Will Durant Story of Civilization

“Saddest of all is a poem engraved upon a slab now in the Leyden Museum, and dating back to 2200 B.C. Carpe diem, it sings—snatch the day! 

‘I have heard the words of Imhotep and Hardedef, Words greatly celebrated as their utterances.
Behold the places thereof!—
Their walls are dismantled,
Their places are no more,
As if they had never been. 
None cometh from thence
That he may tell us how they fare;
That he may content our hearts
Until we too depart
To the place whither they have gone.
Encourage thy heart to forget it,
Making it pleasant for thee to follow thy desire
While thou livest.
Put myrrh upon thy head,
And garments upon thee of fine linen, Imbued with marvelous luxuries,
The genuine things of the gods.
Increase yet more thy delights,
And let not thy heart languish.
Follow thy desire and thy good,
Fashion thy affairs on earth
After the mandates of thine own heart,
Till that day of lamentation come to thee
When the silent-hearted (dead) hears not their lamentation,
Nor he that is in the tomb attends the mourning.
Celebrate the glad day;
Be not weary therein.
Lo, no man taketh his goods with him;

Yea, none returneth again that is gone thither.’

“This pessimism and scepticism were the result, it may be, of the broken spirit of a nation humiliated and subjected by the Hyksos invaders; they bear the same relation to Egypt that Stoicism and Epicureanism bear to a defeated and enslaved Greece. In part such literature represents one of those interludes, like our own moral interregnum, in which thought has for a time overcome belief, and men no longer know how or why they should live. Such periods do not endure; hope soon wins the victory over thought; the intellect is put down to its customary menial place, and religion is born again, giving to men the imaginative stimulus apparently indispensable to life and work. We need not suppose that such poems expressed the views of any large number of Egyptians; behind and around the small but vital minority that pondered the problems of life and death in secular and naturalistic terms were millions of simple men and women who remained faithful to the gods, and never doubted that right would triumph, that every earthly pain and grief would be atoned for bountifully in a haven of happiness and peace.” —Our Oriental HeritageThe Story of Civilization, by Will and Ariel Durant

We hope you will join us in The Imaginative Conservative community. The Imaginative Conservative is an on-line journal for those who seek the True, the Good and the Beautiful. We address culture, liberal learning, politics, political economy, literature, the arts and the American Republic in the tradition of Russell Kirk, T.S. Eliot, Edmund Burke, Irving Babbitt, Wilhelm Roepke, Robert Nisbet, Richard Weaver, M.E. Bradford, Eric Voegelin, Christopher Dawson, Paul Elmer More and other leaders of Imaginative Conservatism. Some conservatives may look at the state of Western culture and the American Republic and see a huge dark cloud which seems ready to unleash a storm that may well wash away what we most treasure of our inherited ways. Others focus on the silver lining which may be found in the next generation of traditional conservatives who have been inspired by Dr. Kirk and his like. We hope that The Imaginative Conservative answers T.S. Eliot’s call to “redeem the time, redeem the dream.” The Imaginative Conservative offers to our families, our communities, and the Republic, a conservatism of hope, grace, charity, gratitude and prayer.

All comments are moderated and must be civil, concise, and constructive to the conversation. Comments that are critical of an essay may be approved, but comments containing ad hominem criticism of the author will not be published. Also, comments containing web links or block quotations are unlikely to be approved. Keep in mind that essays represent the opinions of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Imaginative Conservative or its editor or publisher.

Leave a Comment
Print Friendly, PDF & Email