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wonders of the past

Wonders of the Past

He was borne aloft to the light of day on the shoulders of his descendants. The beautiful temple they were made to adorn is gone. It breathed an air of steadfast dignity, leaving no doubt what they meant. It was a visible sign of beauty and splendor. They took a lively interest in the doings of obscure, forgotten kings. The smell of them is like some fetid incense.

Things were hidden in this disused chamber. They had been robbed in the night by unknown pirates. It was more than twenty-five centuries ago, splendid in its ruin. The stiff and frozen formalism is relieved, giving a dazzling brilliance to the entire scheme, by a great square bordered on its sides by a shaded colonnade filled with busy chattering groups. For these mouths were large and imposing, sloping at a steep angle, embossed with scenes representing incidents in their lives, allowed to retain whatever is left of their faded glory, an excellent example of its influence.

The sun beat down on lifeless rocks. The snow descended without pause. Mountain torrents were brought into the streets by means of a great aqueduct. The height of the towers diminished progressively. It bears unmistakable traces of later alterations. It was a perfect unity of symbolism and beauty. It seemed to be infinitely remote and unearthly — screened from the teeming life of the valley by a wall of cliffs. The result is a wonderful spring and movement beating rhythmically along the whole length.

He quickly rose, with the influence of his father-in-law, to the rank of an army commander. He passed slowly along the double colonnade, under the blinding glare of the sun. She was holding a shield and gazing at her reflection in the polished surface. Yet some dauntless workers continued to probe and burrow. Other figures were arranged in groups. Now and then an owl wailed plaintively. On attempting to leave, he and his companion fell into a pool, and had to be dragged out by a groundskeeper.

The dog, however, was merely painted on the wall. The pool of water on the floor had become a square ornamental pool with marble edges. It was a masterpiece of ancient art. No guess sheds a light on this strange event sufficiently. He was endowed with patience and industry. It was described as “the oldest throne in Europe.” She was the embodiment of lithe movement, this dancing girl sculpted on the wall. The exquisite modeling of the soft contours of flesh also suggested intellectuality. They appeared sentient, individual, as if gazing across the valley for some new divine manifestation.

He fostered the spirit of naturalism in his age. The desert city balanced freely between the two mighty forces. He could not tell how many engines of war she had. In his right hand he held aloft an ear of corn. The enchanted walls rang to the peal of victorious trumpets. She had black eyes glancing fire. The city was once referred to as being like “the splendid sea.”

They unearthed an astonishing collection of battered treasures. How comes it that they transmitted a style unknown in their country? Being a simple application of means to ends, there is an almost universal repetition of shapes. The walls and pillars glowed with color soft and brilliant. In elaborately decorated niches stood statues which adorned the shrine. They knew quite well they would always remain in the tomb, with the waters bathing their feet, which time and earthquakes have destroyed. Their earliest prayers were addressed to the first gods in human form, to preserve the soul among the stars that never set.

He was seated on a lotus flower. They left the busy streets to return to their own times. The rendering of male forms was far superior to the rendering of women. His attention was riveted on the subject he was about to record. He seems to have thought the royal valley was somewhat crowded. These measures proved wholly ineffectual. He worked with a chisel in overpowering heat, peering through the small opening he had made.

He showed them cows in their byres and farm servants milking them. He was naked except for a cloak secured around his neck. It rose upon its little hill in the midst of the vast plain. Here the narrow gorge suddenly opens out to form a sunny and fertile valley, till the hills again close in upon the stream. These were fused together, as place, time, and preference might lead.

Sometimes they found successive incidents of a story represented in one picture. Signs to avert the evil eye appeared on some of the houses. She began to choke, and woke in a fright to find the ashes flooding the city, softer than snow and far more deadly. On the sacred lake once floated the boats of the gods, between which huge statues were stepping out into the sunshine from the shadow of the colonnade. It was a laughable thought to the philosopher. The bigness of the jar could be gauged by comparing it to that of the man on the left. Then they reared a colossal pyramid-like structure at the base of the hill. Local enthusiasm for this brutal form of sport is recorded in many inscriptions. Satyrs and bacchantes gamboled on the friezes. Not a simple glyph was carved within the great triangle after this time. They were elaborately careful to leave or replace what they found in its appropriate spot. The day must come when the steady lapping of the water will undermine the buildings.

They seemed strangely convincing and natural. It served to heighten the solemn grander with the tragic dignity of reserve. To date, they have defied the efforts of those who have attempted to decipher them. A dozen corporations crowded into a new, rich territory. The houses were six stories high, each like a stronghold. Huge masses of the ceilings have fallen in. They remained dominant, if scarred beyond recognition. It did not commit one to anything except a recognition of an unquestionable fact: they had been protected from godless hands by the iron gate.

