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The Epic Of Gilgamesh (Tablet IX)

Tablet IX
Tablet IX
                                               TABLET IX

Gilgamesh wept bitterly over the loss of his friend Enkidu, and he lay stretched out upon the ground, (saying): “I shall die and become like Enkidu, but weeping has entered into my heart; fear of death has befallen me, and I lie here stretched out upon the ground. To find Utnapishtim, the son of Ubar-Tutu, I will set out, and I will go at once. At the mountain ravine I arrived by night-time. Lions I saw, and I was afraid; but I lifted my head to the god Sin and I prayed. To the majesty of the god came my cry, and he hearkened and saved me, even me.”

And in the night he saw a vision and a dream. Lions were enjoying themselves. And he lifted the axe in his hand, and he drew out the dagger from his belt. Like a javelin he threw himself between them; he wounded, killed, and scattered the lions. He clad himself in the skins of the lions and made a meal for himself of their flesh. Gilgamesh dug new wells to find water, and he chased after the winds.

But Shamash descended in concern and spoke unto Gilgamesh: “O, Gilgamesh, why wandersest thou? The life which thou seeketh, thou shalt find not.”

Gilagmesh sayeth unto Shamash, the hero: “When my wanderings are complete and I descend into Hades, shall I not find rest there? My years there shall be spent in slumber. Let my eyes drink in the sun until they have had their fill; Hades is a land of perpetual gloom, for when might the dead again see the sun’s glorious rays?”

He came now to the double mountain whose name is Mashu. He came to the mountain of Mashu, whose entrance is guarded daily by monsters, whose back extends to the dam of heaven, and whose breast reaches down to Hades. Scorpion-men guard its gate. Dreadful terror they spread, and it is death to behold them. Their splendour is fearful, overthrowing the mountains; from sunrise to sunset they guard the sun.

Gilgamesh beheld them, and with fear and terror his face grew dark. His mind became confused at the wildness of their aspect. But one scorpion-man said to his wife: “He that there cometh to us, flesh of the gods is his body.”

And the wife answered the scorpion-man: “Two thirds he resembles a god, and one third only a man.”

And the scorpion-man called and said unto Gilgamesh: “Has one of the gods given the order? How didst thee come to travel over far-distant roads, until thou should come unto me? The seas which thou hast crossed are dangerous; how didst thou maketh the journey?”

……… “I seeketh to go to Utnapishtim, my ancestor, who hath been removed into the assembly of the gods and hath thus power over life and death.”

The scorpion-man opened his mouth to speak, saying unto Gilgamesh: “None who cometh before thee has been like unto thee. Never before thee, O Gilgamesh, didst anyone traverse the path [of the Sun God] through the mountain. Twelve double-hours of heavy darkness in all directions must be penetrated.”

[The rest of the answer and Gilgamesh’s reply are fragmentary. But the hero was not discouraged, and the scorpion-man acceded to his urgent request and opened to him the gate of the mountain.]

The scorpion-man opened his mouth to speak, saying unto Gilgamesh: “Goest thou, O Gilamesh! May the mountains of Mashu alloweth thee to pass! May the mountains watch over thee and protect thee, and may the gates of Mashu be open unto thee!”

Gilgamesh hear the words of the scorpion-man, and he ventured onto the path of the Sun God. One double-hour he marches; thick is the darkness, not does it grow light. Two double-hours he marches; thick is the darkness, not does it grow light. Three double-hours he marches; thick is the darkness, not does it grow light. Four double-hours he marches; thick is the darkness, not does it grow light. Five double-hours he marches; thick is the darkness, not does it grow light. Six double-hours he marches; thick is the darkness, not does it grow light. Seven double-hours he marches; thick is the darkness, not does it grow light. At eight double-hours he begins to quicken his pace; thick is the darkness, not does it grow light. At nine double-hours the wind begins to blow in his face; thick is the darkness, not does it grow light. Ten double-hours he marches; thick is the darkness, not does it grow light. At eleven double-hours, but one double-hour’s travel remained. Two double-hours he marches; Gilgamesh emerges ahead of the Sun.

There was brilliance. And as he saw it, he ran toward the trees of the gods. One great tree, carnelian it bore as fruit, branches were hanging low with fruit, beautiful to behold. Lapis lazuli the branches of another bore; with fruit it was laden, dazzling the eye of the hero. Other precious trees are also there, and Gilgamesh reached out to touch their fruit.

As Gilgamesh wandered through the trees, a goddess lifted her head to watch him.




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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