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The Epic Of Gilgamesh (Tablet X)

Tablet X
Tablet X 
                                                  TABLET X

The tavern-keeper Siduri lived in a tavern by the sea. Her pot stands and pots were golden, and she was clothed in hoods and veils upon veils. Gilgamesh approached, clothed with a skin and fearful to gaze upon. His flesh was that of the gods, but his heart with heavy with grief. His countenance was like one who made a great journey. Sirudi saw him from afar off, and she spoke to herself and took counsel with herself: “Forsooth, this man must be a hunter of wild bulls, but whence cometh he to arrive at my gate?” And as Sirudi saw him approach she closed her gate. Its gate she closed and went up to her roof.

But Gilgamesh listened…. Lifts up his chin and turned toward her. Then Gilgamesh spoke unto Sirudi and said: “Sirudi, why doest thou bolt the gate against me? Thou bolted the gate against me, but I will break thy gate.”

Sirudi said unto Gilgamesh: “I bolted the gate against thee. I went up to my roof. About thy journey I wish to hear.”

Gilgamesh said unto Sirudi: “My friend Enkidu and I, together we climbed mountains, slew the Heaven-Bull, and ended the life of Humbaba, who dwelt in the Forest of Cedar. We killed the lions that lived between the mountains.”

And the tavern-keeper said unto Gilgamesh, “If truly thou art the one who climbed mountains, slew the Heaven-Bull, and ended the life of Humbaba, who dwelt in the Forest of Cedar, and slew the lions that lived between the mountains, then why art thou ashen and pale? Why art thy features sunken and hollow, thy countenance so sickly? Why is thine heart heavy with grief, and thy countenance like one who hath made a long journey? Why art thine features blasted by the weather, and why dost thou in lion’s skin wander?”

Gilgamesh said unto the tavern-keeper: “Wherefore should I not appear ashen and pale? Wherefore should not my features be sunken and hollow, my countenance so sickly? Wherefore should not my heart be heavy with grief, and my countenance like one who hath made a long journey? Wherefore should not my features be blasted by the weather, and I in lion’s skin wander? My friend, Enkidu wert a swift wild ass, a donkey of the mountains, a panther of the wilderness. My friend, whom I loved more than any man, accompanied me through every peril until the fate of all mortals befell him. For six days and seven nights I mourned him, I left his body unburied until from his nostril a maggot came forth. I feared death for myself, and so on the distant road I wander the wilderness. My friend’s fate was too grievous to bear, and so on the distant road I wander the wilderness. What happened to my beloved Enkidu was unbearable to me, and so on the distant road I wander the wilderness. Must I remain silent? The friend whom I loved has been turned to clay; Enkidu, my friend. And I will not, like unto him, lie down; not will I sink to where my friend is now.”

And Gilgamesh said unto her, the Sirudi: Tell me, O Sirudi, which is the way to Utnapishtim? What is its direction, O Sirudi, tell me its direction. If it be possible, I will cross the sea; but if it is impossible, I will run there across the field.”

And Sirudi answered unto Gilgamesh, and said: “Gilgamesh, there has never been a crossing here, and no one since eternal days has ever crossed the sea. Shamash, the hero, crosses it; but besides Shamash who can cross it? Difficult is the crossing, and extremely dangerous the way, and closed are the Waters of Death, which bolt its entrance. How, then, Gilgamesh, wilt thou cross the sea?  And if thou shouldst reach the Waters of Death, what wouldst thou do? But Gilgamesh, there is Urshinabi, the sailor of Utnapishtim at the side of those with stones; in the forest he fells a cedar. Him may thy countenance behold. If possible, cross over with him; but if impossible, go back.”

When Gilgamesh heard this, he lifted up the axe at his arm, drew the dagger from his belt, slipped in and rushed down and fell like a javelin between them. Urshinabi saw him coming and seized and axe, but Gilgamesh smote him on the head and held him down. The Stone Men, the boat crew themselves immune to the Waters of Death, took fright, and Gilgamesh smote them all and smashed them to pieces and threw them into the water. He then stood over Urshinabi and gazed into his eyes.

Urshinabi said unto Gilgamesh: “Tell me thy name. Mine is Urshinabi, of Utnapishtim, the distant.”

Gilgamesh said unto Urshinabi: “My name is Gilgamesh, late of Uruk-Eanna, he who found the hidden path through the mountains whence travels the Sun, and took that path hither.”

Urshinabi said unto Gilgamesh: “Why art thou ashen and pale? Why art thy features sunken and hollow, thy countenance so sickly? Why is thine heart heavy with grief, and thy countenance like one who hath made a long journey? Why art thine features blasted by the weather, and why dost thou in lion’s skin wander?”

Gilgamesh said unto Urshinabi: “Wherefore should I not appear ashen and pale? Wherefore should not my features be sunken and hollow, my countenance so sickly? Wherefore should not my heart be heavy with grief, and my countenance like one who hath made a long journey? Wherefore should not my features be blasted by the weather, and I in lion’s skin wander? My friend, Enkidu wert a swift wild ass, a donkey of the mountains, a panther of the wilderness. My friend, whom I loved more than any man, accompanied me through every peril until the fate of all mortals befell him. For six days and seven nights I mourned him, I left his body unburied until from his nostril a maggot came forth. I feared death for myself, and so on the distant road I wander the wilderness. My friend’s fate was too grievous to bear, and so on the distant road I wander the wilderness. What happened to my beloved Enkidu was unbearable to me, and so on the distant road I wander the wilderness. Must I remain silent? The friend whom I loved has been turned to clay; Enkidu, my friend. And I will not, like unto him, lie down; not will I sink to where my friend is now.”