The lines were ingeniously followed. Long and gradual efforts were made to reach the ideals they had set for themselves. They closed the walls by gradually overlapping the construction blocks. They were devoutly incurious. Her drapery was swept back before the wind. At the top of the head there was a large hole. The color still blazed. Their subtle, practical intelligence remained attached to the old worship. A misshapen dwarf danced a grotesque jig on the shore. A great gash in the mountains enlarged the sunken way. They were carried away into captivity. It is easy to people these ruins. The city was spread over miles. The northern figure was broken in two. Names famous and terrible floated in the annals. Truth and beauty were strangers to men.

He dined comfortably in his cabin. A window gave light to a private staircase. His idea was that all parts of the world might enjoy possession of a relic. They were not accustomed to manual labor in this world. He was famed for his power to express passionate emotions and vivid movement.

He remembered, as he turned back to look at it, exultant happiness on every face, up above lights in their myriads shifting and gleaming. He poured a libation into a bowl over which a bunch of beautiful lotus flowers were seen reflected in the placid stream. The extraordinary feature was that they formed one gigantic mass of vaulted masonry. They did not believe, of course, that these little wooden figures could do anything. What an immense amount of loving labor must have been given to produce effects so superbly delicate! The ruins of neighboring cities were shrouded in the same mystery, strangled by the same vegetation. But the most interesting spot to the tired and dazzled sightseer, in his mind’s eye an object of devotion, the south-west corner, in an age that did not divorce beauty from commerce, though much smaller than these other mighty structures, was already a ruin when disaster fell on the doomed city. Who has not forgotten a look across the orchestra and gladiator grounds to the great wooded hills beyond? Here he can in comfort review the ancient scene.

Here and today these have emerged as a not unfaithful representation. Yet in all directions we are faced with mysteries. They tower up opposite the city like a rugged wall of gold. The walls and columns were covered with colored inscriptions. An old sage gave advice and instruction to men in positions of responsibility. Who fashioned these things? Such amazing structures were strong enough to defy the jungle. The power of the sun was linked in a chapel of white limestone with the head of a lioness, a solar disc, and a sacred cobra, symbol of royalty.

He surveyed his livestock critically. The general impression is harmonious. No little spot of earth has attracted the mind of man so irresistibly. An act of good taste, however, gave opportunity for one of vandalism. It was a glorious symbol of a consuming grief. Descriptions handed down are ambiguous and permit various interpretations. It was in this way that the city perished.

Heat-charged air that sparkles even now with jewels hung in the twilight of the forest, serene, imbued with tremendous dignity. They lived in shifting camps of black tents. It presented a spectacle of great devastation. They dragged down their gods from heaven.

He landed at the south end of the island and ascended a flight of steps. Their tolerance left the place intact. Stumbling through the tangle they came upon a tower with a human face. The record of their arrival glows with contemporary enthusiasm. Some supernatural emanations were planted there by giants or genii. Probably it was placed high up, at some distance from the spectators. They were driven by muscular herdsmen carrying staves. The stopped where they found water. He made a personal appeal to a great lord. Like a modern Italian house, it was built against heat, not cold. He left a record of what he heard and saw.

The idea that they were masters gradually died out. Due to its lowly position under tons of debris, steps were taken to safeguard the structure. There was no lack of conjecture and the alternatives were few. They were made by binding together bundles of reeds. Their necessities, their food supply, even their playthings, were wrenched and looted from the unhappy peoples who surrounded them. Statues emitted at sunrise a musical strain, likened to a lament. Visions of opulent pride, thronging streets, and bustling quays greeted their eyes. His first distant view as the slanting rays of the sun transfigured the fantastically-clipped yews suggested the rhapsodies of the French travelers were not in vain.

The old inhabitants imagined the earth as a creature which swallowed the sun each evening, taking upon itself unimagined shades of color, the brilliant light giving a depth to the relief. This was a race dowered with good looks as a result of a variety of favorable conditions. There were no indications of accident due to thoughtlessness. More beautiful than objects, they breathed the spirit of devotion.

They raised aloft their hooded heads, awful and majestic, these long bodies of monsters which stretch away to the right and left. The sea seemed to roll back on itself. Nothing so startlingly perfect had been seen before. Everybody waited with eager curiosity. It was the magic of it which enthralled, and the magical effect was not diminished by the strange and awe-inspiring setting. They attained to a natural grace and truth. Across the wide stretch of the water there were again open fields and groves. By that time society had grown increasingly complex and rank was symbolized by furniture. Palm trees provided a graceful setting for the beautiful building. They stood sentinel over the winding way. The air was still as pond water on a windless day, the heat hard to bear. The decoration showed the binding together of the lotus and papyrus, symbolic of the two kingdoms. It was an amazing achievement on the part of those who fashioned it. They were supposed to respond whenever called upon. They stood solemn-eyed, and erect, ever ready to serve. On their breasts were powerful charms, supplied by the priests for a price. The world is far from ready for such a leader, where truth and beauty are far from men! The smoke-blackened primitive dwelling had a hole in the roof to let in light and let out fumes. They reclined in what seemed an uneasy posture, leaning on cushions and feeding themselves with the fingers of the right hand. The small stone caskets were the receptacles for the bones of the little victims.

