From Abydos, home of the cult of Osiris, Judge of the Dead, I came to Denderah, the great temple of the "Lady of the Underworld," as the goddess Hathor was sometimes called, though she was usually worshipped as the Egyptian Aphrodite, goddess of joy, goddess of love and loveliness. It was early morning when I went ashore. The sun was above the eastern hills, and a boy, clad in a rope of plaited grass, sent me half shyly the greeting, "May your day be happy!"

Youth is, perhaps, the most divine of all the gifts of the gods, as those who wore the lotus-blossom amulet believed thousands of years ago, and Denderah, appropriately, is a very young Egyptian temple, probably, indeed, the youngest of all the temples on the Nile. Its youthfulness - it is only about two thousand years of age - identifies it happily with the happiness and beauty of its presiding deity, and as I rode toward it on the canal-bank in the young freshness of the morning, I thought of the goddess Safekh and of the sacred Persea- tree. When Safekh inscribed upon a leaf of the Persea-tree the name of king or conqueror, he gained everlasting life. Was it the life of youth? An everlasting life of middle age might be a doubtful benefit. And then mentally I added, "unless one lived in Egypt." For here the years drop from one, and every golden hour brings to one surely another drop of the wondrous essence that sets time at defiance and charms sad thoughts away.

Unlike White Abydos, White Denderah stands apart from habitations, in a still solitude upon a blackened mound. From far off I saw the façade, large, bare, and sober, rising, in a nakedness as complete as that of Aphrodite rising from the wave, out of the plain of brown, alluvial soil that was broken here and there by a sharp green of growing things. There was something of sadness in the scene, and again I thought of Hathor as the "Lady of the Underworld," some deep-eyed being, with a pale brow, hair like the night, and yearning, wistful hands stretched out in supplication. There was a hush upon this place. The loud and vehement cry of the shadoof-man died away. The sakieh droned in my ears no more like distant Sicilian pipes playing at Natale. I felt a breath from the desert. And, indeed, the desert was near - that realistic desert which suggests to the traveller approaches to the sea, so that beyond each pallid dune, as he draws near it, he half expects to hear the lapping of the waves. Presently, when, having ascended that marvellous staircase of the New Year, walking in procession with the priests upon its walls toward the rays of Ra, I came out upon the temple roof, and looked upon the desert - upon sheeny sands, almost like slopes of satin shining in the sun, upon paler sands in the distance, holding an Arab /campo santo/, in which rose the little creamy cupolas of a sheikh's tomb, surrounded by a creamy wall, those little cupolas gave to me a feeling of the real, the irresistible Africa such as I had not known since I had been in Egypt; and I thought I heard in the distance the ceaseless hum of praying and praising voices.

"God hath rewarded the faithful with gardens through which flow rivulets. They shall be for ever therein, and that is the reward of the virtuous."

The sensation of solemnity which overtook me as I approached the temple deepened when I drew close to it, when I stood within it. In the first hall, mighty, magnificent, full of enormous columns from which faces of Hathor once looked to the four points of the compass, I found only one face almost complete, saved from the fury of fanatics by the protection of the goddess of chance, in whom the modern Egyptian so implicitly believes. In shape it was a delicate oval. In the long eyes, about the brow, the cheeks, there was a strained expression that suggested to me more than a gravity - almost an anguish - of spirit. As I looked at it, I thought of Eleanora Duse. Was this the ideal of joy in the time of the Ptolemies? Joy may be rapturous, or it may be serene; but could it ever be like this? The pale, delicious blue that here and there, in tiny sections, broke the almost haggard, greyish whiteness of this first hall with the roof of black, like bits of an evening sky seen through tiny window-slits in a sombre room, suggested joy, was joy summed up in color. But Hathor's face was weariful and sad.

From the gloom of the inner halls came a sound, loud, angry, menacing, as I walked on, a sound of menace and an odor, heavy and deathlike. Only in the first hall had those builders and decorators of two thousand years ago been moved by their conception of the goddess to hail her, to worship her, with the purity of white, with the sweet gaiety of turquoise. Or so it seems to-day, when the passion of Christianity against Hathor has spent itself and died. Now Christians come to seek what Christian Copts destroyed; wander through the deserted courts, desirous of looking upon the faces that have long since been hacked to pieces. A more benign spirit informs our world, but, alas! Hathor has been sacrificed to deviltries of old. And it is well, perhaps, that her temple should be sad, like a place of silent waiting for the glories that are gone.

