jeudi 28 janvier 2010

"Un style d'architecture qui a résisté aux ravages du temps et à la cupidité des hommes" (Finley Acker, fin XIXe s., à propos de la Grande Pyramide)

Dans son ouvrage Pen sketches ; streets of Cairo, sphinx and pyramids, Bedouin … (Philadelphia,1899), abondamment illustré par C.P. Shoffner, Finley Acker (*) décrit avec poésie, voire un certain pathos, ses impressions et sentiments lorsqu'il aborde les pyramides de Guizeh, notamment celle de Khéops. Son regard est celui d'un artiste, séduit par la beauté et la simplicité des lignes géométriques de l'édifice, plutôt que celui d'un technicien et, a fortiori, d'un égyptologue soucieux d'analyses plus pointilleuses.
Je n'en relève pas moins la manière dont l'auteur règle, en quelque sorte, ses comptes avec le pharaon bâtisseur. Le comportement de Khéops, maintenant le peuple d'Égypte sous son pouvoir absolu, peut susciter, certes, "un sentiment d'intense irritation et d'exaspération". En transformant en simple observatoire le sommet de la pyramide dont le roi a fait son tombeau, le voyageur peut se donner le sentiment de défier une telle vaine prétention.
Après avoir emprunté un moment ce sentiment, Finley Acker est comme pris de remords :"Peut-être, après tout, notre jugement dédaigneux à l'égard de Khéops, comme bâtisseur, était-il fallacieux. Au lieu de le condamner pour son idiotie consommée, peut-être devrions-nous le créditer d'avoir merveilleusement anticipé l'avenir en adoptant un style d'architecture qui a résisté, avec autant de réussite, aux ravages du temps et à la cupidité des hommes."
Puis, se voyant face à la statuette du pharaon, exposée au musée du Caire, il ajoute :"Nous pourrions, en silence, solliciter son pardon pour notre premier jugement méprisant à l'égard de sa pyramide, et lui exprimer notre gratitude pour le fait que, nonobstant son apparent mépris pour la vie humaine et l'énergie qu'il dépensa à exécuter son projet égoïste de perpétuer sa gloire, il érigea néanmoins un monument qui, des milliers d'années durant, peut continuer à être d'un vif intérêt pour la postérité, même si les restes momifiés de son ambitieux constructeur ont été utilisés comme engrais par les Bédouins du désert."

(*) Mes recherches sur l'identité de cet auteur n'ont abouti à aucun résultat. Tout renseignement sera le bienvenu.

The hieroglyphics and pictorial carvings on the stone slabs brought from Luxor, Memphis and other ancient cities give a practical insight into ancient mechanical arts ; and the simple and primitive tools (...) represented favor the theory that the construction of the pyramids and other colossal tombs and temples of antiquity was accomplished not by the aid of superior or phenomenal forces, the knowledge of which lies buried, but by the use of simple mechanical contrivances operated by the concentrated energy of a fabulous number of workmen.
(...) To view the Pyramids for the first time under the full glare and heat of the Egyptian sun can hardly be other than disappointing to those who have cherished a sentimental and poetic interest in these ancient monuments.
The sight is, of course, impressive, because of their colossal proportions ; but as one looks at that massive pile of rough stone, occupying at its base probably as much ground space as our City Hall, and stretching diagonally upward to a point almost as high as the base of Penn's statue, he is strongly tempted to forget the ingenious theories of their astronomical and mathematical significance, and exclaim : ''What consummate idiocy !"
When he recalls further that the huge pile of masonry in the Great Pyramid possesses no feature of artistic beauty other than its perfect conformity to the angular lines of a pyramid ; that it monopolizes the space of thirteen acres ; that it contains over two million separate blocks of stone ; that it weighs over six million tons ; and that it required for its construction, according to Herodotus, the services for twenty years of one hundred thousand men during three months of each year, a feeling of intense irritation and exasperation may be engendered against Cheops, the builder, who, while possessing such absolute power over the toilers in his dominions, expended this enormous amount of energy in merely erecting, in conformity with mathematical principles, a gigantic stone quarry, when the same expenditure of time and labor might have created a temple of colossal proportions and of marvelous architectural beauty.
(...) But to return to the Pyramids. If the traveler is willing to undergo the fatigue of being hauled and pushed and hustled up to the summit, he is rewarded by a view which is not only extensive, but intensely interesting.
He may also experience a grim satisfaction in defying the original purpose of Cheops by utilizing as an observatory what he designed only as his pretentious tomb. On the one side stretches out, as far as the eye can see, the barren desert, grimly suggestive of death and desolation, and only relieved by the smaller pyramids of Sakkara, Dashur and Abusir as silent reminders of the dead past of Egyptian civilization.
(...) If the traveler, after descending from the summit, desires more fatigue, he may crawl through the narrow and slippery passageway into the tomb chamber in which Cheops expected his mummified body and his
buried jewels to be perpetually secure. That his plans were utterly thwarted awakens a feeling of keen regret on the part of those who would like to expose him to public view, like other fossils and curiosities of his age, in the Gizeh Museum.
(...) And so it is with the Pyramids. Long before reaching Cairo, they loom up out of the horizon, hazy, misty, and frequently softened with the varying tints of the setting sun, like a deified guardian of the past, welcoming you to the land so rich with its buried tales of the most ancient science, civilization and humanity.
At a distance they are no longer a mere pile of stone, but, like every perfect picture or statue, they become imbued with life - not with the life of today, but with the life of the hazy past, which is interwoven with the mysteries of the Nile, the charms of Cleopatra, the magnificence of the court of the Pharaohs, the thrilling adventures of Moses and Joseph, and with the mysteries and subtleties of the most ancient magic and priestcraft.
And this living spirit always pervades the Pyramids when seen at the proper distance. Looking at them from the citadel in Cairo, or while sailing on the river Nile, or from the site of ancient Memphis, or from the train in leaving Cairo, as their misty forms gradually fade in the distance, no such irreverent idea as "stone quarry" is suggested, for as their colossal and angular forms loom up out of the horizon or gradually fade from view, they assume a form of grace and beauty and dignity which may be profoundly felt, but not adequately described.
(…) Perhaps, after all, our hasty judgment of Cheops, as a builder, was fallacious. Instead of condemning him for consummate idiocy, perhaps we should accredit him with marvelously keen foresight in adopting a style of architecture which has so successfully withstood the ravages of time and the cupidity of men.
We confess experiencing a keen desire to closely inspect his mummified physiognomy side by side in the Gizeh Museum with that of Rameses II, the Pharaoh whose father was responsible for the early adventure of Moses in the bullrushes. We might silently crave his pardon for our first hasty judgment upon his pyramid, and express gratitude that, notwithstanding his apparent disregard for human life and energy in carrying out his selfish purpose to perpetuate his glory, he nevertheless erected a monument which for thousands of years may continue to be of intense interest to posterity, even though the mummified remains of its ambitious builder may have been utilized as a fertilizer by the Bedouins of the desert.
(…) The Pyramids, the Sphinx, the Nile - three rare links in the chain which connects the most ancient civilization with that of today. And when we begin to realize the advanced state of civilization in Egypt thousands of years before the discovery of America, and long before the establishment of the Roman Empire, we may well feel that a closer acquaintance with these legacies of the past may serve as an agreeable diversion amid the rush and hurly-burly of the Western civilization of today.
Les illustrations sont extraites de l'ouvrage de F.Acker

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