Friday, 17 April 2015

The Epic of Gilgamesh (~2800 BC)

Gilgamesh said to him, 'Why should not my cheeks be starved and my face drawn?  Despair is in my heart and my face is the face of one who has made a long journey.  It was burned with heat and cold.  Why should I not wander over the pastures?  My friend, my younger brother who seized and killed the Bull of Heaven and overthrew Humbaba in the cedar forest, my friend who was very dear to me and endured dangers beside me, Enkidu, my brother whom I loved, the end of mortality has overtaken him.  I wept for him seven days and nights till the worm fastened on him.  Because of my brother I am afraid of death; because of my brother I stray through the wilderness.  His fate lies heavy upon me.  How can I be silent, how can I rest?  He is dust and I shall die also and be laid in the earth for ever.'  Again Gilgamesh said, speaking to Utnapishtim, 'It is to see Utnapishtim whom we call the Faraway that I have come this journey.  For this I have wandered over the world, I have crossed many difficult ranges, I have crossed the seas, I have wearied myself with travelling; my joints are aching, and I have lost acquaintance with sleep which is sweet.  My clothes were worn out before I came to the house of Siduri.  I have killed the bear and hyena, the lion and panther, the tiger, the stag and the ibex, all sorts of wild game and the small creatures of the pastures.  I ate their flesh and I wore their skins; and that was how I came to the gate of the young woman, the maker of wine, who barred her gate of pitch and bitumen against me.  But from her I had news of the journey; so then I came to Urshanabi the ferryman, and with him I crossed over the waters of death.  Oh, father Utnapishtim, you who have entered the assembly of the gods, I wish to question you concerning the living and the dead, how shall I find the life for which I am searching?'

Utnapishtim said, 'There is no permanence.  Do we build a house to stand for ever, do we seal a contract to hold for all time?  Do brothers divide an inheritance to keep for ever, does the flood-time of rivers endure?  It is only the nymph of the dragonfly who sheds her larva and sees the sun in his glory....

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