With every step my melancholy grew. Encompassed by gloomy odors, assailed by the clamour of gigantic bats, which flew furiously among the monstrous pillars near a roof ominous as a storm-cloud, my spirit was haunted by the sad eyes of Hathor, which gaze for ever from that column in the first hall. Were they always like that? Once that face dwelt with a crowd of worship. And all the other faces have gone, and all the glory has passed. And, like so many of the living, the goddess has paid for her splendors. The pendulum swung, and where men adored, men hated her - her the goddess of love and loveliness. And as the human face changes when terror and sorrow come, I felt as if Hathor's face of stone had changed upon its column, looking toward the Nile, in obedience to the anguish in her heart; I felt as if Denderah were a majestic house of grief. So I must always think of it, dark, tragic, and superb. The Egyptians once believed that when death came to a man, the soul of him, which they called the Ba, winged its way to the gods, but that, moved by a sweet unselfishness, it returned sometimes to his tomb, to give comfort to the poor, deserted mummy. Upon the lids of sarcophagi it is sometimes represented as a bird, flying down to, or resting upon, the mummy. As I went onward in the darkness, among the columns, over the blocks of stone that form the pavements, seeing vaguely the sacred boats upon the walls, Horus and Thoth, the king before Osiris; as I mounted and descended with the priests to roof and floor, I longed, instead of the clamour of the bats, to hear the light flutter of the soft wings of the Ba of Hathor, flying from Paradise to this sad temple of the desert to bring her comfort in the gloom. I thought of her as a poor woman, suffering as only women can in loneliness.

In the museum of Cairo there is the mummy of "the lady Amanit, priestess of Hathor." She lies there upon her back, with her thin body slightly turned toward the left side, as if in an effort to change her position. Her head is completely turned to the same side. Her mouth is wide open, showing all the teeth. The tongue is lolling out. Upon the head the thin, brown hair makes a line above the little ear, and is mingled at the back of the head with false tresses. Round the neck is a mass of ornaments, of amulets and beads. The right arm and hand lie along the body. The expression of "the lady Amanit" is very strange, and very subtle; for it combines horror - which implies activity - with a profound, an impenetrable repose, far beyond the reach of all disturbance. In the temple of Denderah I fancied the lady Amanit ministering sadly, even terribly, to a lonely goddess, moving in fear through an eternal gloom, dying at last there, overwhelmed by tasks too heavy for that tiny body, the ultra-sensitive spirit that inhabited it. And now she sleeps - one feels that, as one gazes at the mummy - very profoundly, though not yet very calmly, the lady Amanit. But her goddess - still she wakes upon her column.

When I came out at last into the sunlight of the growing day, I circled the temple, skirting its gigantic, corniced walls, from which at intervals the heads and paws of resting lions protrude, to see another woman whose fame for loveliness and seduction is almost as legendary as Aphrodite's. It is fitting enough that Cleopatra's form should be graven upon the temple of Hathor; fitting, also, that though I found her in the presence of deities, and in the company of her son, Caesarion, her face, which is in profile, should have nothing of Hathor's sad impressiveness. This, no doubt, is not the real Cleopatra. Nevertheless, this face suggests a certain self-complacent cruelty and sensuality essentially human, and utterly detached from all divinity, whereas in the face of the goddess there is a something remote, and even distantly intellectual, which calls the imagination to "the fields beyond."

As I rode back toward the river, I saw again the boy clad in the rope of plaited grass, and again he said, less shyly, "May your day be happy!" It was a kindly wish. In the dawn I had felt it to be almost a prophecy. But now I was haunted by the face of the goddess of Denderah, and I remembered the legend of the lovely Lais, who, when she began to age, covered herself from the eyes of men with a veil, and went every day at evening to look upon her statue, in which the genius of Praxiteles had rendered permanent the beauty the woman could not keep. One evening, hanging to the statue's pedestal by a garland of red roses, the sculptor found a mirror, upon the polished disk of which were traced these words:

"Lais, O Goddess, consecrates to thee her mirror: no longer able to see there what she was, she will not see there what she has become."

My Hathor of Denderah, the sad-eyed dweller on the column in the first hall, had she a mirror, would surely hang it, as Lais hung hers, at the foot of the pedestal of the Egyptian Aphrodite; had she a veil, would surely cover the face that, solitary among the cruel evidences of Christian ferocity, silently says to the gloomy courts, to the shining desert and the Nile:

"Once I was worshipped, but I am worshipped no longer."