1854 Woodcut Ancient Egyptian Remeses Harp Musician
Lay of the Harper
'Tis well with this good prince; his day is done,
His happy fate fulfilled… . So one goes forth
While others, as in days of old, remain.
The old kings slumber in their pyramids,
Likewise the noble and the learned, but some
Who builded tombs have now no place of rest,
Although their deeds were great… .
Lo! I have heard The words Imhotep and Hordadaf spake—
Their maxims men repeat… . Where are their tombs?—
Long fallen … e’en their places are unknown,
And they are now as though they ne’er had been.
No soul comes back to tell us how he fares—
To soothe and comfort us ere we depart
Whither he went betimes… . But let our minds
Forget of this and dwell on better things… .
Revel in pleasure while your life endures
And deck your head with myrrh. Be richly clad
In white and perfumed linen; like the gods
Anointed be; and never weary grow
In eager quest of what your heart desires—
Do as it prompts you … until that sad day
Of lamentation comes, when hearts at rest
Hear not the cry of mourners at the tomb,
Which have no meaning to the silent dead.
Then celebrate this festal time, nor pause—
For no man takes his riches to the grave;
Yea, none returns again when he goes hence.
From Egyptian Myth and Legend by Donald Mackenzie, 1907: “One of the most popular Egyptian poems is called “The Lay of the Harper”. It was chanted at the banquets given by wealthy men. “Ere the company rises,” wrote Herodotus, “a small coffin which contains a perfect model of the human body is carried round, and is shown to each guest in rotation. He who bears it exclaims: ‘Look at this figure… . After death you will be like it. Drink, therefore, and be merry.’” The “lay” in its earliest form was of great antiquity. Probably a real mummy was originally hauled through the banquet hall.” via: Sacred Texts