Their practical way to universal success was to gather up the idols of all the nations they encountered. It was wonderfully preserved in the dry atmosphere, huge blocks piled in hopeless confusion. It was then that she flamed out over the world of men and made her menaced city the home of an immortal romance. He built the great court, pyramidal towers, obelisks and statues. Their devotion to their work was manifested in these wonderful examples.

He said that the ruins at that time stretched for nine miles. They have become part of the soil which is annually soaked by the flooded river. In addition, scattered in profusion around the base of the neighboring mountains, statues of citizens adorned the pillars from which projected brackets made out of monoliths. Besides a few desecrated bodies and piles of scattered bones, there is little to reward the explorer who would risk the ascent.

They related traditional details of her life no historian has yet gathered. They knew with certainty how long their contented occupation endured. The climate was not always healthy and foreign visitors were regarded with hostility. One curious fact should be mentioned. A sacrifice was in progress at the altar. The monumental gravity of the figure was overwhelming in its stateliness. At last the real day returned and every object seemed changed. Huddled close together, they were dwarfed in size, where new tombs pressed upon the crumbling memorials of earlier generations. 

Like giant mushrooms in their white-washed squatness, they cover the ground. It is thus that they gain the peace and comfort which they crave. The figures in this strange group played a big part in the spiritual life of the people.

The ceiling was painted a dark blue sprinkled with bright stars. They yielded to the spade some of the greatest wonders of the past. Stairways with each step elaborately sculptured, backed by tumbled hills, a wealth of eloquent remains typical in its strange abandonment: Behold it throbbing again with life while sacrificial fires flicker! This seemingly impossible sensation was found virtually intact, invested also with romance, an astonishing collection of long-dead rules appearing out of the silence with noiseless feet like a shadow.

They thought he would be secure from all disturbances in his long sleep of death. Every man of the city here stopped and prayed for protection. Some of the rock-hewn caves were as large as temples. They drew attention to the unchanging integrity of the ancient faith, of bazaars, of every form of life and activity which rises before one, bringing out the faithful in an unending stream, flashing and glinting in the sun, monks making sedately for their monasteries, wrapped in serene meditation.

Feeling is older than reason and creeps out in daily acts. Other experts mostly concurred. Their source of supply to give them leisured ease was now cut off. To save them from further indignities, they took the matter into their own hands. The old forgotten deities were as dead as Pan. They approach ignorantly, careless of its inspiration, leaving no trace of their influence. A widow and children kneel weeping at his side. They at first admired these, then broke them up. The desiccated arm of a queen was wrenched from her body and hidden in a crevice. A mouse driving a chariot offered a lift to a cat. There were occasionally lively domestic conflicts. Meanwhile, the extraordinary power of the city was suddenly restored.

Apparently forgetting what they had done to his father, the world was rocked to its foundations. He played the part of a grateful client. Smooth and fluted examples could be found littered everywhere. This extraordinary woman of genius went into the desert, drew profit out of danger, and prolonged her influence. Every human power, aptitude, enjoyment, and skill she regarded as something to be cultivated. They kept all that was absolutely good by deliberate choice, adaptation, and abstraction, and evolved her ideals. It was an ornament worthy of the costly robe to which it was attached. 

He explored and re-explored it and consistently drew a blank. It was in no sense a series of haphazard investigations. He knew too well that hasty action might undo the work of years. Fat and asthmatic, he quietly died as if he were sleeping. They observed a cloud of very unusual size and shape. He could not give them a more exact description of its figure. Charming designs take the eye at a glance. It brought forcibly home that in the body, the beauty of physical health; in the features, calm; in the pose, majestic.

Its gleaming gold, its unbaked bricks, the most beautiful and stately city, long since collapsed, its soldiers and horses and chariots having left no trace behind, such a multiplicity of monuments, only a mass of formless earth and potsherds, during the time of its fame and wealth the talk of the civilized world! 

It had once been a deity of no great importance, but its power increased with the rise of the city. Here foreigners brought apes as presents to the king. Traces of fire and ruthless destruction were everywhere. Then, with amateur enthusiasm, he began to probe the ancient mounds. (Swift disaster overtook the king’s army — influenza, it has been prosaically suggested.) The site of the city, famous for its size and splendor, remained a matter of doubt. It was reared on a grander scale than had ever been attempted before. It was difficult to reconstruct the labyrinth of its many chambers. It is only with the utmost care that one may be separated from another. He was the first to give a personal embodiment to the gods of the local race.

