Egypt Literature History

An Amorous Fragment - Love Poems - History - A literary Revolution

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In all Egypt Literature History it is astonishing how varied the fragments are in Egypt Literature History.


Formal letters legal documents, historical narratives, magic formulas, laborious hymns, book: of devotion, songs of love and war, romantic novelettes, moral exhortations, philosophical treatises everything is represented here except epic and drama, and even of these one might by stretching a point find instances.

The story of Rameses II dashing victories, engraved patiently in verse upon brick after brick of the great pylon at Luxor, is epic at least in length and dulness in Egypt Literature History .

In another inscription Rameses IV boasts that in a play he had defended Osiris from Set, and had recalled Osiris to life.

Our knowledge of Egypt Literature History does not allow us to amplify this hint.

Historiography, Egypt, is as old as history; even the kings of the predynastic period kept historical records proudly.

Official historians accompanied the Pharaohs on their expeditions, never saw their defeats, and recorded, or invented, the details of their victories; already the writing of history had become a cosmetic art.

As far back as 2500 B.C. scholars of Egypt Literature History made lists of their kings, named the years from them, and chronicled the outstanding events of each year and reign; by the time of Thutmose III these documents became full-fledged histories, eloquent with patriotic emotion.

Egyptian philosophers of the Middle Kingdom thought both man and history old and effete, and mourned the lusty youth of their race; Khekheperre-Sonbu, a savant of the reign of Senusret II, about 2150 B.C., complained that all things had long since been said, and nothing remained for literature except repetition.

"Would," he cried unhappily, "that I had words that are unknown, utterances and sayings in new language, that hath not yet passed away, and without that which hath been said repeatedly not an utterance that hath grown stale, what the ancestors have already said."

Distance blurs for us the variety and changefulness of Egypt literature history, as it blurs the individual differences of unfamiliar peoples.

Nevertheless, in the course of its long development Egyptian letters passed through movements and moods as varied as those that have disturbed the history of European literature.

As in Europe, so in Egypt the language of everyday speech diverged gradually, at last almost completely, from that in which the books of the Old Kingdom had been written.

For a long time in Egypt Literature History authors continued to compose in the ancient tongue; scholars acquired it in school, and students were compelled to translate the "classics" with the help of grammars and vocabularies, and with the occasional as¬sistance of "interlinears."

In the fourteenth century B.C. Egyptian authors rebelled against this bondage to tradition, and like Dante and Chaucer dared to write in the language of the people; Ikhnaton's famous Hymn to the Sun is itself composed in the popular speech.

The new literature was realistic, youthful, buoyant; it took delight in flouting the old forms and describing the new life.

In time this language also became literary and formal, refined and precise, rigid and impeccable with conventions of word and phrase; once again the language of letters separated from the language of speech, and scholasticism flourished; the schools of Saite Egypt spent half their time studying and translating the "classics" of Ikhnaton's day.

Similar transformations of the native tongue went on under the Greeks, under the Romans, under the Arabs; another is going on today. Panta rei-a.ll things flow; only scholars never change.


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