Gilgamesh further said unto Urshinabi: “Telleth me, Urshinabi, the road to Utnapishtim. What landmarks guide the journey? Tell me! If possible, I shall cross over the see; but if impossible, I shall go back.”

Urshinabi said unto Gilgamesh: “Thy hand, O Gilgamesh, has prevented the crossing. Thou hast smashed the Stone Men and threw them into the river. The Stone Men are now smashed and the pine is not stripped. Take, Gilgamesh, the axe at thy side, go into the wood and make three hundred punting-poles five gar long. Trim and finish each and bring them unto me.”

And Gilgamesh on hearing this took the axe at his side, and drew the dagger from his belt. He went into the woods and felled trees three hundred punting-poles five gar in length, smeared them over with pitch and brought them to Urshinabi. Then Gilgamesh and Urshinabi embarked;
the ship tossed to and fro while they were on their way. A journey of forty and five days they accomplished within three days, and thus Urshinabi arrived at the Waters of Death.

Urshinabi said unto Gilgamesh: “O, Gilgamesh, take thee the first of the punting-poles! Let not thy hand touch the Waters of Death, lest if wither. Take thee the second of the punting-poles, and a third and a fourth! Take thee the fifth of the punting-poles, and the sixth and the seventh! Take thee the eighth of the punting-poles, and a ninth and a tenth! Take thee the eleventh of the punting poles, and a twelfth!”

After six score double furlongs, all the punting-poles had Gilgamesh used. Urshinabi removed his robes, and Gilgamesh his garments, and from them Urshinabi fashioned a sail.

And Utnapishtim looking at him from the distance began thinking within himself, and with himself he thus meditated: “Why are the Stone Men of the ship smashed? And one, who is not its master rides in the ship. He that comes there is no man of mine. On the right side…….  I look….

I look…. I look…. He that comes there is no man of mine.”

Gilgamesh drew nigh unto the shore, and he spoke unto Utnapishtim: “O, Utnapishtim, thou who surviveth the Deluge……” [The rest is lost.]

Utnapishtim said unto Gilgamesh: “Why art thou ashen and pale? Why art thy features sunken and hollow, thy countenance so sickly? Why is thine heart heavy with grief, and thy countenance like one who hath made a long journey? Why art thine features blasted by the weather, and why dost thou in lion’s skin wander?”

Gilgamesh said unto Utnapishtim: “Wherefore should I not appear ashen and pale? Wherefore should not my features be sunken and hollow, my countenance so sickly? Wherefore should not my heart be heavy with grief, and my countenance like one who hath made a long journey? Wherefore should not my features be blasted by the weather, and I in lion’s skin wander? My friend, Enkidu wert a swift wild ass, a donkey of the mountains, a panther of the wilderness. My friend, whom I loved more than any man, accompanied me through every peril until the fate of all mortals befell him. For six days and seven nights I mourned him, I left his body unburied until from his nostril a maggot came forth. I feared death for myself, and so on the distant road I wander the wilderness. My friend’s fate was too grievous to bear, and so on the distant road I wander the wilderness. What happened to my beloved Enkidu was unbearable to me, and so on the distant road I wander the wilderness. Must I remain silent? The friend whom I loved has been turned to clay; Enkidu, my friend. And I will not, like unto him, lie down; not will I sink to where my friend is now.”

And Gilgamesh said unto Utnapishtim: “Here I have come, and Utnapishtim, whom people call the ‘distant,’ I will see. To him I will turn. I have travelled through all the lands, I have crossed over the steep mountains, and I have traversed all the seas. I had little sleep and castigated myself by denying me rest. I have filled my very sinews with grief, and all in vain. Before I reached the tavern-keeper, my clothes had worn away. I killed wild beasts, the hyena, the panther, the cheetah, the stag, the jackal, the lion, the wild bull, the deer, and ibex. Their flesh I ate and their pelts I wore. But now close fast the gates of sorrow, seal them fast with tar and pitch! Sorrow shall never again interrupt my revelry and joy!”

Utnapishim said unto Gilgamesh: “Wherefore dost thou follow after sorrows? Thou art made of godly stuff, fashioned from flesh human and divine in the image of thine father and mother. Hast thou contrasted thy lot to that of the fool? For thee a throne was set up in the assembly on which thou wert commanded to sit. The fool eateth the yeast that remaineth, not fresh butter; he eateth bran and grist, not milled flour. He weareth rags, not fine robes; no belt but old rope. [Portions that follow are fragmentary and describe the actions of the gods.] Enkidu the gods have indeed brought down to his doom. But what hast thou gained from thy toil? As thou exhausteth thine energies and sap thy strength, thou only hasten the end of thy days. The life of a man may be snapped like a dry reed. The handsome youth and the comely maid, both may fall to Death all too soon. None might see Death or hear his voice, though Death reapeth us all.

“As long as houses are built, as long as tablets are sealed, as long as brothers are at enmity, as long as there exist strife and hatred in the land, as long as the river carries the waters to the sea, etc., so long is there no likeness of death drawn, never shall the dead great the living. The Anunnaki, the great gods, assemble and Mammitum, the goddess of fate, she who with them determines fate, will do so, for they determine death and life. But the days of death are unknown to mankind.”




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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