The Epic of Gilgamesh

As for man, his days are numbered, whatever he might do, it is but wind.

As if some faces could be doorways in
To life one has an image of
But never sees. The vista was
A strange and beautiful

Don't moralize at me! I have no love
For images, old gods, prophetic words.
I want to talk to Utnapishtim!
Tell me how.

Even the gods
Cowered like dogs at what they had done.

Everything had life to me,’ he heard Enkidu murmur, ‘the sky, the storm, the earth, water, wandering, the moon and its three children, salt, even my hand had life. It’s gone. It’s gone.

Friendship is vowing toward immortality and does not know the passing away of beauty (Though take care!) because it aims for the spirit. Many years ago through loss I learned that love is wrung from our inmost heart until only the loved one is and we are not.

Gilgamesh said to him, to Utnapishtim the remote,
"What can I do, Utnapishtim? Where can I go?
A thief has stolen my flesh.
Death lives in the house where my bed is,
and wherever I set my feet, there Death is.

Gilgamesh was called a god and a man; Enkidu was an animal and a man. It is the story of their becoming human together.

Gilgamesh, where are you hurrying to? You will never find that life for which you are looking. When the gods created man they allotted 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.

He imagined the gazelles raising the dry dust
Like soft brush floating on the crests of sand.

He looked at the walls,
Awed at the heights
His people had achieved
And for a moment -- just a moment --
All that lay behind him
Passed from view.

Hold my hand in yours, and we will not fear what hands like ours can do.

Hold my hand in yours, and we will not fear what hands like ours can do.

How can I keep silent? How can I stay quiet?
My friend, whom I loved, has turned to clay,
my friend Enkidu, whom I loved has turned to clay.
Shall I not be like him, and also lie down,
never to rise again, through all eternity?

How long does a building stand before it falls?
How long does a contract last? How long will brothers

share the inheritance before they quarrel?
How long does hatred, for that matter, last?

Time after time the river has risen and flooded.
The insect leaves the cocoon to live but a minute.

How long is the eye able to look at the sun?
From the very beginning nothing at all has lasted.

I was its king once, a long time ago, when the great gods decided to send the Flood. Five gods decided, and they took an oath to keep the plan secret: Anu their father, the counselor Enlil, Ninurta the gods’ chamberlain, and Ennugi the sheriff. Ea also, the cleverest of the gods, had taken the oath, but I heard him whisper the secret to the reed fence around my house. ‘Reed fence, reed fence, listen to my words. King of Shuruppak, quickly, quickly tear down your house and build a great ship, leave your possessions, save your life. The ship must be square, so that its length equals its width. Build a roof over it, just as the Great Deep is covered by the earth. Then gather and take aboard the ship examples of every living creature.

I will set up my name in the place where the names of famous men are written, and where no man’s name is written yet I will raise a monument to the gods.

Said Gilgamesh to him, to Uta-napishti the Distant:
'O Uta-napishti, what should I do and where should I go?
A thief has taken hold of my flesh!
For there in my bed-chamber Death does abide,
and wherever I turn, there too will be Death.

Shamash grant your wish.
What your mouth has said, may your eyes see.
May he open for you the barred path,
unclose the road for your footsteps,
unlock the mountain for your foot.
May the night give you things that please you,
and may Lugalbanda stand beside you
and satisfy your wish.
May you be granted your wish as a child is.

Strange things have been spoken, why does your heart speak strangely? The dream was marvellous but the terror was great; we must treasure the dream whatever the terror.

The dream was marvellous but the terror was great; we must treasure the dream whatever the terror; for the dream has shown that misery comes at last to the healthy man, the end of his life is sorrow.

There is the house whose people sit in darkness; dust is their food and clay is their meat. They are clothed like birds with wings for covering, they see no light, they sit in darkness. I entered the house of dust and I saw the kings of the earth, their crowns put away for ever...

The river rises, flows over its banks
and carries us all away, like mayflies
floating downstream: they stare at the sun,
then all at once there is nothing.

They fell like wolves
At each other’s throats,
Like bulls bellowing,
And horses gasping for breath
That have run all day.

Whether or not the fame of Gilgamesh of Uruk had reached the Aegean – and the idea is attractive – there can be no doubt that it was as great as that of any other hero. In time his name became so much a household word that jokes and forgeries were fathered onto it, as in a popular fraud that survives on eighth-century B.C. tablets which perhaps themselves copy an older text. This is a letter supposed to be written by Gilgamesh to some other king, with commands that he should send improbable quantities of livestock and metals, along with gold and precious stones for an amulet for Enkidu, which would weigh no less that thirty pounds. The joke must have been well received, for it survives in four copies, all from Sultantepe.

You are a human being now, not like them [the animals].

You have known, O Gilgamesh,
What interests me,
To drink from the Well of Immortality.
Which means to make the dead
Rise from their graves
And the prisoners from their cells
The sinners from their sins.
I think love's kiss kills our heart of flesh.
It is the only way to eternal life,
Which should be unbearable if lived
Among the dying flowers
And the shrieking farewells
Of the overstretched arms of our spoiled hopes.