The Little Review (littlereview) wrote,
The Little Review

Poem for Tuesday

From The Epic of Gilgamesh
Translated by Nancy K. Sanders


Beside the sea she lives,
the woman of the vine, the maker of wine;
Siduri sits in the garden at the edge of the sea,
with the golden bowl and the golden vats that the gods gave her.
She is covered with a veil;
And where she sits she sees Gilgamesh coming towards her,
wearing skins,
the flesh of the gods in his body,
but despair in his heart,
and his face like the face of one who has made a long journey.

She looked,
and as she scanned the distance she said in her own heart,
'Surely this is some felon;
where is he going now?'
And she barred her gate against him with the cross-bar
and shot home the bolt.

But Gilgamesh, hearing the sound of the bolt,
threw up his head and lodged his foot in the gate;
he called to her,
'Young woman, maker of wine,
why do you bolt your door;
what did you see that made you bar your gate?
I will break in your door
and burst into your gate,
for I am Gilgamesh
who seized and killed the Bull of Heaven,
I killed the watchman of the cedar forest,
I overthrew Humbaba who lived in the forest,
and I killed the lions in the passes of the mountain.'

Then Siduri said to him,
'If you are that Gilgamesh
who seized and killed the Bull of Heaven,
who killed the watchman of the cedar forest,
who overthrew Humbaba who lived in the forest,
and killed the lions in the passes of the mountain,
why are your cheeks so starved
and why is your face so drawn?
Why is despair in your heart
and your face like the face of one who has made a long journey?
Yes, why is your face burned from heat and cold,
and why do you come here wandering over the pastures
in search of the wind?'

Gilgamesh answered her,
'And why should not my cheeks be starved
and my face drawn?
Despair is in my heart
and my face is the face of one who has made a long journey,
it was burned with heat and with cold.
Why should I not wander over the pastures
in search of the wind?
My friend,
My younger brother,
he who hunted the wild ass of the wilderness and the panther of the plains,
my friend,
my younger brother
who seized and killed the Bull of Heaven
and overthrew Humbaba in the cedar forest,
my friend
who was very dear to me
and who endured dangers beside me,
Enkidu my brother
whom I loved,
the end of mortality has overtaken him.
I wept for him seven days and nights
till the worm fastened on him.
Because of my brother I am afraid of death,
because of my brother I stray through the wilderness
and cannot rest.
But now
young woman, maker of wine,
since I have seen your face
do not let me see the face of death
which I dread so much.'

She answered,
'Gilgamesh, where are you hurrying to?
You will never find the life for which you are looking.
When the gods created man
they alloted to him death,
but life they retained in their own keeping.
As for you, Gilgamesh,
fill your belly with good things;
day and night, night and day, dance and be merry,
feast and rejoice.
Let your clothes be fresh,
bathe yourself in water,
cherish the little child that holds your hand,
and make your wife happy in your embrace;
for this too is the lot of man.'

But Gilgamesh said to Siduri, the young woman,
'How can I be silent,
how can I rest,
when Enkidu whom I love is dust,
and I too shall die
and be laid in the earth for ever.'


Utnapishtim said,
'As for you, Gilgasmesh,
who will assemble the gods for your sake,
so that you may find that life for which you are searching?
But if you wish,
come and put it to test:
only prevail against sleep
for six days and seven nights.'

But while Gilgamesh sat there resting on his haunches,
a mist of sleep
like soft wool teased from the fleece
drifted over him,
and Utnapishtim said to his wife,
'Look at him now,
the strong man who would have everlasting life,
even now the mists of sleep are drifting over him.'

His wife replied,
'Touch the man to wake him,
so that he may return to his own land in peace,
going back through the gate by which he came.'
Utnapishtim said to his wife,
'All men are deceivers,
even you he will attempt to deceive;
therefore bake loaves of bread,
each day one loaf,
and put it beside his head;
and make a mark on the wall to number the days he has slept.'

So she baked loaves of bread,
each day one loaf,
and put it beside his head,
and she marked on the wall the days that he slept;
and there came a day
when the first loaf was hard,
the second loaf was like leather,
the third was soggy,
the crust of the fourth had mould,
the fifth was mildewed,
the sixth was fresh,
and the seventh was still on the embers.
Then Utnapishtim touched him
and he woke.

Gilgamesh said to Utnapishtim the Faraway,
'I hardly slept when you touched and roused me.'
But Utnapishtim said,
'Count these loaves
and learn how many days you slept,
for your first is hard,
your second like leather,
your third is soggy,
the crust of your fourth has mould,
your fifth is mildewed,
your sixth is fresh,
and your seventh was still over the glowing embers
when I touched and woke you.'

Gilgamesh said,
'What shall I do, O Utnapishtim,
where shall I go?
Already the thief in the night has hold of my limbs,
death inhabits my room;
wherever my foot rests,
there I find death.'


Gilgamesh, the son of Ninsun, lies in the tomb.
At the place of offerings he weighed the bread-offering,
at the place of libation he poured out the wine.
In those days the lord Gilgamesh departed,
the son of Ninsun,
the king,
peerless, without an equal among men,
who did not neglect Enlil his master.
O Gilgamesh, lord of Kullab,
Great is thy praise.


