The Nile: The Life-Story of a River

The Nile: The Life-Story of a River

The Nile: The Life-Story of a River

The Nile: The Life-Story of a River

Excerpt

Every time I have written the life of a man, there has hovered before my mind's eye the image, physical and spiritual, of a river, but only once have I beheld in a river the image of man and his fate. When, at the end of 1924, I first saw the Great Dam at Aswân, its symbolic significance burst upon me with such force that seemed to comprehend the River Nile forwards and backwards from this crucial point in its course. A mighty element had been tamed by human ingenuity so that the desert should bring forth fruit, an achievement which the centenarian Faust had attempted as the highest attainable to man in the service of his fellow-men. The thought of the end of Faust, as it stood embodied before my eyes in Aswân, fired me with the thought of writing the epic of the Nile as I had written the story of great men--as a parable.

But before I could tell the story of its adventures, and reveal their deeper meaning, I had to know the river from end to end, so that I might confirm or correct this vision in its detail. I had long known other parts of Africa. I loved that continent, because it had brought me happiness: even before the war I had seen on the equator the source of the Nile. But not until I set out to study it did it stand revealed as the most wonderful of all rivers.

This, the greatest single stream on earth, is yet by no means the most abundant, a fact which determines its whole life and that of its basin. It flows through the desert; for half of its course it receives neither tributaries nor rain, yet it does not dry up; indeed, close to its end, it creates the most fertile of all lands. In its youth it dissipates its finest powers, yet it arrives at its mouth with might. Though it flows along almost one-tenth of the earth's circumference, it maintains the simplest form of all rivers; save for a single loop, its course is from south to north, and over a . . .

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