Return from Exile
When I had lived four years at Nekht-an, a pestilence swept through the Two Lands. Though the healers went among the people, many there were who found freedom from pain only when death released them. The doors of the palace were open to all who needed succour, and with my women I went among the people, tending them in their sickness. Then the plague fell upon me also, and all thought that I must die. I was grateful that this should be so, for I was weary of my exile. Yet when I thought that the next turn of the path would show the gateway of my new home to me, the hold of my body grew stronger upon my spirit and kept me captive.
No longer was my body my willing servant, but it was an oppressor that tormented me with pain. No longer were my bones sheathed smoothly in my flesh, but they kept sharp and brittle as the dead branches of a tree, and my skin was brown and withered as forgotten leaves. To walk across the courtyard needed all my strength, and to keep my mouth closed against lamentations demanded all my will. I prayed to Ptah that I might bear my pain proudly as though it were a spear-thrust gained in battle. Age had come upon me in the space of one moon, and she had brought neither peace nor quietness in her hands.
ART : Nut in Her form of Sycamore Tree-Goddess giving water and food to Sennedjem and his wife Iyneferti. Sennedjem and Iyneferti are dressed in festive garments, kneeling on a building representing their “House of Eternity” in the Netherworld.
Scene from the “House of Eternity” of Sennedjem, “Servant in the Place of Righteousness and Truth (the ‘Valley of the Kings’)”
For two years I lived in the body of an old woman, and often before I returned to its prison, I stood beside my bed, looking upon the crippled earthly shell to which I must return. Free in the semblance of my youth and strength, I would touch my smooth and shining hair and think of the wigs and head-dresses I must wear throughout the day to cover its sad greyness upon Earth.
It might be that while I slept Neyah and I had been reliving our childhood together, had climbed a high mountain, or swum in moon-green lakes. And while my feet paced slowly beside the palace lotus pools, I would think of my dreams, and it was as if I were a night-singing bird shut in a wicker cage that hears its brother wing towards the sky.
There are many whose bodies are old and heavy upon them who shun the face of death. Why are they frightened to renew their youth? Whey are they frightened of release from pain? Grant that the day be soon when falling sands shall mark the ending of this little span, so that my body can sleep and need not wake, and I may be free as youth and wise as age.
ART : NebAmon hunting birds in the marshes; NebAmon is represented in a small boat with his wife Hatshepsut and their young daughter; before him, a cat catches birds.
Scene from the “House of Eternity” of NebAmon, “scribe and grain accountant in the granary of the divine offerings in the Temple of Amon at Ipet-Sut” during the reign of King Amenhotep III (ca. 1390-1352 BCE); now in the British Museum
When I was fifty-three years old, I saw the gates of my home open before me. I walked with my mother, and Neyah, and Za Atet, and he that was Ney-sey-ra, in the Gardens of the Setting Sun, and I knew the joy and peace that are one. Far below me I saw Earth as a little cold room that had opened its doors and let me free. Then faintly I heard a cry, like frightened children who are alone, and it was the sorrow of my people who knew that I was dying. And though I knew I need return no longer to that body wherein pain housed with me, down through the shadowed depths I went, and for the last time I made my body speak unto the people that I loved, so they might share my happiness with me and not be sorrowful that I had died. As I felt my body close on me, I prayed for strength that my last message to them should be clear and silver-tongued:
ART : Egyptian God Osiris & Goddesses Isis & Nephtys with Egyptian Princess
“I have seen the splendour of the evening veiling the sky in the colours of the universe, when the great Sun-god Ra journeys beyond Earth to hold converse with his brothers. Yet shall I see a greater glory than this pageant of the west.
“I have heard a thousand thousand singing-birds whose throats cry out the melody of life. Yet shall I hear far sweeter songs than this, nearer the heart of music than a harp.
“I have led chariots in the battle line and set victorious banners on the wind. I have found peace in temple colonnades and listened to wise counsel from true priests. I have kept my country’s plough-lands deep in grain and shared with them my people’s quietude. Yet do I know the glories of the Earth are fleeting shadows on a misty day beside that moment when, ahead in time, I shall at last unbar death’s final gate and walk in the Fields of the Long Standing Corn.”
Then like a sun-shaft breaking through a cloud I left the shadow-land of tears and pain, to walk with my dear companions in the Light.
ART : ‘Shadow Painting’ ~ Valentina Kondrashova @ Fine Art America