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The Epic Of Gilgamesh (Tablet VI)

Tablet VI
Tablet VI                                             
                                                 TABLET VI

He cleansed his weapons, he polished his arms. He took off the armor that was upon him. He put away his soiled garments and put on clean raiment; clothed himself with his ornaments, put on his diadem. Gilgamesh placed upon his head the crown and put on his diadem.

To win the favor and love of Gilgamesh, Ishtar, the lofty goddess desired and said unto him: “Come, Gilgamesh, be thou my spouse, give, O give unto me thy manly strength. Be thou my husband, let me be thy wife, and I will set thee in a chariot embossed with precious stones and gold, with wheels made of gold, and horns of amber. Large kudanu-lions thou shalt harness to it. Under sweet-smelling cedars thou shalt enter into our house. And when thou enterest into our house  Thou shalt sit upon a lofty throne, and people shall kiss thy feet; kings and lords and rulers shall bow down before thee. Whatever mountain and country produces, they shall bring to thee as tribute. Thy sheep shall bear twin-ewes. Thy laden donkey shall outpace the mule!

Thy horse shall gallop before the chariot in glory, and no ox shall equal thine.”

But Gilgamesh opened his mouth and spoke unto her; said unto the lofty goddess Ishtar:

“If I were to take thee in marriage, whence would come my sustenance? Wouldst thou feedest me the food of the gods and pour me kingly ale? Who wouldst takest thee in marriage? Thou art the frost that freezes no ice, the door that stays not the wind, the bitumen that stains its holder’s hand, a water-skin that cuts its holder’s hand, limestone that weakens the wall it builds, a battering ram that destroys all walls, a shoe that cuts the feet of its wearer. Let me rehearse for thee the tale of thy lovers. Where is thy husband Dumuzi, who was to be forever?  What, indeed, has become of the allallu-bird? Well, I will tell thee plainly the dire result of thy coquetries. To Dumuzi, the husband of thy youth, thou didst cause weeping and didst bring grief upon him every year. The allallu-bird, so bright of colors, thou didst love; but its wing thou didst break and crush, so that now it sits in the woods crying: ‘O my wing!’ Thou didst also love a lion, powerful in his strength, seven and seven times didst thou dig a snaring pit for him. Thou didst also love a horse, pre-eminent in battle, but with lash, spur, and whip thou didst force it on, didst force it to run seven double-leagues at a stretch. And when it was tired and wanted to drink, thou still didst force it on, thereby causing weeping and grief to its mother Silili. Thou didst also love a shepherd of the flock, the herdsman who continually poured out incense before thee, and, for thy pleasure, slaughtered lambs day by day. Thou didst smite him, and turn him into a woldf, so that his own sheep-boys drove him away, and his own dogs tore him to pieces. Thou didst also love Ishulllanu, a gardener of thy father, who continually brought unto thee dainties, and daily adorned thy table for thee. Thine eye thou didst cast on him and turn his mind, saying: ‘Oh, Ishullanu, let us enjoy thy manly strength. Let thy hand come forth and stroke my vulva.’ But Ishullanu spoke unto thee and said: ‘Me!—what is this that thou askest of me? Hath not my mother baked, and have I not eaten, that now that the food I shall eat is slander and insult? Should I let only rushes cover me in the cold?’ And when thou didst hear such words, thou didst smite him and change him into a dwarf. And didst thus compel him to lie on a couch, so that he could no more rise up from his bed. And now thou wouldst also love me; but like unto them I would fare.”

When Ishtar heard such words she became enraged, and went up into heaven, and came unto Anu her father, and to Antum her mother she went, and thus spoke unto them: “My father, Gilgamesh has insulted me; Gilgamesh has upbraided me with my evil deeds, my deeds of evil and of violence.”

And Anu opened his mouth and spoke—said unto her, the mighty goddess Ishtar: “Didst thou not provoke Gilgamesh so that he has upbraided thee with thy evil deeds, thy deeds of evil and of violence?”