He excavated a space three times as large as that previously laid bare. Traces of the hinges on the doors still remained. In the houses of the wealthy the establishment of concubines could be very large. They were innocent of this charge. Originally independent, she became the mystically beneficent goddess of vengeance, armed with a spear. She had crossed arrows as symbols. He was shown smiting his foes. Her wings were outstretched for instant flight, destined for so long a journey as that weary one he was about to take. Greater knowledge of this revolution would go far to make the past live for us. Only when seen in their proper surroundings may the majesty of these monsters be realized. It is personal touches such as these that our knowledge is lacking — grim records of conquest carved by vainglorious kings!

The children amused themselves by imitating their elders. Grotesque monsters with mouths that could gape or snap were also popular. The slime of the river stained the walls and pillars. Every vestige of color vanished. Serpents were encouraged in the house. It was really the tribal history fossilized. They suffered pain, old age and death. Even the best-known groups fall apart, falling quietly, steadily, thickly. The retreating sea made landing difficult. Six men standing with arms outstretched spanned the sculptured scenes as an offering of incense associated with clouds and lightning blew through a tube crowned with a heron holding a fish. Behind it were two more walls. They continued to act as keen, watchful, patient and industrious businessmen. Above all was the importance of its hidden instrument. He could watch from a platform tower the circle of water beneath his gaze and discern every movement.

Legends of fierce dragons inhabiting deep tunnels were common. Their well-meant actions only added to the confusion. It was generally believed that it had been exhausted of its hidden store of wonder. They did a small amount of damage. Failure did not damp his ardor. He was a mere youth when he died. They were liable to disintegration at the slightest touch. It had the disconcerting trick of recoiling, boomerang-like.

When linked, the two became one with him. He weighed them and assigned each to his abode. “Living in Truth” was the motto of the reformer, who perceived that all force and life was dependent on the sun’s rays, represented ending in a hand that acted. It was necessary to get clear of the old entanglements. This mixture went on unchecked. Even still much of the old fragments linger.

Dates are dull but necessary. Light and beauty suddenly touch the traveler with joy. Where they lived they were buried. It was a natural trap for invaders or lonely spies. It was hewn with incredible labor and loving skill out of the living rock. The shrine he built himself was done somewhat crudely but so effectually that when they came the debris of some remote volcanic disturbance was removed from the glorious terraces. As they moved along the wall following the path of the sun, they saw him moved to pity by proud heroes who desired reward acknowledging his course. The slim virgins looked as if they would tremble under the caress of a tender hand. They were not afraid of color. They were gaily doing all sorts of things, tricks and surprises, freely and fancifully used. Caught and pinned, they poured out their store of eggs in their death agony. They were moved to mirth by the sight of a man bathing in the sea. 

They crossed the Lily Lake. They knew what it was to work hard, and they knew how to enjoy life. They found only confusion and a rifled sarcophagus. It still stands boldly in the clear atmosphere. The mystery lay farther south, in the sweltering forests that await further investigation. Abandoned and seemingly forgotten, relating the bare outline of the story, unrevealed stores of ancient learning that burnt in huge bonfires set down the key to the names and signs for the benefit of posterity.

The contrast of its age and silence against this modern world holds the spirit of innermost romance. The offerings were flung upon the golden columns encrusted with precious stones. Sounds of laughter and haggling filled the air, where marketing went on. The stairs were supported by rough columns of wood and masonry. They had assembled there with pious resolve when moon and stars alone are visible in the silence of the night.

“He never suffered the pangs of dying / Still sounds the voice of his loud crying…” On his journey through the planes of reason to the higher understanding, he passed the topmost terrace and ascended the stairway beyond, gleaming in the clear air. It was as if the whole town had been carefully collated, filed, and put away for later reference. They seemed to be among the very buildings, large but of no special importance, far off in the eastern quarter of the city, familiar in countless reproductions, where they probably kept their clothes. These we need not consider.

The glassy surface lent itself to elaborate decoration. Here, pillared and pent-housed, flowers grew and fountains played and statues formed an exquisite scene. Laid upon a core of brick or rubble, many inscriptions were scratched upon the walls of the houses in the neighborhood. They tend toward uniformity of style, distinguished by well-marked periods, just as marble facings are laid today. The spirit of exulting freedom remains and even runs riot in gorgeous and intricate effects seen on the hills under certain atmospheric conditions. On a similarly high level, but grotesque in design, are so many fine products of semi-religious character.

A corner of the expanse where once a little garden bloomed, the main artery where drama was encouraged, the luxurious sanitary methods, the protecting spirit of the town, the glorious symbol of a consuming grief that recorded deadly strife, with bit and bridle still attached, the colors that glow again after centuries of gloom, the wonder upon which no men had looked before!

They were left to build their vision: a frowning bastion. They passed their time in such intrigue that proved to be a source of harassment and delivered to their hands a scourge of the peaceful plains, whose people trembled at their rumblings. He entered through a great portal flanked by lions playing a kind of harp.

