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The Epic Of Gilgamesh (Tablet III)

Tablet III

Tablet III

                                             TABLET III

Gilgamesh spoke unto the elders of Uruk: “I, Gilgamesh, the strong one of the land take to a road which I have never trodden; when I shall have succeeded, I will praise thee in the joy of my heart, I will extol the superiority of thy power, I will seat thee on thrones.”

The masters brought the weapons; bow and quiver they placed in hand. He took the hatchet and his quiver. With his lance in his girdle, he and Enkidu prepared to take to the road.

The elders of Uruk approached Gilgamesh. “How long till thou returnest to Uruk?” Again the elders approached him. For the road they counseled Gilgamesh: “Do not rely, O Gilgamesh, on thy strength! Provide food and save thyself! Let Enkidu go before thee. He is acquainted with the way, he has trodden the road to the entrance of the forest of Humbaba. He who goes in advance will save the companion. Provide for his road and save thyself! May Shamash carry out thy endeavor! May he make thy eyes see the prophecy of thy mouth. May he track out for thee the closed path! May he level the road for thy treading! May he level the mountain for thy foot! During thy night the word that wilt rejoice. May Lugalbanda convey, and stand by thee in thy endeavor! Like a youth may he establish thy endeavor! In the river of Ḫumbaba as thou plannest, wash thy feet! Round about thee dig a well! May there be pure water constantly for thy libation, and goblets of water pour out to Shamash! May Lugalbanda take note of it!”

The elders of Uruk spoke unto Enkidu: “We place in thy care Gilgamesh, our king. Bring him back unto us and replace him into our care.

Gilgamesh opened his mouth and spoke thus unto Enkidu: “Come, my friend. Let us go unto the Great Palace, to the great Queen Ninsun. Ninsun, who knoweth all, shall place our feet into the steps of wise counsel.”

Going hand in hand, Gilgamesh and Enkidu went unto the Great Palace, to the great Queen Ninsun. Gilgamesh rose and entered into the presence of the great Queen Ninsun.

Gilgamesh opened his mount and spoke thus unto Ninsun: “O, Ninsun, I shall tread the road to the entrance of the forest of Humbaba. I shall face an unknown war. I shall travel a road I knoweth not. Give unto me thy blessing. Alloweth me to see once more thy face in safety, and returneth through the gates of Uruk. When I return I shall celebrate the New-Year twice over, two times in one year. Let the rejoicing commence, and the drums beat out in honor of Ninsun.”

Ninsun, the wild cow, listened intently and sadly to the words of Gilgamesh, her son, and to Enkidu as well. She donned a beautiful gown to adorn her body, a diadem she chose to cover her breast. She donned her cap and placed over it her tiara. Before Shamash she sacrificed a smoke-offering, poured out a drink-offering; lifted up before Shamash her hand, praying: “Why hast thou disquieted the heart of Gilgamesh? Now thou hast taught him, and a far road he travels unto Humbaba. An unknown fight he is about to enter, to an unknown war he is about to set forth. From the day that he goeth, until he returneth again, until he comes to the splendid cedar wood, until he shall have killed Humbaba the despot, and removeth from the land that horror which thou dost detest, each day in thy daily circuit of the earth let thy bride Aya the fearless remindeth thee to entrust Gilgamesh to the stars, the watchers of the night.

“Thou who hast opened the gates for the herd to escape, for thee the heavens brighten and the animals awaiteth thy rosy light. Let thy bride Aya the fearless remindeth thee to entrust Gilgamesh to the stars, the watchers of the night. May thou maketh the days long and the nights short while Gilgamesh treads the road to the Forest of Cedar. Let him be resolute. Let him pitch camp at eventide. Let thy bride Aya the fearless remindeth thee that on the day Gilgamesh and Enkidu doeth battle with Humbaba that thou shalt unleasheth all the winds, the winds of the south, north, east, and west, the hurricane, the tempest, the typhoon, the gale, the frost-wind, and the devil-wind, the blast and counterblast, and the tornado. Let the thirteen winds darken the face of Humbaba that Gilgamesh might reach him with his weapons! Why thine own flames art kindles, O Shamash, then turn thy face unto thy supplicant! Thy fleet-footed mules shall carry thee; a restful bed shall be thine. The gods, thy brethren, shall bring food for thee. Aya the bride shall dry thy face with her robe.”

Again Ninsun, the wild cow, pleaded unto Shamash: “O, Shamash, will not Gilgamesh share the heavens with thee? Will he not share royal honors with the moon? Will he not be as wise as Ea of the Apsu sea below, or rule the black-headed people with Irnina? Will he not dwell in Hades with Ningishzida?” …………

After Ninsun, who knoweth all, had pleaded with Shamash, she extinguished her censer, descended from the roof, and spoke thus unto Enkidu: “O, Enkidu, although thou art not of my womb, henceforth thy brood are to be among the votaries of Gilgamesh, the priestesses and women of the temple.” She placed upon Enkidu’s neck the sacred symbols. “The priestesses accept the foundling, and the women of the temple raise him as foster child. Enkidu, who art beloved of me, thee I take for mine own son. Enkidu shall be brother unto Gilgamesh. When you tread together the path to the Forest of Cedar, let the days be long and the nights short. Let yourselves be resolute. Let yourselves pitch camp at eventide!”

[A damaged section tells of the rituals Gilgamesh and Enkidu perform to guarantee safe passage. When the text resumes, Gilgamesh is giving instructions for the governance of Uruk in his absence.]

“From the day that I go, until I return again, until I come to the splendid cedar wood, until I shall have killed Humbaba the despot, and removeth from the land that horror which Shamsh doth detest, do not assemble the young men in the streets, nor render judgment on the lawsuits of the weak while we fight to land blows on Humbaba.”

The elders and the young men offered their well-wishes to Gilgamesh. The young men gathered around him, and the elders kissed his feet, saying unto him:

“Do not rely, O Gilgamesh, on thy strength! Provide food and save thyself! Let Enkidu go before thee. He is acquainted with the way, he has trodden the road to the entrance of the forest of Humbaba. He who goes in advance will save the companion. Provide for his road and save thyself! May Shamash carry out thy endeavor! May he make thy eyes see the prophecy of thy mouth. May he track out for thee the closed path! May he level the road for thy treading! May he level the mountain for thy foot! During thy night the word that wilt rejoice. May Lugalbanda convey, and stand by thee in thy endeavor! Like a youth may he establish thy endeavor! In the river of Humbaba as thou plannest, wash thy feet! Round about thee dig a well! May there be pure water constantly for thy libation, and goblets of water pour out to Shamash! May Lugalbanda take note of it!

The elders of Uruk spoke unto Enkidu: “We place in thy care Gilgamesh, our king. Bring him back unto us and replace him into our care.”

Enkidu opened his mouth and spoke to Gilgamesh: “Since thou art resolved to take the road, thy heart be not afraid, trust to me! Keep thou thine eyes upon me! In the forest, I came to know Humbaba’s habitation. Send therefore the crowd to their homes, for they must not go with us.”

The assembled men heard the words of Enkidu, and with joyful hearts returned to their homes. The young men raised a prayer unto Shamash: “May the god go before you. May Shamash let you achieve success!”

Gilgamesh and Enkidu went forth.




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About the author

Sydney Chesterfield

Poet, Playwright, Philosopher, Humanitarian, mad lover of children and unflinching fighter for equality on all grounds viz. Women's rights, child rights, sine die.

Twitter: @syd_field