was a black gauze, to signify the secret of the mysteries of the goddess." Priestesses dance before it, and the smoke of perfumes envelopes it in a cloud of incense.
The measures of Daluca having involved Memphis in a war
with the kingdoms of Thebes and This, Sethos commences his military career very brilliantly, by the assistance which he renders to the governor of Coptos, to which the enemy had laid siege. By his own ardent valour, and the treachery of the Memphian general, who was a creature of the queen's, he is placed in a situation of extreme peril, left for dead on the field of battle, and revives to find himself the prisoner of some Ethiopian soldiers. Resolving to consult his safety and seek for glory, by leaving Memphis and Egypt for a while, he conceals his rank, takes the name of Cheres, and is sold at the nearest port for a slave to some Phænicians, who present him to Astartus, the commander of an expedition fitted out to relieve the Phænician colony at Taprobane (Ceylon) from the attacks of the native sovereigns, who menaced its destruction. His exhaustless knowledge and consummate wisdom soon made him the friend rather than the slave of Astartus, whom he conducts, by his counsels and valour, first to a complete victory over the Taprobane fleet, and then to an honourable and advantageous accommodation. Having thus won the gratitude and confidence of both parties, who are emulous of recompensing him, he seizes the opportunity to gratify a long-cherished desire of verifying the geographical discoveries, or speculations, of some Egyptian priests, by sailing along the eastern coast of Africa, practically refuting the prejudice that the torrid zone was a barrier of separation between the two hemispheres divided by the equinoctial line, doubling the Cape, and returning to Egypt by the Pillars of Hercules. The kings of Taprobane and the Phænician commander join to fit out a fleet for him, leaving his impartiality to assign their proportion of the spoils of the expedition, and he departs on his voyage of discovery, conquest, and civilization, in which he becomes acquainted with much more of Africa than the ancients ever knew; founds very flourishing colonies, which perished before any historian told their tale; and introduces amongst the natives many radical reforms of church and state, which might be beneficially applied to their present laws and practices. In Guinea he finds a horrible corruption of the mysteries, in which the initiates were brutally tortured, and not recompensed by any secret worth knowing. The priests“ led them into a grove, where they furrowed their bodies with sharp stones, or with scourges of cord, which made the blood flow from every part, and left scars never to be effaced. They were next obliged to undergo horrid fasts, of which some of the first were for three whole days, in which they were not allowed the least food or drink. The priests' wives made the females undergo pretty nearly the same: but whereas the young men were obliged to suffer all their trials with a steady and even countenance, the maidens were allowed to make wry faces and contortions, provided they did not cry out." These rites were brought back, by his interference, to the standard of Egyptian ortho. doxy. His discoveries end with a visit to the Hesperides, the Utopia of the work, where all was simplicity, peace, and enjoyment; where their cattle and their fruits were so beautiful as to occasion the fable of the golden fleece and the golden apples; where the public purse paid all the bills of strangers ; where every citizen in his turn feasted with his sovereign; where the priests were not, as they had been in former and less happy times, “ too holy ;" where the laws made people play when they were not at work, and appointed magistrates to superintend their public merriment, “ that the citizens, being unemployed, might not give themselves up to slandering one another, or censuring the government;" where the wife of the king was not queen; and where nobody studied politics, because there was no occasion. Our hero soon leaves this highly-favoured country, to become the deliverer of Carthage from an unjust, but successful, invasion; and, having rendered the name of Cheres sufficiently illustrious, he begins to think of resuming that of Sethos, when he finds it already occupied by an adventurer, formerly his slave, who by its aid had raised an army of Arabians, and invaded Egypt, for the purpose of placing himself on the throne of Memphis. Without discovering himself, Sethos repulses this attack, and takes his counterfeit prisoner, for which public benefit the four kings confer on him the title of Conservator of Egypt, and General of the Egyptian forces in foreign wars, and the King of Tanis offers him his daughter's hand. He now hastens to Memphis, and re-appears in his own character : Daluca, whose sons proved too virtuous to enter into her plans, poisons herself in despair, and Osoroth resigns to him the crown. But the King of Tanis is so careful of the independence of his kingdom, that he had resolved never to marry his daughter to a monarch, or the heir to a crown; a resolution of which unfortunately the disguised Sethos was ignorant till he had become deeply enamoured of the princess. This resolution compels him to sacrifice either the hand of the lady or the sovereignty of Memphis; while the jealousy of the other kings of Egypt makes his possession of either inconsistent with his new and glorious office of Conservator. Patriotism is completely triumphant; the sons of his step-mother had shewn themselves worthy of his esteem, and, having bestowed his kingdom on one brother, and his mistress on the other, he retires to the college of priests, and devotes himself to the general good of Egypt.