No ruins are apparent. They preferred to perish picturesquely in flames or were dragged from the palace by perspiring slaves for which there was a never-ending demand. During hot sunshine the gaps could easily be screened with curtains or mats. Some would have survived among the debris, if that were the case. The general structure of the chariot was executed with careful precision. He proved his marksmanship with the bow while attendants warded off the infuriated charge of the wounded beast. 

On his journey through the underworld, crossing the river in sumptuous state ensuring a long repose, back into sunshine after years of shade, the wonderful secrets of the scene of mourning, these precious odds and ends, recall the weird cortege, the loving work of craftsmen before the days of Moses, a sight few travelers have seen: sculpture that lives. “Dancers in Heaven,” as men of the vanished race saw it, was a “Stair of Honor,” smothered in exuberant jungle, illustrating the strange rites of their sacred snake.

They were slaves captured in foreign campaigns. He was famous for his military exploits. Lying on a luxurious couch, sharing a sumptuous meal, a vine that bends over the heads of the couple bears a curious resemblance to modern wrist-watches!

Away to the southeast, an elongated, misshapen quadrilateral was connected by colonnades that recall, in their rich and airy freedom, the fairy-like beauty which they enjoyed in the cool evening airs. Crowded with painted and brocaded women, resounding to the clash of cymbals, they shouldered the loot they were supposed to carry trudging along. The cloud-capped palaces swept them away. It is impossible now to estimate their precise measurements. The bodies in most cases were much damaged by irreverent handling. He saw with his eyes works of astounding horror in the various small pits in the valley. With an almost suppliant expression on his face, he lay immobile, recumbent, effectually concealed as a secret place which glows in the noonday sun. In the distance flows a sinuous river, already forgotten. They were unable to drag it into the position it was meant to occupy, and it had to be abandoned, sloping at a steep angle. His early death ended the work at the foot of a cliff amid the tumbled boulders of the base of the precipice.

Her body was to lie deep in the hills. He followed its winding, pathless course until he was completely shut in by the towering cliffs. No one seeing, no one hearing, he arranged its entrance, small and roughly hewn. Bounding the view, at the top of the grand staircase of one of the most ancient of palaces, he might enjoy the shade of the trees around the bakery and brew house, in a land where flour was plentiful and where cattle were regularly slaughtered, ensuring his supply of beef.

The shadow of ruin and desolation hung over the interiors. They made their ceremonial gestures with spaciousness and freedom. They were unfamiliar with these beasts. With tension of every muscle and straining bodies they are lifelike in the extreme.

Who were the people who worshipped there and why were these temples built? They felt the hatred of man, and bitterness swallowed darkness, austere and dim. Ruin and decay were almost physically conscious to their mourning spirits. He went out on to the upper balcony in the cold silence of the night. The strange breath of the green spring stretched indefinitely on either side, completely different from everything around it. Some idea may be gained of the commanding art all the more wonderful because of its desolate surroundings and air of neglect. The faint voice of legend vanished utterly from human recollection.

They stood, apparently on a platform, at the foot of a hill. Limitless wealth poured into their coffers. They uprooted the cedars of Lebanon for transplantation. The bodies of countless slaves were bastinadoed into production. It seemed to be intended. “Her ambrosial feet were shod with sandals woven with leaves from the victorious palm, open to all the winds that blow, high on the rocks above the river, built to celebrate the birth of the divine mother.”

After years of perseverance and endeavor, on his well-ordered estate beautiful sculptures were recovered from the ruins. Conveyed to the laboratory for preservative treatment, it was typical of the disappointment which marred their success, making an offering of blood of these monsters in stone grimly realistic handiwork, a mystical monument of aboriginal culture.

In the Temple of the Sun purified with water rising out of the sea, crowned with a wreath, no chisel or other tool could cut away a fragment. The chasm they succeeded in making is still unbridged. One may picture them arriving in hot haste. What a hazardous journey it must have been! It called for an exercise of immense power. It was originally destined. It was reached by a wide and dignified staircase. Everywhere Nature was covering up the gaunt skeletons. As they wandered through the wilderness, the perfect and vast proportions expanded around them. As the murmur of a city heard from afar, it pierced the skies, immense and untroubled, oblivious of mankind.

It was as big as a cathedral. Myriads of pilgrims ascended the steps. Belief in fairies stood for many generations in the hearts of the inhabitants of the Valley of Death encompassed by the hills. The soul revisited the body in the form of a falcon. The myth-strewn firmament in inscrutable contemplation was a dream picture of a garden, a pathetic souvenir of a far-off tragedy, where gladiators strove to the death before the great catastrophe.

Bare-armed and helmeted, she went out to hold court. She looked forward to the final struggle for complete domination. They broke clean through the enemy, which gave her the opportunity to strongly sway things to serve her power (stuffed with straw, preserved as a trophy) as city after city opened their gates. Without the restraint of an earlier period, smooth shrewdness was blended with vehement strength.

