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The Pharaoh and the Priest by Boles?aw Prus

Died the Pharaoh Mer Amen Ramses XII


"The

whole country will revolt," interrupted the queen, "if the priests declare that Thou art an unbeliever."

"The country is in revolt now. But the priests are the cause of it," replied the pharaoh. "And touching the devotion of the Egyptian people I begin to have another idea. If Thou knew, mother, how many lawsuits there are in Lower Egypt for insults to the gods, and in Upper Egypt for robbing the dead, Thou wouldst be convinced that for our people the cause of the priests has ceased to be holy."

"This is through the influence of foreigners, especially Phoenicians, who are flooding Egypt," cried the lady.

"All one through whose influence; enough that Egypt no longer considers either statues or priests as superhuman. And wert thou, mother, to hear the nobility, the officers, the warriors talk, Thou wouldst understand that the time has come to put the power of the pharaoh in the place of priestly power, unless all power is to fall in this country."

"Egypt is thine," sighed the queen. "Thy wisdom is uncommon, so do as may please thee. But act Thou with caution oh, with caution! A scorpion even when killed may still wound an unwary conqueror."

They embraced and the pharaoh returned to his bedchamber. But, in truth, he could not sleep that time.

He understood clearly that between

him and the priesthood a struggle had begun, or rather something repulsive which did not even deserve the name struggle, and which at the first moment he, the leader, could not manage. For where was the enemy? Against whom was his faithful army to show itself? Was it against the priests who fell on their faces before him? Or against the stars which said that the pharaoh had not entered yet on the true way? What and whom was he to vanquish? Was it, perhaps, those voices of spirits which were raised amid darkness? Or was it his own mother, who begged him in terror not to dismiss priests from state offices?

The pharaoh writhed on his bed while feeling his helplessness. Suddenly the thought came to him: "What care I for an enemy which yields like mud in a hand grasp? Let them talk in empty halls, let them be angry at my godlessness. I will issue orders, and whoso will not carry them out is my enemy; against him I will turn courts, police, and warriors."

CHAPTER LIII

So in the month Hator, after thirty-four years of rule, died the Pharaoh Mer-Amen-Ramses XII, the ruler of two worlds, the lord of eternity, the giver of life and every happiness.

He died because he felt that his body was growing weak and useless. He died because he was yearning for his eternal home and he wished to confide the cares of earthly rule to hands that were more youthful. Finally he died because he wished to die, for such was his will. His divine spirit flew away, like a falcon which, circling for a time above the earth, vanishes at last in blue expanses.

As his life had been the sojourn of an immortal in the region of evanescence, his death was merely one among moments in the existence of the superhuman.

Ramses XII woke about sunrise; leaning on two prophets, surrounded by a chorus of priests, he went to the chapel of Osiris. There, as usual, he resurrected the divinity, washed and dressed it, made offerings, and raised his hands in prayer. Meanwhile the priests sang:

Chorus I. "Honor to thee who raisest thyself on the horizon and coursest across the sky."


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