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IN DEFENCE OF GRAFFITI

 

Carter Henry Harrison, A Race with the Sun, New York 1889, p. 295, (The great pyramid)

 

On top of the great pyramid I looked in vain for two sets of initials coupled in brackets, which I cut in the old stone 36 years ago. They are lost among masses of  others. It is well. She is fat, and nearly 60; I am fat, and over 60. One flame burned out another’s burning. She did not even wait to learn from me if I fulfilled my promise to grave our names upon the pyramid’s highest stone. I wonder if, in these 36 years, she has ever thought of that promise made under the softest of skies, and which one of us thought  could never be forgotten? What a boon it is to man that his heart is made of malleable material rather than of adamantine and brittle steel! Bay the way, sensible men justly inveigh the habit of “vanity” in carving its name upon monuments and thereby defacing them. But there is sense in cutting one’s name upon imperishable rock without defacing it. Some may come afterward, and seeing it, feel as if meeting an old friend. My heart was warmed up  here in Egypt when seeing the names of some old acquaintance now dead. I felt we were living over again a half forgotten past. I saw ‘Jenny Lind’s’ name upon the pyramid. Did she have it cut, or did some of her lovers do it? I do not know. But for a moment there came from the west, over the dead desert, a trill of perfected harmony which I never heard but once, and will never hear again until an angel song shall come to my ear from white robed ones hovering around the throne of the eternal. I can almost fancy that Bayard Taylor had the name cut. I have a vague recollection of his telling me of it. He almost worshipped the Swedish Nightingale.

 

(Originally published as a series of letters to the Chicago Tribune).

 

Harrison is mentioned in the Dictionary of American Biography, 10 vol., vol., IV, p. 335-6.

He was accompanied on his tour by his son William Preston Harrison and by the son of one of his friends, John W. Amberg. Our three travellers visited the Ramesseum on April 9, 1888, where each of them left their graffito on a column of the hypostyle hall.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The above article was first published without photographs in:

 

Bulletin of the Association for the study of

Travel in Egypt and the Near East

 

ASTENE

 

No. 14, Autumn 2002, 18

 

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