The whole vast dome glittered and winked. A few dreadful dogs in the last stages of decrepitude dragged themselves down the unwashed paths. Life is so secret, so full of activities and thoughts unguessed, so torturous in its burrowing existence. 

He was the greatest of military kings. The roof and top story were taken off. A keen–eyed scribe exemplified a wide play for fancy. Art and splendor met. All that remains are four rows of pillars, fluted shafts that stand in solitude, truncated stumps of towers where the dead slept in houses resembling the living. (Their roofs are still shaped like this.)

He was about to pour out a libation when he was attacked by a wounded lion. Pomp attended his progress. Admirably suited to the climate, airy but sheltered from sun and rain, their skillful proposal solved a difficult problem. Yet their impotent hoofs and wings availed not. Their indifference to cleanliness was painfully apparent. They are guarded by outlandish nats (those singular protective spirits), a whole army of them standing, seated, recumbent, multiplied to a bewildering extent. They came to resent treating their pagodas as interesting sights for tourists. They are mostly incredibly tawdry and trivially vulgar, like elaborately decorated Christmas trees.

They did not take their religion sadly but they took it seriously. After the entanglements of pagan rites, as years went on it spread and spread, transcending the fame of commerce and success. Life is active and dogs wander for centuries. They implored him to give them something like a rare enamel; it gave to the whole scene a uniform tone, enveloped with an overwhelming effect of splendor. It shone like a fairy mirage on a background of sun-scorched sand, seamed and patched with bitter salt. On this road of triumph two splendid palaces soared into the blazing sky. Over the flowering valleys a rider climbed the pass, which, like a rampart of civilization, blocked out the desert.

The reward was not estimated by money alone. It was hampered by the weight of religious symbolism, otherwise adorned to symbolize the idea of eternal life. These ladies were more delicately sensitive and feminine than full-blown goddesses. They no longer adhered to conventions. Their feelings were rendered articulate. Two servants presented the finished result of their labor. Words flashed from one end of the earth to the other. But was their superiority actually justified by the facts? This is a rebuke to their vanity, a wreckage that has been saved by accident alone. The instinct of destruction lies near the surface, solidly compacted. Most of us have a liking for antiquities. The outlines have been mapped.

Pride kept them true to their men. They failed to overcome the nomads’ love of plunder. Their eyes were like pools of passion. They hovered by tombs and fled down a triumphal way which extended along a westward ravine. They finally fell before some desert horde. There was a native blend of foreign influences. They built without the aid of scaffolding, working downwards from the top. The rocks overhang as if they would crush the unwary traveler. Their breakup was the signal for internal dissension. They paused now and again to plant maize. The mosaic was arranged to show a series of faces. The whole of the great effort came to an end suddenly, as if a magic wand had wiped it out. 

Her dignified face was surrounded by a ponderous wig. Soft leather was greatly favored. Pillows were fashioned of wood. Note the ripple of the water as it flows. During meals they squatted on carpets or reclined on couches. Their habits of life bore resemblance to our own. By some sarcasm of fate, it stands foremost today amid all the litter. More eloquent then any description, through the bleak and windy uplands where vegetation is spare, the distant grayness was now resolved in the morning sunshine close to the entrance gate of wonder.

There was nothing novel in all this work. They could plainly see the curved ruts scraped into the flagstone. The fine shell of the town filled with life immediately. The precious marbles were ground up for making mortar. The brave, sun-dried savages wandered in amazement and settled round the well-watered city without troubling to learn the language. They displayed their unexhausted energy of mind in the invention of strange heresies. So they completely destroyed the town. 

Within its cool shade, the crowds sauntered and discussed the magnificent portico. Beneath the sand and dust the pavements once thronged with joyous life. They restored them to their places, free from horrid ugliness, but nonetheless surely nearing its extinction.

It was at the extreme limits of the empire. She died, consumed by wasting grief. The massive pyramid appeared to float in air. As night was coming on they returned to their castle. Series of raised buildings with striking characteristics offered scope for play with rooms like narrow corridors. Blood from their own persons shining snow-white under a burning sky soaked through the porous stones. Acute observation brought their knowledge to a pitch of exactitude. The heat of the day was balanced by chilly nights. A shabby and shiftless village crouched near the stately ruins.

It mingled with but did not conceal the transparent shine, packed in a design of absolute symmetry. Getting the best he could from nature, he put it together in the most beautiful way. These were used not imitatively but arbitrarily. There was no discrepancy with natural appearances though some of the freshness disappeared on exposure to the air. It was piously preserved by the continuity of tradition at the root of the beauty. It rested upon a solid natural base.

