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The Epic Of Gilgamesh (Tablet VII)

Tablet VII
Tablet VII                                           
                                              TABLET VII

“My friend, wherefore have the great gods thus taken counsel?” When dawn broke, Enkidu spoke to Gilgamesh, saying: “What a dream I dreamed last night, my friend and brother! The great gods Anu, Enlil, Ea, and Shamash held an assembly, and Anu spoke unto Ea thus: ‘Because these two slew the Heaven-Bull, and slew Humbaba, the guardian of the mountains and the Forest of Cedar, one of the two must die.’ Enlil said unto Anu, ‘Let Enkidu die, for Gilgamesh must die not!’ Shamash, however, spoke unto Enlil thus: ‘Was it not by thy order that these men slew the Heaven-Bull and the guardian Humbaba? Why should the innocent Enkidu die for this?’ But Enlil, burning with anger at Shamash, said unto him: ‘Each day thou traveled with them like unto a companion.’”

Enkidu fell down before Gilgamesh and began to cry tears which flowed like rivers. “O, brother of mine, I shall never again rise before thee. For me is only the land of the dead, where I shall sit forever. Once the gates to Hades I cross, never again shall I set mine eyes upon thee.”

Enkidu lifted his eyes and began to talk with a door as though it were a man. “O, dumb door, I know what thou dost not. Across twenty leagues I sought thy timber until I findeth thee, the finest of the cedars. There is none other tree like unto thee; six gar [1 gar = 12 or 14 cubits] is thy height and two gar thy thickness. The whole of you, from pivot to post, is of a piece, a piece I raised up and installed in Nippur. Had I but known how you would reward mine effort, I would have used my axe to cut you down and set you adrift as a raft to Ebabbara to place you as portal to the temple of Shamash, who heard my words and gave me my weapon. O, door, if I raised thee, might I also destroy thee? May some king who follows me burn with hatred for thee, or remove my name from thy wood, and install his own.”

Enkidu began to cry again, and as Gilgamesh listened, he too cried.

Gilgamesh opened his mouth to speak, saying unto Enkidu: “Why dost thou blaspheme? Thy dream was profound, and it hath caused great dread. Thy lips buzz like flies. But in it the gods leave unto the survivor only grief. I will beseech the great gods for thee; I will seek out thy god Shamash and appeal unto him for thy sake. I will ask Anu the father of the gods, and pray that the great counselor Enlil heareth my words. May Ea remain open to my prayer! I will fashion a statue for thee from endless gold.”

Enkidu opened his mouth to speak, saying unto Gilgamesh: “My friend, waste no silver or gold on me. The word of Enlil is unlike that of the other gods, for whatsoever he commands must come to pass; whatsoever he sets in place cannot be undone. This is my destiny, my friend, to die before my time.”

As dawn broke, Enkidu lifted his head and offered sad prayers to Shamash as his tears glistened in the sunlight: “I beg thee, Shamash, for my life. I curse the trapper who caused me to be less great than my friend. May his share be diminished; may his god leaveth his house through the window.” He then cursed Shamhat the harlot: “I curse thee, Shamhat, to a dark destiny; I afflict thee with this curse: May thou never knowest a true home, nor rejoiceth in the love of a family. Thou shalt not sit in the young women’s chamber. Thine finest garments shall fall to the ground, and the drunkard shalt stain it in the dirt. Thou shalt have no beautiful things, nor abundance at thy table. Thy very bed shall be a rude bench. Thou shalt sit at the crossroads and lie in ruined fields. Thou shalt stand before the walls, and thorns shall cut thy feet. All shall strike at thy cheek. The workman shall not plaster thy roof, and owls shall make a home in thy bedroom. Thou hast made a weak a man who was once unsullied. In the very wilderness which was my home, you made me weak who was once unsullied.”

Shamash heard what he had said, and from the sky he sent forth a booming voice: “O, Enkidu, curse not the harlot who fed thee the food of the gods and poured thee kingly ale and gave the magnificent Gilgamesh unto thee as companion. On a fine, grand couch, on a fine couch Gilgamesh will let thee recline. He will place thee upon a couch, a seat to the left. The kings of the earth shall kiss thy feet. The people of Uruk shall lament for thee, and the nations shall mourn for thee, and in mourning the hair of Gigamesh shall become matted and into the wild he will wander in the skin of a lion.”

Enkidu listened to the word of Shamash, the warrior hero, and his angry heart became quieted. “O, Shamhat, thy destiny I shall improve. Governors and nobles will love thee. A league distant men shall slap their thighs for thee; at two leagues’ distance they shall shake their hair for thee. Soldiers shall unfasten their belts at thy will and shower thee with obsidian, precious stones, and gold. Jewelry shall be thine! Ishtar, the lofty goddess, shall open the doors to the home of a rich man, who shall desert his wife for thee thou she bare unto him seven children.”

But Enkidu’s mind remained disquieted, and he turned over his thoughts in his head. He relieved his heart and spoke to his friend. “What a dream I dreamed in my night’s sleep! The stars of heaven fell upon the earth. Frightened, I stood there. A man there stood as well, and his face became disturbed. His countenance was as frightening as the Thunderbird. Like a lion’s paws were his hands; like an eagle’s talons were his nails. By my hair he grabbed me, but though I struck at him, he overpowered me, capsizing me like a raft. He crushed me beneath his feet like a mighty bull, drowning me in his venomous spittle. Save me! He struck me and turned me into a dove and bound my arms as though they were wings.

“I have descended to the house of darkness, the dwelling of the goddess Irkalla; to the house, whence he that enters goes out no more; to the road, whose way turns not back; to the house, whose inhabitants are deprived of light;  to the place where dust is their sustenance, their food clay. They are clothed, like a bird, with feathered raiment. Light they see not; they sit in darkness. In the house, my friend, which I have entered, in that house crowns are cast down on the ground, and there live those who had worn crowns, who in days of old had ruled countries; to whom Anu and Enlil had given roasted meat to eat. Now, cold meals are prepared, and water from leather bottles is poured out for them. In the house, my friend, which I have entered, there dwell also priests and ministers. There dwell soothsayers and enchanters; there dwell the temple-anointers of the great gods. There dwells Etana, and there dwells Shakkan; there dwells also the queen of the earth (i.e., of Hades), the goddess Ereshkigal. There dwells the scribe of the earth, bowed down before her. He holds a tablet and reads before her, and Ereshkigal lifted up her head and saw me.

[The rest of the dream is lost.]

“Remember me, my friend, I who endured all hardships with thee. Forget me not!”

Gilgamesh opened his mouth to speak, saying, “My friend hath seen a vision the like of which none shall ever equal.”

On the day he had the dream, Enkidu’s strength faltered, and there lay Enkidu for twelve days on which Enkidu on his couch lay sick. On the third and the fourth day, his sickness worsened. On the fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenth days, the sickness of Enkidu worsened. The eleventh and the twelfth day Enkidu on his couch lay sick. Then he called to Gilgamesh and spoke unto his friend: “My god hath turned against me, and I die not as one who falls in battle. Though I feared a warrior’s death, he who dies in battle establishes a name everlasting. But I fall not in battle and establish no name.”

[The remaining lines describing Enkidu’s death are lost.]


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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