Myths and Legends of Ancient Egypt
Page: 87Some days after, Rud-didet had occasion to rebuke her servant and beat her with stripes, and the maid grumbled and said to her companions, "Why has this been done to me? I will go to King Khufu and tell him that her three sons are destined to become kings." She then betook herself to her uncle; but he would not hearken to her treachery and struck her a violent blow with a bunch of flax which he held. Feeling faint, she went down to the riverside for a draught of water, but was seized upon by a crocodile, who carried her away. Her uncle then presented himself to Rud-didet, whom he found in a most dejected condition. He asked her what made her downcast, and she replied that she feared treachery from the handmaiden. "You need not fear for her," replied the man, "because she has been seized upon by a crocodile." At this point the manuscript fails us. It is indeed unfortunate that such an interesting domestic passage has not been spared. The three kings whose names appear in the story as the triplet sons of Rud-didet reigned during the Fifth Dynasty, so that they could hardly have been[Pg 205] born in the Fourth. The tale would seem to be based upon the official adoption of the worship of Ra in Egypt. It may be mentioned that the real names of the three children, User-ref, Sah-ra, and Kaku, are intended as a play upon the names of the first three kings of the Fifth Dynasty, User-kaf, Sahu-ra, and Kaka. The story of the fatal children born to usurp a throne is a very common one in all mythologies, and it is inevitable that the monarch whose line is doomed to extinction should make an effort to destroy them while yet they are in the cradle. The Greek myth of Danaë and the old romance of Sir Torrent of Portugal are examples of this. Mediæval romance is, indeed, full of such stories, but this is probably the earliest example on record.
Egypt was not without its lyric and folk poetry; however, the romantic was not the forte of the Egyptians. It is noteworthy at the same time that most Oriental peoples sing while at their work, and it would be strange if the labourer on the banks of the Nile had not done so. The fellah of to-day chants monotonously and endlessly while toiling, repeating the same words and music over and over again; but the scribe of early Egypt regarded the folk-song as unfit for transmission to posterity. Occasionally a song is recaptured from mural inscriptions. The shepherd who wades through the half-submerged fields, driving his sheep before him, sings: "In the water walks the shepherd with the fishes. He talks with the cat-fish; with the fish he exchanges a greeting." We have also a threshing song: "Thresh ye, O oxen; thresh for yourselves. Thresh straw for your fodder and grain for your masters. Rest not, for the air is cool this day."
A few love-songs have also survived. These were probably very numerous. For the most part they are intense and passionate. Three collections of love-songs of about 1200 B.C. have been unearthed, one of which is contained in a papyrus now in the British Museum. On a stele in the Louvre the praise of the wife of a king of about 700 B.C. is sung as follows: "The sweet one, sweet in love; the sweet one, sweet in love in the presence of the king; the sweet one, sweet in love before all men; the beloved before all women; the king's daughter who is sweet in love. The fairest among women, a maid whose like none has seen. Blacker is her hair than the darkness of night, blacker than the berries of the blackberry bush. Harder are her teeth than the flints on the sickle. A wreath of flowers is each of her breasts, close nestling on her arms."