Something very interesting happened but it was not the chief reason for remembering him at all. Everybody awaited with eager curiosity to gloat over gold and precious stones, preserved as by magic among the stark and bare rocks. Destruction had been at work too, entered and plundered before, systematically and without a break. The gleaming teeth defied the shafts of time. The scene has passed away. It was an extraordinary sight: a long wavy lustrous mass of hair nearly a foot long. A single electric light at his head shows his profile illuminated against the surrounding darkness.

The earth was a sort of dry rubble. He searched in almost the last piece of unexplored ground. He imagined a long procession bearing the funerary objects. The central figure held the symbol of eternity. He was the first “individual” in human history. They dreamed away their lives. Nobody was able to speak with authority as to its salient features. They were filled with the sense of the pervading vanity of things. Symbolic beasts flanked the stairway. A drafty cowshed on stilts suggested mounting terraces as the slanting rays of the sun transfigured them, contributing impressively to the general plan. Morbid excesses of fancy appeared to be the play of a diseased mind, but the general impression was harmonious. They draw bows, slash swords and thrust savagely in the wildest fury and hate. A multi-headed figure in their midst dances in a royal ballet. Its hard and cold perfection stripped of its verdure lost most of its somber fascination. Sometimes the darkness took tangible shape: sounds without reason, voices of the night. The struggles to keep one’s feet everywhere lifted above the vegetation, draped with creepers and parasites like hair, leering enigmatically, half smothered in the exuberant jungle, leaving as traces magnificent structures, these and other miracles inspired their fury or stayed their hand. They translated the tradition from wood into stone, carefully-made and jointly concealed under the floor.

The houses of the rich were very luxurious and very clean. The various rites and services were the events of the day. They carried away an impression of a vast area rising from this jumble. Its sides were shining with gold. Comfortable armchairs stood about. They made a tour around the buildings. Distant lands were seen moving to and fro among the bales and boxes surrounded by richly painted pillars which combined to create a picture of extreme brilliance of many colors which were reflected in the mirror of the water of a beautiful artificial lake.

Their eyes swept in imagination across the housetops and turned towards the rising sun. He felt more heavily the hatred of man. To him we owe the terrible and pathetic figures contorted with their last agony. Half the city was still to be uncovered. The problem of protection would be immensely difficult. He poured the plaster into the hollows, so taking moulds of what had been enclosed.

Fountains were playing again after centuries of disuse. At length a glimmering light appeared. They gasped their last breath with their impotent gold about them. The wretched survivors crept back and began groping in the dust. They lay stiff in death under a thickening sea of mud which hardened into stone. It was left to oblivion and its very name perished.

The flights were flanked by a parapet wall supporting the timbers at great labor and cost. It occurred frequently repeated in the hall manifestly dating from an older arrangement looped in plan like a figure 9, attained by few nations even at the present day.
This is a dignified chamber. Bearing this in mind, he once organized a dance in the traditional manner mimicking the many turns of the labyrinth, hitherto hardly guessed at or imagined. She suckled a kid in a rocky field while another kid bleated for its turn. It was one of the most remarkable ruins, which must have been a building of splendid proportions. Fire was the agent of the final and terrible catastrophe that destroyed the stupendous monument.

They refused to adopt his faith. He lived a life of a fanatic, a mystic and dreamer, while his empire crumbled. The position he had taken up could not be maintained. He was blind to his position. They rendered dull and colorless the most tantalizing dreams. They were assured a few more months of undisturbed enjoyment in that sleep of death. A departed civilization must inevitably vanish, long wrapped in obscurity. Its long corridors and numerous chambers, all superbly decorated, made it a structural marvel. The dirtiest little urchin in the place was in a state of excited expectancy. It was necessary for the articles to be handled with utmost care. 

He brought to light many things, then he laid down his spade. They tried to stop these sacrilegious depredations. Something akin to the same sentiment still lingers. It was the romance of the thing which really awaked their interest, which still keeps it alert, cut deeply into the limestone hills. A sure intuition in harmony with the conceptions of the people lived with thoughts of death always in their minds. Few who live today can frame the horizon to the west, a grand majestic river.

A landscape of immensity which impressed all gently nurtured its course to the sea. In this distress they resolved that the fields would be less dangerous. They agitated backwards and forwards though on level ground. Darkness overspread them: a room shut up with all the lights extinct. Pressed back by its own weight, it expanded itself. It shot up to a great height and fell in large showers. The stone was worn away by those who rested their hands on the fountain to drink its water. 

There was never any difference that concerned them. They tramped the hot basaltic streets under a summer sun. The crowds clamored for mixed or heated wines. The first thing he noticed was a huge dog. They were not elected to close the baths or theaters. She was a motherly person who reverenced her young son. The business of buying and selling went on. Chattering groups gathered round the bases of statues.
When the troops approached, great was their surprise. They despairingly submitted. But the only difference was that all the work done would be easier and more pleasant. The soul of the dead Lord wanted to live, which was why the custom arose. There he lived as he had lived. 

