the quarterly journal of contemporary narrative verse
THE MASQUE OF TUTANKHAMEN
Ronald Gordon Ziegler Ph.D.
by Ronald Gordon Ziegler
Throughout the course of human history
there has raged ten thousand years,
a struggle between two views of man
-- one laden with superstition and fear
that man is but a creature,
the other knowing him as a god
-- and the battle has raged wherever
man has dared ever to trod.
For there are those who have built the world,
those who knew Beethoven's sound,
those who marched with Alexander,
and those who would tear it down;
those who would build cities;
and those who would tie us to the ground
in blood and toil and depravity;
the ones who see man bound
to limits created by himself,
and those who see limits that only stand
until they have been surpassed
by the creative powers of man.
Now, down throughout the ages,
each man's been free to choose
whether to stand and reach the stars
or stoop to the earth and loose.
It is what makes a man a man
to be the son of God of Paul,
of the Golden Soul of Plato
or answer Dante's divine call.
Their minds are the industry
that made each Renaissance to grow,
the industrial revolution
and the nation-state, and so
against them were unleashed the forces
of those who would enslave
us as peasants in drugs or dispair
or some other earthly grave.
Leonardo and Ben Franklin
stood with the Gupta in the frey
alongside the Ch'in and Askia
and Ibn Sina in his day;
and the Hebrews had direction
that the earth should be subdued,
and the Christians knew the glory
with which man is imbued.
And three stood up in Egypt,
along the Nile's endless swells,
against Isis, Horus, and Osiris
and faced the fires of their hell;
for alongside dark fair Nefertiti,
stood her husband and nephew,
and it is from their divine spark
that the fire of man burns anew
in every age of humankind,
in each new generation,
in each new rebirth soaring,
in each struggling new nation:
Ikhanaton and Tutankhamen
knew the Gotterfunken well,
and paid their lives for ours
-- their tale is ours to tell.
for thirty four full centuries,
their story has remained untold,
resting with their immortal souls;
and now the bell is tolled
and echoes from out their chambers
for man to hear and know
that man is God upon the earth,
that we die if we don't grow,
and that we live forever
in the work we leave behind,
and the cities that we build
and the mountains that we climb;
for in their lives they lent us
the heritage we live still,
and in their deaths as their lives
we can surely know their will
-- in their story we can see
what man is, and understand
the death of the Ikhanatons
and the death of Tutankhamen.
2. THE KINGDOM ON THE NILE
"It comes from the rising Nile,
the water of life which is in the sky;
the water of life which is in the earth,
it comes. For thee, the sky burns high,
the earth trembles even for thee.
Oh, King, thy feet are touched
by it, purest of ancient waters.
The King is indeed prosperous.
The month is born. The gnome lives.
The Palace of the King yet stands.
The grain grows to gratify the King
here forever. Measured are the lands."
This is the leif-motif of Egypt
engraved among the Pyramid texts
-- the voice of subject and ruler
from one generation to the next
who celebrate thus the Nile
-- the Nile makes Egypt -- its life
and richness flow of its fertility:
Egypt, the King; the Nile, his wife --
since the year of three millennia
-- marvelous crafts from the black lands
-- whose footprints were emblazoned
and still remain on eternal sands.
The dominant fact of that history
would seem to be the pendulum
alternating swings between North and South
-- the Delta people who were from
the North, accessible to novelty
and foreign influence, on the sea;
and the long valley of the Nile
of the South with rigidity --
both peopled by the same race
with Semite and black in the blend.
But the Nile River formed so strong
a connecting link so as to lend
a certain unity to the kingdom
fused into one single state
though with a shifting axis
as a fundamental trait:
the Kingdom of the South
or of the White Mitre,
and the Kingdom of the North,
or of the Red Cap. Conquered
by the southern sons of Horus
at about thirty three hundred B.C.,
the King wore the Pshent head gear
composed of both crowns in unity.
A compromise capital city
was at the start established
near the center of the valley
at the ancient city of This.
But from the Fourth Dynasty,
the Kings took to Memphis
which commanded the Valley and Delta
-- the conqueror, now vanquished
by the new conqueror, the North.
Under the Memphite Kingdom
which lasted seven centuries,
the power of the civilization
extended widely -- this Old Kingdom.
And its inspired art would bid
to raise those artificial mountains
in the age of the Pyramids.
But the feudal order reappeared
as Thebes in the end, won the day
as the Middle Kingdom reached its height.
The Kings, in order that they
might better rule, organized
a standing army and a fleet
and a regular administration;
and having to compete
with the aristocracy, sought support
of the masses with 'equality.'
Kush and Nubia were annexed, and there
flourished classical art and poetry.
But the crown of the Pharaohs fell
as the Delta was vanquished
and Egypt floundered in dark ages
-- that renaissance was relinquished.
As the Nile yearly renews the earth,
once again, Egypt arose,
and once again, from Thebes it came
-- the Eighteenth Dynasty drove
in a long crusade, the shepherds out,
reconquered the Delta and made
Thebes once again the capital,
and this new Dynasty bade
the national worship of Amen-Re.
Through the four Thutmes, the land
revived and reconstituted
in a manner that was grand.
The long reign of Amenhotep III
reaped what previous reigns had sown.
The Empire was expanded to its height
and Egypt's Golden Age was known.
Thebes, become the world's capital
-- all of Asia and Africa flowed
toward the heart of Egypt
and the throne of this Pharaoh.
By the sword and the grace of Amen,
little Thebes had now become
the capital of a world which
to this city and Pharaoh had succumbed.
The people sang "Thebes is the Queen City,
mightier than all. By her victory,
she has given one single lord
to rule over all of the country.
There is never fighting near her.
At the beginning, water and land
existed in her, but for the plough,
land has been made of the sand,
and so the world came into being.
All cities are founded under her name,
for men call her 'The City;'
all others are in her fame
and are under her watch,
all cities are in her shade
and glorify themselves by Thebes,"
this is what Amenhotep had laid.
But the Pharaohs created something
that challenged their authority:
faced with the priests of Amen
who were growing steadily
every day more greedy and arrogant,
becoming Mayors of the Palace. In fact,
virtual co-ruler with Pharaoh
was the High Priest and his pack.
These priests of Thebes were guiding
the Empire's whole policy
even in its pettiest details
even before Amenhotep III be-
gan his reign. When Thotmes I
died, it was only through
that priesthood, that his daughter,
Queen Matshepsut, was able to
obtain recognition as the mistress
of the Empire at the expense
of one of her brothers, and rule.
Amenhotep could easily sense
his rule and rebirth threatened
-- all powerful priests would allow
Pharaoh to be no more than
their executive mouthpiece, bow-
ing to their authority and whim.
He feared too, that in his stead,
the High Priest would rule Egypt
as Pharaoh himself, instead
of his heir -- what would then
become of this golden age
that was beginning to flourish
through the wisdom of this sage?
It was thus that a mystical dream
and a masterly piece of statesmanship
was born combining the lord of the sky