The new path
Sturgis, Russell, Jr.
Our "articles" examined, pp. 4-9
O'ar " Articles " Examined. pat -their heads, in the British Museum, if you dare; life-like they are, and lion- like, beyond anything that sculpture has done elsewhere, in spite of their uncompromising material, and the con- ventional treatment it has made neces- sary. Then, the flowers of Egyptian land and water, reptiles, birds and beasts, sometimes as hieroglyphic writing, sometimes as religious symbol- ism, cover walls and columns; nay, even themselves, their kings and heroes, their priests and their gods are enduringly pictured for us to see. Ev- erywhere is the exhaustless record, how it was with them. Hunting, and war, and triumphal procession are there, and indoor life, and palace and domestic interiors, and the story of Egyptian lives from day to day. And all this, not only of persons forgotten to fame or unknown to us, but of the kings and leaders who appear in sacred and profane history, their names writ- ten where every one can read them who knows "the letters and the language." The temptation spoken of above has come. We have glanced curiously and lovingly at the Egyptian palace courts. How can we leave them without ex- amination and study? How unsatis- factory are hints and echoes of such a world as this we are considering! How much to be desired is opportunity for careful and minute investigation. But it cannot be. We have to cross the sea and the desert, and find a scarce newer civilization exhumed on the Euphrates and Tigris. Scarce newer, I said, but that is only relatively true. Between Karnack and Khorsabad there was time enough elapsed to make the Assyrians modern in comparison. But when Xenophon and his ten thou- sand were on their famous retreat, they passed over the plain of Nineveh and knew nothing of the great city that had then passed away from earth, while the Egyptian art existed still, though in a feebler fashion. Can I be blamed for calling that civilization scarce newer than the Egyptian? The architecture of Nineveh and Babylon has been brought once more to light by fearless and diligent Eng- lishmen, during the last forty years. There was no mountainous solidity about this Assyrian work. Barbarian conquerors could only shatter and deface, and time could only cover with grass or with heaped sand the palaces of the Pharaohs; but the great Assyr- ians cities were laid waste with fire and sword, were levelled with the ground, disappeared beneath the heaped up earth, and were forgotten of men. These Asiatics, therefore, sought a different splendor from that created by their African forerunners and contem- poraries. But walk through the corriders of the British Museum, and you will see that the two agreed in one thing. They must needs carve and paint wherever a flat surface could be found; and set up colossal figures for gateways and avenues; and repro- duce everywhere their life and their surroundings. You have all seen the slabs at the Historical Society's rooms, and the engravings of similar sculptures in Layard's book. These were the wainscoting of palace halls, and the facing of the walls of palace courts. Around the courts they were high and thick, having in low relief colossal figures of divinities and their ministers, and of kings who built or enlarged the edifice. Within, and where pro- tected by roofs, there was a great variety, single figures, groups, and whole histories in bas relief, from life size to miniature, all flat sculpture on slabs of alabaster embrowned with age, and looking wonderfully like delicate drawings in sepia. Here are battles, the victorious Assyrians pursuing and slaughtering the discomfited enemy, birds of prey hovering over the field; sometimes the flight and pursuit rages along the river bank, the dead falling, and the survivors driven into the water, where are growing the reeds and lilies as they grow to-day on the banks of the Tigris, and where are swimming the ancestors of the fish that Rich and Layard broiled for their breakfasts. Here is the siege of a city, the towers rising on a river bank, the walls battlemented and crowded with bowmen and soldiers, who resist vigor- ously an attack by escalade. Here is a lion hunt; one lion, pierced by a dozen javelins, drags his hind legs after him hopelessly, for one of the spears has pierced his loins; another is dying, his head bowed between his fore-legs, the blood pouring from his mouth; one attacks the chariot in which sits the king, they thrust him back with
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