They were furnished with numerous articles of life. They ensured the happiness of those who no longer feared in a most graphic way to bind up their hair and furnish flowers and perfumes with a heartfelt sense of duty. They dearly loved flowers and color immune from such disasters as fires and floods, purely worldly misfortunes.

They cruised leisurely on the water, free from anxiety about the security of their personal luggage. Their oars were alive. He always looked the other way when someone called him. They threatened him with dire punishment. In addition, stories and songs were written. They performed their tasks with thoroughness and exactness. A cultivated moral sense permeated every rank of society. They were evidently not disciplined by fear alone.

They suffered little from these disturbances, even in the huddled mass of narrow streets and crowded dwellings. It had long been an ordered settlement, spacious, luxurious and perversely wicked. Its exceptional fate tempted them to imagine the other side that should most amaze them. Justly famed for its beauty, the shapely mountain that sweeps around forms an added touch to the deep crescent. Some say it was left incomplete to emphasize human imperfections. Gazing placidly over the emerald gardens enshrined above the terraces which bordered their path, becoming more gradually attuned, another side-light which should not be overlooked was thrown, prompting men to expend vast sums.
Their function was to fatten them. The fretting tooth of time above all human art moves in free air, merely surmounting a pinnacle still pointing upwards. But what is there within? Nothing — now. What is moving about is its mingled vastness and delicacy. Its beautiful design is one of the most fascinating things if we consider its history.

Perhaps the most charming in the whole collection, they can be seen lying on the floor, the butcher all ready with his knife, trussed up in a thoroughly business-like manner. They were seen recording transactions and keeping accounts. They poured into large bins grain brought up in sacks from the lower chamber. What a sacred place it must have appeared in the eyes of those idolaters. Even indeed in this waste of shattered stone, hemmed about by a long formality of approach, the action was to be decided upon unexpectedly.

Delightful orchards, white with their spring blossoms, felt the invisible tentacles, the whisper of the past, especially at night when the pregnant silence of history hovered over it, the height of solemn grandeur. It must have stood there in the middle of that huge plain shining in a newness of unparalleled magnificence when all was in pristine order.

About two years before his assassination he visited Syria. He was like a fearless warrior whose fight is over. This act of worship and conquest undermined them gradually from age to age. He strolled the empty courts whose ruin and decay were doubly strange in the breath of spring. How gruesome the unfolded tale! Here the scheme was entirely different, a wonderful mysterious shrine which towered above the monotony of their spiritual emanations, however beautiful in themselves, supra-mundane counterparts of the earthly Messiah in full view, in orderly series, although dimly descried passing under arches each fulfilling a definite function.

As seen from the plain on a smaller scale from every point of view, it was crowned with the grim face of a monster. They often succeeded in breaking off and carrying away one of the serene heads. From the hour of his birth to the hour of his death, it was so arranged. Damaged beyond hope of repair, an important schism, carried to its achievement, invaded the community, which affords a crucial instance of something more than the rule of life. It came straight from its native source, a masterpiece of human art in a superb setting. They let the living waste of war fall upon alien soldiery. They were a strange mixture of qualities destroyed in the end after all his amazing achievements, so severe were the losses from six days of fighting, massacres, and burning in the narrow, climbing streets. From their sloping lengths, each victim fell into the furnace. Long wings of gold, blue, and crimson were folded around her body and crossed above her bare, exquisite feet. They wanted to make their city magnificent. Still equally distinguishable, in some desolate spot widely removed from the others, there was no thought yet to deviate the course it was meant to occupy as protection against robbers, already forgotten.

It was unutterable to them: visions of opulent pride, thronging streets, a wonder of commerce that rose over the ashes. It was an odd sight. They were the finest embodiments of animal majesty. Only a small portion remained to be examined. It would hardly be recognized in the present.

He was portrayed with a lotus springing from his head. An infant crawling, the idea of radiant energy, the peace of humanity, the bloody bandits representing abstract ideas, and the living truth were the new motives of this vast change. Thus the whole signified the power of judgment, the horns of creation, which could not survive in a world unfit for it. It became utterly caricatured.

Where the desert roads spread over the whole land, distribution points coming in from the West came from the East. A myth that shed a tear, simply veiled, was crowned with a comical white helmet to denote all who had followed the pathway to Paradise. The source of this was a sense of kinship. The life of the species was carefully preserved and selected for worship. It had a different form of expression as we trace back the history. This was their national character spread around them, glowing with contemporary enthusiasm.

In days when the city was in danger, a gigantic bull-headed man with outstretched arms asked, by the edge of the tideless sea, alien as well as native spirit influences to prevent any storming attack. They quickly rose to power. Men with planks walked from side to side between the opposing fleets. They were among the wonders of the inscrutable past.

— from Wonders of the Past, vol 1, edited by. J.A. Hammerton; William Wise & Co., 1933

February 28 – March 15, 2010