THE KHALIF EL MAMOUN AND THE PYRAMIDS OF EGYPT

It is told that the Khalif El Mamoun, son of Haroun er Reshid, when he entered the [God-]guarded city of Cairo, was minded to pull down the Pyramids, that he might take what was therein; but, when he went about to do this, he could not avail thereto, for all his endeavour. He expended great sums of money in the attempt, but only succeeded in opening up a small gallery in one of them, wherein he found treasure, to the exact amount of the money he had spent in the works, neither more nor less; at which he marvelled and taking what he found there, desisted from his intent.

Now the Pyramids are three in number, and they are one of the wonders of the world; nor is there on the face of the earth their like for height and fashion and skilful ordinance; for they are builded of immense rocks, and they who built them proceeded by piercing one block of stone and setting therein upright rods of iron; after which they pierced a second block of stone and lowered it upon the first. Then they poured melted lead upon the joints and set the blocks in geometrical order, till the building was complete. The height of each pyramid was a hundred cubits, of the measure of the time, and it was four-square, each side three hundred cubits long, at the bottom, and sloping upward thence to a point. The ancients say that, in the western Pyramid, are thirty chambers of vari-coloured granite, full of precious stones and treasures galore and rare images and utensils and costly arms, which latter are anointed with magical unguents, so that they may not rust till the day of Resurrection. Therein, also, are vessels of glass, that will bend and not break, containing various kinds of compound drugs and medicinal waters. In the second Pyramid are the records of the priests, written on tablets of granite,--to each priest his tablet, on which are set out the wonders of his craft and his achievements; and on the walls are figures like idols, working with their hands at all manner crafts and seated on thrones. To each pyramid there is a guardian, that keeps watch over it and guards it, to all eternity, against the ravages of time and the vicissitudes of events; and indeed the marvels of these pyramids astound all who have eyes and wit. Many are the poems that describe them, thou shalt profit no great matter thereby, and among the rest, quoth one of them:

      The high resolves of kings, if they would have them to abide In memory, after them, are in the tongues of monuments.
      Dost thou not see the Pyramids? They, of a truth, endure And change not for the shifts of time or chances of events.

And again:

      Consider but the Pyramids and lend an ear to all They tell of bygone times and that which did of yore befall.
      Could they but speak, assuredly they would to us relate What time and fate have done with first and last and great and small.

And again:

      I prithee, tell me, friend of mine, stands there beneath the sky A building with the Pyramids of Egypt that can vie
      In skilful ordinance? Behold, Time's self's afraid of them, Though of all else upon the earth 'tis dreaded, low and high.
      My sight no longer rests upon their wondrous ordinance, Yet are they present evermore unto my spirit's eye.

And again:

      Where's he the Pyramids who built? What was his tribe, His time and what the place where he was stricken dead?
      The monuments survive their lords awhile; then death O'ertaketh them and they fall prostrate in their stead.



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