Michael Dirda wrote a column for The Washington Post Book World about David Damrosch's The Buried Book: The Loss and Rediscovery of the Great Epic of Gilgamesh that quoted part of the lines above. "Scholars continue to discover and piece together shards -- in Akkadian, Sumerian, Hittite and other ancient languages -- that occasionally add a few more lines to this story of an ancient Middle Eastern king's quest for immortality and his coming to terms with the inevitability of death," he writes. The new book describes the scholar who discovered a version of the Great Flood from the Old Testament and how fragments from Iraq were pieced together with the bits already at the British Museum. "We are introduced to the court life of ancient Mesopotamia, in particular the priests, sorcerers and secret agents who formed the inner circle of such rulers as Sargon II, Sennacherib, Esarhaddon and Ashurbanipal...Damrosch neatly conveys the immense antiquity of the Gilgamesh epic by noting that the poem 'was already ancient in Ashurbanipal's day, copied and recopied for more than a thousand years before the young crown prince studied it in the Temple of Nabu.'"

The epic, Damrosch believes, is "'a tale of tyranny and its consequences...the limits of culture...presented in contrast to the world of nature.'" He also mentions that it is the world's oldest gay love story, since Enkidu was apparently Gilgamesh's lover as well as his best friend. And Damrosch talks about the poem's use in Saddam Hussein's novel Zabibah wal-Malik, "a kind of love story-cum-allegory of the first Gulf War. In particular, the comparatist Damrosch urges his readers to understand that they are part of an 'Islamo-Christian civilization'...Gilgamesh and The Iliad, the Bible and the Qur'an were not products of isolated, eternally opposed civilizations; they are mutually related outgrowths of the rich cultural matrix of western Asia and the eastern Mediterranean world."

Daylight savings is apparently catching up with me with a vengeance this evening so I will keep this short. Had a nice day having Middle Eastern food with gblvr, buying a step-stool at The Container Store and remembering via The Daily Reel why George Takei would be my boyfriend if I was his type (he explains that even if Tim Hardaway hates gays, gays don't hate Tim, then gives a long list of the physical attributes of Hardaway's they'd like to get to know). Watched last week's Rome, which we hadn't even realized we had missed -- we thought it was a rerun -- while waiting for this week's Rome to show up On Demand, though we will watch that one tomorrow. Was for the most part not at all amused.

Antony is never less than amusing but sometimes he is really hard to like and this is one of those weeks...he's utterly insensitive to both Atia and Octavia, is exactly as arrogant as Octavian says (though his retort, "I'm still fucking your mother!", is priceless), and his admiring response to Servilia and her servant's suicides ("Suicide squad, attack!" Sorry, couldn't help going there) is pretty chilling: "Now, that is an exit." I have at times despised Servilia but she deserves more raw horror for her strength of will. (And I will miss Lindsay Duncan, waah!)

Vorenus and Pullo used to be my favorite aspect of Rome but these days I shudder when they're onscreen -- it's either all blood and violence or all rough sex like Pullo this week fucking the ambitious bitch Vorenus fucked a couple of weeks ago, because of course what you do with a woman who throws things at you and kicks you in the balls is fuck her and bugger her, and of course she laughs and gloats. The Jewish storyline is still interesting but when Timon abruptly has a change of heart about killing Herod and declares, "No more blood," it sounds completely artificial and like there's going to be a phony attempt to presage Christ on this series that should be too early for that, so I'm no longer so excited about the Holy Land drama.

Somehow Octavian's Oedipus complex makes it all worth watching, though: when Atia suggests a marriage between Octavian's house and Antony's, we all know what's coming, though first Antony smiles charmingly and says he won't marry the boy, then sends Atia out of the room to scheme. There's a lovely perverted moment where Octavian watches Antony finish fucking Atia to make sure he's actually going to break the bad news to her, while Atia is suggesting no sex until the wedding night...and of course the wedding is Antony's to Octavia, not her mother. It's exactly what Atia deserves ("You love power more than you love me!"), but it's obnoxious of Octavian to do this to both his sister and his loyal friend who's in love with her. Atia is forced to protect her daughter by refusing to cheat with Antony, and Servilia gets the last word after all.

Theodore Roosevelt Island has some great views of familiar DC monuments. Here is the Lincoln Memorial seen beneath Theodore Roosevelt Bridge...

...the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts seen through the trees...

...the Watergate Hotel, with its gorgeous views of the Potomac River...

...and Georgetown University, with one of its boathouses beneath the bridge.

Tuesday I finally get my stitches out! Yay!

  • Poem for Tuesday and McKee-Beshers Flowers

    Le Jardin By Oscar Wilde The lily's withered chalice falls Around its rod of dusty gold, And from the beech-trees on the wold The last…

  • Greetings from Hanover

    We left home on a rainy Sunday morning and drove to Hanover, where the sun shone the whole time we were there, though we were mostly indoors visiting…

  • Greetings from Poolesville

    Saturday was a gorgeous, not-too-hot day with a breeze, so after lunch we went to Homestead Farm to pick peaches and blackberries and also to visit…

  • Post a new comment


    Anonymous comments are disabled in this journal

    default userpic

    Your IP address will be recorded