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The Epic Of Gilgamesh (Tablet V)

Tablet V
                                               TABLET V

There they stood, lofty arose the forest, and astonished they gazed at the height of the cedars and at the entrance of the cedar wood, where Humbaba was wont to walk with lofty steps. Ways were laid out and paths well kept. They saw the cedar mountain, the dwelling of gods, the sanctuary of Imini. In front of the mountain a cedar stood of great splendour, fine and good was its shade, full of gladness sweetness and delight. Thick and tangled were the thorns beneath the dark canopy of the vast forest…………..

[Fragments indicate that a battle with Humbaba commences.]

“We have arrived a place forbidden to men. Let us set our weapons upon the gate of Humbaba.” Enkidu said unto his friend Gilgamesh, “Humbaba is as violent as the oncoming storm; like the god of the storms, he will destroy us.”

Humbaba opened his mouth to speak, and he said to Gilgamesh: “Only fools would seek counsel from vulgar brutes. What bringeth thee before me? Enkidu, thou art the spawn of the fish, a man who knoweth no father, the hatchling of a turtle, who suckled not his mother’s milk. In thy youth, I saw and watched thee, though I did not go over unto thee. ……. in my belly. Traitor! Thou bringest before me Gilgamesh and standeth before me as warrior and stranger. I will cut the throat of Gilgamesh, the corpse to be devoured by the vultures!”

Gilgamesh opened his mouth to speak, saying unto Enkidu: “My friend, the countenance of this monster Humbaba has changed. Though we came here to defeat him, I fear my heart will not let me.”

Enkidu opened his mouth to speak, saying unto Gilgamesh: “Why, my friend, speaketh thou as a coward? Your fearfulness causeth me to lose faith. We have but one task, and the copper runneth already into the mold. To send forth the Flood is to crack the whip! Retreat not! Do not withdraw! Make mighty thy blow!”

He smote the ground and faced the monster. At their feet, the earth gave way, and in their throes they broke the mountains of Sirion and Lebanon. The very clouds turned black and rained death upon them all. Against Humbaba Shamash unleashed 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. The thirteen winds darkened the face of Humbaba so that Gilgamesh could reach him with his weapons. Humbaba pleaded for his life, saying unto Gilgamesh:

“Thou art but a youth, Gilgamesh, but truly a son of the wild cow Ninsun. By the command of Shamash, thou hast flattened the great mountains, O son of Uruk, Gilgamesh the king! Spare my life, Gilgamesh, and allow me to live out my days in the Forest of Cedar. Take as many trees as you desire; I will guard the wood that will be the pride of thy palace.”

Enkidu opened his mouth to speak, saying unto Gilgamesh: “Listen not to his supplications!”

Humbaba opened his mouth to speak, saying unto Enkidu: “Thou art wise in the ways of the forest, yet too you know the art of speech. I should have hangest thou from a sapling, the corpse to be devoured by the vultures. Yet my deliverance lies with thee, if thou wouldst tell Gilgamesh to spare my life.”

Enkidu opened his mouth to speak, saying unto Gilgamesh: “My friend, slay Humbaba who guards the Forest of Cedar. Eliminate all his power. Do this before Enlil the Preeminent discovers what we do and the gods grow angry with us, Enlil in Nippur and Shamash in Larsa. Make for us a name everlasting because Gilgamesh slew the monstrous Humbaba!”

Humbaba lifted his head and opened his mouth to speak, saying unto Enkidu: “Thou sitteth before Gilgamesh like a hired shepherd, slavishly doing as your lord commands. Yet my deliverance lies with thee, if thou wouldst tell Gilgamesh to spare my life.”

Enkidu opened his mouth to speak, saying unto Gilgamesh: “My friend, slay Humbaba who guards the Forest of Cedar. Eliminate all his power. Do this before Enlil the Preeminent discovers what we do and the gods grow angry with us, Enlil in Nippur and Shamash in Larsa. Make for us a name everlasting because Gilgamesh slew the monstrous Humbaba!”

Humbaba heard all he said and cursed the both of them: “May neither of you live to see old age. Except by Gilgamesh his friend, none shall bury Enkidu.”

Enkidu opened his mouth to speak, saying unto Gilgamesh: “I speaketh unto thee, my friend, but thou hearest me not. Let Humbaba’s curses return unto his own mouth.”

Gilgamesh heard what his friend has spoken, and he drew forth his dagger and smote the monster’s neck. He fell, and blood ran forth like rivers, filling the ravines. As the monster fell, he shook the ground for two leagues’ distant, shaking them as once he has made the mountains and the hills tremble with the thunder of his voice. Gilgamesh pulled out his tongue, his lungs, and his innards. From the monster’s head, Gilgamesh carved off the tusks as trophies. And abundance rained down upon the mountains. Gilgamesh discovered within the cedars the secret home of the gods as he trampled through the forest primeval.

Enkidu opened his mouth to speak, saying unto Gilgamesh: “Thou has felled the guardian of the forest by thy strength alone. Nothing can bring dishonor unto thee. Therefore, flatten the Forest of Cedar! Find for me a tall cedar whose tip touches the sky. I shall fashion from it a door as broad as the length of a reed, which shall have no pivot but instead shall sit within the door jam. Its thickness shall be a cubit; its breadth the length of the reed. May no stranger approach a door meant only for the love of the gods. The Euphrates shall carry the door to the Temple of Enlil in Nippur, where the people and the god himself might rejoice in it.”

They built a raft and placed a great cedar upon it. Enkidu piloted the raft, and Gilgamesh bore the head of Humbaba.




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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