And Ishtar opened her mouth and said, she spoke unto Anu, her father: “My father, give to me the Heaven-Bull that I might slay Gilgamesh in his very place of dwelling. If thou givest me not the Heaven-Bull, I shall crush the gates of Hades and free the shades below. I shall bring up the dead that they might consume the living, and I shall make the dead to outnumber those that yet live.”

And Anu opened his mouth and spoke—said unto her, the mighty goddess Ishtar: “If thou wanteth from me the Heaven-Bull, make the widow of Uruk gather seven years’ wheat, and make the farmer of Uruk grow seven years’ hay.”

Ishtar opened her mouth, saying unto Anu: “This wheat is already stored; this hay already grown. The widow of Uruk gathered seven years’ wheat, and the farmer of Uruk grew seven years’ hay. With the Heaven-Bull I will have revenge!”

Anu heard the words of the mighty goddess Ishtar and gave unto her the nose-rope of the Heaven-Bull.

Ishtar descended with the Heaven-Bull, leading it to the land of Uruk, where its thirst sucked dry the mashes and the forest, and it lowered the level of the river by seven cubits. When the Heaven-Bull snorted, the earth opened before it and one hundred men of Uruk fell down into it. A second time the Heaven-Bull snorted, and the earth opened before it and two hundred men of Uruk fell down into it. A third time the Heaven-Bull snorted, and the earth opened before it, and Enkidu fell down into it up unto his waist. Enkidu leapt from the opening and seized the Heaven-Bull by its horns. The bull spat in his face.

Enkidu opened his mouth to speak, saying unto Gilgamesh: “My friend, we have set ourselves up above others in this city. How shall we make answer unto the people? I have tested the strength of the Heaven-Bull and have learned his ways. Let me test the strength of the Heaven-Bull once more. I shall stand behind the Heaven-Bull and grasp him by his heavy tail. I will set my foot upon his leg, and thou can thus slaughter him with thy knife like a skillful butcher.

Enkidu came up behind the Heaven-Bull, and grasped him by his heavy tail. He set his foot upon his leg. Then Gilgamesh slaughtered him with his knife like a skillful butcher. After they had killed the Heaven-Bull, they made his heart into an offering for Shamash. They prostrated themselves before the God of the Sun, and then Gilgamesh and Enkidu sat together.

Then Ishtar went up to the wall of Uruk, the strong-walled; she uttered a piercing cry and broke out into a curse, saying: “Woe to Gilgamesh, who thus has grieved me, and has killed the Heaven-Bull.”

But Enkidu, hearing these words of Ishtar, tore out the right side of the Heaven-Bull, and threw it into her face, saying: “And thus I would, indeed, defeat thee had I caught thee; and I would do unto thee even as I have done to him; I would drape thy arm in entrails, forsooth.”

Then Ishtar gathered her followers, that ruin men, the hierodules and the sacred prostitutes. Over the right side of the heaven-bull she wept and lamented. But Gilgamesh assembled the people, and all his workmen. The workmen admired the size of its horns. Thirty minas of precious stones was their value; two minas in size were their rims; six measures of oil they both could hold. For the anointing of his god Lugalbanda he dedicated it. He brought the horns and hung them up in the shrine of his lordship. Then they washed their hands in the river Euphrates, took the road, and set out for the city, and rode through the streets of the city of Uruk. The people of Uruk assembled and looked with astonishment at the heroes.

Gilgamesh then spoke to the servants of his palace and cried out unto them, saying: “Who is glorious among the heroes? Who shines among the men? Gilgamesh is glorious among the heroes! Gilgamesh shines among the men!”

And Gilgamesh held a joyful feast in his palace. Then the heroes slept, stretched out upon their couches. And Enkidu slept, and saw a vision in his sleep. He arose in the morning and considered the dream, and spoke unto Gilgamesh thus: “My friend, wherefore have the great gods thus taken counsel?”




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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