Lines From Marc Cohn's 1992 Hit "Walking In Memphis" That Are Equally Legible To Contemporary Listeners and Ancient Egyptians Living In The Original Memphis

Memphis, baby

Put on my blue suede shoes

Per, the oldest surviving pair of leather shoes ever discovered are over 5500 years old, and per this powerpoint I found online, "The first society to have a word for the color blue was the Egyptians, the only culture that could produce blue dyes," which doesn't sound at all true. But I think they would have understood blue suede shoes.

And I boarded the plane

Arguable. There's a gold solar boat model in the New Kingdom tomb of Queen Ahhotep, but I think we're on shaky ground when we try to equivocate a concept like a "solar boat" with an airplane.

Touched down in the land of the Delta Blues

Nile delta, but yes.

In the middle of the pouring rain

Sure, the Nile flooded during monsoon season

W.C. Handy and first-class tickets would have been totally illegible to an ancient Egyptian.

Then I'm walking in Memphis

Yes. An ancient Egyptian would understand this

Was walking with my feet ten feet off of Beale / Walking in Memphis

The "Beale" part wouldn't translate perfectly, I grant you. But come on! A man was levitating in the city of the priests of Ptah? An ancient Egyptian child could have understood it!

Saw the ghost of Elvis on Union Avenue / Followed him up to the gates of Graceland / Then I watched him walk right through

Saw a ghost in the city of the great necropolis, beloved of Amun? Yes!

Now security they did not see him / They just hovered 'round his tomb

The tomb of a great man is guarded by sightless, levitating sentinels. Comprehended. No problem

There's a pretty little thing / Waiting for the king

Yes. The afterlife is full of servants and beautiful dancers, temple prostitutes and so on, whose only delight is in entertaining the king's shade. There is nothing unusual in this

They've got catfish on the table

From National Geographic: "The humble catfish was an icon during the Middle and Old Kingdoms and even the Predynastic Period...Many species of catfish live in the Nile. The one on the Narmer Palette has been identified as belonging to the genus Heterobranchus. Another type of catfish, Malapterurus electricus, the electric catfish, was, very literally, a source of shock and awe to Egyptians: Its maximum charge of 350 volts can stun prey and deter predators, and deliver a nonlethal but painful shock to humans. Its representation on Old Kingdom reliefs of fishermen are the world’s earliest known depictions of these creatures."

Gospel in the air and Reverend Green might be difficult to get across. We move on:

You've got a prayer in Memphis

Yes, of course, there are many temples there.

Muriel, pianos, Fridays, Hollywood are all washouts, I'm afraid. But that's a solid 2/3rds of Marc Cohn's biggest hit that you could play for a citizen of the Middle Kingdom without having to do much in the way of cultural interpretation, and that's no small feat.

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