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December 5th, 2005


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08:16 am - A bit of morning poetry, Sumerian style
Where, oh where is the North Wind?

From: "Gilgamesh"

Tablet IX

iii

Gilgamesh came to the mountain called Mashu,
whose great twin heads look one way and the other:

the one looks toward the setting of the sun;
the other toward the rising sun.

The great twin heads brush up against the Heavens;
the great udders of the mountin hang down into

the shadows of the Cavern of the Earth.
Twin Dragon Scorpion Beings whose look is death

are the guardians of the entrance into the mountain.
The aura of the demon guardian Beings

shimmers across the surface of the mountain.
The shimmering of the light is death to look at.

The Male Twin Monster Being said to the Female:
"Who is it dares come here must be a god."

The Female Twin Monster Being said to her husband:
"Two-thirds a god. The third part is mortal."

Terror in the body of Gilgamesh
seized hold of him from within and held him there

in terror. But then, in terror, he went forward.
Then the Male Dragon Being said to him:

"Who is it dares come here? Why have you journeyed
through fearful wilderness making your way through dangers

to come to this mountain no mortal has ever come to?"
Gilgamesh answered, his body siezed in terror:

"I come to seek the father, Utnapishtim,
who was admitted to the company

of gods, who granted him eternal life.
I come to seek the answer to the question

that I must ask concerning life and death."
The Scorpion Monster Being said to him:

"No mortal has ever journeyed through the mountain.
This is the path of the sun's journey by night.

Lightless the sun utterly lightless goes
from the setting to the rising through the mountain.

This is the path of the sun, utterly dark,
twelve leagues of darkness through, utterly lightless.

No mortal would ever be able to go this way."
Gilgamesh said, his body seized with terror:

"This is the way that Gilgamesh must go,
weeping and fearful, struggling to keep breathing,

whether in heat or cold, companionless.
Open the gate to the entrance to the mountain."

Monster Husband and Wife murmured together.
Then the Male Twin Monster said to Gilgamesh:

"The gate to the entrance into the mountain is open.
May Gilgamesh in safety make the journey."

After the Scorpion Dragon Being spoke,
Gilgamesh went to the entrance into the mountain

and entered the darkness alone, without a companion.
By the time he reached the end of the first league

the darkness was total, nothing behind or before.
He made his way, companionless, to the end

of the second league. Utterly lightless, black.
There was nothing behind or before, nothing at all.

Only the blackness pressed in upon his body.
He felt his blind way through the mountain tunnel,

struggling for breath, through the third league, alone,
and companionless through the fourth, making his way,

and struggling for every breath, to the end of the fifth,
in the absolute dark, nothing behind or before,

the weight of the blackness pressing in upon him.
Weeping and fearful he journeyed a sixth league,

and, blind, to the end of the seventh league, alone,
without a companion, seeing nothing at all,

weeping and fearful, struggling to keep breathing.
At the end of the eighth league he cried aloud

and tried to cry out something against the pressure
of blackness: "Two people, who are companions, they . . . !"

There was nothing behind or before him in the darkness;
utterly lightless, the way of the sun's night journey.

He struggled to breathe, trying to breathe in the darkness.
He was weeping and fearful, alone, without a companion.

Just then, at the end of the ninth league, just once
the rough tongue of the North Wind licked at his face.

It was just like the tongue of a wild bull or a lion.
He struggled on through the darkness, trying to breathe.

The darkness pressed in upon him, both nothing and something.
After he struggled, blind, his companionless way

through eleven leagues of the darkness, nothing at all
and something, ahead of him, a league ahead

a little light, a grayness, began to show.
Weeping and fearful, struggling to keep breathing,

he made his way through the last league of the journey,
twelve leagues in the darkness, alone, companionless,

weeping and fearful, struggling to keep breathing,
he made his way and finally struggled out free

into the morning air and the morning sunlight.

iv


He emerged from the mountain into a wonderful garden.
Gilgamesh looked at the garden and wondered at it.

The fruit and foliage of the trees were all
the colours of the jewels of the world,

carnelian and lapis lazuli,
jasper, rubies, agate, and hematite,

emerald, and all the other gems the earth
has yielded for the delight and pleasure of kings.

And beyond the garden Gilgamesh saw the sea.

     -Gilgamesh, re-imagined by David Ferry
Current Mood: awake
Current Music: "My Lovely Lady", -JB

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Comments:


[User Picture]
From:chronarchy
Date:December 5th, 2005 02:48 pm (UTC)
(Link)
Np. It's a piece I've been thinking about a lot recently. It's not exactly a line by line translation (which would be "In the sixth league, he found darkness before and behind him. In the seventh league, he found darkness before and behind him. In the eighth league, he found darkness before and behing him. . .etc."), and I actually appreciate the liberty he takes. It reduces repetition a *lot*.

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